Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Theban Sacred Band was an ancient military order in Thebes, Greece. It consisted of 300 men, the most distinguished youths of the city who had excelled in athletics and sports. They were always armed and constantly trained for war under public expense. They were close order infantry and their equipment was better than that of the rest of the Theban army. More famous perhaps is the story, Seven Against Thebes. When Oedipus was banished as the king of Thebes, his sons agreed to alternate rule. The first son did not relinquish the throne and the second son made war against him with six others. As in much of Greek tragedy, they died but they were heroes and revered for what they had done.

Summer 2013, an archaeological team from Bucknell University led by Stephanie Larson and Kevin Daly along with Greek archaeologists, will be excavating the area around the temple to Apollo on the Ismenion Hill in Thebes. The area has been on partially and sporadically investigated since the last major expedition from the 1910s. The team worked near the temple in 2011 and 2012 and found graves, a garbage pit and various items dating between 2nd century BCE and the 14th century CE. Considering that the area has been used by locals up to modern day, the team looks forward to continued success in collecting finds dating from the 2nd century BCE up through the 19th century CE.

 Ancient Thebes was a major Greek city in Boeotia and often involved with conflicts between Athens and Sparta, taking one or the other side through its history. Thebes is associated with warrior heroes such as Oedipus, Herakles, and Apollo. Anything found in Thebes necessarily adds to what knowledge we already have on Theban military history. Below are posted pictures associated with Thebes and Boeotia:

Herakles and the Nemean Lion. Boeotian or Euboean black-figure lekythos, ca. 540 BC. From Boeotia. Items such as these help indicate weapons may have been carried and used in ancient periods. 

Warriors in combat. Boeotian piece. © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons 

Sketch of Thebes, Greece, date and artist unknown.

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