24. Epaminondas deliberately went against the Spartans’ strongest unit
Sparta’s military structure produced an elite phalanx that was unmatched in discipline and toughness. By the fourth century BC, Sparta was Greece’s leading power, and the Spartan phalanx was one that nobody wanted a piece of. That is, until Epaminondas showed up, and broke the spell of Spartan invincibility by breaking the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. There, Epaminondas led a Theban army of 7000 hoplites, plus 600 cavalry, against a bigger Spartan army of 10,000 hoplites, plus 1000 cavalry.
The Theban elite was a unit of 300 warriors known as The Sacred Band, comprised of 150 pairs of homosexual lovers. The Spartan elite was a unit of 1000 full Spartan citizens, trained for war since childhood. Greeks usually placed their best troops at the right side of their line. Thus, it was rare for the best troops of both armies to come into contact with each other. Epaminondas changed that by putting his best troops on the left side of his line, directly opposite the Spartans. Then he demonstrated his prowess as a creative warrior with two innovations that revolutionized warfare.