Cleomenes I 520BC
Son of Anaxandridas II and his second wife, Cleomenes was Anaxandridas' first born son thus heir apparent to the Agiad throne, however Cleomenes legitimacy was thrown into question because he was the product of Anaxandridas' second marriage. His first wife (to whom he was still married) went on to produce three sons of her own; Dorius, Leonidas, and Cleombrotus. However Cleomenes was still recognised on his ascension to the Spartan kingship in 520.
Dorius contested the kingship, (his name meaning 'dorian' making reference to the Spartan ancestral heritage) but Cleomenes had the upper hand having already been recognised as heir apparent and being the first born son. Dorius then abandoned Sparta and attempted to found a colony which (if successful) would only have been Sparta's second after Taras.
Cleomenes only had one daughter, and so the Agiad kingship passed to Leonidas, upon Cleomenes death (or murder!) Dorius having died. Leonidas married Cleomenes daughter and his half-niece Gorgo, with whom he had a son; Pleistionax.
Cleomenes Arbitration 519BC
Cleomenes arbitrates a dispute between Athens and Thebes concerning the status of Plataea.
Plataea was Boetion by geography and ethnicity therefore had a natural disposition towards an alliance with Thebes. However Cleomenes was concerned about Thebes as a growing power, and Sparta was then on friendly terms with Athens. Cleomenes had a close political friendship with the Athenian tyrant Hippias. So Cleomenes advised Plataea to ally with Athens, thus balancing the equilibrium of power between the dominant polis, but for the time being alienating Thebes.
Cleomenes adopted an extremely anti-Persian line, particularly in the light of the new Persian threat. He campaigned in the Isthmus of Corinth in an attempt to ensure a united front against Persia and to ensure that the medizing island of Aegina was suitably punished.
494 - 499 BC Coup de Grace & Cleomenes authority q
Cleomenes waged war against Sparta's die-hard enemy Argos. This campaign proved to be very successful for Sparta, and Cleomenes tactical skill and wit meant that Sparta had Argos in a metaphorical corner. Indeed Argive troops, while seeking sanctuary in a sacred grove, were tricked out by the Spartans and slaughtered. However Cleomenes 'failed' in the eyes of the Ephors to seize the opportunity to capture Argos itself. For this Cleomenes was put on trial.
Cleomenes defence played upon the strong Spartan adherance to religious practice. He claimed that when he consulted the statue at the temple of Hera, a light shone from her breast, a signal, he said that his work was completed and that he should return home. Had light shone from her head, he claimed, he would have gone on to conquer the rest of Argos. This story was accepted by the traditionally zealous Spartans, and despite Cleomenes co-king, Demaratus' best efforts, Cleomenes resumed his position of joint supreme authority.
Cleomenes death is shrouded in conspiracy. While the Spartans claim that Cleomenes went mad as a result of exessive drink (a habit only attributed to Helots by the frugal Spartans) other cities claimed that it was a result of the sacrilege committed in his desecration of a sacred grove in his campaigns against Argos. Either way Cleomenes took to prodding his staff in the face with a stick.
As a result of this Cleomenes was imprisoned under the guard of a supposedly reliable Helot. However Cleomenes was able to persuade him to give him his knife, where upon Cleomenes is reported to have stabbed himself to death, starting at his feet and working his way upwards.
The story is reported by Herodotus who employs the maxim 'look to the end' in reference to if one wants to see how a man lived his life, observe the manner of his death. However some historians have suggested that this was simply a cover-story for the murder of the king by his half-brother Leonidas, who then succeeded him to the Agiad throne.