| Famous Men of Greece|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of thirty-five of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Greece, from legendary times to its fall in 146 B.C. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
EPAMINONDAS AND PELOPIDAS
 IN the city of Thebes not long after the Peloponnesian War
lived two young men whose names were Pelopidas and
Epaminondas. Pelopidas was rich; Epaminondas was poor.
Both were fond of athletics and manly sports, but
Epaminondas found his chief pleasure in books. Both were
brave men and true and they loved each other like brothers.
Once, when their city was an ally of Sparta, they were sent
by Thebes as soldiers to help the Spartans in a war with
their neighbors, the Arcadians. The young men were fighting
side by side when their comrades gave way and fled. Closing
their shields together, they bravely held their ground and
tried to drive back the Arcadians. Pelopidas was wounded
and fell. Epaminondas would not desert his friend.
Although badly wounded, he held the Arcadians in check until
help came and he and Pelopidas were rescued.
EPAMINONDAS RESCUES PELOPIDAS
 In time Sparta became jealous of Thebes and tried to take
away the liberty of her people. A few rich Thebans were
willing to help Sparta do this in order that they might be
made the rulers. One day they led a band of Spartan
soldiers, who happened to be passing, into the
Cadmea. This was the rocky citadel of Thebes, which rose above the
city as did the Acropolis at Athens. The Cadmea had never
been captured. But on that day the garrison was taking a
holiday, for the citadel had
 been given up to the women, who were celebrating a festival
of Ceres in it. So the Spartans easily took possession of
it, and having once got it they held it for four years.
During that time the men who had betrayed the citadel into
the hands of the Spartans ruled Thebes as tyrants. They put
some of the Thebans to death and banished others. Over
three hundred were sent away. Among them was Pelopidas.
Epaminondas was so poor that the tyrants did not think him
of any consequence and he was allowed to stay in Thebes. He
used his influence to get the young Thebans to drill in
order to make themselves superior to the Spartans in skill
THE exiles went to Athens. After living there for a few years
Pelopidas determined to free his country, and he easily
persuaded the other exiles and some Athenians to join in
carrying out his plans.
When everything was ready the exiles left Athens. Twelve of
them volunteered to get into Thebes and kill the tyrants.
They disguised themselves as hunters, divided into four
parties, and taking hounds with them, hunted through the
 around Thebes. As dusk came on they made their way into the
city. It was a cold winter day, snow was beginning to fall
and very few people were in the streets, so the exiles
reached the house where all were to meet without being
noticed. Twenty-six citizens joined them and all remained
in the one house until near midnight.
A patriot who was in the plot had invited the tyrants to
supper at his house. At the supper wine was served, and the
tyrants drank freely. After the supper some of the
patriots, dressed as women, were admitted to the banquet
hall. As soon as they entered the room the guests greeted
them warmly, but the supposed women at once threw off their
veils, drew their swords and killed the tyrants.
Pelopidas, with another party, went to the houses of two of
the tyrants who had refused the invitation to supper, and
after a fight killed them. The patriots then went from house
to house, calling on all the people to defend their homes.
The Spartan soldiers in the Cadmea heard the noise and saw
the lights, but were afraid to come out.
In the morning the other exiles with their friends from
Athens came into the city, and all the citizens rose up in
arms. The Spartan garrison gave up the Cadmea and Thebes
 SPARTA waited eight years before a chance came to punish the
Thebans. Then war was declared, and an army of ten thousand
Spartans marched against Thebes.
The Thebans also raised an army, and through the influence
of Pelopidas Epaminondas was elected one of the chief
captains. Pelopidas himself was captain of a famous "sacred
band" of three hundred young men who had taken an oath to
give their lives in defense of liberty.
The two armies met near a town called Leuctra. There
Epaminondas gained a great victory, although his army was
less than half as large as that of the Spartans.
Epaminondas and Pelopidas drilled the men of Thebes so that
they were the best soldiers in all Greece, and Thebes helped
other Greek cities become independent.
Pelopidas went to Thessaly to aid the people of that state
against a tyrant who was trying to rule all Thessaly. The
army of Pelopidas was not nearly so large as that of the
tyrant, but Pelopidas was victorious. Unfortunately,
however, he was killed in the battle.
The Thessalians begged the Thebans to allow
 them to bury the hero, and their request was granted.
THE death of Pelopidas was a sad blow to Epaminondas. However,
he did not let his grief stand in the way of duty. Athens at
this time had grown jealous of Thebes and had united with
Sparta; so the armies of the two cities met the Thebans
under Epaminondas in the year 362 B.C., near the town of
Mantinea, where a long and fierce battle was fought. At
length the Thebans were
 victorious and the Spartans were
driven from the field.
THE PLAIN OF MANTINEA AS IT IS TO-DAY
The victory, however, was dearly bought. Just when the tide
of battle was turning and the Spartan ranks were breaking
Epaminondas received a wound in the breast from a spear.
The shaft broke and the head remained fixed in the wound.
Epaminondas was told by his physician that he would die as
soon as the spear-head was removed. Those about him wept,
and one lamented that he was dying without a child to keep
his name alive.
"Leuctra and Mantinea," replied the hero, "are daughters who
will keep my name alive."
When he was told that the victory was secure he cried,
"I have lived long enough," and with his own hand drew the
spear-head from his breast.
Thus passed away a man who stands out in Grecian history as
a spotless hero—a soldier who never fought except for
freedom, a man who lived only to do good.
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