The Anabasis of Alexander/Book I/Chapter VIII

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Fall of Thebes.

But Ptolemy, son of Lagus, tells us that Perdiccas, who had been posted in the advanced guard of the camp with his own brigade, and was not far from the enemy's stockade, did not wait for the signal from Alexander to commence the battle; but of his own accord was the first to assault the stockade, and, having made a breach in it, fell upon the advanced guard of the Thebans.[1] Amyntas,[2] son of Andromenes, followed Perdiccas, because he had been stationed with him. This general also of his own accord led on his brigade when he saw that Perdiccas had advanced within the stockade. When Alexander saw this, he led on the rest of his army, fearing that unsupported they might be intercepted by the Thebans and be in danger of destruction. He gave instructions to the archers and Agrianians to rush within the stockade, but he still retained the guards and shield-bearing troops outside. Then indeed Perdiccas, after forcing his way within the second stockade, fell there wounded with a dart, and was carried back grievously injured to the camp, where he was with difficulty cured of his wound. However the men of Perdiccas, in company with the archers sent by Alexander, fell upon the Thebans and shut them up in the hollow way leading to the temple of Heracles, and followed them in their retreat as far as the temple itself. The Thebans, having wheeled round, again advanced from that position with a shout, and put the Macedonians to flight. Eurybotas the Cretan, the captain of the archers, fell with about seventy of his men; but the rest fled to the Macedonian guard and the royal shield-bearing troops. Now, when Alexander saw that his own men were in flight, and that the Thebans had broken their ranks in pursuit, he attacked them with his phalanx drawn up in proper order, and drove them back within the gates. The Thebans fled in such a panic that being driven into the city through the gates they had not time to shut them; for the Macedonians, who were close behind the fugitives, rushed with them within the fortifications, inasmuch as the walla were destitute of defenders on account of the numerous pickets in front of them. When the Macedonians had entered the Cadmea, some of them marched out of it, in company with those who held the fortress, into the other part of the city opposite the temple of Amphion,[3] but others crossing along the walls, which were now in the possession of those who had rushed in together with the fugitives, advanced with a run into the market-place. Those of the Thebans who had been drawn up opposite the temple of Amphion stood their ground for a short time; but when the Macedonians under the command of Alexander were seen to be pressing hard upon them in various directions, their cavalry rushed through the city and sallied forth into the plain, and their infantry fled for safety as each man found it possible. Then indeed the Thebans, no longer defending themselves, were slain, not so much by the Macedonians as by the Phocians, Plataeans and other Boeotians,[4] who by indiscriminate slaughter vented their rage against them. Some were even attacked in the houses, having there turned to defend themselves from the enemy, and others were slain as they were supplicating the protection of the gods in the temples; not even the women and children being spared.[5]

  1. Arrian says that the attack of the Macedonians upon Thebes was made by Perdiccas, without orders from Alexander; and that the capture was effected in a short time and with no labour on the part of the captors (ch. ix.). But Diodorus says that Alexander ordered and arranged the assault, that the Thebans made a brave and desperate resistance for a long time, and that not only the Boeotian allies, but the Macedonians themselves committed great slaughter of the besieged (Diod. xvii. 11-14). It is probable that Ptolemy, who was Arrian's authority, wished to exonerate Alexander from the guilt of destroying Thebes.
  2. Amyntas was one of Alexander's leading officers. He and his brothers were accused of being accomplices in the plot of Philotas, but were acquitted. He was however soon afterwards killed in a skirmish (Arrian, iii. 27).
  3. The mythical founder of the walls of Thebes. See Pausanias (ix. 17).
  4. The Thebans had incurred the enmity of the other Boeotians by treating them as subjects instead of alhes. They had destroyed the restored Plataea, and had been the chief enemies of the Phocians in the Sacred War, which ended in the subjugation of that people by Philip, See Smith's History of Greece, pp. 467, 473, 506.
  5. More than 500 Macedonians were killed, while 6,000 Thebans were slain, and 30,000 sold into slavery. See Aelian (Varia Historia, xiii. 7); Diodorus (xvii. 14); Pausanias (viii. 30); Plutarch (Life of Alexander, 11). The sale of the captives realized 440 talents, or about £107,000; and Justin (xi. 4) says that large sums were offered from feelings of hostility towards Thebes on the part of the bidders.