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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

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Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Republic Of Thebes

After Sparta and Athens, no State of Greece arrived at
pre-eminence, until the Macedonian empire arose, except Thebes, the
capital of Boeotia; and the empire of this city was short, though
memorable, from the extraordinary military genius of Epaminondas.

In the year B.C. 370, Sparta was the ascendant power of Greece, and was
feared, even as Athens was in the time of Pericles. She had formed an
alliance with the Persian king and with Dionysius of Syracuse. All Greece,
within and without the Peloponnesus, except Argos and Attica and some
Thessalian cities, was enrolled in a confederacy under the lead of Sparta,
and Spartan governors and garrisons occupied the principal cities.

Thebes especially was completely under Spartan influence and
control, and was apparently powerless. Her citadel, the Cadmea, was filled
with Spartan soldiers, and the independence of Greece was at an end.
Confederated with Macedonians, Persians, and Syracusans, nobody dared to
call in question the headship of Sparta, or to provoke her displeasure.

This destruction of Grecian liberties, with the aid of the old
enemies of Greece, kindled great indignation. The orator Lysias, at
Athens, gave vent to the general feeling, in which he veils his
displeasure under the form of surprise, that Sparta, as the chief of
Greece, should permit the Persians, under Artaxerxes, and the Syracusans,
under Dionysius, to enslave Greece. The orator Isocrates spoke still more
plainly, and denounced the Lacedaemonians as "traitors to the general
security and freedom of Greece, and seconding foreign kings to aggrandize
themselves at the cost of autonomous Grecian cities--all in the interest of
their own selfish ambition." Even Xenophon, with all his partiality for
Sparta, was still more emphatic, and accused the Lacedaemonians with the
violation of their oaths.

In Thebes the discontent was most apparent, for their leading
citizens were exiled, and the oligarchal party, headed by Leontiades and
the Spartan garrison, was oppressive and tyrannical. The Theban exiles
found at Athens sympathy and shelter. Among these was Pelopidas, who
resolved to free his country from the Spartan yoke. Holding intimate
correspondence with his friends in Thebes, he looked forward patiently for
the means of effecting deliverance, which could only be effected by the
destruction of Leontiades and his colleagues, who ruled the city.
Philidas, secretary of the polemarchs, entered into the conspiracy, and,
being sent in an embassy to Athens, concocted the way for Pelopidas and
his friends to return to Thebes and effect a revolution. Charon, an
eminent patriot, agreed to shelter the conspirators in his house until
they struck the blow. Epaminondas, then living at Thebes, dissuaded the
enterprise as too hazardous, although all his sympathies were with the

When all was ready, Philidas gave a banquet at his house to the
polemarchs, agreeing to introduce into the company some women of the first
families of Thebes, distinguished for their beauty. In concert with the
Theban exiles at Athens, Pelopidas, with six companions, crossed Cithaeron
and arrived at Thebes, in December, B.C. 379, disguised as hunters, with
no other arms than concealed daggers. By a fortunate accident they entered
the gates and sought shelter in the house of Charon until the night of the
banquet. They were introduced into the banqueting chamber when the
polemarchs were full of wine, disguised in female attire, and, with the
aid of their Theban conspirators, dispatched three of the polemarchs with
their daggers. Leontiades was not present, but the conspirators were
conducted secretly to his house, and effected their purpose. Leontiades
was slain, in the presence of his wife. The conspirators then proceeded to
the prison, slew the jailer, and liberated the prisoners, and then
proclaimed, by heralds, in the streets, at midnight, that the despots were
slain and Thebes was free. But the Spartans still held possession of the
citadel, and, apprised of the coup d'etat, sent home for
re-enforcements. But before they could arrive Pelopidas and the
enfranchised citizens stormed the Cadmea, dispersed the garrison, put to
death the oligarchal Thebans, and took full possession of the city.

This unlooked-for revolution was felt throughout Greece like an
electric shook, and had a powerful moral effect. But the Spartans,
although it was the depth of winter, sent forth an expedition, under King
Cleombrotus--Agesilaus being disabled--to reconquer Thebes. He conducted his
army along the Isthmus of Corinth, through Megara, but did nothing, and
returned, leaving his lieutenant, Sphodrias, to prosecute hostilities.
Sphodrias, learning that the Piraeus was undefended, undertook to seize it,
but failed, which outrage so incensed the Athenians, that they dismissed
the Lacedaemonian envoys, and declared war against Sparta. Athens now
exerted herself to form a second maritime confederacy, like that of Delos,
and Thebes enrolled herself a member. As the Athenian envoys, sent to the
islands of the AEgean, promised the most liberal principles, a new
confederacy was formed. The confederates assembled at Athens and
threatened war on an extensive scale. A resolution was passed to equip
twenty thousand hoplites, five hundred horsemen, and two hundred triremes.
A new property-tax was imposed at Athens to carry on the war.

At Thebes there was great enthusiasm, and Pelopidas, with Charon
and Melon, were named the first boeotrarchs. The Theban government became
democratic in form and spirit, and the military force was put upon a
severe training. A new brigade of three hundred hoplites, called the
Sacred Band, was organized for the special defense of the citadel,
composed of young men from the best families, distinguished for strength
and courage. The Thebans had always been good soldiers, but the popular
enthusiasm raised up the best army for its size in Greece.

Epaminondas now stands forth as a leader of rare excellence,
destined to achieve the greatest military reputation of any Greek, before
or since his time, with the exception of Alexander the Great--a kind of
Gustavus Adolphus, introducing new tactics into Grecian warfare. He was in
the prime of life, belonging to a poor but honorable family, younger than
Pelopidas, who was rich. He had acquired great reputation for his
gymnastic exercises; and was the most cultivated man in Thebes, a good
musician, and a still greater orator. He learned to play on both the lyre
and flute from the teachings of the best masters, sought the conversation
of the learned, but was especially eloquent in speech, and effective, even
against the best Athenian opponents. He was modest, unambitious,
patriotic, intellectual, contented with poverty, generous, and
disinterested. When the Cadmea was taken, he was undistinguished, and his
rare merits were only known to Pelopidas and his friends. He was among the
first to join the revolutionists, and was placed by Pelopidas among the
organizers of the military force.

The Spartans now made renewed exertions, and King Agesilaus, the
greatest military man of whom Sparta can boast, marched with a large army,
in the spring of B.C. 378, to attack Thebes. He established his
head-quarters in Thespiae, from which he issued to devastate the Theban

The Thebans and Athenians, unequal in force, still kept the field against
him, acting on the defensive, declining battle, and occupying strong
positions. After a month of desultory warfare, Agesilaus retired, leaving
Phoebidas in command at Thespiae, who was slain in an incautious pursuit of
the enemy.

In the ensuing summer Agesilaus undertook a second expedition into
Boeotia, but gained no decided advantage, while the Thebans acquired
experience, courage, and strength. Agesilaus having strained his lame leg,
was incapacitated for active operation, and returned to Sparta, leaving
Cleombrotus to command the Spartan forces. He was unable to enter Boeotia,
since the passes over Mount Cithaeron were held by the Thebans, and he made
an inglorious retreat, without even reaching Boeotia.

The Spartans now resolved to fit out a large naval force to operate
against Athens, by whose assistance the Thebans had maintained their
ground for two years. The Athenians, on their part, also fitted out a
fleet, assisted by their allies, under the command of Chabrias, which
defeated the Lacedaemonian fleet near Naxos, B.C. 376. This was the first
great victory which Athens had gained since the Peloponnesian war, and
filled her citizens with joy and confidence, and led to a material
enlargement of their maritime confederacy. Phocion, who had charge of a
squadron detached from the fleet of Chabrias, also sailed victorious round
the AEgean, took twenty triremes, three thousand prisoners, with one
hundred and ten talents in money, and annexed seventeen cities to the
confederacy. Timotheus, the son of Conon, was sent with the fleet of
Chabrias, to circumnavigate the Peloponnesus, and alarm the coast of
Laconia. The important island of Corcyra entered into the confederation,
and another Spartan fleet, under Nicolochus, was defeated, so that the
Athenians became once again the masters of the sea. But having regained
their ascendency, Athens became jealous of the growing power of Thebes,
now mistress of Boeotia, and this jealousy, inexcusable after such
reverses, was increased when Pelopidas gained a great victory over the
Lacedaemonians near Tegyra, which led to the expulsion of their enemies
from all parts of Boeotia, except Orchomenus, on the borders of Phocis.
That territory was now attacked by the victorious Thebans, upon which
Athens made peace with the Lacedaemonians.

It would thus seem that the ancient Grecian States were perpetually
jealous of any ascendant power, and their policy was not dissimilar from
that which was inaugurated in modern Europe since the treaty of
Westphalia--called the balance of power. Greece, thus far, was not
ambitious to extend her rule over foreign nations, but sought an
autonomous independence of the several States of which she was composed.
Had Greece united under the leadership of Sparta or Athens, her foreign
conquests might have been considerable, and her power, centralized and
formidable, might have been a match even for the Romans. But in the
anxiety of each State to secure its independence, there were perpetual and
unworthy jealousies of each rising State, when it had reached a certain
point of prosperity and glory. Hence the various States united under
Sparta, in the Peloponnesian war, to subvert the ascendency of Athens. And
when Sparta became the dominant power of Greece, Athens unites with Thebes
to break her domination. And now Athens becomes jealous of Thebes, and
makes peace with Sparta, in the same way that England in the eighteenth
century united with Holland and other States, to prevent the
aggrandizement of France, as different powers of Europe had previously
united to prevent the ascendency of Austria.

The Spartan power was now obviously humbled, and one of the
greatest evidences of this was the decline of Sparta to give aid to the
cities of Thessaly, in danger of being conquered by Jason, the despot of
Pherae, whose formidable strength was now alarming Northern Greece.

The peace which Sparta had concluded with Athens was of very short
duration. The Lacedaemonians resolved to attack Corcyra, which had joined
the Athenian confederation. An armament collected from the allies, under
Mnasippus, in the spring of B.C. 373, proceeded against Corcyra. The
inhabitants, driven within the walls of the city, were in danger of
famine, and invoked Athenian aid. Before it arrived, however, the
Corcyraeans made a successful sally upon the Spartan troops, over-confident
of victory, in which Mnasippus was slain, and the city became supplied
with provisions. After the victory, Iphicrates, in command of the Athenian
fleet, which had been delayed, arrived and captured the ships which
Dionysius of Syracuse had sent to the aid of the Lacedaemonians. These
reverses induced the Spartans to send Antalcidas again to Persia to sue
for fresh intervention, but the satraps, having nothing more to gain from
Sparta, refused aid. But Athens was not averse to peace, since she no
longer was jealous of Sparta, and was jealous of Thebes. In the mean time
Thebes seized Plataea, a town of Boeotia, unfriendly to her ascendency, and
expelled the inhabitants who sought shelter in Athens, and increased the
feeling of disaffection toward the rising power. This event led to renewed
negotiations for peace between Athens and Sparta, which was effected at a
congress held in the latter city. The Athenian orator Callistratus, one of
the envoys, proposed that Sparta and Athens should divide the headship of
Greece between them, the former having the supremacy on land, the latter
on the sea. Peace was concluded on the basis of the autonomy of each city.

Epaminondas was the Theban deputy to this congress. He insisted on
taking the oath in behalf of the Boeotian confederation, even as Sparta had
done for herself and allies. But Agesilaus required he should take the
oath for Thebes alone, as Athens had done for herself alone. He refused,
and made himself memorable for his eloquent speeches, in which he
protested against the pretensions of Sparta. "Why," he maintained, "should
not Thebes respond for Boeotia, as well as Sparta for Laconia, since Thebes
had the same ascendency in Boeotia that Sparta had in Laconia?" Agesilaus,
at last, indignantly started from his seat, and said to Epaminondas:
"Speak plainly. Will you, or will you not, leave to each of the Boeotian
cities its separate autonomy?" To which the other replied: "Will you leave
each of the Laconian towns autonomous?" Without saying a word, Agesilaus
struck the name of the Thebans out of the roll, and they were excluded
from the treaty.

The war now is to be prosecuted between Sparta and Thebes, since
peace was sworn between all the other States. The deputies of Thebes
returned home discouraged, knowing that their city must now encounter,
single-handed, the whole power of the dominant State of Greece. "The
Athenians--friendly with both, yet allies with neither--suffered the dispute
to be fought out without interfering." The point of it was, whether Thebes
was in the same relation to the Boeotian towns that Sparta was to the
Laconian cities. Agesilaus contended that the relations between Thebes and
other Boeotian cities was the same as what subsisted between Sparta and her
allies. This was opposed by Epaminondas.

After the congress of B.C. 371, both Sparta and Athens fulfilled
the conditions to which their deputies had sworn. The latter gave orders
to Iphicrates to return home with his fleet, which had threatened the
Lacedaemonian coast; the former recalled her harmosts and garrisons from
all the cities which she occupied, while she made preparations, with all
her energies, to subdue Thebes. It was anticipated that so powerful a
State as Sparta would soon accomplish her object, and few out of Boeotia
doubted her success.

King Cleombrotus was accordingly ordered to march out of Phocis,
where he was with a powerful force, into Boeotia. Epaminondas, with a body
of Thebans, occupied a narrow pass near Coronea, between a spur of Mount
Helicon and the Lake Copais. But instead of forcing this pass, the Spartan
king turned southward by a mountain road, over Helicon, deemed scarcely
practicable, and defeated a Theban division which guarded it, and marched
to Creusis, on the Gulf of Alcyonis, and captured twelve Theban triremes
in the harbor. He then left a garrison to occupy the post, and proceeded
over a mountainous road in the territory of Thespiae, on the eastern
declivity of Helicon, to Leuctra, where he encamped. He was now near
Thebes, having a communication with Sparta through the port of Creusis.
The Thebans were dismayed, and it required all the tact and eloquence of
Epaminondas and Pelopidas to rally them. They marched out at length from
Thebes, under their seven boeotrarchs, and posted themselves opposite the
Spartan camp. Epaminondas was one of these generals, and urged immediate
battle, although the Theban forces were inferior.

It was through him that a change took place in the ordinary Grecian
tactics. It was customary to fight simultaneously along the whole line, in
which the opposing armies were drawn up. Departing from this custom, he
disposed his troops obliquely, or in echelon, placing on his left chosen
Theban hoplites to the depth of fifty, so as to bear with impetuous force
on the Spartan right, while his centre and right were kept back for awhile
from action. Such a combination, so unexpected, was completely successful.
The Spartans could not resist the concentrated and impetuous assault made
on their right, led by the Sacred Band, with fifty shields propelling
behind. Cleombrotus, the Spartan king, was killed, with the most
distinguished of his staff, and the Spartans were driven back to their
camp. The allies, who fought without spirit or heart, could not be
rallied. The victory was decisive, and made an immense impression
throughout Greece; for it was only twenty days since Epaminondas had
departed from Sparta, excluded from the general peace. The Spartans bore
the defeat with their characteristic fortitude, but their prestige was
destroyed. A new general had arisen in Boeotia, who carried every thing
before him. The Athenians heard of the victory with ill-concealed jealousy
of the rising power.

Jason, the tyrant of Pherae, now joined the Theban camp and the
Spartan army was obliged to evacuate Boeotia. The great victory of Leuctra
gave immense extension to the Theban power, and broke the Spartan rule
north of the Peloponnesus. All the cities of Boeotia acknowledged the
Theban supremacy, while the harmosts which Sparta had placed in the
Grecian cities were forced to return home. Sparta was now discouraged and
helpless, and even many Peloponnesian cities put themselves under the
presidency of Athens. None were more affected by the Spartan overthrow
than the Arcadians, whose principal cities had been governed by an
oligarchy in the interest of Sparta, such as Tegea and Orchomenus, while
Mantinea was broken up into villages. The Arcadians, free from Spartan
governors, and ceasing to look henceforth for victory and plunder in the
service of Sparta, became hostile, and sought their political
independence. A Pan-Arcadian union was formed.

Sparta undertook to recover her supremacy over Arcadia, and
Agesilaus was sent to Mantinea with a considerable force, for the city had
rebuilt its walls, and resumed its former consolidation, which was a great
offense in the eyes of Sparta. The Arcadians, invaded by Spartans, first
invoked the aid of Athens, which being refused, they turned to Thebes, and
Epaminondas came to their relief with a great army of
auxiliaries--Argeians, Elians, Phocians, Locrians, as well as Thebans, for
his fame now drew adventurers from every quarter to his standard. These
forces urged him to invade Laconia itself, and his great army, in four
divisions, penetrated the country through different passes. He crossed the
Eurotas and advanced to Sparta, which was in the greatest consternation,
not merely from the near presence of Epaminondas with a powerful army of
seventy thousand men, but from the discontent of the Helots. But Agesilaus
put the city in the best possible defense, while every means were used to
secure auxiliaries from other cities. Epaminondas dared not to attempt to
take the city by storm, and after ravaging Laconia, returned into Arcadia.
This insult to Sparta was of great moral force, and was an intense
humiliation, greater even than that felt after the battle of Leuctra.

This expedition, though powerless against Sparta herself, prepared
Epaminondas to execute the real object which led to the assistance of the
Arcadians. This was the re-establishment of Messenia, which had been
conquered by Sparta two hundred years before. The new city of Messenia was
built on the site of Mount Ithome, where the Messenians had defended
themselves in their long war against the Laconians, and the best masons
and architects were invited from all Greece to lay out the streets, and
erect the public edifices, while Epaminondas superintended the
fortifications. All the territory westward and south of Ithome--the
southwestern corner of the Peloponnesus, richest on the peninsula, was now
subtracted from Sparta, while the country to the east was protected by the
new city in Arcadia, Megalopolis, which the Arcadians built. This wide
area, the best half of the Spartan territory, was thus severed from
Sparta, and was settled by Helots, who became free men, with
inextinguishable hatred of their old masters. But these Helots were
probably the descendants of the old Messenians whom Sparta had conquered.
This renovation of Messenia, and the building of the two cities, Messenia
and Megalopolis, was the work of Epaminondas, and were the most important
events of the day. The latter city was designed as the centre of a new
confederacy, comprising all Arcadia.

Sparta being thus crippled, dismembered, and humbled, Epaminondas
evacuated the Peloponnesus, filled, however, with undiminished hostility.
Sparta condescends to solicit aid from Athens, so completely was its power
broken by the Theban State, and Athens consents to assist her, in the
growing fear and jealousy of Thebes, thereby showing that the animosities
of the Grecian States grew out of political jealousy rather than from
revenge or injury. To rescue Sparta was a wise policy, if it were
necessary to maintain a counterpoise against the ascendency of Thebes. An
army was raised, and Iphicrates was appointed general. He first marched to
Corinth, and from thence into Arcadia, but made war with no important

Such were the great political changes which occurred within two
years under the influence of such a hero as Epaminondas. Laconia had been
invaded and devastated, the Spartans were confined within their walls,
Messenia had been liberated from Spartan rule, two important cities had
been built, to serve as great fortresses to depress Sparta, Helots were
converted into freemen, and Greece generally had been emancipated from the
Spartan yoke. Such were the consequences of the battle of Leuctra.

And this battle, which thus destroyed the prestige of Sparta, also led to
renewed hopes on the part of the Athenians to regain the power they had
lost. Athens already had regained the ascendency on the sea, and looked
for increased maritime aggrandizement. On the land she could only remain a
second class power, and serve as a bulwark against Theban ascendency.

Athens sought also to recover Amphipolis--a maritime city, colonized
by Athenians, at the head of the Strymonican Gulf, in Macedonia, which was
taken from her in the Peloponnesian war, by Brasidas. Amyntas, the king of
Macedonia, seeking aid against Jason of Pherae, whose Thessalian dominion
and personal talents and ambition combined to make him a powerful
potentate, consented to the right of Athens to this city. But Amyntas died
not long after the assassination of Jason, and both Thessaly and Macedonia
were ruled by new kings, and new complications took place. Many Thessalian
cities, hostile to Alexander, the son of Jason, invoked the aid of Thebes,
and Pelopidas was sent into Thessaly with an army, who took Larissa and
various other cities under his protection. A large part of Thessaly thus
came under the protection of Thebes. On the other hand, Alexander, who
succeeded Amyntas in Macedonia, found it difficult to maintain his own
dominion without holding Thessalian towns in garrison. He was also
harassed by interior commotions, headed by Pausanias, and was slain.
Ptolemy, of Alorus, now became regent, and administered the kingdom in the
name of the minor children of Amyntas--Perdiccas and Philip. The mother of
these children, Eurydice, presented herself, with her children, to
Iphicrates, and invoked protection. He declared in her favor, and expelled
Pausanias, and secured the sceptre of Amyntas, who had been friendly to
the Athenians, to his children, under Ptolemy as regent. The younger of
these children lived to overthrow the liberties of Greece.

But Iphicrates did not recover Amphipolis, which was a free city,
and had become attached to the Spartans after Brasidas had taken it.
Iphicrates was afterward sent to assist Sparta in the desperate contest
with Thebes. The Spartan allied army occupied Corinth, and guarded the
passes which prevented the Thebans from penetrating into the Peloponnesus.
Epaminondas broke through the defenses of the Spartans, and opened a
communication with his Peloponnesian allies, and with these increased
forces was more than a match for the Spartans and Athenians. He ravaged
the country, induced Sicyon to abandon Sparta, and visited Arcadia to
superintend the building of Megalopolis. Meanwhile Pelopidas, B.C. 368,
conducted an expedition into Thessaly, to protect Larissa against
Alexander of Pherae, and to counterwork the projects of that despot, who
was in league with Athens. He was successful, and then proceeded to
Macedonia, and made peace with Ptolemy, who was not strong enough to
resist him, taking, among other hostages to Thebes, Philip, the son of
Amyntas. The Thebans and Macedonians now united to protect the freedom of
Amphipolis against Athens. Pelopidas returned to Thebes, having extended
her ascendency over both Thessaly and Macedonia.

Thebes, now ambitious for the headship of Greece, sent Pelopidas on
a mission to the Persian king at Susa, who obtained a favorable rescript.
The States which were summoned to Thebes to hear the rescript read refused
to accept it; and even the Arcadian deputies protested against the
headship of Thebes. So powerful were the sentiments of all the Grecian
States, from first to last, against the complete ascendency of any one
power, either Athens, or Sparta, or Thebes. The rescript was also rejected
at Corinth. Pelopidas was now sent to Thessaly to secure the recognition
of the headship of Thebes; but in the execution of his mission he was
seized and detained by Alexander of Pherae.

The Thebans then sent an army into Thessaly to rescue Pelopidas.
Unfortunately, Epaminondas did not command it. Having given offense to his
countrymen, he was not elected that year as boeotrarch, and served in the
ranks as a private hoplite. Alexander, assisted by the Athenians,
triumphed in his act of treachery, and treated his illustrious captive
with harshness and cruelty, and the Theban army, unsuccessful, returned

The Thebans then sent another army, under Epaminondas, into
Thessaly for the rescue of Pelopidas, and such was the terror of his name,
that Alexander surrendered his prisoner, and sought to make peace. But the
rescue of Pelopidas disabled Thebes from prosecuting the war in the
Peloponnesus. As soon, however, as this was effected, Epaminondas was sent
as an envoy into Arcadia to dissuade her from a proposed alliance with
Athens, and there had to contend with the Athenian orator Callistratus.
The complicated relations of the different Grecian States now became so
complicated, that it is useless, in a book like this, to attempt to
unravel them. Negotiations between Athens and Persia, the efforts of
Corinth and other cities to secure peace, the ambition of Athens to
maintain ascendency on the sea, the creation of a Theban navy--these and
other events must be passed by.

But we can not omit to notice the death of Pelopidas.

He had been sent with an army into Thessaly against Alexander of
Pherae, who was at the height of his power, holding in dependence a
considerable part of Thessaly, and having Athens for an ally. In a battle
which took place between Pelopidas and Alexander, near Pharsalus, the
Thessalians were routed. Pelopidas, seeing his enemy apparently within his
reach, and remembering only his injuries, sallied forth, unsupported, like
Cyrus, on the field of Cunaxa, at the sight of his brother, to attack him
when surrounded by his guards, and fell while fighting bravely. Nothing
could exceed the grief of the victorious Thebans in view of this disaster,
which was the result of inexcusable rashness. He was endeared by
uninterrupted services from the day he slew the Spartan governors and
recovered the independence of his city. He had taken a prominent part in
all the struggles which had raised Thebes to unexpected glory, and was
second in abilities to Epaminondas alone, whom he ever cherished with more
than fraternal friendship, without envy and without reproach. All that
Thebes could do was to revenge his death. Alexander was stripped of all
his Thessalian dependencies, and confined to his own city, with its
territory, near the Gulf of Pegasae.

It was while Pelopidas was engaged in his Thessalian campaign, that
a conspiracy against the power of Thebes took place in the second city of
Boeotia--Orchomenus, on Lake Copais. This city was always disaffected, and
in the absence of Pelopidas in Thessaly, and Epaminondas with a fleet on
the Hellespont, some three hundred of the richest citizens undertook to
overthrow the existing government. The plot was discovered before it was
ripe for execution, the conspirators were executed, the town itself was
destroyed, the male adults were killed, and the women and children were
sold into slavery. This barbarous act was but the result of long pent up
Theban hatred, but it kindled a great excitement against Thebes throughout
Greece. The city, indeed, sympathized with the Spartan cause, and would
have been destroyed before but for the intercession of Epaminondas, whose
policy was ever lenient and magnanimous. It was a matter of profound grief
to this general, now re-elected as one of the boeotarchs, that Thebes had
stained her name by this cruel vengeance, since he knew it would intensify
the increasing animosity against the power which had arrived so suddenly
to greatness.

Hostilities, as he feared, soon broke out with increased bitterness
between Sparta and Thebes. And these were precipitated by difficulties in
Arcadia, then at war with Elis, and the appropriation of the treasures of
Olympia by the Arcadians. Sparta, Elis, and Achaia formed an alliance, and
Arcadia invoked the aid of Thebes. The result was that Epaminondas marched
with a large army into the Peloponnesus, and mustered his forces at Tegea,
which was under the protection of Thebes. His army comprised, besides
Thebans and Boeotians, Euboeans, Thessalians, Locrians, and other allies
from Northern Greece. The Spartans, allied with Elians, Achaeans, and
Athenians, united at Mantinea, under the command of Agesilaus, now an old
man of eighty, but still vigorous and strong. Tegea lay in the direct road
from Sparta to Mantinea, and while Agesilaus was moving by a more
circuitous route to the westward, Epaminondas resolved to attempt a
surprise on Sparta. This movement was unexpected, and nothing saved Sparta
except the accidental information which Agesilaus received of the movement
from a runner, in time to turn back to Sparta and put it in a condition of
defense before Epaminondas arrived, for Tegea was only about thirty miles
from Sparta. The Theban general was in no condition to assault the city,
and his enterprise failed, from no fault of his. Seeing that Sparta was
defended, he marched back immediately to Tegea, and dispatched his cavalry
to surprise Mantinea, about fifteen miles distant. The surprise was
baffled by the unexpected arrival of Athenian cavalry. An encounter took
place between these two bodies of cavalry, in which the Athenians gained
an advantage. Epaminondas saw then no chance left for striking a blow but
by a pitched battle, with all his forces. He therefore marched from Tegea
toward the enemy, who did not expect to be attacked, and was unprepared.
He adopted the same tactics that gave him success at Leuctra, and posted
himself, with his Theban phalanx on the left, against the opposing right,
and bore down with irresistible force, both of infantry and cavalry, while
he kept back the centre and right, composed of his trustworthy troops,
until the battle should be decided. His column, not far from fifty shields
in depth, pressed upon the opposing column of only eight shields in depth,
like the prow of a trireme impelled against the midships of an antagonist
in a sea-fight. This mode of attack was completely successful. Epaminondas
broke through the Lacedaemonian line, which turned and fled, but he
himself, pressing on to the attack, at the head of his column, was
mortally wounded. He was pierced with a spear--the handle broke, leaving
the head sticking in his breast. He at once fell, and his own troops
gathered around his bleeding body, giving full expression to their grief
and lamentations.

Thebes gained, by the battle of Mantinea, the preservation of her
Arcadian allies and of her anti-Spartan frontier; while Sparta lost,
beyond hope, her ancient prestige and power. But the victory was dearly
purchased by the death of Epaminondas, who has received, and probably
deserves, more unmingled admiration than any hero whom Greece ever
produced. He was a great military genius, and introduced new tactics into
the art of war. He was a true patriot, thinking more of the glory of his
country than his own exaltation. He was a man of great political insight,
and merits the praise of being a great statesman. He was, above all,
unsullied by vices, generous, devoted, merciful in war, magnanimous in
victory, and laborious in peace. He was also learned, eloquent, and wise,
ruling by moral wisdom as well as by genius. His death was an irreparable
loss--one of those great men whom his country could not spare, and whose
services no other man could render. Of modern heroes he most resembles
Gustavus Adolphus. And as the Thirty Years in Germany loses all its
interest after the battle of Leutzen, when the Swedish hero laid down his
life in defense of his Protestant brethren, so the Theban contest with
Sparta has no great significance after the battle of Mantinea. The only
great blunder which Epaminondas made was to encourage his countrymen to
compete with Athens for the sovereignty of the seas. That sovereignty was
the natural empire of Athens, even as the empire of the land was the glory
of Sparta. If these two powers had been contented with their own peculiar
sphere, and joined in a true alliance with each other, the empire of
Greece might have resisted the encroachments of Philip and Alexander, and
defied the growing ascendency of Rome.

Shortly after the death of Epaminondas, B.C. 362, the greatest man
of Spartan annals disappeared from the stage of history. Agesilaus died in
Egypt, having gone there to assist the king in his revolt from Persia. He
also possessed all the great qualities of a prince, a soldier, a statesman
and a man. He, too, was ambitious, but only to perpetuate the power of
Sparta. It was his misfortune to contend with a greater man, but he did
all that was in the power of a king of Sparta to retrieve her fortunes,
and died deeply lamented and honored. Artaxerxes died B.C. 358, after
having subdued the revolt of his satraps and of Egypt, having reigned
forty-five years, and Ochus succeeded to his throne, taking his father's

Athens recovered, during the wars between Sparta and Thebes, much
of her former maritime power, and succeeded in retaking the Chersonese.
But another great character now arises to our view--Philip of Macedon, who
succeeded in overturning the liberties of Greece. But before we present
his career, that of Dionysius of Syracuse, demands a brief notice, and the
great power of Sicily, as a Grecian State, during his life.

Next: Dionysius And Sicily

Previous: The Lacedaemonian Empire

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