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Stalemate after the Battle of Mantinea

The alliances of the various city-states shifted often in the repeated conflicts that took place in Greece during these early decades of the fourth century B.C. The threat from Thessaly faded with Jason's murder1 in 370 B.C., and the former enemies Sparta and Athens momentarily allied against the Thebans in the battle of Mantinea in the Peloponnese in 362 B.C. Thebes won the battle but lost the war when its great leader Epaminondas2 fell at Mantinea3 and no credible replacement for him could be found. The Theban quest for dominance in Greece was over. Xenophon adroitly summed up the situation after 362 B.C. with these closing remarks4 from the history that he wrote of the Greeks in his time (Hellenica ): “Everyone had supposed that the winners of this battle would be Greece's rulers and its losers their subjects; but there was only more confusion and disturbance in Greece after it than before.” The truth of his analysis was confirmed when the naval alliance led by Athens dissolved5 in the mid-350s B.C. in a war among the leader and the allies.

All the efforts of the various major Greek states to extend their hegemony over mainland Greece in this period therefore ended in failure. By the mid 350s B.C., no Greek city-state had the power to rule more than itself on a consistent basis. The struggle for supremacy in Greece that had begun eighty years earlier with the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War had finally ended in a stalemate of exhaustion that opened the way for a new power— the kingdom of Macedonia.

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