Some words to ponder...

The Theban Hegemony.

The Problem: For all the philosophy and history, science and political theory (aka 'self conscious reflection'), the Greeks proved themselves to be singularly unable to find a rational solution for the continuing warfare. The difficulties were clear enough and have been mentioned before,

More generally, and we will return to the problem at the end of this lecture, if the lessons of history are so obvious why do states and nations persist in making the same mistake again and again?


  1. The last days of Spartan dominance --after the King's Peace, 386.
    1. Intervention in the Chalcidice ...a minor event but an important indicator
      1. The Chalcidean Federation. For an example of the Chalcidians acting as a unit, note this inscription.
      2. Sparta, whose professed ideal was the 'freedom of the Greeks', could not accept the growth in power of any state within her sphere of influence, that is any unification (ACG 272).
      3. When one state in the Chalcidice resisted being incorporated as a member into the new federation, Sparta was summoned. How typically Greek on all sides! Of the league to force a state to enter, of an unwilling state to summon an outsider, and of Sparta to claim to defend the 'freedom of the Greeks'. The representative of the city of Acanthus to the Spartans: "The Olynthians induced the other cites (in the Chalcidice) to combine with one another on the basis of one system of laws and a common citizenship...and now they say unless we come in and join their league they will march against us...what we want to do is to keep the constitution we have and to live independently..." (Xenophon, V 2.11)
      4. In 379, after a long siege, the Potidaea, the leading city fell and the league was dissolved.
      5. Significance?
    2. Intervention in Thebes: Along the way to the Chalcidice (382), Phoibidas, a Spartan commander, had seized the opportunity to capture Thebes by treachery. It was a clear violation of Theban autonomy (and of the King's Peace). Public opinion compelled Agesilaus to court-martial Phoibidas, but the fine was a "dollar" and the Spartans did not give up the Kadmeia. The reason: the attack was justified as the democrats were plotting to give the city over to the Persians and commit other acts to the detriment of Greece! Why is this so specious?
    3. Sphodrias -a curious episode with important consequences.
      1. Trying to emulate Phoibidas, S. tries to surprise Athens by an attack on Peireaus. He fails, is captured and returned by the Athenians to Sparta for trial.
      2. Agesilaus secures his acquittal on the grounds that Sparta could ill afford to lose a man who had given such excellent proof of truly Spartan genius!
      3. Athens then had no choice but to abandon neutrality and ally with Thebes.
  2. The deliverance of Thebes
    1. Planned from Athens by the democrats led by Pelopidas and Epameinondas; to be carried out in mid-winter of 379..
    2. The Theban democrats, led by Pelopidas, secure entry, overwhelm their opponents.
    3. Epameinondas, who on grounds of conscience, refused to take part in a deed of blood, appears at the gate with democratic forces.
    4. The Spartans surrender, but executed when they return home; Athens maintains neutrality.
    5. In 375, Pelopidas and the 300 member the newly formed and highly professional 'sacred band' defeated two morai of Spartans (600 men?). For the first time a numerically smaller band of hoplites had defeated decisively a larger number of full Spartiates.
      1. Thereafter the Thebans make rapid progress 'democratizing' the other Boiotian states and creating a federal union. Boiotia beginning to look more like Attica and less like Sparta [ more inclusive].
      2. Real authority lay with the highly respected Pelopidas and, especially, Epaminondas.
  3. Athens and her new Athenian Naval League. Map of the political arrangements.
    1. With the breakdown of the King's Peace, Athens again moves to re-establish her naval league. All the maritime and commercial states recognized there was a clear need for such an organization, even Persians accept.
    2. Note the terms outlined in ACH sec. 269B:
      1. Within the framework of the King's Peace; yet distinctly anti-Spartan ('freedom and autonomy' carefully defined). Confirms the goal of lasting peace with Persia.
      2. Two separate bodies, must both agree to act. Allows for collecting of taxes and for common courts (significant for development of maritime law).
      3. Not a federal body (as at Boiotia), more to safeguard freedom and provide for collective security. Modern parallels??
    3. By 374, Athens had become the leading naval power in Aegean.
    4. Still, the strain was considerable. Athenians did not have the financial base they had had in the 5th century, had to tax themselves. The symmories. Heavy taxes on the rich: the assembly voted for all kinds of grandiose enterprises, but did not provide sufficient funds (even symmories not enough). Up to 100 ships voted for an enterprise, but assembled with difficulty (cf. the 250 she had routinely sent to sea in 5th century). Note ESHAG sec. 91B = ACG sec. 275B, where there is no money to pay the troops and sailors. Indeed once Iphikrates must hire his sailors out as day laborers in order to pay them at all. Why would the Persians tolerate the new naval league? Note too that Athens also became restrictive in terms of citizenship.
  4. Major changes at Sparta:
    1. On the general level of public corruption ACG 265 The Greeks and Spartan were well aware of the problem
    2. The conspiracy of Kinadon ACG 264 "To be second to none in Lakedaimon" so much for the notion of peer equality.
    3. And the consequences: oliganthropia ACG 267 Note: 5000 Spartans at Plataea in 479; at Leuktra only 700 and 400 killed. But Sparta NOT ready to enfranchise new citizens...
  5. The Peace of Kallias and the Battle of Leuktra, ca. 371
    1. The inability of Sparta, Athens and Thebes to act with restraint quickly led to more fighting. Moreover, the Persian king, needing mercenaries to put down a revolt in Egypt, wished to see peace restored.
    2. At the peace conference, Sparta (with approval of Persia and Athens) proposed that all Greek states were to be free, garrisons withdrawn and a general disarmament. Sparta swore oath on behalf of her allies, Athens on behalf of hers. Agesilaus, however, refused to allow Epaminondas to swear on behalf of Boiotia. The conference dissolved. ACH 273.
    3. Cleombrotus invades with 1000 cavalry and 10,000 infantry (including 2000 Spartiates), to Leuktra where the army meets the Theban/Boiotian contingent of 600/6000
  6. The consequences of Leuktra 371 (the first time a numerically larger Spartan army had been defeated by a smaller force!)The Sacred Band (ACH271) .
    1. For Sparta: Number of citizens simply too small for Sparta to ever be a major player without significant reforms.
    2. Jason of Pherae/Thesssaly. Used the battle to strengthen position in northern Greece.
      1. He was to first to rise to power by extensive use of mercenaries (employed over 6000 of them).
      2. His political power and authority through his chair of the Delphic Amphictiony (note the use of a religious league to enhance political authority and power!).
      3. He was in a position to become the new arbitrator of Greece, and as some suggested, to lead a Greek crusade against Persia, but assassinated in 370.
    3. Athens shocked by result of battle of Leuktra, but could do little other than to strengthen her naval league.
    4. Boiotian League. Epaminondas, the leading Theban, strengthens Theban hold of Central Greece with a series of alliances.
    5. Peloponnesus: the biggest changes. In winter of 371-0, democrats rose in all states. The new governments were, like Thebes, generally moderate (vs. radical) democracies with property a criterion for citizenship (cf. Athens and Thebes as models).
  7. Thebes and Boiotia ascendant
    1. Theban Campaigns of 370-69 and 368. Major work was the establishment of Messenia and Arcadia as independent states/leagues. Sparta isolated and largely insignificant.
    2. Thebes then emerges as champion of moderate democracy
      1. Note validity of older theory: the man who can afford armor and the time to train with army is the citizen. Appropriate to agricultural states.
      2. Moderation toward enemies and champion of federalism in Aetolia, Arcadia, Thessally, Acarnania. All support Thebes. Policy of Epaminondas:
        1. supports sovereign democratic assembly with regular meetings
        2. administrative council
        3. cantonal system for electoral and military purposes
      3. Symposium at Susa -367. Sparta, Athens and some other states go to the Great King and seek aid against Thebes, but Pelopidas is more convincing. The 'Peace of Pelopidas'
        1. Peace based on 'autonomy and freedom' of Greek states (i.e., no basis for imperial challenger to Persia!)
        2. Sparta to recognize Messenia; Athens Amphipolis and to beach her fleet.
    3. At Athens: increasingly distrustful of leaders whom assembly punishes for failure to carry out in-realistic policies of assembly
    4. At Thebes: Epaminondas in disgrace --he had refused to garrison cities of new allies or to tamper with their constitutions (note: loyalty judged by constitutional form).
  8. The crisis of Theban hegemony
    1. Arcadian league divided between the more oligarchic and the more democratic elements; Sparta and Thebes were asked for aid.
    2. In 362, Epaminondas invades in early spring and almost takes Sparta with a mobile column, but checked in house to house fighting. Full forces meet at Mantinea; Athens sides with Sparta! Thebes victorious, but Epaminondas dies ... "he alone was of more value than the state in which he lived"
      1. As general: brilliant tactician and strategist. Unparalleled control of cavalry, hoplites and peltasts. Revolutionized Greek warfare and training (more on Philip his most important pupil). Mass on narrow front; longer spears, diagonal attack.
      2. As politician: equally brilliant even if his achievement did not survive him. Emphasis on moderation, limited democracy and vision of a coalition of self-governing leagues and states. Restricted by limitations of Thebes, the citizens simply did not have the cultural level to grasp the fundamentals of his policy or to play the role he envisioned for them.
    3. Thereafter: "Both sides claimed the victory, but it cannot be said that with regard to the acquisition of new territory or cities, or power either side was better off after the battle than before it. In fact there was even more uncertainty and confusion in Greece after the battle than there had been previously." Xenophon, VII 5.26

Compromise and inclusion were critical factors in the formation and success of the polis in the 6th and 5th centuries. What has changed?