Pelopidas was an important Theban
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

 statesman and general in Greece.

Athlete and warrior

He was a member of a distinguished family, and possessed great wealth which he expended on his friends, while content to lead the life of an athlete. In 384 he served in a Theban contingent sent to the support of the Spartans at Mantineia
Mantineia was a city in ancient Greece that was the site of two significant battles in Classical Greek history. It is also a former municipality in Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Tripoli, of which it is a municipal unit. Its seat...

, where he was saved, when dangerously wounded, by the Arcadians.

According to Plutarch's Life of Pelopidas, he ruined his inherited estate by showing constant care for the deserving poor of Thebes, taking pleasure in simple clothing, a spare diet, and the constant hardships of military life. People said that he was ashamed to spend more on himself than the lowest of the Thebans spent on himself. Once, when friends argued that he needed to care for his finances since he had a wife and children, and that money was a necessary thing, Pelopidas pointed to a blind, crippled pauper named Nicodemus and said, "Yes, necessary for Nicodemus."

Upon the seizure of the Theban citadel by the Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

ns (383 or 382) he fled to Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, and took the lead in a conspiracy to liberate Thebes. Spartans had kingship in their home and were supportive of oligarchic governments in other cities, and vice versa, cities with oligarchic and not democratic political system supported Sparta. In 379 his party (the democratic) surprised and killed their chief political opponents in Thebes (members of the aristocratic party that supported the Spartans), and roused the people against the Spartan garrison, which surrendered to an army gathered by Pelopidas.


In this and subsequent years he was elected boeotarch
Boeotarch was the title of the chief officers of the Boeotian Confederacy, founded in 379 BC after a rebellion freed the cities of Boeotia from Spartan dominance. There were seven Boeotarchs, democratically elected from seven electoral districts throughout Boeotia...

, and about 375 he routed a much larger Spartan force at the battle of Tegyra
Battle of Tegyra
The Battle of Tegyra was an ancient Greek battle between Theban and Spartan hoplite forces. In the battle, a Theban army under Pelopidas was challenged by a substantially larger Spartan force while retreating from an abortive attack on Orchomenus, but successfully attacked and routed the Spartans...

 (near Orchomenus). This victory he owed mainly to the valour of the Sacred Band
Sacred Band of Thebes
The Sacred Band of Thebes was a troop of picked soldiers, consisting of 150 male couples which formed the elite force of the Theban army in the 4th century BC. It was organised by the Theban commander Gorgidas in 378 BC and played a crucial role in the Battle of Leuctra...

, an elite corps of 300 seasoned soldiers. At the battle of Leuctra
Battle of Leuctra
The Battle of Leuctra was a battle fought on July 6, 371 BC, between the Boeotians led by Thebans and the Spartans along with their allies amidst the post-Corinthian War conflict. The battle took place in the neighbourhood of Leuctra, a village in Boeotia in the territory of Thespiae...

 (371 BC) he contributed greatly to the success of Epaminondas
Epaminondas , or Epameinondas, was a Theban general and statesman of the 4th century BC who transformed the Ancient Greek city-state of Thebes, leading it out of Spartan subjugation into a preeminent position in Greek politics...

's new tactics by the rapidity with which he made the Sacred Band close with the Spartans. Epaminondas, an intuitive and genius general, used at Leuctra for the first time the oblique order
Oblique order
The Oblique Order is a military tactic where an attacking army focuses its forces to attack a single enemy flank. The force commander concentrates the majority of his strength on one flank and uses the remainder to fix the enemy line. This allows a commander with weaker or equal forces to...

 in which a local superiority of numbers can be used to defeat a superior force. Then, by winning in detail, one can hope to win in the whole. After the battle at Leuctra Thebes became the strongest city of Greece and Sparta withdrew as a leading city.

In 370 BC he accompanied his close friend Epaminondas as boeotarch into Peloponnesus in order to humiliate Sparta even more. On their return, both generals were accused, unsuccessfully, of having retained their command beyond the legal term. In fact, the democrats and some aristocrats of Thebes acknowledged that Pelopidas and Epaminondas were the two most capable and important personalities of their city. Both were trying to establish a state that would unite Greece under the Theban hegemony.

Thessalian campaign and death

In 369, in response to a petition of the Thessalians
Ancient Thessaly
Ancient Thessaly or Thessalia was one of the traditional regions of Ancient Greece. During the Mycenaean period, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, a name which continued to be used for one of the major tribes of Greece, the Aeolians, and their dialect of Greek, .-History:Thessaly was home to an...

, Pelopidas was sent with an army against Alexander of Pherae
Alexander of Pherae
Alexander was tagus or despot of Pherae in Thessaly, and ruled from 369 BC to 358 BC.-Reign:The accounts of how he came to power vary somewhat in minor points. Diodorus Siculus tells us that upon the assassination of the tyrant Jason of Pherae, in 370 BC, his brother Polydorus ruled for a year,...

. After driving Alexander out, he passed into Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 and arbitrated between two claimants to the throne. In order to secure the influence of Thebes, he brought home hostages, including the king's brother, afterwards Philip II
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

. Philip learned there many tactics of the southern Greeks, both in politics and in war.

Next year Pelopidas was again called upon to interfere in Macedonia, but, being deserted by his mercenaries, was compelled to make an agreement with Ptolemaeus of Alorus. On his return through Thessaly he was seized by Alexander of Pherae, and two expeditions from Thebes were needed to secure his release.

In 367 BC Pelopidas went on an embassy to the Persian king and induced him to prescribe a settlement of Greece according to the wishes of the Thebans. In 364 BC he received another appeal from the Thessalian towns against Alexander of Pherae. Though an eclipse of the sun prevented his bringing with him more than a handful of troops, he overthrew the tyrant's far superior force on the ridge of Cynoscephalae
Battle of Cynoscephalae (364 BC)
At the Battle of Cynoscephalae , the Theban forces of Pelopidas fought against the Thessalian troops of Alexander of Pherae in a drawn battle in which Pelopidas was killed. The next year, the Theban general Epaminondas avenged the defeat by a victory over Alexander....

. However, wishing to slay Alexander with his own hand, he rushed forward too eagerly and was cut down by the tyrant’s guards.
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