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I have lived long enough, for I die unconquered.
— Empaminondas's last words

Epaminondas was a Theban general and statesman of the 4th century BC who transformed the ancient city-state of Thebes, leading it out of Spartan subjugation to a preeminent position of Greek politics. In the process he broke Spartan military power with his victory at Leuctra and liberated the Messenian helots, a group of Peloponnesian Greeks who had been enslaved under Spartan rule for over 230 years, having been defeated in the Messenian War, ending in 600 BC. Epaminondas reshaped the political map of Greece, fragmenting old alliances, created new ones, and supervised the construction of entire cities.

While pressing forward with the troops at Mantinea, Epaminondas was hit in the chest by a spear. Cornelius Nepos suggests the Spartans were deliberately aiming at Epaminondas in the hope of killing him and thereby demoralizing the Thebans. The enemy who struck the killing blow was variously identified as Anticrates, Machaerion, or Gryllus, son of Xenophon.

The spear broke, leaving the iron point in his body, and Epaminondas collapsed. The Thebans around him fought desperately to stop the Spartans taking possession of his body. The Thebans were able to recover Epaminodas but were too late to save his life. When he was told that the Boeotians had won. When the spear point was withdrawn, Epaminondas quickly expired. In accordance with Greek custom, he was buried on the battlefield.

The Roman orator Cicero called him "the First Man of Greece", and Montaigne judged him one of the three "worthiest and excellent men " that ever lived, but Epaminondas had fallen into relative obscurity in modern times. The changes Epaminondas wrought on the Greek political order did not long outlive him, and the cycle of shifting hegemonies and alliances continued unabated. A mere twenty-seven years after his death, a recalcitrate Thebes was obliterated by Alexander the Great. Thus Epaminondas--who had been praised at his time as an idealist and a liberator--is today largely remembered for a decade of campaigning that sapped the strength of the great land powers of Greece and paved the way for Macedonian conquest.

Battle vs. Leonidas I (by Impaler5150)[]

Epaminondas and Leonidas I of Sparta each lead their men onto the Dancing Floor of Greek War. 5 men on each side join their commanders in the engagement as the other warriors battle on in the background. Leonidas' right hand man kills a Theban with his aspis shield, bludgeoning him to death (4-5). Another Theban comes and kills the Spartan with his Shield in retaliation (4-4). The Spartan spears the Theban spearman through the neck, killing him (3-4). Epaminondas kills a Spartan with the dead spearman's spear (3-3). Leonidas hurls his dory spear, impaling Epaminondas' right hand man (2-3). a Theban tosses a javelin, killing a Spartan (2-2). Epaminondas kills a Spartan with the shield blow, then a thrust of the makhaira sword (2-1). Leonidas then clashes with a Theban. After some swordsmanship, Leonidas kills the Theban with the xiphos to the face (1-1). Epaminondas and Leonidas I of Sparta finally face off. Both men giving all they gave. Leonidas knocks over Epaminondas with his shield. Thinking he's dead, Leonidas roars in victory. But, as he does so, Epaminondas stabs Leonidas through the groin. With Leonidas down on one knee, he begs Epaminondas to die a Spartan death, just to go ahead and finish him off. Epaminondas slashes his throat, killing him (1-0). The war now over, Epaminondas shouts in victory, then bows on one knee in respect to his fellow Greek comrade.

Expert's Opinion[]

Epaminondas and Leonidas I of Sparta were even in weaponry and armor, but Epaminondas wins due to better leadership and experience on the battlefield.

To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.