Old age for most people is a time of retirement, repose, and reflection as they wait for the Grim Reaper. Some, however, peak in old age, as their twilight years turn out to be among their most eventful and brilliant. Take the ancient Spartan king who ended his days as a mercenary when he was in his eighties. Or the old Prussian general who ended the career of Napoleon Bonaparte. Or the Ashanti grandmother, who led her people in a vicious fight against the British Empire. Or the old Roman general who had been forced into retirement, only to get recalled to put down a rebellion, and ended up as emperor. Below are twenty five things about those and other relatively old folk from history who shone late in life.
The Spartan King Who Ended His Days as an Old Octogenarian Mercenary in Egypt
As a general proposition, war is a young man’s game. Nobody seems to have told that to King Agesilaus II of Sparta (circa 442 – 358 BC). A warrior to the literal end, this monarch ended his days as a mercenary in Egypt, where he fought and led men into combat well into old age, in his eighties. Agesilaus was one of the longest-serving kings in Sparta’s history, and thanks to his friendship with the historian Xenophon, his reign is among the better documented ones from antiquity.
He commanded his kingdom’s military throughout most of the period of Spartan supremacy in Greece from 404 to 370 BC. He was a great tactician, and embodied Sparta’s aggressive spirit. Too aggressive, as it turned out: his military skills were counterbalanced by diplomatic deficiencies that ultimately proved harmful to Sparta. Agesilaus could not be described as a great monarch. Indeed, Sparta, once the dominant power of the ancient Greek world, went into terminal decline on his watch. However, whatever shortcomings of Agesilaus – and there were many – contributed to that decline, lack of effort and energy were not among them.