Epaminondas (418 BC – 4 July 362 BC) was a Theban general and politician of the 4th century BC, who freed Thebes from Spartan hegemony and turned it into a powerful city-state with a prominent position in the Greek political scene. He defeated the Spartans at the Battle of Lefktron and liberated the Messenians, who had been subjugated to Sparta for 230 years, after their defeat in the Second Messenian War, which ended in 599 BC. Epaminondas broke up the then existing alliances and created new ones.
The Roman orator Marcus Tylius Cicero described him as “the first man of Greece”. But, despite the fact that Epaminondas changed the political map of Greece, severely affected the military power of Sparta and elevated Thebes to the leading power of the Greek territory, his work did not survive. Twenty-four years after his death, Philip II defeated the Thebans and their allies at the battle of Chaeronea, and three years later Alexander III annihilated the power of Thebes and levelled the city. Nevertheless, Epaminondas is presented by his contemporaries as an idealist and liberator.
The life of Epaminondas is not largely recorded in the ancient sources, like those of his contemporaries. Plutarch”s biography of Epaminondas does not survive, but we get information from the biographies of Pelopidas and Agesilaus II, who were contemporaries of Epaminondas. Plutarch is considered a secondary source.
A biography of Epaminondas was also written by the Roman writer Cornelius Neos. It is included in his work “De Viris Illustribus”
The period of Greek history from 411 to 362 BC is recorded by the historian Xenophon, who considered his work to be a continuation of Thucydides”. Xenophon, who was a great admirer of Sparta and its king, Agesilaus, does not record Epaminondas” presence at the battle of Leuctra. The role of Epaminondas in the conflicts of the 4th century BC is also mentioned in the Historical Library of Diodorus Sicilianus. Diodorus was a historian of the 1st century BC, so he is also considered a secondary source.
Epaminondas was a member of the aristocracy of Thebes, but Cornelius Neo mentions that his father, Polymnis, had not inherited the property that befitted his social class. Epaminondas” teacher was the last known Pythagorean philosopher, Lysyssis of Tarada. Epaminondas was an excellent student. Neo also mentions how the young Epaminondas was persistent in his efforts to improve his physical condition, especially his agility, as he believed that this was the main weapon for victory in a war.
Epaminondas began to serve as a soldier after he came of age – Plutarch mentions an incident that took place in a battle at Mantinea and affected Epaminondas. Without stating it explicitly, this was probably the Spartan attack on Mantinea in 385 BC, described by Xenophon – Plutarch records how Epaminondas participated in the battle as a member of the Theban unit that was helping the Spartans, which is why the battle matches the one described by Xenophon.
It was there, in Mantinea, that an important event in Epaminondas” life occurred. In battle he saved the life of Pelopidas:
Pelopidas, after seven blows, fell upon a crowd of his own and his enemies – but Epaminondas, though he thought him dead, stood forward to defend his body and arms, alone against many, preferring to die rather than leave Pelopidas lying there. And now, Epaminondas was in a wretched state, having been struck by a spear in the chest and a sword in the arm. By good fortune, Agesipolis, king of the Spartans, came to the rescue and saved both Pelopidas and Epaminondas.
Plutarch believes that this incident made their friendship stronger, as Pelopidas would be Epaminondas” assistant for the next 20 years.
Epaminondas lived in a particularly turbulent period of Greek history. After the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC, Sparta pursued an aggressive policy towards the rest of Greece and was alienated from many of its allies. Thebes, meanwhile, increased its power during the war and wanted to take possession of the cities of Boeotia. This policy led to a conflict between Thebes and Sparta. In 395 BC, Thebes, along with Athens, Corinth and Argos, started a war with Sparta, known as the Corinthian War. The war lasted 8 years and Thebes was forced to re-establish an alliance with Sparta.
In 382 BC, however, the Spartan commander Phoebis committed something that would make Thebes an enemy of Sparta for good. After crossing Boeotia during a campaign, he took advantage of a civil strife in Thebes and entered the city with his army. There, he captured Cadmeia (the citadel of Thebes) and drove the anti-Spartan party from the city. Epaminondas, although belonging to this party, was allowed to stay in the city. The Spartans appointed a government friendly to them in Thebes and established a garrison at Cadmeia to control the Thebans.
In the years that followed the Spartan occupation, the exiled Thebans gathered in Athens and, with the encouragement of Pelopidas, prepared to liberate their city. Meanwhile, in Thebes, Epaminondas was preparing the young Thebans to face the Spartans. In the winter of 379 BC, a small group of exiles, led by Pelopidas, infiltrated the city. Information about this reached the governors of Thebes during a banquet that they organized, but their leader Archias, in order not to miss the fun, said the famous “to-morrow the great”. The conspirators, disguised as women, entered the banquet hall, killed the leaders of the pro-Laconian government, and assisted by Epaminondas and Gorgidas, who commanded a group of young men, and by a body of Athenian hoplites, then surrounded the Spartans at Cadmeia. The next day, Epaminondas and Gorgidas brought Pelopidas and his men to the assembly and urged the Thebans to fight for their freedom. Cadmeia was surrounded and the Spartans were attacked, for Pelopidas understood that he had to defeat the Spartans before forces from Sparta arrived. The Spartan garrison surrendered on condition that they left safely.
Plutarch records the revolt in Thebes:
[this act] was made more intriguing by the change of things. For the war which broke the dominion of Sparta over land and sea began on that night when Pelopidas did not take a fortress, wall or citadel, but entered a house with eleven others … and loosed and cut the bonds of the Lacedaemonian hegemony, which were thought to be unresolved and unbreakable.
When news of the revolt in Thebes reached Sparta, an army led by King Cleombrus I was sent to retake the city, but returned without engaging in battle with the Thebans. Then another army led by Agesilaus II was sent against Thebes. However, the Thebans avoided a confrontation with the Spartans; instead they erected a moat and a barrier of stakes outside the city to stop them. The Spartans destroyed the countryside, but retreated, leaving the Thebans independent. This victory emboldened the Thebans, who attacked their neighbors. Soon the Thebans were able to re-establish the old Boeotian federation (the ”Common of the Boeotians”) in a new democratic form. The cities of Boeotia were united in a confederation led by seven generals (Boeotarchs), one from each region of Boeotia.
Trying to overwhelm the Thebans, the Spartans attacked Boeotia three times during the following years. In the first attempt, the Thebans avoided openly confronting the Spartans, but from this contact with their opponent they learned much about the art of warfare. Despite the fact that Sparta remained the largest military power in Greece, the Boeotians showed how they too had great power. At the same time, Pelopidas, a supporter of anti-Spartan politics, became one of the political leaders of Thebes.
The role of Epaminondas until 371 BC is difficult to ascertain. Certainly, he had helped the Theban army defend Boeotia in 370 BC and the following year he became Boeotarch. It is certain, given their friendship, that Pelopidas and Epaminondas played an important role in the politics of Thebes in 378-371 BC.
In the years that followed the Theban revolt there were sporadic clashes between Thebes and Sparta, with the participation of Athens. There was an attempt at a peace agreement in 375 BC, but it failed, as Athens and Sparta began to clash in 373 BC. In 371, Athens and Sparta continued to clash, and a conference of envoys from the various Greek cities took place in Sparta in an attempt to make peace.
Epaminondas as Boeotarch in 371 BC represented Boeotia at the peace summit. The terms of peace were agreed at the council and the Thebans accepted them. However, the next day Epaminondas caused a complete break with Sparta, as he insisted on signing not only as the representative of Thebes, but also of the whole of Boeotia. Agesilaus refused, as he believed that all the cities of Boeotia should be independent. Epaminondas countered that in that case the same should apply to the cities of Laconia, so Agesilaus deleted the Thebans from the treaty document. Epaminondas returned to Thebes and both sides prepared for war.
Immediately after the failure of the congress, Cleombrus, who was with an army in Phocis, was ordered to march against Boeotia. Cleombrus avoided the mountainous regions, where the Boeotians ambushed him and captured a fortress and 10 or 12 triremes. Marching to Thebes, he stopped at Lefktra, a district of Thespia. There, the Boeotian army arrived to confront him. The Spartans had a force of 10,000 hoplites, including 700 homonians. The Boeotians had a force of 6,000 hoplites, but they had better cavalry than the Peloponnesians.
Epaminondas assumed the leadership of the Boeotian army, while Pelopidas was in command of the Sacred Company. Before the battle, there were disagreements whether to face the Spartans or not. Epaminondas and Pelopidas decided to accept the battle. During the battle, Epaminondas used tactics unknown by the standards of warfare in Greece at the time.
The phalanx formation used by the Greeks at that time had a definite tendency to lean to the right “because fear made every man protect his uncovered side [the right side not covered by his shield] with the shield of his comrade on the right”. Traditionally, then, armies would put their best soldiers on the right to counteract this tendency. The Spartan phalanx lined up the best Spartans on the right and the rest of the Peloponnesians on the left. To counter the Spartan numerical superiority, Epaminondas employed two tactical innovations. First, he ordered the most formidable part of his army fifty rows deep (the usual was 8-12 rows) opposite Cleombrus and the Homoi, while Pelopidas with the Sacred Company was placed on the left wing. Secondly, realizing that he could no longer have a phalanx range equal to that of the Peloponnesians, he ordered the weaker divisions to the right with the instruction to fall back in order during the attack of the opponents. This tactic had been used at the battle of Dilion by the Theban general Pagoda with a phalanx depth of 25 rows. However, changing the position of the elite sections and the slanting line of attack were innovations of Epaminondas. This was the famous oblique phalanx. However, the lateral position of the soldiers was, at that time, an innovation.
The battle at Lefktra began with a horse fight, during which the Thebans prevailed over the Spartans and forced them to retreat. Then the conflict became more general and the left wing of the Thebans attacked while the right wing retreated. After a fierce battle, the Spartans retreated and Cleombrus was killed. The Peloponnesian allies, seeing the flight of the Spartans, broke their lines and the whole army retreated in disorder. In the battle 1,000 Peloponnesians were killed, including 400 Spartans (like), while the Boeotians lost only 300 men. This defeat was a serious blow to Sparta”s military strength. After the battle, the Spartans and the Peloponnesians demanded that their dead be collected. Epaminondas ordered the Peloponnesians to go first, so that the remaining Spartan dead would show the extent of the Theban victory.
The victory of the Thebans at Lefktra shook the Spartan hegemony in Greece. Since the number of Spartans was always small, Sparta relied on its allies to build up sufficient troops. Now, after the defeat at Leuctra, the Peloponnesian allies were less willing to bow to Spartan demands. Furthermore, with the losses the Spartans had suffered at Leuctra and in other battles, they were no longer able to reassert their hegemony over their former allies.
After the battle of Lefktra, the Thebans took advantage of their victory to take revenge on Sparta and asked the Athenians to help them and do the same. However, Thebes” allies, led by Jason of Feres, dissuaded them. Epaminondas, however, decided to consolidate the Boeotian confederation, forcing the city of Orchomenus (by then Orchomenus had been an ally of Sparta) to join the confederation.
The following year the Thebans invaded the Peloponnese. It is not known when the Thebans began to think about destroying the Spartan hegemony and establishing their own, but it is clear that this was their ultimate goal. Hans Beck argues that, unlike Sparta in the Peloponnesian Alliance and Athens in the Delian Alliance, Thebes did not attempt to create an empire of its own, nor did it try to bind its allies into a permanent and unbreakable organization. After the victory at Lefktra, Thebes focused on diplomatic relations with Central Greece, rather than on extending its hegemony. By the end of 370, Thebes had many allies in Central Greece, something it did not have before the battle of Leuctra.
Immediately after the battle of Lefktra, the Thebans sent a herald to Athens to bring the news of the Thebans” victory to Lefktra. The news was received with cold silence, but the Athenians decided to take advantage of Sparta”s predicament. They called a congress in Athens at which the terms of the peace proposed in 371 were ratified by all the cities (except Elis). Taking advantage of this, the inhabitants of Mantinea decided to unite their settlements into a single fortified city, something Agesilaus did not like. Moreover, Tegea, supported by Madinia, decided to establish an Arcadian alliance, which led to Sparta declaring war against Mantinea. Most of the Arcadian cities rallied to resist the Spartans and sought the help of Thebes. The Theban army arrived in late 370 BC, led by Epaminondas and Pelopidas. In Arcadia, armed detachments of many of Sparta”s former allies joined the Thebans, thus increasing the total force to 50-70 thousand men. In Arcadia, Epaminondas encouraged the Arcadians to form their planned alliance and build a new city, Megalopolis.
Epaminondas, supported by Pelopidas and the Arcadians, persuaded the other Boeotarchs to invade Laconia itself. After moving south, they crossed the river Evrotas, the border of Sparta, where no enemy had ever appeared. The Spartans, avoiding confrontation with so numerous an army, confined themselves to a defensive position, while the Thebans did not attempt to take the city. The Thebans and their allies destroyed Laconia, reaching as far as Gythio, and liberated some cities from Spartan occupation. Epaminondas returned to Arcadia, before moving south again, this time to Messenia, a region which the Spartans had occupied 200 years earlier. Epaminondas liberated the Hellenes of Messenia and rebuilt the ancient city of Messina on Mount Ithomi. The loss of Messinia proved disastrous for the Spartans, as it constituted a third of Sparta”s territory and half of the Hellenes lived there.
Epaminondas” campaign in the years 370369 is described as a “grand strategy of indirect approach”, which resulted in the destruction of the economic resources of Spartan military supremacy.Within a few months Epaminondas created two states hostile to Sparta, shook the foundations of its economy and destroyed its prestige. Then he led his victorious army back to Thebes.
In order to achieve his goals in the Peloponnese, Epaminondas persuaded the other Boeotarchs to remain in office for several months after the end of their term of office. When he returned to Thebes, he was not accepted as a hero, but was blamed by his political opponents. According to Cornelius Nepotas, Epaminondas requested that, in case he was sentenced to death, the inscription on the verdict should read:
Epaminondas was condemned to death by the Thebans because he forced them to overthrow the Lacedaemonians at Lefktra, whom, before he became general, none of the Boeotians dared to face on the battlefield… because he saved Thebes from destruction and ensured the freedom of all Greece.
The court erupted in laughter, the charges were dropped and Epaminondas was re-elected Boeotarch for the following year.
In 369 BC, the Argives, the Elians and the Arcadians, eager to continue the war with Sparta, again called Thebes to help them. Epaminondas began a new campaign. Arriving at the Isthmus of Corinth, he found that he had a strong garrison of Spartans and Athenians. Epaminondas decided to attack the weakest point, where the Lacedaemonians were. He blackmailed the passage between them and joined his Peloponnesian allies. Diodorus stresses how this was ”a feat no less than his previous great feats”.
However, the campaign did not have impressive results: Sicyon and Pellini became allies of Thebes, the countryside of Troizina and Epidaurus were destroyed, but the cities were not conquered. The Thebans failed to capture Corinth, and when Dionysius of Syracuse sent help to Sparta, the Thebans returned home.
When Epaminondas returned to Thebes, he was again accused by his political opponents, and as a result he was excluded from the office of Boeotarch for 368. This is the only time from the Battle of Leuctra until his death that Epaminondas did not serve as Boeotarch. In 368, the Theban army marched into Thessaly to free Pelopidas and Ismenias, who had been imprisoned by the tyrant of Feres, Alexander. The Theban army failed to defeat Alexander”s army and was forced to withdraw. In early 367 BC, Epaminondas led a new Theban corps to free Pelopidas and Ismenias, which he managed to do without a battle.
In the spring of 367 BC, Epaminondas invaded the Peloponnese again. This time he asked the Argives to occupy part of the Isthmus so that he could pass unhindered. Now he marched on Achaea to secure its allegiance to Thebes. The fact that Epaminondas sought the alliance of the Achaean oligarchs caused the protests of the Arcadians and his political opponents, and subsequently the republics were restored and the oligarchs were exiled. The new republican states did not live long, because the pro-clerical aristocrats recaptured the cities and reinstated the oligarchy. As expected, the oligarchic governments sided with Sparta and became enemies of Thebes.
In 366365 BC an attempt was made for a common peace with the Persian king Artaxerxes II as arbitrator and guarantor. Thebes organised a conference to discuss the terms of the peace, but the conference failed: there were disagreements between Thebes and other cities, the peace was not fully accepted and the conflicts soon resumed.
Throughout the decade after the battle of Lefktron, many of Thebes” former allies became allies of Sparta or other hostile states. By the middle of this decade even the Arcadians (whom Epaminondas had helped in 369 BC) had turned against Thebes. Nevertheless, Epaminondas succeeded by diplomatic means in breaking up the Peloponnesian Alliance: in 365 BC, Corinth, Epidaurus and Pleiades signed peace with Thebes and Argos, and Messenia remained independent and firmly loyal to Thebes.
The armies of Boeotia had campaigned all over Greece and made many enemies. The demos of Thebes asked Epaminondas to impose himself on Rhodes, Chios and Byzantium. The fleet finally sailed in 364 BC, but some modern historians believe that Epaminondas did not intend to gain lasting benefits from this campaign. In the same year, Pelopidas was killed in a campaign against Alexander of Persia.
In 362 BC, Epaminondas began his final campaign in the Peloponnese. The main objective of the campaign was the subjugation of Mantinea, which was resisting the Theban hegemony in the surrounding region. Epamidias gathered an army from Boeotia, Thessaly and Euboea. He received help from Tegea, Argos, Messinia as well as from some Arcadians. Madinia, on the other hand, received help from Sparta, Athens, Achaia, and part of Arcadia. Thus, almost all Greeks opposed this situation.
Epaminondas learned that the Spartans had sent an army to Mantinea and that Sparta was unprotected. So he decided to attack Sparta by marching against it at night. However, the king of Sparta, Archimedes, learned of Epaminondas” plan from an informer, probably a Cretan runner, and took action. When he arrived in Sparta, Epaminondas found her prepared. He attacked the city but had already realized that he had not taken it by surprise. In addition, troops from Lacedaemonia and Mantinea fled from Mantinea in the direction of Sparta and prevented a new attack. Epaminondas decided to launch a surprise attack on Mantinea, but his plan failed as he met resistance from the Athenian cavalry at the city walls. Realizing that he had no more time at his disposal and that if he did not defeat the enemies of Tegea, Thebes would lose its hegemony in the Peloponnese, he decided to fight a decisive battle.
The greatest battle of hoplites in Greek history took place in Madinia. Epaminondas had superior forces, 30,000 hoplites and 3,000 horsemen, while his opponents had 20,000 hoplites and 2,000 horsemen. Xenophon reports that, having decided to fight, Epaminondas arranged his army in order of battle and then marched parallel to the army of Mantinea, so that it would appear that his army was marching elsewhere and that there would be no battle. After reaching a point in his march, the Theban army laid down their weapons, giving the impression that they were preparing to encamp. Xenophon believes that this act of Epaminondas caused a relaxation in the camp of the opponents, and the whole phalanx, which had been marching from right to left, crossed the front of the army of Mantinea and leaned to the right, now facing the enemy in battle array. Epaminondas, at the head of the phalanx (now on the left wing), transferred some infantry units from the right wing to the left, reinforcing it during the preceding battle of Leuctra. On the flanks he placed strong cavalry forces reinforced by light infantry.
Epaminondas ordered his army to attack, causing upheaval in the camp of Mantinea. The battle began as Epaminondas had planned. The Theban cavalry, which was on the flanks, forced the Athenian cavalry on the right flank to retreat, while at the same time, the Theban infantry advanced. Xenophon reports that Epaminondas thought of leading his army as a trireme, hoping to destroy his opponent”s army. As at Leuctra, the right side of the army was ordered to retreat and avoided conflict. The battle of the hoplites was fierce, but the left wing of the Theban army broke through the Spartan front. But in the heat of battle Epaminondas was mortally wounded by a Spartan and died shortly afterwards.
Xenophon, who ended his story with the battle of Mantinea, recorded the results of the battle as follows:
Armies from almost all of Greece had gathered and were facing each other, so no one doubted that the winner would become the ruler and the loser his subject. But the gods decided to set up trophies for both camps……After the battle, Greece experienced more confusion and turmoil than before.
While pressing hard against the enemy, Epaminondas was struck by a spear. Cornelius Neo thinks that the Spartans were trying to kill him in order to break the morale of the Thebans. The spear broke, but its iron remained in the body of Epaminondas, who fell. A fierce battle ensued around Epaminondas” body as the Thebans tried to prevent the Spartans from taking his body. When he was brought into the camp, Epaminondas was still alive and asked who the victor was. “The Boeotians” they replied and then he said “time to die”. Diodorus reports that a friend of Epaminondas exclaimed “you die cruel, Epaminondas” but he replied “no, I leave two daughters, Lefktra and Madineia, my victories”. He asked for the iron to be taken out of his body and as soon as it was taken out he died immediately. According to Greek custom, his body was buried on the battlefield.
The character of Epaminondas was unmistakable in the eyes of the ancient historians who told his life. His contemporaries praised him for sharing his goods with his friends and for not accepting bribes. One of the last heirs of the Pythagorean tradition, he preferred a simple and ascetic life, even though he became leader of all Greece. Cornelius Neo describes an incident in which Epaminondas refused to receive gifts from Persia, which were sent to him by an ambassador.
Epaminondas had never married and this was a cause of criticism from his compatriots, who felt that he was obliged to produce sons as great as himself. In response, Epaminondas said that his victory at the battle of Leuctra was a daughter born to live forever.
As a general
The surviving biographies of Epaminondas describe him everywhere as one of the most talented Greek generals. Even Xenophon, who does not mention Epaminondas” presence at Lefktra, wrote about the battle of Mantinea: “Now I can say that this campaign was not a lucky one. But I think that there is no feat of prudence and daring that this man left unrealized” Diodorus wrote about Epaminondas:
It seems to me that Epaminondas has surpassed his contemporaries… in the art and experience of war. Epaminondas” age had famous men: Pelopidas Thebes, Timothy and Conon, as well as Chavrias and Ificrates… Agesilaus of Sparta, who belonged to a slightly earlier generation. Still earlier than these, in the time of the Medes and Persians, were Solon, Themistocles, Miltiades, Cimon and Pericles, and many others. If these are compared with Epaminondas, Epaminondas will emerge superior.
In tactical matters, Epaminondas is considered the best of all Greek generals (with reservations about Philip and Alexander), but modern historians question his strategic vision. According to Richard A. Gabriel, his tactics were the beginning of the end for traditional Greek warfare tactics. His tactics at Leuctra allowed him to defeat the Spartan phalanx, even though he had fewer soldiers. Many of Epaminondas” tactical innovations were used by Philip II, who in his youth was in Thebes as a hostage and presumably learned the tactics from Epaminondas himself.
In a way, Epaminondas changed Greece dramatically during the decade of his rule. Before his death, Sparta was humiliated, Messinia was liberated and the Peloponnese was completely reorganized. In other respects, however, he left behind a Greece not very different from the one he found, with its deep divisions and incessant hostility. Thebes became the dominant power of Greece before it was subjugated to Macedonia.
In Mantinea, Thebes faced all the major powers of Greece, but the victory did not bring them any spoils. After the death of Epaminondas, Thebes returned to its traditional defensive policy, with Athens regaining a leading position in Greece. No Greek state henceforth subjugated Boeotia, but Theban hegemony was reduced in the rest of Greece. Finally, at the Battle of Chaeronea, Thebes and Athens were defeated by Philip of Macedonia, who ended Theban independence. Three years later, when Alexander the Great became king, the Thebans revolted, but Alexander suppressed the rebellion, destroyed the city and slaughtered or overpowered the inhabitants.
Epaminondas, therefore, is presented as a liberator and a destroyer. He is regarded by the Greeks and Romans as one of the greatest men in history. Cicero describes him as the first man of Greece, while Pausanias transmits the Parakato poem from Epaminondas” tomb:
Under my guidance Sparta lost its glory,
Epaminondas” exploits were of course welcomed by the Messenians and others, whom he helped with his campaigns against the Spartans. The Spartans, however, were the centre of resistance during the Persian attacks in the 5th century BC, and their absence was evident at Chaeronea. The endless warfare in which Epaminondas played a key role weakened the city-states of Greece to the point where they could not defend their integrity against their northern neighbours. Victor Davis Hanson believes that Epaminondas may have wanted a united Greece, divided into regional democratic federations, but, even if this is true, no such plan was implemented. Simon Hornblower argues that the 4th century Theban legacy and Hellenistic Greece was federalism, “an alternative kind of imperialism, a way of achieving unity without force”.
Despite his noble virtues, Epaminondas did not manage to overcome the Greek system of city-states, with its endemic rivalries and quarrels, and left Greece more devastated and divided than before. Hornblower considers it a sign of Epaminondas” political failure, even before the battle of Mantinea, that his Peloponnesian allies were fighting to rid themselves of Spartan hegemony, not because they were attracted to Thebes. On the other hand, Cavkel believes that increasing the power of Boeotia and ending Spartan hegemony in the Peloponnese is the best thing a Boeotian could ever do.