The Supremacy of Thebes, B.C. 371-361
According to Spartan custom, the survivors of a defeat were looked upon as degraded men, and subjected to the penalties of civil infamy. No allowance was made for circumstances. But those who had fled at Leuctra were three hundred in number; all attempt to enforce against them the usual penalties might prove not only inconvenient, but even dangerous; and on the proposal of Agesilaus, they were, for this occasion only, suspended. The loss of material power which Sparta sustained by the defeat was great. The ascendency she had hitherto enjoyed in parts north of the Corinthian gulf fell from her at once, and was divided between Jason of Pherae and the Thebans. Jason was shortly afterwards assassinated. His death was felt as a relief by Greece, and especially by Thebes. He was succeeded by his two brothers, Polyphron and Polydorus; but they possessed neither his ability nor his power.
The Athenians stood aloof from the contending parties. They had not received the news of the battle of Leuctra with any pleasure, for they now dreaded Thebes more than Sparta. But instead of helping the latter, they endeavoured to prevent either from obtaining the supremacy in Greece, and for this purpose called upon the other states to form a new alliance upon the terms of the peace of Antalcidas. Most of the Peloponnesian states joined this new league. Thus even the Peloponnesian cities became independent of Sparta. But this was not all. Never did any state fall with greater rapidity. She not only lost the dominion over states which she had exercised for centuries; but two new political powers sprang up in the peninsula, which threatened her own independence.
In the following year (B.C. 370) Epaminondas marched into Laconia, and threatened Sparta itself. The city, which was wholly unfortified, was filled with confusion and alarm. The women, who had never yet seen the face of an enemy, gave vent to their fears in wailing and lamentation. Agesilaus, however, was undismayed, and saved the state by his vigilance and energy. He repulsed the cavalry of Epaminondas as they advanced towards Sparta; and so vigorous were his measures of defence, that the Theban general abandoned all further attempt upon the city, and proceeded southwards as far as Helos and Gythium on the coast, the latter the port and arsenal of Sparta after laying waste with fire and sword the valley of the Eurotas, he retraced his steps to the frontiers of Arcadia.
To Chapter XVIΙI : History of the Sicilian Greeks from the Destruction of the Athenian Armament to the Death of Timoleon
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