Return to Epameinondas (person)

Epameinondas was an [aristocrat] from [Thebes] who lived in the fourth century before Christ. We know he died in [362] [b.C.], but cannot tell for sure how old he was exactly at that time.

Epameinondas was a friend of Thebes' leader [Pelopidas], who struggled to avoid the [pressure] of the [Spartan]s. City state [Sparta] dominated the region we now know as [Greece] in that fourth century b.C. In the battle against the Spartans near [Leuktra], Epameinondas led the Thebes army to a glorious victory. With a large number of [infanterist]s he managed to [invade] Spartan territory, thanks to a new cunning strategy. The so-called [oblique phalanx] made the mind overcome brute strength. The fact that Epameinondas' men battled side by side in couples, proved to be too much for the otherwise stronger Spartans.

Wealthy and especially famous the [general] returned to Thebes. But there he was accused of [breaking the law], which stated that no Thebes citizen would be allowed to exercise [full power] over the army - and thus the country - for more than a month.

Epameinondas himself pleaded [guilty]. He did ask his judges for a grave with an [inscription] however. The text would tell the story of a man who saved his country from the imminent [decline and fall] of the state. Then the judges decided not to [sentence] Epameinondas to death and instead even restore his power over the army.

A few years later Thebes had to fight another war with Sparta, this time near [Mantineia] in 362. Epameinondas was struck by a [spear] and immediately realised that it could not be removed without taking his last [gasp of air]. He waited with the removal until he heard his army overcome the enemy again, so that he could die while knowing that he had never lost a single battle in his life.

Unfortunately his passing away meant the end of Thebes' [short spell]. The city's former rivals had managed to build up their armies and strategies, while Thebes' unions with its allies started to slowly [disintegrate].

By his contemporaries, Epameinondas was pictured as a [common man], who proved unsensitive to [bribe]s. The [Persia]n king [Artaxerxes] tried to buy his favours once through Epameinondas' close friend [Mikythos], but the aristocrat refused. He was also known as a good [dancer] and [musician], which were qualities highly esteemed in Thebes. Some looked upon him with disdain because he did not want to start a [family] - to which others cleverly answered that Leuktra and Mantineia were his children.

[Plutarch] wrote a [biography] which got lost over time. [Nepos]' history about Epameinondas still exists though, a true [tribute] to his life and achievements. Fellow biographer [Diodoros] called Epameinondas an ever better general than the more famous [Themistocles] and [Pericles].

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