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Θῆβαι, in poetry Thebé (Θήβη, Dor. Θήβα). Now Thion; the chief city in Boeotia. It was situated in a plain southeast of Lake Helicé and northeast of Plataeae. Its acropolis, which was an oval eminence of no great height, was called Cadmea (Καδμεία), because it was said to have been founded by Cadmus, the leader of a Phœnician colony. On each side of this acropolis is a small valley, running up from the Theban plain into the low ridge of hills by which it is separated from that of Plataeae. Of these valleys, the one to the west is watered by the Dircé, and the one to the east by the Ismenus, both of which, however, are insignificant little streams, though so celebrated in ancient story. The greater part of the city stood in these valleys, and was built some time after the acropolis. It is said that the fortifications of the city were constructed by Amphion and his brother Zethus; and that, when Amphion played his lyre, the stones moved of their own accord and formed the wall. The territory of Thebes was called Thebāïs (Θηβαΐς), and extended eastward as far as the Euboean Sea. No city is more celebrated in the mythical ages of Greece than Thebes. It was here that the use of letters was first introduced from Phœnicia into western Europe. It was the reputed birthplace of the two great divinities, Dionysus and Heracles. It was also the native city of the great seer Tiresias, as well as of the great musician Amphion. It was the scene of the tragic fate of Oedipus, and of one of the most celebrated wars in the mythical annals of Greece. Polynices, who had been expelled from Thebes by his brother Eteocles, induced six other heroes to espouse his cause, and marched against the city; but they were all defeated and slain by the Thebans, with the exception of Adrastus, Polynices, and Eteocles falling by each other's hands. This is usually called the war of the Seven against Thebes. A few years afterwards the Epigoni, or descendants of the seven heroes, marched against Thebes to avenge their fathers' death; they took the city and razed it to the ground. Thebes is not mentioned by Homer in the catalogue of the Greek cities which fought against Troy, as it was probably supposed not yet to have recovered from its devastation by the Epigoni. (See Seven against Thebes.) It appears, however, at the earliest historical period as a large and flourishing city; and it is represented as possessing seven gates (ἑπτάπυλος), the number assigned to it in the ancient legends. Its government, after the abolition of monarchy, was an aristocracy, or rather an oligarchy, which continued to be the prevailing form of government for a long time, although occasionally exchanged for that of a democracy. Towards the end of the Peloponnesian War, however, the oligarchy finally disappears; and Thebes appears under a democratical form of government from this time, till it became with the rest of Greece subject to the Romans.

The Thebans were from an early period inveterate enemies of their neighbours, the Athenians. Their hatred of the latter people was probably one

Coin of the Boeotian Thebes.

of the reasons which induced them to desert the cause of Grecian liberty in the great struggle against the Persian power. In the Peloponnesian War the Thebans naturally espoused the Spartan side, and contributed not a little to the downfall of Athens. But, in common with the other Greek States, they soon became disgnsted with the Spartan supremacy, and joined the confederacy formed against Sparta in B.C. 394. The peace of Antalcidas in 387 put an end to hostilities in Greece; but the treacherous seizure of the Cadmea by the Lacedaemonian general Phoebidas in 382, and its recovery by the Theban exiles in 379, led to a war between Thebes and Sparta, in which the former not only recovered its independence, but forever destroyed the Lacedaemonian supremacy. This was the most glorious period in the Theban annals; and the decisive defeat of the Spartans at the battle of Leuctra in 371 made Thebes the first power in Greece. Her greatness, however, was mainly due to the preëminent abilities of her citizens, Epaminondas and Pelopidas; and with the death of the former at the battle of Mantinea in 362, she lost the supremacy which she had so recently gained. Soon afterwards Philip of Macedon began to exercise a paramount influence over the greater part of Greece. The Thebans were induced, by the eloquence of Demosthenes, to forget their old animosities against the Athenians, and to join the latter in protecting the liberties of Greece; but their united forces were defeated by Philip, at the battle of Chaeronea, in 338. Soon after the death of Philip and the accession of Alexander, the Thebans made a last attempt to recover their liberty, but were cruelly punished by the young king. The city was taken by Alexander in 336, and was entirely destroyed, with the exception of the temples, and the house of the poet Pindar; 6000 inhabitants were slain, and 30,000 sold as slaves. In 316 the city was rebuilt by Cassander, with the assistance of the Athenians. In 290 it was taken by Demetrius Poliorcetes, and again suffered greatly. Dicaearchus, who flourished about this time, has left us an interesting account of the city. He describes it as about seventy stadia (nearly nine miles) in circumference, in form nearly circular, and in appearance somewhat gloomy. He says that it is plentifully provided with water, and contains better gardens than any other city in Greece; that it is most agreeable in summer, on account of its plentiful supply of cool and fresh water, and its large gardens; but that in winter it is very unpleasant, being destitute of fuel, exposed to floods and cold winds, and frequently visited by heavy falls of snow. He further represents the people as proud and insolent, and always ready to settle disputes by fighting, rather than by the ordinary course of justice. It is supposed that the population of the city at this time may have been between 50,000 and 60,000 souls. See Sankey, Spartan and Theban Supremacies (1877).

After the Macedonian period Thebes rapidly declined in importance; and it received its last blow from Sulla , who gave half of its territory to the Delphians. Strabo describes it as only a village in his time; and Pausanias, who visited it in the second century of the Christian era, says that the Cadmea alone was then inhabited. The modern town is also confined to this spot, and the surrounding country is covered with a confused heap of ruins. See E. Fabricius, Theben (Heidelberg, 1891); and the articles Epaminondas; Pelopidas.


Called Phthiotĭcae (αἱ Φθιώτιδες), an important city of Thessaly in the district Phthiotis, at a short distance from the coast, and with a good harbour (Polyb. v. 99).


A town in Lucania, rarely mentioned.

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