Timoclea (c. 370–? BCE)

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Timoclea (c. 370–? bce)

Woman of Thebes whose act of revenge against a marauding soldier won the respect of his commander Alexander the Great. Born around 370 bce; sister of Theagenes of Thebes.

Timoclea was a prominent Theban and the sister of Theagenes, who commanded his city's army against Philip II of Macedon at the battle of Chaeronea (338 bce) and died there. This defeat put Thebes, and most of the rest of Greece, under the political dominion of Macedon. After Philip's death and the accession of Alexander III the Great (336), Thebes lay uneasily under Macedon's yoke until the city openly rebelled in 335. This attempt to regain autonomy failed, however, after Alexander successfully stormed the city. Amid the looting which followed this event, a band of Alexander's Thracians broke into Timoclea's home seeking booty. Finding Timoclea, the leader of the Thracians raped her and then demanded that she reveal the hiding place of any valuables she might possess. She led him to her garden where she showed him a well into which she claimed to have thrown all of her gold and silver when it became obvious that the city was being taken. He peered into the recesses of the well, giving Timoclea the opportunity first to push him into its depths and then to stone him to death. His men arrived on the scene too late to save their leader, but thereafter bound Timoclea and led her to Alexander for punishment. She approached the conqueror haughtily. When Alexander asked her who she was, she proudly proclaimed her relationship to Theagenes and her anti-Macedonianism. Impressed by her spirit, Alexander not only declined to punish her, but gave her and her children their freedom—a remarkable fact, for the vast majority of the Thebans who were not killed in Alexander's assault or the subsequent pillaging, were sold by him into slavery, while their city was systematically razed to the ground.

William Greenwalt , Associate Professor of Classical History, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California