THE BATTLE OF LEUCTRA
THE Thebans, delighted at having thus happily got rid of
their enemies, had made Pelopidas and Epaminondas
Bœotarchs, or chiefs of Bœotia, the country of which
Thebes was the capital. These two men, knowing well
that the Spartans would soon send an army to win back
the city, now made great preparations to oppose them.
Epaminondas was made general of the army; and Pelopidas
drilled a choice company, called the Sacred Battalion.
This was formed of three hundred brave young Thebans,
who took a solemn oath never to turn their backs upon
the enemy or to surrender, and to die for their native
country if necessary.
The Thebans then marched forth to meet their foes; and
the two armies met at Leuctra, a small town in
Bœotia. As usual, the Thebans had consulted the
 to find out what they should do, and had been
told that all the omens were unfavorable.
Epaminondas, however, replied that he knew of none
which forbade fighting for the defense of one's
country, and he boldly ordered the attack.
The Spartans were greatly amused when they heard that
Epaminondas, a student, was the commander of the army.
And they expected to win a very easy victory. They were
greatly surprised, therefore, when their onslaught was
met firmly, and when, in spite of all their valor, they
found themselves defeated, and heard that their leader,
Cleombrotus, was dead.
The Thebans, of course, gloried in their triumph; but
Epaminondas remained as modest and unassuming as ever,
merely remarking that he was glad for his country's and
parents' sake that he had been successful. To
commemorate their good fortune, the Thebans erected a
trophy on the battlefield of Leuctra, where their
troops had covered themselves with glory.
The inhabitants of Sparta, who had counted confidently
upon the victory, were dismayed when they saw only a
few of their soldiers return from the battle, and heard
that the Thebans were pursuing them closely. Before
they could collect new troops, the enemy marched boldly
down into Laconia; and the women of Sparta now beheld
the smoke of the enemy's camp for the first time in
many years. As there were neither walls nor
fortifications of any kind, you can easily imagine that
the inhabitants were in despair, and thought that their
last hour had come.
If Epaminondas had been of a revengeful temper, he
easily have destroyed the city; but he was gentle and
humane, and, remaining at a short distance from the
place, he said that he would go away without doing the
Spartans any harm, provided they would promise not to
attack Thebes again, and to set the Messenians free.
These conditions were eagerly agreed to by the
Spartans, who found themselves forced to take a
secondary place once more. Athens had ruled Greece, and
had been forced to yield to Sparta; but now Sparta was
compelled in her turn to recognize the supremacy of