Laws are like spider-webs which, if anything small falls into them they ensnare it, but large things break through and escape. — Solon of Athens

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber

The Battle of Mantinea

When Epaminondas heard that his friend Pelopidas was dead, he grieved sorely; but nevertheless, knowing that his country had need of him, he vigorously continued his preparations to meet and conquer the Spartan army.

The battle promised to be hard fought; for while Epaminondas, the victor of Leuctra, led the Thebans, Agesilaus, the hero of countless battles, was again at the head of the Spartan army. The Thebans pressed forward so eagerly, however, that the two armies met at Mantinea, in the central part of the Peloponnesus.

In spite of Agesilaus' courage and experience, and the well-known discipline of the Spartan troops, the Thebans again won a splendid victory over their foes. Their joy, however, was turned to mourning when they heard that Epaminondas had been mortally wounded just as the battle was drawing to an end.

A spear had pierced his breast; and as he sank to the ground, some of his followers caught him, bore him away tenderly in their arms, and carefully laid him down under a tree on a neighboring hillside. As soon as he opened his eyes, he eagerly asked how the army was getting along.

Gently raising him so that he could see the battlefield, his friends pointed out the Spartan army in full flight, and the Thebans masters of the field. Epaminondas sank back with a sigh of relief, but soon roused himself again to ask whether his shield were safe.

It was only when he had seen it that he would allow the doctors to examine his wound. They found the head of a barbed spear sunk deep into his breast, and said that it must be pulled out. Still they hesitated to draw it out, for they feared that the rush of blood would kill him.

Epaminondas, therefore, bade them leave it alone, although he was suffering greatly; and then he called for his assistant generals, to give them a few important orders. The friends standing around him sadly told him that both had fallen in the battle, and could no longer execute his commands. When Epaminondas heard this unwelcome news, he realized that there was no one left who could replace him, and maintain the Theban supremacy: so he advised his fellow-countrymen to seize the favorable opportunity to make peace with the Spartans.

When he had thus done all in his power to provide for the future welfare of his native city, Epaminondas drew out the spear from his wound with his own hand, for he saw that his friends were afraid to touch it.

As the doctors had foreseen, there was a great rush of blood, and they soon saw that Epaminondas had only a few minutes to live. His friends wept over him, and one of them openly expressed his regret that Epaminondas left no children.

These words were heard by the dying hero, who opened his eyes once more, and gently said, "Leuctra and Mantinea are daughters enough to keep my name alive!"

This saying has proved true; for these two great victories are put down in every Greek history, and are never spoken of except in connection with the noble general who won them in behalf of his country, and died on the field when the last victory was secured.

In memory of Epaminondas, their greatest citizen and general, the Thebans erected a monument on the battlefield, and engraved his name upon it, with an image of the dragon from whose teeth his ancestors had sprung.

The Thebans, remembering his dying wish, then proposed a peace, which was gladly accepted by all the Greek states, for they were exhausted by the almost constant warfare they had kept up during many years.


Front Matter

Early Inhabitants of Greece
The Deluge of Ogyges
Founding of Important Cities
Story of Deucalion
Daedalus and Icarus
The Adventures of Jason
Theseus Visits the Labyrinth
The Terrible Prophecy
The Sphinx's Riddle
Death of Oedipus
The Brothers' Quarrel
The Taking of Thebes
The Childhood of Paris
Muster of the Troops
Sacrifice of Iphigenia
The Wrath of Achilles
Death of Hector and Achilles
The Burning of Troy
Heroic Death of Codrus
The Blind Poet
The Rise of Sparta
The Spartan Training
The Brave Spartan Boy
Public Tables in Sparta
Laws of Lycurgus
The Messenian War
The Music of Tyrtaeus
Aristomenes' Escape
The Olympic Games
Milo of Croton
The Jealous Athlete
The Girls' Games
The Bloody Laws of Draco
The Laws of Solon
The First Plays
The Tyrant Pisistratus
The Tyrant's Insult
Death of the Conspirators
Hippias Driven out of Athens
The Great King
Hippias Visits Darius
Destruction of the Persian Host
Advance of the Second Host
The Battle of Marathon
Miltiades' Disgrace
Aristides the Just
Two Noble Spartan Youths
The Great Army
Preparations for Defense
Leonidas at Thermopylae
Death of Leonidas
The Burning of Athens
Battles of Salamis and Plataea
The Rebuilding of Athens
Death of Pausanias
Cimon Improves Athens
The Earthquake
The Age of Pericles
Teachings of Anaxagoras
Peloponnesian War Begins
Death of Pericles
The Philosopher Socrates
Socrates' Favorite Pupil
Youth of Alcibiades
Greek Colonies in Italy
Alcibiades in Disgrace
Death of Alcibiades
Overthrow of Thirty Tyrants
Accusation of Socrates
Death of Socrates
The Defeat of Cyrus
Retreat of the Ten Thousand
Agesilaus in Asia
A Strange Interview
The Peace of Antalcidas
The Theban Friends
Thebes Free Once More
The Battle of Leuctra
Death of Pelopidas
The Battle of Mantinea
The Tyrant of Syracuse
Damon and Pythias
The Sword of Damocles
Dion and Dionysius
Civil War in Syracuse
Death of Dion
Philip of Macedon
Philip Begins His Conquests
The Orator Demosthenes
Philip Masters Greece
Birth of Alexander
The Steed Bucephalus
Alexander as King
Alexander and Diogenes
Alexander's Beginning
The Gordian Knot
Alexander's Royal Captives
Alexander at Jerusalem
The African Desert
Death of Darius
Defeat of Porus
Return to Babylon
Death of Alexander
Division of the Realm
Death of Demosthenes
Last of the Athenians
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Battle of Ipsus
Demetrius and the Athenians
The Achaean League
Division in Sparta
Death of Agis
War of the Two Leagues
The Last of the Greeks
Greece a Roman Province