d. 631 BC

Aristomenes was a hero of the Second Messenian War against the Spartans, and for hundreds of years was the favorite folk hero of Sparta's enemies throughout Greece. Aristomenes is credited with great valiance and bravery in his wars against the Spartans, and numerous dramatic escapes and other escapades. At one point he was said to have been captured by the Spartans and thrown into a deep cavern to be left for dead. He survived however, and according to legend escaped by following a fox out of a hole. The Second Messenian War occurred during the period of 648 to 631 B.C. For the first seven years it involved a series of pitched battles that went badly for the Messenians, although Aristomenes personally achieved great slaughter against the Spartans, and thrice celebrated a sacrifice indicating that he had personally slain over 100 enemies. The last eleven years involved the siege of a mountain fortress, called Eira, in which the surviving Messenians were holed up. After numerous dramatic episodes, it is told that Aristomenes either perished in battle, or escaped with his family to become a prince on the island of Rhodes.

Key events during the life of Aristomenes:

720 BC
End of First Messenian War. Much Messenian land is lost to Sparta.
648 BC
Beginning of Second Messenian War.
  Aristomenes fights three battles against the Spartans; offers sacrifice after each for killing 100 enemies.
642 BC
Aristomenes and followers holed up in Eira, a mountain fortress.
  Aristomenes is taken prisoner and thrown into Keadas, a deep rock cavity. Survives fall and escapes.
631 BC
Fortress of Eira, refuge of Messenians for 11 years, finally falls to Sparta.
631 BC
Aristomenes is taken prisoner again, but escapes with help of maiden, flees to Rhodes.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
General and the Fox  in  Fifty Famous People  by  James Baldwin
Story of Aristomenes in  Three Greek Children  by  Alfred J. Church
Music of Tyrtaeus  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Aristomenes' Escape  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Aristomenes and the Fox  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
Aristomenes, the Hero of Messenia  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris

Image Links

Aristomenes Freed by the Fox
 in Greatest Nations - Greece

Short Biography
Aristodemus King of Messenia, and early champion of the first Messenian War.
Damagetes King of Rhodes. Offered his daughter in marriage to Aristomenes.
Tyrtaeus Wrote inspiring battle ballads for Sparta during the Messenian War. Historian of Sparta.