|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
PELOPIDAS AND EPAMINONDAS
 WHEN Sparta heard that Artaxerxes had been able neither to
force the ten thousand to surrender nor to slay them,
she thought that his army could not be very powerful.
So, confident in her own strength she went to war
against the great king, dreaming that she would conquer
Persia and add it to her dominions.
But instead of conquering the country, the Spartans
were so often defeated that, in 387 B.C., they were
willing to make peace on any terms which Artaxerxes
chose to make.
And the king saw to it that the terms were severe, for
he demanded that the Greek cities in Asia, which had
now been free for ninety years, should once again
acknowledge him as their lord.
To those Greeks who loved their country truly, it
seemed better to fight to death than to accept such
terms. Nor will you wonder at this as you read the
proud words in which the king couched his demands.
"King Artaxerxes thinks it just," he wrote, "that the
Greek cities in Asia should belong to him. He also
thinks it just to leave all the other Grecian cities
both small and great independent, except three cities
which are to belong to Athens as of old. Should any
parties refuse to accept this peace I will make war
upon them, along with those who are of the same mind,
both by land and sea, with ships and with money."
The states of Greece accepted these terms, which were
 carved on stones and placed in their temples, so that
it could be seen by all that Greece was no longer free.
Although Sparta had been defeated by the Persians, she
was the most powerful state in Greece. Wishing to add
to her possessions, she determined to seize the little
town of Thebes, which at this time was friendly with
The two governors of Thebes, Leontiades and Ismenias,
did not get on well together. Leontiades disliked his
colleague so bitterly that he was ready even to betray
his city, if by doing so he could injure Ismenias.
In September 382 B.C. a Spartan army, led by a general
named Phoœbidas, chanced to be marching through
Bœotia. Not far from the walls of Thebes the soldiers
halted to rest.
Leontiades thought this was the opportunity for which he
had been waiting. He would be able to get rid of
Ismenias with the help of the Spartans. They had
already determined to seize the town, but this the
traitor did not know. He went secretly to the camp,
asked for Phoœbidas, and was admitted to the general's
tent. He at once offered to open the gates of Thebes
to the Spartans on the following day.
It would be an easy matter to seize the citadel if the
gates were opened, for on the morrow a festival kept by
women alone was to be held there, while at noon the men
would be in their houses dozing during the hottest part
of the day.
The Spartan general was as eager to take the city as
Leontiades could desire, and the traitor slipped back
to the city thinking of nothing save that Ismenias
would soon be out of his way.
At noon on the following day, the Spartans marched to
the gates of Thebes, and there, according to his
compact, was Leontiades waiting to admit them.
Silently he drew the keys from under his cloak,
unlocked the gates, and Phœbidas at the head of two
thousand men entered the city. They made their way at
once to the citadel, took
 possession of it, and made the women, who were keeping
the festival, prisoners.
Before long the men of Thebes roused themselves from
their noontide nap, to find, to their dismay, that
their wives and daughters were in the hands of the
Leontiades ordered his rival Ismenias to be arrested,
and soon after the miserable governor was sent to
Sparta and cruelly put to death.
Three hundred Thebans, who were determined not to
submit to Sparta, succeeded in escaping from the city
and reaching Athens. Many who wished to flee did not
dare to do so, lest in their absence harm should befall
their wives and daughters.
Leontiades was rewarded for his treachery by being
still allowed to rule in Thebes, along with a Spartan
general. So harshly did Leontiades use his power that
the people hated him, but years passed before the
tyrant's power was wrested from him.
During these years those who had fled to Athens often
heard from the miserable Thebans of the hardships they
suffered under the stern rule of Leontiades.
Among the exiles was a young nobleman named Pelopidas.
Often he would tell his fellow exiles that it was
dishonourable to dwell in comfort in Athens while their
city was not free, and he would urge them to march
against the Spartans, and banish them from Thebes.
Pelopidas had a great friend in Thebes named
Epaminondas. And although the two friends did brave
deeds not only for their city, but for Greece, they are
remembered most of all for the great love they bore
each to the other.
Both were of noble birth, but Pelopidas was rich, while
Epaminondas was poor. Pelopidas had a generous nature,
and used his money to help those who were not so well
off as he was. Even among his friends many were quick
to accept his kindnesses, but Epaminondas would never
take from him either gold or gifts.
 Pelopidas resolved that if Epaminondas would not share
his wealth, he would share his friend's poverty. So he
bade his slaves lay aside his soft, silk robes, that he
might clad himself in garments as simple as those of
Epaminondas. He would allow no rich dishes to be set
before him at table, but he ordered that his food
should be both plain and scanty. In the camp he
endured hardships as a common soldier, in war he showed
himself bold as a lion.
The friends were clever and well-trained, both in mind
and body, but Pelopidas was often to be found in the
fields, while Epaminondas was listening to lectures.
Each longed to serve his country well, but no touch of
jealousy disturbed the beauty of their friendship. It
was founded deep on reverence and love.
Some years before the treachery of Leontiades, when the
Spartans were at war with Athens, the Thebans had sent
a troop of soldiers to the aid of Sparta. Among the
soldiers were the two friends Pelopidas and
The company with which the Theban soldiers fought was
beaten, and many fled from the field. But Pelopidas
and Epaminondas joined their shields together and
fought on bravely. Pelopidas was wounded seven times,
and at length, faint with the loss of blood, he fell to
Epaminondas thought that his comrade was dead, but he
resolved that the enemy should have neither the arms
nor the body of his friend. So he stood over him with
his shield, willing rather "to die than forsake his
Soon Epaminondas himself was so severely wounded that
he was no longer able to defend the body of his friend.
Had not the king of Sparta chanced to see his danger,
and with a few followers dashed to his rescue, he would
have been slain by the foe. But the king carried off
both Epaminondas and Pelopidas, who was then found to
be still alive.
Pelopidas recovered, although his wounds had been
severe, and never did he forget that it was his friend
who had saved his life.
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