The Destruction of Thebes


The destruction of Thebes, taken place in 335 BC, has been identified by many as a sign of Alexander’s ruthlessness. However according to ancient sources, responsible for the destruction of the city, were the Greek allies of Alexander. 

Alexander TURNED OVER the decision of what was to be done with Thebes to the ALLIES who participated in the military action. These decided to secure the Cadmea with a garrison, but to raze the city to the ground and distribute amongst the allies whatever lands were not sacred. Women and children, and any surviving Theban men, they would sell into slavery, with the exception..

Arrian 1.9.9-10

“The Theban dead numbered more than 6,000 and the men taken prisoner upwards of 30,000. The amount of money that was taken as plunder was beyond belief.
The king saw to the burial of the more than 500 Macedonian dead. He then convened the delegates of the Greeks and put before their full council the question of how they should deal with the city of Thebes, When the deliberations began, men who were ill-disposed towards the Thebans proceeded to advocate subjecting them to most cruel punishment, and jointed out that they had espoused the barbarian cause against the Greeks. They observed that in the time of Xerxes the Thebans had allied themselves with Persia and actually fought against Greece, and that they were the only Greek people to be honoured as benefactors by the Persian kings, with the ambassadors from Thebes assigned privileged seating before the kings. By recounting numerous other instances of this sort they inflamed the feelings of the delegates against the Thebans, and these eventually voted to demolish the city, to sell the prisoners of war, to have the Theban exiles liable to arrest throughout Greece, and permit no Greek to harbour a Iheban. In conformity with the will of the council, the king demolished the city and thereby instilled terrible tear in those ol the Greeks liable to detect, lie sold off the prisoners of war and by that accumulated 440 talents of silver.

Diodorus Siculus 17.14.1

“Next he directed the army towards Thebes intending to show the same mercy if he met with similar contrition. But the Thebans resorted to arms rather than entreaties or appeals, and so after their defeat they were subjected to all the terrible punishments associated with a humiliating capitulation. When the destruction of the city was being discussed in council, the Phocians, the Plataeans, the Thespians and the Orchomenians, Alexander’s allies who now shared his victory, recalled the devastation of their own cities and the ruthlessness of the Thebans, reproaching them also with their past as well as their present support of Persia against the independence of Greece. This, they said, had made Thebes an abomination to all the Greek peoples, which was obvious from the fact that the Greeks had one and all taken a solemn oath to destroy the city once the Persians were defeated, Thev also added the tales of earlier Theban wickedness – the material with which they had filled all their plays – in order to foment hatred against them not only for their treachery in the present but also for their infamies in the past.”

Justin 11.3.6