Battle of Sepeia

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Battle of Sepeia
Date494 BC
Sepeia, Tiryns
Result Spartan victory
Sparta Argos
Commanders and leaders
Cleomenes I
Casualties and losses

At the Battle of Sepeia (Ancient Greek: Σήπεια) (c. 494 BC[1]), the Spartan forces of Cleomenes I defeated the Argives, fully establishing Spartan dominance in the Peloponnese.[2]

The closest thing to a contemporaneous source for the description of the battle is, as for many events in this time period, the Histories of Herodotus (written approximately fifty years later, c. 440 BC).[3] According to Herodotus, the Spartan army tricked the Argives into believing that the Spartans were getting breakfast, and when the Argives did the same, the Spartans picked up their weaponry and attacked them, gaining an overwhelming victory. The battle is a controversial one in terms of the Spartan legend for, according to Herodotus, Spartan king Cleomenes massacred the remaining Argives mostly by burning them alive.[4] After the battle, many Argives fled for refuge in the sacred grove of Argos. Cleomenes ordered his herald to summon about 50 of the Argives who were in the sanctuary one by one, saying that the Spartans had received their ransom. He then proceeded to kill each one of the Argives who stepped out of the sanctuary. The Argives did not know this was happening until one of them climbed up a tree to see what was happening. Once the Argives knew about this, they started refusing to leave the sanctuary, so Cleomenes responded by setting the grove on fire, burning the Argives who were inside of it.[3][5] The battle was so devastating for the Argives that they were unable to aid the Greek cause during the Persian Invasion of 480-479 BC, both out of spite for the Spartan leadership of the Hellenic alliance and because of a lack of fighting-age men. This battle shattered Argive strength and the Argives did not challenge Sparta again until the Peloponnesian War.


  1. ^ There is some uncertainty about the date: see Democracy Beyond Athens: Popular Government in the Greek Classical Age by Eric W. Robinson, pp. 7-9
  2. ^ Britannica. In 494 he inflicted a severe defeat on Argos at Sepeia near Tiryns
  3. ^ a b Herodotus, The Histories, bk 6, 75-81, translated by G. C. Macaulay, available online at
  4. ^ Oxford Reference. In 494 Cleomenes defeated Argos at Sepeia near Tiryns and unscrupulously exploited his victory by burning several thousand Argive survivors to death
  5. ^ Herodotus, The Histories, bk 6, 75-81