Battle of Leuctra

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The Battle of Leuctra (or Leuktra) 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. Theban victory weakened Sparta’s immense influence over the Greek peninsula which Sparta had gained since its victory in the Peloponnesian War.

Contents

Prelude

In 379 BC the newly established democracy of Thebes had elected 4 Boeotarchs, the traditional title of the generals of the Boeotian League and so proclaimed their intention of reconstituting the League that Sparta had disbanded.[2] During this period Thebes had had an ally in Athens but Athens was far from happy with the treatment Plataea had received.[2] When it came to swearing an oath to respect the treaty, Sparta swore on behalf of herself and her allies. When Epaminondas came forward asking to swear on behalf of the whole Boeotian League, the Spartans refused saying he could swear as the representative of Thebes or not at all. This Epaminondas refused.[3] (According to Xenophon, the Thebans signed as "the Thebans", and asked the next day to change their signature to "the Boeotians", but the Spartan king Agesilaus would not allow it.)[4] In this Sparta saw an opportunity to reassert their shaky authority in central Greece.[5] Hence, they ordered the Spartan King Cleombrotus I to march to war from Phocis.

Rather than take the expected, easy route into Boeotia through the usual defile, the Spartans marched over the hills via Thisbae and took the fortress of Creusis (along with twelve Theban warships) before the Thebans were aware of their presence and then proceeded to Leuctra where they were confronted by the Boeotian army. Initially the six Boetian generals (i.e. the Boeotarchs) present were divided as to whether to offer battle, with Epaminondas being the main advocate in favor of battle. Only when a seventh arrived who sided with Epaminondas was the decision made.[6] In spite of inferior numbers and the doubtful loyalty of his Boeotian allies, the Boetians would offer battle on the plain before the town.

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