Battle of Mount Lycaeum

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Battle of Mount Lycaeum
Part of the Cleomenean War
A map of Greece. That northern half of Greece is occupied by the new Aetolian League and the southern territories under the control of Macedon, while the south is occupied by Sparta, the Achaean League and several smaller states.
A map of depicting the location of the Battle of Mount Lycaeum.
Date 227 BC
Location Mount Lycaeum, border of Elis and Arcadia
Result Spartan victory
Sparta Achaean League
Commanders and leaders
Cleomenes III Aratus
Casualties and losses
Light Heavy

The Battle of Mount Lycaeum was a battle fought between Sparta led by Cleomenes III and the Achaean League commanded by Aratus. It was the first major battle of the Cleomenean War. The battle occurred at Mount Lycaeum on the border of Elis and Arcadia and ended in a Spartan victory.


In 229 BC, Cleomenes III, King of Sparta, initiated a campaign with the aim of extending the regional power of his kingdom.[1] This was opposed by the major power in the Peloponnese, the Achaean League. In an attempt to curtail the resurgent power of Sparta, the Achaeans led by their strategos, Aratus, moved to re-capture the cities of Tegea and Orchomenus.[2] This failure was compounded when a vastly numerically superior Achaean army commanded by Aristomachos of Argos declined to offer battle to the army of Cleomenes.[1]

Though these failures were somewhat offset by the occupation of Caphyae, a city that had previously been taken over by Cleomenes, the Spartan ascendancy in the war was becoming apparent. Ptolemy III of Egypt, who had been supporting the Achaean campaign against Macedon, shifted his financial backing from the Achaean League to Sparta. Ptolemy based this on the assumption that Sparta would a more useful ally in counterbalancing Macedon.[3]


Aratus was re-elected strategos in 227 BC and responded by launching an invasion of Elis, a Spartan ally. The Elians, unable to defeat the Achaeans, sent to Sparta for assistance. The Spartan response was to dispatch Cleomenes with an army to aid their allies.[4] As the Achaeans were returning from Elis, Cleomenes launched an attack on Mount Lycaeum, on the border of Elis and Arcadia.[4] The Achaeans, who were unprepared for battle, began a disarrayed flight from the combat. The Spartans scored a comprehensive victory, routing the opposing army.[4] They managed to capture a great part of the Achaean division as well as inflicting massive casualties.[4] The victory was so complete that it was thought that Aratus had been slain in the midst of battle.[4]


Aratus was able to use the confusion in the aftermath of the battle to his advantage. He seized the city of Mantinea from the Spartans and secured it.[4] This success was short-lived as the Achaeans were decisively defeated by Cleomenes at the Battle of Ladoceia later in 227 BC[5] and again at the Battle of Dyme in 226 BC.[6] These victories established a Spartan dominance over the Peloponnese.

In attempt to save the Achaean league from subservience to Cleomenes and Sparta, Aratus began negotiations with Antigonus III Doson, the King of Macedon, for military assistance to defeat the Spartans.[7] Antigonus accepted in exchange for Acrocorinth being ceded to his kingdom.[4] This alliance succeeded in reversing the gains of Cleomenes, who was hemmed in the original Spartan territory of Laconia.[8] The war ended with the coalition decisively defeating Cleomenes in 222 BC at the Battle of Sellasia.[9]


  1. ^ a b Plutarch. Life of Cleomenes, 4
  2. ^ Polybius. The Rise of the Roman Empire, 2.46; Plutarch. Life of Cleomenes, 4; Hammond & Walbank 2001, p. 342.
  3. ^ Polybius. The Rise of the Roman Empire, 2.51; Green 1990, p. 249; Hammond & Walbank 2001, p. 347.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Plutarch. Life of Cleomenes, 5
  5. ^ Plutarch. Life of Cleomenes, 6; Smith 1873 [1]
  6. ^ Plutarch. Life of Cleomenes, 14; Green 1990, p. 258; Hammond & Walbank 2001, p. 347.
  7. ^ Plutarch. Life of Cleomenes, 16.
  8. ^ Polybius. The Rise of the Roman Empire, 2.54; Plutarch. Life of Cleomenes, 23; Hammond & Walbank 2001, p. 353.
  9. ^ Polybius 2.69


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Secondary sources[edit]

Coordinates: 37°27′25″N 21°58′30″E / 37.45694°N 21.97500°E / 37.45694; 21.97500