Siege of Sparta

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Siege of Sparta
The Siege of Sparta by Pyrrhus, Jean-Baptiste Topino-Lebrun
Date Spring 272 BC
Location Sparta
Result Spartan-Macedonian victory
Epirus Sparta
Commanders and leaders
Pyrrhus Areus I
26,000 men,
24 elephants
2,000 +
Casualties and losses
- -

The Siege of Sparta took place in 272 BC and was a battle fought between Epirus under King Pyrrhus, who was besieging the city of Sparta, and an alliance consisting of Sparta under the command of King Areus I and Acrotatus and Macedon. The battle was fought at Sparta and ended in a Spartan-Macedonian victory.

Following his initially successful campaign in Italy, King Pyrrhus of Epirus was forced to retreat back to Epirus by the Roman Republic. On this return to Epirus, he went to war again this time against Antigonus II Gonatas and managed to take control of Macedon. In 272 BC, he was approached by a Spartan Prince, Cleonymus, who asked him to back his claim to the Spartan throne. Cleonymus was disgruntled by the fact that he had been overlooked for the Spartan throne in favor of his nephew, Areus I, and that his young wife had fallen in love with Areus' son, Acrotatus.

Pyrrhus accepted Cleonymus' proposal and marched towards Sparta at the head of his army. Most of the Spartan army was at the time campaigning in Crete with Areus.



In 281 BC, at the request of the Greek city of Tarentum,[1] Pyrrhus, the King of the Greek state of Epirus, went with an army of 25,500 men and 20 elephants to Italy to help fight the Romans. The Romans had succeeded in conquering most of Italy and were now moving in to take the Greek cities in Magna Graecia.,[2] After arriving in Italy in 280 BC, Pyrrhus defeated a Roman army at the Battle of Heraclea, near Tarentum. Pyrrhus repeated his success against Romans by defeating another Roman army at the Battle of Asculum.

However, these victories proved to be very costly to Pyrrhus and he diverted his attention to Sicily, where the Greek states on the island were appealing for his help against Carthage. Despite defeating the Carthaginians, Pyrrhus' behavior alienated him from his Greek allies and he was forced to abandon Sicily and return to the Italian mainland. Pyrrhus attacked the rebuilt Roman army and after the inconclusive Battle of Beneventum, Pyrrhus returned to Epirus.[1]

The war in Italy had drained Pyrhus' financial and military resources but despite this he declared war on King Antigonus II Gonatas of Macedon. He ravaged part of the country before some of the Macedonian army and cities came over to him. He managed to defeat Antigonus at the Battle of the Aous, forcing Antigonus to flee to Thessaloniki. Following Antigonus' flight, Pyrrhus was able to gain control of most of Macedon and Thessaly.


The Spartans were ill-prepared for the siege. King Areus had recently left for a campaign in Crete, and no walls surrounded the city, making it extremely vulnerable to an invasion. Pyrrhus took advantage of this and laid siege to the city with over 20,000 troops and elephants. The Spartans numbered only around 2,000, but reinforcements came, and Pyrrhus eventually had to give up the siege to attack Argos. It was at Argos that Pyrrhus was killed, ending his campaigns.


  1. ^ a b Plutarch. Life of Cleomenes, 13.
    * Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, "Pyrrhus".
    * Green, p. 228.
  2. ^ Plutarch. Life of Cleomenes, 15.
    * Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, "Pyrrhus".
    * Abbott, p. 120-21.


Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

Online sources[edit]

  • Abbott, Jacob (2004-11-12). "Pyrrhus". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 

In video games[edit]

  • The Siege of Sparta is available to play as one of the historical battles in the award-winning video game, Rome: Total War.