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.

The Reform Movement Of The Gracchi The Revolt Of Italy And The Social War facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail