FTER THE FALL of Athens, Sparta stood without a rival in Greece. In the various cities which had belonged to the Athenian empire Lysander established an oligarchical Council of Ten, called a DECARCHY or Decemvirate, subject to the control of a Spartan HARMOST or governor. The Decarchies, however, remained only a short time in power, since the Spartan government regarded them with jealousy as the partisans of Lysander; but harmosts continued to be placed in every state subject to their empire. The government of the harmosts was corrupt and oppressive; no justice could be obtained against them by an appeal to the Spartan authorities at home; and the Grecian cities soon had cause to regret the milder and more equitable sway of Athens.
On the death of Agis in B.C. 398, his half-brother Agesilaus was appointed King, to the exclusion of Leotychides, the son of Agis. This was mainly effected by the powerful influence of Lysander, who erroneously considered Agesilaus to be of a yielding and manageable disposition and hoped by a skilful use of those qualities to extend his own influence, and under the name of another to be in reality king himself.
Agesilaus was now forty years of age, and esteemed a model of those virtues more peculiarly deemed Spartan. He was obedient to the constituted authorities, emulous to excel, courageous, energetic, capable of bearing all sorts of hardship and fatigue, simple and frugal in his mode of life. To these severer qualities he added the popular attractions of an agreeable countenance and pleasing address. His personal defects at first stood in the way of his promotion. He was not only low in stature, but also lame of one leg; and there was an ancient oracle which warned the Spartans to beware of "a lame reign." The ingenuity of Lysander, assisted probably by the popular qualities of Agesilaus, contrived to overcome this objection by interpreting a lame reign to mean not any bodily defect in the king, but the reign of one who was not a genuine descendant of Hercules. Once possessed of power, Agesilaus supplied any defect in his title by the prudence and policy of his conduct; and, by the marked deference which he paid both to the Ephors and the senators, he succeeded in gaining for himself more real power than had been enjoyed by any of his predecessors.