The End of the War:  Spartan Hegemony and the Rise of Thebes


Vicissitudes of Athens

Oligarchic Dissatisfaction in Athens:

Losses under the democracy

Peisander and the hetaireiai

Phrynichus and Antiphon

Alcibiades and the Lure of Persian Aid

The governments of the Four Hundred and the Five Thousand

brief oligarchic coup by the Four Hundred (Peisander, Phrynichus) 411

Fleet at Samos creates democratic government in exile with Alcibiades

Cleophon vs. Theramenes  -  the Five Thousand in Athens

Chance for peace after Hellespontine victories – Cyzikos 410

Triumphal return of Alcibiades 407

Alcibiades cast out again after Antiochus' failure at Notium 406

Athenian victory at Arginusae - generals sentenced to death 406


Sparta wins the War

Athenian fleet destroyed at Aegospotami 405

Athens besieged

grain supply from Black Sea cut

Athens surrenders in 404


Oligarchy in Athens:  From the Four Hundred in 411 to the Thirty Tyrants in 404/3

Spartan oligarchic regimes - decarchies

The Thirty Tyrants:  Critias, Charmides, Theramenes

Execution of Theramenes and the Thirty's reign of terror

Thrasybulus and Athenian exiles in Thebes capture the fort of Phyle

Battle for the Piraeus; Critias, many leaders of the Thirty killed

Lysander's influence wanes – King Pausanias vs. Lysander in Sparta

Spartan King Pausanias permits democracy with amnesty for oligarchs at Eleusis



Spartan Hegemony

Spartan harmosts and decarchies in Greek cities – Lysander's influence

Spartan support of Cyrus against Artaxerxes ends in disaster 399

Tissaphernes, satrap of Caria, cracks down on Ionian cities - war with Sparta

King Agesilaos campaigns in Asia Minor 396-4

Corinthian War against Sparta by Greek alliance 395-387

Defeat of Spartan fleet at Cnidus by Conon and Persians 395

King's Peace of 387/6 leaves Sparta in control, breaks up Greek alliances


The Rise of Thebes

Spartan dissolution of Mantinea and Chalkidike

Anti-Spartan alliance between Thebes and Athens

Liberation of Thebes from pro-Spartan oligarchs 379/8

Pelopidas and the Sacred Band

Theban takeover of Boeotia - Orchomenos, Phokis

Peace Conference 371 - Thebes refuses to make peace with Sparta

Battle of Leuctra 371 - Thebes defeats Sparta

Theban Hegemony

Theban Hegemony in the South -

liberation of Messene

Arcadian League - Megalopolis

Theban Hegemony in the North -

Pelopidas aids Thessalians (Aleudae of Larissa) against Alexander of Pherai

Alexander II of Macedon requests Theban aid against rivals

Thebes builds fleet to try for sea power in North Aegean

Crumbling of Theban Hegemony

Athenian alliance with Sparta against Thebes in Peloponnese

Internal Disputes in Arcadian League

Battle of Mantinea 362 - Death of Epaminondas after victory

Causes of Failure for Thebes





404                  Athens surrenders to Sparta, Thirty Tyrants installed

401-399           Expedition of Cyrus against Artaxerxes;

                        retreat of the Ten Thousand Greek mercenaries  (Xenophon's Anabasis)

396-4               Spartan King Agesilaos campaigns in Asia Minor

395                  Corinthian War - alliance of states against Sparta

386                  King's Peace between Persia and Greek states

379-8               Liberation of Thebes from Spartans

378-7               Formation of Second Athenian League

375-370           Jason of Pherai leads Thessaly until assassinated by nephew Alexander

371                  Thebans defeat Spartans at Battle of Leuctra

370-361           Thebans invade the Peloponnese

367                  Dionysios I dies, Dionysios II takes over Syracuse

364                  Thebans destroy Orchomenos, main rival in Boeotia;

                        Thebans defeat Thessalians - death of Pelopidas

362                  Thebans defeat Spartans and allies at Mantinea - death of Epaminondas

359                  Philip becomes King of Macedon


Xenophon, Hellenica III.3

But Diopeithes, a man very well versed in oracles, said in support of Leotychides that there was also an oracle of Apollo which bade the Lacedaemonians beware of the lame kingship. Lysander, however, made reply to him, on behalf of Agesilaus, that he did not suppose the god was bidding them beware lest a king of theirs should get a sprain and become lame, but rather lest one who was not of the royal stock should become king. For the kingship would be lame in very truth when it was not the descendants of Heracles who were at the head of the state. [4] After hearing such arguments from both claimants the state chose Agesilaus king.

 When Agesilaus had been not yet a year in the kingly office, once while he was offering one of the appointed sacrifices in behalf of the state, the seer said that the gods revealed a conspiracy of the most terrible sort. And when he sacrificed again, the seer said that the signs appeared still more terrible. And upon his sacrificing for the third time, he said: "Agesilaus, just such a sign is given me as would be given if we were in the very midst of the enemy." There-upon they made offerings to the gods who avert evil and to those who grant safety, and having with difficulty obtained favourable omens, ceased sacrificing. And within five days after the sacrifice was ended a man reported to the ephors a conspiracy, and Cinadon as the head of the affair. [5]



Plato VIIth Letter, Republic (Book VIII, selections)

Isocrates to Phillip

philosophic history assignment


Look at a general shift in the political and economic structure of Greek society, a shift in the political and economic structure of Greece in the period of Greek history known as "the rise of the city-state" from about 750 BC to the hegemony of Macedon at the end of the fourth century (338). How does this shift play out in Athens up to and during Plato's lifetime?

How is the political shift linked to the crisis of values Plato explores in the Republic?  How do Gorgias, Critias, Euripides, and Aristophanes' Clouds express the same crisis of values and political shift?  Compare Plato's reaction to these earlier authors.


How do Isocrates' address to Philip and Plato's interactions with Dion and Dionysius of Syracuse try to resolve the political problems of Greece?  What differences in the situation create the different outcomes?

Theban Sacred Band


Plato Symposium 178d-179a

Let me then say that a man in love, should he be detected in some shameful act or in a cowardly submission to shameful treatment at another's hands, would not feel half so much distress at anyone observing it, whether father or comrade or anyone in the world, as when his favorite did; [178e] and in the selfsame way we see how the beloved is especially ashamed before his lovers when he is observed to be about some shameful business. So that if we could somewise contrive to have a city or an army composed of lovers and their favorites, they could not be better citizens of their country than by thus refraining from all that is base [179a] in a mutual rivalry for honor; and such men as these, when fighting side by side, one might almost consider able to make even a little band victorious over all the world. For a man in love would surely choose to have all the rest of the host rather than his favorite see him forsaking his station or flinging away his arms; sooner than this, he would prefer to die many deaths: while, as for leaving his favorite in the lurch, or not succoring him in his peril, no man is such a craven that Love's own influence cannot inspire him with a valor that makes him equal to the bravest born;


Plutarch, Life of Pelopidas

Gorgidas, according to some, first formed the Sacred Band of three hundred chosen men, to whom, as being a guard for the citadel, the State allowed provision, and all things necessary for exercise: and hence they were called the city band, as citadels of old were usually called cities. Others say that it was composed of young men attached to each other by personal affection, and a pleasant saying of Pammenes is current, that Homer's Nestor was not well skilled in ordering an army, when he advised the Greeks to rank tribe and tribe, and family and family together, that-

 "So tribe might tribe, and kinsmen kinsmen aid."

 but that he should have joined lovers and their beloved. For men of the same tribe or family little value one another when dangers press; but a band cemented by friendship grounded upon love is never to be broken, and invincible; since the lovers, ashamed to be base in sight of their beloved, and the beloved before their lovers, willingly rush into danger for the relief of one another. Nor can that be wondered at since they have more regard for their absent lovers than for others present; as in the instance of the man who, when his enemy was going to kill him, earnestly requested him to run him through the breast, that his lover might not blush to see him wounded in the back. It is a tradition likewise that Iolaus, who assisted Hercules in his labours and fought at his side, was beloved of him; and Aristotle observes that, even in his time, lovers plighted their faith at Iolaus's tomb. It is likely, therefore, that this band was called sacred on this account; as Plato calls a lover a divine friend. It is stated that it was never beaten till the battle at Chaeronea: and when Philip, after the fight, took a view of the slain, and came to the place where the three hundred that fought his phalanx lay dead together, he wondered, and understanding that it was the band of lovers, he shed tears and said, "Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything that was base."

 It was not the disaster of Laius, as the poets imagine, that first gave rise to this form of attachment amongst the Thebans, but their lawgivers, designing to soften whilst they were young their natural fierceness, brought, for example, the pipe into great esteem, both in serious and sportive occasions, and gave great encouragement to these friendships in the Palaestra, to temper the manners and characters of the youth. With a view to this they did well, again, to make Harmony, the daughter of Mars and Venus, their tutelar deity; since, where force and courage is joined with gracefulness and winning behaviour, a harmony ensues that combines all the elements of society in perfect consonance and order. Gorgidas distributed this Sacred Band all through the front ranks of the infantry, and thus made their gallantry less conspicuous; not being united in one body, but mingled with so many others of inferior resolution, they had no fair opportunity of showing what they could do. But Pelopidas, having sufficiently tried their bravery at Tegyrae, where they had fought alone and around his own person, never afterward divided them, but, keeping them entire, and as one man, gave them the first duty in the greatest battles. For as horses ran brisker in a chariot than singly, not that their joint force divides the air with greater ease, but because being matched one against the other emulation kindles and inflames their courage; thus he thought brave men, provoking one another to noble actions, would prove most serviceable, and most resolute, where all were united together.

Places to Know: