Achillean refers to a man or man-aligned individual who is attracted to other men and man-aligned people.[note 1] This describes all sexual orientations in which one man or man-aligned person is attracted to others, serving as an umbrella term for men and non-binary people who are gay, pansexual, bisexual, queer, or other sexualities in which men or man-aligned individuals identifying as those orientations may be attracted to men and man-aligned people. It is similar to and sometimes known as men loving men (MLM).[1]

The complementary, or female-to-female equivalent of Achillean, is Sapphic.


The term "achillean" refers to the Greek hero Achilles. Its 21st century use to describe sexualities is modelled after the term "sapphic", which is used to describe all women who are attracted to women.[1]



Achilles himself is a famous figure in Greek mythology. In relation to sexuality, Achilles had a relationship with another character, Patroclus, that is said to have romantic connotations. In Homer's Iliad, in which their relationship plays a crucial part in the story, Achilles described Patroclus as being the "man I loved beyond all other comrades, loved as my own life." After Homer's iteration, the relationship between the two men was depicted as a love affair.[2]

Theocritus' Idyll XXIX, a love poem from a man to a boy, includes a phrase addressing their future: "ἀλλάλοισι πελώμεθ' Ἀχιλλέιοι φίλοι" (alláloisi pelómeth' Achilléioi fíloi). It has received loose poetic translations from the Aeolic Greek dialect into English, such as "we'll be Achilles and his friend,"[3] "we may be to one another as Achilles and his friend" with the meaning noted as "such friends as were Achilles and Patroclus,"[4] and "be friends to each other like Achilles and Patroclus;" however, the literal translation is "be Achillean friends to each other."[5]

The word "Achillean" has historically been used to describe all things relating to the aforementioned Achilles. An early use of the term in English to describe sexuality was in John Addington Symonds's 1883 book A Problem in Greek Ethics (chapters III and X). Symonds (1840 – 1893), an English author and advocate of male love, spoke about the "Achilleian friendship" as an ideal of manly love, devoid of effeminacy, emphasizing that the love between Achilles and Patroclus had, as its most important aspects, loyalty and mutual goodwill. The "Achilleian friendship", which for him was synonymous with Greek heroism and Greek love (heroic male-male love), would have ended with the defeat of the hitherto invincible Sacred Band of Thebes, which was composed of 150 pairs of male lovers, against the army of Philip II of Macedon. However, Philip's young son and heir Alexander the Great sought to revive it when he and his lover Hephaestion ran naked around the joint tomb of Achilles and Patroclus in Troy to honor their heroes:[6]

"At Chaeronea, Greek liberty, Greek heroism, and Greek love, properly so-called, expired. It is not unworthy of notice that the son of the conqueror, young Alexander, endeavoured to revive the tradition of Achilleian friendship. [...] Homer was his invariable companion upon his marches; in the Troad he paid special honour to the tomb of Achilles, running naked races round the barrow in honour of the hero [...]. The historians of his life relate that, while he was indifferent to women, he was madly given to the love of males. This the story of his sorrow for Hephaistion sufficiently confirms."[6]

See also A.C. Hamilton's 1959 article titled, "Spenser's Treatment of Myth":

"Guyon subdues these Achillean affections through his own power; but they break out again as Cymochles lapses into lust and Pyrochles burns in the idle lake."[7]


Achillean Flag

A simple version of the achillean flag, designed by DeviantArt user Pride-Flags.

In ancient Rome and 19th century England, green indicated gay affiliations. Victorian men would often pin a green carnation on their lapel, as popularized by author Oscar Wilde.[8]

The first iteration of the achillean flag was created by Tumblr user pridenpositivity in 2016.[9] This this version was later redesigned by DeviantArt user Pride-Flags on October 5, 2016.[10]



The word "achillean" is often confused for the term gay or is wrongly perceived to have the same meaning. However, gay describes a sexuality with attraction exclusively to people of the same gender; in this case, for men. Achillean encompasses all men who are attracted to other men, including men who are also attracted to other genders in addition to men, such as men who may be bisexual, pansexual, queer, or other sexualities.[1]



  1. Gender identity is a personal experience, so defining "man-aligned" may lead to different answers depending on whom you ask, but it generally refers to a non-binary person who is partially aligned or identifies with being male, with masculinity, and/or with manhood. They may or may not individually identify with this term, and their identity may be fluid between others. Its use here attempts to encapsulate multiple identities without listing each possibility.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Glossary of Terms" by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Plus (LGBTQ+) Resource Center on <>(Archived on 2021-11-18)
  2. "Who was Achilles?" on The British Museum Blog(no backup information provided)
  3. "Idyll XXIX" by Translated by J. M. Edmonds in The Greek Bucolic Poets. Published 1912 by The Loeb Classical Library. (web archive)
  4. "Idyll XXIX" by Translated by A. S. F. Gow in Theocritus. Published 1950 by Cambridge University Press.
  5. "Idyll XXIX" by Translated by Neil Hopkinson in Theocritus, Moschus, Bion. Published 2015 by Harvard University Press. (web archive) The full lines containing the phrase are translated and annotated by Hopkinson as: "You should think of this and be pleasanter toward me, and love me as guilelessly as I love you, so that when you are a man(Lit. "when you have a manly cheek," i.e. a beard.) we may be friends to each other like Achilles and Patroclus.(Lit., "be Achillean friends to each other.")"
  6. 6.0 6.1 A Problem in Greek Ethics by Symonds, John Addington. Published 1883.
  7. Spenser's Treatment of Myth, Published in ELH, Vol. 26, No. 3 by A. C. Hamilton. Published September, 1959 by The Johns Hopkins University Press. (web archive)
  8. "The Fairest Flowers" on <>(Archived on 2021-12-14)
  9. Archived Tumblr post announcing the achillean flag.
  10. DeviantArt post with the current achillean flag.