« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
treacherously surprised their citadel, and again routed them at Tenagra, the Spartan general himself falling by the hand of Pelopidas. Flushed with this success, the Thebans feared no enemy, however superior in number; and the battle of Tegyra soon after raised the reputation of their arms to a degree unknown before. * In this action the brave Pelopidas, with a small body of horse, and no more than three hundred foot, broke through, and dispersed a body of Spartans consisting of above three times that number, made a terrible slaughter of the enemy, killed both their generals upon the spot, took the spoils of the dead, raised a trophy on the field of battle, and brought his little army home in triumph. Here the astonished Greeks first saw the Spartans defeated by a much inferior number, and by an enemy too whom they had always held in the greatest contempt. They had never, until that time, been beaten by equal, and rarely by much superior numbers, and, until that fatal day, were justly reputed invincible. But this action was only the prelude to that decisive stroke at Leuctra, which gave a fatal turn to the Spartan affairs, and stripped them of that dominion which they had so long exercised over the rest of Greece. For this series of success, though it greatly elated the Thebans, yet rather enraged than discouraged the Spartans. The Athenians, jealous of the growing power of Thebes, struck up a peace
* Id. p. 286, 287.
with their ancient rivals, in which all the Grecian states were included, except the Thebans, who were given up a sacrifice to the Spartan vengeance. Cleombrotus, joint king with Agesilaus, entered Bæotia with the largest, and finest army the Spartans had ever sent into the field. The great Epaminondas engaged them at Leuctra with a body of six thousand Thebans, which scarce equalled a third part of their enemies, but the admirable disposition he made, joined to the skill and dexterity of Pelopidas, and the bravery of their troops supplied the defect of numbers. Cleombrotus was slain on the spot, his army totally routed, and the greatest slaughter made of the native Spartans that had ever happened until that day, with the loss only of three hundred Thebans. Diodorus Siculus gives a concise account of this action in these remarkable words,* " that Epaminondas, being reduced to the necessity of engaging the whole confederate force of the Lacedæmonians, and their allies, with only a handful of his city militia, gained so complete a victory over those hitherto invincible warriors, that he slew their king Cleombrotus, and cut off the Spartan division, which was opposed to him, almost to a man.”
This victory gave so happy a turn to the affairs of the Thebans, that their alliance was now as much
Aiò ý ouvavayxadeis óriyois Toastixos, &c. Diodor. Sicul. lib. 15. p. 479. Edit. Henr. Stephani.
courted as before it had been despised and shunned. The Arcadians applied to them for succours against the Spartans. Epaminondas and Pelopidas were sent with a powerful army to their assistance. At the head of the joint forccs these two great men entered Laconia, and appeared with a hostile army at the gates of Sparta. The first sight of that kind ever seen by that haughty people. The masterly conduct of Agesilaus, and the desperate valour of the Spartans saved the city, but could not prevent the ravage of their territories by the two Theban generals, who restored the Messenians to their kingdom, of which the Spartans had deprived them near three hundred years before, defeated the Athenians, who came to the assistance of the Spartans, and returned home with glory.
The Theban arms were now so terrible, and their power grown so formidable, that whilst some states applied to them for protection, and others for assist. ance, the Macedonians referred the disputes about the succession to that crown to their decision, and gave hostages as a security that they would abide by their determination. The chief of these hostages was the famous Philip, father of Alexander the Great, who employed his time so well, under those two able masters, in the art of war, that from them he acquired that military knowledge which proved afterwards so fatal to all Greece in general. Thus the pubfick virtue of two private citizens not only restored Thebes to her former liberty, but raised her to a much more respectable rank than she had.ever held before amongst the Grecian republicks.
But this eminent, and newly acquired degree of power was but of short duration. Pelopidas had freed the Thessalians from the insults of Alexander the Pherean; but going to him afterwards, accompanied only by Ismenias, to compose some differences, he was not only unjustly made prisoner, but treated with the most spiteful cruelty by that perfidious tyrant. The Thebans, enraged at this treacherous act, sent an army against the tyrant, under the command of two new generals, who returned with loss and dishonour. The command was again committed to Epaminondas, who, by the terror of his name alone, brought the tyrant to reason, and procured the release of his friend Pelopidas and Ismenias. But the tyrant soon after renewing his usual depredations upon the Thessalians, Pelopidas was once more sent with forces to their assistance. The two armies came soon to action, when Pelopidas, blinded by resentment, and eager after revenge, rushed into the right wing, where the tyrant commanded in person, and fell, covered with wounds, in the midst of his surrounding enemies. His death however was not unrevenged, for his troops, quite furious at the loss of a general they so much revered and loved, routed the enemy, and sacrificed three thousand of them to his manes.
Though the death of this truly great man was an irretrievable loss to Thebes, yet Epaminondas still survived, and whilst he lived, the good fortune and power of his country remained unaltered. But new disturbances breaking out not long after, Epaminondas, at the head of his Thebans, broke again into Peloponnesus, eluded the vigilance of Agesilaus, and advanced into the very suburbs of Sparta. But as they had just before received intelligence of his approach by a messenger from Agesilaus, they were só well prepared for his reception, that he judged proper to retire, and, in his return, fell unexpectedly upon the Spartans and their allies at Mantinea. The disposition of his forces upon this occasion is esteemed a masterpiece of generalship; nor was his valour inferior to his conduct. He routed and made a terrible slaughter of the Spartans, but, pushing on too eagerly to complete his victory, he received a mortal wound in his breast, and was carried to his tent. As soon as he recovered his speech, and was satisfied that his shield was safe, and the Thebans were victors, he ordered the broken part of the weapon to be drawn out of his wound, and died rejoicing at the good fortune of his country. Thus fell the incomparable Epaminondas, who, as Polybius observes, overcame his enemies, but was overcome by fortune. * The same judicious historian,t in his remarks on
* Polyb. Comparat. Epaminond. et Hannib. lib. 9. p. 762.
t Id. lib. 6. p. 678....79.