Cleomenes I

d. 489 BC

Cleomenes I was king of Sparta for three decades immediately prior to the Persian Wars. His most notable achievement was his signal victory over Argos, Sparta's only remaining rival on the Peloponnese, at the battle of Sepeia in 494 B.C. He was also instrumental in the removal of the tyrant Hippias from Athens. Although Cleomenes did not personally oppose Hippias, he was tricked into helping the Spartans dislodge him by the Delphian priests who had been bribed by Cleisthenes and his family. The first assault failed, but when Cleomenes personally lead the second assault on Athens, he managed to hole Hippias up in the Acropolis, and persuaded him to surrender after capturing many members of his family. The government in Athens was quickly taken over by Cleisthenes, and his party. Cleomenes, who thought that Athens would be run by the oligarchic party, was alarmed at the democratic reforms, and regretted his involvement in the overthrow. Cleisthenes enemy Isagoras, then allied with Cleomenes, and together they tried to restore a tyranny, but failed. Ultimately Isagoras, rather then Cleisthenes was exiled.

A few years later, Cleomenes was invited by Aristagoras to support the Ionian rebellion against Persia. He declined, but later conspired to punish Greek islanders who had cooperated with Persia. He also plotted against Demaratus, the other king of Sparta, and caused him to be banished. The plot was discovered however, and Cleomenes himself was sent away, only to be recalled a year later. By this time however (490 B.C.) he is said to have lost his mind and died in prison. He was succeeded on the throne by his nephew Leonidas, the hero of Thermopylae.

Key events during the life of Cleomenes I:

520 BC
Ascended to the Agiad throne in Sparta.
510 BC
Convinced by Delphic Oracles to help Athenians drive out Hippias, their tyrant.
508 BC
Succeeded in driving Hippias out of Athens.
  Alarmed at democratic reforms of Athens, Cleomenes allies himself with Isagoras, Cleisthenes rival.
  Tried, but failed invade Athens and set up Isagoras as tyrant. Isagoras exiled from Athens.
499 BC
Aristogoras tries to enlist Sparta's help in Ionion revolution in Asia Minor.
494 BC
After Ionion rebellion fails, Cleomenes attacks Aegina in order to punish Persian collaborators.
494 BC
Cleomenes defeats Argos, Sparta's only rival on the Peleponese, at the battle of Sepeia.
491 BC
Cleomenes disputes with Demaratus, the other Spartan king; drives him into exile, and replaces him with Leotychides.
490 BC
Cleomenes is thought to have lost his mind, and died in prison.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Of the Revolt of Miletus  in  The Story of the Persian War  by  Alfred J. Church
Sardis Is Destroyed  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor

Short Biography
Hippias Exiled son of Pisistratus; helped lead Persian forces against Athens at Marathon.
Aristagoras Son-in-law of Histiaeus. Led Rebellion of Greek Colonies in Asia Minor.
Cleisthenes Athenian statesman who overthrew Hippias, and helped institute democratic reforms.
Demaratus Exiled King of Sparta, advisor to Xerxes during his invasion of Greece.
Isagoras Athenian leader who opposed the democratic reforms of Cleisthenes.
Gorgo Daughter of Cleomenes and wife of Leonidas, hero of Thermopylae.