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Thebes

The History and Legacy of the Ancient Greek City-State
Narrated by: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 18 mins
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Summary

Modern perceptions of Classical Greece are almost invariably based on Athens and Sparta, but Thebes was also a key player in the history of the region in this pivotal period. Indeed, it was, in fact Thebes that was the major power for many of the years preceding the emergence of Macedon.

The reasons for so little being known about Thebes and its contributions to ancient Greek civilization are complex, but the fact that it was totally destroyed by Alexander the Great is certainly one. Unlike Athens and Sparta, there are no magnificent structures still extant - indeed, the scale of the destruction meted out to Thebes was so great, that very few artifacts of any kind have been discovered that enable a full picture of life in the city. With the very notable exception of Pindar, Thebes did not produce significant numbers of philosophers or playwrights, nor did it host any major pan-Hellenic festivals. Consequently, Thebes is not as well-known as the other major players in the Greek world at that time. It is also true that Thebes was not the most loved of the Greek poleis, and its reputation never really recovered from its decision to side with the Persians during the Persians' invasion of the Greek mainland.

Those points notwithstanding, Thebes was an important city-state, served as the scene of many of the great myths of Greece, and developed a reputation for military might and tactical genius that was well-deserved. Thebes' association, at least in the eyes of contemporary Classical Greek rivals, with male homosexuality is a topic in its own right, and a study of the Sacred Band that proved so vital in Thebes' victories in the Classical period is especially revealing, though there is no proof of any real substance that Theban attitudes were greatly different than those of other Greeks on the whole issue.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

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