Since the time of Agamemnon no Grecian king had led an army into Asia; and Agesilaus studiously availed himself of the prestige of that precedent in order to attract recruits to his standard. The Spartan kings claimed to inherit the sceptre of Agamemnon; and to render the parallel more complete, Agesilaus proceeded with a division of his fleet to Aulis, intending there to imitate the memorable sacrifice of the Homeric hero. But as he had neglected to ask the permission of the Thebans, and conducted the sacrifice and solemnities by means of his own prophets and ministers, and in a manner at variance with the usual rites of the temple, the Thebans were offended, and expelled him by armed force:--an insult which he never forgave.
It was in 396 B.C. that Agesilaus arrived at Ephesus and took the command in Asia. He demanded of the Persians the complete independence of the Greek cities in Asia; and in order that there might be time to communicate with the Persian court, the armistice was renewed for three months. During this interval of repose, Lysander, by his arrogance and pretensions, offended both Agesilaus and the Thirty Spartans. Agesilaus, determined to uphold his dignity, subjected Lysander to so many humiliations that he was at last fain to request his dismissal from Ephesus, and was accordingly sent to the Hellespont, where he did good service to the Spartan interests.
Meanwhile Tissaphernes, having received large reinforcements, sent a message to Agesilaus before the armistice had expired, ordering him to quit Asia. Agesilaus immediately made preparations as if he would attack Tissaphernes in Caria; but having thus put the enemy on a false scent, he suddenly turned northwards into Phrygia, the satrapy of Pharnabazus, and marched without opposition to the neighbourhood of Dascylium, the residence of the satrap himself. Here, however, he was repulsed by the Persian cavalry. He now proceeded into winter quarters at Ephesus, where be employed himself in organizing a body of cavalry to compete with the Persians. During the winter the army was brought into excellent condition; and Agesilaus gave out early in the spring of 395 B.C. that he should march direct upon Sardis. Tissaphernes suspecting another feint, now dispersed his cavalry in the plain of the Maeander. But this time Agesilaus marched as he had announced, and in three days arrived unopposed on the banks of the Pactolus, before the Persian cavalry could be recalled. When they at last came up, the newly raised Grecian horse, assisted by the peltasts, and some of the younger and more active hoplites, soon succeeded in putting them to flight. Many of the Persians were drowned in the Pactolus, and their camp, containing much booty and several camels, was taken.
Agesilaus now pushed his ravages up to the very gates of Sardis, the residence of Tissaphernes. But the career of that timid and treacherous satrap was drawing to a close. The queen-mother, Parysatis, who had succeeded in regaining her influence over Artaxerxes, caused an order to be sent down from Susa for his execution; in pursuance of which he was seized in a bath at Colossae, and beheaded. Tithraustes, who had been intrusted with the execution of this order, succeeded Tissaphernes in the satrapy, and immediately reopened negotiations with Agesilaus. An armistice of six months was concluded; and meanwhile Tithraustes, by a subsidy of 30 talents, induced Agesilaus to move out of his satrapy into that of Pharnabazus.
During this march into Phrygia Agesilaus received a new commission from home, appointing him the head of the naval as well as of the land force--two commands never before united in a single Spartan. He named his brother-in-law, Pisander, commander of the fleet. But in the following year (B.C. 394), whilst he was preparing an expedition on a grand scale into the interior of Asia Minor, he was suddenly recalled home to avert the dangers which threatened his native country.
The jealousy and ill-will with which the newly acquired empire of the Spartans was regarded by the other Grecian states had not escaped the notice of the Persians; and when Tithraustes succeeded to the satrapy of Tissaphernes he resolved to avail himself of this feeling by exciting a war against Sparta in the heart of Greece itself. With this view he despatched one Timocrates, a Rhodian, to the leading Grecian cities which appeared hostile to Sparta, carrying with him a sum of 50 talents to be distributed among the chief men in each for the purpose of bringing them over to the views of Persia. Timocrates was successful in Thebes, Corinth, and Argos but he appears not to have visited Athens.
Hostilities were at first confined to Sparta and Thebes. A quarrel having arisen between the Opuntian Locrians and the Phocians respecting a strip of border land, the former people appealed to the Thebans, who invaded Phocis. The Phocians on their side invoked the aid of the Lacedaemonians, who, elated with the prosperous state of their affairs in Asia, and moreover desirous of avenging the affronts they had received from the Thebans, readily listened to the appeal. Lysander, who took an active part in promoting the war, was directed to attack the town of Haliartus; and it was arranged that King Pausanias should join him on a fixed day under the walls of that town, with the main body of the Lacedaemonians and their Peloponnesian allies.
Nothing could more strikingly denote the altered state of feeling in Greece than the request for assistance which the Thebans, thus menaced, made to their ancient enemies and rivals the Athenians. Nor were the Athenians backward in responding to the appeal. Lysander arrived at Haliartus before Pausanias. Here, in a sally made by the citizens, opportunely supported by the unexpected arrival of a body of Thebans, the army of Lysander was routed, and himself slain. His troops disbanded and dispersed themselves in the night time. Thus, when Pausanias at last came up, he found no army to unite with; and as an imposing Athenian force had arrived, he now, with the advice of his council took the humiliating step--always deemed a confession of inferiority--of requesting a truce in order to bury the dead who had fallen in the preceding battle. Even this, however, the Thebans would not grant except on the condition that the Lacedaemonians should immediately quit their territory. With these terms Pausanias was forced to comply; and after duly interring the bodies of Lysander and his fallen comrades, the Lacedaemonians dejectedly pursued their homeward march. Pausanias, afraid to face the public indignation of the Spartans took refuge in the temple of Athena Alea at Tegea; and being condemned to death in his absence, only escaped that fate by remaining in the sanctuary. He was succeeded by his son Agesipolis.