Thebes and Northern Greece


The Boeotian Federation to the Peace of Antalcidas and the Spartan Occupation

By 519 there was a Boeotian federal state, and Plataea gained an alliance with Athens when it resisted pressure to join the federation (Hdt. VI. 108; date Thuc. III. 68. v). In 480 – 479 the principal officials of the federation, the boeot-archs, are attested (Hdt. IX. 15. i, Paus. X. 20. iii), but the Thebans later blamed their going over to the Persians on a ruling clique of a few men, contrasted with what they called ‘an oligarchy based on legal equality’ (dynasteia : Thuc. III. 62. iii). Boeotia came under the control of Athens c. 457 but broke away in 447/6 (cf. pp. 49 – 50, 57); and there was then reconstituted a federation which lasted until the Peace of Antalcidas in 387/6.

Its organisation in the 390’ s is set out by Hell. Oxy. 19. ii – iv ~ Harding 15: it differed from Athens and its demes in that Boeotian cities had a greater degree

Map 8 Boeotia (block capitals denote cities formally represented in the pre- 386 federation)


of separate existence and independence than Athenian demes (they could, for instance, issue their own coins as Athenian demes could not). There were eleven electoral units (see box and map 8). However, in 424 Chaeronea had been dependent on Orchomenus (Thuc. I V. 76. iii), and we may guess that before the destruction of Plataea in 427 (cf. p. 115) Thebes had two out of a total of nine units. There were also lesser cities, dependent on one or another of the greater (e.g. Mycalessus, dependent on Tanagra), which were not directly represented in the federation. Each unit provided one boeotarch (in the last two units the cities were represented in turn) and sixty members of the federal council; and the army and every aspect of the federation were based on these units. There was a property qualification for citizenship; in the individual cities the citizens were divided into four councils, which took it in turn to act as the probouleutic body; and we learn from Thucydides (V. 38. ii) that the federal council was divided into quarters in the same way. The boeotarchs were powerful officials; in the cities it is not clear whether there were assemblies or only meetings of the four councils; there is no sign of a federal assembly.

At that time affairs in Boeotia were like this. There were four councils established in each of the cities, in which not all the citizens could participate but only those who owned a certain amount of property. Each of these councils in turn held a session in advance, and engaged in advance deliberation about affairs and brought the matters before the other three, and what was resolved by all of them was valid.

They continued to run the affairs of the cities in that way, but the Boeotian federation was organised in this manner. All the inhabitants of the territory were divided into eleven units, and each provided one boeotarch, as follows: Thebes provided four, two on account of the city, and two on account of Plataea, Scolus, Erythrae, Scaphae and the other places which previously had been politically combined with them but were now attributed to Thebes. Two boeotarchs were sent by Orchomenus and Hyettus, two by Thespiae with Eutresis and Thisbe, one by Tanagra, and again one by Haliartus, Lebadea and Coronea (provided by each of the cities in turn), and in the same way one went from Acraephnium, Copae and Chaeronea. In that way the units provided the officials; and they provided sixty councillors corresponding to each boeotarch, and themselves provided the daily expenses for them. There was a military obligation for each unit of about a thousand hoplites and a hundred cavalry. And it can be shown simply that in proportion to the officials they profited from the common funds and paid taxes and sent judges, and in the same way they participated in all burdens and benefits.

That is how the whole nation was politically organised, and the meetings and the federal bodies of the Boeotians held their sessions on the Cadmea. (Hellenica Oxyrhynchia , 19. ii - iv)

In the Peloponnesian War the Boeotians had been allies of Sparta. The Thebans, in addition to securing the destruction of Plataea, had incorporated dependent communities by synoecism (Hell. Oxy. 20. iii), and had interfered in Thespiae, where there were Athenian sympathisers (Thuc. IV. 133. i, VI. 95. ii). In 412/1 they had taken over Oropus, on the borders of Attica (Thuc. VIII. 60. i); in 404 it was made independent (cf. Lys. XXXI. Philon 9), but they recovered it in 402/1 and eventually incorporated it in Thebes (Diod. Sic. XIV. 17. i – iii). During Sparta’ s occupation of Decelea, in the last years of the Peloponnesian War (cf. pp. 147 – 8), they had seized the opportunity to acquire deserting slaves and movable property from the Attic countryside (Hell. Oxy. 20. iv – v). At the end of the war they were among the allies of Sparta who would have liked to see Athens totally destroyed (Xen. Hell. II. ii. 19).

But it did not suit Sparta to destroy Athens, and the Boeotians like others were soon alienated: Thebes was one of the cities which defied Sparta by harbouring democratic refugees from Athens (Hell. Oxy. 20. i, Diod. Sic. XIV. 6), and the Boeotians joined Corinth in refusing to contribute to Pausanias’ campaign against Athens and Agis’ second campaign against Elis (Xen. Hell. II. iv. 30, III. ii. 25: cf. pp. 240, 295). The Hellenica Oxyrhynchia contrasts a pro -Spartan party led by Leontiades and others with an opposing party, ‘accused of atticising but not in fact pro - Athenian’ , led by Ismenias and others. The pro - Spartan party had been dominant during the war, but after it the other party grew in power, in Thebes and in the rest of Boeotia (20. i – ii). The climax came when Agesilaus set out for Asia Minor in 396, and the Boeotians not only refused to contribute soldiers but also interfered with his sacrifice at Aulis (Xen. Hell. III. iv. 3 – 4, Plut. Ages. 6. vi – xi: cf. p. 243).

Boeotia was one of the places visited by Timocrates with money from Pharnabazus (Hell. Oxy. 10. ii, 21. i, Xen. Hell. III. v. 1: cf. p. 227), and in 395 the Boeotians supported Locris against Phocis and brought about the Corinthian War (cf. pp. 244 – 5). Lysander, before he was defeated and killed at Haliartus, won over Orchomenus to the Spartan side; Agesilaus, recalled from Asia Minor to fight in Greece, travelled by land round the north of the Aegean: he was successful enough at Coronea to continue to the Peloponnese, but Sparta then abandoned Greece north of the Isthmus.

Lysander’ s success at Orchomenus suggested that Boeotia, which under Thebes was hostile to Sparta, might be broken up; and so, when Sparta turned to diplomacy in 392, the terms proposed were that all islands and cities should be autonomous: this was intended to mean that the federation should be broken up, and the Thebans objected (Xen. Hell. IV. viii. 14 – 15). In 392/1 Sparta was prepared to allow the rest of the federation to survive if Orchomenus could secede (Andoc. III. Peace 13, 20): Andocides suggests that the Boeotians accepted this, but probably, as in the case of Athens, the Boeotian representatives in Sparta accepted but they still had to gain the approval of the council. In the Peace of Antalcidas in 387/ 6 there was no concession to Boeotia: Thebes wanted to swear for the whole of Boeotia, but Agesilaus did not allow it, and when he threatened to invade the Thebans did accept the treaty and Sparta’ s interpretation of it (Xen. Hell. V. i. 31 – 3). We are not told how far the Spartans went in applying the principle of autonomy to Boeotia, but may guess that they were not interested in those lesser cities which were subordinate to one of the greater, and left their status unchanged. However, an independent Plataea was refounded, and families which had been granted Athenian citizenship returned (Paus. IX. 1. iv); and presumably Oropus was made independent too.

Thebes was sufficiently cowed to assist in the Spartan attack on Mantinea in 385 (Plut. Pel. 4. v – viii, Paus. IX. 13. i). Ismenias and Leontiades remained at the head of their opposing parties (both polemarchs in Xen. Hell. V. ii. 25), and Ismenias remained influential enough for Thebes to be in touch with Olynthus, and to refuse to join in Sparta’ s campaign of 382. Leontiades invited Phoebidas, as he was marching north with part of Sparta’ s advance force, to occupy Thebes, and he did so. Agesilaus was certainly responsible for Sparta’ s acceptance of what had been done, and may have approved the plan in advance. A Spartan garrison was installed on Thebes’ acropolis, the Cadmea, and pro -Spartan régimes were installed in the other cities; Ismenias was condemned as a mediser for accepting Timocrates’ money in the 390’ s, and three hundred of his supporters fled to Athens, where Leontiades’ party managed to have one of them murdered (cf. p. 248).

The Revival of Thebes and the Federation; Jason of Pherae

Although in general Xenophon says little about Thebes, he regarded Sparta’ s occupation of the Cadmea as wicked, and gives a detailed account of the liberation. Phillidas, secretary to the ruling board of polemarchs, met Melon, one of the exiles, in Athens, and Melon enlisted a few collaborators, among them Pelopidas. In winter 379/8, when the polemarchs were holding a symposium to celebrate the end of the year, Melon and his associates were brought in, and each took a place beside one of the polemarchs and killed him; Leontiades was killed in his own house. The Spartan garrison commander called for help from Plataea and Thespiae, but help came for the other side from Athens, and he made a truce and left Thebes (cf. pp. 249, 264). To hamper Sparta’ s attempts to reassert control, early in 378 the Thebans constructed a ditch and stockade, running west – east for a considerable distance about 3 miles = 5km. south of the city (Xen. Hell. V. iv. 38 – 41, 48 – 9).

We have looked above at those attempts, at Sphodrias’ raid on Athenian territory (more probably incited by Cleombrotus, as stated by Diodorus, than by the Thebans, as claimed by Xenophon and Plutarch), and at Athens’ institution of its Second League, with Thebes as a founder member. When the Athenians issued a prospectus for the League, early in 377, negotiations with Thebes were still continuing (IG ii 2 43 = R&O 22 ~ Harding 35. 73 – 7): perhaps the Thebans were trying to join the League in the name of Boeotia, and Athens was resisting.

When the Boeotian federation was revived, it had an archon as its titular head and seven boeotarchs; and we now find not a federal council with proportional representation of the greater cities but a federal assembly. (At city level Thebes, at least, seems to have had a council as well as an assembly: Xen. Hell. VII. iii. 5 – 12, Diod. Sic. XVII. 9. i.) Some have supposed that the seven boeotarchs represent the old electoral units without Orchomenus and Thespiae, but that is hard to reconcile with there already being seven in 371 (Paus. IX. 13. vi – vii). All known boeotarchs of the revived federation were Thebans: probably the units were not used, the boeotarchs could in theory come from any city, but an assembly meeting in Thebes and dominated by Thebans usually if not always elected Thebans. On account of its being governed by an assembly rather than a council, the revived federation has often been considered democratic, but there is little evidence to support this. The pro - Spartan régimes in Thebes and the other cities are referred to as a tyranny (Xen. Hell. I V. iv. 2, Thebes) or a dynasteia (§ 46, the other cities); but as the Thebans showed in the 420’ s the opposite of such a régime need not be democracy (cf. Thuc. II. 62. iii – iv). There is no reason to think that the property qualification for citizenship in the cities and the federation was abandoned; the combination of a limited citizen body with a citizen assembly is reminiscent of Athens’ intermediate régime of 411 – 410 (cf. p. 174); the main effect of the change from council to assembly will have been to strengthen the position of Thebes within the federation.

How soon the federation was set up and how quickly cities were incorporated in it is uncertain. Plutarch has boeotarchs in 378, immediately after the liberation (Pel. 13. i, 14. ii); but according to Isocrates (XIV. Plataic 29) the Thebans at first assured the Spartans that they would not disturb ‘any of the previous agreements’ , presumably the Peace of Antalcidas and Sparta’ s application of it to Boeotia. Xenophon has Thebes campaigning against Thespiae and other cities early in 377 (Hell. V. iv. 42 – 4). When Pelopidas died in 364, that is said to have been his thirteenth year as boeotarch (Plut. Pel. 34. vii). Despite the claim that he served every year (Diod. Sic. XV. 81. iv), we know that he was not boeotarch in 371; but it may be that that was his only year out of office, and in that case Plutarch will be wrong to write of boeotarchs in 378, and the federation (however extensive) and the office will have been revived in 377.

In the fourth century fighting was increasingly done by mercenaries, who were more professional than citizen soldiers but less likely to remain loyal. Thebes now tried to combine the advantages of citizens and mercenaries by creating a body of three hundred citizen hoplites, allegedly all homosexual couples, maintained on the Cadmea, known as the hieros lochos (commonly referred to in English as the sacred band). This was created by Gorgidas and at first regularly commanded by Pelopidas, and it proved highly successful until it was annihilated at Chaeronea in 338 (Plut.Pel. 18 – 19, Polyaenus Strat. II. 5. i). In 375 Pelopidas took the sacred band and a few cavalry to attack the still pro - Spartan Orchomenus while its Spartan garrison was away; on learning that the Spartans were returning he withdrew, but the two forces met at Tegyra: the Spartans with two of their army’ s six morai outnumbered the Thebans and were overconfident, but the Thebans defeated them (Plut. Pel. 16 – 17, Diod. Sic. XV. 37. i – ii; omitted by Xen.Hell.).

The Thebans then moved to attack Phocis, and Sparta sent Cleombrotus with the rest of the Spartan army to defend it (Xen. Hell. VI. i. 1, cf. ii. 1); but things were going badly for Sparta, and Athens was beginning to feel uncomfortable with an increasingly powerful Thebes as an ally, so Persia’ s proposal of a renewal of the King’ s Peace was accepted (cf. pp. 231 – 2). Diodorus’ claim that, after an argument between the Theban Epaminondas and the Athenian Callistratus, Thebes was excluded because it demanded to swear for Boeotia (XV. 38. iii) is a contamination from the peace of summer 371. On this occasion Thebes was included: presumably as Thebes, and presumably it made a show of dismantling the Boeotian federation which it had been reviving.

The show did not last long. The refounded Plataea, like the earlier city, inclined to Athens rather than to Thebes, and in 37 3 /2 the Thebans destroyed it and its inhabitants again fled to Athens (Diod. Sic. XV. 46. iv – vi, Paus. IX. 1. v – viii). This prompted Isocrates’ (XIV) Plataic , in which we read that Thespiae and Tanagra have been ‘made subordinate to Thebes’ , presumably forced into the federation (§ § 8 – 9); pressure on Thespiae continued, and it is possible that by 371 the city had been destroyed and its citizens dispersed in scattered settlements (cf. Xen. Hell. VI. iii. 1, 5, Diod. Sic. X V. 46. vi, 51. iii; Thespians at Leuctra but allowed to withdraw, Paus. IX. 13. viii). However awkwardly, Thebes remained a member of Athens’ League, providing ships for Timotheus in 373 and a chairman for the synedrion on the last day of 373/ 2 (cf. p. 271).

By now Thebes had as an ally Jason, the ruler of Pherae in south - eastern Thessaly (perhaps named after that famous legendary Thessalian, Jason the Argonaut; but the name is a very common one). Thessaly, a fertile region in north - eastern Greece, continued for a long time to be dominated by land -owning aristocrats, and was traditionally organised in four regional units known as tetrads; there were large settlements in the east in the archaic period, but the development of cities as important entities began in the fifth century, in particular Larisa, Pharsalus and Pherae. In the last years of the Peloponnesian War Lycophron had become tyrant of Pherae, ‘wanting to rule the whole of Thessaly’ ; he was opposed particularly by Larisa, where the Aleuadae family was dominant, but won a major battle at the time of an eclipse, in September 404 (Xen. Hell. II. iii. 4). The Aleuadae were supported by king Archelaus of Macedon (cf. Thrasymachus, 85 B 2 DK, Arist. Pol. V. 1311 b 17 – 20; also [Herodes], Peri Politeias). If, whoever wrote it, Peri Politeias is well informed, Sparta too may have tried to establish a link with Larisa; but at some point Sparta had an alliance with Lycophron (Xen. Hell. VI. iv. 24), and in the early 390’ s put down a revolt in Heraclea and installed a garrison in Pharsalus (Diod. Sic. XIV. 38. iv – v, 82. vi). In 395 Medius of Larisa was at war against Lycophron, gained the support of the Corinthian War coalition and conquered Pharsalus; since Agesilaus was able to pass through Thessaly to Boeotia in 394, it may have been afterwards that the coalition took Heraclea and returned it to the neighbouring Trachinians (Diod. Sic. XIV. 82. v – vii).

Fig. 5 Tyrants of Pherae (Polyalces was either a brother or a son of Lycophron I; Tisiphonus, Lycophron II and Pitholaus were probably sons of Polyalces, adopted by Jason when he inherited Polyalces’ wife)


We next hear of Thessaly in the 370’ s, when Jason had succeeded his father Lycophron in Pherae. He had helped a man called Neogenes to become tyrant of Histiaea, at the north end of Euboea. Neogenes was unpopular, and the Spartans expelled him; Histiaea therefore resisted incorporation in the Athenian League in 377, when the other cities of Euboea joined (Diod. Sic. XV. 30, cf. p. 268 ; it joined in 375). In Pharsalus, perhaps during the Olynthian war, a pro - Spartan tyrant called Polydamas had come to power, and seems to have ruled well. Xenophon reports an appeal by him in 375 for support against Jason: with Polydamas’ support Jason could easily become tagos of all Thessaly (an old military office which he was resuscitating for his own purposes); the Boeotians and others were Jason’ s allies, and the Athenians would like to be but he thought he could become more powerful at sea (which renders the restoration of his name in an erasure in the list of League members unlikely: cf. p. 270); if the Spartans sent a substantial Spartan army, the cities would desert Jason, but it would be pointless to send merely liberated helots commanded by a private citizen. Sparta could not send the help asked for, and Jason did become tagos and proceeded to raise large forces from the cities of Thessaly (Xen.Hell. VI. i. 2 – 19; cf. p. 250). By 373 Jason was friendly with Athens, if not a member of the League: he went there in 373/2 to speak for Timotheus at his trial ([Dem.] XLIX. Timotheus 10), and the Athenian force sent to Corcyra during the winter probably travelled through Thessaly as well as Molossis (Xen. Hell. VI. ii. 10). Jason’ s expansion took him into Perrhaebia, the mountainous region between Thessaly and Macedon, where he dictated terms to king Amyntas (Diod. Sic. X V. 57. ii, 60. ii, cf. Isoc. V. Philip 20, Arr. Anab. VII. 9. iv).

In 372/1 as in 375 the Thebans moved against Phocis. In July 371 the Athenians invited the Thebans to join them at a peace conference in Sparta; the Thebans were represented by Epaminondas (making his first certain appearance in history, though there are stories pushing his career back many years earlier). He did originally agree to a treaty in which the Thebans were to participate as Thebans; when he returned and asked to have ‘Thebans’ changed to ‘Boeotians’ , that led to an argument with Agesilaus and the exclusion of the Boeotians (cf. pp. 232, 251, 271). Sparta had sent king Cleombrotus to defend Phocis; since the treaty required the withdrawal of forces, he asked what he should do, and was ordered to attack Thebes if it would not leave the Boeotian cities autonomous. He avoided the Theban army and reached Leuctra, south of Thespiae; but there in August Epaminondas defeated him in one of the most pivotal battles in Greek history (cf. p. 251).

Exactly how the Thebans defeated the Spartans it is hard to make out from the sources. It is at any rate clear that, whereas the nature of hoplite equipment encouraged phalanxes to shift to the right, and the right wing was regularly the strong wing (cf. p. 136), the Thebans concentrated their attack on the left, with an unusually deep formation (this time fifty men: they had used deep formations before) and the sacred band at the front on the wing; and, after an initial cavalry skirmish in which the Spartans were driven back, the Theban cavalry were used to guard the held - back right wing of their phalanx. The Spartans were unable to cope with this reversal of normal tactics (Xen. Hell. VI. iv. 10 – 15, Plut. Pel. 23, Paus. IX. 13. iii – xii, Diod. Sic. X V. 55 – 6).

The Thebans announced their victory to allies not involved in the battle, Athens and Jason. Athens gave the messenger an icy reception; Jason hurried south with land and sea forces, but a strong Thebes would have been a threat to him, so instead of helping Thebes to defeat the reserve forces sent from Sparta he negotiated for the Spartans’ withdrawal (Xen. Hell. VI. iv. 19 – 26: Diod. Sic. XV. 54. v – vii has Jason arriving and arranging a truce, after which Sparta’ s reinforcements join Cleombrotus and the battle is fought). Jason returned home, making a show of force in Phocis and Locris, and capturing Heraclea (Xen. Hell. VI. iv. 27, Diod. Sic. XV. 57. ii). He ‘persuaded the Thessalians to lay claim to the leadership of Greece’ (Diod. Sic. XV. 60. i – ii, cf. Xen. Hell. VI. iv. 28); there may even have been a suggestion that he would undertake the war against Persia after which Isocrates and others had been hankering (Xen. Hell. VI. i. 12, cf. pp. 263 – 4). He planned to attend and preside over the Pythian games at Delphi in 370, perhaps hoping to reinvigorate the Amphictyony rather than, as Xenophon suggests, to plunder the sacred treasures; but before the festival he was assassinated at a cavalry review, leaving contemporaries and us to wonder what he would have achieved if he had lived. Certainly he had united Thessaly and was making it a force to be reckoned with – but strong leaders can inspire fear, and his killers were honoured in the Greek cities (Xen. Hell. VI. iv. 29 – 32, Diod. Sic. XV. 60. v).

After Leuctra

Thebes/Boeotia did not participate in the common peace organised by Athens in autumn 371 (cf. pp. 232 – 3); and, whether it resigned or was expelled or no formal step was taken, Thebes ceased to belong to the Second Athenian League. Instead it built up its own alliances in central Greece: Diodorus mentions Phocis, Locris and Aetolia (XV. 57. i), and Xenophon gives a list of allies who joined in the invasion of Laconia in 370/69, beginning with ‘Phocians, made subject, and Euboeans from all the cities’ (Hell. VI. v. 23, cf. Diod. Sic. XV. 62. iv): the Euboeans too must have left the Athenian League. There are signs that Thebes organised its allies in a league, with a synedrion : a speech in Xenophon’ s Hellenica refers to a ‘common resolution of the allies’ (VII. iii. 11), and Byzantium’ s contributions to Thebes in the Third Sacred War were brought by its synedroi (IGvii 2418 = R&O 57 ~ Harding 74. 11, 24). Within Boeotia, the Thespians took refuge in a stronghold called Ceressus, but that was captured by Epaminondas, and references in the orators suggest that the survivors were expelled from Boeotia (Paus. IX. 14. ii – iv, cf., e.g., Isoc. VI. Archidamus27). When Diodorus says that the Thebans intended to enslave Orchomenus but were dissuaded by Epaminondas and included it among their allies (XV. 57. i), this probably means that it was forced to join the Boeotian federation. In 364 aristocratic refugees from Thebes joined the knights of Orchomenus in a plot; but this was betrayed to the boeotarchs, and, in the absence of Epaminondas and Pelopidas and to the disapproval of at least Epaminondas, the city was captured, the men were killed and the women and children were enslaved (Diod. Sic. X V. 79. iii – vi, cf. Paus. IX. 15. iii).

We have seen that in winter 370/69 the new Arcadian federation and its allies, when their appeal to Athens was rejected, gained the support of Thebes and its central Greek allies for the attack on Sparta which resulted in the liberation of Messenia, and the Thebans gained some of the credit for the foundation of Megalopolis, in south - western Arcadia (cf. pp. 253 – 4). Pelopidas and Epaminondas were among the boeotarchs and commanders of this expedition: on their return they were prosecuted because they had not been in Thebes to leave office at the end of the year, but they were acquitted (Nep. XV. Epam. 7 – 8, Plut. Pel. 24 – 5, Sayings of Kings and Commanders 194 a – c). It was probably in summer 369 that Epaminondas went south again, and took part in the fight-ing in the north - eastern Peloponnese (cf. p. 254). On his return he was again prosecuted: this time he was accused of taking bribes to spare Sparta, and was deposed and not re - elected boeotarch for 368 (Diod. Sic. XV. 72. i – ii).

In Thessaly Jason on his death in 370 had been succeeded by his brothers Polydorus and Polyphron, of whom the latter soon killed the former. Polyphron, who ‘made the tageia like a tyranny’ and intervened in both Pharsalus and Larisa, was in 369/8 killed and succeeded by Polydorus’ son Alexander, who became ‘a harsh tagos to the Thessalians, and a harsh enemy to the Thebans [immediately] and the Athenians [later]’ (Xen. Hell. VI. iv. 33 – 5, cf. Diod. Sic. XV. 60. v, 61. ii). The Aleuadae of Larisa appealed first, in 369, to Alexander II of Macedon, who responded by taking over Larisa and Crannon for himself (Diod. Sic. XV. 61. iii – v). They then appealed to Thebes, and an army was sent under Pelopidas (who had been a friend of Jason: Plut. Pel. 28. v – x): he took over Larisa, fought and negotiated inconclusively with Alexander of Pherae, mediated between Alexander of Macedon and his rival Ptolemy, and imposed on this Alexander an alliance under which he sent hostages to Thebes. It was perhaps now that the Thessalians opposed to Pherae were organised in a koinon (Diod. Sic. X V. 67. iii – iv, Plut. Pel. 26, but Aeschin. II. Embassy 26 – 9 shows that Philip must be one of the hostages taken from Ptolemy in 368; on Macedon cf. p. 335).

Alexander of Macedon was assassinated, and was succeeded by Ptolemy (cf. p. 335). In 368 Pelopidas and Ismenias went as envoys: first to Macedon with mercenaries, where Ptolemy tried to outbid them for the mercenaries but came to terms and sent further hostages; then to Alexander of Pherae, who arrested them. While Thebes sent an army, Alexander made an alliance with Athens, which sent ships and men to support him, and would have liked to send the soldiers sent to the Peloponnese by Dionysius I of Syracuse. The Thebans were abandoned by their Thessalian allies and withdrew, pursued by Alexander; Epaminondas, serving this year as a private soldier, was elected commander and extricated the army (Diod. Sic. XV. 71 – 72. ii, Plut. P el. 27 – 29. i, Paus. IX. 15. i – ii, cf. Xen. Hell. VII. i. 28). In 367 Epaminondas returned as boeot-arch commanding an army: Alexander released Pelopidas and Ismenias, and offered peace and alliance; Epaminondas agreed only to a thirty - day truce, but took no further action when it expired (Diod. Sic. XV. 75. ii, Plut. Pel. 29, Paus. IX. 15. i – ii). On the Athenian side, Isocrates considered Alexander a possible leader of a Greek crusade against the Persians (Speusippus, Letter to Philip 13).

In 366 Epaminondas returned to the Peloponnese, attacking Achaea and making it an ally; he did not interfere in the cities’ internal affairs; afterwards at the Arcadians’ prompting the Thebans set up anti - Spartan democracies, but the oligarchs recovered control and made alliances with Sparta (cf. p. 254 : this is Epaminondas’ first appearance in Xen. Hell.).

In 369/8 Philiscus, sent to Greece by Ariobarzanes, after failing to arrange a common peace spent his money on mercenaries for Sparta (cf. pp. 234, 254); but in 367, when Sparta sent a delegation to the King, Pelopidas, returned from Thessaly, headed a rival delegation from Thebes and its allies, and won over the King to an anti - Spartan stance (this is his only appearance in Xen. Hell.). In particular, having defeated Sparta and having been opposed by Athens in the north, the Thebans now wanted to challenge Athens, and one of the proposals was that the Athenian navy should be beached. Other proposals annoyed other Greeks; in winter 367/6 the Arcadians walked out of the conference held in Thebes, and Corinth took the lead in refusing to swear to the treaty. Corinth and its neighbours did make peace with Thebes, but refused to make an alliance, in 365 (cf. pp. 234, 254 – 5, 272).

The challenge to Athens continued. Oropus, presumably made independent of Thebes under the Peace of Antalcidas, was in Athens’ hands by 373/2. When Themison of Eretria seized it on behalf of a body of exiles in 366, it was entrusted to Thebes, and in the ensuing arbitration Epaminondas successfully defended Thebes’ right to it (cf. p. 273). Diodorus records a speech of Epaminondas, persuading the Thebans to build a hundred triremes and enlist the support of Rhodes, Chios and Byzantium: it is not clear whether the hundred ships were built, but in a naval campaign in 364 he drove away an Athenian fleet. There are undatable decrees in which Cnidus appointed him proxenos and the Boeotians appointed a Byzantine proxenos ; also one in which the Boeotians appointed a Carthaginian proxenos – but that need have nothing to do with the naval policy (cf. p. 273 ; the inscriptions are SEG xliv 901, SEG xxxiv 355, IG vii 2407 = R&O 43 ~ Harding 48).

Thebes’ northern interests extended to Delphi. The temple of Apollo there had been destroyed by fire and/or earthquake in 373/2 (Parian Marble FGrH 239 A 71); in 371 one Spartan proposed that Cleombrotus should attend to that rather than to the Boeotians (Xen. Hell. VI. iv. 2), and in 368 that was one of the matters raised with the Athenians by Dionysius I of Syracuse (IG ii 2 103 = R&O 33. 8 – 10); the Amphictyony of mostly central Greek peoples responsible for Delphi began collecting funds for the rebuilding in 367/ 6 (e.g. C. Delphes ii 4 = R&O 45 ~ Harding 60). The Thebans built a treasury at the south - west corner of the site to commemorate their victory at Leuctra; and near Sparta’ s navarchs monument (cf. p. 159) dedications were set up in the 360’ s by the Arcadians and the Argives (Paus. X. 11. v, 9. v – vi [ ‘Tegeans’ ], 10. v). In 36 3 /2 after a period of stasis (civil dissension) some aristocrats of the polis of Delphi were expelled, and took refuge in Athens (IG ii 2 109 = SIG3 175, an Athenian decree explicitly denying the legality of their expulsion); and it was perhaps in 360/59 that Thebes was granted promanteia , precedence in the consultation of the oracle (SIG3 176). In the 350’ s fines imposed by the Amphictyony on enemies of Thebes were to provoke the Third Sacred War (cf. pp. 340 – 2).

Alexander of Pherae had a run of successes in Thessaly, so in 364 his opponents appealed to Thebes again, and in July, though an eclipse of the sun was seized on by doubters, Pelopidas went with volunteer cavalry and mercenaries. At Cynoscephalae, west of Pherae, he was victorious but was killed, and the Thebans then sent a major army which won a second battle. The Thessalians gave Pelopidas a lavish funeral, and dedicated a statue of him at Delphi; Alexander was allowed to survive, but as a subordinate ally of Thebes and with his power restricted to Pherae (Diod. Sic. XV. 80, Plut. Pel. 31 – 35. iv; statue SEG xxii 460 ~ Harding 49). In 362 and 361 Alexander turned to attacking the Athenians by sea, and in 361/0 they broke off their alliance with him and made one with the koinon (cf. p. 273).

Relations between the Arcadians and Thebes had been worsening, and before he was killed in 366 Lycomedes of Mantinea had made an alliance between Arcadia and Athens (cf. p. 255). In 363 a split opened in Arcadia between a Mantinean faction which was unhappy about using temple funds from Olympia to pay Arcadia’ s professional citizen soldiers, the eparitoi , and was inclining towards Sparta, and a Tegean faction which was happy with the use of the sacred funds and remained loyal to Thebes. In 362 Epaminondas went to the Peloponnese with an army from Thebes and its allies, including Thessalians both from the koinon and from Pherae, but not including the Phocians, who claimed to have only a defensive alliance with Thebes (Xen. Hell. VII. v. 4); Mantinea was supported by Sparta and its allies including Athens. After both sides had marched and counter - marched from Arcadia to Laconia and back, a battle was fought outside Mantinea: when Epaminondas seemed likely to repeat the success of Leuctra, he was killed, and the result was a stalemate. Thebes continued to support the Tegean faction, sending Pammenes in 361 to force back citizens of Megalopolis who were trying to return to their original homes (cf. p. 256).

This was not the end of Thebes’ supremacy – it remained the most ambitious and powerful city in Greece until, by the end of the Third Sacred War, it was exhausted despite being on the winning side – but Pelopidas and Epaminondas were both dead, and much of Thebes’ success had been due to them. While Xenophon minimised the importance of both, Diodorus gave them their due (obituaries of Pelopidas XV. 81. i – iv, of Epaminondas XV. 88, cf. 39. ii – iii). Both were praised by the second - century historian Polybius (Pelopidas for opposing Alexander, VIII. 35. vi – viii; Epaminondas at Mantinea, IX. 8; Thebes’ short - lived success due to them, not to the constitution, VI. 43. v – vii); and Nepos and Plutarch wrote lives of both (but Plutarch’ s Epaminondas has not survived). They are praised, by writers for whom ‘democracy’ need mean nothing more specific than constitutional government as opposed to tyranny, as champions of freedom and democracy, and Paus. IX. 15. vi quotes the inscription on a statue base of Epaminondas, ending, ‘… and the whole of Greece is autonomous in freedom’ . It can at least be said that they are not associated with the worst episodes, the reversal of Epaminondas’ original decision on Achaea and the treatment of Orchomenus; but in general they stood for a powerful Thebes. The new federation was dominated by Thebes as the old had not been; and the Thebans were willing to use force against opponents both inside and outside Boeotia, and to exploit the principles of the common peace as the Spartans and Athenians had done before them. Pelopidas and Epaminondas were not, of course, without opponents in Thebes: our sources mention Meneclidas, who is accused of jealousy but may have had genuine disagreements with them on policy (Nep. XV. Epam. 5. ii – vi, Plut. Pel.25).

The greatest legacy of this Theban supremacy was a weakened and isolated Sparta. Improvements on traditional hoplite tactics were to be developed further by Philip of Macedon; Thessaly had been made a field for Greek and Macedonian intervention, and Thessaly and Delphi were to bring Philip into Greece.


On Thebes and Boeotia in general, see, before 371, Buck , Boiotia and the Boiotian League ; after, Buckler , The Theban Hegemony. On the cities of Boeotia M. H. Hansen, ‘An Inventory of Boeotian Poleis in the Archaic and Classical Periods’ , in Hansen (ed.),Introduction to an Inventory of Poleis , 73 – 116, is included in revised form in Hansen and Nielsen (eds.), An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis , 431 – 61; and Thessaly is treated by J. - C. Decourt et al. in Hansen and Nielsen, 676 – 731.

On the organisation of the Boeotian federation before the Peace of Antalcidas see also Bruce , Historical Commentary on the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia , 102 – 18, 157 – 64; Larsen , Greek Federal States , 26 – 40. On Pelopidas and Epaminondas see G. L. Cawkwell, ‘Epaminondas and Thebes’ ,CQ2 xxii 1972, 254 – 78. On the Leuctra campaign see J. M. Buckler, ‘Plutarch on Leuctra’ , SO lv 1980, 75 – 93 = Buckler and Beck , Central Greece and the Politics of Power in the Fourth Century bc , ch. 8; Lazenby , The Spartan Army , ch. 9; C. J. Tuplin, ‘The Leuctra Campaign; Some Outstanding Problems’ , Klio lxix 1987, 72 – 107. That after Leuctra Thebes organised its allies in a league is argued by D. M. Lewis, ‘The Synedrion of the Boeotian Alliance’ , in Schachter (ed.), Essays in the Topography, History and Culture of Boiotia , 71 – 3; that it did not is argued by Buckler , The Theban Hegemony , 222 – 33, and ‘The Phantom Synedrion of the Boiotian Confederacy, 378 – 335 b . c .’ , in Polis and PoliticsM. H. Hansen , 431 – 46 = Buckler and Beck (above), ch. 11.

On Thessaly see Westlake , Thessaly in the Fourth Century bc ; Sprawski , Jason of Pherae. There is a text of [Herodes], Peri Politeias , in Meyer , Theopomps Hellenika , 202 – 8.

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