The Gay Army?
by Bart Baker
There has been great discussion about whether the Sacred Band, considered the greatest army on Earth during it’s 40 years of existence, should be considered a “gay army”. While it is true that the members of the army were engaged in homosexual activities, that was true of many the Grecian armies at that time. But what we now consider to be ‘homosexual activity’ wasn’t a concept at that time, but rather based upon Plato’s ideas, was their strong personal relationships with each other which has nothing to do with the concept of “gay” as we understand it today.
During the time of the Sacred Band, the Greeks didn’t delineate people by sexual orientation, instead their relationships were delineated the concepts of “active” and “passive” roles during sex: the one who penetrates and the one who is penetrated. Two males in a sexual relationship were normal for the Greeks, with the active role taken by the adult, the teacher and the passive role by the protégé. Greek men selected younger protégés and trained them not only for combat, but taught them about life and manhood, as well as protected them. It was not uncommon for a bond to grow between the mentor and the protégé, consummated in sex, a common rite of passage for males in the Greek culture. The mentor was the active partner, the protégé the passive partner.
Because the members of the Sacred Band were warriors, their relationships had a more complex dynamic because stepping onto the battlefield, you had to trust the person you loved with your life. It is believed that the reason the Sacred Band was so aggressive and strong is because they fought side-by-side with the man they loved.