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Cleombrotus, learning that the enemy had seized the pass first, decided against forcing a passage there, proceeded instead through Phocis, and, when he had traversed the shore road which was difficult, entered Boeotia without danger. In his passage he took some of the fortresses and seized ten triremes.1 [2] Later, when he reached the place called Leuctra, he encamped there and allowed the soldiers to recover after their march. As the Boeotians neared the enemy in their advance, and then, after surmounting some ridges, suddenly caught sight of the Lacedaemonians covering the entire plain of Leuctra, they were astounded at beholding the great size of the army. [3] And when the boeotarchs held a conference2 to decide whether they ought to remain and fight it out with an army that many times outnumbered them, or whether they should retreat and join battle in a commanding position, it chanced that the votes of the leaders were equal. For of the six boeotarchs, three thought that they should withdraw the army, and three that they should stay and fight it out, and among the latter Epameinondas was numbered. In this great and perplexing deadlock, the seventh boeotarch came to vote, whom Epameinondas persuaded to vote with him, and thus he carried the day. So the decision to stake all on the issue of battle was thus ratified. [4] But Epameinondas, who saw that the soldiers were superstitious on account of the omens that had occurred, earnestly desired through his own ingenuity and strategy to reverse the scruples of the soldiery. Accordingly, a number of men having recently arrived from Thebes, he persuaded them to say that the arms on the temple of Heracles had surprisingly disappeared and that word had gone abroad in Thebes that the heroes of old had taken them up and set off to help the Boeotians. He placed before them another man as one who had recently ascended from the cave of Trophonius,3 who said that the god had directed them, when they won at Leuctra, to institute a contest with crowns for prizes in honour of Zeus the king. This indeed is the origin of this festival which the Boeotians now celebrate at Lebadeia.

1 See Xen. Hell. 6.4.3-4.

2 See Plut. Pelopidas 20.

3 Near Lebadeia. Trophonius designates an underworld Boeotian Zeus (Chthonius) who gave oracles from this cave. For these stories see Polyaenus 2.3.8.

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), BASILEIA
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), BOEOTARCHES
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 6.4.3
    • Plutarch, Pelopidas, 20
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