UNIVERSAL HISTORY.--THE ANCIENT WORLD.
Messenians. Aristomenes was obliged to retire from the open field to the
mountain fortress of Ira, where for eleven years he maintained the cause
of his country. From this stronghold he would as occasion offered sally
forth in successful raids against the foe. Such was his prowess that
three times he celebrated the sacrifice of Hecatomphonia for having in
each instance slain with his own hand a hundred of the enemy. Three times
he was taken. Twice he broke away from his captors, but in the third case
he was carried with fifty others to Sparta and thrown into a deep pit.
All the rest were killed, but he fell to the bottom unhurt. The next day
he saw a live fox in the pit, and seizing the beast by the tail, he
followed it through the fissures in the rocks till he found an exit and
escaped. Equal was the surprise both to his own friends and the enemy
when he reappeared at Ira.
Nevertheless, the indomitable energy of the Spartans gradually gained the
ascendancy. Aristomenes was said to have forfeited the favor of the gods.
He was wounded, and, while in a disabled condition, was attacked by the
Lacedaemonians, who succeeded in capturing Ira. Aristomenes escaped with
a band of followers. They fled first into Arcadia, and afterwards into
Rhodes, where the hero passed the rest of his days. Many others of his
countrymen, led by his sons, left Messenia and found refuge in Rhegium in
Southern Italy. The memory of their brave king was long cherished by the
Messenians, whose bards recited his heroism and recounted his
reappearance in battle.
Thus, in the year B. C. 668, ended the Second Messenian War. The people
were again reduced to serfdom. For three hundred years they remained in a
state of abject dependence upon the wills of their conquerors. Their
history during this long period is known only in connection with that of
the dominant state. Their territory was annexed to Laconia, whose limits
were thus extended across Peloponnesus from sea to sea. The supremacy of
the Spartan oligarchy was thus completely established in all the southern
portion of the peninsula. The adjacent parts of Arcadia were also brought
under their sway, and as far north as the gulf of Corinth there were none
left, except the Tegeans, courageous enough to dispute their leadership.
The city of Tegea, however, situated in the south-eastern portion of
Arcadia, deter- mined to fight for independence. The people were brave
and had a warlike history. Twice they had already measured spears
successfully with the Spartans. In the reign of Charilaus, nephew of
Lycurgus, the Lacedaemonians had marched against Tegea, but were
disastrously defeated. Their king and all the survivors of the battle
were captured. In B. C. 580, the Spartans again invaded the territory and
were again routed. The prisoners were taken and enslaved, being obliged
to toil in the very chains which they had brought for the Tegeans. The
latter thus maintained their independence for thirty years. In B. C. 560,
however, the struggle was renewed by the Spartan kings, Anaxandrides and
Ariston. The Delphic oracle sent the Spartans a message that they should
be successful when they secured the bones of Orestes, son of Agamemnon,
now buried at Tegea. This feat was accomplished by a stratagem, and the
relics were carried in triumph to Sparta. Then the tide turned against
the Tegeans. They were defeated in several engagements, their city was
taken, and themselves reduced to dependency. In this case, however, the
conquering state preferred the alliance rather than the enslavement of
the people, and Tegea was spared the fate of Ira and Ithome.
The Spartans also succeeded in annexing the district of Cynuria to their
territories. This province had belonged to Argos, and the attempt of that
city to recover their possession brought on war. It was agreed between
the two states that the question should be decided in a single combat
between three hundred chosen warriors on each side. The picked force of
Argives and Spartans went into battle, and so fierce was the fight that
only two of the former and one of the latter were left alive. The two
Argives, believing themselves victorious, bore the news to Argos, but the
Spartan remained on the field, stripped the bodies of the dead, and
claimed the victory.