LGBT History: Sacred Band of Thebes

The question whether homosexuals make good soldiers has been a controversial issue in many Western countries in the twentieth century. In the United States gays' right to serve had sparked a heated debate on a national scale, recently resolved in favor of a controversial 'don't tell' policy which allows gays and lesbians to enlist provided they do not divulge their sexual orientation.
If you ever run into anyone who gives you a mouthful of right-wing nonsense about how gays shouldn't serve in the military, or protests that gays have never been allowed to openly serve in the military, tell them about the OTHER 300. Not the soldiers at Thermopylae celebrated in the movie "The 300," but another group equally deserving of attention. Known as "The Sacred Band of Thebes," these 300 gay men (150 couples) were recruited to form an elite band of soldiers, known for their bravery and devotion. It's a fascinating and often-overlooked morsel of history.
The Sacred Band of three hundred young lovers from Thebes. As a group cemented by friendship and love it was invincible. From 378 BC to 348 BC they were extremely successful in battle and highly revered. The idea was that if you fought alongside your boyfriend you would be inspired to greater heroism, wanting to impress him. The Theban lawgivers deliberately gave great encouragement to these friendships to soften the wildness of character of their youth. Beloveds and lovers swore pledges of loyalty at the tomb of Iolaus (Hercules lover) which is located within his cult precinct at Thebes. It is therefore natural that Thebes’ band was called "sacred," just as Plato referred to the lover as a "divinely-inspired friend."
This undefeated elite battalion, was destroyed by the forces of Philip
II of Macedon at the Battle of Chaeronea. When Philip, surveying the casualties after the battle, stood at that place where the 300 chanced to lie dead, men who had faced the Macedonian long spears and were now a jumble of bodies and armor, he was struck with admiration. And when he learned that this was the band of lovers and beloveds, he wept and exclaimed, "May utter destruction fall upon those who suppose these men died or suffered anything disgraceful!"


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