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Encyclopedia > Battle of Leuctra
Battle of Leuctra
Part of the post-Peloponnesian War conflicts
Date 371 BC
Location Boeotia
Result Theban victory
Combatants
Thebes Sparta
Commanders
Epaminondas Cleombrotus I
Strength
6,000–7,000 10,000–11,000
Casualties
Unknown About 2,000
Greek conflicts of the 4th century BC
Corinthian War
HaliartusNemeaCnidusCoroneaLechaeum
Other
NaxosTegyraLeuctraMantinea

The Battle of Leuctra is a battle fought between the Thebans and the Spartans and their allies in the neighbourhood of Leuctra, a village in Boeotia in the territory of Thespiae. Combatants Delian League led by Athens Peloponnesian League led by Sparta Commanders Pericles Cleon Nicias Alcibiades Archidamus II Brasidas Lysander The Peloponnesian War (431 BC–404 BC) was an Ancient Greek military conflict fought between Athens and its empire and the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. ... Centuries: 5th century BC - 4th century BC - 3rd century BC Decades: 420s BC 410s BC 400s BC 390s BC 380s BC - 370s BC - 360s BC 350s BC 340s BC 330s BC 320s BC 376 BC 375 BC 374 BC 373 BC 372 BC - 371 BC - 370 BC 369 BC 368... Boeotia or Beotia (//, (Greek Βοιωτια; see also list of traditional Greek place names) was the central area of ancient Greece. ... Thebes (in Demotic Greek: Θήβα — Thíva, Katharevousa: — Thēbai or Thívai) is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. ... Thebes (in Demotic Greek: Θήβα — Thíva, Katharevousa: — Thēbai or Thívai) is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. ... Sparta (Doric: , Attic: ) is a city in southern Greece. ... For information about the modern board game of the same name, see Epaminondas (game). ... Cleombrotus I was a Spartan king from 380 BC until 371 BC. Cleombrotus lead the Spartan army in the Battle of Leuctra. ... Combatants Sparta, Peloponnesian League Athens, Argos, Corinth, Thebes, and other allies Commanders Agesilaus and others Numerous The Corinthian War (395 BC-387 BC) was an ancient Greek military conflict between Sparta and four allied states, Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos, which were initially backed by Persia. ... The Battle of Haliartus was fought in 395 BC between Sparta and Thebes. ... Combatants Sparta Thebes Argos Athens Corinth Commanders Aristodemus Unknown Strength 18,000 hopites 24,000 hoplites Casualties 1,100 dead or wounded 2,800 dead or wounded {{{notes}}} The Battle of Nemea (394 BC) was a battle in the Corinthian War, between Sparta and the allied cities of Argos, Athens... Combatants Persia Sparta Commanders Conon and Pharnabazus Peisander Strength 90 triremes 85 triremes Casualties Minimal Entire fleet At the Battle of Cnidus (394 BC), the Persian fleet, led by the former Athenian admiral Conon, utterly destroyed the Spartan fleet led by the inexperienced Peisander, ending Spartas brief bid for... At the Battle of Coronea (394 BC), Spartan forces under Agesilaus II defeated the Thebans. ... Combatants Athens Sparta Commanders Iphicrates Unknown Strength Unknown, but force composed almost entirely of peltasts. ... At the Battle of Naxos (376 BC) the Athenian fleet of Chabrias defeated the Spartans. ... At the Battle of Tegyra in 385 BC, a force of 300 Theban hoplites under Pelopidas cut their way through a larger Spartan force that had cut them off while they were marching back to Thebes. ... Combatants Thebes, Arcadia and Boeotia League Sparta, Elis, and Mantinea league Commanders Epaminondas† Agesilaus II Strength Casualties {{{notes}}} The Battle of Mantinea was fought in 362 BC between the Thebans, led by Epaminondas and supported by the Arcadians and the Boeotians, and the Spartans, led by King Agesilaus II and... For the ancient capital of Upper Egypt, see Thebes, Egypt. ... Sparta (Doric: , Attic: ) is a city in southern Greece. ... Boeotia or Beotia (//, (Greek Βοιωτια; see also list of traditional Greek place names) was the central area of ancient Greece. ...

Contents

Prelude

At the beginning of the 4th Century B.C., the cities of Thebes and Sparta were engaged in a political feud and sporadic warfare as the Spartans sought to maintain their position as the predominant Greek city-state while the Thebans struggled to expand their own influence. One of the principle issues between the two powers involved the region of Boeotia, which was under the political influence of Thebes. The dispute came to a head when a coalition of Boeotian city-states appealed to Sparta to free them from Theban political control. The Spartans demanded that the Thebans disband their army of occupation. The Thebans refused, and so the Spartan King Cleombrotus I marched to war from Phocis. Rather than take the expected, easy route into Boeotia through the usual defile, the Spartans marched over the hills via Thisbae and took the fortress of Creusis (along with twelve Theban warships) before the Thebans were aware of their presence. It was here that a Peloponnesian army, about 10,000–11,000 strong, which had invaded Boeotia from Phocis, was confronted by a Boeotian levy of perhaps 6,000–7,000 soldiers under Epaminondas. In spite of inferior numbers and the doubtful loyalty of his Boeotian allies, Epaminondas offered battle on the plain before the town. Boeotia or Beotia (//, (Greek Βοιωτια; see also list of traditional Greek place names) was the central area of ancient Greece. ... Cleombrotus I was a Spartan king from 380 BC until 371 BC. Cleombrotus lead the Spartan army in the Battle of Leuctra. ... The Peloponnese or Peloponnesus (Greek: Πελοπόννησος Peloponnesos; see also List of traditional Greek place names) is a large peninsula in southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth. ... Boeotia or Beotia (//, (Greek Βοιωτια; see also list of traditional Greek place names) was the central area of ancient Greece. ... Phocis (Greek, Modern: Φωκίδα, Ancient/Katharevousa: -s, also Phokida, Phokis) is an ancient district of central Greece. ... For information about the modern board game of the same name, see Epaminondas (game). ...


Battle

The battle opened with the Spartan's mercenary peltasts (slingers, javilineers and/or skirmishers) attacking and driving back the Boeotian camp followers and others who were reluctant to fight. There followed a cavalry engagement, in which the Thebans drove their enemies off the field. Initially, the Spartan infantry were sent into disarray when their retreating cavalry hopelessly disrupted Cleombrotus's attempt to outflank the Theban phalanx, and were themselves caught on their flank by Pelopidas and the Sacred Band of Thebes. The decisive issue was then fought out between the Theban and Spartan foot. A peltast was a type of light infantry in Ancient Greece who often served as skirmishers. ... Pelopidas (d. ... The Sacred Band of Thebes (ancient Greek: Ιερός Λόχος τών Θηβών; ἱερὸς λόχος hieròs lókhos) was a troop of picked soldiers, numbering 150 pederastic couples, which formed the elite force of the Theban army in late-classical Greece. ...


The normal practice of the Spartans (and, indeed, the Greeks generally) was to establish their heavily armed infantry in a solid mass, or phalanx, some eight to twelve men deep. This was considered to allow for the best balance between depth (and the pushing power it provided) and width (i.e., area of coverage of the phalanx's front battle line). The infantry would advance together so that the attack flowed unbroken against their enemy. In order to combat the phalanx's infamous right-hand drift (see article phalanx for further information), Greek commanders traditionally placed their most experienced, highly regarded and, generally, deadliest troops on the right wing. By contrast, the shakiest and/or least influential troops were often placed on the left wing. A modern reconstruction of Greek hoplites forming a phalanx formation. ... A modern reconstruction of Greek hoplites forming a phalanx formation. ...

Top: Traditional hoplite order of battle and advance. Bottom: Epaminondas's strategy at Leuctra. The strong left wing advanced while the weak right wing retreated. The red blocks show the placement of the elite troops within each phalanx.
Top: Traditional hoplite order of battle and advance.
Bottom: Epaminondas's strategy at Leuctra. The strong left wing advanced while the weak right wing retreated. The red blocks show the placement of the elite troops within each phalanx.

In a major break with tradition, Epaminondas massed his cavalry and a fifty-deep column of Theban infantry on his left wing, and sent forward this body against the Spartan right. His shallower and weaker center and right wing columns were drawn up so that they were progressively further to the right and rear of the proceeding column, in the so-called Echelon formation. The footsoldiers engaged, and the Spartans' twelve-deep formation on their right wing could not sustain the heavy impact of their opponents' 50-deep column. A brief pushing match ensued, wherein the Spartans attempted to hold back the gigantic mass of the Thebans and the Sacred Band until they were literally run over by the enormous column. The Spartan right was hurled back with a loss of about 1,000 men, of whom 400 were Spartan citizens, including the king Cleombrotus I. By the time the Theban center and right columns advanced to the point of engaging the enemy, the Spartan right had been devastated. Seeing their right wing beaten, the rest of the Peloponnesians, who were essentially unwilling participants, retired and left the enemy in possession of the field. The arrival of a Thessalian army under Jason of Pherae persuaded a relieving Spartan force under Archidamus not to heap folly on folly and to withdraw instead, while the Thebans were persuaded not to continue the attack on the surviving Spartans. Image File history File links Leuctra. ... Image File history File links Leuctra. ... A hoplite armed with a spear. ... An order of battle (often abbreviated as ORBAT, OOB, or OB) is an organizational tool used by military intelligence to list and analyze enemy military units. ... For information about the modern board game of the same name, see Epaminondas (game). ... A modern reconstruction of Greek hoplites forming a phalanx formation. ... For information about the modern board game of the same name, see Epaminondas (game). ... Soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback in combat are commonly known as cavalry (from French cavalerie). ... Infantry of the Royal Irish Rifles during the Battle of the Somme in World War I. Infantry are soldiers who fight primarily on foot with small arms in organized military units, though they may be transported to the battlefield by horses, ships, automobiles, skis, or other means. ... Four OS2U Kingfisher airplanes flying in right echelon formation. ... Cleombrotus I was a Spartan king from 380 BC until 371 BC. Cleombrotus lead the Spartan army in the Battle of Leuctra. ...


Historical Significance

The battle is of great significance in Greek history, and, by extension, European history. Epaminondas not only broke away from the traditional tactical methods of his time, but marked a revolution in military tactics, affording the first known instance of an oblique infantry deployment and one of the first deliberate concentrations of attack upon the vital point of the enemy's line. The new tactics of the phalanx, introduced by Epaminondas, employed for the first time in the history of war the modern principle of local superiority of force[1]. The History of Greece extends back to the arrival of the Greeks in Europe some time before 1500 BC, even though there has only been an independent state called Greece since 1821. ... Military tactics (Greek: Taktikē, the art of organizing an army) is the collective name for methods of engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. ...


The use of these tactics by Epaminondas was, perhaps, a direct result of the use of some similar maneuvers by Pagondas, his countryman, during the Battle of Delium. Further, Philip of Macedon, who studied and lived in Thebes, was no doubt heavily influenced by the battle to develop his own, highly effective approach to tactics and armament. In turn, his son Alexander would go on to develop his father's theories to an entirely new level. Pagondas (c. ... The Battle of Delium took place in 424 BC between the Athenians and the Boeotians, and ended with the siege of Delium in the following weeks. ... Philip II of Macedon: victory medal (niketerion) struck in Tarsus, 2nd c. ... Alexander the Great (Greek: ,[1] Megas Alexandros; July 356 BC–June 11, 323 BC), also known as Alexander III, king of Macedon (336–323 BC), was one of the most successful military commanders in history. ...


Historians Victor Davis Hanson and Donald Kagan, among others, have argued that Epaminondas's so-called "oblique formation" was not an intentional and preconceived innovation in infantry tactics, but was rather a clever response to circumstances. Because Epaminondas had stacked his left wing to a depth of fifty shields, the rest of his units were naturally left with far fewer troops than normal. This means that their maintenance of a depth of eight to twelve shields had to come at the expense of either number of companies or their width. Because Epaminondas was already outnumbered, he had no choice but to form fewer companies and march them diagonally toward the much longer Spartan line in order to engage as much of it as possible. Hanson and Kagan's argument is therefore that the tactic was more dilatory than anything else. Whatever its motivation, the fact remains that the tactic did represent an innovation and was undoubtedly highly effective. American historian Victor Davis Hanson on C-SPAN Victor Davis Hanson (born 1953 in Fowler, California) is a military historian, columnist, political essayist and former Classics professor, best known as a scholar of ancient warfare as well as a commentator on modern warfare. ... Donald Kagan (born 1932) is a Yale historian specializing in ancient Greece, notable for his four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War. ...


The battle's political effects were far-reaching: the losses in material strength and prestige (prestige being an inestimably important factor in the Peloponnesian War) sustained by the Spartans at Leuctra and subsequently at the Battle of Mantinea were key in depriving them forever of their supremacy in Greece. Therefore, the battle permanently altered the Greek balance of power, as Sparta was deprived of her former prominence and was reduced to a second-rate power among the Greek city states. Combatants Delian League led by Athens Peloponnesian League led by Sparta Commanders Pericles Cleon Nicias Alcibiades Archidamus II Brasidas Lysander The Peloponnesian War (431 BC–404 BC) was an Ancient Greek military conflict fought between Athens and its empire and the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. ... Combatants Thebes, Arcadia and Boeotia League Sparta, Elis, and Mantinea league Commanders Epaminondas† Agesilaus II Strength Casualties {{{notes}}} The Battle of Mantinea was fought in 362 BC between the Thebans, led by Epaminondas and supported by the Arcadians and the Boeotians, and the Spartans, led by King Agesilaus II and...


References

  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Encyclopædia Britannica, the 11th edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

Sources

Xenophon, Hellenica, vi. 4. 3–15


Diodorus xi.53–56


Plutarch, Pelopidas 20–23


Pausanias ix. 13. 210


  Results from FactBites:
 
Battle of Mantinea (362 BC) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (581 words)
The Battle of Mantinea was fought in 362 BC between the Thebans, led by Epaminondas and supported by the Arcadians and the Boeotians, and the Spartans, led by King Agesilaus II and supported by the Eleans and Mantineans.
After the battle of Leuctra in 371 BC had shattered the foundations of Spartan hegemony, there was an attempt by Thebes' chief politician and general Epaminondas to build a new hegemony centered on his city.
The ultimate result of the battle was to pave the way for the Macedonian conquest of Greece, by ensuring the weakness of both the Thebans and the Spartans.
MSN Encarta - Search Results - Leuctra (58 words)
Leuctra, village of ancient Greece, in Boeotia, famous as the site of the victory of the Thebans, under Epaminondas, over the Spartans in 371 bc.
Leuctra, Battle of, battle in 371 bc marking the end of Spartan military supremacy in Greece (Sparta).
At Leuctra, in the ancient Greek republic of...
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