Battle of Leuctra

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Battle of Leuctra
ConflictPost-Peloponnesian War conflicts
Date371 BC
PlaceBoeotia
ResultTheban victory
Combatants
Thebes Sparta
Commanders
Epaminondas Cleombrotus I
Strength
About 6000 About 10 000
Casualties
Unknown About 2000

Leuctra was a village of Boeotia in the territory of Thespiae, chiefly noticeable for the battle fought in its neighborhood in 371 BC between the Thebans and the Spartans and their allies.

A Peloponnesian army, about 10,000-11,000 strong, which had invaded Boeotia from Phocis, was here confronted by a Boeotian levy of perhaps 6000-7,000 soldiers under Epaminondas. In spite of inferior numbers and the doubtful loyalty of his Boeotian allies, Epaminondas offered battle on the plain before the town.

The battle opened with the Spartan's mercenary peltasts attacking and driving back the Boeotian camp followers and others who were reluctant to fight. There followed a cavalry engagement, in which the Thebans drove their enemies off the field. Initially, the Spartan infantry were sent into disarray when their retreating cavalry hopelessly disrupted Cleombrotus's attempt to outflank the Theban phalanx, and were themselves caught on their flank by Pelopidas and the Sacred Band of Thebes. The decisive issue was then fought out between the Theban and Spartan foot.

The normal practice of the Spartans (and, indeed, the Greeks generally) was to establish their heavily armed infantry in a solid mass, or phalanx, some eight to 12 men deep. The infantry would advance together so that the attack flowed unbroken against their enemy. Traditionally, the most highly regarded of the Spartan footsoldiers were placed in the right wing of the phalanx.

In contrast, Epaminondas had massed his cavalry and a 50-deep column of Theban infantry on his left wing, and sent forward this body against the Spartan right. His shallower and weaker centre and right wing columns were drawn up so that they were progressively further to the right and rear of the proceeding column, the so-called oblique formation.

The infantry footsoldiers engaged, and the Spartans' 12-deep formation on their right wing could not sustain the heavy impact of their opponents' 50-deep column. The Spartan right was hurled back with a loss of about 1,000 men, of whom 400 were Spartan citizens, including the king Cleombrotus I.

By the time the Theban centre and right columns advanced to the point of engaging the enemy, the Spartan right had been devastated. Seeing their right wing beaten, the rest of the Peloponnesians, who were unwilling participants, retired and left the enemy in possession of the field. The arrival of a Thessalian army under Jason of Pherae persuaded a relieving Spartan force under Archidamus not to heap folly on folly and to withdraw instead, while the Thebans were persuaded not to continue the attack on the surviving Spartans.

The battle is of great significance in Greek history. It marks a revolution in military tactics, affording the first known instance of an oblique infantry deployment and a deliberate concentration of attack upon the vital point of the enemy's line. Its political effects were equally far-reaching: The losses in material strength and prestige sustained by the Spartans here and subsequently at the Battle of Mantineia were key in depriving them forever of their supremacy in Greece.de:Schlacht bei Leuktra ja:レウクトラの戦い pl:Bitwa pod Leuktrami

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