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James Romm
Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-9800)
The Sacred Band of Thebes and the Last Days of Greek Freedom (379–338 B.C.)

Research and writing leading to publication of a book on the "Sacred Band," a special infantry unit of the city of Thebes from 379-338 BCE, in the context of ancient Greek history, politics, and philosophy.

The Sacred Band, a Theban infantry unit made up of paired male lovers fighting side by side, is depicted by Greek sources as the pivotal factor in the 4th-century rise of Thebes and overthrow of Sparta. Yet no historical study has looked in depth at the legend of this elite corps. My book will trace the Band through the four decades in which it fought, from its creation in 379 BCE by a cadre of Theban patriots, to its annihilation by Alexander the Great at the Chaeronea in 338 BCE, a battle that brought an end to Greek political autonomy. I will examine the Band's role in Theban victories over Sparta during the 370's, and show that Plato's Symposium, a dialogue that alludes to the Sacred Band in discussing the power of eros, was likely inspired by it. Love's Warriors thus stands at the intersection of Platonic philosophy, military history and the study of Greek sexuality, with a nod to archaeology in its concluding exploration of the Sacred Band's mass grave on the field of Chaeronea.

Project fields:
Classics; Gender Studies; Military History

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$50,000 (approved)
$50,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2018 – 8/31/2019