Dr. Flamingo Jones And The Sacred Band Of Thebes
I’m very happy to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.
Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. I apologize for my long absence in contributing to this esteemed publication, but I do so without regret. In the intervening year since my last article, I have been on sabbatical from my position as head of the Department of Queer Anthropology at the University of Oxbridgeshire to travel around the world in my ongoing quest for both modern and ancient truths.
With all the controversy in the last few years over the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the U.S. military, I thought it would be rather illuminating to share with you an example of one of the greatest military teams from antiquity, one which had rather the opposite belief when it came to the sexual orientation of soldiers: the Sacred Band of Thebes.
2388 years ago, in 378 BC, a Theban military commander by the name of Gorgidas had an interesting idea for forming a novel type of elite military unit that would be more loyal than any other. He decided to put to use the homosexuality that has always been quite commonplace in military units throughout the ages. From the regular Theban army, Gorgidas hand-picked 150 pairs of skilled soldiers who were lovers with other soldiers. The logic behind this was that a soldier would fight with utmost ferocity and loyalty if he were fighting alongside his lover, defending him at all costs. The Theban commander himself would often fight among the Sacred Band with his own special companion.
Different commanders would use the Sacred Band of Thebes as a special forces team in different ways, scattered through the front ranks as a morale booster for the other troops, or solidified in one ferocious fighting unit. During the years of the Sacred Band’s existence Thebes gained greater and greater power in their region, even breaking free from Sparta’s dominance when the Sacred Band helped to defeat an army three times their own size.
Unfortunately, in 338BC the Sacred Band was annihilated by Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great). According to Plutarch, most of the Theban soldiers fled in the face of Philip II’s superior military technology, but not the Sacred Band. They stood, fought, and died as one that day, and are even buried together on that same spot, marked today by a statue known as the Lion of Chaironeia. Plato, in his Symposium, best describes the love and determination found of the Sacred Band of Thebes, in which he wrote:
And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this.