Jump to Navigation

'An Army of Lovers' - The Sacred Band of Thebes

Print this article   Email this article

Louis Crompton argues that male love and military prowess went hand in hand in classical Greece.

The question whether homosexuals make good soldiers has been a controversial issue in many Western countries in the twentieth century. Most NATO nations accept them in their military establishments: Britain, Turkey and Portugal do not. In the United States homosexuals' right to serve has sparked a heated debate on a national scale, recently resolved in favour of a controversial 'don't tell' policy which allows gays and lesbians to enlist provided they do not divulge their sexual orientation. Given these often negative attitudes, it is intriguing to note that in ancient times, one Greek city state actually recruited a regiment of male lovers, the so-called Sacred Band of Thebes. Modern historians, mainly concerned with the achievements of Athens and Sparta, have paid little attention to their story, but it is a remarkable one, told in some detail by Plutarch.

 This article is available to History Today online subscribers only. If you are a subscriber, please log in.

Please choose one of these options to access this article:

Call our Subscriptions department on +44 (0)20 3219 7813 for more information.

If you are logged in but still cannot access the article, please contact us

Historical dictionary: Thebes (Greece)

About Us | Contact Us | Advertising | Subscriptions | Newsletter | RSS Feeds | Ebooks | Podcast | Submitting an Article
Copyright 2012 History Today Ltd. All rights reserved.