After the failed peace negotiations in 371, King Cleombrotus marched his army into Boeotia. He camped at the town of Leuctra and waited for the Boeotians to arrive. Accounts give the strength of Celombrotus’ army at 10,000 men with up to 2,000 Spartan hoplites, the remainder made up of hoplites from other Peloponnesian allies. Thebes led a force of 7,000 hoplites from Boeotia, with perhaps 3,000 from Thebes itself. This was not the theoretical full strength of 11,000 Boeotian hoplites but some were stationed on other military duties. The Spartans had 1,000 cavalry, the Boeotians 700. The Boeotians arrived and camped on a hill opposite Leuctra. Our sources have a great deal of detail about the number of omens regarding Leuctra. Several of these reveal that the plan to go to Leuctra and engage the Peloponnesians was a deliberate one. Tied up with this is the idea that Epaminondas and his associates knew they had tactics which could defeat the Spartans (although there is an alternate tradition of division among the Theban commanders). Epaminondas’ decision to offer battle prevailed and the following morning, both armies drew up on the plain to the north of Leuctra and prepared for battle.
This episode was written by Murray Dahm,
Murray Dahm is an ancient and medieval military historian from New Zealand, living in Australia. He has written more than 100 articles on various aspects of ancient and medieval military history, as well as other historical topics from all periods (ranging from the history of opera to the runic alphabet and recipients of the Victoria Cross). He is the author of COMBAT 40: Macedonian Phalangite vs Persian Warrior: Alexander confronts the Achaemenids, 334-331 BC from Osprey publishing. He is a regular on the Ancient Warfare Podcast.