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Five The Defense of Attica, 378-375 B.C.
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Second Thoughts

The events of Kleombrotos' winter campaign and its immediate after-math were of great significance to the course of the war to follow. All sources agree that, before his march, Athenian officers and men had been willing to volunteer their support to Thebes, and there is no reason


to doubt those sources that report that this unofficial voluntary aid was immediately followed by a public decree of direct military support. The diplomatic basis for this action can only have been an assertion on the part of the Athenians that they were enforcing the King's Peace by guaranteeing the autonomy of Thebes. They were, to use the words formally inscribed by the Athenians just a year later, taking action "so that the Lakedaimonians would allow the Greeks to be free and autonomous, to live in peace, possessing their own land in security." This action could not have been undertaken in a state of naive optimism, for in view of Sparta's recent history of intervention at Olynthos, at Phleious, and at Thebes itself, the Athenians, like the Thebans, surely foresaw a strong Spartan military response. But they thought that they had an answer to this. Through their speedy and massive support of the Theban uprising, in combination with a blockade of the way across Kithairon, they felt that they had assured that the garrison could be expelled without the least likelihood of coming to blows with the Peloponnesian army.[17]

After Kleombrotos' campaign, however, Athenian enthusiasm for the Theban cause suddenly evaporated. Xenophon reports the trial and condemnation, to death and to exile, of the two generals who had been instrumental in bringing Athenian support to Thebes. Plutarch confirms this report and adds that a treaty of alliance with Thebes was repudiated. Xenophon identifies the motive for this reaction as fear, brought about when "the Athenians beheld the power of the Lakedaimonians, and that the war was no longer at Corinth, but that the Lakedaimonians were now passing Attica and invading the territory of Thebes."[18] We cannot be-


lieve that the mere advent of "the power of the Lakedaimonians," so clearly foreseeable, was responsible for the abrupt reversal of Athenian policy. The fact that its arrival did prove to be the undoing of the Athenian supporters of Thebes must indicate that Kleombrotos had succeeded where all had expected he would not. In view of Kleombrotos' general inactivity after his arrival in Boiotia, a fact that Xenophon does not fail to criticize, the gravity of this development for the cause of the Thebans and the Athenians is not immediately apparent. Once again, the sequence of events points to the source of Athenian fears at this time.

Kleombrotos' mission was to lift the siege of the Kadmeia and to put down the anti-Spartan uprising in Thebes. For this he had arrived too late. The Spartan garrison commanders, having evacuated the Kadmeia on terms of capitulation, had met Kleombrotos and delivered the bad news to him while he was still in the Megarid. Nevertheless, Kleombrotos pressed on, and after breaking through a Theban guard force in the Dryos Kephalai pass, he entered Boiotia. Kleombrotos' first moves were to confirm the control of friendly forces in the towns of Plataia and Thespiai. Then he entered Theban territory and encamped at Kynos Kephalai, on the boundaries of Theban land toward Thespiai, about six kilometers from Thebes. There he remained, Xenophon informs us, for about sixteen days, without undertaking any overt military actions against the Thebans. What could his purpose have been?

With anti-Spartan forces turned out at full strength and numerous Athenian reinforcements still at Thebes (Diodoros 15.27.4), there was little chance of success in an assault. In the dead of winter, with no advance preparations in the surrounding communities, there were no re-sources available to support a circumvallation and siege of Thebes. Like-wise, there was little in the countryside worth destroying, and still less forage available for the sustenance of Kleombrotos' army. From a military standpoint, then, not much could be done at the moment. But with proper preparations, a noose could be tightened around Thebes in the coming spring.

Despite sympathizers in neighboring communities, Thebes was still alone among Boiotian towns in its resistance to Sparta. Only the Athenians had openly declared their support for Thebes, and in this, as soon as Kleombrotos' army arrived, they probably began to equivocate. An exchange of declarations must have occupied much of Kleombrotos' time at Kynos Kephalai. Kleombrotos would have declared Spartan intentions to be only to punish the wrongdoers, the murderers of the The-ban polemarchs.[19] The Athenians would have declared that they were


present only to assure the restoration of freedom and autonomy to the Thebans, in accordance with the treaty with the king sworn by all parties in 386, which had been violated when the Spartans seized the Kadmeia in 382.[20] The Athenians may have added (as they certainly genuinely felt) that there was no justification for the Spartans to make war on them over this issue. As the purposes of the two sides were mutually exclusive, there was an impasse. The Spartans were prepared to seek a military solution, but it would have been clear to Kleombrotos that it would be folly to begin hostilities at that time, when conditions were not favorable. Moreover, the Athenian declaration of peaceable intentions must al-ready have suggested to Kleombrotos that Sparta might not have to fight both Thebes and Athens over this issue. Certainly, if he took hostile action against Thebes at this point, with an Athenian army present, he would have forced the Athenians into war. There was every reason to wait for spring before advancing beyond Kynos Kephalai.

Kleombrotos therefore took measures to assure that Thebes remained isolated among Sparta's Boiotian allies. The chief action Kleombrotos is known to have taken at this time was the establishment of Sphodrias as Spartan harmost at Thespiai, with a substantial force, "a third part of the contingents of each of the allies," according to Xenophon (Hellenika 5.4.15), as well as money for the raising of still more mercenary troops. Diodoros (15.29.6) reports that Sphodrias' army at the time of his attack on Attica numbered more than ten thousand men.[21] Among the duties charged to this force must have been the establishment of a suitable garrison at Plataia and the assurance of support to Tanagra. Thebes was thereby ringed by hostile bases. If only Athenian support could be cut off, Thebes would be completely isolated. A directive to see to military measures that would achieve this end must have been among Kleombrotos' orders to Sphodrias.

During the sixteen days that the Peloponnesian army lay encamped at Kynos Kephalai, Kleombrotos and Sphodrias must have given considerable thought to the subject of Athenian military support for Thebes and how it might be severed. One of the principal activities of Kleombrotos at this time, therefore, must have been the gathering of intelligence. Spies and scouts reconnoitered routes across the Attic frontier and Athenian positions along them. The Athenian presence in the mountains of the frontier was worrisome to the Spartans not just because of the vital support it provided to Thebes, but also because it threatened to


sever Sparta's overland route into Boiotia. The danger was clearly recognized by Kleombrotos, who knew what it meant to fight for passage through Kithairon. In fact, Kleombrotos' decision to withdraw from Boiotia by the longer and more arduous route via Kreusis to Aigosthena was probably taken in view of the threatening strength of Athenian forces under Chabrias in the passes of Kithairon, especially after Kleombrotos' army was reduced by the substantial force left at Thespiai, which probably included all of the peltasts brought by Kleombrotos.[22] These would be needed for the mountain campaign now beginning on the Boiotian frontier.

In view of these circumstances, after securing the Boiotian towns around Thebes, the highest priority for Sphodrias and his army was to gain and maintain control of the Kithairon passes. After this was done, he could contemplate how most effectively he could seal Thebes off from Athens.

The slow but inexorable development of these events sent a chill to the Athenians. Support for the Theban uprising must have been granted because the Athenians believed that a strong ally could thereby be gained without undue risk to themselves. Athenian and mercenary forces dispatched to Thebes and to Kithairon were supposed to assure the success of the uprising and to prevent the passage of a Peloponnesian army through Kithairon. The uprising had succeeded, but so had the Peloponnesian army, and now the mountains of the Attic frontier, which were supposed to be defensive bastions for Attica and Boiotia, were being convened into the forward outposts of strong Peloponnesian forces based close to those mountains. The beginning of summer would bring a predictable invasion of Boiotia from the Peloponnese, and unless the Athenians successfully disentangled themselves from Thebes and repudiated their involvement in the uprising, Athens would be embroiled in a war on the defensive, in a decidedly less secure position than had been anticipated a few months earlier. And if any of these points were not immediately dear to the Athenians, it is safe to assume that the Spar-tans lost no time in sending embassies to Athens to remonstrate and threaten, furthering their efforts to isolate Thebes, now well under way thanks to the patience and foresight of Kleombrotos.

It is no wonder that the mood at Athens was angry and that a majority could now be persuaded to condemn the two generals responsible for military operations that winter. It would be interesting to know the charges on which the generals were tried. Xenophon implies that their


unauthorized complicity with the Theban conspirators was the basis of the accusations against them. They might well have been singled out as the initiators of what now appeared to be a disastrous policy, but there was another aspect of their role that laid them open to condemnation. The two generals were surely responsible for providing the Athenian assembly with a military assessment of the situation at the moment when the Thebans appeared to announce their uprising and to appeal for support. Having long given thought to the situation and now requiring swift assent to their plans, the generals must have optimistically affirmed that, with a strong Athenian commitment, the garrison on the Kadmeia could be reduced and that by guarding Kithairon any relief force from the Peloponnese could be held at bay in the Megarid. Now they were called to account. Although accusations must have been preferred by those known to disapprove of the entire proposition of supporting Thebes, the basis of the charge must have been not complicity, but incompetence. The generals had failed to live up to their promises, and they had left Athens in a dangerously exposed situation.

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