The Elite Gay Army in Ancient Greece
The Sacred Band was an elite military unit from Thebes comprising 150 gay couples. At the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC, these 300 gay warriors led the Theban army against the Spartan army. The Thebans won and shattered the Spartan control of Greece.
The Greek view on gay warriors
The Thebans believed gay warriors fought better in order to impress and protect their lovers. If a lover fell during a battle, his partner would fight even harder to avenge his death.
Three thousand years ago in Ancient Greece, being gay or lesbian was not a crime. In fact, in certain situations, the Greeks even encouraged homosexual relationships.
Young boys exchanged romantic favors for the knowledge provided by their older tutors. Fathers would pray to the gods for their sons to be attractive because it meant a better mentor. Such relationships lasted until the young boys reached adulthood.
Soldiers would form romantic relationships with one another to boost their morale.
The Greek society differentiated between active and passive roles both genders took during sex. An active role, being a penetrator, meant masculinity, adulthood, and prestige. A passive role, being penetrated, represented feminity, youth, and shame.
For a receiving partner, anal sex was demeaning. Instead, they engaged in intercrural sex.
The members of the Sacred Band of Thebes were romantic partners. They called an older partner the erastes (‘lover’) and a younger one the eromenos (‘beloved’). Each pair exchanged sacred vows at the temple of Iolaus, the lover of Heracles.
Facts about the Sacred Band of Thebes
The Thebans established the Sacred Band of Thebes at the beginning of the 4th century BC. It was a unit of 300 gay warriors. Their leader handpicked members based on their skill and athletic ability.
They were full-time professionals. The city-state of Thebes would supply and train them. Each man had a cuirass, a helm, greaves, and a shield. Their primary weapons were a four meters long spear and a sword.
Their training included wrestling and dance. In battle, they served as shock troops, aiming to kill enemy leaders
The Sacred Band Of Thebes: An Army Of 300 Gay Lovers
In ancient Greece, much like modern-day San Francisco, homosexuality was an accepted part of life.
Homosexual couples often exhibited such devotion to each other that Plato proposed the formation of an army unit composed entirely of gay couples.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was definitely not a policy for this army. Here is the story of ancient Greece’s Sacred Band of Thebes, an army of gay partners.
In Plato’s Symposium, which was essentially a written hypothetical conversation between several characters that were penned around 370 BC,
Phaedrus states that an army made up entirely of gay lovers would be a formidable one because each person would fight hard to ensure the safety of their lover.
Plato wrote “No man is such a craven that love cannot inspire him with a courage that makes him equal to the bravest born.”
The Sacred Band of Thebes
In fact, just a few years before he committed it to text, Plato’s idea bore fruit and probably many fabulous parties. Around 378 BCE,
an elite fighting division called the Sacred Band of Thebes was formed as a branch of the Theban army, consisting of 150 pairs of gay lovers.
It was created by a general named Gorgidas, and one of the fist tasks of the newly formed army was to march to the front lines during the famous standoff between Chabrias and the Agesilaus II.
The Army of Gay Lovers Saw Action
The formation of the Sacred Band of Thebes was not merely a publicity stunt. The army engaged in several battles and even played a decisive role in helping Thebes become an important city-state.
The earliest known mention of a military engagement of the Sacred Band of Thebes was written in 324 BC by Dinarchus in his work Against Demosthenes.
Dinarchus wrote that the Sacred Band of Thebes, led by two generals (and presumably lovers) named Pelopidas and Epaminondas, were victorious over the Spartans in the Battle of Leuctra of 371 BC.