252–182 BC

Philopoemen was a Greek general, who was best known as leader of the Achaean League during its later years. He was born at Megalopolis, and educated by the academic philosophers there, who had distinguished themselves as champions of freedom. Avoiding the fashionable and luxurious gymnasia, he devoted himself to military studies, hunting and border forays. In 233-232 B.C.. Philopoemen skillfully evacuated Megalopolis before the attack of Cleomenes III, and distinguished himself at Sellasia. The next eleven years he spent as a condottiere in Crete.

Elected commander of the League's cavalry on his return, he reorganized that force and defeated the Aetoliaris on the Elean frontier (210). Appointed to the chief command two years later, he introduced heavy armour and close formation for the infantry, and with a well-trained army beat Machanidas of Sparta, near Mantinea. The new "liberator" was now so famous that Philip V. of Macedon attempted to poison him. In 201 B.C. Philopoemen drove Nabis, the Spartan tyrant, from Messene and routed him off Tegea. After another long sojourn in Crete he again received the command against Nabis. Though unsuccessful at sea, he almost annihilated Nabis's land force near Gythium, but was prevented by the Roman Flamininus from taking Sparta. In Igo Philopoemen protected Sparta, which meanwhile had joined the League and thereupon seceded, but punished a renewed defection so cruelly as to draw the censure of Rome upon his country. At Messene he likewise checked a revolt, but when that city again rebelled, in 184 B.C., he was captured in a skirmish and promptly executed. His body was recovered by the Achaeans and buried with great solemnity.

Philopoemen's great merit lies in his having restored to his compatriots that military efficiency without which the Achaean League for all its skilful diplomacy could never stand. Towards Rome he advocated a courteous but independent attitude. In politics he was a democrat, and introduced reforms of a popular character.

—Adapted from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Key events during the life of Philopoemen:

233 BC
Evacuated Megalopolis before it was besieged by Cleomenes III of Sparta.
222 BC
Fought at the Battle of Sellasia, where Cleomenes III was defeated.
221 BC
Traveled to Crete as a mercenary
209 BC
Appointed to chief command of the Achaean League. Fought battle of the Larissus.
209 BC
Routed Spartans at Battle of Mantinea.
202 BC
Drove Nabis, tyrant of Sparta from Messene.
195 BC
Allied with Flamininus, defeated Nabis at the battle of Argos.
192 BC
Final defeat of Nabis of Sparta.
189 BC
Checked a revolt at Messene.
184 BC
Captured and executed during another rebellion in Messene.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Last of the Greeks  in  Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Last of the Greeks  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Philopoemen  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Philopoemen and the Fall of Sparta  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris
Philopoemen  in  Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston  by  

Image Links

Philopoemen in Prison
 in Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston

Short Biography
Aratus Leader of Achaean League; First resisted Macedonia, then forced an alliance to defeat Sparta.
Philip V of Macedon King of Macedonia from 230-179 B.C. Fought Rome in Second Macedonian War.
Cleomenes III Successfully implemented many reforms in Sparta, but was resisted by Achaean League.
Nabis Tyrant of Sparta who ruled after the fall of Cleomenes III. Raised a large army against the Achaean League.
Flamininus Led Rome against Philip V in second Macedonian War.