The Great Patriot
by Jeff Jonas

"I have lived long enough," he then said, "for I die unconquered."

 

Epaminondas (ca 418-362 BC)  was the greatest general and statesmen of Thebes. He was reputed as being a descendent of the Spartoi, the men born of the Dragon's teeth during the mythological foundation of Thebes. His family was noble but not wealthy. Epaminondas grew up to be a well educated and also a physically fit soldier who kept to his modest ways throughout his life


In 371 his critical moment in history began when he was sent as an envoy to Sparta to ratify the peace of Antalcidas. Epaminondas refused the Spartan terms and war was imminent.  Both he and Pelopidas (his longtime friend and associate in the Theban Sacred Band), had developed ideas on how to defeat the unbeaten Spartan army. A number of victories in skirmishes gave them confidence. The Spartan King Cleombrotus invaded Boeotia with a force of 11,000 or more hoplites and supporting light troops and cavalry. Epaminondas faced this army at Leuctra in 371 (BC) with a smaller force of up to 7000 men. Many of Epaminondas' troops were not particularly motivated to fight the Spartans. Luckily for the Boeotians, the Spartan allies were equally unenthusiastic.

When the armies faced off the Spartans were a bit overconfident and formed up late after much drinking at the midday meal, after all they had not been bested by a hoplite army in the open field in memory, and they outnumbered the enemy.  Epaminondas formed up his Theban phalanx and massed them up to fifty men deep and arrayed them on the left of the line opposite the Spartans, with his Boeotian allies in escelon to the rear.

Theban Cavalry and light troops deployed in front and opened up the action by throwing back the mediocre Spartan cavalry. The Spartan alliance advanced in a crescent formation. Dust clouds from the cavalry action may have isolated the action as the Theban phalanx hit the Spartans square on. The Spartans fought hard but the mass of the Theban phalanx wore them down. The left wing allies of the Spartans hung back and seemed to be out of touch with the Spartans as they drifted to the right. At some point the Theban Sacred Band charged, and in a fierce melee Cleombrotus was mortlaly wounded. The Spartans counterattacked and recaptured his body but they were isolated and knew they were beaten. To everyon;es shock they suddenly bolted back to their camp. When the Spartans fled their allies lost interest and ran too.  Spartan officers tried to rally their men in camp and counterattack but they hesitated and asked for a truce to care for their dead.

At the end of the day they had left 1000 Spartans dead on the field, at least 400 from the dwindling elite Spartiate class. Epaminondas allowed them to carry off their dead only after the allies had taken theirs, as Spartans often tried to hide their losses from the enemy. Three hundred Boeotians died.

Epaminondas followed up this smashing tactical victory with an overwhelming invasion of Sparta. This massive assault  freed the Messenian helots, and established garrisons at key cities in Arcadia and Messenia to hold back Spartan aggression. The defeat at Leuctra was the beginning of the end for Sparta and forever changed the power balance in Greece.

Epaminondas was killed nine years later at Mantinea (362) when the Spartans tried to beat the Theban alliance by allying with Athens.
Epaminondas once again defeated the Spartans, but was mortally wounded and died on the field. Xenophon, the Athenain historian stated that the battle of Mantinea decided nothing, but he did not foresee that a Boeotia without Epaminondas would allow the Rise of Macedon a few years later.

Epaminondas was a symbol of great patriotism and sacrifice and like the Roman Cincinnatus never gained reward from his position or victories. He never married and the Macedonians under Philip II were the main inheritors of his genius. Ironically the Macedonians under Alexander the Great sacked Thebes and Boeotian troops enraged by Theban outrages burned the city to the ground.

 

"I cannot want for posterity. For I leave behind me a daughter,---the victory of Leuctra, that must of necessity not merely survive me, but be immortal!"

 

Epaminondas in 28mm

     

 

Modeling Epaminondas in 28mm is a challenge as there isn't really a model available that captures the look and feel I wanted. I finally decided on a head swap between a Newline Designs 28mm Hoplite officer with Corinthian style helm  and a SkyRaider (formerly Corvus)  Macedonian cavalryman's Boeotian helmeted head.

The process is very simple, the heads are lopped off with wire cutters, making sure there is enough neck on the head model and the shoulder is flush and flat ready to build a new neck. Then the two pieces are cleaned up and groove drilled for the neck. A pin hole was drilled and the pieces glued together after inserting a wire pin to keep the bond strong. A little filling with gesso cleaned up the joints. I also wanted to add a beard, so I built that up with gesso as well. A few cut ins with the blade made a nice bearded look.

Painting was straightforward. The white primed figure was painted mostly with craft paints using similar techniques as the Mercenary Hoplites at:

../../merc_hoplites/merc_greeks.htm

 

I chose to roughly follow the color  scheme presented by Angus McBride in Nick Sekunda's Osprey Elite on the Ancient Greeks. Here a dying Boeotian general is shown with a white tunic and a maroon cloak. His silvered helmet is the only thing striking about him that would set him off from a regular soldier. My figure has armor since I want him to survive at least a round or two of combat in WAB! Life at the head of a phalanx is short enough in WAB, let alone going in unarmored. The sword is rather straight on the original model, I tapered it with my jeweler's file to give it the leaf blade shape I prefer.
The magnetic base is from Fox bases, I liked them but they are more than 20mm in size so I trimmed it to fit, this was a disappointment.

Epaminondas' austerity demanded that I would not adorn his cloak, armor, or shield with intricate ornamentation. At first I wished to decorate the shield with serpent that Cadmus killed and stacks of rocks that he used to fend off the Spartoi that grew from the serpent's teeth. But the design overpowered the figure too much so I decided that Epaminondas should sport the typical shield symbol of Thebes, the club of Herakles.

  The finished model is ready to take the lead of the Sacred Band or the massed Theban phalanx and be ready to "Go and take   it" from the Spartan automatons.

 

 

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Copyright 2006 Jeff Jonas

01/20/07