T HE Achæan and Macedonian armies now met the Spartans at Sellasia, in Laconia, where the latter were badly defeated, and Sparta fell into the enemy's hands. Antigonus was so proud of his victory that he burst a blood vessel upon hearing the news, and died shortly after.
Before he closed his eyes, however, he had the satisfaction of driving Cleomenes away from Greece into Egypt. There the young king fell upon his sword, after killing his children, rather than become a slave. Tyrants were now allowed again in many of the Greek cities, in spite of the remonstrances of Aratus, who learned only too late that the Macedonians had come into the Peloponnesus merely for the purpose of making themselves masters of the country.
Aratus' eyes were opened. He saw that all his efforts were vain, and that, owing to his own imprudence, Greece would never again be free. In his grief, his presence of mind quite forsook him. He did not know what steps to take in order to undo all the harm he had done.
The Ætolians now became the champions of freedom, and marched against the Achæans, whom they defeated. In their distress, the Achæans once more begged the Macedonians to interfere, and send troops into Greece.
The contest which followed is known as the War of the Two Leagues, and lasted for some time. In the beginning, the Macedonian king allowed Aratus to take the lead, and followed all his directions; but, growing weary of this subordinate part, he finally poisoned the Achæan leader, and became head of the league himself.
When the Spartans and Ætolians, who had joined forces, found that the Achæans and Macedonians were likely to prove too strong for them, they also began to look around for allies. As the fame of the rising city of Rome had reached them, they finally sent thither for the help they needed.
The Romans were then rapidly extending their territory, and hoped soon to become masters of the world, so they were glad to help the Spartans against the Macedonians, who were already their enemies.
They therefore speedily came to the Spartans' aid, set fire to the Achæan and Macedonian ships, and defeated their armies so sorely, that Philip was obliged to beg for peace and to give them his son as a hostage.
The Spartans, having thus freed themselves from the yoke of the Achæan League, now fell into far worse hands, for they were governed by a tyrant named Nabis,—a cruel and miserly man, who, in order to increase his treasure, often had recourse to vile stratagems.
He had made a cunning instrument of torture, on purpose to obtain money from any one he wished. This was a statue, the exact image of his wife, clad in magnificent robes. Whenever he heard that any man was very rich, Nabis used to send for him. After treating him with exaggerated politeness, the tyrant would gently advise him to sacrifice his wealth for the good of the state.
If his guest refused to do so, Nabis would invite him to visit his wife, and lead the unsuspecting man close to the statue. This was made so as to move by a system of cunningly arranged springs, and as soon as the victim came within reach, the statue's arms closed tightly around him.
The terrified guest, caught in an irresistible embrace, then found himself drawn closer and closer, and pressed against sharp points and knives hidden under the rich garments.
It was only when the tortured man had solemnly promised to give up all he owned, that the tyrant Nabis would set him free; but if he resisted, he was killed by slow torture, and allowed to bleed to death in the statue's embrace.