Epaminondas now proceeded to carry out the two objects for which his march had been undertaken; namely, the consolidation of the Arcadian confederation, and the establishment of the Messenians as an independent community. In the prosecution of the former of these designs the mutual jealousy of the various Arcadian cities rendered it necessary that a new one should be founded, which should be regarded as the capital of the confederation. Consequently, a new city was built on the banks of the Helisson, called Megalopolis, and peopled by the inhabitants of forty distinct Arcadian townships. Here a synod of deputies from the towns composing the confederation, called "The Ten Thousand" was to meet periodically for the despatch of business. Epaminondas next proceeded to re-establish the Messenian state. The Messenians had formerly lived under a dynasty of their own kings; but for the last three centuries their land had been in the possession of the Lacedaemonians, and they had been fugitives upon the face of the earth. The restoration of these exiles, dispersed in various Hellenic colonies, to their former rights, would plant a bitterly hostile neighbour on the very borders of Laconia. Epaminondas accordingly opened communications with them, and numbers of them flocked to his standard during his march into Peloponnesus. He now founded the town of Messene. Its citadel was placed on the summit of Mount Ithome, which had three centuries before been so bravely defended by the Messenians against the Spartans. The strength of its fortifications was long afterwards a subject of admiration. The territory attached to the new city extended southwards to the Messenian gulf, and northwards to the borders of Arcadia, comprising some of the most fertile land in Peloponnesus.
So low had Sparta sunk, that she was fain to send envoys to beg the assistance of the Athenians. This request was acceded to; and shortly afterwards an alliance was formed between the two states, in which Sparta waived all her claims to superiority and headship. During the next two years the Thebans continued steadily to increase their power and influence in Greece, though no great battle was fought. In B.C. 368 Pelopidas conducted a Theban force into Thessaly and Macedonia. In Thessaly he compelled Alexander, who, by the murder of his two brothers, had become despot of Pherae and Tagus of Thessaly, to relinquish his designs against the independence of Larissa and other Thessalian cities, and to solicit peace. In Macedonia he formed an alliance with the regent Ptolemy: and amongst the hostages given for the observance of this treaty was the youthful Philip, son of Amyntas, afterwards the celebrated king of Macedon, who remained for some years at Thebes.
In the following year Pelopidas and Ismenias proceeded on an embassy to Persia. Ever since the peace of Antalcidas the Great King had become the recognised mediator between the states of Greece; and his fiat seemed indispensable to stamp the claims of that city which pretended to the headship. The recent achievements of Thebes might entitle her to aspire to that position: and at all events the alterations which she had produced in the internal state, of Greece, by the establishment of Megalopolis and Messene, seemed to require for their stability the sanction of a Persian rescript. This was obtained without difficulty, as Thebes was now the strongest state in Greece; and it was evidently easier to exercise Persian ascendency there by her means, than through a weaker power. The Persian rescript pronounced the independence of Messene and Amphipolis; the Athenians were directed to lay up their ships of war in ordinary; and Thebes was declared the head of Greece.
It was, in all probability, during a mission undertaken by Pelopidas and Ismonias, for the purpose of procuring the acknowledgment of the rescript in Thessaly and the northern parts of Greece, that they were seized and imprisoned by Alexander of Pherae. The Thebans immediately despatched an army of 8000 hoplites and 600 cavalry to recover or avenge their favourite citizen. Unfortunately, however, they were no longer commanded by Epaminondas. Their present commanders were utterly incompetent. They were beaten and forced to retreat, and the army was in such danger from the active pursuit of the Thessalians and Athenians, that its destruction seemed inevitable. Luckily, however, Epaminondas was serving as a hoplite in the ranks. By the unanimous voice of the troops he was now called to the command, and succeeded in conducting the army safely back to Thebes. Here the unsuccessful Boeotarchs were disgraced; Epaminondas was restored to the command, and placed at the head of a second Theban army destined to attempt the release of Pelopidas. Directed by his superior skill the enterprise proved successful, and Pelopidas (B.C. 367) returned in safety to Thebes.
In B.C. 364 Pelopidas again marched into Thessaly against Alexander of Pherae. Strong complaints of the tyranny of that despot arrived at Thebes, and Pelopidas, who probably also burned to avenge his private wrongs, prevailed upon the Thebans to send him into Thessaly to punish the tyrant. The battle was fought on the hills of Cynoscephalae; the troops of Alexander were routed: and Pelopidas, observing his hated enemy endeavouring to rally them, was seized with such a transport of rage that, regardless of his duties as a general, he rushed impetuously forwards and challenged him to single combat. Alexander shrunk back within the ranks of his guards, followed impetuously by Pelopidas, who was soon slain, fighting with desperate bravery. Although the army of Alexander was defeated with severe loss, the news of the death of Pelopidas deprived the Thebans and their Thessalian allies of all the joy which they would otherwise have felt at their victory.
Meantime a war had been carried on between Elis and Arcadia which had led to disunion among the Arcadians themselves. The Mantineans supported the Eleans, who were also assisted by the Spartans; whilst the rest of the Arcadians, and especially the Tegeans, favoured Thebes. In B.C. 362 Epaminondas marched into Peloponnesus to support the Theban party in Arcadia, The Spartans sent a powerful force to the assistance of the Mantineans in whose territory the hostile armies met. In the battle which ensued Epaminondas formed his Boeotian troops into a column of extraordinary depth, with which he bore down all before them. The Mantineans and Lacedaemonians turned and fled, and the rest followed their example. The day was won; but Epaminondas, who fought in the foremost ranks, fell pierced with a mortal wound. His fall occasioned such consternation among his troops, that, although the enemy were in full flight, they did not know how to use their advantage, and remained rooted to the spot. Epaminondas was carried off the field with the spear-head still fixed in his breast. Having satisfied himself that his shield was safe, and that the victory was gained, he inquired for Iolaidas and Daiphantus, whom he intended to succeed him in the command. Being informed that both were slain: "Then" he observed "you must make peace." After this he ordered the spear- head to be withdrawn; when the gush of blood which followed soon terminated his life. Thus died this truly great man; and never was there one whose title to that epithet has been less disputed. Antiquity is unanimous in his praise, and some of the first men of Greece subsequently took him for their model. With him the commanding influence of Thebes began and ended. His last advice was adopted, and peace was concluded probably before the Theban army quitted Peloponnesus. Its basis was a recognition of the STATUS QUO--to leave everything as it was, to acknowledge the Arcadian constitution and the independence of Messene. Sparta alone refused to join it on account of the last article, but she was not supported by her allies.
Agesilaus had lived to see the empire of Sparta extinguished by her hated rival. Thus curiously had the prophecy been fulfilled which warned Sparta of the evils awaiting her under a "lame sovereignty." But Agesilaus had not yet abandoned all hope; and he now directed his views towards the east as the quarter from which Spartan power might still be resuscitated. At the age of 80 the indomitable old man proceeded with a force of 1000 hoplites to assist Tachos, king of Egypt, in his revolt against Persia. He died at Cyrene on his return to Greece. His body was embalmed in wax and splendidly buried in Sparta.
HISTORY OF THE SICILIAN GREEKS FROM THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ATHENIAN ARMAMENT TO THE DEATH OF TIMOLEON.