Epaminondas of Thebes

Epaminondas (c. 418-362 BC) is a little known figure in Greek history. He was a brilliant Theban general, immortalized through doing what every Greek prior to him thought was impossible: namely, to defeat the “invincible” Spartans in hoplite warfare. He bested the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC, and he did so by breaking with Greek martial tradition. It was customary in Greek hoplite battles for the best troops to be placed in the far right flank. Epaminondas decided to place his best troops in the far left flank—thus opposite the best Spartan troops. Further, he stacked his far left flank fifty men deep, also a break with tradition. The typical Greek phalanx was eight to twelve men deep, and the heavily stacked Theban phalanx gave the Thebans greater pushing power.