Epaminondas(redirected from Epimanondas)
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Born circa 418 B.C. in Thebes; died 362 B.C. at Mantinea. Greek general and political figure.
Epaminondas came from an impoverished noble family. He received a good education under the Pythagorean philosopher Lysis of Tarentum and was an accomplished orator. In 379 B.C, together with Pelopidas, he led a democratic coup in Thebes against the Spartans.
During the Boeotian wars (378–362), in which the Boeotian League, headed by Thebes, and the Peloponnesian League, headed by Sparta, contended for hegemony in Greece, Epaminondas was repeatedly elected boeotarch (one of the seven chief magistrates of the Boeotian League) and commander in chief of the army. His victory at Leuctra in 371 and his three invasions of the Peloponnesus, in 370, 369, and 367, weakened Sparta and brought about the fall of the Peloponnesian League. The Theban fleet, which was was created by Epaminondas, conquered the islands of Chios and Rhodes and the city of Byzantium.
Epaminondas owed his military successes to his talent as a general and the good combat training of the Theban troops. Before Epaminondas, troops were deployed in a single line of heavily armed infantry, the phalanx, drawn up in an equal number of ranks over the whole front; the troops moved forward to engage a similarly deployed enemy force, the two fronts forming parallel lines. At the battle of Leuctra, Epaminondas faced superior enemy forces, and the large Spartan phalanx, in an attack involving parallel lines of troops, would have overwhelmed the Thebans. Epaminondas abandoned the equal deployment of forces along the front and concentrated his spearhead, an elite corps known as the Sacred Band, on the axis of the main strike. He achieved complete victory through a slanting attack, whereby the opposing forces approached one another at an acute angle.
In evaluating Epaminondas’ contribution to the development of tactics, F. Engels wrote, “Epaminondas was the first to discover the great tactical principle that to this day determines the outcome of nearly every decisive battle: troops should be unevenly distributed along the front in order to concentrate one’s forces in the decisive sector for the main strike” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 14, p. 355).
At the battle of Mantinea in 362, Epaminondas improved on his new tactic by closely coordinating the movements of the attacking column with those of the cavalry and light infantry; he was fatally wounded in the battle.
R. A. SAVUSHKIN