The Anabasis of Alexander/Book I/Chapter IX

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Destruction of Thebes.

This was felt by the Greeks to be a general calamity for it struck the rest of the Greeks with no less consternation than it did those who had themselves taken part in the struggle, both on account of the magnitude of the captured city and the celerity of the action, the result of which was in the highest degree contrary to the expectation both of the sufferers and the perpetrators. For the disasters which befell the Athenians in relation to Sicily,[1] though in regard to the number of those who perished they brought no less misfortune to the city, yet, because their army was destroyed far away from their own land, being composed for the most part rather of auxiliary troops than of native Athenians, and because their city itself was left to them intact, so that afterwards they held their own in war even for a long time, though fighting against the Lacedaemonians and their allies, as well as the Great King; these disasters, I say, neither produced in the persons who were themselves involved in the calamity an equal sensation of the misfortune, nor did they cause the other Greeks a similar consternation at the catastrophe. Again, the defeat sustained by the Athenians at Aegospotami[2] was a naval one, and the city received no other humiliation than the demolition of the Long Walls, the surrender of most of her ships, and the loss of supremacy. However, they still retained their hereditary form of government, and not long after recovered their former power to such a degree as not only to build up the Long Walls but to recover the rule of the sea[3] and in their turn to preserve from extreme danger those very Lacedaemonians then so formidable to them, who had come and almost obliterated their city. Moreover, the defeat of the Lacedaemonians at Leuctra and Mantinea filled them with consternation rather by the unexpectedness of the disaster than because of the number of those who perished.[4] And the attack made by the Boeotians and Arcadians under Epaminondas upon the city of Sparta, even this terrified both the Lacedaemonians themselves and those who participated with them in the transactions at that time,[5] rather by the novelty of the sight than by the reality of the danger. The capture of the city of the Plataeans was not a great calamity, by reason of the small number of those who were taken in it; most of the citizens having long before escaped to Athens.[6] Again, the capture of Melus and Scione simply related to insular States, and rather brought disgrace to those who perpetrated the outrages than produced great surprise among the Grecian community as[7] a whole.

But the Thebans having effected their revolt suddenly and without any previous consideration, the capture of the city being brought about in so short a time and without difficulty on the part of the captors, the slaughter, being great, as was natural, from its being made by men of the same race who were glutting their revenge on them for ancient injuries, the complete enslavement of a city which excelled among those in Greece at that time both in power and warlike reputation, all this was attributed not without probability to the avenging wrath of the deity. It seemed as if the Thebans had after a long time suffered this punishment for their betrayal of the Greeks in the Median war,[8] for their seizure of the city of Plataeae during the truce, and for their complete enslavement of it, as well as for the un-Hellenic slaughter of the men who had surrendered to the Lacedaemonians, which had been committed at the instigation of the Thebans; and for the devastation of the territory in which the Greeks had stood in battle-array against the Medes and had repelled danger from Greece; lastly, because by their vote they had tried to ruin the Athenians when a motion was brought forward among the allies of the Lacedaemonians for the "enslavement of Athens.[9] Moreover it was reported that before the disaster many portents were sent from the deity, which indeed at the time were treated with neglect, but afterwards when men called them to remembrance they were compelled to consider that the events which occurred had been long before prognosticated.[10]

The settlement of Theban affairs was entrusted by Alexander to the allies who had taken part in the action. They resolved to occupy the Cadmea with a garrison; to raze the city to the ground; to distribute among themselves all the territory, except what was dedicated to the gods; and to sell into slavery the women and children, and as many of the males as survived, except those who were priests or priestesses, and those who were bound to Philip or Alexander by the ties of hospitality or had been public agents of the Macedonians. It is said that Alexander preserved the house and the descendants of Pindar the poet, out of respect for his memory.[11] In addition to these things, the allies decreed that Orchomenus[12] and Plataeae should be rebuilt and fortified.

  1. B.C. 415-413. See Grote's Greece, vol. vii.
  2. B.C. 405. See Thucydides (ii. 13); Xenophon (Hellenics, ii. 2).
  3. By Conon's victory at Cnidus, B.C. 394.
  4. At Leuctra they lost 400 Spartans and 1,000 other Lacedaemonians. See Xen. (Hellen., vi. 4).
  5. The Achaeans, Eleans, Athenians, and some of the Arcadians, were allies of Sparta at this crisis, B.C. 369. See Xen. (Hellen., vii. 5) Diodorus (xv. 85).
  6. B.C. 426. See Thuc., iii. 52, etc.
  7. B.C. 416 and 421. See Thuc., v. 32, 84, etc.
  8. These persons must have forgotten that Alexander's predecessor and namesake had served in the army of Xerxes along with the Thebans. See Herodotus vii. 173.
  9. Plutarch (Lysander, 15) says that the Theban Erianthus moved that Athens should be destroyed.
  10. See Aelian (Varia Historia, xii. 57).
  11. Plutarch (Alexander, 13) tells us that Alexander was afterwards sorry for his cruelty to the Thebans. He believed that he had incurred the wrath of Dionysus, the tutelary deity of Thebes, who incited him to kill his friend Clitus, and induced his soldiers to refuse to follow him into the interior of India.
  12. Orchomenus was destroyed by the Thebans B.C. 364. See Diod., xv. 79; Demosthenes (Contra Leptimem, p. 489). It was restored by Philip, according to Pausanias, iv. 27.