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Clitorians were the inhabitants of Kleitor in ancient Arcadia, who made war with the Spartan king Soos in the 9th century BCE. They were mentioned by Plutarch,[1] Pausanias,[2] Xenophon. The Clitorians were members of Achaean League.


At the distance of about seven miles from the fountains of Ladon is the city of the Clitorians. But the road that leads from the fountains of Ladon, towards the river Aroanius, is narrow, and the river Clitor flows near the town of the Clitorians. This river pours itself into Aroanius, at no greater distance than a mile from the city. There are various fish in the Aroanius. Some say these fishes emit sounds similar to a thrush. Have seen fishes, indeed, taken, but never heard any sound proceed from them, though staid near the river till sun-set, at which time these fishes are said to be particularly vocal. But this city of the Clitorians was denominated from the son of Azan. It is situated, too, in a plain, and is surrounded with mountains of no great altitude. The most illustrious of its temples are those of Ceres, Esculapius, and Lucina.[3]

Homer, indeed, mentions many Lucinas, and introduces them without any limited number. But Lycius Olen, who was more ancient than Homer, and who was a Delian, composed hymns to other divinities, and one to Lucina, whom he calls Eulinon, or the spinner; evincing by this that she is the same with Pepromene, or Fate; and that she is more ancient than Saturn. The Clitorians, too, have a temple of the Dioscuri, whom they call mighty gods. This temple is about a half mile from the city, and contains brazen statues of the Dioscuri. But on the summit of a mountain, which around 3.5 miles from the city, there is a temple and statue of Minerva Coria.[3]


There goes a story of a Spartan king Soos, that, being besieged by the Clitorians in a dry and stony place so that he could come at no water, he was at last constrained to agree with them upon these terms, that he would restore to them all his conquests, provided that himself and all his men should drink of the nearest spring. After the usual oaths and ratifications, he called his soldiers together, and offered to him that would forbear drinking, his kingdom for a reward; and when not a man of them was able to forbear, in short, when they had all drunk their fill, at last comes king Sous himself to the spring, and. having sprinkled his face only, without swallowing one drop, marches off in the face of his enemies, refusing to yield up his conquests, because himself and all his men had not, according to the articles, drunk of their water.[4]

A later war, unconnected with the greater concerns of the Lacedaemonian confederacy, already existed within Boeotia. In that empire, which some of the Greek republics exercised over others, and the Lacedaemonian, for a long time, over all, we see something of the principle of some despotic governments of modern Europe; allowing the people, as a recompense for deprivation of other liberty, that of assassinating one another. The little, almost unheard of, municipality of the Clitorians waged war with their neighbours the Orchomenians.[5]

Unequal to their enemies in native military force, they had however pecuniary resources that enabled them to supply the deficiency: they took into their pay a body of those troops, the use of which had, as we have seen, long been increasing in Greece; vagabonds from various republics, who made war a trade, and were ready to engage in any service for the best hire. Thus hostilities went forward, unregarded by any superintending authority, till a particular interest of Lacedaemon required that the broil should stop; and then a mandate from Sparta sufficed to still the storm. Agesilaus I saw means prepared by this little war for securing the passage of his army, over the mountains, into the Boeotian plain. He demanded the service of the Clitorian mercenaries for the purpose.[5]

The Clitorians, desirous of gratifying the king and people of Lacedaemon, were only anxious that, while their mercenaries were employed in the Lacedaemonian service, their lands, which they were themselves unable to protect, might not be ravaged. For this Agesilaus undertook to provide; and he did it effectually, by sending his orders to the Orchomenians to abstain from hostility while Lacedaemon might have occasion for the Clitorian troops. It seems there was an existing decree of the congress of the confederacy, forbidding war between the confederated republics while an expedition in the common cause was going forward; and, under the sanction of this decree, Agesilaus threatened the Orchomenians with the first vengeance of the arms of that confederacy, of which their city was a member, if they disobeyed his order. The Orchomenians prudently acquiesced, and the Clitorian mercenaries occupied the passes.[5]


  1. ^ Table talks, Sayings of Spartans, 62. Soos.
  2. ^ Hellenica, Arcadia, 19:3
  3. ^ a b Pausanias, & Taylor, T. (1824). The description of Greece. London: R. Priestley.
  4. ^ Plurarch (1889). Plutarch's Lives of Illustrious Men. Little, Brown.
  5. ^ a b c William King, et al. (1829), The history of Greece, v. 5.. T. Cadell.

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