Cleomenes III

236–220 BC

Cleomenes III reigned in Sparta about 235-219 B.C. He made a determined attempt to reform the social condition of Sparta along the lines laid down by Agis IV., whose widow Agiatis he married; at the same time he aimed at restoring Sparta's hegemony in the Peloponnese.

After twice defeating the forces of the Achaean League in Arcadia, near Mount Lycaeum and at Leuctra, he strengthened his position by assassinating four of the ephors, abolishing the ephorate, which had usurped the supreme power, and banishing some eighty of the leading oligarchs. The authority of the council was also curtailed, and a new board of magistrates, the patronomi, became the chief officers of state. He appointed his own brother Eucleidas as his colleague in succession to the Eurypontid Archidamus, who had been murdered. His social reforms included a redistribution of land, the remission of debts, the restoration of the old system of training, and the admission of picked perioeci into the citizen body.

As a general Cleomenes did much to revive Sparta's old prestige. He defeated the Achaeans at Dyme, made himself master of Argos, and was eventually joined by Corinth, Phlius, Epidaurus and other cities. But Aratus, whose jealousy could not brook to see a Spartan at the head of the Achaean league called in Antigonus III. of Macedonia, and Cleomenes, after conducting successful expeditions to Megalopolis and Argos, was finally defeated at Sellasia, to the north of Sparta, in 222 or 221 B.C. He took refuge at Alexandria with Ptolemy Euergetes, but was arrested by his successor, Ptolemy Philopator, on a charge of conspiracy. Escaping from prison he tried to raise a revolt, but the attempt failed and to avoid capture he put an end to his life. Both as general and as politician Cleomenes was one of Sparta's greatest men, and with him perished her last hope of recovering her ancient supermacy in Greece.

—Excerpted from the 1911 Encylopaedia Britannica.

Key events during the life of Cleomenes III:

235 BC
Succeeded to the throne of Sparta at the death of his father, Leonidas II.
  Married Agiatis, the widow of Agis IV.
  Instituted Spartan reforms, abolished the Ephors, redistributed land.
226 BC
Victories at Dyme and Megalopolis restored Spartan prestige.
223 BC
Aratus tried to break up Spartan league. Argos deserted the league.
222 BC
Aratus called in Antiochus III to help defeat Cleomenes at Sellasia.
219 BC
Perished in exile in Egypt.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Death of Agis  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
War of the Two Leagues  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Cleomenes III  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland
Cleomenes  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman

Short Biography
Agis IV King who tried to reform Sparta and return to laws of Lycurgus. Killed for his efforts.
Aratus Leader of Achaean League; First resisted Macedonia, then forced an alliance to defeat Sparta.
Antigonus III King of Macedonia who allied with Aratus to defeat Cleomenes III.
Agiatis Widow of the reformer Agis IV. Married Cleomenes III.