Infobox Greek Dimos
name = Thebes
name_local = Θήβα
caption_skyline = Remains of the Cadmea, the central fortress of ancient Thebes
population = 23820
population_as_of = 2001
elevation = 215
lat_deg = 38
lat_min = 19
lon_deg = 23
lon_min = 19
postal_code = 32200
area_code = 22620
Thebes IPA| [ˈθiːbz] (
Classic GreekΘῆβαι IPA| [tʰɛ́ː̀ba͝ɪ] , Mod. Θήβα IPA| [ˈθiva] ) is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeronrange, which divides Boeotiafrom Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysusand others. Archaeological excavations in and around Thebes have revealed a Mycenaean settlement and clay tablets written in the Linear Bscript, indicating the importance of the site in the Bronze Age. In ancient times, Thebes was the largest city of the region of Boeotiaand was the leader of the Boeotian confederacy. It was a major rival of ancient Athens, and sided with the Persians during the 480 BC invasion of Xerxes. Theban forces ended the power of Spartaat the Battle of Leuctrain 371 BC under the command of Epaminondas. The Sacred Band of Thebes(an elite military unit) famously fell at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC against Philip II and Alexander the Great. Prior to its destruction by Alexander in 335 BC, Thebes was a major force in Greek history, and was the most dominant city-stateat the time of the Macedonian conquest of Greece. During the Byzantine period, the city was famous for its silks. The modern city contains an Archaeological Museum, the remains of the Cadmea(Bronze Age and forward citadel), and scattered ancient remains. Modern Thebes is the largest town of the Boeotia Prefecture. It is situated at highway E962, some 4 km south of the junction with E75.
The stories of Thebes are mainly tragic tales of death, confusion, war, murder, complete frenzy, and other tragic endings. The record of the earliest days of Thebes was preserved among the Greeks in an abundant mass of legends which rival the myths of
Troyin their wide ramification and the influence which they exerted upon the literature of the classical age. Five main cycles of story may be distinguished:
# The foundation of the citadel Cadmeia by
Cadmus, and the growth of the Spartoior "Sown Men" (probably an aetiologicalmyth designed to explain the origin of the Theban nobility which bore that name in historical times);
# The building of a "seven-gated" wall by
Amphion, and the cognate stories of Zethus, Antiope and Dirce;
# The tale of
Laius, whose misdeeds culminated in the tragedy of Oedipusand the wars of the " Seven Against Thebes," the Epigoni, and the downfall of his house; Laius' pederastic rape of Chrysippus was held by some ancients to have been the first instance of homosexualityamong mortals, and may have provided an etiology for the practice of pedagogic pederasty for which Thebes was famous. "See Theban pederastyand Pederasty in ancient Greecefor detailed discussion and background."
# The advent of
# The exploits of
mapof Boeotia, Atticaand the Peloponessusin Classical times, showing the position of Thebes.]
Archaeological excavations in and around Thebes have revealed cist graves dated to Mycenaean times containing weapons, ivory, and tablets written in
Linear B. Its name in the local tablets, and in tablets found in Mycenae, was transliterated "TE-QA-I" (TH Ft 140.1) understood to be read as *unicode|Tʰēgʷai ( Ancient Greekunicode|Θῆβαι "Thēbai"), and "TE-QA-DE" (MY X 508; TH Wu 65.a) for *unicode|Tʰēgʷasde ( Ancient Greekunicode|Θήβασδε "Thēbasde").It seems safe to infer that *unicode|Tʰēgʷai was one of the first Greek communities to be drawn together within a fortified city, and that it owed its importance in prehistoric days — as later — to its military strength. Deger-Jalkotzy claimed that the statue base from Kom el-Hetan in Amenhotep III's kingdom (LHIIIA:1) mentions a name similar to Thebes and considered to be one of four "tj-n3-jj" (Danaan?) kingdoms worthy of note (alongside Knossos and Mycenae). *unicode|Tʰēgʷai in LHIIIB lost contact with Egypt but gained it with "Milatos" (Hit. Milawata) and "Cyprus" (Hit. Alasiya). In the late LHIIIB, according to Palaima ("Sacrificial Feasting", Hesperia 73, 2004), *unicode|Tʰēgʷai was able to pull resources from Lamos near Mount Helicon, and from Karystos and Amarynthos on the Greek side of the isle of Euboia.
As a fortified community, it attracted attention from the invading
Dorians, and the fact of their eventual conquest of Thebes lie behind the stories of the successive legendary attacks on that city.
The central position and military security of the city naturally tended to raise it to a commanding position among the Boeotians, and from early days its inhabitants endeavoured to establish a complete supremacy over their kinsmen in the outlying towns. This centralizing policy is as much the cardinal fact of Theban history as the counteracting effort of the smaller towns to resist absorption forms the main chapter of the story of Boeotia. No details of the earlier history of Thebes have been preserved, except that it was governed by a land-holding
aristocracywho safeguarded their integrity by rigid statutes about the ownership of property and its transmission.
Archaic and classical periods
In the late
6th century BC, the Thebans were brought for the first time into hostile contact with the Athenians, who helped the small village of Plataeato maintain its independence against them, and in 506 BCrepelled an inroad into Attica. The aversion to Athens best serves to explain the apparently unpatriotic attitude which Thebes displayed during the Persian invasion of Greece (480– 479 BC). Though a contingent of 400 was sent to Thermopylae and remained there with Leonidasuntil just before the last stand when they surrendered to the Persians [Herodotus Bibliography VII:204 ,222,223.] , the governing aristocracy soon after joined King Xerxes I of Persiawith great readiness and fought zealously on his behalf at the Battle of Plataeain 479 BC. The victorious Greeks subsequently punished Thebes by depriving it of the presidency of the Boeotian Leagueand an attempt by the Spartans to expel it from the Delphic amphictyonywas only frustrated by the intercession of Athens.
457 BCSparta, needing a counterpoise against Athens in central Greece, reversed her policy and reinstated Thebes as the dominant power in Boeotia. The great citadel of Cadmea served this purpose well by holding out as a base of resistance when the Athenians overran and occupied the rest of the country (457– 447 BC). In the Peloponnesian Warthe Thebans, embittered by the support which Athens gave to the smaller Boeotian towns, and especially to Plataea, which they vainly attempted to reduce in 431 BC, were firm allies of Sparta, which in turn helped them to besiege Plataea and allowed them to destroy the town after its capture in 427 BC. In 424 BCat the head of the Boeotian levy they inflicted a severe defeat upon an invading force of Athenians at the Battle of Delium, and for the first time displayed the effects of that firm military organization which eventually raised them to predominant power in Greece.
After the downfall of Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War, the Thebans, having learned that Sparta intended to protect the states which they desired to annex, broke off the alliance. In
404 BCthey had urged the complete destruction of Athens, yet in 403 BCthey secretly supported the restoration of its democracy in order to find in it a counterpoise against Sparta. A few years later, influenced perhaps in part by Persian gold, they formed the nucleus of the league against Sparta. At the Battle of Haliartus( 395 BC) and the Battle of Coronea ( 394 BC) they again proved their rising military capacity by standing their ground against the Spartans. The result of the war was especially disastrous to Thebes, as the general settlement of 387 BCstipulated the complete autonomy of all Greek towns and so withdrew the other Boeotians from its political control. Its power was further curtailed in 382 BC, when a Spartan force occupied the citadel by a treacherous coup-de-main. Three years later, the Spartan garrison was expelled and a democratic constitution was set up in place of the traditional oligarchy. In the consequent wars with Sparta, the Theban army, trained and led by Epaminondasand Pelopidas, proved itself the best in Greece (see also: Sacred Band of Thebes). Years of desultory fighting, in which Thebes established its control over all Boeotia, culminated in 371 BCin a remarkable victory over the pick of the Spartans at Leuctra. The winners were hailed throughout Greece as champions of the oppressed. They carried their arms into Peloponnesusand at the head of a large coalition, permanently crippled the power of Sparta, in part by freeing many helot slaves, the basis of the Spartan economy. Similar expeditions were sent to Thessalyand Macedonto regulate the affairs of those regions.
However, the predominance of Thebes was short-lived as the states which she protected refused to subject themselves permanently to her control. Due to their renewed rivalry with Athens, who had joined with Thebes in
395 BCin fear of Sparta, but since 387 BChad endeavored to maintain the balance of power against her ally, prevented the formation of a Theban empire. With the death of Epaminondasat the Battle of Mantinea (362 BC)the city sank again to the position of a secondary power. In a war with the neighboring state of Phocis(356– 346 BC) it could not even maintain its predominance in central Greece, and by inviting Philip II of Macedonto crush the Phocians it extended that monarch's power within dangerous proximity to its frontiers. A revulsion of feeling was completed in 338 BCby the orator Demosthenes, who persuaded Thebes to join Athens in a final attempt to bar Philip's advance upon Attica. The Theban contingent lost the decisive battle of Chaeronea and along with it every hope of reassuming control over Greece. Philip was content to deprive Thebes of her dominion over Boeotia; but an unsuccessful revolt in 335 BCagainst his son Alexander the Greatwas punished by Alexander and his Greek allies by the destruction of the city, except, according to tradition, the house of the poet Pindarand the temples.
During the early Byzantine period it served as a place of refuge against foreign invaders. From the
10th century, Thebes became a centre of the new silktrade, its silk workshops boosted by imports of soaps and dyes from Athens. The growth of this trade in Thebes continued to such an extent that by the middle of the 12th century, the city had become the biggest producer of silks in the entire Byzantine empire, surpassing even the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. The women of Thebes were famed for their skills at weaving. Theban silk was prized above all others during this period, both for its quality and its excellent reputation.
Though severely plundered by the
Normansin 1146, Thebes quickly recovered its prosperity and continued to grow rapidly until the dissolution of the Byzantine empire by the Fourth Crusadein 1204.
Thanks to its wealth the city was selected by the Frankish dynasty
de la Rocheas its capital. In 1311it was used as a capital by the short-lived state of the Catalan Company.
In 1379, the
Navarrese Companytook the city with the aid of the archbishop Simon Atumano.
"Portions of the historical section were taken from the
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica."
Today Thebes is a market town.
Sacred Band of Thebes
List of traditional Greek place names
Herodotus"The Histories of Herodotus"
* Angold, Michael - "The Byzantine Empire, 1025-1204"
* [http://www.timelessmyths.com/classical/thebes.html Timeless Myths - House of Thebes]
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