Settlements > Thebes (Greece)
Thebes renewed rivalry with Athens, who had joined with them in 395 BC in fear of Sparta, but since 387 BC had endeavored to maintain the balance of power against its ally, prevented the formation of a Theban empire. With the death of Epaminondas at the Battle of Mantinea (362 BC), the city sank again to the position of a secondary power.
In the Third Sacred War (356—346 BC) with its neighbor Phocis, Thebes lost its predominance in central Greece. By asking Philip II of Macedon to crush the Phocians, Thebes extended the former's power within dangerous proximity to its frontiers. The revulsion of popular feeling in Thebes was expressed in 338 BC by the orator Demosthenes, who persuaded Thebes to join Athens in a final attempt to bar Philip's advance on Attica. The Theban contingent lost the decisive battle of Chaeronea and along with it every hope of reassuming control over Greece.
Philip was content to deprive Thebes of its dominion over Boeotia; but an unsuccessful revolt in 335 BC against his son Alexander the Great while he was campaigning in the north was punished by Alexander and his Greek allies with the destruction of the city, except, according to tradition, the house of the poet Pindar and the temples, its territory divided between the other Boeotian cities. Moreover, the Thebans themselves were sold into slavery.
Alexander spared only priests, leaders of the pro-Macedonian party and descendants of Pindar. The end of Thebes cowed Athens into submission. According to Plutarch, a special Athenian embassy, led by Phocion, an opponent of the anti-Macedonian faction, was able to persuade Alexander to give up his demands for the exile of leaders of the anti-Macedonian party, and most particularly Demosthenes and not sell the people into slavery.
Ancient writings tend to treat Alexander's destruction of Thebes as excessive. Although Thebes had traditionally been antagonistic to whichever state led the Greek world, siding with the Persians when they invaded against the Athenian-Spartan alliance, siding with Sparta when Athens seemed omnipotent, and famously derailing the Spartan invasion of Persia by Agesilaus. Alexander's father Philip had been raised in Thebes, albeit as a hostage, and had learnt much of the art of war from Pelopidas. Philip had honoured this fact, always seeking alliances with the Boeotians, even in the lead-up to Chaeronea. Thebes was also revered as the most ancient of Greek cities, with a history of over 1,000 years. Plutarch relates that, during his later conquests, whenever Alexander came across a former Theban, he would attempt to redress his destruction of Thebes with favours to that individual.
Following Alexander the Great's death in 323 BC, Thebes was re-established in 315 BC by Alexander's successor, Cassander. In restoring Thebes, Cassander sought to rectify the perceived wrongs of Alexander - a gesture of generosity that earned Cassander much goodwill throughout Greece. In addition to currying favor with the Athenians and many of the Peloponnesian states, Cassander's restoration of Thebes provided him with loyal allies in the Theban exiles who returned to resettle the site.
Cassander's plan for rebuilding Thebes called for the various Greek city-states to provide skilled labor and manpower, and ultimately it proved successful. The Athenians, for example, rebuilt much of Thebes' wall. Major contributions were sent from Megalopolis, Messene, and as far away as Sicily and Italy. Despite the restoration, Thebes never regained its former prominence. The death of Cassander in 297 BC created a power vacuum throughout much of Greece, which contributed, in part, to Thebes' besiegement by Demetrius Poliorcetes in 293 BC, and again after a revolt in 292 BC. This last siege was difficult and Demetrios was wounded, but finally he managed to break down the walls and to take the city once more, treating it mildly despite its fierce resistance. The city recovered its autonomy from Demetrios in 287 BC, and became allied with Lysimachus and the Aetolian League.