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three pairs of lovers with space



Agis IV (killed ca. 241 BC) and Kleomenes III (killed 219 BC) were two young Spartan Kings who successively dreamed of restoring Sparta’s old ways and lost greatness.

The Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch wrote combined biographies of them at the beginning of the second century AD, as part of his Parallel Lives. Here follow the only passages relating to pederasty.  They all concern Kleomenes rather than Agis. Note that a reference (35 ii) to the Egyptian King Ptolemy IV's taste for "κιναίδους" (inverts) is ignored, as the term was only used for men, not boys, so far as is known.

The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume CII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1921), with one minor amendment explained in a footnote. Latinised names have been replaced by romanisations of the Greek.



3 ii-iv

On succeeding his father as king in 235 BC, the young Kleomenes saw that the citizens had become degenerate and unwarlike, and that he was king only in name:

while the whole power was in the hands of the ephors. He therefore at once determined to stir up and change the existing order of things, and as he had a friend, Xenares, who had been his lover (or inspirer, as the Spartans say), he would make trial of his sentiments by inquiring in detail what sort of a king Agis had been, and in what way and with what assistants he had entered upon the course of action so fatal to him. At first Xenares was quite glad to recall those matters, and rehearsed the events at length and in detail;

but when it was apparent that Kleomenes took an unusual interest in the story, and was profoundly stirred by the innovations of Agis, and wished to hear about him over and over again, Xenares rebuked him angrily, calling him unsound in mind, and finally stopped visiting and conversing with him. To no one, however, did he tell the reason of their variance, but merely said that Kleomenes understood it.

And so Kleomenes, finding Xenares averse, and thinking that everybody else was of like mind with him, began to arrange his project all by himself.

A Spartan silver tetradrachm of ca. 225 BC, with the diademed head of Kleomenes III on the obverse, and Artemis Ortheia brandishing a spear on the reverse

[ii] ἡ δὲ ἀρχὴ πᾶσα τῶν ἐφόρων, εὐθὺς μὲν εἰς νοῦν ἔθετο τὰ παρόντα μεθιστάναι καὶ κινεῖν, ὄντος δὲ αὐτῷ φίλου Ξενάρους, ἐραστοῦ γεγονότος (τοῦτο δὲ ἐμπνεῖσθαι Λακεδαιμόνιοι καλοῦσιν), ἀπεπειρᾶτο τούτου διαπυνθανόμενος τὸν Ἆγιν, ὁποῖος γένοιτο βασιλεὺς καὶ τίνι τρόπῳ καὶ μετὰ τίνων ἐπὶ ταύτην ἔλθοι τὴν ὁδόν. ὁ δὲ Ξενάρης τὸ μὲν πρῶτον οὐκ ἀηδῶς ἐμέμνητο τῶν πραγμάτων ἐκείνων, ὡς ἐπράχθη καθ᾿ ἕκαστα μυθολογῶν καὶ διηγούμενος·

[iii] ὡς δὲ ἦν καταφανὴς ὁ Κλεομένης ἐμπαθέστερον προσέχων καὶ κινούμενος ὑπερφυῶς πρὸς τὴν καινοτομίαν τοῦ Ἄγιδος καὶ ταὐτὰ πολλάκις ἀκούειν βουλόμενος, ἐπέπληξεν αὐτῷ πρὸς ὀργὴν ὁ Ξενάρης ὡς οὐχ ὑγιαίνοντι, καὶ τέλος ἀπέστη τοῦ διαλέγεσθαι καὶ φοιτᾶν πρὸς αὐτόν, οὐδενὶ μέντοι τὴν αἰτίαν ἔφρασε τῆς διαφορᾶς, ἀλλ᾿ αὐτὸν ἔφη γινώσκειν ἐκεῖνον.

[4] Οὕτω δὲ τοῦ Ξενάρους ἀντικρούσαντος ὁ Κλεομένης καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ὁμοίως ἔχειν ἡγούμενος, αὐτὸς ἐν ἑαυτῷ συνετίθει τὴν πρᾶξιν.

 37 vi-vii

In 219 BC, a defeated Kleomenes had been living in Alexandria for three years, hoping for help from his supposed ally, the dissolute Egyptian King, Ptolemy IV, when he discovered the latter considered him his prisoner. He and a group of friends reacted by trying to start an insurrection in Ptolemy’s absence, but no one dared join them.

So, then, he desisted from his attempt, and saying to his friends, ‘It is no wonder, after all, that women rule over men who run away from freedom,’ he called upon them all to die in a manner worthy of their king and their past achievements. So Hippitas first, at his own request, was smitten down by one of the younger men, then each of the others calmly and cheerfully slew himself, except Panteus, the man who led the way in the capture of Megalopolis.

He had once been loved by the king[1], because in his youth he was most fair, and in his young manhood most amenable to the Spartan discipline; and now his orders were to wait until the king and the rest of the band were dead, and then to die himself. At last all the rest lay prostrate on the ground, and Panteus, going up to each one in turn and pricking him with his sword, sought to discover whether any spark of life remained. When he pricked Kleomenes in the ankle and saw that his face twitched, he kissed him, and then sat down by his side; at last the end came, and after embracing the king’s dead body, he slew himself upon it.

Ancient Alexandria

[6] οὕτως οὖν ἀποστὰς καὶ πρὸς τοὺς φίλους εἰπών, “Οὐδὲν ἦν ἄρα θαυμαστὸν ἄρχειν γυναῖκας ἀνθρώπων φευγόντων τὴν ἐλευθερίαν,” παρεκάλεσε πάντας ἀξίως αὐτοῦ καὶ τῶν πεπραγμένων τελευτᾶν. καὶ πρῶτος μὲν Ἱππίτας ὑπὸ τῶν νεωτέρων τινὸς ἐπλήγη δεηθείς, ἔπειτα τῶν ἄλλων ἕκαστος εὐκόλως καὶ ἀδεῶς ἑαυτὸν ἀποσφάττει, πλὴν Παντέως τοῦ πρώτου Μεγάλην πόλιν καταλαβόντος.

[7] τοῦτον δὲ κάλλιστον ὥρᾳ καὶ πρὸς τὴν ἀγωγὴν εὐφυέστατον τῶν νέων γενόμενον ἐρώμενον ἐσχηκὼς ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐκέλευσεν, ὅταν αὐτόν τε καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ἴδῃ πεπτωκότας, οὕτω τελευτᾶν. ἤδη δὲ κειμένων ἁπάντων ἐπιπορευόμενος ὁ Παντεὺς καὶ τῷ ξιφιδίῳ παραπτόμενος καθ᾿ ἕκαστον ἀπεπειρᾶτο μή τις διαλανθάνοι ζῶν. ἐπεὶ δὲ καὶ τὸν Κλεομένη νύξας παρὰ τὸ σφυρὸν εἶδε συστρέψαντα τὸ πρόσωπον, ἐφίλησεν αὐτόν, εἶτα παρεκάθισε· καὶ τέλος ἔχοντος ἤδη περιβαλὼν τὸν νεκρὸν ἑαυτὸν ἐπικατέσφαξε.




[1] Perrin renders this “the king’s favourite”, but this has been amended to “loved by the king”, snce the operative word “ἐρώμενον” means “loved by.




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