The Freedom Fighter

(410 - 364 B.C.)


by Plutarch

Pelopidas led the Thebans to recover their liberty, then he led them to victory over the invincible Spartans. From beginning to end, his was the life of a hero.

Pelopidas, the son of Hippoclus, was born into a prominent family of Thebes. He inherited a large fortune when he was young, and he used it to help the good and deserving among the poor.

Pelopidas was master, not slave, to his money. Aristotle notes that some men are too narrow-minded to use their wealth, and others are too foolish to keep it -- one is a slave to his gains, the other is a slave to his pleasures. But Pelopidas was neither of these. He had money, but took no pride in it, and was ashamed that anyone might think that he spent more on himself than an ordinary man.

He could never persuade Epaminondas 1 to accept his charity, so Pelopidas stepped down to join Epaminondas in his simple way of life, with plain food, endurance of hardships, and courage in the face of death. Pelopidas was most interested in athletics, while Epaminondas preferred learning. Despite their different tastes and circumstances, Pelopidas and Epaminondas remained friends throughout their lives, even when they came to be the leading men in Thebes.

The cause of this friendship was their common respect of virtue and their mutual desire to see their country prosper. Each one, therefore, sincerely applauded the successes of the other. Wealth and glory did not motivate them, so there was no jealousy. Their team spirit stands in distinct contrast to such rivals as Themistocles and Aristides, Pericles and Cimon, and Alcibiades and Nicias, who tried harder to defeat each other than the enemies of Athens.

Their brotherly affection started at a battle near Mantinea [384 B.C.], where Pelopidas was wounded seven times and fainted on a heap of dead men. Epaminondas stepped up to save Pelopidas and his armor from the enemy, and alone, Epaminondas held off a crowd until help arrived to save them both.

* * *

Although Thebes and Sparta were allies, the Spartans were suspicious of the democrats of Thebes. Pelopidas was a member of the democratic party.

On the invitation of some of the rich men of Thebes, the Spartan general Phoebidas invaded the city by surprise and captured its castle. 2 Some of the democrats were arrested and killed. Pelopidas managed to escape, and he was proclaimed an outlaw. Epaminondas stayed in the city and was left alone because his philosophy made him inactive and his poverty made him incapable, or so his enemies assumed.

The Spartans were ambivalent about this treacherous act against an ally, but when all was said and done the Spartans would not give up the castle. They kept a strong garrison in it to suppress democracy. Archias and Leontidas, two of the rich men of Thebes, took control of the government, backed up by the Spartan garrison in the castle.

Pelopidas and the rest of the exiles stayed in Athens. There they were protected because of the gratitude the Athenians felt to Thebes for assistance given during the tyranny of The Thirty. 3 Pelopidas urged his comrades not to settle down to an easy life in Athens, depending on the whims of the crowd and paying off every demagogue who could steer public opinion. Try for the great prize, he said: the liberty of Thebes.

Persuasion formed a conspiracy, and agents went to Thebes to bring in others. In Thebes, Charon offered his residence as a safe-house, and Phillidas managed to get himself a job as secretary to Archias.

Epaminondas had already inflamed the youth of the city by having them challenge the Spartans to wrestling matches. Whenever the Thebans won and were puffed up with success, Epaminondas told them that they should be ashamed to be subservient to men they could beat.

The day came for action. 4 Twelve of the younger men among the exiles, including Pelopidas, approached Thebes disguised as hunters, thus avoiding the roadblocks. Charon concealed them in his house. Added to the conspirators already in Thebes, they totalled 48.

Phillidas had arranged a drinking party for the tyrant Archias and his friends that night, and had promised to introduce some women once the guests had had their fill of good wine. One of the tyrant's spies reported that some of the exiles had been seen in town. Phillidas tried to change the subject, but the tyrant sent one of his guards to summon Charon to come and answer some questions.

So far, the report was not much more than a vague rumor. But when the guard delivered his message, the conspirators thought all was lost. Still, Charon decided to go to Archias just to prevent suspicion in case nothing was wrong. Charon worried that the other conspirators might think he had betrayed them, so he offered them his son as a hostage, but they replied that Charon should not suppose any of them would take revenge on an innocent child. Now that it was time to execute the plan, they were not so afraid that they would suspect each other. Instead, they advised Charon to get his son to safety, just in case the tyrant had found out. Charon exclaimed: "What life, what safety could be more honorable than to die bravely with his father and such good men?" Then, after praying for the protection of the gods, he went to face Archias.

Archias began the interview by saying: "I have heard, Charon, that there are some men who have just come to town." Charon replied: "Who are they, and where?" From Archias' answers, Charon deduced that the tyrant did not really know the facts, and that no one involved in the conspiracy had talked. So Charon said: "Don't worry, it's probably just a rumor, but I'll look into it immediately -- no such report should be ignored." Phillidas, who was standing by, took this cue and stepped in to praise Charon for being such a good citizen, and then resumed the entertainment.

After Charon had departed, a messenger came from Athens with a letter to Archias. In this letter were the full details of the conspiracy. The messenger told Archias that it was urgent business, but Archias (who was already drunk) put it aside without looking at it, saying: "Urgent business tomorrow."

One group of the conspirators, disguised as the long-awaited women, came to the party and were led in by Phillidas. Once inside, the conspirators threw off their veils and killed Archias and everyone who tried to defend him.

Another group, led by Pelopidas, took on the other tyrant, Leontidas. They went to his house and knocked for a long time until a servant finally came to the door, and when the servant opened the door Pelopidas and the others rushed in. Leontidas knew he was being attacked, and he had time to get a sword. But Leontidas forgot one important thing: he left the lights on, instead of putting them out so that the attackers might kill each other in a dark and unfamiliar place. After a hard struggle, Pelopidas killed Leontidas.

Once the two tyrants were dead, the conspirators sent for the rest of the exiles, who were still in Athens, to come and join them. Inside Thebes, Epaminondas came with a force of young men, and they broke open some armorer's shops and called on the citizens to get whatever weapons they could find and come to recover their liberty. Lights were lit in every house, and there was shouting and running all over the city. Nobody knew exactly what was going on, so the garrison of 1,500 Spartans decided to wait in the castle until daylight.

By then, however, the rest of the exiles had arrived in the city, fully armed. There was an assembly of the people, and the priests exhorted the Thebans to fight for their country and their gods. The conspirators were cheered as heroes, and Pelopidas was elected commander-in-chief.

After a siege, the Spartans in the castle agreed to leave. On their way back to Sparta, they met the army that had been sent to reinforce them. Two of the commanders of the garrison were condemned and executed, and the other one was fined heavily. Once again, the Spartans had ratified their treachery toward an ally.

Thus did a small and weak group of men, by their resolute courage in a just cause, defeat numerous and powerful enemies, and restore liberty to their country. And what happened later made this action even more notable, because that night in Thebes led to a war that destroyed the power of Sparta forever, a power that for hundreds of years had seemed eternal and invincible.

* * *

The Spartan army came to take back control of the city, and Thebes stood alone, with no allies. Even the Athenians would not join them. But Pelopidas contrived to start a fight between the Spartans and the Athenians by the following stratagem:

The Spartan commander, Sphodrias, was famous for his courage in battle, but he was reckless and greedy for glory. Pelopidas sent a merchant to Sphodrias with money and a tempting plan. The merchant told Sphodrias that the port of Athens could be taken by surprise, since the Athenians were not expecting the Spartans to do anything but attack Thebes. Moreover, he said, the Thebans would not come to help because they were angry with the Athenians for not coming to help them. Nothing, he added, could be more glorious, and of more benefit to Sparta, than to take Athens. Sphodrias fell into the trap and suddenly diverted his army away from Thebes and toward Athens.

However, the Athenians had been alerted, so Sphodrias accomplished nothing. The outraged Athenians joined the Thebans and sent them supplies [378 B.C.]. They also used their fleet to harass the Spartans all over Greece.

Skirmishes with the Spartans gave the Thebans experience and confidence. Pelopidas sent his men into small fights and pulled them back once they had fought the Spartans for a while. They even won some of these skirmishes, although none of them was a full-scale battle. With three hundred picked men, Pelopidas defeated a Spartan force three times that size. This was the first time that the Spartans had ever lost a fight with a force equal to or less than their own.

These three hundred were the Theban Sacred Band, an elite strike force that lived and fought together. Originally, these three hundred were the men who guarded the castle of Thebes. When the army expanded, the members of this garrison had been spread throughout the various units in the hope that these elite soldiers would leaven the lump. But they were more effective when Pelopidas collected them back together. As horses run faster in a chariot than alone -- because being matched they try to outdo each other -- so Pelopidas believed that brave men would provoke each other to heroism if they stood side-by-side.

* * *

The Spartans concluded a peace treaty with the rest of Greece, except for Thebes [371 B.C.], and now the situation appeared hopeless. The Thebans were vastly outnumbered, and no one would stand by them against the mighty Spartans.

At this time, Pelopidas was the commander of the Sacred Band, and Epaminondas was the commander-in-chief of the army. Most of the other generals of Thebes at first were not in favor of a battle against the strong army of Sparta and its allies. But Pelopidas agreed with Epaminondas that the time had come to risk a fight. The prestige of Pelopidas decided the question, so the Thebans marched to Leuctra and camped near the Spartans.

Pelopidas had a disturbing vision that night. He dreamed that he saw some girls crying near an old tomb and cursing the Spartans, and he heard their father say that if the Thebans wanted victory, it would be necessary to sacrifice a virgin with chestnut hair. Pelopidas told this dream to the fortune-tellers. It so happened that at Leuctra there was an old tomb of some girls who had been raped and killed by some Spartans long ago. The father of the girls had been unable to get justice at Sparta for this atrocity, so he committed suicide at his daughters' tomb. From that time on, the oracles of Sparta warned to beware of divine justice at Leuctra. However, nobody was certain which place of that name was referred to, and the crime had occurred a long time before.

The sacrifice of the chestnut-haired virgin was a difficult question. Some said that human sacrifices had been effective before, and when Agesilaus had tried to avoid doing one before beginning his conquest of Persia, his expedition had turned out to be a failure. Others argued that no superior being could take pleasure in such a sacrifice, and that any supernatural entity who could find pleasure in it must be weak because such cruel and unreasonable desires could only come from, and live in, weak beings. The general father of gods and men would certainly not approve, and it is He -- not some imaginary monsters -- who is really in charge.

As this debate was going on, a mare colt broke free and ran into the assembly. Her coat was chestnut. One of the fortune-tellers shouted: "Expect no other virgin, but use this one that the gods have provided!" And so, with great pomp and solemnity, they led the colt to the old tomb and sacrificed her there. This story of the dream and the sacrifice spread throughout the Theban camp and inspired the soldiers with the assurance of divine assistance.

Spearheaded by the Sacred Band, the Thebans at Leuctra defeated a much larger Spartan army. 5 The tactics of Epaminondas and the elan of Pelopidas and the Sacred Band resulted in a disaster of unprecedented severity for Sparta. Never before had Sparta been so decisively defeated. Pelopidas won as much fame as Epaminondas by his conduct in this battle, even though he only commanded 300 men.

Epaminondas and Pelopidas advanced together into Spartan territory as colleagues in the supreme command. Along the way, their army swelled with allies so that by the time they arrived at Sparta they had a force of 70,000 men. Only a twelfth of them were Thebans, but the others were willing to follow the leaders. It seems to be the first and paramount law that whoever needs a defender must naturally become the servant of the one who can defend. Sailors will be insolent and defy the pilot when they are safe, but when a storm comes they all pay attention and put their hopes in him. Likewise, the allies would pretend to know better in council, but in time of actual danger they would look to the Thebans for leadership.

* * *

All of the other Greeks admired the courage and skill of Pelopidas and Epaminondas, and applauded their incredible success. But back in Thebes, the envy of the people increased with each new victory. When Pelopidas and Epaminondas returned, there was no triumphal reception. Instead, they were put on trial for failing to return as soon as their terms of office had expired. The penalty they faced was death.

Pelopidas was the first one tried, and therefore the one in the greatest danger. He was acquitted, and so was Epaminondas. Being of a calm and philosophical temperament, Epaminondas endured it all patiently, but not Pelopidas.

Envious little men get satisfaction from sniping at their superiors, so -- even after the trial -- the Thebans tried to belittle the achievements of Pelopidas and Epaminondas. To erase the glory these heroes had earned, the critics persuaded the people to build a grand monument to some insignificant victory, where only one Spartan had been killed, but no monument at all for Leuctra. Moreover, Meneclidas (the ringleader) proposed that only the name of Charon, the commander in that skirmish, should go on the monument, thereby making him the most famous general of Thebes.

This was the opportunity that Pelopidas had been waiting for. Pelopidas spoke in opposition to this proposal, even though he was a good friend of Charon. He reminded the Thebans that all of their victories came from everyone working together, and that it was in fact against the law to build monuments inscribed with the names of individuals. He then asked the rhetorical question whether Leuctra was also worth remembering. Once Pelopidas had the crowd worked up, he directed their attention to the character of Meneclidas. The result of these proceedings was that Meneclidas got a fine so heavy it bankrupted him.

* * *

Alexander of Pherae was at this time trying to dominate his fellow Thessalians, and they sent to Thebes for help. Pelopidas volunteered. He entered Thessaly and occupied Larissa, the principal city.

Rather than risk a confrontation, Alexander submitted. Pelopidas thought that it might be possible to persuade Alexander to change from a tyrant into a gentle and lawful ruler, but when he found that Alexander was stubborn and brutal, and heard the complaints about his cruelty, Pelopidas gave up trying to be nice. Alexander could not abide rough treatment, so one night he disappeared. Now, however, the Thessalians had no fear of this tyrant, and they were friends among themselves.

Seeing that Thessaly was peaceful now, Pelopidas went further north into Macedonia to arbitrate a dispute between King Alexander and Ptolemy. He reconciled these two and took hostages to secure the agreement.

These hostages went back with Pelopidas to live in Thebes. One of them was Philip, the king's brother, who was at that time a boy. This was the same Philip who later became the father of Alexander the Great. He lived with Pammenes in Thebes, and there he learned from the example of Epaminondas. However, Philip did not learn his temperance, justice, generosity, and mildness -- which more than his military skill made Epaminondas a truly great man.

* * *

Still more complaints came to Thebes about Alexander of Pherae, so Pelopidas returned to help the Thessalians. At the same time, there was also turmoil in Macedonia, where Ptolemy had murdered King Alexander and seized control of the government.

Pelopidas took no troops out of Thebes, and instead relied on mercenaries that he collected along the way. When the hour of battle with Ptolemy arrived, Pelopidas discovered that the mercenaries he had hired had been bribed away by Ptolemy. But even though Pelopidas effectively had no army, Ptolemy was so afraid of the reputation of Thebes and Pelopidas that he came to Pelopidas and begged pardon for the murder. Ptolemy said that he was holding the government of Macedonia only as trustee for the late king's brother [Philip] and that he would be a friend to the friends, and an enemy to the enemies, of the Thebans. To prove his good faith, Ptolemy sent his own son and fifty other hostages to Thebes.

To pay back the mercenaries for their treachery, Pelopidas went with a new force to Pharsalus, where they had left their wives, children, and possessions. Just after Pelopidas had entered the city, Alexander of Pherae appeared there with his army. Believing that the prestige of Thebes was enough to protect him, Pelopidas and a few others went to Alexander's camp to hear Alexander's apologies. When Alexander saw them coming alone and unarmed, he ordered their arrest and proceeded to take Pharsalus [368 B.C.].

Now Alexander's subjects became very afraid about what might happen next. After such an outrage against Thebes, it was clear that Alexander would stop at nothing and would act with the desperation of a man condemned to die -- and drag them all down with him. Alexander of Pherae was already well-known as a cruel and crazy man. Just for fun, he buried men alive, or shot them with arrows, or killed them with his hunting dogs. In two cities allied to him, Alexander had called the citizens together for a meeting and then surrounded and massacred them.

Pelopidas, in chains, was taken to Pherae, where Alexander put him on public display. Contrary to Alexander's expectations, chains had not broken the spirit of Pelopidas, who shouted to the Pheraeans that their tyrant would soon pay for what he had done. He also said that Alexander was a fool to torture and murder his own people but spare the life of Pelopidas, his greatest enemy, who would kill Alexander as soon as he got the chance.

Alexander came and asked Pelopidas why he was in such a hurry to die, and Pelopidas replied: "So that you will be all the sooner ruined, and more hated by the gods than now." From that time on, Alexander kept Pelopidas locked up where no one could talk to him.

However, Alexander's wife, Thebe, had heard about Pelopidas and she visited him in jail because Pelopidas had been friends with her father. Being a woman, she did not see past the chains and ragged clothes, and with tears in her eyes she told him: "I pity your wife, sir."

Pelopidas replied: "I pity you, who have to endure Alexander as a husband." She already hated Alexander for his cruelty to her and her family, so Thebe often visited Pelopidas and shared her troubles, thereby becoming more and more enraged at her husband.

Epaminondas came to Pherae with an army from Thebes to rescue his friend and take revenge on Alexander. As soon as they heard that this famous general was coming, the Thessalians lost their fear of Alexander, and his power over them disappeared. Epaminondas did not want to push Alexander to desperation for fear of possible harm to Pelopidas, so he granted a truce of thirty days in exchange for Pelopidas and the other prisoners. Alexander accepted the offer. Once Pelopidas had been released, Epaminondas ignored Alexander and returned to Thebes.

* * *

Both the Spartans and the Athenians were asking for assistance from the Persian king, Artaxerxes, 6 against Thebes, so the Thebans sent Pelopidas to Persia as their ambassador [367 B.C.]. His reputation after Leuctra and his other victories obtained Pelopidas a very honorable reception along the way. "This is the man," said the Persians, "who beat those Spartans who only a short time before were about to fight with the Great King himself in the heart of his empire." King Artaxerxes was very pleased to meet Pelopidas because of this, and Pelopidas' courtesy pleased Artaxerxes even more. Pelopidas was not haughty like the Spartans, or prolix like the Athenians.

Artaxerxes offered Pelopidas large presents and asked if there was anything else he could give him. Pelopidas refused all of the presents, but he requested that all of the Greeks in the king's domain be allowed to live as free men and that Thebes and Persia be allies. Thus, Pelopidas became famous for putting the welfare of the Asian Greeks ahead of his own personal enrichment, and Thebes defeated Sparta and Athens in the contest for the favor of Artaxerxes.

* * *

When they heard that Pelopidas had returned from Persia, the Thessalians asked the Thebans to send Pelopidas to help them once more, because Alexander of Pherae was once again terrorizing the country. With an army of 7,000, Pelopidas marched out from Thebes.

Just as he left, there was a total eclipse of the sun. The Thebans were afraid of this bad omen, and Pelopidas did not want to force them into a campaign against their wills. So instead of the 7,000 he took only 300 volunteers.

The fortune-tellers tried to talk him out of going to Pherae, but Pelopidas wanted revenge for all that he had suffered in prison. He was also excited by the prospects for glory in this expedition. The Athenians were accepting money from Alexander, and had even dedicated a statue to him in their city; the Spartans were helping the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse; so the Thebans would be known as the only Greeks who were consistent opponents of tyranny.

Around Pharsalus, Pelopidas gathered some more soldiers and formed an army. Alexander swaggered out to fight at the head of an army more than twice as large. When Pelopidas was informed of his inferiority in numbers, he said: "So much the better. Long odds will make our victory more glorious."

After a long battle, Alexander's army retreated in confusion and disorder. When Pelopidas spotted Alexander, who was trying to rally his troops, he gave in to his anger and charged out ahead of his own lines, challenging Alexander to single combat. Alexander hid himself, and arrows and spears rained on Pelopidas until he died.

Too late, the Thebans caught up and saved the body, then with new fury they once more charged the enemy and this time totally routed them. Over three thousand of Alexander's soldiers were chased down and killed.

* * *

There is a difference, as Cato the Elder noted, between loving valor and hating life.

Antigonus once sent his personal doctor to cure a soldier, who was in bad health but was a very brave. After regaining his health, the man stayed out of danger, so Antigonus asked what wrong, and got the following answer: "Sir, you are the cause of my cowardice, by curing me of the miseries that before made me care so little about life."

A Sybarite once said that it was no wonder that the Spartans were so ready to die, as death would free them from their life of black broth and hard training. Naturally a Sybarite would think this -- they are a soft and pleasure-loving city -- but the truth is that the Spartans made virtue their guide in death as well as in life, and they did not regard death as anything to chase after. Spartans desired neither to live nor to die, but only to make a good record.

A general who risks his own life endangers not only himself but also his soldiers, whose life depends on his safety. When the reward justifies the risk, he should not hesitate, but if the most he might accomplish is what an ordinary soldier could do just as well, a general should not put his person in jeopardy.

* * *

It is not surprising that the Thebans at that battle showed great grief at the loss of Pelopidas, calling him father, deliverer, and instructor of all that was good and honorable. But also the Thessalians paid him every possible tribute to human courage. When they heard Pelopidas was dead, they ran still in their armor to where his body was and heaped up enemy weapons all around him, as if he could see their triumph. They cut off their own hair and the manes of their horses. From the sadness that pervaded the army, it appeared that they had lost rather than won.

The funeral of Pelopidas was as magnificent as the Thessalians could possibly make it. But the glory of a funeral does not consist in the abundance of gold, ivory, and other fine things, or in feigned displays of grief on a grand scale. Such honors, when forced from the mourners -- with secret feelings of jealousy toward the dead and hatred for the living -- are not testimonies of love and respect, but only barbaric pride and extravagance. Although Pelopidas was only a foreigner and had no relatives in Thessaly, they paid a sincere tribute to a truly great man. The cities of Thessaly competed with each other to see who could do Pelopidas the most honor.

This was the successful completion of a well-spent life. The death of a good man is nothing to be sad about, since it puts him beyond the power of fortune and secures his happiness for eternity. That Spartan advised well, who told Diagoras (who had won the Olympic games himself and had seen his sons and grandsons win there too): "Die, Diagoras -- you cannot be a god." And who could compare all of the victories in the Pythian and Olympic games put together to the brave and glorious actions of Pelopidas?

The death of Alexander was fit for a tyrant. His wife, Thebe, who had visited Pelopidas in his captivity, saw that Alexander was losing his power. She was afraid of what he might do in desperation, to her or to her brothers, so she plotted with them to murder Alexander in his bed. Alexander's corpse was abused by the Pheraeans and left unburied for the dogs to eat. Although his death was perhaps too quick and easy, otherwise Alexander of Pherae seems to have been rewarded as his villainies deserved.


1. Plutarch wrote a life of Epaminondas, but most unfortunately it has vanished.

2. The treacherous Spartan seizure of the castle of Thebes (the Cadmea) took place in 382 B.C. The battle where Epaminondas saved Pelopidas was two years before, and in that battle Sparta and Thebes fought on the same side.

3. Athens surrendered to Sparta in April of 404 B.C. to end the Peleponnesian War, which had lasted for twenty-eight and a half years. The Athenian assembly elected thirty men to reform the constitution and laws. These were "the Thirty." Instead of reforming the city, the Thirty kept putting this job off, and meanwhile they appointed people to fill offices and controlled what went on. First, the Thirty arrested all of those who had made their living accusing people. Everyone was glad to see these trouble-makers punished, but then the Thirty went further and disarmed the people of Athens, except for a group called the Three Thousand, who were their enforcers. More and more Athenians were condemned to death because they might become some opposition. Now the victims of the Thirty were from all sides. Once they had purged all opposition, the Thirty began to seize property and do just as they pleased. A band of about 70 refugees, who had been hiding in Thebes, came back and seized the fortress of Phyle, and the citizens of Athens rallied to them. After a civil war, the Thirty were defeated and democracy was restored in Athens.

4. The liberation of Thebes occurred in Winter, 379 B.C., three years after the seizure of the castle. The story is told in more detail in Plutarch's essay entitled "The Demon of Socrates."

5. The Battle of Leuctra (371 B.C.) introduced a new tactic known to military historians as the oblique order of battle. The Thebans, who had only 6,000 men against 11,000 of the invincible Spartans, loaded their left wing with a heavy column of hoplites, spearheaded by the Sacred Band under Pelopidas. This strike force would go against the Spartan right wing, where the king of Sparta and his best troops were. Epaminondas slanted the rest of his line, so that they were opposed to the other Spartans, but out of range. The Theban army, therefore, had a local superiority of force where they actually engaged. Once Pelopidas broke through, the Thebans rolled up the flank of the opposing force, as the slanted line held the enfiladed enemy in place by a threatened attack from the front. Spartan casualties were very heavy, and the military power of Sparta ended on that day.

6. Plutarch wrote a life of Artaxerxes, and it is included in the Dryden edition of the Lives. Persian money, as we have seen in the life of Agesilaus, found its way into the cities of Greece and stirred them up against each other. Artaxerxes hired lobbyists and orators to pervert the policy of his enemies, and in the case of Greece we see that he successfully made them fight themselves into impotence.

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