Argive War (494 B.C.E.)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Argos vs. Sparta
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Sepeia in the Peloponnese
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Sparta, a rising power in
Greece, sought to destroy its major rival, Argos, after two
centuries or intermittent conflict.
OUTCOME: The Spartans defeated the Argives at Sepeia and
became the dominant power in the Peloponnese, setting
up four decades of conflict with newly democratic Athens.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
By the fifth century B.C.E. Argos held sway on the Peloponnese,
its only serious rival at this point Sparta. The
Spartan king, Cleomenes I (d. 490 B.C.E.), presiding over a
period of general Spartan expansion, decided to challenge
Argive hegemony in the Peloponnese. In 494 Cleomenes
mounted an attack in the mountainous region of Sepeia,
employing an unspecified ruse that succeeded in achieving
total surprise. The Argive troops were in camp dining
when the attackers descended on them. The outcome was
a complete rout of the Argive army, and King Cleomenes
went on to take the city of Argos. The newly established
dominance of Sparta in the Peloponnese brought that citystate
into direct conflict with Athens and set the stage for
the First PELOPONNESE WAR and the even more destructive
Second (Great) PELOPONNESE WAR.
Further reading: William George Grieve Forrest, A
History of Sparta, 950–192 B.C. (New York: Norton, 1969);
Thomas Kelly, A History of Argos to 500 B.C. (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1977).