THEBES FREE ONCE MORE
THE Spartans, coming into Thebes, as we have seen,
exiled the rich and important Pelopidas, but allowed
his friend Epaminondas to remain. They little suspected
that this quiet and seemingly stupid man would in time
become their greatest enemy, and that the mere sound of
his name would fill their hearts with dread.
Pelopidas, thus forced to leave home, withdrew to
Athens, where he was very kindly received. He was not
happy, however, and was always longing to return home,
and see his friend Epaminondas, whose society he missed
He therefore called a few of the Theban exiles
together, and proposed that they should return to
Thebes in disguise, and, taking advantage of the
Spartans' carelessness, kill their leaders, and restore
the city to freedom.
This proposal was received with joy, although the
Spartans numbered three thousand, and the Theban exiles
only twelve. The chances were of course against them;
but the men were so anxious to free their city, that
they resolved to make the attempt.
They therefore set out from Athens with weapons and
hunting dogs, as if bent upon a day's sport in the
 Thus armed, they secretly entered the house of Charon, one of their friends in Thebes. Here they exchanged
their hunting garments for women's robes; for, hearing
that the Spartan general and his officers were
feasting, they had resolved to pretend that they were
dancing girls, in order to gain entrance into the
banquet hall, and kill the men while they were
They had just finished dressing, when a knock was
heard at the door, and a Spartan soldier came in and
gravely informed Charon that the commander wished to
For a moment Pelopidas and his companions fancied that
their plans were discovered, and that Charon had
betrayed them. He read this suspicion in their
frightened faces, and, before leaving the house with
the soldier, he placed his only son, a mere infant, in
the arms of Pelopidas, saying, "There, keep him; and if
you find that I have betrayed you, avenge yourselves
by killing my only child, my dearest treasure."
"Avenge yourselves by killing my only child."
After speaking thus, Charon went out, and soon came
back to report that all was well.
The Theban exiles now
went to the banquet hall, where they were readily
allowed to enter to amuse the company. The Spartan
officers, who were no longer frugal and temperate as of
old, were so heavy and stupid with wine, that the
supposed dancing girls easily killed them.
One version of the story is that Pelopidas and his
companions rushed out into the street with lighted
torches, and slew every Spartan they met. The Spartan
soldiers, deprived of most of their officers (who had
been killed in the banquet hall), and greatly
frightened, fled in the darkness from what they fancied
was a large army, and returned in haste to Sparta.