Throughout history, armed priests or soldier priests have been recorded. Distinguished from military chaplains who served the military or civilians as spiritual guidance (non-combatants), these priests took up arms and fought in conflicts (combatants). The term warrior priests is usually used for armed priests of the antiquity and Middle Ages, and of historical tribes.
In Greek mythology, the Curetes were identified as armed priests. In Ancient Rome, the Salii who were armed priests carried sacred shields through the city during the March festivals. Livy (59 BC–17 AD) mentions armati sacerdotes (armed priests).
Medieval European canon law said that a priest could not be a soldier, and vice versa. Priests were allowed on the battlefield as chaplains, and could only defend themselves with clubs.
The Aztecs had a vanguard of warrior priests who carried deity banners and made sacrifices on the battlefield. A Cherokee priest who killed during battle received the title of Nu no hi ta hi.
The warrior-priest was a common figure in the First Serbian Uprising (1804–13). Several archpriests and priests were commanders in the uprising. Serbian Orthodox monasteries sent monks to join the ranks of the Serbian Army.
The "Pyrrhic" dance in Crete is said to have been the ritual dance of armed priests.