In 202-1 Philopoemen drove Nabis, the Spartan tyrant, from Messene and routed him off Tegea.
These disasters at Megara, Amphipolis and Delium left Athens with only one trump card - the possession of the Spartan hoplites captured in Sphacteria.
Athens at once appealed to Sparta to punish this act of medism, and Cleomenes I., one of the Spartan kings, crossed over to the island, to arrest those who were responsible for it.
Everywhere democracy was replaced by a philo-Laconian oligarchy, usually consisting of ten men under a harmost or governor pledged to Spartan Empire.
It was said to have been founded by Megarians and Argives under Byzas about 6S7 B.C., but the original settlement having been destroyed in the reign of Darius Hystaspes by the satrap Otanes, it was recolonized by the Spartan Pausanias, who wrested it from the Medes after the battle of Plataea (479 B.C.) - a circumstance which led several ancient chroniclers to ascribe its foundation to him.
Aristo of Chios and Herillus of Carthage, Zeno's heterodox pupils, Persaeus, his favourite disciple and housemate, the poet Aratus, and Sphaerus, the adviser of the Spartan king Cleomenes, are noteworthy minor names; but the chief interest centres about Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysippus, who in succession built up the wondrous system.
The second act of the drama may be said to open with the irretrievable blunder of Nicias in letting the Spartan Gylippus first land in Sicily, and then march at the head of a small army, partly levied on the spot, across the island, and enter Syracuse by way of Epipolae, past Euryelus.
Demosthenes averted this, and immediately afterwards by superior tactics inflicted a complete defeat at Olpae in Acarnania on Eurylochus at the head of a Spartan and Ambracian force.
At this point Sparta was roused to a sense of the significance of the new confederacy, and the Athenian corn supply was threatened by a Spartan fleet of sixty triremes.
Tarentum alone, partly from Spartan origin, partly through stress of local conditions, shows traces of militant asceticism for a while.