The Second Battle of Mantinea was fought on July 4, 362 between the
Thebans, led by Epaminondas and supported by the Arcadians and the Boeotian
league against the Spartans, led by King Agesilaus II and supported by the
Eleans, Athenians, and Mantineans.
Thebes, Arcadia, Boeotian League versus Sparta, Athens, Elis, Mantinea League
Commanders and leaders:
Thebes - Epaminondas
Sparta - Agesilaus II
The battle was to determine which of the two alliances would have hegemony over
Greece. However, the death of Epaminondas and his intended successors coupled
with the impact on the Spartans of yet another defeat weakened both alliances,
and paved the way for Macedonian conquest led by Philip II of Macedon.
After the Battle of
Leuctra in 371 had shattered the foundations of Spartan hegemony, Thebes'
chief politician and general Epaminondas attempted to build a new hegemony
centered on his city. Consequently, the Thebans had marched south, into the
area traditionally dominated by the Spartans, and set up the Arcadian League, a
federation of city-states of the central Peloponnesian plateau, to contain
Spartan influence in the Peloponnese and thereby maintain overall Theban
In years prior to the Battle of Mantinea, the Spartans had joined with the
Eleans (a minor Peloponnesian people with a territorial grudge against the
Arcadians) in an effort to undermine the League. When the Arcadians
miscalculated and seized the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia in Elis,
one of the Arcadian city-states, Mantinea, detached itself from the League. The
Spartans and Eleans joined the Mantineans in a military attack on the Arcadian
League. Athens decided to support the Spartans, as she resented the growing
Theban power. The Athenians also recalled that at the end of Peloponnesian War,
the Thebans had demanded that Athens be destroyed and its inhabitants enslaved;
the Spartans had resisted these demands.
An Athenian army was sent by sea to join the Spartan-led forces, in order to
avoid being intercepted on land by Theban forces. Epaminondas then led a Theban
army into the Peloponnese to restore order and re-establish Theban/Arcadian
Battle of Mantineia:
The two armies met near Mantinea in 362. The Spartans, Athenians, Eleans and
Mantineans were led by the Spartan king, Agesilaus II, who was assisted by
Podares of Mantinea and Cephisodorus of Marathon, the commander of the Athenian
The Theban army also included contingents from city-states of the pro-Theban
Boeotian League. Epaminondas' Thebans were assisted by the Arcadians loyal to
the League, principally those from the city-states of Megalopolis (founded by
the Thebans when they were last in the Peloponnese, as the Arcadian federal
capital) and Tegea (the traditional leading city-state of the Arcadians).
Though both generals were highly competent, Epaminondas prevailed at Mantinea.
Using a modified version of the tactics he had successfully pioneered at
Leuctra, he organised the Boeotian troops on the left wing of his army into an
unusually deep column of hoplites. This formation of troops, in conjunction
with the echelon, sought to establish local superiority of numbers while
delaying the battle on the weaker center and right side. This tactic allowed
the large, dense section of the line to force its way through the thinner
classical phalanx. Epaminondas personally led this column from the front line.
Xenophon (Hellenika 7.5.23) described the left wing of that Theban army as
"like a trireme, with the spur of the prow out in front."
The Theban cavalry and light infantry drove off the enemy cavalry. The Theban
hoplites marched in a column across the face of the enemy line, then performed
a smart wheel and crashed into the enemy right, where the Mantineans were
positioned. The Mantinean leader Podares offered heroic resistance, but when he
was killed the Mantinean hoplites fled the field. However, in the thick of the
fighting, Epaminondas was mortally wounded when facing the Spartan phalanx by a
man variously identified as Anticrates, Machaerion, or Gryllus, son of
Xenophon. The Theban leaders Iolaidas and Daiphantus, whom he intended to
succeed him, were also killed.
On his deathbed, Epaminondas, upon hearing of the deaths of his fellow leaders,
instructed the Thebans to make peace, despite having won the battle. Without
his leadership, Theban hopes for hegemony faded. The Spartans, however, having
again been defeated in battle, were unable to replace their losses. The
ultimate result of the battle was to pave the way for the Macedonian rise as
the leading force who subjugated the rest of Greece, by exploiting the weakness
of both the Thebans and the Spartans.