Talk:Epaminondas

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Featured articleEpaminondas is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
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January 13, 2006Peer reviewReviewed
January 20, 2006Featured article candidatePromoted
April 23, 2009Featured article reviewKept
Current status: Featured article

Old comments[edit]

I removed the LGBT Ancient Greeks category tag because the article mentions nothing about it; if he's significant enough in the category to merit inclusion it, it's significant enough in his life to merit entry in his article. I have no objection to its reinsertion once something (with a source) is entered into the article to merit it. (Simply construing homosexuality/bisexuality from the fact that he was a Theban general would not, IMHO, be enough.) Binabik80 15:26, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

I see that there's an entry in the List of gay, lesbian or bisexual people that says:
  • Caphisodorus, Lover of Epaminondas who died with him in battle
If anyone is interested in pursuing it, this may help. Cheers, -Willmcw 07:12, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

Importance of the sacred band[edit]

The French version of this article states that: Il devient rapidement béotarque et engage Thèbes dans une politique d'assertion de sa puissance sur les cités béotiennes. Pour cela, il n'hésite pas à affronter Sparte à plusieurs reprises, même quand ses propres troupes sont moins nombreuses : les Béotiens vainquent les Lacédémoniens notamment à Tégyres et Orchomène en 375. Ces succès sont dus au génie militaire d'Épaminondas, mais aussi à sa réorganisation de la phalange béotienne, notamment en introduisant un corps d'élite permanent de 300 hommes, le fameux Bataillon sacré, qui selon Plutarque, est composé entièrement de couples d'amants. which is to say roughly that [His] military successes are due to the military genius of Epaminondas, but also to his re-organization of the Boeotian phalanx, notably through the introduction of an elite corps of three hundred men (sic), the famous Sacred Batallion, which, according to Plutarch, is composed entirely of pairs of lovers. This version seems to give much greater weight to the effect of the Band. Should this emphasis be conveyed in the English version too? Haiduc 19:40, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Probably not. Elite brigades of some sort were not a particularly new idea (Spartan sciritai, the Argive thousand at First Mantinea, etc.), and the Sacred Band was relatively small as these things went. The sacred band has gotten a lot of attention because of the unusual nature of its makeup, but militarily its impact doesn't compare to the deep phalanx or the refused flank. I'm guessing the french version might also be referring to the modern suggestion that Epaminondas's men may have used pikes instead of traditional hoplite spears, but that suggestion has never been taken beyond the realm of pure speculation. --RobthTalk 21:51, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Personal Life[edit]

I changed back some of the edits to the personal life section. I couldn't find textual support for being at Leuctra, so I pulled that, at least for the time being, and replaced it with a sourceable statement about his military prowess. I also added back in the analysis following the statement. Given the amount of attention this sort of thing tends to draw, its probably worth adding a little explanation, given the amount of ill-informed speculation on these sorts of things. The link to the pederasty in ancient greece article was a good call, but I'd like to have something about it in this article as well, since it is relevant to a reader's understanding of Epam's life. --RobthTalk 23:07, 19 January 2006 (UTC)

On Leuctra this is what I find:

"Theopompus in his treatise On the Funds plundered from Delphi says [605] that Asopichus, the favourite of Epameinondas, had the trophy erected at Leuctra pictured on his shield, and that he risked extraordinary dangers; this shield was dedicated as a votive offering in the colonnade at Delphi. " (Atheneus, Deipno. 605-606)

This is interpreted by Crompton as meaning that the boy found fame in battle. Let me see what I can do about the other matters. Haiduc 23:51, 19 January 2006 (UTC)
The Leuctra stuff looks good. I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the source, though, so could you add the citation?
As far as our treatment of his lovers in general. First, I've changed the word "pederastic" in "pederastic lovers" back to "male," since we don't have specific ages for them, and its clear that two at least were of military age. Secondly, although I haven't readded it, since I'd like to discuss it here first, I would like to have in a section contextualizing these facts and explaining what they might have meant in ancient Greece. Just as we place Epaminondas's tactical innovations in the context of the Greek style of war, it is also worth offering some contextualizing statements about his relationships.
I was discussing with a friend the other day whether either of us could write a top-selling popular history book. We decided the answer was no, since neither of us felt like we'd be able to reconcile ourselves with making the kind of unfounded sensationalist claims necessary to really make it sell. One of my (many) pet peeves regarding popular history today is the tendency to label historical figures as gay, without good historical founding, just to make a splash (as they say, there are three ways to sell a history book: write about lincoln, write about WWII, or write about some famous leader being gay). I really don't want to see this article do the same thing (and I don't think you're trying to, but if we present just these facts without a note on the larger context to a public unfamiliar with the ancient greek world, that will be the effect). It's sensationalistic, it's bad historical practice, and I don't think it actually helps the gay rights movement--i think that's the benefit a lot of people see in it, but I think that there is far more to gain for the movement by increasing knowledge of the more casual and accepting attitude towards homosexuality that has prevailed through much of human history than by stretching the facts to present things as other than they were.
It probably looks like I'm being prudish about this or something, but I really do want to have this article give a fully accurate picture of Epaminondas; this certainly includes his lovers, but it should also include an aid to help modern readers understand what this might have meant in ancient Greece. --RobthTalk 04:18, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
Entre nous, I don't have the gay rights movement in mind (and I have no idea whether or not he was gay) when I do these edits, I simply intend to have this aspect of his life accurately documented since it is one habitually suppressed. As for the ages of his boyfriends, we simply know they were young (Hubbard translates Asopichus' role as "boyfriend" and Henry G. Bohn as "favourite", both implying age-structured relationships. I do not have the Loeb to check whether the original has "eromenos", that would be the clincher) and since we are talking about the Greeks and the references indicate youth, we have no reason to impute any abnormal status to the relationships (had he had a series of adult lovers he would have been derided, and we have no record of anything like that). The fact that the youths were in battle simply indicates that they were old enough to fight (late teens, probably) but does not disqualify them from being eromenoi. I will try to contextualize the relationships again. Haiduc 05:46, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
I've dropped the qotation, since it was a bit unwieldy, but I think your explanation of the situation is good. I've standardized the citation as well. The reason I was concerned about pederastic is that, at least to me, it conveys implications of relations with boys in the 12-year-old or so region; perhaps that's just me, but it seems like a culturally loaded word. I think "young male lovers" is an excellent way to put it. You're dead right that they were almost certainly under 20--otherwise, we'd have for sure have heard of it (as a reader of Aristophanes, I've often wondered if we know anything about Cleisthenes other than the fact that he dated outside the approved age range). I'm right near a library that'll probably have a Greek text, so I'll check, but I'd be willing to bet it is eromenos--I can't think what else would have been used and then translated that way, in the context. Thanks for working on this--it's probably the single trickiest topic to deal with when presenting ancient greek subject matter to a wide audience, because of the strong feelings it tends to arouse on various sides, and I think the presentation we've got here is quite good and balanced, especially given the constraints of space and not wishing to digress too far from the main narrative. --RobthTalk 07:26, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
I too think we are coming up with a workable solution. The reason I stuck in the quotation was exactly the one you mention, the modern negativity surrounding this topic, as per the gentleman below. But I see that it is not in the style of the rest of the article. What do you say we paraphrase it briefly, since it is both germane and specific to the Thebans of this time, and casts the whole thing in an appropriate light? Haiduc 11:54, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
I've added back in part of the quotation, in a way that I think gets the message across without interfering with the flow of the narrative; I agree that it's good to have an explanation of what the practice was supposed to be for. --RobthTalk 14:00, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
Excellent resolution, thank you. Haiduc 16:42, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
PS Please post what you find out about the Greek wording. H.
Here we go (transliterated because I don't want to have to click on all the annoying little greek letter symbols): ou monon toinun ta machimotata ton ethnon erotikotata, Boiotoi kai Lakedaimonioi kai Kretes alla kai ton Palaion, o Meleagros, o Achilleus, o Aristomenes, o Kimon, o Epaminondas. Kai gar outos eromenous eschen, Asopichon kai Kaphisodoron...
So there's our answer! --RobthTalk 20:17, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
Thank you. That being the case, would it make sense to include that information as followws: Also, Plutarch mentions two of his eromenoi: Asopichus, who fought together with him at the battle of Leuctra, where he greatly distinguished himself;[3] and Caphisodorus, who fell with Epaminondas at Mantineia and was buried by his side.? Haiduc 20:49, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
I'd rather keep it with a common english word, since almost all readers of the article would be forced to click on the link to get a definition of eromenos. --RobthTalk 22:12, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
That makes sense, but it might still be valuable to make this bit of information available, it certainly was meaningful to the two of us, and took a bit of work on your part to dig up, not something everybody can do. How about Also, Plutarch mentions two of his beloveds (eromenoi): Asopichus, who fought . . .? I do not see it as a life-and-death issue, just a thought. Haiduc 23:10, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
I've put it in. --RobthTalk 00:37, 21 January 2006 (UTC)

Epaminondas has long been a hero of mine and I've done extensive research on him over the last five years. Wikipedia which back then covered half this page talking about a game, was one of my first places I learned about him from. It was one of the first articles I read on wikipedia back when I didn't even know what wikipedia was. It stayed that way for several years but I came back yesterday and wow! I just want to say that not only is this a great wikipedia article its probaly the greatest source on Epaminondas availible today. Considering most ancient sources just have him in the background and even Hanson's work pretty much ignores the Theban revolution and battle of Leuctra,and the 1911 Brittanica is awfully skimy, even more so in the modern version. This is one of the greatest wiokipedia acheivements I've seen only a few weeks ago it was just 1911 jibberish now its the greatest biography of Epaminondas I've yet seen having read Plutarch, Xenopohon, Hanson and numerous books and websites. The only criticism I have is that the accusations of homosexuality seem unfair, very few of the ancient sources nor Hansons seem to support it. And the love of the sacred band seems more to be the kind of love implicit in democracy and in equality than in homosexuality.After all the criticisms and recent scandals at wikipedia I think this article really renewed my faith and really shows what the wiki system can acheive. Finally I just want to say the pictures are really impressive most I have never seen before--Gary123 01:48, 20 January 2006 (UTC)--Gary123 01:48, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

Why besmirch the memory of the man by decking him out as a heterosexual?! But seriously, "accusation" is a term that is undignified in this venue and context, and the sources on his love relationships are as credible as those on other aspects of his life (will you quibble with Plutarch?) and the fact that they are few may reflect more on 2000 years of censorship than on any lack of passion on his part. (Am I mistaken, or have I read along the way that Plutarch's life of him has been "lost"?) Haiduc 03:58, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

It's disheartening when so many people scramble in a frenzy to discredit any notions of homosexuality in an ancient hero such as Epaminondas, even when they are corroborated by such contemporaries as Plutarch. Gary seems to be one of these people. Though his tone is placid and his attitude civil, I can't help but note the derision in his words when he touches upon the "accusation" of homosexuality. Firstly, an accusation denotes something scandalous. True, in this day and age, it is base sensationalism that drives rumors of being gay in celebrities both modern and ancient, but when there is very real evidence to support the notion, so many people seem to be figuratively (and perhaps literally) frothing at the mouth at the very idea that such a beloved and honored figure could have participated in the "dishonorable" and "emasculating" practice of same-sex love. This is evident when J.K. Rowling introduced Albus Dumbledore as a latent homosexual at the end of the "Harry Potter" series when she was questioned on Dumbledore's love life. The comments that followed were truly horrific. Many exclaimed that they had been "duped" into liking and loving a character that they otherwise would have dismissed or insulted had they known he was a homosexual. I believe that this speaks volumes about these so called "fans" rather than the character, itself. Simply put, whether anyone believes to the contrary, being homosexual, heterosexual, or anything in between, has nothing to do with a man's (or a woman's) honor, their masculinity, or the worth of their works. I would expect historians to go on facts and never sensationalize. But I would also expect these same experts to take into consideration that such controversial subject matter as homosexuality would have been suppressed for ages and, thusly, would have been cited in fewer sources as opposed to the socially accepted heteronormative behavior. If there is true evidence to suggest that a figure in history was a homosexual, with little to no evidence to the contrary, I would deem it prudent to address such evidence with plausibility rather than immediately dismissing the notion and gravitating toward a supposition of heterosexuality or heteronormative activity simply for the sake of distaste, bias, or personal prejudice. On a final note, I noted that someone claimed that ancient heroes or figures being labeled as homosexual would not truly help the gay movement. I would like to beg to differ on a personal suggestion. To a young gay boy growing up who has no gay male role model to look up to, hearing that even the greatest and mightiest of heroes were one of us is like ambrosia, especially when you live in a day to day world and community that derides, dismisses, and belittles you, your masculinity, and your worth as a person on the basis of your sexuality. When we can call upon the honor of great men who were also homosexual, it acts as a great shield and bulwark against the negativity of anti-gay persons who wish to tear us down and also as an elixir to embolden and strengthen us, our spirits, and the belief in ourselves. I don't know enough to edit the article and I will refrain from doing so, accordingly. However, I've been noticing a disturbing trend in the browsing of articles regarding ancient Greco-Roman figures who involved themselves in homosexual relationships and that is the fact that these relationships are mentioned in articles specifically on "Homosexuality in ancient Greece/Rome" but not on the personal pages of the figures in question. It almost feels as if, yet again, editors and contributors alike are taking a leaf from the books of historians of yesteryear by glossing over even the hint of same-sex relationships for reasons known only to them, but can be surmised as being based in bias and distaste. Many may argue that it isn't relevant to include such relationships or activity as they do not pertain to a historical figure or their accomplishments. My retort would be that an encyclopedia entry on any figure would be for the fundamental purpose of giving as much of a 360 degree view of the figure in question, including their personal lives. After all, many ancient figures have their marriages or opposite sex relationships mentioned or cited in their own articles, even if no children were there to produce a legacy. This would seem to indicate that the same-sex relationships are being omitted due to intentional censorship for what the contributor or editor feels to be obscene or indecent merely for the sake that the relationship IS same-sex and not opposite. One of the greatest crimes a historian can commit is the intentional manipulation, omission, and repression of information on the moral whims of the author. That would mean that Truth itself was lost just because he thought it was 'wrong.' The reason that I pursue this with such conviction is due to the woefully wrong yet unrepentantly mainstream social view that masculinity and homosexuality are antithetical. This is omnipresent, even in such Hollywood productions on Ancient Greek or Roman events that are centered around strapping, virile men that partook in same-sex relationships, all hints of homosexuality are erased or portrayed in a negative light. A popular movie critic noted, as above, that this is due to the pervading stereotype that all gay men are effeminate because homosexuality and masculinity are as oil and water. I cling to and celebrate such figures as Epaminondas and the Sacred Band of Thebes because they help to smash such stereotypes and to educate the uninformed or misinformed that gay men can be just as masculine and virile as their heterosexual counterparts. This is why the Sacred Band has become an LGBT icon. In essence, when the truth of homosexuality in these figures is intentionally omitted and covered up despite corroborating evidence, it undermines the very foundation of the proof for our argument of equality. - TOM — Preceding unsigned comment added by 50.142.186.186 (talk) 01:47, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

minor detail: hoplites[edit]

The first use of hoplite has a parenthetical afterwards: "(heavy infantry)". I feel this is not needed; that's the purpose of wikilinks. If a reader doesn't know the term, they go to the article on it. But when I changed it, the definition was quickly added again. How do others feel about this?--ragesoss 02:00, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

I originally had it without, but I'm fine with having it in so that readers can go straight through in the same article without having to click around, and I think a sizable portion of the people who read it are likely to want to know what a hoplite is. --RobthTalk 03:50, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

So be it.--ragesoss 03:55, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

The Name[edit]

Epaminondas is often referred to as Epameinondas (indeed that is where I took my username form). This might merit a comment in the article as it would help people searching for this biography. Examples [1] and [2] Epameinondas 15:24, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

I have created a redirect at that title. You can do that by entering #REDIRECT[[Pagename]] as the text of the page that you want to redirect. --RobthTalk 15:58, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Undefeated[edit]

Surely it should mention here that he was undefeated throughout his military career. Centyreplycontribs – 22:41, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Separate article for the Theban Wars[edit]

While Epaminondas certainly deserves credit for his great military and political genius, it seems to be going overboard with the Great Man theory of history to compress a complex series of wars into the biography of a single man. We don't do that for any of the other great captains including Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Temujin.

And it leaves a gap in our classical Greek history, going directly from the Corinthian War to the Wars of Macedon.

We do have an article on the Boeotian War but it only covers the war immediately after the Theban Revolution.

The battle of Leuctra for example is not classed under any specific war, but under the overly broad Greek 'conflicts of the 4th century BC'.

I propose that a new article be created on the Wars of Theban Hegemony.

--Gary123 (talk) 04:01, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

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