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Alexander Ypsilantis crosses the Pruth, by Peter von Hess, Benaki Museum, Athens. Ypsilantis wears the uniform of the Sacred Band.

The Sacred Band (Greek: Ιερός Λόχος) was a battalion founded by Alexander Ypsilantis at the beginning of the Greek War of Independence, in February 1821 in Wallachia, now part of Romania.

Origin and structure

It was named after the Sacred Band of Thebes, and composed of young Greek volunteers who rallied to Ypsilantis' call for revolutionary struggle. It was the first organized military unit of the revolution, with troops bearing a common outfit and equipment, plus a fair level of military discipline. The volunteers were mostly students coming from the Greek populations of the Black Sea, and the first core of the battalion had 500 people (later reaching up to 2,000). G. Kantakouzinos was the first commander of the Sacred Band, with Athanasios Tsakalov (one of the founders of the Filiki Eteria) as the second in command.

Battles fought

The unit participated in various battles fought against the Ottoman forces in the Wallachia, notably:

  • Galaţi
  • Slatina
  • Sculeni
  • Secu

Its largest engagement was the Battle of Drăgăşani on June 19, 1821, where it was destroyed almost to a man.

Despite its failure, it did inspire the uprising in mainland Greece in March 1821, when the Greek Independence War began.


Flag of the Sacred Band

The flag of the battalion held the Greek inscription ΕΝ ΤΟΥΤΩ ΝΙΚΑ (In this sign, you will conquer), motto of the Roman emperor and founder of the Byzantine Empire Constantine the Great, who is also portrayed in the flag with his mother Helena of Constantinople in the fashion of Greek Orthodox iconography.

On the inverse of the flag, it featured the inscription ΕΚ ΤΗΣ ΚΟΝΕΩΣ ΜΟΥ ΑΝΑΓΕΝΝΩΜΑΙ (From my ashes I am reborn) accompanied by an image of a Phoenix, the mythical bird that dies in flames and is reborn from its ashes.

The three colors of the flag respectively symbolized:

  • Red for Patriotism
  • White for Brotherhood
  • Black for Sacrifice

External links


  • Goldstein, Erik. Wars and Peace Treaties 1816-1991. Routledge, 1992.
  • R. Clogg, The Movement for Greek Independence, Macmillan, 1976
  • Miller, William. The Ottoman Empire and Its Successors, 1801-1927. Routledge, 1966.

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