Pausanias (king of Sparta)

  (Redirected from Pausanias of Sparta)

Pausanias (Greek: Παυσανίας) was the Agiad King of Sparta; the son of Pleistoanax. He ruled Sparta from 445 BC to 426 BC and again from 408 BC to 395 BC.

King of Sparta
Reign445–426 BC
408–395 BC
SuccessorAgesipolis I
DiedAfter 380 BC
Sparta in Ancient Greece

First reign (c.445–427 BC)Edit

Pausanias belonged to the Agiad dynasty and was the son of king Pleistoanax, born during a period of conflict against the other Spartan authorities and the Eurypontids—the other Spartan dynasty. His father was forced to go into exile after his first military campaign against Athens in 446 because he was accused of having taken a bribe from Pericles and offered him a lenient peace as a result.[1][2] Pausanias was probably born around this time, perhaps even after his father's exile.[3] The choice of his name is significant, as Pleistoanax gave him the name of his own father Pausanias the Regent, who was starved to death by the ephors in the temple of Athena in Sparta; thus showing Pleistoanax's defiance against the Spartan government.[4]

The regency for Pausanias was assumed by his uncle Cleomenes, second son of Pausanias the Regent.[5][6] This period was dominated by the Eurypontid king Archidamus II, who prevented Pleistoanax from returning to Sparta, while Pausanias could not oppose him as a child. Pleistoanax could only return in 427, after the death of Archidamus; he recovered his former position, with Pausanias as prince.[7] During his second reign, Pleistoanax was the leader of the Peace faction in Sparta, in favour of negotiating a settlement with Athens to end the Peloponnesian War (ongoing since 431). His efforts were rewarded with the Peace of Nicias in 421, which nevertheless had only a short life.[8] Pleistoanax finally died in 408 and Pausanias became king again; this time in full capacity.[9]

Second reign (409–395 BC)Edit

The later part of the Peloponnesian War was dominated by Lysander, a talented general from the entourage of the Eurypontids. Thanks to his naval victories against Athens in the Aegean Sea, Lysander built a network of friendships with local oligarchies and even the Persian prince Cyrus, which overshadowed the Spartan kings.[10] In 406, Pausanias likely supported the candidacy of Callicratidas to replace Lysander as navarch (commander of the navy), but the latter sabotaged the position of his successor, which led to the defeat of Arginusae and Lysander's return to command the following year.[11]

Pausanias' first known command was in Autumn 405, when he led the main force of the Peloponnesian League to besiege Athens,[10] although Agis was already in Attica, at the head of the garrison of Decelea, a stronghold occupied by Sparta since 415. Perhaps Pausanias refused to let Agis command the army because of the century-long enmity between the kings.[12] Athens nevertheless refused to submit and Pausanias returned to Sparta with the army.[9] The Peloponnesian War ended the following year after Lysander negotiated the Athenian surrender, notably with Theramenes, and installed a pro-Spartan oligarchy, known as the Thirty Tyrants, as he had done in Athens' former allied cities when he captured them.[13] This regime was rapidly challenged by the Athenian democratic resistance led by Thrasybulus, who captured the Piraeus harbour in 403; the Thirty therefore retreated to the city of Eleusis in western Attica. Sparta initially made a loan of 100 talents to the Thirty (to hire mercenaries), while Lysander went to Eleusis and his brother Libys as navarch blockaded Piraeus.[13]

Whereas the crushing of the Athenian democrats appeared imminent, Pausanias brought a drastic change in Sparta. He convinced the ekklesia and a majority of three ephors (out of five) to lead the Peloponnesian army to Attica to overturn Lysander's policy.[14]

Despite opposition from Lysander, Pausanias took the opportunity to promote a reconciliation between the democratic party in Piraeus and the oligarchs controlling Athens' main city, thus allowing the re-establishment of democratic government in Athens. Pausanias was able to restore democracy in Athens while bringing the Athenians, temporarily, into an alliance with Sparta.

On his return to Sparta, Pausanias was prosecuted for betrayal before a supreme court made of the Gerousia (composed of 28 gerontes and the two kings) and the five ephors.[15] Although he had worked with Pausanias to bring Lysander down, the initiative of the trial came from Agis II, with the obvious encouragement of Lysander's friends.[16] The cause of Agis' shifting behaviour has long been debated by modern historians. Perhaps he only supported Pausanias' policy towards Athens to remove Lysander's dangerous power, but then returned to the traditional rivalry between the two royal houses.[17] The breakdown of the Gerousia's final vote is known (an exceptional occurrence in Spartan history): the gerontes were evenly divided (14-14), but Agis cast his vote against his colleague. Pausanias was however saved by the ephors, who unanimously voted in his favour, but the reason behind this support is unknown.[18] Following his trial, Pausanias disappears from the sources until 396, probably because he disapproved Sparta's imperialist policy conducted by the Eurypontids, Agis and his successor Agesilaus II, notably against Elis, Thessaly, and the Asian possessions of the Persian Empire.[19]

Corinthian WarEdit

Returning to Sparta in 395 BC, Lysander was instrumental in starting a war with Thebes and other Greek cities, which came to be known as the Corinthian War. The Spartans prepared to send out an army against this new alliance of Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Argos (with the backing of the Persians).

The Spartans arranged for two armies, one under Lysander and the other under Pausanias, to rendezvous at and attack the city of Haliartus, Boeotia. Lysander arrived at the city while Pausanias's forces were still several days away. Not willing to wait for Pausanias, Lysander advanced to Haliartus with his troops. In the ensuing Battle of Haliartus, Lysander was killed after bringing his forces too near the walls of the city. Pausanias's army arrived after Lysander's defeat but then left the battle scene primarily due to Athenian military opposition. King Pausanias negotiated a cease of fighting so the bodies of the dead were able to be collected for a proper burial. After, the Spartan army returned to Sparta.

Because of his poor leadership at Haliartus, Pausanias was condemned to death by the Spartans and replaced as king by his young son Agesipolis I.

However, Pausanias was able to escape execution and fled Sparta to live in exile in Tegea.


In exile, Pausanias wrote a logos, a pamphlet on Lycurgus and the Spartan constitution. Writing was a very unusual activity for a Spartan king at the time, but another contemporary Spartan named Thibron, perhaps the general known in the 390s, also composed a treaty on a similar topic. Pausanias' text is lost and its only mention in ancient sources comes from a corrupted passage in Strabo's Geographica, written in the time of Augustus.[20] The main point of his pamphlet seems to have been a call for the abolition of the ephors, and returning to the ancestral constitution of Sparta designed by the mythical lawgiver Lycurgus. Modern scholars suggest that Pausanias argued that the ephorate was not founded by Lycurgus, as it had hitherto been assumed by the Spartans, because Aristotle (384–322) in the Politics wrote that it was created by king Theopompus in the 8th century. This change of thought was perhaps due to the authority of Pausanias' logos.[20] Pausanias therefore had a significant influence on the idealisation of Lycurgus in Sparta, which culminated in the 3rd century, when the revolutionary kings Agis IV and Cleomenes III claimed to base their reforms on Lycurgus.[20]

Pausanias is believed to have outlived his son, Agesipolis I, according to an inscription found on a monument set up by Pausanias to the memory of his son in Delphi.[21]

The year of Pausanias's death is sometime after 380 BC.[22] He was also the father of Cleombrotus I.


  1. ^ Kagan, Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 124, 125 (note 13).
  2. ^ Rahe, Sparta's First Attic War, p. 224.
  3. ^ White, "Some Agiad Dates", p. 149, places Pausanias' birth between 444 and 440.
  4. ^ White, "Some Agiad Dates", pp. 140, 141.
  5. ^ Poralla & Bradford, Prosopographie, p. 77.
  6. ^ White, "Some Agiad Dates", p. 141.
  7. ^ Marr, "What Did the Athenians Demand", p. 122.
  8. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 153.
  9. ^ a b Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 143.
  10. ^ a b Lewis, "Sparta as victor", in Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 6, p. 25.
  11. ^ Kagan, Fall of Athenian Empire, pp. 328–330.
  12. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 143, does not support nor reject this theory made by Georg Busolt.
  13. ^ a b Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 144.
  14. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 144, 145.
  15. ^ Cartledge, Agesilaos, pp. 94, 109, 123, 351, the exact charges are unknown.
  16. ^ Cartledge, Agesilaos, p. 351.
  17. ^ Cartledge, Agesilaos, p. 135.
  18. ^ Cartledge, Agesilaos, pp. 135, 284.
  19. ^ Cartledge, Agesilaos, p. 290.
  20. ^ a b c Cartledge, Agesilaos, p. 163.
  21. ^ Parke, H.W. "The Disposing of Spartan Kings". The Classical Quarterly. 39, no. 3-4 (1945): 106–112.
  22. ^ Powell, Anton (2017). Companion to Sparta. Accessed December 14, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central: Somerset: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. p. 100.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)


Preceded by Agiad King of Sparta
445–426 BC and 408–395 BC
Succeeded by