Sacred Band of Thebes
- Formation 1
- Composition 2
Military history 3
- Invasions of Agesilaus II 3.1
- Battle of Tegyra 3.2
- Battle of Leuctra 3.3
- Battle of Chaeronea 3.4
- Lion of Chaeronea 4.1
- Trophy of the Battle of Leuktra 4.2
- Historiographic debate 5
- See also 6
- Notes 7
- References 8
The earliest surviving record of the Sacred Band by name was in 324 BC; in the oration Against Demosthenes by the Athenian logographer Dinarchus. He mentions the Sacred Band as being led by the general Pelopidas and, alongside Epaminondas who commanded the army of Thebes (Boeotia), were responsible for the defeat of the Spartans at the decisive Battle of Leuctra (371 BC).
This sentiment changed in 339 BC, when Thebes abruptly severed her alliance with Philip II (after being convinced by a speech from Demosthenes) and joined the Athenian-led Pan-Hellenic alliance against Macedonia. The result being the annihilation of the Sacred Band in Chaeronea and the destruction of the city of Thebes itself in 335 BC by the Macedonians. In light of these actions, Athenians eventually changed their opinions on Thebes, now regarding her in sympathetic light as a fallen ally. It was during this period that much of the accounts favorable to Thebans were at last written. Works by authors like Anaximenes of Lampsacus, Aristoxenus, Callisthenes, Daimachus, Dinarchus, and Ephorus are believed to have been written between 330 to 310 BC. Except for Dinarchus, almost all of them have been lost to history or survive only in fragments. Among them are Ephorus and Callisthenes who were contemporaries of the Theban hegemony and the Sacred Band. The works of the latter two, however, survived long enough for later authors like Plutarch, Diodorus, and Polyaenus to base their works on.
Shrimpton believes that the apparent indifference of earlier authors was due to the general hatred by other Greeks against the Thebans who had medized (i.e. allied with the Persians) in the second Persian invasion in 480 BC and again in 368 BC. Athenians, in particular, held a special contempt for Thebes due to the latter's actions in the Peloponnesian War; as well as the Thebans' destruction of Plataea in 373 BC, and her invasion of the Athenian-allied Boeotian city of Oropus in 366 BC. Demosthenes records this sentiment very clearly in a disclaimer in his speech On the Navy (354 BC): "It is difficult to speak to you about [Thebans], because you have such a hearty dislike of them that you would not care to hear any good of them, even if it were true."
The historian Gordon S. Shrimpton further provides an explanation for Xenophon's silence on much of Theban history. He notes that all the surviving contemporary accounts of Thebes during the period of Theban hegemony between 371 to 341 BC were often highly critical; with their failures ridiculed and their accomplishments usually being downplayed or omitted altogether. For instance, the Athenian Isocrates (436–338 BC) in his Plataicus (which details the destruction of Plataea by the Thebans), makes no mention of the Theban victory in Leuctra, and harshly reviles Thebes throughout. His later work Archidamus mention Leuctra briefly, and only to criticize Thebans as being incompetent and incapable of capitalizing on their rise to power. The same sentiments are echoed by the Athenians Demosthenes (384–322 BC) and Antisthenes (c. 445–365 BC). Xenophon, another Athenian, is the only contemporary who grudgingly notes some Theban accomplishments, and even then, never in-depth and with numerous omissions. His only mentions of Pelopidas and Epaminondas by name, for example, were very brief and shed no light on their previous accomplishments. Indeed, the historians Bruce LaForse and John Buckler have noted that the character and accomplishments of Epaminondas were so unassailable that there is no known hostile account of him in ancient sources. The most unfriendly writers like Xenophon and Isocrates could do was omit his accomplishments in their work altogether.
 who conclude that "In sum, Plutarch's description of the battle of Tegyra does justice both to the terrain of Polygyra and to the information gleaned from his fourth-century sources. There is nothing implausible or unusual in Plutarch's account, and every reason to consider it one of the best of his battle pieces." They also had the same opinion of his account on Leuctra, dismissing assertions that his accounts were confused or rhetorical.Hans Beck and John Buckler This is echoed by the historians  [It is claimed to be panegyrical, but it is not factually incorrect.]"Sie ist panegyrisch gehalten, aber sachlich nicht unrichtig., and Tegyra (all surviving through Plutarch) are quite adequate. While Jacoby, responding to claims that Callisthenes was unreliable in accounts of land battles in contrast to Xenophon, pointed out that Callisthenes did accurately describe the details on the Battle of Tegyra. He summarized his opinion of Callisthenes' account with "Gaugamela, Battle of the Eurymedon have also defended Callisthenes' descriptions of land battles in the past. Walbank commented that his depictions of the Felix Jacoby and Frank William Walbank Other noted classical scholars like  The historian
He also blames Ephorus and Callisthenes (particularly the latter) for embellishments on the roles of the Sacred Band in the battles of Tegyra, Leuctra, and Chaeronea;[note 16] pointing out that the two have been ridiculed by other ancient scholars for their poor grasp of military affairs. He argues that Xenophon's account was more accurate and "sensitive to the tactical realities of fourth-century warfare", dismissing other scholars' views that Xenophon was anti-Theban. He views the silence of Xenophon and other contemporary Athenians on the roles of Pelopidas and the Sacred Band as an indication that they weren't involved in any special manner (if at all) in those battles. Where they do mention an elite Theban infantry unit, they do not call it by name, and thus they were likely to be merely an ordinary elite corps of picked troops common to Greek armies during that period. Though instances of homosexual relations in such units are common, they are not systemic. And finally, he dismisses the number of modern scholars who identified the Lion of Chaeronea as the burial site of the Sacred Band. He points out that Plutarch, a native of Chaeronea, makes no mention of the monument; while Pausanias simply refers to it as the graves of Thebans in the Battle of Chaeronea and do not mention the Sacred Band by name.
The historicity of the Sacred Band was challenged in 2002 by the classical scholar David D. Leitao who believes that it "rests on the most precarious of foundations". Leitao is especially critical of the accounts of the Sacred Band that describes it as being composed of lovers, and believes that the Sacred Band's role in the battles of Tegyra, Leuctra, and Chaeronea were all exaggerated. Of the eleven surviving ancient accounts that mention the Sacred Band by name, he separates them into two groups: The five "non-erotic" accounts that do not mention that the Sacred Band was composed of lovers (e.g., Diodorus); and the six "erotic" accounts which do (of which Plutarch's is the most complete). He argues that the latter six were all "moralistic" texts, with the exception of Polyaenus, deriving from an early 4th century BC tradition on writing about eros (romantic love). He believes Plutarch's account ultimately derives from Plato's works, and not from local Boeotian historians. He particularly focuses on Plutarch's use of distancing language like "as they say" and "some say" (ὤς φασι, ἔνιοι δέ φασι) which implies that Plutarch was himself unwilling to vouch for the historicity of the Sacred Band. Thus the account of the Sacred Band being composed of lovers (or the account of the Sacred Band itself) were likely to be merely part of the panegyric traditions surrounding Pelopidas and were not based on reality.
After the defeat of Cleombrotus' forces in the Battle of Leuktra, a tropaion was set up on the battlefield by the Thebans to commemorate their victory. The tropaion was later replaced by a permanent monument, an unprecedented move by the Thebans as tropaia were designed to be ephemeral. The original appearance of the monument is attested by contemporary coins of the period and showed that it took the form of a tree trunk mounted upon a cylindrical pedestal carved with metopes, triglyphs, and a series of stone shields. On the tree trunk itself is affixed the shields, weapons, and armor of the defeated Spartans. The base of the monument still survives to this day.
Trophy of the Battle of Leuktra
The historian William Kendrick Pritchett criticizes Hammond's rationale as "subjective" and counters it with a passage from Historiarum Philippicarum Libri XLIV of the 3rd-century AD Roman historian Justin. In addition to Pausanias and Strabo, Justin also clearly says that Philip forced the Thebans to pay for the privilege of burying (not cremating) their dead. Therefore, the cremated remains are likely to be Macedonian, while the remains around the lion were the Sacred Band. Philip, after all, was known for his ability to inflict unnecessary cruelty when it served a greater purpose. He further points out that questioning the honesty of Pausanias is unwarranted, as any well-informed Greek then would probably know the ascription of the monument even centuries after the battle. Especially given that Pausanias' knowledge of topography were not secondhand and his testimony was echoed independently by other ancient sources like Strabo and Justin. Indeed, Pausanias' Description of Greece has proven to be an accurate and important guide to modern archeologists in rediscovering the locations of other ancient Greek monuments and buildings.
The skeletons within the enclosure of the lion monument are generally accepted to be the remains of the Sacred Band, as the number given by Plutarch was probably an approximation.[note 15] However, historians like Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond, Karl Julius Beloch, and Vincenzo Costanzi do not believe that the lion monument marks the location of the Sacred Band dead. Hammond claims it was the place where Philip turned his army around during the Battle of Chaeronea and believes that it contains the members of the Macedonian right flank who perished. He argues that it's highly improbable that the Thebans would be able to commemorate their dead within Philip's lifetime with such a massive and obviously expensive monument.
In the late 19th century, lance-heads measuring about 15 in (38 cm) were also discovered, which Soteriades identified as the Macedonian sarissas.
In 1818, a British architect named Livadeia. On June 3, they decided to go horseback riding to the nearby village of Chaeronea using Pausanias' Description of Greece as a guidebook. Two hours away from the village, Taylor's horse momentarily stumbled on a piece of marble jutting from the ground. Looking back at the rock, he was struck by its appearance of being sculpted and called for their party to stop. They dismounted and dug at it with their riding-whips, ascertaining that it was indeed sculpture. They enlisted the help of some nearby farmers until they finally uncovered the massive head of a stone lion which they recognized as the same lion mentioned by Pausanias. Parts of the statue had broken off and a good deal of it still remained buried. They immediately reported their discovery when they returned to Athens. However, during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1832), a Greek general damaged the monument by ordering that the pedestal be smashed, perhaps looking for treasure. He found nothing but spears and shields, some of which with names still inscribed in them. As a result of the incident, the original design of the pedestal is now unknown. Offers in the late 19th century by the British archeologist Cecil Harcourt Smith to fund the restoration of Lion of Chaeronea was initially refused by the Greeks. In 1902, however, permission was granted and the monument was pieced back together with funding by the Order of Chaeronea. The lion, which stands about 12.5 ft (3.8 m) high, was mounted on a reconstructed pedestal about 10 ft (3.0 m) high.
Pausanias in his Description of Greece mentions that the Thebans had erected a gigantic statue of a lion near the village of Chaeronea, surmounting the polyandrion (πολυάνδριον, common tomb) of the Thebans killed in battle against Philip. The Greek historian Strabo (c. 64 BC–24 AD) also mentions "tombs of those who fell in the battle" erected at public expense in Chaeronea.
Lion of Chaeronea
 Other historians however argue that Alexander actually commanded hoplites armed with sarissas, rather than cavalry, especially since Plutarch also mentions that the Sacred Band fell to "lances of the Macedonian phalanx". Plutarch and Diodorus both credit Alexander as being the first to engage the Sacred Band. that Alexander had deployed his cavalry behind the Macedonian hoplites, apparently permitting "a Theban break-through in order to effect a cavalry assault while his hoplites regrouped."The Theban Sacred Band James G. DeVoto, likewise, says in  Though the significance of the battle was well-documented by ancient scholars, there is little surviving information on the deployment of the armies involved. Most modern scholars (including
Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.— Plutarch, Pelopidas 18
The traditional hoplite infantry was no match for the novel long-speared Macedonian phalanx: the Theban army and its allies broke and fled, but the Sacred Band, although surrounded and overwhelmed, refused to surrender. The Thebans of the Sacred Band held their ground and Plutarch records that all 300 fell where they stood beside their last commander, Theagenes. Their defeat at the battle was a significant victory for Philip, since until then, the Sacred Band was regarded as invincible throughout all of Ancient Greece. Plutarch records that Philip II, on encountering the corpses "heaped one upon another", understanding who they were, wept and exclaimed,
Defeat came at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), the decisive contest in which Philip II of Macedon, with his son Alexander, extinguished Theban hegemony. The battle is the culmination of Philip's campaign into central Greece in preparation for a war against Persia. It was fought between the Macedonians and their allies and an alliance of Greek city-states led by Athens and Thebes. Diodorus records that the numbers involved for the two armies were more or less equal, both having around 30,000 men and 2,000 cavalry.
Battle of Chaeronea
According to Pausanias (c. 2nd century AD), the Battle of Leuctra was the most decisive battle ever fought by Greeks against Greeks. Leuctra established Theban independence from Spartan rule and laid the groundwork for the expansion of Theban power, but possibly also for Philip II's eventual victory.
After the battle, the Thebans immediately sent a herald to Athens, naively believing that Athens would be overjoyed at the defeat of their old rivals. Instead, Athenians met the news with shock and then dismay. The Thebans also sent a herald to their Thessalian ally, Jason of Pherae. Jason immediately led a large Thessalian force down through Phocis and Locris.[note 14] Like the Athenians, Jason recognized the threat that Thebans posed if ever they gain supremacy. So instead of helping the Thebans fight the reinforced Spartan army, he instead negotiated a truce with Archidamus.
When the news of the defeat reached Sparta, the relatives were forbidden to mourn as it was the last day of the Gymnopaedia, an annual athletic competition for youths. As the old King Agesilaus was still ill, his son, the Prince Archidamus III,[note 12] was immediately put in the command of two morai. Due to the low numbers of spartiates remaining, some members of the new morai were past their military primes. Among these were men whom Plutarch describes as "cowards" which included some high-ranking spartiates who managed to avoid joining Cleombrotus' expedition previously. Agesilaus explicitly forced them to join the new expedition under Archidamus.[note 13] Perioeci troops from the Spartan subject-states were also secured and the new Spartan force was sent to meet up and reinforce the remnants of Cleombrotus' army in Leuctra.
The number of Spartan casualties amounted to about 1,000 dead, among those were 400 spartiates and their own king. Although some Spartans were in favor of resuming the battle in order to recover the bodies of their dead, the allied perioeci of the Spartan left wing were less than willing to continue fighting (indeed some of them were quite pleased at the turn of events). The remaining polemarchoi eventually decided to request a truce, which the Thebans readily granted. The Spartan dead were returned and a tropaion was set up on the battlefield by the Thebans to commemorate their victory.
By the time the Spartans realized that something unusual was happening, it was already too late. Shortly before the Theban left wing contacted, the Spartans hastily stretched out their right wing in an attempt to outflank and engulf the rapidly approaching Thebans. This was a traditional tactic, and once the Thebans were in range, the stretched wing would then be brought back in an encircling movement. Acting under his own initiative, Pelopidas quickly led the Sacred Band ahead of the Theban left wing to intercept the Spartan maneuver before it could be completed.[note 11] They succeeded in fixing the Spartans in place until the rest of the Theban heavy infantry finally smashed into the Spartan right wing. The sheer number of Thebans overwhelmed the Spartan right wing quickly. Among those initially killed on the Spartan side were Deinon, a polemarchos; Sphodrias, a general and a member of the king's council; and his son, Cleonymus. Cleombrotus himself was mortally wounded and was carried away from the battlefield by his royal guard, though he died shortly thereafter. The Spartan right wing was inexorably driven back until they at last retreated to their camp on higher ground and protected by trenches. The Spartan perioeci left wing were more than willing to retreat along with the spartiates, though they themselves had hardly engaged the rest of the Theban army.
The battle opened with a cavalry charge on both armies. The Spartan cavalry was quickly defeated by the superior Theban cavalry and was chased back to its own side. Its disorderly retreat disrupted the battle lines of the Spartan heavy infantry and because of the resulting chaos and the dust stirred up, the Spartans were unable to observe the highly unusual advance of the Theban army until the very last moment. Epaminondas had ordered his troops to advance diagonally, such that the left wing of the Theban army (with its concentration of forces) would impact with the right wing of the Spartan army well before the other weaker phalanxes. The furthest right wing of the Theban phalanx was even retreating to make this possible. This is the first recorded instance of the military formation later known as the oblique order.[note 10] The Theban cavalry also helped by continuing to carry out intermittent attacks along the Spartan battle lines, holding their advance back.
Before the battle began, Epaminondas gave permission for any of the Boeotians who were unwilling to fight to depart freely. The offer was taken up by the noncombatant camp followers (supply handlers and the like) and some of the troops whose loyalty were still not fully with Thebes. Particularly the Thespians who were only recently reintegrated into Boeotia against their will and might still have harbored pro-Spartan sympathies. However, the Spartan mercenary peltasts misguidedly attacked and drove the departing groups back into the Theban lines, inadvertently strengthening it by forcing them to fight.
The Theban army were outnumbered by the Spartans, being composed of only about 6,000 hoplites (including the Sacred Band), 1,500 light infantry, and 1,000 cavalry. Epaminondas had to find a way to gain tactical advantage despite the numerical superiority of the enemy. Anticipating the standard Spartan tactic of flanking enemy armies with their right wing, Epaminondas concentrated his forces on his own left wing, directly opposite the strongest spartiate phalanx led by Cleombrotus. Here, the massed Theban phalanx was arrayed into a highly unconventional depth of fifty men. The rest of the Theban lines were reduced to depths of only four to at most eight men because of this. Epaminondas also copied Cleombrotus by placing his cavalry in front of the Theban lines. The original position of the Sacred Band being led by Pelopidas is unknown. Some military historians believe Epaminondas placed Pelopidas and the Sacred Band behind the main hoplite phalanx, others believe he put it in front of the main hoplite phalanx and behind the cavalry, while others put it on the front left corner of the main hoplite phalanx (the most likely). Either way, the Sacred Band is definitely known to be on the left wing, close to the main Theban forces and detached enough to be able to maneuver freely.
The Spartan army numbered at about 10,000 hoplites, 1,000 light infantry, and 1,000 cavalry. However, only about 700 hoplites of the Spartan army were composed of spartiates (Spartan citizens), the rest were conscripted troops from Spartan subject states (the perioeci) forced to fight.[note 9] They were arrayed traditionally, in which the hoplites were formed into phalanxes about eight to twelve men deep. Cleombrotus positioned himself and the spartiate hoplites (including the elite royal guard of 300 Hippeis) in the Spartan right wing, the traditional position of honor in Greek armies. Cleombrotus' only tactical innovation was the placing of his cavalry in front of his troops.
The six boeotarchs[note 8] in the Theban army at this point were now less confident of their chances. Three of the boeotarchs, led by Epaminondas, felt that they had no choice but to fight, in accordance with the wishes of the Theban citizens, or lose all of Boeotia. Three others were in favor of withdrawing to a more favorable battleground or even of withdrawing to Thebes itself and preparing for a siege. The stalemate was broken by the arrival of the seventh boeotarch Brachyllidas who had been guarding the passes in the mountains of Cithaeron. Brachyllidas sided with Epaminondas and the army was mobilized to fight. Nonetheless the general spirit of the Theban army was one of brave despair.
Cleombrotus' army crossed the Phocian-Boeotian border into Chaeronea then halted, perhaps hoping that the Thebans might change their mind. The Thebans however were committed to a fight, and were beginning preparations for their resistance. They even voted for their non-combatants (including women and children) to be sent to Athens in case the Spartans manage to besiege Thebes.[note 7] Epaminondas led the assembled Theban army out to Coronea. Theban outposts were sent to guard the western narrow passes that Cleombrotus' army was expected to take. To circumvent the Theban defenses, Cleombrotus withdrew his forces to the Phocian town of Ambrossus then marched southwards along the western coast through the hilly country of Thisbae over Mount Helicon. They easily annihilated the Theban detachment led by Chaereas guarding the area. They eventually arrived at the Theban fortress of Creusis and captured it, also capturing twelve Theban warships in the process. Cleombrotus then moved inland, following the eastward road towards Thebes, until he reached the Boeotian village of Leuctra (modern Lefktra, Plataies) near the southwestern end of the Theban plain. There they were met by the main Theban army. The two armies pitched their camps opposite each other on two low ridges respectively. The battleground between them was about 900 m (3,000 ft) wide. Less than a month, or at most six weeks, had passed since the confrontation between Agesilaus and Epaminondas.
Epaminondas' refusal to accept the terms excluded Thebes from the peace treaty and provided Agesilaus with the excuse to declare war. To the terms of the peace, the Athenians withdrew their garrisons from captured areas from the preceding hostilities. The Spartans did the same, with the exception of Cleombrotus' army in Phocis. Cleombrotus relayed a request for orders back to Sparta. At a meeting of the Spartan assembly to discuss the course of action, only one Spartan, named Prothous, was against war with Thebes. He prudently advocated that Cleombrotus' army be disbanded while they give the Thebans a chance to back down. His arguments were unanimously dismissed as nonsense by the Spartan assembly led by Agesilaus. Spartans sent an ultimatum demanding that Thebes grant autonomy to the other Boeotian poleis. Thebes reaffirmed Epaminondas' position at the peace conference, pointing out that Thebans have never interfered with Sparta and her Laconian cities, and thus Spartans had no right interfering with Boeotian affairs. Shortly thereafter the army of Cleombrotus was ordered to invade Boeotia.
The peace conference of 371 BC was attended by various delegates from different Greek city-states. The Spartans were represented by King Agesilaus II while the Thebans were represented by the boeotarch Epaminondas. During the negotiations, however, Agesilaus refused to allow the Thebans to represent all of Boeotia, maintaining that other Boeotian poleis should be treated independent of Thebes. Epaminondas insulted Agesilaus by replying that he will agree to let Boeotian poleis sign independent of Thebes if Agesilaus agrees to let the Laconian poleis sign independent of Sparta.[note 6]
Battle of Leuctra
By 371 BC, there was another attempt to revive the King's Peace to curb the rise of Thebes. It was initiated by either the Athenians or the Persians (perhaps at the prompting of the Spartans). The Spartans also sent a large force led by King Cleombrotus I (Spartans have two kings simultaneously) to Phocis, ready to invade Boeotia if the Thebans refuse to attend the peace conference or accept its terms.[note 5]
By this time, Thebes had also started attacking Phocian poleis allied to Sparta. Pelopidas is again mentioned as the commander of the abortive Theban siege of the Phocian city of Elateia (c. 372 BC). In response to the Theban army outside the city's walls, the Phocian general Onomarchus brought out all the inhabitants of the city (including the elderly, women, and children) and locked the gates. He then placed the non-combatants directly behind the defenders of Elateia. On seeing this, Pelopidas withdrew his forces, recognizing that the Phocians would fight to the death to protect their loved ones.
Shortly after this, the Athenians initiated the Common Peace of 375 BC (Κοινὴ Εἰρήνη, Koine Eirene) among Greek city-states. According to Xenophon, they were alarmed at the growing power of Thebes and weary of fending off Spartan fleets alone as the Thebans were not contributing any money to maintaining the Athenian fleet. However this broke down soon after in 374 BC, when Athens and Sparta resumed hostilities over Korkyra (modern Corfu). During this time period, Athens also gradually became hostile to Thebes. While Athens and Sparta were busy fighting each other, Thebes resumed her campaigns against the autonomous pro-Spartan Boeotian poleis. Thespiae and Tanagra were subjugated and formally became part of the reestablished democratic Boeotian confederacy. In 373 BC, Thebans under the command of the boeotarch Neocles attacked and razed its traditional rival, the Boeotian city of Plataea. The Plataean citizens were allowed to leave alive, but they were reduced to being refugees and sought sanctuary in Athens. Of the pro-Spartan Boeotian poleis, only Orchomenus remained.
For in all the great wars there had ever been against Greeks or barbarians, the Spartans were never before beaten by a smaller company than their own; nor, indeed, in a set battle, when their number was equal. Hence their courage was thought irresistible, and their high repute before the battle made a conquest already of enemies, who thought themselves no match for the men of Sparta even on equal terms. But this battle first taught the other Greeks, that not only Eurotas, or the country between Babyce and Cnacion,[note 4] breeds men of courage and resolution; but that where the youth are ashamed of baseness, and ready to venture in a good cause, where they fly disgrace more than danger, there, wherever it be, are found the bravest and most formidable opponents.— Plutarch, Pelopidas 17
The exact number of the belligerents on each side varies by account. Diodorus puts the number of Thebans at 500 against the Spartans' 1000 (each mora consisting of 500 men), apparently basing it on Ephorus' original figures. Plutarch puts the number of the Thebans at 300, and acknowledges three sources for the number of Spartans: 1000 by the account of Ephorus; 1,400 by Callisthenes (c. 360–328 BC); or 1,800 by Polybius (c. 200–118 BC). Some of these numbers may have been exaggerated due to the overall significance of the battle. The battle, while minor, was remarkable for being the first time a Spartan force had been defeated in pitched battle, dispelling the myth of Spartan invincibility. It left a deep impression in Greece and boosted the morale among Boeotians, foreshadowing the later Battle of Leuctra. In Plutarch's own words:
An account of the battle was mentioned both by Diodorus and Plutarch, both based heavily on the report by Ephorus. Xenophon conspicuously omits any mention of the Theban victory in his Hellenica, though this has traditionally been ascribed to Xenophon's strong anti-Theban and pro-Spartan sentiments. An obscure allusion to Orchomenus in Hellenica, however, implies that Xenophon was aware of the Spartan defeat.
 Having proven their worth, Pelopidas kept the Sacred Band as a separate tactical unit in all subsequent battles. (τρόπαιον, a commemorative trophy left at the site of a battle victory) before continuing on to Thebes.tropaion stationed in Orchomenus less than 5 km (3.1 mi) away. They stripped the dead and set up a mora The Thebans didn't pursue the fleeing survivors, mindful of the remaining Spartan  The Spartans were completely routed, with considerable loss of life. the Spartans.flank According to Plutarch, upon seeing the Spartans, one of Thebans allegedly told Pelopidas "We are fallen into our enemy's hands;" to which Pelopidas replied, "And why not they into ours?" He then ordered his cavalry to ride up from the rear and charge while he reformed the Sacred Band into an abnormally dense formation, hoping to at least cut through the numerically superior Spartan lines. The Spartans advanced, confident in their numbers, only to have their leaders killed immediately in the opening clashes. Leaderless and encountering forces equal in discipline and training for the first time in the Sacred Band, the Spartans faltered and opened their ranks, expecting the Thebans to pass through and escape. Instead, Pelopidas surprised them by using the opening to  They outnumbered the Thebans at least two to one.[note 3] The Spartans were composed of two
As a single unit under Pelopidas, the first recorded victory of the Sacred Band was at the Battle of Tegyra (375 BC). It occurred near the Boeotian city of Orchomenus, then still an ally of Sparta. Hearing reports that the Spartan garrison in Orchomenus had left for Locris, Pelopidas quickly set out with the Sacred Band and a few cavalry, hoping to capture it in their absence. They approached the city through the northeastern route since the waters of Lake Copais were at their fullest during that season. Upon reaching the city, they learned that a new mora had been sent from Sparta to reinforce Orchomenus. Unwilling to engage the new garrison, Pelopidas decided to retreat back to Thebes, retracing their northeastern route along Lake Copais. However, they only reached as far as the shrine of Apollo of Tegyra before encountering the returning Spartan forces from Locris.
Battle of Tegyra
Not long afterwards, Agesilaus mounted a second expedition against Thebes. After a series of skirmishes which he won with some difficulty, he was forced again to withdraw when the Theban army came out full force as he approached the city. Diodorus observes at this point that the Thebans thereafter faced the Spartans with confidence. Gorgidas disappears from history between 377 and 375, during which the command of the Sacred Band was apparently transferred to Pelopidas.[note 2]
 Nonetheless, at the death of Phoebidas, the Spartans sent a new  The account of Polyaenus is almost identical to that of Xenophon and Diodorus but claims instead that Phoebidas survived and implies that the initial Theban retreat was a deliberate ruse by Gorgidas. Xenophon claims that only a few of the Thespians were killed and that the maneuver of Gorgidas was out of necessity, not deliberate. There are three records of these engagements with Phoebidas and Gorgidas surviving today. Xenophon and Diodorus both say that Phoebidas died during Gorgidas' abrupt turn-around. Diodorus records that the Spartans and Thespians lost 500 men.
 His peltasts broke ranks and fled back to Thespiae pursued by Theban forces.. The harrying of the light infantry apparently proved too much for the Thebans and they started to retreat. Phoebidas, hoping for a rout, rashly pursed them closely. However, the Theban forces suddenly turned around and charged Phoebidas' forces. Phoebidas was killed by the Theban cavalry.peltasts Phoebidas engaged the advancing Theban army with his  Phoebidas, on his part, started making various raids into Theban territory using the Spartans under his command and Thespian  The Thebans under Gorgidas slaughtered 200 men that Agesilaus left near Thespiae as an outpost (προφυλακή). He also made several attacks on Thespian territory, though these accomplished little.
Shortly after the stand-off in Thebes, Agesilaus disbanded his army in Thespiae and returned to Peloponnesos through Megara. He left the Spartan general Phoebidas as his harmost (ἁρμοστής, a military governor) at Thespiae. Phoebidas was the same general responsible for the unauthorized seizure of the citadel of Cadmea in 382 BC, in violation of the Peace of Antalcidas in place then. Agesilaus previously refused to punish Phoebidas (though he was fined), which have led some modern historians to believe that Phoebidas' earlier actions were under the direct command of the king.
The audacity of the maneuver and the discipline of the execution was such that Agesilaus halted the advance. Seeing that his attempts to provoke the Theban and Athenian forces to fight on lower ground were unsuccessful, Agesilaus eventually thought it wiser to withdraw his forces back to Thespiae. Xenophon and Diodorus both mention that Agesilaus nevertheless boasted of being the "unchallenged champion", claiming it was a Spartan victory since his enemies declined to accept his invitation to battle. Diodorus notes, however, that this was merely to mollify his followers who were discouraged at their king's failure to engage a smaller force. Chabrias, in contrast, was being praised for his novel strategy and was seen as a savior by the Thebans.
 Instead, Chabrias ordered his men to  It was during this time that Chabrias gave his most famous command. With scarcely 200 m (660 ft) separating the two armies, Agesilaus was expecting the Theban and Athenian forces to charge at any moment.
Agesilaus first sent out skirmishers to test the combined Theban and Athenian lines. These were easily dispatched by the Theban and Athenian forces, probably by their more numerous cavalry. Agesilaus then commanded the entire Spartan army to advance. He may have hoped that the sight of the massed Spartan forces resolutely moving forward would be enough to intimidate the Theban and Athenian forces into breaking ranks. The same tactic had worked for Agesilaus against Argive forces in the Battle of Coronea (394 BC).
 The Spartan forces were held up for several days by Theban forces manning the earthen
The Sacred Band first saw action in 378 BC, at the beginning of the Thespiae (then still allied to Sparta). His force consisted of 1,500 cavalry and 28,000 infantry. At least 20,000 of the infantry were hoplites, while 500 were of the elite band of Sciritae (Σκιρῖται) light infantry vanguard. Learning of the impending invasion, Athens quickly came to the aid of Thebes by sending a force of about 200 cavalry and 5,000 men (both citizen and mercenary, including hoplites and peltasts) under the command of the Athenian strategos Demeas and mercenary commander Chabrias.
Invasions of Agesilaus II
According to Plutarch, Gorgidas originally distributed the members of the Sacred Band among the front ranks of the phalanxes of regular infantry. In 375 BC, the command of the band was transferred to the younger boeotarch Pelopidas, one of the original Theban exiles who had led the forces who recaptured Cadmea. Under Pelopidas, the Sacred Band was united as a single unit of shock troops. Their main function was to cripple the enemy by engaging and killing their best men and leaders in battle.
The Sacred Band was stationed in Cadmea as a standing force, likely as defense against future attempts by foreign forces to take the citadel. It was occasionally referred to as the "City Band" (ἐκ πόλεως λόχος), due to their military training and housing being provided at the expense of the hipparch (cavalry officer), therefore equestrian training was also likely provided. The exact ages of the unit's members are not recorded in ancient testimonies. However, comparing them with the Spartan elite unit Hippeis (ἱππεῖς)[note 1] and the Athenian epheboi (ἔφηβοι) recruits, DeVoto estimates that trainees were inducted as full members to the Sacred Band at the ages of 20 to 21, whereupon they were given a full set of armor by their erastai. They likely ended their service at age 30.
According to Plutarch, the 300 hand-picked men were chosen by Gorgidas purely for ability and merit, regardless of social class. It was composed of 150 male couples, each pair consisting of an older erastês (ἐραστής, "lover") and a younger erômenos (ἐρώμενος, "beloved"). Athenaeus of Naucratis also records the Sacred Band as being composed of "lovers and their favorites, thus indicating the dignity of the god Eros in that they embrace a glorious death in preference to a dishonorable and reprehensible life"; while Polyaenus describes the Sacred Band as being composed of men "devoted to each other by mutual obligations of love". The origin of the "sacred" appellation of the Sacred Band is unexplained by Dinarchus and other historians. But Plutarch claims that it was due to an exchange of sacred vows between lover and beloved at the shrine of Iolaus (one of the lovers of Hercules) at Thebes. He also tangentially mentions Plato's characterization of the lover as a "friend inspired of God".
 disapprovingly mentions the practice of placing lovers beside each other in battle in the city-states of Thebes and Symposium first. Xenophon's Socrates in his Symposium In the old debate surrounding Xenophon's and Plato's works, the Sacred Band has figured prominently as a possible way of dating which of the two wrote their version of
 The exact date of the Sacred Band's creation and whether it was created before or after the