You may remember that the Greeks, at the end of the Peloponnesian War, had found out that Sparta was the strongest city in the whole country; for, although the Athenians managed to drive the Spartans out of their city, they were still forced to recognize them as the leaders of all Greece.
The Spartans were proud of having reached such a position, and were eager to maintain it at any cost. They therefore kept all the Greek towns under their orders, and were delighted to think that their king, Agesilaus, was one of the best generals of his day.
He was not, however, tall and strong, like most of his fellow-citizens, but puny and very lame. His small size and bad health had not lessened his courage, however, and he was always ready to plan a new campaign or to lead his men off to war.
When it became known that Artaxerxes was about to march against the Greek cities in Ionia, to punish them for upholding his brother Cyrus, and for sending him the ten thousand soldiers who had beat such a masterly retreat, Agesilaus made up his mind to go and help them.
There was no prospect of fighting at home just then, so the Spartan warriors were only too glad to follow their king to Asia. Agesilaus had no sooner landed in Asia Minor, than the Greek cities there gave him command over their army, bidding him defend them from the wrath of Artaxerxes.
Now, although the Persian host, as usual, far outnumbered the Greek army, Agesilaus won several victories over his enemies, who were amazed that such a small and insignificant-looking man should be at the same time a king and a great general.
They were accustomed to so much pomp and ceremony, and always saw their own king so richly dressed, that it seemed very queer to them to see Agesilaus going about in the same garments as his men, and himself leading them in battle.