He seized the town and dug it up killing 6 thousand and capturing more than 30 thousand inhabitants. The reason for this was that after Philip's death they had sent away the Macedonian Guard that had settled to Thebes after the defeat at Chaeronea. The Thebans that survived went to Athens as refugees until 316 BC, when Cassander repatriated them.
After the defeat of Archelaus, the Greek general of Mithridates at Chaeronia in 86 BC, the Thebans took Mithridates’ part at the war against Rome. For that reason Syllas destroyed the town, pillaged the whole Boeotia and gave half of the Theban land to the sanctuary at Delphi, in return for its treasures that had been spoiled. From that point on Thebes started to decline and at Pausanias’ time one could only see the temples of the town and only the acropolis was inhabited, having changed its name from Kadmea to Thebes, after the town.
The Plateans after the rule of Hippias in Athens joined the Athenians and asked for help against the Thebans. The Athenians were glad to offer their help, because the Thebans had gone over to the Medes in 479 BC in Plateae. the Athenians won a battle near Plateae and established the Asopus river as the border of the Theban state.
The Athenians seized the Boeotian shrine of Apollo Dilius, to the north of Oropos, with Hippocrates general. When they got back to Athens the Boeotians attacked them with Pagondas and killed Hippocrates and more than 1000 Athenians. They gave back the dead after they had set free Dilion, where the Athenians had left guard before going back to Athens. About 500 Boeotians were killed.
Son of Antipater, brother of Plistarchus, husband of Thessalonice, daughter of Philip, at war with Athens, invades Attica, captures Salamis, makes Demetrius tyrant of Athens, murders Olympias, poisons sons of Alexander, restores Potidaeans, restores Thebes, attacks Pyrrhus, joins in war against Antigonus, besieges Elatea, instigates Lachares to make himself tyrant of Athens, brings Greece low, his miserable end, his sons, his family extirpated by deity.
The Hellenes who awaited the Persians in that place were these: three hundred Spartan armed men; one thousand from Tegea and Mantinea, half from each place; one hundred and twenty from Orchomenus in Arcadia and one thousand from the rest of Arcadia; that many Arcadians, four hundred from Corinth, two hundred from Phlius, and eighty Mycenaeans. These were the Peloponnesians present; from Boeotia there were seven hundred Thespians and four hundred Thebans.
" ...six months after the battle of Potidaea, just at the beginning of spring, a Theban force a little over three hundred strong, under the command of their Boeotarchs, Pythangelus, son of Phyleides, and Diemporus, son of Onetorides, about the first watch of the night, made an armed entry into Plataea, a town of Boeotia in alliance with Athens. The gates were opened to them by a Plataean called Naucleides, who, with his party, had invited them in, meaning to put to death the citizens of the opposite party, bring over the city to Thebes, and thus obtain power for themselves. This was arranged through Eurymachus, son of Leontiades, a person of great influence at Thebes. For Plataea had always been at variance with Thebes; and the latter, foreseeing that war was at hand, wished to surprise her old enemy in time of peace, before hostilities had actually broken out. Indeed this was how they got in so easily without being observed, as no guard had been posted. After the soldiers had grounded arms in the marketplace, those who had invited them in wished them to set to work at once and go to their enemies' houses. This, however, the Thebans refused to do, but determined to make a conciliatory proclamation, and if possible to come to a friendly understanding with the citizens. Their herald accordingly invited any who wished to resume their old place in the confederacy of their countrymen to ground arms with them, for they thought that in this way the city would readily join them."
This extract is from: Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War (ed. Richard Crawley, 1910). Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.
No city in Greece possessed such long continued celebrity as Thebes.
Athens and Sparta, which were the centres of Grecian political life in the historical
period, were poor in mythical renown; while Argos and Mycenae, whose mythical
annals are full of glorious recollections, sank into comparative insignificance
in historical times, and Mycenae indeed was blotted out of the map of Greece soon
after the Persian wars. But in the mythical ages Thebes shone pre-eminent, while
in later times she always maintained her place as the third city of Greece; and
after the battle of Leuctra was for a short period the ruling city. The most celebrated
Grecian legends cluster round Thebes as their centre; and her two sieges, and
the fortunes of her royal houses, were the favourite subjects of the tragic muse.
It was the native city of the great seer Teiresias and of the great musician Amphion.
It was the reputed birthplace of the two deities Dionysus and Hercules, whence
Thebes is said by Sophocles to be the only city where mortal women are the mothers
of gods (hou de monon tiktousin hai thnetai theous, Fragm. ap. Dicaearch, § 17,
ed. Muller; Mure, Tour in Greece, vol. i. p. 253.)
According to the generally received tradition, Thebes was founded by Cadmus, the leader of a Phoenician colony, who called the city Cadmeia (Kadmeia), a name which was afterwards confined to the citadel. In the Odyssey, Amphion and Zethus, the two sons of Antiope by Zeus, are represented as the first founders of Thebes and the first builders of its walls. (Od. xi. 262.) But the logographers placed Amphion and Zethus lower down in the series, as we shall presently see. The legends connected with the foundation of the city by Cadmus are related elsewhere. The five Sparti, who were the only survivors of the warriors sprung from the dragon's teeth, were the reputed ancestors of the noblest families in Thebes, which bore the name of Sparti down to the latest times. It is probable that the name of their families gave origin to the fable of the sowing of the dragon's teeth. It appears certain that the original inhabitants of Thebes were called Cadmeii (Kadmeioi, Il. iv. 388, 391, v. 807, x. 288, Od. xi. 276) or Cadmeiones (Kadmeiones, Il. iv. 385, v. 804, xxiii. 680), and that the southern plain of Boeotia was originally called the Cadmeian land (Kadmeis ge, Thuc. i. 12). The origin of these Cadmeians has given rise to much dispute among modern scholars. K. O. Muller considers Cadmus a god of the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians, and maintains that the Cadmeians are the same as the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians; Welcker endeavours to prove that the Cadmeians were a Cretan colony; while other writers adhere to the old traditions that the Cadmeians were Phoenicians who introduced the use of letters into Greece. (Muller, Orchomenos, p. 111, seq., 2nd ed.; Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, vol. i. p. 111.) It is useless, however, to enter into the discussion of a subject respecting which we possess no materials for arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. It is certain that the Greeks were indebted to the Phoenicians for their alphabet; but whether the Cadmeians were a Phoenician colony or some other race must be left uncertain.
But we must return to the legendary history of Thebes. Cadmus had one son, Polydorus, and four daughters, Ino, Semele, Autonoe, and Agave, all of whom are celebrated in the mythical annals. The tales respecting them are given in the Dict. of Biogr. and Myth., and it is only necessary to mention here that Ino became the wife of Athamas and the mother of Melicertes; Semele was beloved by Zeus and became the mother of the god Dionysus; Autonoe was the mother of the celebrated hunter Actaeon, who was torn to pieces by the dogs of Artemis; and Agave was the mother of Pentheus, who, when Cadmus became old, succeeded him as king of Thebes, and whose miserable end in attempting to resist the worship of Dionysus forms the subject of the Bacchae of Euripides. After the death of Pentheus, Cadmus retired to the Illyrians, and his son Polydorus became king of Thebes. Polydorus is succeeded by his son Labdacus, who leaves at his death an infant son Laius. The throne is usurped by Lycus, whose brother Nycteus is the father of Antiope, who becomes by Zeus the mother of the twin sons, Amphion and Zethus. Nycteus having died, Antiope is exposed to the persecutions of her uncle Lycus and his cruel wife Dirce, till at length her two sons, Amphion and Zethus, revenge her wrongs and become kings of Thebes. They fortify the city; and Amphion, who had been taught by Hermes, possessed such exquisite skill on the lyre, that the stones, obedient to his strains, moved of their own accord, and formed the wall ( movit Amphion lapides canendo, Hor. Carm. iii. 11). The remainder of the legend of Amphion and Zethus need not be related; and there can be no doubt, as Mr. Grote has remarked, that the whole story was originally unconnected with the Cadmeian family, as it still stands in the Odyssey, and has been interwoven by the logographers into the series of the Cadmeian myths. In order to reconcile the Homeric account of the building of the city by Amphion and Zethus with the usually received legend of its foundation by Cadmus, it was represented by later writers that, while Cadmus founded the Cadmeia, Amphion and Zethus built the lower city (ten tolin ten kato), and gave to the united city the name of Thebes. (Paus. ix. 5. § § 2, 6.)
After Amphion and Zethus, Laius became king of Thebes; and with him commences the memorable story of Oedipus and his family, which is too well known to need repetition here. When Oedipus was expelled from Thebes, after discovering that he had murdered his father Laius and married his mother Jocasta, his two sons Eteocles and Polynices quarrelled for their father's throne. Their disputes led to the two sieges of Thebes by the Argive Adrastus, two of the most memorable events in the legendary history of Greece. They formed the subject of the two epic poems, called the Thebais and the Epigoni, which were considered only inferior to the Iliad and the Odyssey. Polynices, having been driven out of Thebes by Eteocles, retires to Argos and obtains the aid of Adrastus, the king of the city, to reinstate him in his rights. Polynices and Adrastus are joined by five other heroes, making the confederacy known under the name of the Seven against Thebes. The names of these seven chiefs were Adrastus, Amphiaraus, Capaneus, Hippomedon, Parthenopaeus, Tydeus, and Polynices; but there are discrepancies in the lists, as we shall notice more fully below: and Aeschylus (Sept. c. Theb. 461) in particular omits Adrastus, and inserts Eteocles in his place. The Seven Chiefs advanced against Thebes, and each attacked one of the celebrated gates of the city. Polynices and Eteocles fell by each other's hands; and in the general engagement which followed the combat of the two brothers, the Argives were defeated, and all their chiefs slain, with the exception of Adrastus, who was saved by the swiftness of his horse Areion, the offspring of Poseidon. A few years afterwards the sons of the Seven Chiefs undertook an expedition against Thebes, to avenge their fathers' fate, hence called the war of the Epigoni or Descendants. This expedition was also led by Adrastus, and consisted of Aegialeus, son of Adrastus, Thersander, son of Polynices, Alcmaeon and Amphilochus, sons of Amphiaraus, Diomedes, son of Tydeus, Stheneleus, son of Capaneus, and Promachus, son of Parthenopaeus. The Epigoni gained a victory over the Cadmeians at the river Glisas, and drove them within their walls. Upon the advice of the seer Teiresias, the Cadmeians abandoned the city, and retired to the Illyrians under the guidance of Laodamas, son of Adrastus. (Apollod. iii. 7. § 4; Herod. v. 57-61; Paus. ix. 5. § 13; Diod. iv. 65, 66.) The Epigoni thus became masters of Thebes, and placed Thersander, son of Polynices, on the Throne. (For a full account of the legends of Thebes, see Grote, Hist. of Greece, vol. i. c. xiv.) According to the mythical chronology, the war of the Seven against Thebes took place 20 years before the Trojan expedition and 30 years before the capture of Troy; and the war of the Epigoni was placed 14 years after the first expedition against Thebes, and consequently only 4 years before the departure of the Greeks against Troy. (Clinton, F. H. vol. i. p. 140.)
There is another important event in the mythical times of Thebes, which was not interwoven with the series of the legends already related. This is the birth of Hercules at Thebes, and the important services which he rendered to his native city by his war against Orchomenus. It was stated that the Thebans were compelled to pay tribute to Erginus, king of Orchomenus; but that they were delivered from the tribute by Hercules, who marched against Orchomenus, and greatly reduced its power (Paus. ix. 37. § 2; Strab. ix. p. 414; Diod. iv. 18). This legend has probably arisen from the historical fact, that Orchomenus was at one time the most powerful city in Boeotia, and held even Thebes in subjection.
Thebes is frequently mentioned in Homer, who speaks of its celebrated seven gates (Il. iv. 406, Od. xi. 263); but its name does not occur in the catalogue of the Greek cities which fought against Troy, as it was probably supposed not to have recovered from its recent devastation by the Epigoni. Later writers, however, related that Thersander, the son of Polynices, accompanied Agamemnon to Troy, and was slain in Mysia by Telephus, before the commencement of the siege; and that upon his death the Thebans chose Peneleos as their leader, in consequence of the tender age of Tisamenus, the son of Thersander. (Paus. ix. 5. § § 14, 15.) In the Iliad (ii. 494) Peneleos is mentioned as one of the leaders of the Boeotians, but is not otherwise connected with Thebes.
According to the chronology of Thucydides, the Cadmeians continued in possession of Thebes till 60 years after the Trojan War, when they were driven out of their city and country by the Boeotians, an Aeolian tribe, who migrated from Thessaly. (Thuc. i. 12; Strab. ix. p. 401.) This seems to have been the genuine tradition; but as Homer gives the name of Boeotians to the inhabitants of the country called Boeotia in later times, Thucydides endeavours to reconcile the authority of the poet with the other tradition, by the supposition that a portion of the Aeolic Boeotians had settled in Boeotia previously, and that these were the Boeotians who sailed against Troy. According to other accounts, Thebes was taken by the Thracians and Pelasgians during the Trojan War, and its inhabitants driven into exile in Thessaly, whence they returned at a later period. (Strab. ix. p. 401; Diod. xix. 53.)
Pausanias gives us a list of the kings of Thebes, the successors of Tisamenus, till the kingly dignity was abolished and a republic established in its place (ix. 5. § 16). But, with the exception of one event, we know absolutely nothing of Theban history, till the dispute between Thebes and Plataea in the latter end of the sixth century B.C. The event to which we allude is the legislation of Philolaus, the Corinthian, who was enamoured of Diocles, also a Corinthian, and the victor in the Olympian games, B.C. 728. Both Philolaus and Diocles left their native city and settled at Thebes, where the former drew up a code of laws for the Thebans, of which one or two particulars are mentioned by Aristotle. (Pol. ii. 9. § § 6, 7.) At the time when Thebes first appears in history, we find it under an oligarchical form of government, and the head of a political confederation of some twelve or fourteen Boeotian cities. The greater cities of Boeotia were members of this confederation, and the smaller towns were attached to one or other of these cities in a state of dependence. The affairs of the confederation were managed by certain magistrates or generals, called Boeotarchs, of whom there were eleven at the time of the battle of Delium (B.C. 424). two being elected by Thebes, and one apparently by each of the other members of the confederation (Thuc. iv. 91). But the real authority was vested in the hands of the Thebans, who used the power of the confederation with an almost exclusive view to Theban interests, and kept the other states in virtual subjection.
The first well-known event in Grecian history is the dispute, already mentioned, between Thebes and Plataea. The Plataeans, discontented with the supremacy of Thebes, withdrew from the Boeotian confederation, and surrendered their city to the Athenians. This led to a war between the Thebans and Athenians, in which the Thebans were defeated and compelled to cede to the Plataeans the territory S. of the Asopus, which was made the boundary between the two states. (Herod. vi. 108; Thuc. iii. 68.) The interference of Athens upon this occasion was bitterly resented by Thebes, and was the commencement of the long enmity between the two states, which exercised an important influence upon the course of Grecian history. This event is usually placed in B.C. 519, upon the authority of Thucydides (L. C.); but Mr. Grote brings forward strong reasons for believing that it must have taken place after the expulsion of Hippias from Athens in B.C. 510. (Hist. of Greece, vol. iv. p. 222.) The hatred which the Thebans felt against the Athenians was probably one of the reasons which induced them to desert the cause of Grecian liberty in the great struggle against the Persian power. But in the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 427) the Theban orator pleaded that their alliance with Persia was not the fault of the nation, but of a few individuals who then exercised despotic power. (Thuc. iii. 62.) At the battle of Plataea, however, the Thebans showed no such reluctance, but fought resolutely against the Athenians, who were posted opposite to them. (Herod. ix. 67.) Eleven days after the battle the victorious Greeks appeared before Thebes, and compelled the inhabitants to surrender their medising leaders, who were immediately put to death, without any trial or other investigation. (Herod. ix. 87, 88.) Thebes had lost so much credit by the part she had taken in the Persian invasion, that she was unable to assert her former supremacy over the other Boeotian towns, which were ready to enter into alliance with Athens, and would doubtless have established their complete independence, had not Sparta supported the Thebans in maintaining their ascendency in the Boeotian confederation, as the only means of securing the Boeotian cities as the allies of Sparta against Athens. With this view the Spartans assisted the Thebans in strengthening the fortifications of their city, and compelled the Boeotian cities by force of arms to acknowledge the supremacy of Thebes. (Diod. xi. 81; Justin, iii. 6.) In B.C. 457 the Athenians sent an army into Boeotia to oppose the Lacedaemonian forces in that country, but they were defeated by the latter near Tanagra. Sixty-two days after this battle (B.C. 456), when the Lacedaemonians had returned home, the Athenians, under the command of Myronides, invaded Boeotia a second time. This time they met with the most signal success. At the battle of Oenophyta they defeated the combined forces of the Thebans and Boeotians, and obtained in consequence possession of Thebes and of the other Boeotian towns. A democratical form of government was established in the different cities, and the oligarchical leaders were driven into exile. (Thuc. i. 108; Diod. xi. 81.) This state of things lasted barely ten years; the democracy established at Thebes was ill-conducted (Arist. Pol. v. 2. § 6); and in B.C. 447 the various Boeotian exiles, combining their forces, made themselves masters of Orchomenus, Chaeroneia, and some other places. The Athenians sent an army into Boeotia under the command of Tolmides; but this general was slain in battle, together with many of his men, while a still larger number were taken prisoners. To recover these prisoners, the Athenians agreed to relinquish their power over Thebes and the other Boeotian cities. The democratical governments were overthrown; the exiles were restored; and Thebes again became the bitter enemy of Athens. (Thuc. i. 113, iii. 62; Diod. xii. 6.) The Thebans were indeed more anti-Athenian than were the Spartans themselves, and were the first to commence the Peloponnesian War by their attempt to surprise Plataea in the night, B.C. 431. The history of this attempt, and of the subsequent siege and capture of the city, belongs to the history of Plataea. Throughout the Peloponnesian War the Thebans continued the active and bitter enemies of the Athenians; and upon its close after the battle of Aegospotami they joined the Corinthians in urging the Lacedaemonians to destroy Athens, and sell its population into slavery. (Xen. Hill. ii. 2. 19) But soon after this event the feelings of the Thebans towards Athens became materially changed in consequence of their jealousy of Sparta, who had refused the allies all participation in the spoils of the war, and who now openly aspired to the supremacy of Greece. (Plut. Lys. 27; Justin, vi. 10.) They consequently viewed with hostility the Thirty Tyrants at Athens as the supporters of the Spartan power, and gave a friendly welcome to the Athenian exiles. It was from Thebes that Thrasybulus and the other exiles started upon their enterprise of seizing the Peiraeeus; and they were supported upon this occasion by Ismenias and other Theban citizens. (Xen. Hell. ii. 4. 2) So important was the assistance rendered by the Thebans on this occasion that Thasybulus, after his success, showed his gratitude by dedicating in the temple of Hercules colossal statues of this god and Athena. (Paus. ix. 11. § 6.)
The hostile feelings of Thebes towards Sparta continued to increase, and soon produced the most important results. When Agesilaus was crossing over into Asia in B.C. 397, in order to carry on war against the Persians, the Thebans refused to take any part in the expedition, and they rudely interrupted Agesilaus when he was in the act of offering sacrifices at Aulis, in imitation of Agamemnon;--an insult which the Spartan king never forgave. (Xen. Hell. iii. 5. 5; Plut. Ages. 6; Paus. iii. 9. § § 3-5.) During the absence of Agesilaus in Asia, Tithraustes, the satrap of Asia Minor, sent an envoy to Greece to distribute large sums of money among the leading men in the Grecian cities, in order to persuade them to make war against Sparta. But before a coalition could be formed for this purpose, a separate war broke out between Thebes and Sparta, called by Diodorus (xiv. 81) the Boeotian war. A quarrel having arisen between the Opuntian Locrians and the Phocians respecting a strip of border land, the Thebans espoused the cause of the former and invaded Phocis. Thereupon the Phocians invoked the aid of the Lacedaemonians, who were delighted to have an opportunity of avenging the affronts they had received from the Thebans. (Xen. Hell. iii. 5. 3-5; Paus. iii. 9. § 9.) The Lacedaemonians made active preparations to invade Boeotia. Lysander, who had been foremost in promoting the war, was to lay siege to Haliartus, under the walls of which town Pausanias was to join him on a given day with the united Lacedaemonian and Peloponnesian forces. Thus menaced, the Thebans applied for assistance to their ancient enemies, the Athenians, who readily responded to their appeal, though their city was still undefended by walls, and they had no ships to resist the maritime power of Sparta. (Xen. Hell. iii. 5. 16; Dem. de Cor. p. 258.) Orchomenus, however, seized the opportunity to revolt from Thebes, and joined Lysander in his attack upon Haliartus. (Xen. Hell. iii. 5. 17; Plut. Lys. 28.) The death of Lysander under the walls of Haliartus, which was followed by the retreat of Pausanias from Boeotia, emboldened the enemies of Sparta; and not only Athens, but Corinth, Argos, and some of the other Grecian states joined Thebes in a league against Sparta. In the following year (B.C. 394) the war was transferred to the territory of Corinth; and so powerful were the confederates that the Lacedaemonians recalled Agesilaus from Asia. In the month of August Agesilaus reached Boeotia on his homeward march, and found the confederate army drawn up in the plain of Coroneia to oppose him. The right wing and centre of his army were victorious, but the Thebans completely defeated the Orchomenians. who formed the left wing. The victorious Thebans now faced about, in order to regain the rest of their army, which had retreated to Mount Helicon. Agesilaus advanced to meet them; and the conflict which ensued was one of the most terrible that had yet taken place in Grecian warfare. The Thebans at length succeeded in forcing their way through, but not without great loss. This was the first time that the Thebans had fought a pitched battle with the Spartans; and the valour which they showed on this occasion was a prelude to the victories which were soon to overthrow the Spartan supremacy in Greece. (Xen. Hell. iv. 3. 15-21.)
We have dwelt upon these events somewhat at. length in order to explain the rise of the Theban power; but the subsequent history must be related more briefly. After the battle of Coroneia the course of events appeared at first to deprive Thebes of the ascendency she had lately acquired. The peace of Antalcidas (B.C. 387), which was concluded under the influence of Sparta, guaranteed the independence of all the Grecian cities; and though the Thebans at first claimed to take the oath, not in their own behalf alone, but for the Boeotian confederacy in general, they were compelled by their enemy Agesilaus to swear to the treaty for their own city alone, since otherwise they would have had to contend single-handed with the whole power of Sparta and her allies. (Xen. Hell. v. 1. 32, 33.) By this oath the Thebans virtually renounced their supremacy over the Boeotian cities; and Agesilaus hastened to exert all the Spartan power for the purpose of weakening Thebes. Not only was the independence of the Boeotian cities proclaimed, and a legal oligarchy organised in each city hostile to Thebes and favourable to Sparta, but Lacedaemonian garrisons were, stationed in Orchomenus and Thespiae for the purpose of overawing Boeotia, and the city of Plataea was rebuilt to serve as an outpost of the Spartan power. (Paus. ix. 1. § 4). A more direct blow was aimed at the independence of Thebes in B.C. 382 by the seizure of the Cadmeia, the citadel of the city, by the Spartan commander, Phoebidas, assisted by Leontiades and a party in Thebes favourable to Sparta. Though Phoebidas appears to have acted under secret orders from the Ephors (Diod. xv. 20; Plut. Agesil. 24), such was the indignation excited throughout Greece by this treacherous act in time of peace, that the Ephors found it necessary to disavow Phoebidas and to remove him from his command; but they took care to reap the fruits of his crime by retaining their garrison in the Cadmeia. (Xen. Hell. v. 2. 25) Many of the leading citizens at Thebes took refuge at Athens, and were received with the same kindness which the Athenian exiles experienced at Thebes after the close of the Peloponnesian War. Thebes remained in the hands of the Spartan party for three years; but in B.C. 379 the Spartan garrison was expelled from the Cadmeia, and the party of Leontiades overthrown by Pelopidas and the other exiles. The history of these events is too well known to be repeated here. In the following year (B.C. 378) Thebes formed an alliance with Athens, and with the assistance of this state resisted with success the attempts of the Lacedaemonians to reduce them to subjection; but the continued increase of the power of the Thebans, and their destruction o f the city of Plataea provoked the jealousy of the Athenians, and finally induced them to conclude a treaty of peace with Sparta, B.C. 371. This treaty, usually called the peace of Callias from the name of the leading Athenian negotiator, included all the parties in the late war with the exception of the Thebans, who were thus left to contend single-handed with the might of Sparta. It was universally believed that Thebes was doomed to destruction; but only twenty days after the signing of the treaty all Greece was astounded at the news that a Lacedaemonian army had been utterly defeated, and their king Cleombrotus slain, by the Thebans, under the command of Epaminondas, upon the fatal field of Leuctra (B.C. 371). This battle not only destroyed the prestige of Sparta and gave Thebes the ascendency of Greece, but it stript Sparta of her Peloponnesian allies, over whom she had exercised dominion for centuries, and led to the establishment of two new political powers in the Peloponnesus, which threatened her own independence. These were the Arcadian confederation and the restoration of the state of Messenia, both the work of Epaminondas, who conducted four expeditions into Peloponnesus, and directed the councils of Thebes for the next 10 years. It was to the abilities and genius of this extraordinary man that Thebes owed her position at the head of the Grecian states; and upon his death, at the battle of Mantineia (B.C. 362), she lost the pre-eminence she had enjoyed since the battle of Leuctra. During their supremacy in Greece, the Thebans were of course undisputed masters of Boeotia, and they availed themselves of their power to wreak their vengeance upon Orchomenus and Thespiae, the two towns which had been the most inimical to their authority, the one in the north and the other in the south of Boeotia. The Orchomenians had in B.C. 395 openly joined the Spartans and fought on their side; and the Thespians had withdrawn from the Theban army just before the battle of Leuctra, when Epaminondas gave permission to any Boeotians to retire who were averse to the Theban cause. (Paus. ix. 13. § 8.) The Thespians were expelled from their city and Boeotia soon after the battle of Leuctra; and Orchomenus in B.C. 368 was burnt to the ground by the Thebans; the male inhabitants were put to the sword, and all the women and children sold into slavery.
The jealousy which Athens had felt towards Thebes before the peace of Callias had been greatly increased by her subsequent victories; and the two states appear henceforward in their old condition of hostility till they were persuaded by Demosthenes to unite their arms for the purpose of resisting Philip of Macedon. After the battle of Mantineia their first open war was for the possession of Euboea. After the battle of Leuctra this island had passed under the supremacy of Thebes; but, in B.C. 358, discontent having arisen against Thebes in several of the cities of Euboea, the Thebans sent a powerful force into the island. The discontented cities applied for aid to Athens, which was readily granted, and the Thebans were expelled from Euboea. (Diod. xvi. 7; Dem. de Cherson. p. 108, de Cor. p. 259, c. Ctesiph. p. 397.) Shortly afterwards the Thebans commenced the war against the Phocians, usually known as the Sacred War, and in which almost all the leading states of Greece were eventually involved. Both Athens and Sparta supported the Phocians, as a counterpoise to Thebes, though they did not render them much effectual assistance. This war terminated, as is well known, by the intervention of Philip, who destroyed the Phocian towns, and restored to Boeotia. Orchomenus and the other towns which the Phocians had taken away from them, B.C. 346. The Thebans were still the allies of Philip,when the latter seized Elateia in Phocis towards the close of B.C. 339, as preparatory to a march through Boeotia against Athens. The old feeling of ill--will between Thebes and Athens still continued: Philip calculated upon the good wishes, if not the active co-operation, of the Thebans against their old enemies; and probably never dreamt of a confederation between the two states as within the range of probability. This union, however, was brought about by the eloquence of Demosthenes, who was sent as ambassador to Thebes, and who persuaded the Thebans to form an alliance with the Athenians for the purpose of resisting the ambitious schemes of Philip. In the following year (B.C. 338) Philip defeated the combined forces of Thebes and Athens at the battle of Chaeroneia, which crushed the liberties of Greece, and made it in reality a province of the Macedonian monarchy. On this fatal field the Thebans maintained the reputation they had won in their battles with the Spartans; and their Sacred Band was cut to pieces in their ranks. The battle was followed by the surrender of Thebes, which Philip treated with great severity. Many of the leading citizens mere either banished or put to death; a Macedonian garrison was stationed in the Cadmeia; and the government of the city was placed in the hands of 300 citizens, the partisans of Philip. The Thebans were also deprived of their sovereignty over the Boeotian towns, and Orchomenus and Plataea were restored, and again filled with a population hostile to Thebes. (Diodor. xvi. 87; Justin, ix. 4; Paus. iv. 27. § 10, ix. 1. § 8.) In the year after Philip's death (B.C. 335) the Theban exiles got possession of the city, [p. 1150] besieged the Macedonian garrison in the Cadmeia, and invited the other Grecian states to declare their independence. But the rapidity of Alexander's movements disconcerted all their plans. He appeared at Onchestus in Boeotia, before any intelligence had arrived of his quitting the north. He was willing to allow the Thebans an opportunity for repentance; but as his proposals of peace were rejected, he directed a general assault upon the city. The Theban troops outside the gates were driven back, and the Macedonians entered the town along with them. A dreadful carnage ensued; 6000 Thebans are said to have been slain, and 30,000 to have been taken prisoners. The doom of the conquered city was referred to the Grecian allies in his army, Orchomenians, Plataeans, Phocians, and other inveterate enemies of Thebes. Their decision must have been known beforehand. They decreed that Thebes should be razed to the ground, with the exception of the Cadmeia, which was to be held by a Macedonian garrison; that the territory of the city should be divided among the allies; and that all the inhabitants, men, women, and children should be sold as slaves. This sentence was carried into execution by Alexander, who levelled the city to the ground, with the exception of the house of Pindar (Arrian, Anab. i. 8, 9; Diodor. xvii. 12--14; Justin, xi. 4.) Thebes was thus blotted out of the map of Greece, and remained without inhabitants for the next 20 years. In B.C. 315, Cassander undertook the restoration of the city. He united the Theban exiles and their descendants from all parts of Greece, and was zealously assisted by the Athenians and other Grecian states in the work of restoration. The new city occupied the same area as the one destroyed by Alexander; and the Cadmeia was held by a garrison of Cassander. (Diodor. xix. 52--54, 78;. Paus. ix. 7. § 4.) Thebes was twice taken by Demetrius, first in B.C. 293, and a second time in 290, but on each occasion he used his victory with moderation. (Plut. Demetr. 39, 40; Diod. xxi. p. 491, ed. Wess.)
Dicaearchus, who visited Thebes not long after its restoration by Cassander, has given a very interesting account of the city. Thebes, he says ( § 12, seq. ed. Muller), is situated in the centre of Boeotia, and is about 70 stadia in circumference; its site is level, its shape circular, and its appearance gloomy. The city is ancient, but it has been lately rebuilt, having been three times destroyed, as history relates1 , on account of the insolence and haughtiness of its inhabitants. It is well adapted for rearing horses since it is plentifully provided with water, and abounds in green pastures and hills: it contains also better gardens than any other city in Greece. Two rivers flow through the town, and irrigate all the subjacent plain. There is also a subterraneous stream issuing from the Cadmeia, through pipes, said to be the work of Cadmus. Thebes is a most agreeable residence in the summer, in consequence of the abundance and coolness of the water, its large gardens, its agreeable breezes, its verdant appearance, and the quantity of summer and autumnal fruits. In the winter, however, it is a most disagreeable residence, from being destitute of fuel, and constantly exposed to floods and winds. It is then often covered with snow and very muddy. Although Dicaearchus in this passage gives to Thebes a circumference of 70 stadia, he assigns in his verses (Stat. Graec. 93) a much smaller extent to it, namely 43 stadia. The latter number is the more probable, and, being in metre was less likely to be altered;. but if the number in prose is correct, it probably includes the suburbs and gardens outside the city walls. Dicaearchus also gives an account of the character of the inhabitants, which is too long to be extracted. He represents them as noble-minded and sanguine, but insolent and proud, and always ready to settle their disputes by fighting rather than by the ordinary course of justice.
Thebes had its full share in the later calamities of Greece. After the fall of Corinth, B.C. 146, Mummius is said to have destroyed Thebes (Liv. Epit. 52), by which we are probably to understand the walls of the city. In consequence of its having sided with Mithridates in the war against the Romans, Sulla deprived it of half its territory, which lie dedicated to the gods, in order to make compensation for his having plundered the temples at Olympia, Epidaurus, and Delphi. Although the Romans afterwards restored the land to the Thebans, they never recovered from this blow (Paus. ix. 7. § § 5, 6); and so low was it reduced in the time of Augustus and Tiberius that Strabo says that it was little more than a village (ix. p. 403). In the time of the Antonines, Pausanias found the Cadmeia alone inhabited, and the lower part of the town destroyed, with the exception of the temples (ix. 7. § 6). In the decline of the Roman Empire, Thebes became the seat of a considerable population, probably in consequence of its inland situation, which afforded its inhabitants greater security than the maritime towns from hostile attacks. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries Thebes was one of the most flourishing cities in Greece, and was celebrated for its manufactures of silk. In A.D. 1040 the Thebans took the field to oppose the Bulgarian invaders of Greece, but were defeated with great loss. (Cedren. p. 747, ed. Paris., p. 529, ed. Bonn.) In A.D. 1146 the city was plundered by the Normans of Sicily, who carried off a large amount of plunder (Nicetas, p. 50, ed. Paris., p. 98, ed. Bonn.) Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Thebes about 20 years later, speaks of it as still a large city, possessing 2000 Jewish inhabitants, who were very skilful manufacturers of silk and purple cloth (i. 47, ed. Asher; Fihlay, Byzantine Empire, vol. i. p. 493, vol. ii. p. 199). The silks of Thebes continued to be esteemed even at a later period, and were worn by the emperors of Constantinople. (Nicetas, p. 297, ed. Paris., p. 609, ed. Bonn.) They were, however, gradually supplanted by those of Sicily and Italy; and the loss of the silk trade was followed by the rapid decline of Thebes. Under the Turks the city was again reduced, as in the time of Pausanias, to the site of the Cadmeia.
This extract is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
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