of Thebes is exactly conterminous with the rise and death of Epaminondas.
Thebes and Athens had both suffered from the wanton aggression of Sparta. They now made common cause to avenge it, and at the battle of Leuctra (371) Sparta suffered defeat in a pitched land battle on a great scale for the first time in her history. The victory of Thebes was wholly due to the new tactics of Epaminondas. He had formed a Theban corps d’élite, composed, in a fashion strikingly characteristic of the Greek mind, of 150 pairs of lovers sworn to conquer or die together. Thus he pressed into his service the only romantic feeling which the Greeks understood, the relation between David and Jonathan or between Achilles and Patroclus. This Sacred Band formed the front of the left wing. Further, whereas the whole Spartan line was drawn up as usual with a uniform depth of twelve spears, Epaminondas made his left fifty