Pausanias, the Spartan king, was very proud of the great victory he had won over the Persians at Plataea, and of the praise and booty he had received. He was so proud of it, that he soon became unbearable, and even wanted to become ruler of all Greece.
Although he had at first pretended to despise the luxury which he had seen in the tent of Mardonius, he soon began to put on the Persian dress and to copy their manners, and demanded much homage from his subjects. This greatly displeased the simple Greeks, and he soon saw that they would not help him to become sole king.
In his ambition to rule alone, he entirely forgot all that was right, and, turning traitor, secretly offered to help the Persians if they would promise to make him king over all Greece.
This base plot was found out by the ephors, the officers whose duty it was to watch the kings, and they ordered his own guards to seize him. Before this order could be carried out, however, Pausanias fled, and took refuge in a neighboring temple, where, of course, no one could lay violent hands upon him.
As the ephors feared he might even yet escape to Persia, and carry out his wicked plans, they ordered that the doors and windows of the temple should all be walled up.
It is said that as soon as this command had been given, Pausanias’ mother brought the first stone, saying she preferred that her son should die, rather than live to be a traitor.
Thus walled in, Pausanias slowly starved to death, and the barriers were torn down only just in time to allow him to be carried out, and breathe his last in the open air. The Spartans would not let him die in the temple, because they thought his dying breath would offend the gods.