When Aratus died, the principal man in the Achaean army was Philopoemen, a brave and virtuous young man. He was patriotic in the extreme, and so plain and unassuming that no one would have suspected his rank.
On one occasion, when he had reached the dignity of general, he was invited to dine at a house where the hostess was a stranger to him. When he came to the door, she took him for a servant, on account of his plain clothes, and curtly bade him go and split wood.
Without saying a word, Philopoemen threw aside his cloak, seized an ax, and set to work. The host, on coming up a few minutes later, was horrified to see his honored guest cutting wood, and was profuse in his apologies for a mistake which only made Philopoemen laugh.
When Philopoemen heard how cruel Nabis was, he wanted to free Sparta from his tyranny. So he entered the town at the head of an armed force of men, confiscated the treasures for the benefit of the public, and drove Nabis away.
The Spartans were at first very grateful to the Achaeans for freeing them, but they soon began to feel jealous of their power, and again rose up in revolt against them. This time Philopoemen treated the Spartans with the utmost severity, even razing the walls of the city, which were never rebuilt.
Philopoemen was farsighted enough to see from the beginning that the Roman alliance would prove bad for Greece. He soon discovered that the Romans intended to subdue the country, and in order to do so most easily were trying to make the people quarrel among themselves.
All his efforts were therefore directed toward keeping peace, and for a time he was quite successful. But the Romans, seeing no other way to bring about a quarrel, at last bribed the Messenians to revolt.
In the course of the war, Philopoemen was led into an artfully arranged ambuscade, and was taken in chains to Messenia, where, notwithstanding his gray hair, he was exposed to the jeers of the common people.
After thus humiliating him, they led him to the place of torture; but when he heard that his army had escaped from the ambush, he fervently cried, “I die happy, since the Achaeans are safe.”
This only hastened the end of the brave patriot, who has been called the “Last of the Greeks,” because he was the last to try to maintain his country’s independence.
The Achaeans soon after took the town of Messenia, stoned all Philopoemen’s murderers on his tomb, and carried his ashes to Megalopolis, his native city, where they were buried with great pomp.