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*Pelopi/das), the Theban general and statesman, son of Hippoclus, was descended from a noble family and inherited a large estate, of which, according to Plutarch, he made a liberal use, applying his money to the relief of such as were at once indigent and deserving. le lived always in the closest friendship with Epaminondas, to whose simple frugality, as he could not persuade him to share his riches, he is said to have assimilated his own mode of life. The disinterested ardour which marked his friendship was conspicuous also in his zealous attention to public affairs. This he even carried so far as to neglect and impair his property, remarking, in answer to the remonstrances of some of his friends, that money was certainly useful to such as were lame and blind. Hence, of course, he could not fail to be a marked man in any political commotion, and, accordingly, on the seizure of the Cadmeia by Phoebidas, in B. C. 382, he was obliged to flee from Thebes, and took refuge, with his fellow-exiles, at Athens. Here he was the chief instigator and counsellor of the enterprise by which democracy was restored to Thebes, and which Plutarch tells us the Greeks called "sister to that of Thrasybulus." In the execution of it also he bore a prominent part: it was by his hand that LEONTIADES fell; and, being made Boeotarch with Mellon and Charon, he succeeded in gaining possession of the Cadmeia before the arrival of succours from Sparta (B. C. 379). From this period until his death there was not a year in which he was not entrusted with some important command. In B. C. 378, he and Gorgidas, his fellow-Boeotarch, induced Sphodrias, the Spartan harmost at Thespiae, to invade Attica, and thus succeeded in embroiling Athens with Lacedaemon [GORGIDAS]; and in the campaigns against the Lacedaemonians in that and the two following years he was actively occupied, gradually teaching his countrymen to cope fearlessly with the forces of Sparta, which had ever been deemed so formidable. The successes occasionally gained by the Thebans during this period (slight in themselves, but not unimportant in the spirit which they engendered) Pelopidas shared with others; but the glory of the battle of Tegyra, in B. C. 375, was all his own. The town of Orchomenus in Boeotia, hostile to Thebes, had admitted a Spartan garrison of two moras, and during the absence of this force on an expedition into Locris, Pelopidas formed the design of surprising the place, taking with him for the purpose only the Sacred Band and a small body of cavalry. When he arrived, however, he found that the absent garrison had been replaced by fresh troops from Sparta, and he saw, therefore, the necessity of retreating. On his march back, he fell in, near Tegyra, with the two moras which formed the garrison at Orchomenus, returning from Locris under the polemarchs Gorgoleon and Theopompus. In spite of the inferiority of his numbers, Pelopidas exhibited great coolness and presence of mind; and when one, running up to him, exclaimed, "We have fallen into the midst of the enemy," his answer was, "Why so, more than they into the midst of us?" In the battle which ensued, the two Spartan commanders fell at the first charge, and the Thebans gained a complete victory. Plutarch might well call this the prelude of Leuctra, proving as it did that Sparta was not invincible, even in a pitched battle and with the advantage of numbers on her side. At Leuctra (B. C. 371) Pelopidas joined Epaminondas in urging the expediency of immediate action; he raised the courage of his countrymen by the dream with which he professed to have been favoured, and by the propitiatory sacrifice which he offered in obedience to it [SCEDASUS], and the success of the day was due in a great measure to him and to the Sacred Band, which he commanded. In B. C. 369, he was one of the generals of the Theban force which invaded the Peloponnesus, and he united with Epamimnondas in persuading their colleagues not to return home till they had carried their arms into the territory of Sparta itself, though they would thus be exceeding their legal term of office. For this, Epaminondas and Pelopidas were impeached afterwards by their enemies at Thebes, but were honourably acquitted. [EPAMINONDAS; MENECLEIDAS.] Early in B. C. 368, the Thessalians who were suffering under the oppression of Alexander of Pherae, applied for aid to Thebes. The appeal was responded to, and Pelopidas, being entrusted with the command of the expedition, occupied Larissa, and received the submission of the tyrant, who had come thither for the purpose, but who soon after sought safety in flight, alarmed at the indignation shown by Pelopidas at the tales he heard of his cruelty and profligacy. From Thessaly Pelopidas advanced into Macedonia, to arbitrate between ALEXANDER II. and Ptolemy of Alorus. Having accommodated their differences, he took away with him, as hostages for the continuance of tranquillity, thirty boys of the noblest families, among whom, according to Plutarch and Diodorus, was the famous Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. [PHILIPPUS II.] In the course of the same year Pelopidas was sent again into Thessaly, in consequence of fresh complaints against Alexander of Pherae; but he went simply as an ambassador, not expecting any opposition, and unprovided with a military force. Meanwhile Alexander, the Macedonian king, had been murdered by Ptolemy of Alorus; and Pelopidas, being applied to by the loyalists to aid them against the usurper, hired some mercenaries and marched into Macedonia. If we may believe Plutarch, Ptolemy seduced his soldiers from him by bribes, and yet, alarmed by his name and reputation, met him submissively, and promised to be a faithful ally of Thebes, and to keep the throne for Perdiccas and Philip, the brothers of the late king, placing in his hands at the same time his son Philoxenus and fifty of his friends, as hostages for the fulfilment of his engagement. After this, Pelopidas, offended at the desertion of his mercenaries, marched with a body of Thessalians, whom he had collected, against Pharsalus, where he heard that most of the property of the delinquents was placed, as well as their wives and children. While he was before the town, Alexander of Pherae presented himself, and Pelopidas, thinking that he had come to give an account of his conduct, went to meet him, accompanied by a few friends and unarmed. The tyrant seized him, and confined him closely at Pherae, where he remained till his liberation, in B. C. 367, by a Theban force under Epaminondas. During his imprisonment he is said to have treated Alexander with defiance, and to have exasperated his wife Thebe against him. In the same year in which he was released he was sent as ambassador to Susa, to counteract the Lacedaemonian and Athenian negotiations at the Persian court. His fame had preceded him, and he was received with marked distinction by the king, and obtained, as far as Persia could grant it, all that he asked for, viz. that Messenia should be independent, that the Athenians should lay up their ships, and that the Thebans should be regarded as hereditary friends of the king. For himself, Pelopidas refused all the presents which Artaxerxes offered him, and, according to Plutarch (Plut. Art. 22), avoided during his mission all that to a Greek mind would appear to be unmanly marks of homage.

In B. C. 364, the Thessalian towns, those especially of Magnesia and Phthiotis, again applied to Thebes for protection against Alexander, and Pelopidas was appointed to aid them. His forces: however, were dismayed by an eclipse of the sun (Jane 13), and, therefore, leaving them behind, he took with him into Thessaly only 300 horse, having set out amidst the warnings of the soothsayers. On his arrival at Pharsalus he collected a force which he deemed sufficient, and marched against Alexander, treating lightly the great disparity of numbers, and remarking that it was better as it was, since there would be more for him to conqen;. According to Diodorus, he found the tyrant occupying a commanding position on the heights of Cynoscephalae. Here a battle ensued, in which Pelopidas drove the enemy fiomn their ground, but he himself was slain as, burning with resentment. he pressed rashly forward to attack Alexander in person. The Thebans and Thessalians made great lamentations for his death, and the latter, having earnestly requested leave to bury him, celebrated his funeral with extraordinary splendour. They honoured his memory also with statues and golden crowns, and gave more substantial proofs of their gratitude by presents of large estates to his children.

Pelopidas has been censured, obviously with justice, for the rashness, unbecoming a general, which he exhibited in his last battle; and we may well believe that, on more occasions than this, his fiery temperament betrayed him into acts characteristic rather of the gallant soldier than of the prudent commander. His success at the court of Artaxerxes would lead us to ascribe to him considerable skill in diplomacy; but some deduction must be made from this in consideration of the very favourable circumstances under which his mission was undertaken, and the prestige which accompanied him in consequence of the high position of his country at that period, and the recent humiliation of Sparta. Certainly, however, this very power of Thebes, unprecedented and short-lived as it was, was owing mainly to himself and to Epaminondas. But these are minor points. Viewing him as a man, and taking him all in all, Pelopidas was truly one of nature's noblemen; and, if he was inferior to Epaminondas in powers of mind and in commanding strength of character, he was raised above ordinary men by his disinterested patriotism, his uncalculating generosity, and, not least, by his cordial, affectionate, unenvying admiration of his greater friend. (Plut. Pelopidas, Reg. et Imp. Apoph. p. 61, ed. Tauchn.; Diod. 15.62, &c., 67, 71, 75, 30, 81; Wess. ad loc.; Xen. Hell. 7.1. §§ 33, &c.; Ael. VH 11.9, 14.38; Paus. 9.15; Plb. 6.43, Fragm. Hist.xv.; Corn. Nep. Pelopidas.) [ALEXANDER of Pherae; EPAMINONDAS.]


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hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.62
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.15
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 7.1
    • Polybius, Histories, 6.43
    • Plutarch, Artaxerxes, 22
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 11.9
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 14.38
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