Seeds of the Five Laws of Decline
Posted by Orrin Woodward on December 15, 2012
I am still working away on my study of the Five Laws of Decline in history. In this short piece, the Spartan General Pausanias is bit by the bug for power, wealth, and status. Abraham Lincoln probably said it best when he stated (and I paraphrase), “Many people can handle failure. If you truly want to know a person’s character, then give him success.” When a person experiences success, then one can identify if it went to his head, or on the contrary, if he recognizes it as a blessing to be thankful for. The LIFE business can help people become successful in their teams, but each person must build his own character. I have watched leaders like Claude Hamilton, George Guzzardo, and many more experience public success; however, their public achievements were founded upon private achievements as discussed in my All-Time Top 100 Leadership Book RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions for LIFE. In other words, build your private victories so you will be ready for the public ones.
Seeds of the Five Laws of Decline
During the Persian War, when Sparta and Athens were still allies and on friendly terms, Pausanias, the Spartan general over the confederated Greek army, defeated the Persians at Plataea. In the process, he captured the tent of the Persian commander Mardonius. Although the battle terminated the Persian threat by routing the enemy, interestingly, it also initiated the FLD by whetting the appetite for wealth among the Greeks. Historian Evelyn Abbot explains the Greek’s surprise when they comprehended the level of wealth and luxury enjoyed by the invaders:
This was no other than the tent of Xerxes which at his departure the King had left for the use of his successor in the command. It was, of course, constructed with royal magnificence, resplendent with gold, and the richest embroidery; a sight such as had never before come under the eyes of the astonished Greeks. When Pausanias saw it, he bade the attendants prepare a meal as they were accustomed to prepare it for Mardonius, and at the same time gave orders to his Helots to cook a common Spartan supper. Then he summoned the captains of the Greeks to see the difference, “How foolish,” he exclaimed, “were the men who while they enjoyed the one sought to rob the Greeks of the other!” The sight of this magnificence seems to have sunk deeply into the mind and memory of Pausanias. Forgetting the infinite difference between freedom and slavery, he contrasted the bare and dreary life of a Spartan with the softness and splendor of a Persian satrap. His successes in the last two years had raised him to the foremost rank in Greece, and he had felt no scruple in claiming for himself the honors which had been won by the devotion of others. Was he to abandon his “great place” and return to Sparta, to be the subject of an infant king?
These seeds which took root within Pausanias’s mind, sprouted several years later when, with mainland Greece safe, the Greek confederation aimed to remove Persian influence from Greater Hellas. Accordingly, Spartan Pausanias, even though Athens had more ships and experienced leaders, was assigned Commander of the allied Greek navy. After another impressive victory at Byzantium over the beleaguered Persian fleet, the united Greeks were on the verge of accomplishing their goal. Curiously, however, Pausanias stopped the offensive strategy, and rumors began circulating out of Asia that he was in negotiations with the Persian King. In truth, they weren’t rumors. Pausanias had schemed with the Great King to marry one of his daughters and serve as a satrap in the Persian Empire. Not surprisingly, the allied Greek forces were not amused, and Pausanias, after having lost the confidence of his men, was recalled to Sparta to face charges of treason. The members of the Greek alliance transferred their loyalties to the Athenian contingent led by Aristides and Cimon.