Alexander's Campaign > Siege of Thebes

Siege of Thebes

Alexander the Great - Dove Decoration

Background

Despite this moral defeat, the Theban assembly met and decided upon war with Alexander with great enthusiasm.[1] However, Alexander had an overwhelming number of experienced troops at the gates of the city at this time. He was by no means eager to destroy the city. He approached the city very slowly and initially encamped far from the city, hoping to awaken the city to its dangerous situation.[1][4] He also issued to it relatively lenient terms. The condition was; Phoenix and Prothytes - men at the center of the insurrection - were to be surrendered to him at once. Beyond this, he promised to harm no one. However, the Thebans replied that he should surrender Antipater and Philotas to them.[4] This request was not accepted.

The Cadmae in Thebes - commanded by Philotas - had fortified itself as best it might against the Thebans outside in the city itself. The Thebans, in their turn, had put a series of works around the citadel in order to ensure that sorties could not be easily made by this garrison. They built these in addition to the works they had constructed outside of the city itself.

It took Alexander three days to get everything ready for the general assault that was about to take place against the city.[1] When things were finally ready, Alexander divided his force into three parts. The first part of the force he ordered to attack the palisades that were around the city itself. The second to form in line of battle and face the Theban infantry. The third part being a reserve, that was to plug up any holes and to press up any advantages that the Macedonians gained in the course of the siege.

The Thebans planned their defense in the following manner. They emancipated their slaves and faced them towards that part of the Macedonian force which drove towards the wall itself. The Theban cavalry was placed within the palisades themselves. The Thebans made everything ready to fight to the last man, and put their women and children in the city temples.[1] They were aware that there was to be no quarter.

Once the siege began, the Thebans fought desperately, fearing for their homes, wives and children. The battle went on for some time, and it was in doubt. However, Alexander sent in his reserves and the situation started to improve. Despite the Theban's valiant struggle, however, Alexander noticed that a unit of their guard had abandoned one of the gates. It is here that he sent Perdiccas troops to enter and penetrate into the city itself.[1] At this point, realizing that the fight for the city walls was a lost cause, the Thebans retreated and began their final battle within the city itself. It was around this time that Philotas and his garrison broke out of the citadel and began fighting in the battle as well.

Sources

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