The Spartan Army was renowned for its bravery and skill in battle. As it turns out, there was one enemy they couldn’t defeat—an elite band of same-sex lovers, trained in the fine art of dance.
The sacred band
Circa roughly 376 B.C., Theban officer Gorgidas had a life-changing epiphany: Put together an Army of homosexual lovers to battle invaders.
The band was made up of 150 pairs of couples, each with an older gentleman (erastês) and his younger beau (erômenos). All were trained in wrestling, dance, and horsemanship.
It was their undying devotion to one another that made them so powerful. As Plutarch said, “…a band cemented by friendship grounded upon love is never to be broken, and invincible; since the lovers, ashamed to be weak in the sight of their beloved, and the beloved before their lovers, willingly rush into danger for the relief of one another.”
Victory in battle
The Sacred Band went on to prove their worth again and again. Their most notable battles included:
- Stand-off with the Spartans: The Sacred Band took part in an epic standoff with the Spartan Army. In a nutshell, they just chilled on their high ground while the Spartans gaped up at them, unable to engage. When they couldn’t lure them down, the Spartans eventually withdrew.
- Battle of Tegyra: In 375 B.C., the Band was surrounded by a massive group of 1,000 – 1,800 Spartan soldiers returning home. They were outnumbered by more than two to one. Rather than surrender, the group formed a tight formation and forced their way out, killing the Spartan leaders on their way. In a total baller move, they stripped the dead and created themselves a trophy before they left.
- Battle of Leuctra: in 371, Sparta officially declared war on Thebes. When the two met in battle, Thebes was once again vastly outnumbered. Luckily, they had the Sacred Band right up front where—yes—they totally killed it (pun intended). Thousands died, including the king.
A fight to the death
All good things must come to an end, and by 338 B.C., the Band’s battle tactics were sorely out of date.
When the Macedonians showed up to fight using a new long-speared phalanx, it was game over. Unfortunately, the Sacred Band refused to surrender and all 300 members were killed.