The Story of the Greeks

Page: 85

Under pretext of keeping all their neighbors in order, the Spartans were always under arms, and on one occasion even forced their way into the city of Thebes. The Thebans, who did not expect them, were not ready to make war, and were in holiday dress.[Pg 191]

They were all in the temple, celebrating the festival of Demeter, the harvest goddess; and when the Spartans came thus upon them, they were forced to yield without striking a single blow, as they had no weapons at hand.

The Spartans were so afraid lest the best and richest citizens should try to make the people revolt, that they exiled them all from Thebes, allowing none but the poor and insignificant to remain.

To keep possession of the city which they had won by this trick, the Spartans put three thousand of their best warriors in the citadel, with orders to defend and hold it at any price.

Among the exiled Thebans there was a noble and wealthy man called Pe-lop´i-das. He had been sorely wounded in a battle some time before, and would have died had he not been saved by a fellow-citizen named E-pam-i-non´das, who risked his own life in the rescue.

This man, too, was of noble birth, and was said to be a descendant of the men who had sprung from the dragon teeth sown by Cadmus, the founder of Thebes. Epaminondas, however, was very poor; and wealth had no charms for him, for he was a disciple of Py-tha´o-ras, a philosopher who was almost as celebrated as Socrates.

Now, although Epaminondas was poor, quiet, and studious, and Pelopidas was particularly fond of noise and bustle, they became great friends and almost inseparable companions. Pelopidas, seeing how good and generous a man his friend was, did all he could to be like him, and even gave up all his luxurious ways to live plainly too.

He therefore had plenty of money to spare, and this he spent very freely for the good of the poor. When[Pg 192] his former friends asked why he no longer cared for his riches, he pointed to a poor cripple near by, and said that money was of importance only to unhappy men like that one, who could do nothing for themselves.


The Spartans, coming into Thebes, as we have seen, exiled the rich and important Pelopidas, but allowed his friend Epaminondas to remain. They little suspected that this quiet and seemingly stupid man would in time become their greatest enemy, and that the mere sound of his name would fill their hearts with dread.

Pelopidas, thus forced to leave home, withdrew to Athens, where he was very kindly received. He was not happy, however, and was always longing to return home, and see his friend Epaminondas, whose society he missed very much.

He therefore called a few of the Theban exiles together, and proposed that they should return to Thebes in disguise, and, taking advantage of the Spartans' carelessness, kill their leaders, and restore the city to freedom.