- Ancient Thebes (Boeotia)
Infobox Former Country
native_name = Θῆβαι
conventional_long_name = Thebes
common_name = Thebes
continent = Europe
region = Mediterranean
country = Greece
government_type = Monarchy
year_start = 6th century BC
event_end = Macedonian conquest
year_end = 335 BC
date_event1 = 480s BC
p1 = Greek Dark Ages
s1 = Macedonian Empire
image_map_caption = Map of Greece during the height of Theban power in 362 BCE, showing Theban (blue), Spartan (red), Athenian (pink) and Corinthian (yellow) power blocs.
religion = Polytheism
Thebes ( _gr. Θῆβαι) was a
Boeotian city-state( polis), 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 the fabric of Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysusand others.
It was the largest city of the region of
Boeotiaand was the leader of the Boeotian confederacy. It was a major rival of 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. In the Mycenaean period 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.
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 700 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.
mapof Boeotia, Atticaand the Peloponessusin Classical times, showing the position of Thebes.]
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 was punished by Macedon and other Greek states by the destruction of the city, except, according to tradition, the house of the poet Pindarand the temples.
Thebes, Greece, the modern city
Theban kings in Greek mythology
Seven Against Thebes
League of Corinth
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