Cleomenes' Daughter

Children are often wiser than their parents, and history shows this to be just as true hundreds of years ago, as it is today.

In about 500 BC the king of Sparta was a man called Cleomenes; people said that he was simple-minded, and he was certainly irresolute and indecisive. One day the king of Miletus, Aristagoras by name, came to Sparta, wishing to gain the city’s support in his revolt against the Persians. Cleomenes was unwilling to enter into a conflict, and listened to Aristagoras’s persuasions with growing uneasiness.
    “See here, my lord,” cried the Milesian king, drawing forth a bronze tablet, on which was engraved a map of the world, “if you will come to our aid against the barbarian overlords, these cities and states will be liberated, and instead of paying tribute to the Persians, they will pay tribute to you; what an increase in wealth that would be for Sparta, and how your people will acclaim you!”

Cleomenes shifted uneasily in his chair and told Aristagoras to return in three days’ time. When the Milesian king was again admitted to him, Cleomenes asked how long a march it was from the shores of the Mediterranean to the palace of the Persian king.
    Aristagoras replied that it was a journey of three months.
    “Milesian stranger, quit Sparta before sunset!” exclaimed Cleomenes, arising with an expression of mingled indignation and relief. “This is no good proposal that you make to the Spartans; we will never journey so far inland.”

Aristagoras was dismissed, cursing his foolish blunder; but he still believed that he could persuade the weak-willed Spartan king to lend him his support. The next day he took an olive branch and went with it to the king’s dwelling. Seeing this token of humility, the attendants allowed him to enter and he soon found Cleomenes, who was seated with his daughter, a little girl of about eight or nine years of age.
    Aristagoras frowned and asked the king to send the child away, as he had important matters on which he wished to speak.
    “No,” said Cleomenes, whose face had resumed its troubled expression at the sight of the imperious Milesian, “say what you have come to say, and do not mind the child.”

With a bad grace Aristagoras sat down, and told the king that if he would assist him against the Persians, he should have ten talents of gold. Cleomenes shook his head and the number rose to twenty, then to forty, then to fifty talents. At this point the little girl, who had been standing quietly by, tugged at her father’s sleeve,
    “Father,” she said, “get up and go, or the stranger will certainly corrupt thee.”
    A look of relief overspread Cleomenes’ countenance and telling Aristagoras that further entreaties would be in vain, withdrew with his daughter into another room.

The Milesian king was forced to return home, and the Spartans played no part in the ensuing conflict.

~Bethan Lewis~

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