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THE SEVEN CONSPIRATORS
 THREE years passed before the Theban exiles, encouraged by
Pelopidas, formed a plot to deliver their city from the
They were helped in their plans by Phyllidas, a Theban
who had stayed in the city and become secretary to the
Spartan governors Archias and Philippus. He had taken
this position under the enemy that he might be able the
better to help his own countrymen. He agreed with
Pelopidas that the time to act had now come.
Epaminondas was also in Thebes, but he would have
nothing to do with the plot. He would fight when the
time for fighting came, but to slay even tyrants
unawares was not to his liking.
Pelopidas and six other exiles did not share the
scruples of Epaminondas. They disguised themselves as
farmers or country folk, and one evening reaching
Thebes as it began to grow dark, they slipped one by
one at different times into the city. They then found
their way to the house of a citizen named Charon, who
had promised to shelter them.
Snow was falling and the streets were nearly deserted,
so that the return of the exiles was unnoticed.
On the following day, Archias and Philippus were to be
present at a great banquet. Phyllidas, the secretary,
had promised to bring to the feast seven beautiful
Theban women. He told no one that the promised guests
were the seven exiles, who had resolved to don a second
disguise to enable them to be present at the banquet.
 The day of the feast passed slowly for the
conspirators, but at length evening came, and the
exiles were putting on the garments that were to make
them appear like beautiful women, when a loud knock
came to the door.
Already the long day had tried them sorely, and the
knock filled them with foreboding.
When the door was opened their hearts beat quicker, for
there stood a soldier who bade Charon come to the
banqueting hall without delay.
Had Charon betrayed them? The exiles looked
uncertainly one at the other. Then they grew ashamed
of their distrust and bade their host hasten to Archias
to allay his suspicions, if indeed they had been
Charon was brave and true and he knew that the lives of
the seven men were in his hand. He hoped that they trusted
him, yet he wished to dispel any doubt that they might
have. So he hastened to the nursery of his little son,
and carrying the child to Pelopidas, he placed him in
his arms, saying, "If you find me a traitor, treat the
boy as an enemy without any mercy."
But the exiles protested, and truly, that they trusted
him well and needed no such hostage, while Pelopidas
bade him take the child back to his nurse.
Then Charon, staying only to ask the help of the gods,
hastened to the banqueting hall.
Archias and his secretary were awaiting him, and
Archias said, "I have heard, Charon, that there are
some men just come lurking into the town. We fear lest
they have come to stir up the citizens."
"Who are they? Where are they hidden?" asked Charon.
For he wished to find out how much Archias knew.
But Archias knew nothing. It was but a rumour that had
"Do not disturb yourself because of a rumour," said
Charon, who had now no fear of discovery. "There are
 tales told in the market-place. But I will find
out if there is truth in what you have heard."
Archias was glad to leave the matter to Charon, for he
was impatient to go back to the feast. So Charon
hastened back to his house to tell Pelopidas and his
comrades that their fears were needless, for Archias
But although Charon did not know it, a letter was at
that moment being placed in the hands of Archias that
might easily have ruined both him and the conspirators.
For it told Archias the whole plot, as well as the
names of those who were to take part in it.
The letter had been sent from Athens, and as the
messenger handed it to the Spartan governor, he said,
"The writer of this desired that it might be read at
once; it is on urgent business."
But Archias could think of nothing that night save the
banquet and the beautiful Theban women, who should now
Thrusting the letter unopened under the cushion on
which his head rested, Archias cried, a smile upon his
face, "Urgent business to-morrow." And these words
were ever after used as a proverb by the Greeks.
The conspirators had now reached the hall. Their
beautiful dresses were wide and loose, for beneath
their splendour they wore armour. On their heads were
garlands of pine and fir, so that their faces might not
Archias and his guests clapped their hands gleefully.
Here at last were the beautiful Theban women whose
presence Phyllidas had promised should grace the
But in a moment the conspirators had torn off their
disguise. Archias and Philippus were slain almost
before they had time to realise their danger, while the
guests who had rushed to their aid were also put to
Pelopidas and his comrades then hastened to the house
of Leontiades. But he heard them knocking at the door,
and when they rushed into his room a few seconds later,
 he met them with his sword drawn, and slew the first
man who entered.
A terrible struggle then took place between Leontiades
and Pelopidas, but at length the traitor was wounded to
The conspirators then ran to the prison, ordered the
gates to be opened, and the prisoners to be set free
and armed, for their only crime had been loyalty to
As day began to dawn, troops from Athens poured into
the city to help the Thebans. The Spartans fought
fiercely, but after a few days the garrison was forced
to surrender, and once again Thebes was free.
The grateful citizens then assembled in the
market-place, where the priests crowned Pelopidas and
Charon, while the people appointed them governors of