That was a clever saying of Antisthenes, who answered, when he heard that Ismenias was a capital flute-player, "But he must be a worthless man, for if he were not, he would not be such a capital flute-player!" and King Philip of Macedon, when his son played brilliantly and agreeably on the harp at an entertainment, said to him, "Are you not ashamed, to play so well?"
They especially disliked the club presided over by Ismenias and Androkleides, of which Pelopidas was a member, as being of democratic and revolutionary principles.
In Macedonia he formed an alliance with the regent Ptolemy: and amongst the hostages given for the observance of this treaty was the youthful Philip, son of Amyntas, afterwards the celebrated king of Macedon, who remained for some years at Thebes. In the following year Pelopidas and Ismenias proceeded on an embassy to Persia.
After this, upon a second complaint of the Thessalians against Alexander of Pherae, as a disturber of the cities, Pelopidas was joined with Ismenias, in an embassy to him; but led no forces from Thebes, not expecting any war, and therefore was necessitated to make use of the Thessalians upon the emergency.
And Ismenias with a smile replied: Whilst I played, the gods were so well pleased that they were careless of the sacrifice; but to be rid of thy noise they presently received it. Such is that of Oedipus, in Sophocles, The faithful Creon, my most constant friend. The familiar irony in commendations answers to this on the other side.
The news got abroad only when it was too late to remedy the treacherous act. The Senate heard with consternation that their acropolis was in the hands of their enemies, their wives captives, their city at the mercy of the foe. Leontiades returned to his seat and at once gave orders for the arrest of his chief opponent Ismenias. He had a party armed and ready. The Senate was helpless.
It was not said amiss by Antisthenes, when people told him that one Ismenias was an excellent piper, "It may be so, but he is a wretched human being, otherwise he would not have been an excellent piper." And King Philip, to the same purpose, told his son Alexander, who once at a merry meeting played a piece of music charmingly and skillfully, "Are you not ashamed, my son, to play so well?"
He was persuaded to do this, and attacked the unsuspecting Thebans during the feast of Thesmophoria. When he gained possession of the height, Ismenias was seized and conveyed to Lacedæmon, and there not long afterwards made away with. Pelopidas, Pherenikus, and Androkleides, with many others, went into exile and were outlawed by proclamation.
Ismenias was seized and conveyed to Sparta, where he was basely put to death. The other senators hurried home, glad to escape with their lives. Three hundred of them left the city in haste, and made their way as exiles to Athens. The other citizens, whose wives and daughters were in Spartan hands, felt obliged to submit.
After this the Lacedaemonians pretended to be friends to Thebes, but in truth looked with jealous suspicions on the designs and power of the city, and chiefly hated the party of Ismenias and Androclides, in which Pelopidas also was an associate, as tending to liberty, and the advancement of the commonalty.