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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
II. THE GREAT AGE OF THE GREEK REPUBLICS TO 362 B.C.
» Contents of this ChapterPage 22
BATTLE OF LEUCTRA, 371 B.C.
The Thebans had now recovered their independence. Eight years later they totally defeated a superior Peloponnesian force at the battle of Leuctra and brought the supremacy of Sparta to an end. This engagement from a military standpoint is one of the most interesting in ancient history. Epaminondas, the skilful Theban commander, massed his best troops in a solid column, fifty men deep, and hurled it with terrific force against the Spartan ranks. The enemy, drawn up twelve men deep in the customary formation, could not withstand the impact of the Theban column; their lines gave way, and the fight was soon won. The battle destroyed once for all the legend of Spartan invincibility.
PELOPIDAS AND EPAMINONDAS
The sudden rise of Thebes to the position of the first city in Greece was the work of two men whose names are always linked together in the annals of the time. In Pelopidas and Epaminondas, bosom friends and colleagues, Thebes found the heroes of her struggle for independence. Pelopidas was a fiery warrior whose bravery and daring won the hearts of his soldiers. Epaminondas was both an able general and an eminent statesman. No other Greek, save perhaps Pericles, can be compared with him. Even Pericles worked for Athens alone and showed no regard for the rest of Greece. Epaminondas had nobler ideals and sought the general good of the Hellenic race. He fought less to destroy Sparta than to curb that city's power of doing harm. He aimed not so much to make Thebes mistress of an empire as to give her a proper place among Greek cities. The Thebans, indeed, sometimes complained that Epaminondas loved Hellas more than his native city.
BATTLE OF MANTINEA, 362 B.C.
By crippling Sparta, Epaminondas raised Thebes to a position of supremacy. Had he been spared for a longer service, Epaminondas might have realized his dream of bringing unity and order into the troubled politics of his time. But circumstances were too strong for him. The Greek states, which had accepted the leadership of Athens and Sparta, were unwilling to admit the claims of Thebes to a position of equal power and importance. The period of Theban rule was filled, therefore, with perpetual conflict. Nine years after Leuctra Epaminondas himself fell in battle at Mantinea in the Peloponnesus, and with his death ended the brief glory of Thebes.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy