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Subject: Re: Sacred Band of Thebes / Doyler's Death

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Date Posted: Sat, Apr 22 2006, 17:47:43 GMT
In reply to: Neda 's message, "Sacred Band of Thebes" on Wed, Dec 01 2004, 4:11:02 GMT

>Doyler brought up a good point in the book. What
>happened when one of a pair in the Sacred Band of
>Thebes died in battle? I would imagine the other half
>would either go on fighting, or kill himself on the
>battlefield. I tried Googling it but found nothing, so
>I figured this is the best place to ask.

I think, in a way, Jamie answered this in the book with Jim's own reaction to Doyler's (how strange it is to write this next word) death - he went on fighting, but was never whole again.

I must admit, since I've read the book, I've often wondered whether Doyler's death was the best possible ending. Part of me wished that the two of them could just go off together into the sun-set and live their lives, fulfil their dreams. But of course, few people who lived at that time had such freedom. Be it those like Gordie who died in the War or those like Nancy who were left behind. The added tragedy of the fight for Irish Home Rule excacerbated this and I think, in this way, Doyler and Jim's tale is a way into the broader horror of this bloody age with all it's heart-ache and suffering.

More importantly, Doyler's death plays a part in the wider narrative of the story that Jamie so brilliantly constructs. That relating to the "history of homosexuality" as expressed through Ancient Greek history. If you recall, Doyler leaves Dublin for Glasthule on the eve of the rising questioning his courage, not wanting to fight:

"That life which all his thinking years he had dreamt to spend in a magnificent cause. He'd take this miserable existence instead. He would too. He'd never live with himself, but he'd take it, and hate himself ever on. Jesus, I'm too coward to turn back even." (p.496, 2001 UK edition)

Yet the moment Jim's life is at threat he forget about his own safety, has no time to question his courage, and instinctively saves Jim's life by sacrificing his own. True love expressed with "the last full measure of devotion". In this way, Doyler affirms Jamie's earlier references to the unique courage a lover has and, thus, the validity of their relationship (regardless of its same-sex nature). This has clear references to Phaedrus' speech in Plato's Symposium, where he says:

"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? The veriest coward would become an inspired hero, equal to the bravest, at such a time; Love would inspire him. That courage which, as Homer says, the god breathes into the souls of some heroes, Love of his own nature infuses into the lover."

So in this way, Doyler's death was necessary to fulfil one of the under-lying themes of ASTB: the validity of gay love and it's inherent masculinity. Doyler's death is a very powerful affirmation of this (albeit painful to read).

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