When Agis heard of the changes which had been taking place in Sparta during his absence, he quickly went home. On arriving in the city, he found the party of the rich so powerful that he could not oppose them, and was even forced to seek refuge in a temple, as Leonidas and Cleombrotus had each done in turn.
His wife, Agiatis, forced by illness to stay at home, could not show her love by following him there; but a few faithful friends went with him, and kept guard over him. Their watchfulness was needed, because Agis slipped out of the temple every night to go to the bath and refresh himself.
It happened, however, that two of these friends were false. They basely took the bribes offered by the ephors for information about the king, and told them that he left the temple every night, and for what purpose.
Thus advised, the ephors surprised the little party the next night, and thrust Agis into prison. He was tried and condemned to death by order of Leonidas, and thus died when only twentytwo years of age, after having vainly tried for three years to bring the Spartans back to their former simplicity and virtue.
Leonidas, not content with killing Agis, gave the widow Agiatis in marriage to his son, Cleomenes, who was a mere boy, several years younger than she. Agiatis soon won great influence over the young prince, and told him so much about her dead husband, that he tried to follow the example of Agis in everything.
When Leonidas died, Cleomenes succeeded him, and, thanks to the teachings of his wife, was both great and virtuous. He drove away the ephors, who were rich and corrupt, and then distributed all the property equally among the people, as Agis had planned.
When Aratus heard of the reforms made by Cleomenes, he began to fear that Sparta would win back her former power, and again try to lord it over the rest of Greece. To prevent such a misfortune, he decided to attack the Spartan king while he was too young to excel in the art of war.
He therefore advanced with a good army; but, to his surprise and dismay, he was completely defeated by the young king. Several of the smaller towns now showed a desire to leave the Achaean League and join Sparta, so Aratus became more eager than ever to suppress her rising power.
In his eagerness he forgot all caution, and even asked help of Antigonus Doson, King of Macedon, the successor of Antigonus Gonatas. This ruler owed his surname of Doson (“who will give”) to a bad habit of promising all kinds of gifts to his followers,promises which were never kept.
Antigonus Doson was only too glad to send a Macedonian army into Greece, and not only garrisoned the fortress on the Isthmus of Corinth, but also sent troops on into the Peloponnesus.