Archaic Period

Some states, particularly those that are under continual military threat, maintain a unit of professional soldiers as a stiffener for their militia, to garrison their citadel and border forts, to guard their streets and walls, and (under some arrangements) to maintain their government in office against the menace of an armed overthrow.

Such an aotos is distinguished from the agema of a king by its professional and strictly military character. The aotos lives in barracks, drills in formation, and works for pay, not in the expectation of patronage. Correspondingly, aotoi typically consist of hoplites and archers, of landless soldiers rather than sons of the eupatridai, sometimes even of foreign mercenaries. It is far from unknown for an aotos to overthrow a weak state and constitute itself an oligarchy.

The aotos of Samariopolis is the famous and widely-imitated Sacred Band. It consists of a number of homosexual couples, each man sworn to defend his lover and his lover's honour to the death. Such units enjoy a special prestige, though their morale is sometimes compromised when ambitious couples feign love or even homosexuality in order to be accepted. The Aotos of Thekla is one such imitator of the Sacred Band of Samariopolis.

Classical Period

When the Theklan Hegemony united Gehennum it dissolved the aotoi of constituent states and recruited their veterans into its new Imperial Army. Most veterans joined the imperial tagma in their episkopy, but couples who had been in sacred bands were invited to join the Aotos of Thekla, which thus became simply the Aotos. This unit, formally considered to be a tagmathough of somewhat indefinite size, is garrisoned at Thekla as half of the Imperial Guard.

The Aotos is the most prestigious unit of the Imperial Army, and the only survival in the Classical Period of the Sacred Band tradition of homosexual military elites. Couples of soldiers are recruited from all over Gehennum, and lodged as couples in luxurious barracks beside the Imperial Palace. The Aotos shares the duty of guarding the palace with the Arētē (formerly, with the Nikē). But whereas the Arētē is and the Nikē was used as a battlefield bodyguard for the emperor or the polemarkh, the Aotos takes pride of place at the right end of the line of battle.

When a man is promoted to a command in the Aotos his lover automatically becomes his lieutenant. Thus when a soldier is appointed stikhagos his lover is automatically his ouragos, the lover of a lokhagos is automatically his hypolokhagos, etc.

If a couple are close in age then they may both retire when the elder ages out of the Life of the Warrior. As for couples with a significant difference of age: it is far from uncommon that when a member of the Aotos retires at forty, his lover aged about thirty falls in love with a young soldier of about twenty, and with convenient promptness.

Decadent Period

The Aotos has dwindled somewhat from what it was in Classical Period. The Army as a whole no longer receives the best recruits no longer receives the best recruits, and the Aotos is kept under strength. Moreover, the polemarkh appoints its officers with an eye to who will be politically reliable rather than strictly for military ability. Despite these limitations, the Aotos retains part of its ancient prestige and a stubborn loyalty to the person of the Emperor.


The Aotos (ie. the Army tagma of the Classical and Decadent periods) is armed as hoplites in a uniform issue of panoply, but the men are paid as though they provided it themselves. Their uniform is a scarlet khiton, scarlet khlamys with a yellow fringe, black-lacquered armour, and a scarlet shield with a snarling tiger's face painted on it. All ranks wear the yellow crests that in ordinary units distinguish officers.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.