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Philopoemen

Philopoemen (253-184 B.C.) was a Greek general

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Philopoemen of Megalopolis in Arcadia was orphaned at an early age and brought up by one of his father's friends, Cleander. He was attracted to the military life from childhood, despising the then fashionable athletics on the grounds that the training for athletics ran contrary to the training needed for soldiering.

Cleomenes III of Sparta captured Megalopolis in a surprise attack (222), and it was Philopoemen who led the evacuation of the citizens to Messene. Cleomenes offered to return the city to its citizens, but Philopoemen argued against this, saying it would be just to give Cleomenes the citizens as well as the city. When Antigonus III of Macedon defeated Cleomenes at the battle of Sellasia the next year, it was in no small part due to Philopoemen's tactics.

Philopoemen then went to Crete, where the cities were constantly at war with each other, to hone his military skills. When he returned to Achaia in 210 with a much enhanced reputation, he was appointed commander of the cavalry. He reorganised and trained the cavalry, forming them into an efficient fighting force, as they proved in battle against the Aetolians and Eleans the next year.

In 208, Philopoemen was elected general of the Achaian League. His first task was to improve the armour, equipment, and fighting formation of the Achaian infantry. His reforms and training paid off when his forces defeated Machinadas of Sparta, who Philopoemen himself killed in battle at Mantinea.

After attempt on his life by assassins sent by Philip V of Macedon, Philopoemen defeated Nabis of Sparta at Messene and Tegea. Philopoemen then returned to Crete, where he fought for the Gortynians.

Philopoemen returned to the Peloponnese in 194, to fight once more against Nabis of Sparta. This time the Achaian League was allied with the Romans under Titus Quintius Flamininus against Sparta. The Romans made peace with Sparta, but Nabis was killed soon after (192), and Philopoemen persuaded Sparta to join the Achaian League.

When Sparta attempted to leave the League in 190, Philopoemen advised against attacking Sparta at a time when the Romans and Antiochus III both had huge armies in Greece, but his advice was not taken. He thereupon defended Sparta against both Achaia and the Romans, and brought it back into the League. When Sparta defected for a second time in 188, Philopoemen captured the city, razed the walls and insisted that the Spartans abolish the laws of Lycurgus and adopt those of Achaia instead.

Messene revolted against the League in 184, and the Messenian forces captured Philopoemen, who was fighting despite being sick with a fever. He was imprisoned and executed by poison. On hearing of his death, the members of the Achaian League joined forces to capture Messene. Philopoemen was cremated and his ashes taken back to Megalopolis, carried by the future historian Polybius.

Ancient Sources:
Polybius: References at the appropriate places in Polybius' history. See especially Books 10, 11, 20, 22-24.
Plutarch's Life of Philopoemen
Pausanias: Book 8, sections 49-51

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