The Greek Sacred Band(s)
In the Greek history, the name Sacred Band appears four times, describing various Greek special units.
1-The Sacred Band of Thebes (circa 394 - 338 BC).
The Theban Sacred Band (Ieros Lochos) formed by the Theban General Gorgidas (around 378 BC ).
It participated: A) In the battle of Coronea (August 394 BC) against Sparta. In this battle, the Spartans defeated the Thebans.
B) In the battle of Tegyra (375 BC) , against Sparta again, under the Theban General Pelopidas . In this battle, the Thebans defeated the Spartan Army. C) In the Battle of Leuctra (371 BC) , against Sparta, yet again. In this battle, the Thebans under General Epamenondas , defeated the Spartans. D) In the battle of Mentinea (366 BC) . The Spartans were defeated by Epamenondas' Sacred Band for one more time.
E) The Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), fought near Chaeronea, in Boeotia, was the greatest victory of Philip II of Macedon
There, thanks in part to the fearless cavalry charge (2,200 horse) of Philip's son and heir, Alexander, Philip defeated the combined forces of Athens and Thebes (35,000 men), securing Macedonian hegemony in Greece.
The battle itself pitted the classical phalanx of the Athenian and Theban confederates and the Macedonian phalanx of Philip.
The Macedonian Phalanx, is shown here in its fighting formation of 256 men, the Syntagma (Regiment). Its hoplites were armed with the 6m/20 ft long Sarissa long-spear
The confederate battle line formed with the Athenians holding the left wing and the Thebans holding the right wing (with the all-important extreme right flank protected by the Sacred Band). Athenians and Thebans occupied the center of the line. In the Macedonian line, Philip commanded the right wing. Alexander commanded the left wing and the Companion Cavalry (Hetaeroe. These hetaeroe were the heads of tribes and houses, and they maintained the unity among their followers with personal loyalty and blood-relationships. The organisation, from farmer to king, was very much patriarchal, and as a result of this depended the power of Macedon on the capability of its king), which was situated to the rear of the Macedonian line.
As the two sides engaged, the Macedonian left held against the charge of the Thebans. Meanwhile, the Macedonian right began an organized retreat. The relatively undisciplined Athenians rushed after them, causing a break to form in the center of the confederate line. Alexander drove the cavalry (some 2,200 horse) into the gap, outflanking the Theban left. The Theban elite unit (Sacred Band) was surrounded as the light and heavy Macedonian cavalry attacked it in the rear, while the peltasts attacked it from the other side. From the 300 Thebans of the Sacred Band, 254 were killed.
The monument built by the Thebans to honour their Sacred Band's 254 dead. A few years back, archaeological excavations brought to the light the remains of 254 men, burried in seven layers. When King Philip saw the 254 Thebans lying dead, said in tears: "Perished is the man who suspects that these brave men have done bad deeds or have accepted measly things"
2-The Sacred Band of Iasi (February 1821)
On 22 February, 1821, Alexander Ypsilanti
a Greek who had distinguished himself as a Russian officer in the campaign of 1814 (where he lost an arm), formed a force of 500 Greek students studying abroad (Sacred Band), under the French Colonel Olivier Voutier. On 17 March, 1821, Ypsilanti raises his colours in Bucharest & marches against the combined Ottoman Forces at Drăgăşani of Moldavia-Wallachia, now Romania (Battle of Dragashan, 7 June, 1821) . The Turks defeated the untrained & poorly equipped Greek students
The Ypsilanti Revolutionary Colours:
Ypsilantis' flag is horizontally divided red-white-black.
Red stands for the imperial purple robe and the self-government of the Greek people; white stands for innocence of the just cause of the Greek struggle against tyranny; and black represents the death of the Greeks for country and freedom. The obverse of the flag shows Emperor Constantine the Great and his mother Helen, flanked by the words, in black:
"ΕΝ ΤΟΥΤΟ ΝΙΚΑ" (In this sign thou shall conquest)
The reverse of the flag shows a phoenix emerging from the ashes, flanked by the words:
"From my ashes, I am reborn"
3-The Sacred Company of the Greeks of Northern Epirus (formed February 14th 1914) under Spyridon Melios or Spyromelios , mainly by Cretan volunteers. The Greeks of N. Epirus (now S. Albania) formed this unit in order to gain their autonomous status inside the newly established Albanian State. They defeated the Albanian forces in the battle of Premet , on February 23rd, 1914
The Colours of the Sacred Band of N.Epirus
4-Tunisia-Aegean Sea-Dodekannese. The 4th Sacred Band, 1942-1945
After the German occupation of Greece, the Greek government fled to Egypt & started to form military units in exile. The plethora of Officers though rather than soldiers, led Air Force Lt.Colonel G.Alexandres to suggest the creation of an Army unit, formed entirely by Officers. This suggestion was approved by the Commander of the II Hellenic Brigade, Colonel (Infantry) Alcibiades Bourdaras. Thus, in 1942 the Company of Immortals was formed under Major (Cavalry) Antonios Stephanakes, with 200 men & was organized in the beginning as a MG Company .
On 15 September, 1942, its new Commander, Colonel (Infantry) Christodoulos Tsigantes
named this unit, Sacred Band (Ieros Lochos).
The Sacred Band's Crest. This Crest was (1916-1917) the World War I Cross, a design of the French sculptor Andre Rivaud . The only difference between the two was that on the medal is carved on the reverse: Greece 1916-1917/Hellas 1916-1917. Sacred Band's motto, was the phrase: "E Tan e Epi Tas/Either it, or upon it" (a wish given from the ancient Sparta's mothers to their sons in war times. Literally, it means, "either you will return home carrying your shield, victorious, or you'll return carried on the shield, dead".)
The Sacred Band
Tsigantes collaborated with the commander of the British S.A.S, Lt. Archibald David Stirling & under the approval of the Greek HQ, moved the company to Qabrit in Egypt (where the SAS base was) & began its Commando training.
On 27 January, 1943 & following Colonel Tsigante's suggestion, the CO of the 8th British Army, General Bernard Montgomery put the Greek company under the commands of General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc of the 2nd Armoured Division of the Franšais Libres & on 10 March, 1943 in the area of Qsar-Rilan (Tunisia), the first battle of the Sacred Band was given, against a German mechanized detachment, to cover the advance of the 10th Army Corps (British & Newzalanders) in order to by-pass the Mareth defence line, & advance further to the South
On 29 March, 1943 & immediately after the allied forces captured the Tunisian town of Gabes, Sacred Band was disposed to the 2nd Division (Newzealanders) & on April 6th, a mixed Greco-New Zealand detachment fought against the Germans at Wadi-Akarit.
From May-October 1943, Sacred Band (314 men) moved to Palestine, in various camps, for parachute training
Sacred Band Para Wings
There, it reorganized ( HQ Section, Base Section, I,II,III Commando Sections ) & after the capitulation of the Italians (September 9th 1943), section I was dropped on Greek island of Samos while sections II & III moved there on fishing boats.
At the same time, British troops, liberated the island complex of the Dodekannese . Unfortunately, when the British were pulled back from the islands, Sacred Band was forced to withdraw from the Samos island too.
In February 1944, Sacred Band was put under the commands of the British Raiding Forces . On February 7th, Sacred Band's Section I, was transported for combat operations to the islands of the N.Aegean sea (Samos, Psara, Lesvos, Chios), while its section II, was parachuted into the Aegean isles to liberate the Dodekannese complex. In April, Sacred Band formed a Regiment with a force of around 1,000 men.
After the liberation of the Greek mainland (October 1944), Sacred Band continued operating in the islands of the Aegean Sea & the Dodekannese, until May 1945, when the last German soldier, left the islands
May 8th 1945: The allied joint committee signs the capitulation protocol of the Dodekannese German Garrison. To the right, is the representative of the Greek government, Colonel Christodoulos Tsigantes
From 1942-1945, Sacred Band lost 113 men
Greece's Regent Archbishop Damascenos, decorates the Sacred band's Colours with the War Cross A' Class & the Gold Medal for Valour (7 August 1945). The flag bearer is Col. Tsigantes
The War Cross A' Class
The Gold Medal for Valour
Sacred Band is the father of the Greek Special Forces.
Another great read Valtrex, thanks for posting!
Very interesting, as always.
Thank you, Grazie mille!