GREECE-SPARTAN AND THEBAN ASCENDENCIES.
The terms of the compact were-the independence of the various Greek
cities, the disbanding of the hostile fleets, and the dismissal of all
the Spartan garrisons from the towns now occupied by them. When it came
to signing the treaty there was a strange incident, which revealed more
plainly than words the hollowness of the settlement, or perhaps it might
be said of any settlement between the states represented in the congress.
Sparta ratified the terms for herself awl her allies. Athens signed for
herself only, and each of the confederate cities gave a separate
ratification until it came to Thebes. Epaminondas insisted that he would
sign for himself and for the Boeotian confederacy. When this proceeding
was resisted by Agesilaus, the Theban boldly defended his right,
maintaining that the same differed in no respect from the right of Sparta
to sign for the Lacedaemonian league. He declared that in either case the
right depended on the sword, and that a Boeotian sword was as good as a
Spartan. Agesilaus was greatly angered at this insolence and the
altercation became so violent that the king in a rage ordered the name of
Thebes to be struck out of the treaty. So Epaminondas was left to himself
and his sword.
Of course there was but one thing to be expected-the immediate invasion
of Boeotia by the Lacedaemonians. Nor was it regarded as within the range
of things possible that Thebes, even with the support of her great
general, could long withstand the assaults of her inveterate and powerful
foe. Nevertheless, when Cleombrotus, who now held command of the Spartan
army in Phocis, was ordered to march into Boeotia and put down all
opposition, Epaminondas, nothing daunted, made preparations to give him
battle. The combatants met on the plain of Leuctra. The Thebans were.
greatly discouraged at the approach of the enemy. Bad omens were reported
by the seers. Three of the seven Boeotrarchs voted to return to the city
and to send their wives and children to Athens.
But Epaminondas could not be appalled. Just before the battle began an
exile discovered that the field contained the tombs of two Theban virgins
who had killed themselves after having been violated by Spartan soldiers.
The general had their graves covered with garlands, and demanded that the
outraged honor of Theban womanhood should now be vindicated on the
dastardly race that had committed the deed. The spirit of the soldiers
was fired with the appeal, and the conflict began.
The tactics adopted by Epaminondas were a novelty in Grecian warfare.
Hitherto there had been but little variation from the established usage
of the field. The Greek commander generally arranged his forces so as to
attack in line. The theory of battle was that the whole line-center, left
wing, right wing-must be maintained unbroken. It is to Epaminondas that
the method of attacking in column, that is, of throwing upon some
particular part of the enemy's lines a heavy mass of men moving in a
column with a narrow front, but of great depth, must be referred. He
adopted this policy for the first in the battle of Leuctra. Concentrating
his best troops in the left wing, where they were massed to the depth of
fifty files, he threw them with irresistible force against the Spartan
right. The Theban center and right were not advanced at all, but held in
reserve to act according to the emergency. With the onset the
Lacedaemonian right wing was utterly routed. Cleombrotus was mortally
wounded-the first Spartan king who had fallen in battle since the day of
Thermopylae. The rout was complete. The Spartans were granted the
privilege of burying their dead, but these were first stripped of their
armor, which was hung as a trophy in Thebes.
The effect of this victory was tremendous in all Greece. It had been
believed that in a general field battle the Spartan hoplites were
invincible. Here at Leuctra, though superior in numbers, advantageously
posted, and ably commanded, they had been beaten down by the hitherto
comparatively undistinguished soldiery of Thebes, and this, too, by a
method of attack which was an innovation upon the established rules of
battle. Sparta had never before suffered so great a disaster in the