The Thebans, delighted at having thus happily got rid of their enemies, had made Pelopidas and Epaminondas Boeotarchs, or chiefs of Boeotia, the country of which Thebes was the capital. These two men, knowing well that the Spartans would soon send an army to win back the city, now made great preparations to oppose them.
Epaminondas was made general of the army; and Pelopidas drilled a choice company, called the Sacred Battalion. This was formed of three hundred brave young Thebans, who took a solemn oath never to turn their backs upon the enemy or to surrender, and to die for their native country if necessary.
The Thebans then marched forth to meet their foes; and the two armies met at Leuctra, a small town in Boeotia. As usual, the Thebans had consulted the oracles to find out what they should do, and had been told that all the omens were unfavorable. Epaminondas, however, nobly replied that he knew of none which forbade fighting for the defense of one’s country, and he boldly ordered the attack.
The Spartans were greatly amused when they heard that Epaminondas, a student, was the commander of the army, and they expected to win a very easy victory. They were greatly surprised, therefore, when their onslaught was met firmly, and when, in spite of all their valor, they found themselves defeated, and heard that their leader, Cleombrotus, was dead.
The Thebans, of course, gloried in their triumph; but Epaminondas remained as modest and unassuming as ever, merely remarking that he was glad for his country’s and parents’ sake that he had been successful. To commemorate their good fortune, the Thebans erected a trophy on the battlefield of Leuctra, where their troops had covered themselves with glory.