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Sect. 1. Jason of Pherae; and the Battle of Leuctra

The balance of power in Greece had been swayed for a hundred years by the two rivals Sparta and Athens ; and now the Peace of Callias had formally adjusted an equilibrium between them. But this dual system was threatened from the very outset by formidable dangers. It was clear that new forces had arisen within the last few years, which would dispute the leadership of Hellas with the two older states. There had been a development of military power in the north, and two cities had come into dangerous prominence, Thebes and Pherae.

Of the rise of Pherae we know less than of the rise of Thebes. At the time of the Peace of Callias we make the sudden discovery that the Thessalian cities which were usually in a state of feud have been united, and that Thessaly has consequently become one of the great powers of Greece. This was the doing of one man. There had arisen at Pherae a despot, who was not merely vigorous and warlike, but whose ambition ranged beyond the domestic politics of Thessaly and sought to play a great part on the wider stage of Hellas. Jason had established his dominion by means of a well-trained body of 6000 mercenaries, and also doubtless by able diplomacy. The most influential citizen of Pharsalus exposed at Sparta the ambitious and menacing views of Jason, and proved the importance of checking his career before he became too powerful; but Sparta, pressed by other more importunate claims, declined to interfere. Then Pharsalus yielded to the solicitations of Jason, and helped to install him as Tagus of an united Thessaly. The power of the despot extended on one side into Epirus, where Alcetas, prince of the Molossi, became his vassal; and on the other side to Macedonia.

A monarch, endowed with uncommon political and military ability, at the head of all Thessaly, with the best cavalry in Greece at his command, seemed likely to change the whole course of Hellenic affairs. That he aimed at becoming the first power in Hellas—at attaining the hegemony or leadership, as it was called—there can be no question; nor, considering the weakness and jealousies of the southern Grecian states, would this object, with his resources, be difficult of achievement. But, if his ambition was not bounded by Thessaly, neither was it confined to Hellas. His dream was to lead Hellas against Persia, and overthrow the power of the Great King. How serious he was in his great projects is shown by the fact that he set about building a navy. Thessaly was again to become a sea­power, as in the days of legendary story, when the Argo ventured forth from the land-locked bay of Iolcus.

The power of Sparta had evidently declined, but she was still regarded as holding the highest position in Greece; and it was the first object of Jason to weaken her still further and dethrone her from that place. His second immediate object was to gain control of the key of southern Greece—the pass of Thermopylae; and as this was commanded by the Spartan fortress of Heraclea, these two objects were intimately connected. His obvious policy was to ally himself with Sparta’s enemy, Thebes; and Thebes, in her isolated position, leapt at his alliance. The treaty between the Boeotian and Thessalian federations was probably concluded not long before the Peace of Callias. According to the terms of that Peace, all parties were to recall their armaments from foreign countries and their garrisons from foreign towns. Athens promptly recalled Iphicrates from Corcyra, but Sparta on her side failed to fulfil the contract. King Cleombrotus had, shortly before, led an army to Phocis, and now, instead of disbanding it, he was ordered to march against Thebes and compel that state to set free the Boeotian cities. One voice, perhaps, in the Spartan assembly was raised against this violation of the recent oaths, a violation which was also unfair to the allies who served in the Lacedaemonian army. But in this hour Sparta was led on, as one of her admirers said, by a fatal impulse inspired by the gods ; the feeling of hatred against Thebes, diligently fostered by Agesilaus, swept away all thoughts of policy or justice; and the voice which was raised for justice and policy was scornfully cried down. The duel between Thebes and Sparta was inevitable; and all Greece, confident in Spartan superiority, looked to see Thebes broken up into villages or wiped out from among the cities of Hellas. Even Thebes herself hardly hoped for success. But Sparta would have done well to disband the army of Cleombrotus, and organise a new force with the help of those allies who were willing to support her.

The object of Cleombrotus, who was posted near Chaeronea, in the gate between Phocis and Boeotia, was to reach Thebes; and, as we have seen in the case of former military operations in this country, his direct road lay along the western and southern banks of Lake Copais, by Coronea and Haliartus. The aim of the Thebans was to prevent him from reaching his objective; and they posted their forces nigh to Coronea, where, nearly a quarter of a century before, a confederate army had waylaid Agesilaus. But Cleombrotus disappointed his enemy ; he marched southward by a difficult road round Mount Helicon to Thisbe, and thence pounced on the port of Creusis, which he captured along with twelve Theban ships in the harbour; and, by this swift stroke having secured his rear, he advanced northward along the road to Thebes.

When he reached the height of Leuctra, he found that the way was barred by the Theban army. Leuctra lies on the hills which form the south limit of a small plain, somewhat more than half a mile broad, traversed by the brook of the upper Asopus. The road from the coast to Thebes crosses it and ascends the hills on the northern side, where the Boeotarchs and their army were now drawn up. The round top of one of these low hills, just east of the road, was levelled and enlarged to form a smooth platform. Here the Theban hoplites of the left wing were posted, and the artificial mound marks their place to this day. The numbers of the two hosts are uncertain; the Lacedaemonians, in any case considerably superior, may have been about eleven, the Theban about six, thousand strong. But the military genius of one of the Boeotarchs, now for the first time fully revealed, made up for the deficiency in strength. Instead of drawing out the usual long and shallow line, Epaminondas made his left wing deep. This wedge, fifty shields deep, of irresistible weight, with the Sacred Band, under the captaincy of Pelopidas, in front, was opposed to the Spartans who, with Cleombrotus himself, were drawn up on the right of the hostile army. “It was on his left wing that Epaminondas relied for victory; the shock between the Spartans and Thebans would decide the battle; it mattered little about the Boeotians on the centre and left, whom he could not entirely trust. The Thespians, who were present on constraint, were at the last moment permitted to depart; but their retreat was cut off and they were driven back to the camp by the Phocians and other of the Lacedaemonian allies, who, by detaching themselves for this purpose, weakened their own army without effecting an useful result.

The battle began with an engagement of the cavalry. In this arm the Lacedaemonians were notoriously weak; and now their horsemen, easily driven back, carried disorder into the line of foot. Cleombrotus, who was confident of victory, then led his right wing down the slopes—the centre and left being probably impeded in their advance by the cavalry; and on his side Epaminondas with the Theban left moved down from their hill, deliberately keeping back the rest of the line. The novel tactics of Epaminondas decided the battle. The Spartans, twelve deep, though they fought ever so bravely, could not resist the impact of the Theban wedge led by Pelopidas. King Cleombrotus fell, and after a great carnage on both sides the Thebans drove their enemies up the slopes back to their camp. In other parts of the field there seems to have been little fighting or slaughter; the Lacedaemonian allies, when they saw the right wing worsted, retired without more ado.

A thousand Lacedaemonians had fallen, including four hundred Spartans  and the survivors acknowledged their defeat by demanding the customary truce to take up the dead. It might be thought that they would have immediately retreated to Creusis, the place of safety which the dead king had prudently provided in their rear. It is not likely that the enemy, whom they still considerably outnumbered, would have attempted to stop their way, or even to harass them seriously from behind. The Thebans could hardly realise the victory which they had never expected; it was more than enough to have defeated the Lacedaemonians in the open field, to have slain their king, and to have compelled them to evacuate Boeotia. But the Lacedaemonian army remained in its entrenchments on the hill of Leuctra, in the expectation of being reinforced by a new army from Sparta and retrieving the misfortune. A messenger was sent home with the inglorious tidings, and the shock was borne there with that studied self-repression which only the discipline of Sparta could inculcate in her citizens. The remaining forces of the city were Army of hastily got together, and placed under the command of Archidamus, relief son of Agesilaus. Some of the allied states sent aid, and the troops were transported by ship from Corinth to Creusis. 

But all this took time, and meanwhile Thebes had not been idle. Two messengers were sent with the good news, to Athens and to Thessaly. At Athens the wreathed messenger was received with an ominous silence. The Theban victory was distinctly unwelcome there; it opened up an indefinite prospect of warfare and seemed likely to undo the recent pacification; while the Athenians were far less jealous of Sparta than of Thebes. At Pherae the tidings had a very different reception. Jason marched forthwith to the scene of action, at the head of his cavalry and mercenaries, flying so rapidly through Phocis that the Phocians, his irreconcilable enemies, did not realise his presence until he had passed. He cannot have reached Leuctra until the sixth or seventh day after the battle. The Thebans thought that with the help of his forces they might storm the Lacedaemonian entrenchments, dangerous though the task would be. But for the policy of Jason the humiliation already inflicted on Sparta was enough; the annihilation of the enemy or any further enhancement of the Theban success would have been too much. He dissuaded the Thebans from the enterprise, and induced them to grant a truce to the Lacedaemonians, with leave to retire unharmed. This the Lacedaemonians were now forced to accept, notwithstanding the approach of reinforcements. For their position was totally altered through the presence of the seasoned troops of Jason, and it was clear that the foe would not wait to attack them till the expected reinforcements arrived. The retreat was carried out at night, for the leaders suspected the good faith of their opponents. On the coast the defeated troops met the army of Archidamus, which had come in vain, and all the forces were disbanded.

Such were the circumstances of the Lacedaemonian evacuation of Boeotia after the battle of Leuctra, according to the historian whose authority we are naturally inclined to prefer. But the memory of Xenophon might have misled him in regard to some of the details, and there was another account from which it might be inferred that events moved more rapidly. There is something to be said for the view that the army of Archidamus was not dispatched as a relief force after the battle of Leuctra, but was already on its way before the battle was fought; that Cleombrotus had the alternative of waiting for Archidamus before he ventured on an action, and that his visit to Creusis was, in fact, connected with the expected arrival of reinforcements; that Jason too was hastening to support the Thebans, and that the messenger who bore the news of victory met him on his southward march. On this view' the truce might have been concluded on the morrow of the battle, and we avoid the difficulty of supposing that the defeated army decided to remain for a week on the hill of Leuctra, when the road to Creusis was open behind them.

The question is of little moment save in so far as it concerns the movements of the Tagus of Thessaly. The significance of the sequel of the battle lies in the prominent part which he played as a mediator; and we should like well to know whether his original purpose was to fight side by side with his Theban allies. We also hear darkly of his avowed intention to bring help by sea; and we are tempted to speculate at what point the new Thessalian navy would have acted at this crisis. Jason returned to his northern home, but on his way he dealt another blow at Sparta on his own account, by dismantling Heraclea, the fort which controlled the pass of Thermopylae. He thus compassed an object of great importance for his further designs. These designs he soon began to unfold. He fixed on the next celebration of the Pythian festival as a time to display his greatness and his power to the eyes of assembled Hellas. He sent mandates around to the Thessalian cities to prepare oxen, sheep, and goats for the sacrifice at Delphi, offering a gold crown as a prize for the fairest ox. And he issued commands that the armed host of the Thessalians should be ready to march with him to keep the feast. He proposed to usurp the rights of the Amphictyonic board, and preside himself over the games. A rumour was floated that he intended to seize the treasures of the temple; but it is hard to believe that an aspirant to the hegemony of Greece would have perpetrated an act so manifestly impolitic. Apollo told the Delphians, who were fluttered by the report, that he would himself guard his treasure.

But the priests were soon to breathe freely; the Phocians were to be spared the mortification of seeing the hated Thessalian in their land. One day Jason held a review of his cavalry, and afterwards sat to hear petitions. Seven young men, to all appearance wrangling hotly, drew near to lay their dispute before him, and slew him where he sat. The death of Jason was the knell of all his plans. The unity of Thessaly, the high position which it had attained among the Grecian powers, depended entirely on him. The brothers who succeeded to his place were slight insignificant men, without the ability, even if they had possessed the will, to carry out his far-reaching designs. It is the bare truth to say that the blades of the seven young men changed the course of history. Jason was well on his way to attain in eastern Greece the supreme position which his great fellow-despot Dionysius held in the west. Nor is it extravagant to suppose that under him Thessaly might have accomplished part of the work which was reserved for Macedonia. Politically, indeed, his work is to be condemned. He had not laid the foundations of a national unity in Thessaly; the unity which he had compassed was held by military force only and his own genius. We cannot congratulate a statesman on a result of which the stability hangs on the chances of his own life. In this respect Jason stands in the same rank with Epaminondas.

The death of the Thessalian potentate decided that, of the two northern states which had recently risen into prominence, Boeotia not Thessaly, should take the torch from Sparta. 

 The significance of the battle of Leuctra is perhaps most clearly revealed in the fact that during the wars between Sparta and Thebas which followed it, the parts hitherto played by the two states are reversed. Thebes now becomes the invader of the Peloponnese, as Sparta before had been the invader of Boeotia. Thebes is now the aggressor; it is as much as Sparta can do to defend her own land. The significance of Leuctra is also displayed in the effect which it produced upon the policy of Athens, and in its stimulating influence on the lesser Peloponnesian states, especially Arcadia, which was wakened up into new life.

The supremacy of Thebes was the result of no overmastering imperial instinct and was inspired by no large idea, but it brought about some beneficial results. Sparta had grievously abused the dominion which had fallen into her hands; and the period of Theban greatness represents the reaction against the period of Lacedaemonian oppression. The two objects of Theban policy are to hinder Sparta from regaining her old position in the Peloponnesus, and to prevent the revival of Jason’s power in Thessaly.

Although no express record has been handed down as to constitutional changes, there is some evidence which has suggested the belief that the Thebans drew tighter the bond which united the Boeotian communities by transforming the federation into a national state. Thebes, seemingly, became in Boeotia what Athens was in Attica; the other cities, Coronea, Thespiae, Haliartus, and the rest, were uncitied and became as Marathon and Eleusis; their citizens exercised their political rights in an Assembly at Thebes. If this be so, we may suspect that Epaminondas played the part of legendary Theseus; but the new constitution had no elements of stability, and it endured but for a few years.


Sect. 2. Policy of Thebes in Southern Greece, Arcadia and Messenia


The defeat of a Lacedaemonian army in the open field by an enemy inferior in numbers was a thrilling shock to the Greeks, who deemed it part of the order of nature that the Spartan hoplites should be invincible except in front of an overwhelmingly larger force. The event was made more impressive by the death of king Cleombrotus; a Spartan king had never fallen in battle since Leonidas laid down his life at the gates of Greece. The news agitated every state in the Peloponnesus. The harmosts, whom Sparta had undertaken to withdraw three weeks before, when she signed the Peace, were now expelled from the cities; there was an universal reaction against the local oligarchies which had been supported by Sparta and had excited universal discontent; and these democratic revolutions flooded the Scytalism, land with troops of dangerous exiles. The contagion spread even to Argos, though Sparta had no influence there, and broke out with such violence that many citizens were cudgelled to death by the infuriated people.

But it was in Arcadia that the most weighty political results followed. A general feeling, which had perhaps been growing for some years back, now took definite shape, that the cities of Arcadia must combine together to oppose an united front to Lacedaemonian pretensions. The only way in which each city could hope to preserve her independence against the power of Sparta was by voluntarily surrendering a portion of that independence to a federal union of her sister cities. The most zealous advocate of the Pan-Arcadian idea was the Mantinean Lycomedes, a native of the district which had been more cruelly used than all others by the high-handed policy of Lacedaemon. The fall of Sparta was the signal for the Mantineans to rebuild their walls, desert their villages, and resume the dignity and pleasures of city life. The old king Agesilaus had the insolence to remonstrate; he requested them at least to ask the gracious permission of Sparta, but he had no power to enforce his request.

The Mantineans resolved that their city should not again be captured, as king Agesipolis had captured it, by means of its own river. They dug a new bed, so that the Ophis when it approached the south-eastern wall parted into two channels and, having described a great loop, reunited its waters on the north-western side. In this loop the city of Mantinea rose again, and by this means the river, which had proved itself a danger, was forced to become a fortification, entirely encompassing the walls. The stone foundations of the wall enable us to trace the circuit of the city; but they were only the base for a superstructure which, like the buildings of the town, was of brick. The ten gates were curiously constructed, no two alike, yet all elaborations of a principle which was adopted by the builders of the fortress of Tiryns—the principle of exposing the undefended right side of an approaching enemy to the defenders who manned the walls and flanking towers. The general design may be best grasped by conceiving the wall not as a continuous circle but as com­posed of ten separate pieces, which did not join but overlapped, while the gates connected the overlapping ends.

Mantinea, arisen from her ruins, and the other towns of Arcadia —with the important exceptions of Tegea, Orchomenus, and Heraea —now agreed to form a Pan-Arcadian union and constitute a federal state. Several reasons made it expedient to establish a new seat as the federal capital of the country. The Arcadian cities were too small for the purpose. The selection of one of them would have excited the jealousies of the other, and it was intended that there should be no Thebes in the Arcadian state. The site chosen for the new city was in the western of the two large plains which define the geographical character of central Arcadia. It lay, in a long narrow irregular shape, on both sides of the river Helisson. Not far off rose Lycaeon, the mountain to which the Arcadian folk attached their most sacred associations; and in the centre of the market-place was built a shrine of Zeus of that holy hill. The town was entitled to its name of Megalopolis, or Great City, by the large circuit of its double wall, a circuit of five miles and a half—a somewhat rough piece of work, built of stone in the lower courses and brick above, and furnished with towers at intervals.

It must be kept in view that Megalopolis had a double character. It was to be the federal capital, but it was also to be one of the federal cities. Apart from its relation to all Arcadia, it had a special relation to its own plain. The change which had come to pass in the eastern plain, so long ago that no man could tell when, by the founding of Tegea and Mantinea, was now brought to pass in the western plain. The village communities of the surrounding districts were induced to exchange their separate existence for joint life in a city. Lying close to the north-western frontier of Laconia, Megalopolis would be a bulwark against Sparta on this side, corresponding to Tegea on the north. It is natural to compare it with Mantinea, which arose in its new shape at the same time. Both cities seem to have had a similar system of fortification, double walls of stone and brick, strengthened by towers; but Megalopolis, which was the larger, was also the stronger by nature. For Mantinea lay on a dead level, all its strength was due to art; Megalopolis lay on sloping irregular ground, offering hills of which the architect could take advantage. The difference is illustrated by the fact that the little theatre in Mantinea rested on a stone substructure, while the huge theatre in Megalopolis is cut out of a hill.

The Federal Constitution was modelled on the ordinary type of democratic constitutions. There was an Assembly, which met at stated periods to consider all important questions. Every citizen of the federal communities was a member of this Assembly, of which the official title was the Ten Thousand, The name indicates an approximate, not an exact, number, like the Five Thousand in the constitution of Theramenes at Athens. We have no. information as to the working of this body, but from the analogy of other ancient federations it is probable that the votes were taken by cities, the vote of each city being determined by the majority of the votes of those of its citizens who were present. The Ten Thousand made war and peace, concluded alliances, and sat in judgment on offenders against the League. There was also a Council, composed of fifty members from the various cities, and this body had doubtless the usual executive and deliberative functions which belonged to the Greek conception of a Council.

On the south side of the river stood the Thersilion, the federal building in which meetings of the Arcadian league were held. The foundations of this spacious covered hall have been recently laid bare, and display an ingenious arrangement of the internal pillars, converging in lines whereby as few as possible of a crowded audience might be hindered from seeing and hearing. It is an attempt to apply the principle of the theatre to a covered building. The Thersilion stood close in front of the hill from which the theatre was hewn, and the place of political deliberation seemed part of the same structure as the place of dramatic spectacles. For the Doric portico, which adorned the southern side of the federal house, faced the audience; the orchestra in which the chorus danced and the actors sometimes played stretched from the circle of scats up to the steps of the portico. Such was the original arrangement, changed in later years; and it illustrates the fact that the stone theatres which began to spring up throughout Greece in the fourth century were intended as much for political assemblies as for theatrical representations.

The river Helisson divides Megalopolis into two nearly equal parts; and it would seem that this division corresponded to the double character of the place. The city of Megalopolis, in the strict sense, was on the northern side; there was the market-place on the bank of the river, there was the hall in which the Council of the Megalopolitan state met together. But the southern half of Megalopolis was federal ground; here was the federal Hall of Assembly, here was the theatre, which was in fact an open-air hall for federal meetings. Here, we may suppose, were the dwellings of the permanent armed force, 5000 strong, which army maintained by the Federation; here were lodgings for the “Ten Thousand” when they assembled to vote on the affairs of the Arcadian state.

Tegea had hitherto been a sort of Laconian outpost, and a the revolution was necessary to bring about its adhesion to the new federation. With the help of a Mantinean band, the philo-Laconian party was overthrown, and 800 exiles sought refuge at Sparta. This blow stung Sparta to action. She might brook the resuscitation of Mantinea, she might look on patiently at the measures taken by the presumptuous Arcadians for managing their own affairs; but it was too much to see Tegea, her steadfast ally, the strong warder of her northern frontier, pass over to the camp of the rebels. Agesilaus led an army into Arcadia, and displayed the resentment of Sparta by ravaging the fields of Mantinea; neither he nor the federal forces risked a conflict.

In view of this Spartan invasion, which came to so little, the Arcadians had sought the help of foreign powers. To Athens their first appeal was made. The tidings of Leuctra had excited in that city mixed feelings of pleasure and jealousy. The humiliation of Sparta opened up a prospect of regaining empire, notwithstanding the undertakings of the recent peace; but the triumph of Thebes was unwelcome and dangerous. These hopes and fears spurred Athens to new activity. Shortly after the battle of Leuctra she showed her appreciation of the changed condition of Hellas byinviting delegates from the Peloponnesian cities to pledge themselves anew to the King’s Peace (which, it must always be remembered, was the basis of the Peace of Callias) and to pledge themselves to one another for mutual help in case of hostile attack. Elis, refusing to recognise the autonomy of some of her subjects, was forced to hold aloof; but most of the other states swore to the alliance. It was a contract between Athens and her allies on one side, and the former allies of Sparta on the other. By virtue of this act of alliance, Athens was bound to help Mantinea and the Arcadian cities whenever they were threatened by an invasion. But it appeared that, though ready to usurp the place of Sparta, she was not ready to renew the war with her old rival. Perhaps a change of feeling had been wrought in the course of the nine or ten months which had run since the congress at Athens ; the violence of the democratic movements in the Peloponnese may have caused disgust; certain it is that Athens refused the Arcadian appeal; she seems to have contemplated a policy of neutrality.

The rebuff at Athens drove Arcadia into the arms of Thebes. The battle which had been fought to secure the unity of Boeotia had been the means of promoting the unity of Arcadia; and there was a certain fitness in the northern state coming to the aid of its younger fellow. But it was not mere sympathy with federal institutions that induced Thebes to send a Boeotian army into the Peloponnesus. To keep Sparta down and prevent her from recovering her influence was the concern of Thebes, and an united Arcadia was the best instrument that could be devised for the purpose. At this juncture, the situation in northern Greece permitted Thebes to comply with the Arcadian request. The Phocians and Ozolian Locrians, the Locrians of Opus, the Malians, had sought her alliance after Leuctra, and even the Euboeans had deserted to her; so that all central Greece, as far as Cithaeron, was under the Boeotian influence. But if the request had come some months sooner, it would have been impossible to grant it; for Jason of Pherae was then alive, preparing to march to Delphi, and the Boeotian forces could not have left Boeotia.

It was already winter when the Theban army, led by Epaminondas, accompanied by his fellow Boeotarchs, arrived in Arcadia to find that invade Agesilaus had withdrawn from the field. But, though the purpose Lac0nta- of the expedition was thus accomplished, the Arcadians persuaded Epaminondas not to return home without striking a blow at the enemy. To invade Laconia and attack Sparta herself was the daring proposal—daring in idea at least; for within the memory of history no foeman had ever violated Laconian soil, the unwalled city had never repelled an assault. There was little danger, with an army of such size as that which was now assembled; and a march to the gates of Sparta would drive home the lesson of Leuctra. The invaders advanced in four divisions by four roads, converging on Sellasia, and met no serious attempt to block their way; some neodamodes and Tegeate exiles were annihilated by the Arcadians. Sellasia was burnt, and the united army descended into the plain on the left bank of the Eurotas. The river which separated them from Sparta was swollen with winter rains, and this probably saved the city; for the bridge was too strongly guarded to be safely attacked. Epaminondas marched southward a few miles further, as far as Amyclae, where he crossed the stream by a ford. But Sparta was now saved. On the first alarm of the coming invasion, messages had flown to the Peloponnesian cities which were still friendly; and these—Corinth, Sicyon, Phlius, Pellene, and the towns of the Argolic coast—had promptly sent auxiliary forces. The northern roads being barred by the enemy, these forces were obliged to land on the eastern shore of Laconia and make their way across Mount Parnon. They reached the Eurotas bridge, after the invaders had moved to Amyclae; and their coming added such strength to the defence of Sparta that Epaminondas did not attack it, but contented himself with marching up defiantly to its outskirts. It was indeed a sufficient revenge even for Theban hatred to have wounded Sparta as none had wounded her before, to have violated the precinct of the Laconian land. The consternation of the Spartans at a calamity which, owing to the immunity of ages, they had never even conceived as possible, can hardly be imagined. The women, disciplined though they were in repressing their feelings when sons or husbands perished in battle, now fell into fits of distress and despair: for, unlike the women of so many other Greek cities, they had never looked upon the face of an enemy before. Old Agesilaus, who loathed the Theban above all other names, was charged with the defence; and his task was the harder, since he had to watch not only the foe, but the disaffected. Freedom had been promised to 6000 helots who came forward to serve; but this aid was a new danger.

It is needless to say that the loss of a few hundred soldiers on the field of Leuctra had nothing to do with the impotence displayed by Sparta at this crisis. And if Leuctra had been won by superior generalship, it was not inferior generalship that exposed Laconia. The disease lay far deeper. The vigour of Sparta was decaying from the mere want of men; it has been calculated that at this time there were not more than 1.500 with full citizenship. Not merely constant warfare, but, far more, economical conditions, brought about this dispeopling. Since money had begun to flow into Laconia, and since a new law permitted citizens to alienate their holdings, the inevitable result ensued; the small lots which meagrely supported each Spartan were gathered into large estates; and with the lots the citizens disappeared. This disease which was sapping the energies of his enemy cannot have escaped the view of Epaminondas, and his next step is significant.

Having ravaged southern Laconia, from the banks of the Eurotas to the foot of Taygetus, as far as Gytheion—where they failed, we know not why, to take the arsenal—the allies returned to Arcadia. But, though it was midwinter, their work was not over yet; a far greater blow was still to be inflicted on Sparta. Epaminondas led them now into another part of the Spartan territory, the ancient Messenia. The serfs, who belonged to the old Messenian race, arose at their coming; and on the slopes of Mount Ithome the foundations of a new Messene were laid by Epaminondas. The ancient heroes and heroines of the race were invited to return to the restored nation; the ample circuit of the town was marked out, and the first stones placed, to the sound of flutes. Ithome was the citadel, and formed one side of the town, whose walls of well-wrought masonry descended the slopes and met in the plain below. The Messenian exiles who had been wandering over the Greek world had now a home once more.

Messene, like Megalopolis, was founded by “synoecizing” the districts round about. But its political position was entirely different from that of Megalopolis. Messene was not a federal capital; it was the Messenian state—a city with the whole country for its territory. Corone and Methone were not cities like Mantinea and Clitor; they were places like Brauron and Marathon; their inhabitants possessed the citizenship of Messene, but it was only under Mount Ithome that they could exercise their burgher-rights. The relation of Messene to Messenia was that of Athens to Attica, not that of Megalopolis to Arcadia.

Thus not only a new stronghold but a new enemy was erected against Sparta in Sparta’s own domain. All western Laconia, all the land between Ithome and the sea (except Asine and Cyparissia), were subtracted from the Spartan dominion; all the perioeci and helots became the freemen of a hostile state. Under the auspices of Thebes an old act of injustice was undone, and the principle of autonomy was strikingly affirmed. But, besides the glory which Thebes won by so popular an act, besides the direct injury inflicted on Sparta and the establishment of a hostile fort, the policy of Epaminondas was calculated to produce a result of greater importance. The loss of Messenia would accelerate that process of decline in the Spartan state, which had already advanced so far. The fewer the lots, the fewer the citizens, according to the indissoluble connexion between land and burgher-rights on the Lycurgean system. It was high time for Sparta to reform her constitution.

The Arcadians celebrated this memorable invasion of Laconia by dedicating with part of the spoil a group of statues to the Delphian god. The verses of dedication signify that the indigenous people from sacred Arcadia, having laid Lacedaemon waste, set up the monument as a witness to future generations. The statues are gone, but the verses on their stone have come to light in our own day.

In the meantime Sparta had begged aid from Athens, and Athens had decided to depart from her position of neutrality. A vote was passed, strongly supported by the orator Callistratus, to send the entire force of the city under Iphicrates to assist Sparta. This was evidently the most politic course for Athens to adopt. Sparta was a necessary makeweight against Thebes. Nor is it doubtful that, notwithstanding all their rivalries, no such antipathy parted Athens from Sparta as that which existed between the two states and Thebes. Iphicrates marched to the Isthmus and occupied Corinth and Cenchreae, thus commanding the line of Mount Oneion. His object, it must be clearly understood, was not to prevent the enemy from leaving the Peloponnesus, but to protect the rear of his own army marching into a hostile country. He advanced into Arcadia, but found that the Thebans and their allies had left Laconia, and Sparta was no longer in danger. He therefore drew back to Corinth, and harassed the Boeotian army on its return march, without attempting to bar its passage. For the object of the Athenian expedition was simply to rescue Sparta, not, except so far as Sparta’s peril might demand, to fight with the Thebans. 

But the hasty vote to march to the rescue was soon followed by a deliberate treaty of alliance; and Athens definitely ranged herself with Sparta against Boeotia and Arcadia. She was already meditating schemes of extending her empire; she was nourishing the hope of recovering the most precious of all her former imperial possessions, the Thracian Amphipolis. With such designs it was impossible to remain neutral; and, as we shall see, there was some danger of a collision with Thebes in Macedonia.

Fighting went on in the Peloponnese between the Arcadians and the allies of Sparta ; and a few months later Epaminondas (who had been re-elected Boeotarch in his absence at the beginning of the year) appeared again at the head of the Boeotian army. The Spartans and Athenians had occupied the line of Mount Oneion; this time the  object was to keep out the Thebans. But Epaminondas broke through their lines, joined his allies, won over Sicyon and Pellene, and failed to win Phlius. A new succour for Sparta arrived at this moment from over-seas. Twenty ships bearing 2000 Celtic and Iberian mercenaries came from her old ally, the tyrant of Syracuse, to whom she had once sent aid in an hour of peril, and who had more than once sent succour to her. Their coming seems to have decided Epaminondas to return home, though he had accomplished but little, and his political opponent Meneclidas took advantage of the general disappointment to indict him for treason. The result was that Epaminondas was not re-elected Boeotarch for the following year.

To establish her supremacy, Thebes was adopting the same policy as Sparta. She placed a harmost in Sicyon; as the Boeotian cities had formerly been garrisoned by Sparta, the Peloponnesian cities were now to be garrisoned by Thebes. Messenia and Arcadia were to be autonomous, but the Thebans desired to be regarded as both the authors and preservers of that autonomy. As a mistress, distant Thebes might be more tolerable than neighbouring Lacedaemon; but the free federation of Arcadia determined to be free in very deed. Sparta was now sunk so low that the Arcadians—with friendly Messene on one side, and friendly Argos on the other—could hope to maintain their liberty with their own swords, without foreign aid. Their leading spirit Lycomedes animated them to this resolve of independence and self-reliance. “You are the only indigenous natives of the Peloponnesus, and you are the most numerous and hardiest nation in Greece. Your valour is proved by the fact that you have been always in the greatest request as allies. Give up following the lead of others. You made Sparta by following her lead; and now if you follow the lead of Thebes, without yourselves leading in turn, she will prove perhaps a second Sparta.” In this mood the Arcadians displayed a surprising activity and achieved a series of successes. The two important cities, Heraea in the west, and Orchomenus in the north, which had hitherto stood aloof, were forced to join the league, which now became in the fullest sense Pan-Arcadian. Some of the northern villages of Laconia were annexed, and the Triphylian towns sought in the league a support against the hated domination of Elis. The federal forces were active in the opposite quarters of Argolis and Messenia. Against all this activity Sparta felt herself helpless. But a second armament of auxiliaries Sparta arrived from her friend, the tyrant of Syracuse, and thus reinforced receives she ventured to take the field, and marched into the plain of Megalopolis. But the expedition was suddenly interrupted; time had been wasted, and the Syracusan force, in accordance with its orders, was obliged to return to Sicily. Its way lay through Laconia, in order to take ship at Gytheion; and the enemy tried to cut it off summer in the mountain defiles. The Spartan commander Archidamus, who was in the rear, hastened to the rescue, and dispersed the Arcadians with great loss. Not a single Lacedaemonian was killed, and the victory was called the “tearless battle.” The joy displayed in Sparta over this slight success showed how low Sparta had fallen.

It may be thought that Dionysius might have kept his troops at home, if they were charged to return before they had well time to begin to fight. But the truth is, that these troops were for some months inactive in Greece, while an attempt was being made to bring about a general peace. The initiative came from Ariobarzanes, the Persian satrap of Phrygia, who sent to Greece an agent well furnished with money; and this move on the part of Persia was probably suggested by Athens. The Syracusan sovereign also intervened in the interests of peace, and the stone remains on which the Athenians thanked Dionysius and his sons for being “good men in regard to the people of the Athenians and their allies, and helping the King’s Peace.” Thus the King’s Peace was the basis of the negotiations of the congress which met at Delphi. Both Athens, which was doubtless the prime mover, and Sparta were most anxious for peace; but each had an ultimate condition from which she would not retreat. Sparta’s very life seemed to demand the recovery of Messenia, and Athens had set her heart on Amphipolis. But neither condition would be admitted by Thebes, and consequently the negotiations fell through. They led, however, to independent negotiations of various states with Persia, each seeking to win from the king a recognition of its own claims. Pelopidas went up to Susa on behalf of Thebes to obtain a royal confirmation of the independence of Messenia. The Athenians sent envoys to convince the king of their rights to Amphipolis. Arcadia, Elis, and Argos were also represented. Pelopidas was entirely successful. The king issued an order to Greece, embodying Persian the wishes of Thebes : Messenia and Amphipolis to be independent, the Athenians to recall their warships. The question of Triphylia — whether it was to be dependent on Elis or a part of Arcadia—was decided in favour of Elis; this decision in a question of absolute indifference to Persia was clearly due to Pelopidas, and indicates strained relations between Thebes and Arcadia. Pelopidas returned with the royal letter, but it found no acceptance in Greece, cither at the congress of allies which was convoked at Thebes, or when the document was afterwards sent round to the cities. Arcadia would not abandon Triphylia, and Lycomedes formally protested against the headship of Thebes.

The answer of Thebes to this defiance of her will was an invasion of the Peloponnesus. The line of Mount Oneion was still defended, but negligently; and Epaminondas passed it with Argive help. His object was not to depress Sparta further, for Sparta was now too feeble to be formidable, but to check the pretensions of Arcadia. And this could only be done through strengthening Theban influence in the Peloponnesus by winning new allies. Accordingly, Epaminondas advanced to Achaea, and easily gained the adhesion of the Achaean cities.

But the gain of Achaea was soon followed by its loss. Counter to the moderate policy of Epaminondas, the Thebans had insisted on overthrowing the oligarchical constitutions and banishing the oligarchical leaders; these exiles from the various cities banded together, and recovered each city successively, overthrowing the democracies and expelling the harmosts. Henceforward Achaea was an ardent partisan of Sparta.

The unsettled state of the Peloponnesus was conspicuously shown by the events which happened at Sicyon. When the Theban harmost was installed in the acropolis, the oligarchy had been spared; but soon afterwards one of the chief citizens, named Euphron, brought about the establishment of a democracy, and then, procuring his own election as general, organising a mercenary force, and surrounding himself with a bodyguard,—the usual and notorious steps of a despot’s progress,—made himself master of the city and harbour. The Arcadians had helped Euphron in his first designs, but the intrigues of his opponents were so skilful, that Arcadia again intervened and restored to Sicyon the exiles whom the tyrant had driven out. Euphron fled from the city to the harbour, which he surrendered to the Lacedaemonians; but the Lacedaemonians failed to hold it. Sicyon, however, was not yet delivered from her tyrant. He was restored by the help of Athenian mercenaries. Afterwards, seeing that he could not maintain himself without the support of Boeotia, he visited Thebes, and was slain on the Cadmea in front of the Hall of Council, by two Sicyonian exiles who had dogged him. His assassins were tried and acquitted at Thebes, but at Sicyon his memory was cherished and he was worshipped as a second founder of the city. The fact shows that under the rule of Euphron the masses of the people were happier than under the political opponents whom he had so mercilessly treated. His son succeeded to his power.


The expedition of Epaminondas was attended with results which Thebans were in the end injurious to Thebes. The relations with Arcadia became more and more strained. But in the same year Oropus was wrested from Athens and occupied by a Theban force. The  Athenians were unable to cope alone with Thebes; they called on their allies, but none moved to their aid. The moment was seized by Arcadia. Lycomedes visited Athens and induced the Athenians, smarting with resentment against their allies, to conclude an alliance with the league. Thus Athens was now in the position of being an ally of both Arcadia and Sparta, which were at war with each other; and Arcadia was the ally of Athens and Thebes, which were also at war with each other. The visit of Lycomedes incidentally led to a disaster for Arcadia which outweighed the benefit of the alliance. The ambassador, on his way back, was slain by some exiles into whose hands he fell; and the league lost its ablest statesman.

This change in the mutual relations among the Greek states, brought about by the seizure of Oropus, was followed by another change, brought about by an Athenian plot to seize Corinth. The object was to secure permanent control over the passage into the Peloponnesus. But the plot was discovered and foiled by the Corinthians, who then politely dismissed the Athenian soldiers stationed at various posts in the Corinthian territory. But by herself Corinth would have been unable to resist the combined pressure Thebes on one side and Argos on the other; and, as Sparta could not help her, she was driven to make peace with ThebesShe was joined by her neighbour Phlius and by the cities of the Argolic coas; all these states formally recognised the independence of Messene, but did not enter into any alliance with Thebes, or give any pledge to obey her headship. They became, in fact, neutral.

It was a blow to Sparta, who still refused to accept a peace on any terms save the restoration of Messenia. The Messenian question gave political speculators at Athens a subject for meditation. Was the demand of Sparta just? The publicist Isocrates argued the case for Sparta in a speech which he put in the mouth of king Archidamus. Another orator, Alcidamas, vindicated in reply the liberty of the Messenians and declared a principle which was far in advance of his time, “God has left all men free; nature has made no man a slave.”

If we survey the political relations of southern Hellas at this epoch, we see Thebes, supported by Argos, still at war with Sparta, who is supported by Athens; Achaea actively siding with Sparta; Elis hostile to Arcadia; the Arcadian league at war with Sparta, in alliance with Athens, in alliance with, but cool towards, Thebes, and already—having lost its leader Lycomedes—beginning to fall into disunion with itself.

The peace with Corinth and others of the belligerent states marks the time at which Peloponnesian affairs cease to occupy the chief place in the counsels of Thebes, and her most anxious attention turns to a different quarter. For Sparta is disabled, and the mistress of Boeotia recognises that it is with Athens that the strife for headship will now be. While events were progressing in the Peloponnesus, as we have seen, Athens was busily engaged in other parts of the world with a view to restoring her maritime empire ; and we have now to see how she succeeded, and how Thebes likewise was pushing her own supremacy in the north.


Sect. 3. Policy and Action of Thebes in Northern Greece


The same year which saw the death of Jason of Pherae saw the death of another potentate in the north, his neighbour and ally Amyntas of Macedonia. We have seen how Amyntas had to fight for his kingdom with the Chalcidian league; how he was driven out of his land and restored; and how the league was crushed by the power of Sparta. Both Jason and Amyntas were succeeded by an Alexander.  At Pherae, the power first passed to Jason’s brothers, of whom one murdered the other and was in turn murdered by his victim’s son,— Alexander, whose reign was worthy of its sanguinary inauguration. The Thessalian cities refused to bow down to the supremacy of Pherae, now that Pherae had no man who was worthy to be obeyed;  and to resist Alexander of Pherae they invoked the aid of Alexander   of Macedonia. The aid was given, and Larissa, Crannon, and other cities passed under Macedonian sway. But this was not the purpose of the Thessalians, to exchange a native for a foreign ruler; and accordingly they invoked the help of Thebes against both Alexanders alike. It was sound policy on the part of Thebes to accede to the request. It was impossible to discern yet what manner of man the  successor of Jason might prove to be; and it was important, from  the Boeotian point of view, to hinder the reunion of Thessaly  under a monarch. The conduct of  an expedition was entrusted to Pelopidas, who brought Larissa and other towns in the northern part of Thessaly under a Theban protectorate.

At the same time, the Thessalians sought to strengthen their position by a federal union,—a political experiment which had been tried in Thessaly before. The little we know of the league which was established about this time suggests rather the revival of an old system than a new creation. The country was divided into four political divisions corresponding to the old geographical districts; at the head of each was a polemarch, who had officers of horse and foot under him; and at the head of the league was an archon, elected if not for life at least for longer than a year. Thus the organisation was military; but there are indications that it grew out of an old amphictionic association. There is no reason to think that Pelopidas had more to do with the establishment of the Thessalian federation than Epaminondas with that of the Pan-Arcadian league; the part of Thebes in either case was simply to support and confirm.

Macedonia offered no obstacles to the operations of Pelopidas in Thessaly, for it was involved in a domestic struggle. One of the nobles, Ptolemy of Alorus, rebelled against the king, and was supported by the king’s unnatural mother Eurydice. The two parties called upon Pelopidas to adjudicate between them, and he patched up a temporary arrangement and concluded a Theban alliance with Macedonia. Hardly had he turned his back when Ptolemy murdered Alexander and married Eurydice. But it seemed as if the paramours would not be permitted to reap the profits of their crime. Another pretender to the throne had gathered an army of mercenaries and occupied all the land along the Chalcidian frontier. Help, however, was at hand. An Athenian fleet was cruising in the Thermaic gulf, under the command of Iphicrates. The queen visited the admiral on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, Perdiccas and Philip,—the brothers of Iphicrates, since he had been adopted as a son Amyntas,—and persuaded him to help her in her need. By his exertions the pretender was expelled, and the succession of Perdiccas was secured under the regency of Ptolemy.

The interests of Athens on the Chalcidian and the adjacent coasts had forced that state to keep an ever-watchful eye on political events in Macedonia and to seek influence at the court of Aegae. The intervention of Iphicrates was not the first case in which Athenian power had settled a dynastic question. His settlement was more abiding than that of Pelopidas; we may conjecture that the opportune appearance of the Athenian fleet was due to the circumstance that Thebes had interfered. But Thebes was resolved to continue her interference, and oust the Athenian influence. Pelopidas, again dispatched to the north, compelled the regent Ptolemy to enter into alliance with Thebes and assure his fidelity by furnishing a number of hostages. Among the young Macedonian nobles who were sent as pledges to Thebes was the boy Philip, who was destined to be the maker of Macedonia, and was now to be trained for the work in the military school of Boeotia, under the eye of Epaminondas himself.

Having thus brought Macedonia within the circle of the Theban supremacy, Pelopidas on his way home visited the camp of the despot of Pherae. But he did not know that Alexander had become the ally of Athens—an inevitable combination, since it was the interest of both to oppose Theban expansion in the north. Supported by Athens, the despot could defy Thebes, and he detained his visitor Pelopidas as a hostage. A Boeotian army marched to rescue the captive; but an armament of 1000 men arrived by sea from Athens, and the invaders, who were commanded by incompetent generals, were outmanoeuvred and forced to retreat. Epaminondas was serving as a common hoplite in the ranks, and but for his presence the army would have been lost. The soldiers unanimously invited him turned to Thessaly at the head of another army to deliver his friend. It was necessary to apply a compulsion severe enough to frighten the tyrant, but not so violent as to transport him with fury, which might be fatal to his prisoner. This was achieved by dexterous military operations, and Pelopidas was released in return for a month’s truce. It seems probable that at the same time Epaminondas freed Pharsalus from the rule of Pherae. But it was not the interest of Thebes to overthrow the tyrant or even limit his authority to his own city. It was well that he should be there, as a threat to the rest of Thessaly; it was well that Thessaly should be unable to dispense with Theban protection. The power of Alexander extended over Phthiotis and Magnesia, and along the shores of the Pagasaean Bay, and to neighbouring towns like Scotussa. His tyranny and brutality seem to have been extreme, though the anecdotes of his cruelty can­not be implicitly trusted. We read that he buried men alive, or sewed them up in the hides of wild beasts for his hounds to tear. We read that he massacred the inhabitants of two friendly cities. We read that he worshipped as a divine being the dagger with which he had slain his uncle, and gave it the name of “Sir Luck”—an anecdote Tyindicating a strain of madness which often attends the taste for cruelty. Excellently invented, if not true, is the story that, having seen with dry eyes a performance of the Troades of Euripides, a drama unutterably sad, the tyrant sent an apology to the actor, explaining  that his apparent want of emotion was due to no defect in the acting, but to a feeling of shame that tears for the sorrows of Hecuba should fall from the eyes of one who had shown no pity for so many victims.

It has been said that the chief desire of Athens at this time was to regain the finest jewel of her first empire, Amphipolis. The fleet, under Iphicrates, was cruising and watching, with this purpose in view  but the hopes of success—which depended much on the good­will of Macedonia—were lessened by the ties which Ptolemy had contracted with Thebes. And, besides losing Macedonian support, Athens was impeded by the cities of the Chalcidian league, who now broke away from the Athenian alliance and made a treaty with Amphipolis.

Meanwhile Athens began to act in the Eastern Aegean. The opportunity was furnished by the revolt of her friend Ariobarzanes, the satrap of Phrygia. It was the policy of Athens to help the satrap without breaking with the Great King, from whom she still hoped to obtain a recognition of her claim to Amphipolis. A fleet of thirty galleys and 8000 troops was sent under her other experienced general Timotheus, and he accomplished more in the east than Iphicrates had accomplished in the north. He laid siege to Samos, on which Persia had laid hands, contrary to the King’s Peace; and took it at the end of ten months. At the same time he lent assistance to Ariobarzanes, who had to maintain himself against the satraps of Lydia and Caria; and as a reward for these services Athens obtained the cession of two cities in the Thracian Chersonese—Sestos and Crithote.

Of these acquisitions Sestos was of special value, from its position on the Hellespont, securing to Athens control at this point over the ships which supplied her with com from the Euxine coasts. But more than this, she now regained a foothold in the peninsula which Miltiades had won for her, and she hoped to make it entirely her own up to a line drawn across the isthmus north of Cardia, marked at one point by an altar of “Zeus of Boundaries.” Timotheus him­self began the work of expansion by annexing Elaeus near the southern extremity. Thus Athens began to revive her old empire, i but in Samos she revealed her designs even more clearly. This island was not treated as a subject ally, but was appropriated as Athenian territory. Outsettlers were sent from Athens to occupy Samos, and thus the system of cleruchies, which had been the most j unpopular feature of the first Confederacy, and had been expressly guarded against at the formation of the second Confederacy, was renewed. It did not indeed violate the letter of the constitution of the league, which only bound Athens not to force outsettlers upon members of the league; but it was distinctly a violation in spirit The treatment of Samos showed Greece that Athens was bent on rising again to her old Imperial position; while the second Confederacy was based on the principle that she had renounced such pretensions for ever.

Delighted with the achievements of Timotheus, the Athenians appointed him to command the fleet which had been operating for years on the Macedonian coast under Iphicrates, whose failure was strikingly contrasted with the success of Timotheus. It must be remembered that while Iphicrates was hindered by the hostility of the regent of Macedon, Timotheus was helped by the friendship of the satrap of Phrygia; but Timotheus possessed a diplomatic dexterity which Iphicrates never displayed. And now fortune favoured the diplomatist. Shortly before his new appointment, the regent Ptolemy was assassinated by the young king Perdiccas, who thus avenged his brother Alexander. The change in the holders of power led to a change in policy. Macedonia freed itself from the influence of Thebes, and the young king sought the support of Athens. And so Timotheus, not only untrammelled by Macedonian opposition, but even aided by Macedonian auxiliaries, set about the reduction of towns around the Thermaic gulf. He compelled Methone and Pydna to join the Athenian confederacy; and in the Chalcidic peninsula he made himself master of Potidaea and Torone. The acquisition of these Chalcidic towns was valuable in itself and Potidaea was occupied by Athenian outsettlers; but the main purpose of the general was to weaken the resources of Olynthus, which,  at the head of the Chalcidian states, gave powerful support to its ally Amphipolis, the supreme object coveted by Athens, whose rights to it had been recently recognised by the Persian king. A famous mercenary captain named Charidemus, who had previously served under Iphicrates, was now secured again by Timotheus; but two efforts to capture Amphipolis were repelled. The work of Brasidas was not destined to be undone.

It was high time for Thebes to interfere. If the successes of Timotheus were allowed to continue, Athens would soon recover Euboea, and the adhesion of that island was, from its geographical position, of the highest importance to Boeotia. But in order to check the advance of her neighbour it would be necessary for Thebes to grapple with her on her own element. By the advice of Epaminondas, Boeotian in spite of the advice of Meneclidas, it was resolved to create a navy and enter upon the career of a sea-power. This was a momentous decision, which demanded a careful consideration of ways and means. Given the problem, to break the power of Athens, there can be no question that Epaminondas advised the only possible method of solving it. But it might be well to consider whether its solution was a necessity for Thebes. The history of Boeotia had marked it out as a continental power; and it would have been wiser to consolidate its sway on the mainland. The maintenance of a navy involved financial efforts which could not be sustained by any but a great commercial state; and the cities of Boeotia had no trade. It was the natural antipathy of the two neighbours far more than any mature consideration of her own interests that drove Boeotia to take this indiscreet step. Yet the step had immediate success. A hundred triremes were built and manned and sent to the Propontis under the Boeotarch, Epaminondas.

The sailing of this fleet was a blow to Athens, not from any victory that it gained—there was no battle—but from the support and encouragement which it gave to those members of the Confederacy which were eager to break their bonds. The establishment of the cleruchies of Samos had created great discontent and apprehension among the Athenian allies, and they wanted only the support of a power like Thebes to throw off the federal yoke. Byzantium openly rebelled; Rhodes and Chios negotiated with Epaminondas; and even Ceos, close to Attica itself, defied Athens. When the Theban fleet returned home, Chabrias recalled Ceos to its allegiance, and a new act of treaty was drawn up; but a second rebellion had to be put down at Julis before the island acquiesced in Athenian sway. The expedition of Epaminondas also served to support the enemies of Athens, who opposed her advance in the Chersonese; namely, the free city of Cardia, and the Thracian king Cotys, who was aided by his son-in-law Iphicrates. This general, superseded by Timotheus, had not ventured to return to Athens, and now sided with her enemies.

While the young Theban navy went forth to oppose Athens in the Propontis, a Theban army had marched against the ally of Athens, Alexander of Pherae, whose hand, strengthened by a mercenary force, had been heavy against the Thessalians. Once more, but for the last time, Pelopidas entered Thessaly at the head of an army to assist the Federation. Before he left Thebes, the sun suffered an eclipse, and this celestial event, interpreted by the prophets as a sign of coming evil, cast a gloom over his departure.

At Pharsalus he was joined by forces of the Thessalian league, and immediately advanced against Pherae itself. Alexander came forth to meet him with a large force, and it was a matter of great importance, for the purpose of barring the Theban advance, to occupy the heights known as the Dog’s Heads, on the road from Pharsalus to Pherae. The armies reached the critical spot nearly at the same time, and there was a rush for the crests. The Theban cavalry beat off the cavalry of the foe, but lost time in pursuing it, and in the meantime the infantry of Alexander seized the hills. In the battle which followed the object of the Thebans was to drive the enemy from this position. Having been repeatedly repelled, Pelopidas, by a combined assault of horse and foot, at length won the summit and forced the enemy to give way. But in the moment of victory the impetuous general espied the hated despot in whose dungeon he had languished, and yielding to an irresistible fit of passion, aggravated by the excitement of battle, he forgot the duties of a general and rushed against his enemy. Alexander withdrew into the midst of his guards, and Pelopidas, plunging desperately after him, was overwhelmed by numbers. It was even so that Cyrus threw away his victory at Cunaxa. The death of Pelopidas was not fatal to his followers, who routed the enemy with heavy loss  but it was a sore blow both to his own Thebes, of which he had been the deliverer and strong pillar, and to Thessaly, of which he had been the protector. In the following year an army was sent against Pherae, and avenged his death. Alexander was obliged to relinquish all his possessions except his own city and submit to the headship of Thebes.

It was about this time that Thebes shocked the Hellenic world by the destruction of her venerable rival, the Minyan Orchomenus. Some Theban exiles induced the horsemen of Orchomenus to join them in a plot to subvert the constitution. But, the hearts of the principal conspirators failing them before the day of action came, they informed the Boeotarchs; the horsemen were promptly seized and condemned to death; and the Assembly passed a resolution to raze Orchomenus and enslave its people. The Thebans rejoiced at a fair pretext to wreak the hatred of ages upon their unhappy neighbour. They marched forth and executed the doom; the men were slain because they resisted, the rest of the folk were enslaved.

It was a deed on which Greece cried shame; and, if the moderate and humane Boeotarch, who was then in the Hellespontine regions, had been present to control the counsels of his country, it would possibly never have been committed.


Sect. 4. The Battle of Mantinea


While Thebes was intent on opposing Athens, now her only serious rival, she had kept aloof from the Peloponnesus. But the course of affairs there was soon to demand a new intervention. The interest now centres on the relations of Elis with Arcadia; and the decisive element in the situation is the rift in the Arcadian league, perceptibly widening every month.

Her rights over Triphylia were the chief question of political importance for Elis. They had been recognised in the Persian rescript, but Arcadia refused to admit them and Thebes did not interfere. Thus Elis found herself in the same plight as Sparta in regard to the Arcadian league. It had always been a principle of Lacedaemonian policy to preserve against Elis the independence of her two southern neighbours, the Pisatans and the Triphylians. But now Sparta was only too ready to renounce this policy and recognise the Elean claim, for the sake of winning an ally. It was in the nature of things that the two states should combine to recover Messenia and Triphylia. Thus there came to pass a change for the better in the prospect of Sparta  enemies had risen up against Arcadia on the north and on the west, and Thebes held aloof. The Spartans had recently gained a welcome success in the recovery of Sellasia, with the help of a force which had been sent to their aid by the second Dionysius of Syracuse.

Besides Triphylia there were certain places on the mountainous frontier between Elis and Arcadia to which Elis professed to have claims. One of these was Lasion, in the high plateau of Pholoe, north-east of Olympia. The Eleans occupied the district, but were speedily driven out by the Pan-Arcadian eparitoi, who were always ready for such emergencies. The plains of Elis were far more assailable than the highlands of Arcadia, and the Arcadians were able to carry the war to the very heart of their foe. The Olympian festival would fall next year, and they were resolved that it should not be celebrated under the time-honoured presidency of Elis. They marched to Olympia, and occupied and fortified the Hill of Cronus, which looks down upon the Altis. Then they made an attack on the unwalled city of Elis, in concert with the democratic faction. But the attempt at a revolution failed and the Arcadians were repulsed. In the following year a second invasion reduced the Eleans to such distress that they implored Sparta to make a diversion and draw off the Arcadian forces. In answer to this prayer Archidamus occupied Cromnon, a fort which commands the road from Megalopolis to Messenia, with a garrison of 200 men. The importance of this step is shown by the fact that not only did the Arcadians promptly leave Elis, but they were also joined by allies, Argives as well as Messenians, to besiege Cromnon. A Spartan post there cut off the communication between the Arcadian and the Messenian capitals and was a threat to both. Archidamus at first tried to create a second diversion by ravaging northern Laconia, which was now politically part of Arcadia. When this failed, he made an attempt to relieve Cromnon, but was driven back with some loss. A second attempt at rescue would have been successful, if it had been better concerted, but it led to the capture of almost the whole garrison; an event which ten years before would have sent a shock through the Hellenic world, but now seemed an ordinary occurrence.

The Arcadians were again free to continue their designs in Elis. The time of the Olympian games was approaching, and the people of Pisa, the ancient possessors of the sanctuary, who had by no means forgotten the rights which Elis had usurped in days long gone by, were installed as presidents of the festival. It was fully expected that the feast would not pass without battle and bloodshed. The hill of Cronus had been occupied for a year by the Arcadian garrison, but now the whole army of the federation, as well as 2000 spearmen from Argos and 400 cavalry from Athens, arrived to protect the solemn celebration. The day came round and the games began. The horse race was run and won. The next contest was the pentathlon, which demanded excellence in five different kinds of athletic prowess — in running, wrestling, hurling the javelin, throwing the disc, and leaping. The first event, the race, was over when the company became aware that the men of Elis were marching up to the bank of the Cladeus, which bounded the western side of the Altis. The soldiers took up their position on the opposite bank, but the games went on. Those competitors who had not failed in the race proceeded to the wrestling; but as the spectators, when the alarm was given, moved from the race-course into the Altis, to be nearer the scene of action, the wrestling match was held in the open space between the race-course and the Great Altar, under the terrace of the Treasure-houses. The Eleans, who were supported by an Achaean force, performed a sacrifice, and then, charging across the stream with unexpected boldness, drove back the Arcadian and Argive line into the Altis. A battle ensued in the southern part of the holy precinct, between the Hall of Council and the great Temple of Zeus, the Altis. But the colonnades of these and other adjacent buildings gave shelter and points of vantage to the defenders; and the Eleans, when their captain fell, retired across the stream to their camp. The Arcadians improvised a fortification on the western side of the Altis, using for this purpose the tents of the spectators; and the men of Elis, seeing that it would be useless to repeat their attack, returned home, obliged to content themselves with declaring the festival to be null and void, and marking the year in their register as an “An-Olympiad.” The religious sentiment of Greece was outraged by these violent scenes at a sanctuary which belonged to all Greece rather than to any single state; and there can be no question that the general sympathy—independently of all political considerations— was on the side of Elis, whose presidency was regarded in Hellas as part of the order of nature, and was strongly adverse to the Arcadian intruders supporting with arms the antiquated rights of Pisa. But it was far worse when the Arcadians began to make free use of the sacred treasures of Olympia, for the purpose of paying the federal army. This was an act of sacrilegious spoliation which could not be defended, and it was disastrous to the Arcadian Federation.

It was inevitable that, when the first impulse of enthusiasm which drove the Arcadian cities to unite together had spent itself, the old jealousies would emerge again and imperil the Pan-Arcadian idea. So it was that the two neighbours, Mantinea and Tegea, whose common action had been the chief cause of the federal union, began to resume something of their traditional enmity. The scandal of Olympia gave Mantinea, who was jealous of Megalopolis also, a fair opportunity to secede from the League, which had put itself so signally in the wrong. This step necessarily involved the consequence that Mantinea would definitely range herself with the other camp in the Peloponnesus—with Sparta, Elis, and Achaea. And thus the traditional policies of Mantinea and Tegea were reversed. Tegea, the support of Sparta, had become the life and soul of the anti-Spartan movement; Mantinea, the state which Sparta had uncitied, was now Sparta’s support. Though the Arcadian Assembly resented and tried to punish the protest of Mantinea, the pressure of public opinion induced it to forbid any further plundering of the Olympian sanctuaries.

When this resolution was taken, the weakness of the Arcadian League was exhibited. There was no money in the federal treasury to pay the standing army, and without this army it would be impossible for Arcadia to maintain herself against enemies on three sides—not to speak of disaffected Mantinea—without the protection of Thebes. But there was a strong feeling throughout the country against a Theban protectorate, and a large number of wealthy Arcadians, who shared this feeling, proposed to solve the difficulty by enrolling themselves in the corps of Eparitoi and serving without pay. Occupying this position they would be able to dictate the policy of the League. There was little doubt that the predominance of this party would soon bring Arcadia into alliance with Sparta, which was no longer dangerous to Arcadian liberty. But such a political revolution would be fatal to Theban influence, which rested on the antagonism between Arcadia and Sparta; it might even imperil the independence of Messenia.

To meet this danger of an alliance between Sparta and Arcadia, Thebes was constrained to send a fourth expedition into the Peloponnese. It was imperative to support the Theban party in Arcadia. Both parties alike were probably satisfied with the resolution of the Assembly to make peace with Elis and acknowledge her rights at Olympia. Each city swore to the peace. At Tegea the solemnity of the oath led to an incident. Arcadians from other places had gathered together for the occasion, which they celebrated by feast and merriment. The commander of the Boeotian garrison ordered the gates to be shut and arrested the leaders of the anti-Theban party. Most of the Mantineans present had left the town at an early hour, but there were a few among the prisoners; and the energetic protests of Mantinea frightened the faint-hearted harmost into releasing all his prisoners and excusing his act by a false explanation. The coup had doubtless been planned long beforehand, and consent obtained from the highest quarter. Epaminondas, when complaint was made at Thebes, approved the act of arrest, and condemned the act of release. At the same time he declared to the Arcadian League that it had no right to make peace with Elis without consulting Thebes. “We will march into Arcadia”, he said, “and assist our friends”.

The threat was seriously meant, and the friends and enemies of Thebes prepared for war. Athens, the ally of both Sparta and Arcadia, could now fulfil without difficulty the double obligation, by supporting those Arcadians who were on Sparta’s side. The common dread of Thebes was reflected in the quintuple alliance which Athens (with her allies), Mantinea, Elis, Achaia, and Phlius formed for the sake of mutual protection. Part of the text of this treaty is preserved to us on fragments of one of the original marble copies. It is worthy of remark that the Mantineans, who seem to have been the only Arcadian community that entirely dissociated itself from the government at Megalopolis, appear in the treaty as “the Arcadians” — thus claiming to be the true representatives of their country.

The Boeotian force in its full strength, accompanied by all the allies of central Greece who were pledged to follow Thebes into the field, went forth under Epaminondas to bring back the unruly Peloponnesians under Boeotian control. The Phocians alone refused to go; the terms of the alliance which bound them to Boeotia obliged them to bear aid only if Boeotia were itself attacked. When he reached Nemea, Epaminondas halted his army, with the hope of intercepting the forces which Athens prepared to send to her allies. But the Athenian forces came not and he advanced to Tegea, the chief centre of Theban influence in the peninsula, which he had appointed as the meeting-place for all his allies — Arcadian, Argive, and Messenian. His enemies were also gathering to the rival city of Mantinea, and a Spartan army under old Agesilaus was expected there. Epaminondas marched to attack them before the Spartans and Athenians arrived, but found their position too strong and retired to his camp in Tegea. Learning that Agesilaus had already set out, he determined to strike a second blow at Sparta. He would have found the place as unprotected as “a nest of young birds,” if his plan had not been thwarted by a Cretan runner who carried the news to Agesilaus. The king immediately returned on his steps; and when Epaminondas after a night’s march reached Sparta, he found it prepared and defended. Baffled in this project by an incalculable chance, Epaminondas promptly resolved to attempt another surprise. He foresaw that the army at Mantinea would immediately march to the rescue of Sparta, and that Mantinea would consequently be inadequately guarded. His camp at Tegea commanded the direct road from Mantinea to Sparta, so that the enemy would be obliged to march by the longer western road. Moving rapidly he reached Tegea, where he rested his hoplites, but he sent on his cavalry to surprise Mantinea. The army had departed, as he calculated, and the people were out in the fields, busy with the harvest. But in the same hour in which the Theban horse approached from the south, a body of Athenian cavalry had reached the city. They had not yet eaten or drunk, but they rode forth and drove the assailants back. The conflict between the two weary troops of horsemen was sharp, and was marked by the death of Gryllus, the son of Xenophon the historian.

The allied army, learning that Sparta was no longer in danger, soon returned from its fruitless excursion to its former post, now reinforced by both the Spartan and Athenian contingents. Foiled in his two projects of surprise, Epaminondas was obliged to attack the united enemy at Mantinea; the difficulty of supplying his army with provisions, and the anxiety of his allies to return home as soon as possible, rendered it imperative to bring the campaign to a swift decision. The enemy occupied the narrow part of the plain, south of Mantinea, where ridges of the opposite mountains approach each other; the object of Epaminondas was to sweep them out of his way and take the city. But instead of marching straight for the gap, he adopted a strategical movement which puzzled his antagonists. He led his army north-westwards to a point in the hills near the modern Tripolitza, and then moved a short distance along the skirts of the mountain so as to approach the right wing of the foe. He then halted and formed in battle array. The enemy were deceived by the indirect advance. Seeing him march obliquely towards the hills, they concluded that he would not attack that day, and even when he changed his direction and advanced towards them, persisted in their false opinion.

Epaminondas adopted the same tactics by which he had won at Leuctra. On the left he placed the Boeotian hoplites, under his own immediate command, in a deep column, destined to break through the right wing of the enemy before the rest of the armies could come to blows. The oblique advance, besides its chief purpose of deceiving the foe, had the further advantage of assisting the peculiar tactics of the general ; for, when he formed his line, there was obviously a far greater distance between his right and the hostile left than that which divided his left from the hostile right. The Mantineans (since it was their territory) had the place of honour on the extremity of the enemy’s right wing, and the Lacedaemonians were next them; the Athenians were on the farthest left; and both wings were protected by squadrons of horse. Epaminondas placed his own cavalry in deep column in front of the deep column of infantry. But there was one danger against which he had to guard. When the Boeotian column charged, the Athenian left might wheel round and attack it on the unshielded side—a movement which could be executed owing to the distance dividing them from his own right. To meet this danger, he sent a body of horse and foot to occupy a rising ground, out in the plain, considerably in advance of his line; this body could attack the Athenians in the rear if they tried such a movement.

With an extraordinary lack of perception, the Lacedaemonians and their allies witnessed these manoeuvres without understanding their drift; and it was not until Epaminondas began to advance in full march against them, that they realised his meaning and rushed tumultuously to arms. All fell out as he designed. His cavalry routed their cavalry, and the force of his wedge of hoplites, led by himself, broke through the opposing array and put the Lacedaemonians to flight. It is remarkable indeed how the tactical lesson of Leuctra seems to have been lost on the Spartans. The men of Achaea and Elis and the rest, when they saw the flight of the right wing, wavered before they came into collision with their own opponents.

It is not quite clear what happened, but here again Mantinea seems to repeat Leuctra: the charge of the Theban left decided the battle; with the exception of cavalry engagements, there was but little and desultory fighting along the rest of the line.

It was a great Theban victory, and yet a chance determined that this victory should be the deathblow to the supremacy of Thebes. As he pursued the retreating foe, at the head of his Thebans, Epaminondas received a mortal thrust from a spear. When the news spread through the field, the pursuit was stayed and the effect of the victory was undone; the troops fell back like beaten men. “So striking a proof has hardly ever been rendered, on the part of soldiers towards their general, of devoted and absorbing sentiment. All the hopes of this army, composed of such diverse elements, were centred in Epaminondas; all their confidence of success, all their security against defeat, were derived from the idea of acting under his orders ; all their power, even of striking down a defeated enemy, appeared to vanish when those orders were withdrawn”. And there was no one to take his place. In his dying moments, before the point of the fatal spear was extracted, Epaminondas asked for Iolaidas and Daiphantus, whom he destined as his successors. He was told that they were slain. “Then,” he said, “make peace with the enemy.” Peace was made on condition that things should remain as they were; Megalopolis and Messenia were recognised—the abiding results of Theban policy. In this peace Sparta would not acquiesce; she still persisted in refusing to recognise the independence of Messenia, but her allies would not listen to her protests.

The military genius of Epaminondas, the qualities of mind and character which distinguished him among his countrymen, and the actual work which he accomplished in the deliverance of Messenia and the support of Arcadia, must not be suffered to obscure the fact that his political faculty was mediocre. What could be done by the energy and ability of a general, or by the discretion of a magistrate, that he did; but he failed to solve the fundamental problems which demanded solution at the hands of a statesman who aimed at making his country great. It was necessary to create an efficient machinery, acting on definite principles, for conducting the foreign affairs of Boeotia—like the machinery which existed at Sparta. This was the only possible substitute for brains, which were not plentiful in Boeotia; Epaminondas could not hope to communicate any part of his own virtue to his successors. It was necessary to decide whether it was possible or desirable for Boeotia to enter into competition with Athens as a maritime power. If the decision were affirmative, it was of capital importance to organise, the navy on a sound financial foundation. There is no sign that Epaminondas grappled with the problems of government and finance; his voyage to the Propontis was an experiment which had no results. Nor does he seem to have taken steps to secure Boeotia on the side of her dangerous Phocian neighbours, though he had the insight to organise anew the Amphictionic League and make it an instrument of Theban policy. Above all, he did not succeed in accomplishing the first thing needful, the welding together of Boeotia into a real national unity. He aspired to expand Boeotia into an empire; the worst of it was that no one had come before him to make it into a nation. That which mythical Lycurgus and Theseus had done for Sparta and Athens had never been done for Thebes by any of her numerous heroes. Epaminondas seems to have attempted to unify Boeotia; if he had known how to build such an unity on solid foundations, he might have bestowed on Thebes a future of glory which he would not have lived to see. But his ambition—for his country, not for himself—was too impatient and imaginative. The ardour of his patriotism impelled him to enter upon paths of policy which his countrymen felt no resistless impulse to pursue; the successes of Thebes were achieved by his brains, not by her force. He bore his country aloft on the wings of his genius, but did not impart to her frame the principle of that soaring motion; so that when the shaft pierced the heart of her sustainer, she sank to the earth, never to rise again. Epaminondas was a great general; he was not a great statesman.


Sect. 6. The Last Expedition of Agesilaus


To no one in Greece can the supremacy of Thebes have come as a sorer trial than to the Spartan king Agesilaus. He who had once dreamed of conquering Persia had lived to see his own inviolable land twice trodden by an invader, his own city quake twice before an enemy at her doors. But he had at least the consolation of outliving the triumph of the Theban, and seeing the brief supremacy pass away. The death of Epaminondas, of which he could not mistake the significance, did not restore Messenia or give Sparta any immediate power; but, Epaminondas dead and Arcadia spent, Sparta had now a prospect of regaining something of her old influence. With her own diminished population she could do little; it would be necessary to follow the general example and take mercenary forces into her pay; but to do this a well-filled treasury was needful. Accordingly we find Sparta, as well as Athens, busy beyond the sea, taking part in the troubles which in these years agitated the western portion of the Persian kingdom, and lending help to the satraps and dynasts who were rebelling against the Great King. The object of Athens was territory, the object of Sparta was money. While Timotheus had been engaged in winning Samos, 365 BC, Agesilaus had visited Asia Minor and done his utmost in support of Ariobarzanes— for the sake of gold. And after the battle of Mantinea, he again went forth in a guise which differed little from that of a mercenary in foreign service.

The borders of Western Asia, from the Hellespont to the Nile, were in revolt against the Great King. The expedition of Cyrus was only the first of a series of rebellions which troubled the reign of Artaxerxes. We have seen how Cyprus rebelled and was subjugated, but Egypt still defied the Persian power, and its success set a bad example to the satraps of the adjoining countries. The Athenian general Chabrias had helped the Egyptians to strengthen their country by a scientific system of defences, but he was recalled to Athens after the King’s Peace; and the Athenian whom we next find in Egypt is fighting on the other side—the free-lance Iphicrates, giving sound military advice to the Persian commander, which the Persian commander does not follow. Soon after this the satraps of Asia began to rebel—first in Cappadocia, then in Phrygia, then successively in Ionia, Caria, and Lydia—and the insurrection extended to Phoenicia and Syria. A scheme of co-operation was formed between the satraps and the Egyptian king Tachos, who had recently come to the throne, and Sparta decided to support this coalition. Athens held aloof, but Chabrias went once more to Egypt as a volunteer.

At the head of a thousand men, and accompanied by thirty Spartans as advisers, Agesilaus set sail for the Nile. It is said that the small figure, the lame leg, and the plain dress of the experienced old soldier made a bad impression in Egypt; in any case he was not given the supreme command of the army as he expected. When a sufficient force was gathered, Tachos, accompanied by Agesilaus and Chabrias, made an expedition to Phoenicia, to act there against the Persian troops; but they were obliged to return almost immediately in consequence of a revolt against Tachos, headed by his cousin Nektanebos. The Spartan king, who considered that he had been slighted by Tachos, supported the rival; and Tachos fled to Susa and made his peace with the Persian monarch. Another competitor then arose, but was defeated by the effective support which Agesilaus gave to Nektanebos. In consequence of these struggles for the Egyptian throne nothing was done against Persia, and the great coalition signally failed. Ariobarzanes of Phrygia, the friend of Timotheus, was betrayed and crucified; another satrap was murdered; the rest made their submission to their king. Within a year Western Asia was entirely subject to Artaxerxes.

But Sparta had won from the futile project what she really wanted. She might shelter her dignity under the pretext that she had gone forth to punish the Persian king for recognising the independence of Messenia, but every one knew that her motive was to replenish her treasury. Nektanebos presented her with 230 talents, in return for the support of Agesilaus. It was the last service the old king was destined to perform for his country. Death carried him off—he was eighty-four years old—at the Harbour of Menelaus on the way to Cyrene, and his embalmed body was sent home to Sparta.

Though not in any sense a great man, though not in the same rank as Lysander, Agesilaus had been for forty years a prominent figure in Greece. There is something melancholy about his career. He could remember the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War; he had seen the triumph of Sparta, and had conducted her policy during a great part of thirty years of supremacy; and then, as an old man, he shared in her humiliation. He had begun by dreaming of the conquest of Persia; he had been forced to abandon such dreams; and he had translated his ardour into a bitter hatred against an Hellenic city. It is tragic to see him, at the age of eighty-three, going forth against Persia once more, not now for conquest or glory, but to earn by any and every means the money needed by his indigent country.