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Bust of Epaminondas on the town hall of Zurich

Epaminondas (* around 418 BC in Thebes ; † July 3, 362 BC near Mantineia ), also Epameinondas , Greek Ἐπαμεινώνδας, was a Greek statesman and general . He is considered the greatest statesman in Thebes and developed the so-called crooked order of battle .


Epaminondas was the son of Polymnis and came from a noble but not very affluent family. Important in his youth was the Pythagorean Lysis from Taranto , who had fled Italy and was hospitable by Epaminondas' father. Lysis became the tutor of the young Epaminondas and may have influenced him in the spirit of Pythagorean philosophy.

Epaminondas served in 385 BC. In an auxiliary corps that the Thebans sent to the allied Spartans to support them to march against Mantineia in Arcadia . He saved the life of his friend Pelopidas even though he was wounded himself. After the Spartans occupied the Theban citadel of Kadmeia in 382 BC. Epaminondas lived withdrawn and pursued philosophical studies. In secret, however, he and like-minded people pushed for the final liberation of Thebes from the Spartan yoke at the end of 379 BC. BC, which also succeeded with the help of Pelopidas. He refused to consent to the assassination of the oligarchical rulers.

371 BC He was appointed Boeotarch and sent with other Theban delegates to a peace congress in Sparta. Here he defended Thebes' claims to rule over the other Boeotian cities with indomitable determination. When the Spartans then invaded Boeotia under the leadership of King Cleombrotus I with 10,000 Spartan hoplites and 300 mounted men, it happened on July 6, 371 BC. In the plain of Leuctra for battle. The Theban army, previously reformed from the ground up by Gorgidas, faced the Spartans under the command of Epaminondas. The Theban forces were 6,000 hoplites and 1,000 horsemen. His friend Pelopidas and his holy band also played a major role in this battle . Epaminondas was the first to apply the crooked order of battle, which was a kind of continuous reserve . This enabled him to beat the Spartans. This was the first defeat for a Spartan army in a field battle and at the same time the beginning of the decline of the Spartan hegemony . 400 out of 700 full citizens of Sparta lost their lives in this battle.

Now Epaminondas was able to force the Boeotians and Phocians to recognize the Theban supremacy, but the Aetolians and Lokrians also allied themselves with them. By reorganizing the state and the army structures (arming with long Sarissas , setting up vigilante groups and developing raiding forces ), he offered Thebes the opportunity to become the third major power in Greece.

370 BC Epaminondas was re-elected Boeotarch. He moved to the Peloponnese and convinced the Argives , Arcadians and Eleans to join him. In December he entered Laconia himself. Sparta, the capital defended by Agesilaus II , could not conquer Epaminondas and after the unsuccessful siege of the Spartan port city of Gythion the army turned back.

In order to break the overwhelming power of Sparta, Epaminondas persuaded the inhabitants of southern and western Arcadia as well as the Messenians , who had regained independence through him, to unite to form a unitary state. As the center of the political world, the Arcadians had founded the megalopolis even before Epaminondas' activities . Now Messene was founded as the capital of Messenia. After returning to Thebes, Epaminondas was charged with Pelopidas by their radical democratic opponents "for arbitrarily extending his term of office" and threatened with the death penalty . Nepos describes the "extension" of the term of office as inevitable, since otherwise the army which Epaminondas led would be destroyed due to the military inexperience of the newly appointed generals. But when he was able to present the successes of his campaign in court, the same went apart without a vote.

The Boeotarchate was transferred to him again and in 369 BC. He made a second incursion into the Peloponnese. This time he was removed from office after his opponents were charged again. He then served as a common soldier in the Theban army, which worked in Thessaly . He was able to save it from complete annihilation through his circumspection, whereupon he was again given the command of command.

After three successful campaigns in the Peloponnese, he reached 367 BC. BC that Thebes was recognized as the predominant Greek power by Persia. Since 366 BC In BC Epaminondas tried to induce the Thebans to found a huge fleet , which would have overstrained the country's forces. He wanted to win the leadership of the Greek states, this time against the Athenians . With a sizeable fleet he was able to 364 BC. Cause Byzantion , Chios and Rhodes to fall away from Athens.


The fall of the Arcadians from Thebes prompted a fourth campaign in the summer of 362 BC. On the Peloponnese, again under the leadership of the Epaminondas. He advanced as far as the Agora in Sparta, but was repulsed. In Mantinea (10 km north of Tripoli today) it came to a battle. 33,000 fighters on the Theban side and 22,000 men on the opposing side (Spartans, Athenians, Arcadians and Mantineers) were involved. Even before the battle was decided, Epaminondas was a javelin of Gryllos, the son of Xenophon wounded, fatally, he that behind the battle line was born. Here he learned that victory was assured and died on July 3, 362 BC. He was buried on the battlefield.

With the death of Epaminondas, Thebes' position of power in Greece came to an end, as there were no men available to match Epaminondas. Cornelius Nepos wrote a short biography of the Epaminondas. The double biography of Epaminondas and Scipio, which Plutarch placed at the beginning of his Bioi paralleloi , has been lost.


  • Simon Hornblower: The Greek World 479–323 BC , 3rd ed., London and New York 2002.
  • Guy Vottero: "Grandeur et déchéance d'un héros: Épaminondas le Thébain", in J. Dion ed., Le Paradoxe du héros ou d'Homère à Malraux, pp. 43-86, ADRA (Nancy-Paris) 1999 ǀ isbn = 978-2-95097269-9.

Web links

Commons : Epaminondas  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Cornelius Nepos: Six images of life: Themistocles, Alkibiades, Dion, Epaminondas, Hannibal, Atticus / Cornelius Nepos. With an introduction, linguistic and factual explanations and a list. the proper name; (Phil. arrangement: Ludwig Voit) . Ed .: Ludwig Voit.
  2. ^ Cinzia Bearzot: Epaminondas . In: Roger S. Bagnali, Kai Brodersen, Craige B. Champion, Andrew Erskine, Sabine R. Huebner (Eds.): The Encyclopedia of Ancient History . tape 1 , p. 2424-2425 .