All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth. — Aristotle

Pelopidas

410–364 BC
Civilization: Greek — Thebes
   Field of Renown:  military — General
Era:  Decline

Pelopidas
"AVENGE YOURSELVES BY KILLING MY ONLY CHILD."
Pelopidas, a Theban statesman and general, 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 385 B.C. he served in a Theban contingent sent to the support of the Spartans at Mantinea, where he was saved, when dangerously wounded, by Epaminondas. Upon the seizure of the Theban citadel by the Spartans (383 or 382 B.C.) he fled to Athens, and took the lead in a conspiracy to liberate Thebes. In 379 his party surprised and killed their chief political opponents, 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, and about 375 he routed a much larger Spartan force at Tegyra (near Orchomenus). This victory he owed mainly to the valour of the Sacred Band, a picked body of 300 infantry.

At the battle of Leuctra he contributed greatly to the success of Epaminondas's new tactics by the rapidity with which he made the Sacred Band close with the Spartans. In 370 B.C. he accompanied his friend Epaminondas as boeotarch into Peloponnesus. On their return both generals were unsuccessfully accused of having retained their command beyond the legal term. In 369 B.C., in response to a petition of the Thessalians, Pelopidas was sent with an army against Alexander, tyrant of Pherae. After driving Alexander out, he passed into Macedonia 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., the conqueror of Greece. 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 B.C. 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 B.C. 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; but wishing to slay Alexander with his own hand, he rushed forward too eagerly and was cut down by the tyrant's guards.

—Excerpted from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.


Key events during the life of pelopidas:


Year
Event
385 BC
Wounded in a battle fought at Mantinea. Saved by Epaminondas.
382 BC
Fled to Athens when a Spartan garrison took over the Citadel at Thebes.
379 BC
Led a rebellion to overthrow the pro-Spartan party in Thebes.
  Elected Boeotarch, and organized the 'Sacred Band' of 300 warriors.
375 BC
Routed an army of Spartans who he met unexpected at Tegyra.
371 BC
Led 'Sacred Band' in the battle of Leuctra.
369 BC
Led a Theban army to help Thessalonian allies fight Alexander of Pherae.
  Brought hostages from Macedonia back to Thebes, including Philip II.
368 BC
Led another expedition against Alexander of Pherae, but was captured but eventually released.
367
Went as an ambassador to the Persian King.
364
Returned again to Thessaly to fight Alexander of Pherae, but was killed in battle.

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Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
One Hero of Thebes  in  Pictures from Greek Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Valiant Helper  in  Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Theban Friends  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Death of Pelopidas  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Epaminondas and Pelopidas  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland
Pelopidas  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Pelopidas and Epaminondas in  Stories from Greek History  by  Ethelwyn Lemon
Pelopidas and Epaminondas  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
Rescue of Thebes  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris
Humiliation of Sparta  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris
The Theban Pair  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Charles D. Shaw
When Thebes Was in Power  in  The Story of the Greek People  by  Eva March Tappan
Pelopidas  in  Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston  by  

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Image Links


Avenge yourselves by killing my only child.'
 in The Story of the Greeks

Epaminondas rescues Pelopidas, Vogel
 in Famous Men of Greece

Epaminondas Saves the Life of Pelopidas
 in Famous Men of Greece

Pelopidas and Epimanondas
 in Stories from Greek History

Disguised as Dancing Girls
 in Stories of the Ancient Greeks

Pelopidas setting out for Thebes
 in Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston

Epaminonas defending Pelopidas
 in Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston


Contemporary
Short Biography
Epaminondas Greatest General of his age. Defeated the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra, and made Thebes predominant.
Alexander of Pherae Vicious despot of the town of Pherae in Thessaly.
Agesilaus Leader of Sparta after the Peloponnesian War. Campaigned in Asia Minor and warred with Thebes.
Cleombrotus Spartan king who was killed at the battle of Leuctra.
Philip of Macedonia Used statesmanship as well as military force to bring Greece under sway of Macedonia.