Monday, September 27, 2010

September Q & A: Epaminondas

Rich, never one to shy away from asking the tough questions, gives us quite the poser with, “What would've happened if Epaminondas was defeated at Leuctra and 371BC? What are the implications for Sparta, Thebes, Phillip and, ultimately, Alexander?"

It appears as though Wikipedia is once again going to get a workout, as I figure out what the hell this question is asking. It’s a good thing September is ending soon, because I really do not want to answer any more of these mad questions of ancient Europe. Regardless, Epaminondas, or E Unit as I like to call him, was a Theban general (or Boeotarch) who, in 371 BC, pretty much torpedoed a Greek peace process, and then led the Theban armies to a decisive victory over Sparta, effectively ending Spartan dominance over Greece, and leading to a brief period of Theban dominance that led to a great deal more warfare.

Of course, we’re now dealing with a mad alternate world in which he lost the Battle of Leuctra, presumably dying in the process because that’s how the ancient Greeks rolled. The main thing that would change would be in how Sparta would have retained its hegemony over the rest of Greece for some time longer, while Thebes would have remained a vassal state, unloved and forgotten.

I doubt there would have been a very drastic difference for the Macedonian contingent, as if anything, they would likely have crushed the Greek armies even more easily without E Unit having helped to revolutionize the way Greek armies fought. One of the reasons the Spartan armies lost the Battle of Leuctra in Earth-1 was because they held fast to outdated fighting tactics, and so lost to an inferior force that nonetheless had a much more intuitive fighting style. On Earth-2, without that happening, the Spartans (and Greeks in general) would have had no real impetus to change their fighting style, and so would have been left even further behind the Macedonian armies when Philip came a’calling.

Of course, on Earth-2, the Greek armies would have one advantage: it doesn’t really matter who wins or loses on their world, as that world has a very definite expiration date. No, it may not arrive when Sparta reigns supreme over Greece, or when Macedonia rules over it, or when the Roman Empire is in charge, but one day the Anti-Monitor is going to show up and eat the whole damn universe, and there is nothing Philip or Alexander or E Unit or all three in a united effort can do about it. Under such circumstances, would it really matter one bit whether the Greeks won or lost?

Sure, sure, I know there are those out there that would try to argue that everything matters, that God has a plan for us all, and we are just spitting in his face if we don’t live our lives to the end the way he wants us too. Well, boys and girls, I’m here to tell you that that’s a load of crap. Would a truly loving God put us all in this world, only to then allow the Anti-Monitor to erase all of existence, rendering all of our hopes and dreams, our achievements and accomplishments, thoroughly meaningless? Of course not. The Anti-Monitor’s existence is proof in the falsity of religion. All that we are is a grand cosmic mistake, brought into our hellish existence by the cruelties of random chance, and torn out of existence just as harshly. We are all doomed to misery before vanishing into the void as if we had never been at all. That is our only promise for the future.

When faced with such a gloomy reality then, does it truly matter whether or not Epaminondas was defeated at Leuctra or not?

1 comment:

katsucurrys14 said...

Again, a well researched answer Zach. I am ever impressed not only by your Wikipedia researching skills, but moreso by the fact that you bother at all, having so little interest in the subject at all. Kudos to you for that!

There is one link that may be missing here. Phillip II spent a stint in the court of Thebes as a Macedonina hostage. It is conjectured, therefore, that it was from Epaminondas' hoplite innovations that Phillip got the inspiration to develop the pike-based Pezhetairoi sarissa syntagmas, which he (and subsequently, Alexander) would use to such great effect.

So without Epaminondas, Thebes would never have become a Greek power, Phillip would likely not have been a hostage at the Theban court, and as a result, Phillip may have enver introduced the infantry reforms that would enable him to dominate Greece, which was the springboard for Alexander's Persian campaign.

I also do not quite think the Spartan mode of fighting was outdated. Epaminondas in fact used the same tactic the Spartans had been using. Except, instead of stacking one wing with higher quality men, as the Spartans had been doing for decades if not a century by then, he stacked it with alot more of them, since the Theban stock were of inferior quality.

The Spartans were indeed stuck in the past - not militarily, but rather, politically and socially. A healthy state would have been able to absorb a loss of 400 men quite easily. But 4th century Sparta was not a healthy state; 400 men was probably 1/4 - 1/3 of the citizen population. Quite amazing to think that a population of about 1000 families held hegemony over all of Greece at all, even if it was only for a short period of time.