An Old Mercenary
King Agesilaus II was a brave warrior, but he sucked at diplomacy. When he took the throne in 400 BC, Sparta was at the height of its power, having recently won the Peloponnesian War, and emerged as the dominant power of ancient Greece. For decades, he fought a series of wars against rival Greek states, and although he won many battles, he failed to contain the steady rise of Thebes, which emerged as Sparta’s most dangerous foe. Eventually, in 371 BC, Thebes handed Sparta a massive defeat at the Battle of Leuctra. The Thebans followed that up with invasions of the Spartan heartland that reduced Sparta to a second rate power. Agesilaus was game to the end, however. Well into old age, he kept up the fight and tried to regain Sparta’s position as Greece’s dominant power.
Sparta needed money, so in 360 BC, when he was already more than eighty years old, Agesilaus hired himself out as a mercenary to fight for Pharaoh Tachos of Egypt. The old monarch gathered a band of Greek mercenaries, and sailed across the Mediterranean to Egypt. When he got there, however, the locals found it difficult to reconcile the frail old man before them with the fierce Spartan monarch who had reportedly fought in countless campaigns and battles. Pharaoh Tachos in particular was unimpressed, and insulted Agesilaus when he failed to give him a significant command in his army. He instead consigned the aged monarch to command the mercenaries he had brought with him. As seen below, the Pharaoh came to regret that slight.