Gay Soldiers in Ancient Greece

April 3, 2007 at 11:10 AM | Posted in History | 7 Comments

While I was researching for an article about Greece, I came across this interesting piece of trivia. Apparently during ancient times, there was a group of Greek soldiers called the Sacred Band of Thebes, which was formed by Theban commander Gorgidas in 4th century BC.
The Sacred Band of Thebes was composed of 150 pairs of male lovers (300 in total, which was coincidentally the number of soldiers led by King Leonidas I in the Battle of Thermopylae as depicted in the movie 300). It was believed then that lovers in battle would fight more fiercely and therefore invincible than soldiers who didn’t have a bond. This concept was according to Plato’s Symposium.

It is interesting to note and kind of surprising that homosexuality already existed in ancient times, and that ancient Greeks practiced pederasty and celebrated love between males in symposia. I could hardly imagine Greek warriors fighting side by side with their male lovers. In recent years, films about Greek battles like Troy and 300 show us a different depiction. Audiences are led to believe that these Greek soldiers were heterosexual males who had wives and children. Now I’m wondering whether Achilles’ love for his cousin Patroclus was just brotherly love or not; or whether King Leonidas had homosexual tendencies towards his 300 men. Hmm, What do you think?

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