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THE TRUE STORY OF THE "300"
Sacred Band of ThebesFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, searchThe Sacred Band of Thebes (ancient Greek: 'Ιερός Λόχος τών Θηβών Hierós Lókhos tón Thebón; the holy strike-force of Thebes) was a troop of picked soldiers, numbering 150 age-structured pairs which formed the elite force of the Theban army in the 4th century BC.[1] It was organized by the Theban commander Gorgidas in 378 BC and it played a crucial role in the Battle of Leuctra, and was completely annihilated in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC.Plutarch reports that the Sacred Band consisted of homosexual couples and the reason was that lovers would fight more fiercely and more cohesively at each other's sides than would strangers with no ardent bonds. So according to Plutarch (in his Life of Pelopidas[2]), the inspiration for the Band's formation came from Plato’s Symposium, wherein the character Phaedrus remarks:And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other's side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger? [3]The Sacred Band originally was formed of picked men in couples, each lover and beloved, selected from the ranks of the existing Theban citizen-army. The pairs consisted of the older "heniochoi", or charioteers, and the younger "paraibatai", or companions. They were housed and trained at the city’s expense.[4] During their early engagements, in an attempt to bolster a general morale, they were dispersed by their commander Gorgidas throughout the front ranks of the Theban army.After the Theban general Pelopidas recaptured the acropolis of Thebes in 379 BC, he assumed command of the Sacred Band in which he fought alongside his good friend, Epaminondas. It was Pelopidas who formed these couples into a distinct unit: he “never separated or scattered them, but would stand [them with himself in] the brunt of battle, using them as one body.”[5] They became, in effect, the “crack” force of Greek soldiery [6], and the forty years of their known existence (378 – 338 BC) marked the pre-eminence of Thebes as a military and political power in late-classical Greece.The Sacred Band under Pelopidas fought the Spartans at Tegyra in 375 BC, vanquishing an army that was at least three times their number. It was also responsible for the victory of Leuctra in 371 BC, called by Pausanias the most decisive battle ever fought by Greeks against Greeks. Leuctra established Theban independence from Spartan rule, and laid the groundwork for the expansion of Theban power, though possibly also for Philip II's eventual victory.Defeat came at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), the decisive contest in which Philip II of Macedon (with his son, Alexander the Great, as he would later be known) extinguished the authority of the Greek city-states. The traditional Greek hoplite infantry were no match for the novel long-speared Macedonian phalanx: the Theban army and its allies broke and fled, but the Sacred Band, though surrounded and overwhelmed, refused to surrender. They held their ground and fell where they stood. Plutarch records that upon encountering their corpses “heaped one upon another”, King Philip, understanding who they were, exclaimed:"Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly."[7]In about 300 BC, the town of Thebes erected a giant stone lion on a pedestal at the burial site of the Sacred Band. This was restored in the 20th Century and is standing today. Though Plutarch claims that all three hundred died that day, excavation of the burial site at the Lion Monument in 1890 produced only 254 skeletons, arranged in seven rows