Diodorus Siculus 17.8.2-14.4
2 This task was not yet finished when messengers reached him reporting that many of the Greeks were in revolt. Many cities had actually taken steps to throw off the Macedonian alliance, the most important of these being Thebes. At this intelligence, the king was roused to return in haste to Macedonia in his anxiety to put an end to the unrest in Greece.
3 The Thebans sought first of all to expel the Macedonian garrison from the Cadmeia and laid siege to this citadel; this was the situation when the king appeared suddenly before the city and encamped with his whole army near by. 4 Before the king's arrival, the Thebans had had time to surround the Cadmeia with deep trenches and heavy stockades so that neither reinforcements nor supplies could be sent in, 5 and they had sent an appeal to the Arcadians, Argives, and Eleians for help. They appealed for support from the Athenians also, and when they received from Demosthenes a free gift of weapons, they equipped all of their citizens who lacked heavy armour. 6 Of those who were asked for reinforcements, however, the Peloponnesians sent soldiers as far as the Isthmus and waited to see what would happen, since the king's arrival was now expected, and the Athenians, under the influence of Demosthenes, voted to support the Thebans, but failed to send out their forces, waiting to see how the war would go. 7 In the Cadmeia, the garrison commander Philotas observed the Thebans making great preparations for the siege, strengthened his walls as well as he could, and made ready a stock of missiles of all sorts.
1 So when the king appeared suddenly out of Thrace with all his army, the alliances of the Thebans had furnished them with only a hesitant support while the power of their opponents possessed an obvious and evident superiority. Nevertheless their leaders assembled in council and prepared a resolution about the war; they were unanimous in deciding to fight it out for their political freedom. The measure was passed by the assembly, and with great enthusiasm all were ready to see the thing through.
2 At first the king made no move, giving the Thebans time to think things over and supposing that a single city would never dare to match forces with such an army. 3 For at that time Alexander had more than thirty thousand infantry and no less than three thousand cavalry, all battle-seasoned veterans of Philip's campaigns who had hardly experienced a single reverse. This was the army on the skill and loyalty of which he relied to overthrow the Persian empire. 4 If the Thebans had yielded to the situation and had asked the Macedonians for peace and an alliance, the king would have accepted their proposals with pleasure and would have conceded everything they asked, for he was eager to be rid of these disturbances in Greece so that he might without distraction pursue the war with Persia.
Finally, however, he realized that he was despised by the Thebans, and so decided to destroy the city utterly and by this act of terror take the heart out of anyone else who might venture to rise against him. 5 He made his forces ready for battle, then announced through a herald that any of the Thebans who wished might come to him and enjoy the peace which was common to all the Greeks. In response, the Thebans with equal spirit proclaimed from a high tower that anyone who wished to join the Great King and Thebes in freeing the Greeks and destroying the tyrant of Greece should come over to them. 6 This epithet stung Alexander. He flew into a towering rage and declared that he would pursue the Thebans with the extremity of punishment. Raging in his heart, he set to constructing siege engines and to preparing whatever else was necessary for the attack.
1 Elsewhere in Greece, as people learned the seriousness of the danger hanging over the Thebans, they were distressed at their expected disaster but had no heart to help them, feeling that the city by precipitate and ill-considered action had consigned itself to evident annihilation. 2 In Thebes itself, however, men accepted their risk willingly and with good courage, but they were puzzled by certain sayings of prophets and portents of the gods.
First there was the light spider's web in the temple of Demeter which was observed to have spread itself out to the size of an himation, and which all about shone iridescent like a rainbow in the sky. 3 About this, the oracle at Delphi gave them the response:
"The gods to mortals all have sent this sign; To the Boeotians first, and to their neighbours."
The ancestral oracle of Thebes itself had given this response:
"The woven web is bane to one, to one a boon."
4 This sign had occurred three months before Alexander's descent on the city, but at the very moment of the king's arrival the statues in the market place were seen to burst into perspiration and be covered with great drops of moisture. More than this, people reported to the city officials that the marsh at Onchestus was emitting a sound very like a bellow, while at Dircê a bloody ripple ran along the surface of the water. 5 Finally, travellers coming from Delphi told how the temple which the Thebans had dedicated from the Phocian spoils was observed to have blood-stains on its roof.
Those who made a business of interpreting such portents stated that the spider web signified the departure of the gods from the city, its iridescence meant a storm of mixed troubles, the sweating of the statues was the sign of an overwhelming catastrophe, and the appearance of blood in many places foretold a vast slaughter throughout the city. 6 They pointed out that the gods were clearly predicting disaster for the city and recommended that the outcome of the war should not be risked upon the battlefield, but that a safer solution be sought for in conversations.
Still the Thebans' spirits were not daunted. On the contrary they were so carried away with enthusiasm that they reminded one another of the victory at Leuctra and of the other battles where their own fighting qualities had won unhoped for victories to the astonishment of the Greek world. They indulged their nobility of spirit bravely rather than wisely, and plunged headlong into the total destruction of their country.
1 Now the king in the course of only three days made everything ready for the assault. He divided his forces into three parts and ordered one to take the palisades which had been erected before the city, the second to face the Theban battle line, and the third as a reserve to support any hard pressed unit of his forces and to enter the battle in its turn. 2 For their part, the Thebans stationed the cavalry within the palisades, assigned their enfranchised slaves, along with refugees and resident aliens, to face those who drove at the walls, and themselves made ready to fight before the city with the Macedonian force about the king which was many times their number. 3 Their children and wives flocked to the temples and implored the gods to rescue city from its dangers.
When the Macedonians approached and each division encountered the opposing force of Thebans, the trumpets blew the call to arms and the troops on both sides raised the battle cry in unison and hurled their missiles at the enemy. 4 These were soon expended and all turned to the use of the sword at close quarters, and a mighty struggle ensued. The Macedonians exerted a force that could hardly be withstood because of the numbers of their men and the weight of the phalanx, but the Thebans were superior in bodily strength and in their constant training in the gymnasium. Still more, in exaltation of spirit they were lifted out of themselves and became indifferent to personal danger. 5 Many were wounded in both armies and not a few fell facing the blows of the enemy. The air was filled with the roar of fighters locked in the struggle, moans and shouts and exhortations: on the Macedonian side, not to be unworthy of their previous exploits, and on the Theban, not to forget children and wives and parents threatened with slavery and their every household lying exposed to the fury of the Macedonians, and to remember the battles of Leuctra and of Mantineia and the glorious deeds which were household words throughout Greece. So for a long time the battle remained evenly poised because of the surpassing valour of the contestants.
1 At length Alexander saw that the Thebans were still fighting unflinchingly for their freedom, but that his Macedonians were wearying in the battle, and ordered his reserve division to enter the struggle. As this suddenly struck the tired Thebans, it bore heavily against them and killed many. 2 Still the Thebans did not concede the victory, but on the contrary, inspired by the will to win, despised all dangers. They had the courage to shout that the Macedonians now openly confessed to being their inferiors. Under normal circumstances, when an enemy attacks in relays, it is usual for soldiers to fear the fresh strength of the reinforcements, but the Thebans alone then faced their dangers ever more boldly, as the enemy sent against them new troops for those whose strength flagged with weariness.
3 So the Theban spirit proved unshakable here, but the king took note of a postern gate that had been deserted by its guards and hurried Perdiccas with a large detachment of troops to seize it and penetrate into the city. 4 He quickly carried out the order and the Macedonians slipped through the gate into the city, while the Thebans, having worn down the first assault wave of the Macedonians, stoutly faced the second and still had high hopes of victory. When they knew that a section of the city had been taken, however, they began immediately to withdraw within the walls, 5 but in this operation their cavalry galloped along with the infantry into the city and trampled upon and killed many of their own men; they themselves rode into the city in disorder and, encountering a maze of narrow alleys and trenches, lost their footing and fell and were killed by their own weapons. At the same time the Macedonian garrison in the Cadmeia burst out of the citadel, engaged the Thebans, and attacking them in their confusion made a great slaughter among them.
1 So while the city was being taken, many and varied were the scenes of destruction within the walls. Enraged by the arrogance of the Theban proclamation, the Macedonians pressed upon them more furiously than is usual in war, and shrieking curses flung themselves on the wretched people, slaying all whom they met without sparing any. 2 The Thebans, for their part, clinging desperately to their forlorn hope of victory, counted their lives as nothing and when they met a foeman, grappled with him and drew his blows upon themselves. In the capture of the city, no Theban was seen begging the Macedonians to spare his life, nor did they in ignoble fashion fall and cling to the knees of their conquerors. 3 But neither did the agony of courage elicit pity from the foe nor did the day's length suffice for the cruelty of their vengeance. All the city was pillaged. Everywhere boys and girls were dragged into captivity as they wailed piteously the names of their mothers.
In sum, households were seized with all their members, and the city's enslavement was complete. 4 Of the men who remained, some, wounded and dying, grappled with the foe and were slain themselves as they destroyed their enemy; others, supported only by a shattered spear, went to meet their assailants and, in their supreme struggle, held freedom dearer than life. 5 As the slaughter mounted and every corner of the city was piled high with corpses, no one could have failed to pity the plight of the unfortunates. For even Greeks — Thespians, Plataeans and Orchomenians and some others hostile to the Thebans who had joined the king in the campaign — invaded the city along with him and now demonstrated their own hatred amid the calamities of the unfortunate victims.
6 So it was that many terrible things befell the city. Greeks were mercilessly slain by Greeks, relatives were butchered by their own relatives, and even a common dialect induced no pity. In the end, when night finally intervened, the houses had been plundered and children and women and aged persons who had fled into the temples were torn from sanctuary and subjected to outrage without limit.
1 Over six thousand Thebans perished, more than thirty thousand were captured, and the amount of property plundered was unbelievable.
The king gave burial to the Macedonian dead, more than five hundred in number, and then calling a meeting of the representatives of the Greeks put before the common council the question what should be done with the city of the Thebans. 2 When the discussion was opened, certain men who were hostile to the Thebans began to recommend that they should be visited with the direst penalties, and they pointed out that they had taken the side of the barbarians against the Greeks. For in the time of Xerxes they had actually joined forces with the Persians and campaigned against Greece, and alone of the Greeks were honoured as benefactors by the Persian kings, so that the ambassadors of the Thebans were seated on thrones set in front of the kings. 3 They related many other details of similar tenor and so aroused the feelings of the council against the Thebans that it was finally voted to raze the city, to sell the captives, to outlaw the Theban exiles from all Greece, and to allow no Greek to offer shelter to a Theban. 4 The king, in accordance with the decree of the council, destroyed the city, and so presented possible rebels among the Greeks with a terrible warning. By selling off the prisoners he realized a sum of four hundred and forty talents of silver.