Dorieus (Greek: Δωριεύς) was a Spartan prince of the Agiad
dynasty who lived in the 6th century BC.
Dorieus was the son of King
Anaxandridas II and his first wife.
However, long after Anaxandridas and the queen failed to produce an
heir, pressure was put upon the king to set the queen aside and take a
new wife. Anaxandridas refused to do this, so it was agreed that he
alone could take a second wife (the Spartans did not practice
polygamy, although infidelity by either partner was sometimes
overlooked in order to increase the birthrate). The second wife of
Anaxandridas soon gave birth to the future king Cleomenes I, the
half-brother of Dorieus.
Dorieus was born very shortly after. Soon a
younger full brother was born, namely Leonidas, who later became king
and famous as the Spartan commander at the Battle of Thermopylae.
Another brother, Cleombrotus, would later become regent of Sparta.
Upon the death of Anaxandridas, Cleomenes rightfully became king, but
Dorieus unsuccessfully challenged him for the throne.
Dorieus expected to prevail as the more fit man, but the law gave the
throne to the older son.
Attempt to establish a colony in Libya
After Cleomenes succeeded Anaxandridas,
Dorieus still felt that he was
more capable than his half-brother and could not tolerate remaining in
Sparta under Cleomenes. So he asked to be sent overseas on a mission
to found a Spartan colony in North Africa.
In c.515 BC
Dorieus and his companions arrived at Cinyps in the
Tripolitania region of modern-day Libya. There they established a
settlement further west than any other of the Greek colonies in North
The great maritime power of the western Mediterranean, the
Carthaginian Empire, was not pleased to have Greek colonies intrude
into its sphere of influence. Three years after the founding of the
colony the Carthaginians in alliance with local Libyans expelled the
Expedition to Sicily
After returning to Sparta,
Dorieus conceived a new plan to lead an
expedition of colonists to Sicily. According to
have participated in the conquest by Croton of the great Greek city of
Sybaris in Southern Italy (510 BC) while on his way to Sicily.
The Spartans landed in
Sicily and attempted to found a settlement at a
place called Heracleia in the western part of the island near Eryx.
However, an alliance of the Carthaginians and Segestans opposed the
enterprise and defeated
Dorieus and his forces in a battle. Dorieus
and most of the leading figures of his expedition were killed.
Herodotus points out that if
Dorieus had remained in
Sparta and had
endured living under the kingship of Cleomenes, he would have
eventually succeeded him as king of Sparta, as Cleomenes had no sons.
Instead it was Dorieus' younger brother
Leonidas who succeeded
Cleomenes as king and assumed the mantle of an heroic figure by his
deeds in the Persian Wars.