The Story of the Greeks
Page: 88The new Bœotarchs were unfortunately very poor generals. They met the Thessalian army, but were defeated and driven back. Indeed, the Thebans were soon in such danger, that the soldiers revolted against their generals, and begged Epaminondas again to take the lead.
As they were in great distress, Epaminondas could not refuse to help them: so he assumed the command, and beat such a skillful retreat that he brought them out of the country in safety.
The following year, when again chosen Bœotarch, Epaminondas made plans for a second campaign, and marched into Thessaly to deliver his friend, who was still a prisoner.
When Alexander the tyrant heard that Epaminondas was at the head of the army, he was frightened, and tried to disarm the wrath of the Thebans by setting Pelopidas free, and sending him to meet the advancing army.
Of course, Epaminondas was very glad to see his friend; but when he heard how cruelly Alexander treated all his subjects, he nevertheless continued his march northward, hoping to rid the country of such a bad ruler.
Just then the Spartans, in spite of their solemn promise, suddenly rose up in arms against the Thebans; and Epaminondas, leaving part of the army in Thessaly with Pelopidas, hurried southward with the rest to put down the revolt.
Pelopidas marched boldly northward, met the Thessalians, and fought a fierce battle. When it was over, the[Pg 199] Thebans, although victorious, were very sad; for their leader, Pelopidas, had been slain in the midst of the fray.
Still, undaunted by his death, the army pursued the Thessalians, and killed Alexander. Then, to show their scorn for such a vile wretch, they dragged his body through the mud, and finally flung it out of a palace window into the courtyard, where it was torn to pieces by his own bloodhounds.
When Epaminondas heard that his friend Pelopidas was dead, he grieved sorely; but nevertheless, knowing that his country had need of him, he vigorously continued his preparations to meet and conquer the Spartan army.
The battle promised to be hard fought; for while Epaminondas, the victor of Leuctra, led the Thebans, Agesilaus, the hero of countless battles, was again at the head of the Spartan army. The Thebans pressed forward so eagerly, however, that the two armies met at Man-ti-ne´a, in the central part of the Peloponnesus.
In spite of Agesilaus' courage and experience, and the well-known discipline of the Spartan troops, the Thebans again won a splendid victory over their foes. Their joy, however, was turned to mourning when they heard that Epaminondas had been mortally wounded just as the battle was drawing to an end.
A spear had pierced his breast; and as he sank to[Pg 200] the ground, some of his followers caught him, bore him away tenderly in their arms, and carefully laid him down under a tree on a neighboring hillside. As soon as he opened his eyes, he eagerly asked how the army was getting along.