Since the time of Agamemnon no Grecian king had led an army into Asia; and Agesilaus studiously availed himself of the prestige of that precedent in order to attract recruits to his standard. The Spartan kings claimed to inherit the sceptre of Agamemnon; and to render the parallel more complete, Agesilaus proceeded with a division of his fleet to Aulis, intending there to imitate the memorable sacrifice of the Homeric hero. But as he had neglected to ask the permission of the Thebans, and conducted the sacrifice and solemnities by means of his own prophets and ministers, and in a manner at variance with the usual rites of the temple, the Thebans were offended, and expelled him by armed force:--an insult which he never forgave.
It was in 396 B.C. that Agesilaus arrived at Ephesus and took the command in Asia. He demanded of the Persians the complete independence of the Greek cities in Asia; and in order that there might be time to communicate with the Persian court, the armistice was renewed for three months. During this interval of repose, Lysander, by his arrogance and pretensions, offended both Agesilaus and the Thirty Spartans. Agesilaus, determined to uphold his dignity, subjected Lysander to so many humiliations that he was at last fain to request his dismissal from Ephesus, and was accordingly sent to the Hellespont, where he did good service to the Spartan interests.
Meanwhile Tissaphernes, having received large reinforcements, sent a message to Agesilaus before the armistice had expired, ordering him to quit Asia. Agesilaus immediately made preparations as if he would attack Tissaphernes in Caria; but having thus put the enemy on a false scent, he suddenly turned northwards into Phrygia, the satrapy of Pharnabazus, and marched without opposition to the neighbourhood of Dascylium, the residence of the satrap himself. Here, however, he was repulsed by the Persian cavalry. He now proceeded into winter quarters at Ephesus, where be employed himself in organizing a body of cavalry to compete with the Persians. During the winter the army was brought into excellent condition; and Agesilaus gave out early in the spring of 395 B.C. that he should march direct upon Sardis. Tissaphernes suspecting another feint, now dispersed his cavalry in the plain of the Maeander. But this time Agesilaus marched as he had announced, and in three days arrived unopposed on the banks of the Pactolus, before the Persian cavalry could be recalled. When they at last came up, the newly raised Grecian horse, assisted by the peltasts, and some of the younger and more active hoplites, soon succeeded in putting them to flight. Many of the Persians were drowned in the Pactolus, and their camp, containing much booty and several camels, was taken.