Thebes , a city in ancient Greece, in the district of Boeotia. It was founded at a very early time, and its legendary history was an important part of Greek mythology. Its founders were said to have been Cadmus and five warriors who sprang from dragon's teeth sown on the ground. Among myths dealing with Cadmus' descendants are those concerning King Oedipus; Oedipus' sons, who died in the conflict called the Seven against Thebes; and Oedipus' daughter Antigone. These myths were the basis of three plays each by Aeschylus and Sophocles. Thebes also was the legendary birthplace of the god Bacchus (Dionysus) and the hero Hercules. ( )

Historically, in the late sixth century B.C. Thebes and Athens—only 30 miles (50 km) apart and both ambitious for power—became bitter enemies. In 480 B.C., a Theban force joined other Greek forces in the futile defense of the pass of Thermopylae against the Persians, but then Thebes supported the Persians until their final defeat. Thebes was allied with Sparta against Athens throughout the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C.). After their victory, Thebes and Sparta became enemies, and Sparta defeated and occupied Thebes in 382 B.C.

Under the leaders Pelopidas and Epaminondas, Thebes overthrew the Spartans and defeated them in the battles of Leuctra in 371 and Mantinea in 362. Thebes largely controlled Greece at this time, but quickly lost its supremacy. Later in the century Theban resistance to Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great was so bitter and prolonged that the city was destroyed by Alexander in 335 B.C.