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Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by, Stranger, tell the Spartans that we behaved, Stranger! "[165], Such laconic bravery doubtlessly helped to maintain morale. The battle is revisited in countless adages and works of popular culture, such as in films (e.g., The 300 Spartans (1962) and 300 (2007), based on the events during and close to the time of the battle), in literature, in song (e.g. Men that fight not for gold, but for glory."[167]. The Battle of Thermopylae has remained a cultural icon of western civilization ever since it was fought. [130] At the Battle of Plataea, the Greek army won a decisive victory, destroying much of the Persian army and ending the invasion of Greece. [106] According to Diodorus, a Persian called Tyrrhastiadas, a Cymaean by birth, warned the Greeks. [91] until his death at the Battle of Thermopylae against the Persian army in 480 B.C. Screenplay by Wendell Mayes, based on the novel "Incident at Muc Wa" by Daniel Ford. ", Similarities between the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Persian Gate have been recognized by both ancient and modern authors,[169] which describe it as a kind of reversal of the Battle of Thermopylae,[170] calling it "the Persian Thermopylae". The Persians attacked the Greeks in waves of around 10,000 men but failed to make any headway during the first two days of the battle. [173], "300 Spartans" redirects here. [77], Militarily, although the battle was actually not decisive in the context of the Persian invasion, Thermopylae is of some significance on the basis of the first two days of fighting. Archaeological evidence, such as the Serpent Column (now in the Hippodrome of Constantinople), also supports some of Herodotus' specific claims. [105] He feared they were Spartans but was informed by Ephialtes that they were not. Leonidas' famous response to the Persians was "Molṑn labé" (Μολὼν λαβέ - literally, "having come, take [them]", but usually translated as "come and take them"). The remaining soldiers fought to the death. [54], Finally, in mid-August, the Persian army was sighted across the Malian Gulf approaching Thermopylae. The first line of the epigram was used as the title of the short story "Stranger, Bear Word to the Spartans We…" by German Nobel Prize laureate Heinrich Böll. The battle of Leuctra was the first evenly matched large scale battle that the Spartans had lost, and legendary power of the Spartans faded with their loss. "[84] The pass still is a natural defensive position to modern armies, and British Commonwealth forces in World War II made a defence in 1941 against the Nazi invasion mere metres from the original battlefield. The Greek fleet headed south, where it would eventually take up a new position at Salamis. [44] Shortly afterwards, they received the news that Xerxes had crossed the Hellespont. "[163], Herodotus also describes Leonidas' reception of a Persian envoy. [168] While this anniversary will take place in 2021, the coins show the dates 2020 and 480 BC and the text "2,500 years since the Battle of Thermopylae. The battle of Thermopylae also helped end the wrath of Xerxes and the Persians before they could conquer all of the city-states that they wanted to. [73], Many modern historians, who usually consider Herodotus more reliable,[74] add the 1,000 Lacedemonians and the 900 helots to Herodotus' 5,200 to obtain 7,100 or about 7,000 men as a standard number, neglecting Diodorus' Melians and Pausanias' Locrians. [136] Alternatively, the argument is sometimes advanced that the last stand at Thermopylae was a successful delaying action that gave the Greek navy time to prepare for the Battle of Salamis. [116], The pass at Thermopylae was thus opened to the Persian army, according to Herodotus, at the cost to the Persians of up to 20,000 fatalities. Soon after the battle, the Greeks built a stone lion in honour of those who had died and specifically for the fallen king Leonidas. That boosted the morale of all Greek soldiers in the second Persian invasion. [94] A Persian force of 10,000 men, comprising light infantry and cavalry, charged at the front of the Greek formation. The sparsity of ruins from antiquity around the modern city reflects the austerity of the military oligarchy that ruled the Spartan city-state from the 6th to the 2nd century BCE. ", "The Battle of Thermopylae was a Pyrrhic victory for [the Persians] but it offered Athens invaluable time to prepare for the decisive naval battle of Salamis one month later. Some English renderings are given in the table below. The answer was: all the other men were participating in the Olympic Games. [126], Fearing the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont and trap his army in Europe, Xerxes now retreated with much of the Persian army back to Asia,[127] though nearly all of them died of starvation and disease on the return voyage. [110][111] If all the troops had retreated, the open ground beyond the pass would have allowed the Persian cavalry to run the Greeks down. [40] Support thus began to coalesce around these two leading states. The Battle of Thermopylae (/ θ ər ˈ m ɒ p ɪ l iː / thər-MOP-i-lee; Greek: Μάχη τῶν Θερμοπυλῶν, Máchē tōn Thermopylōn) was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas I of Sparta, and the Achaemenid Empire of Xerxes I.It was fought over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. [100] For this act, the name "Ephialtes" received a lasting stigma; it came to mean "nightmare" in the Greek language and to symbolize the archetypal traitor in Greek culture. Michel de Montaigne, quoted in Holland, p. Macauley translation of Herodotus, p. 220, Rawlinson translation of Herodotus, p. 51, Sélincourt translation of Herodotus (1954). During two full days of battle, the small force led by Leonidas blocked the only road by which the massive Persian army could pass. "[99] However, the Persians had no more success on the second day than on the first. Although probably unsuitable for cavalry, this path could easily be traversed by the Persian infantry (many of whom were versed in mountain warfare). However, the following year saw a Greek army decisively defeat the Persians at the Battle of Plataea, thereby ending the Persian invasion. "—as in answer to Xerxes' demand that the Greeks give up their weapons). The population of Sparta consisted of three main groups: the Spartans, or Spartiates, who were full citizens; the Helots, or serfs/slaves; and the Perioeci, who were neither slaves nor citizens. [110] The likelihood is that these were the Theban "loyalists", who unlike the majority of their fellow citizens, objected to Persian domination. [33], Darius, therefore, began raising a huge new army with which he meant to completely subjugate Greece; however, in 486 BC, his Egyptian subjects revolted, indefinitely postponing any Greek expedition. The battle is also discussed in many articles and books on the theory and practice of warfare. [62][63]Top rank: Persian, Median, Elamite, Parthian, Arian, Bactrian, Sogdian, Chorasmian, Zarangian, Sattagydian, Gandharan, Hindush (Indians), Scythian.Bottom rank: Scythian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Arabian, Egyptian, Armenian, Cappadocian, Lydian, Ionian, Scythian, Thracian, Macedonian, Libyan, Ethiopian. In 2015, a 10-room palace complex containing ancient records written in a script that archaeologists call \"linear B\" was discovered just 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) from where the city of Sparta was built. [14] The Greco-Persian Wars, are also described in less detail by a number of other ancient historians including Plutarch, Ctesias of Cnidus, and are referred to by other authors, as in Aeschylus in The Persians. With the sea on one side and steep, impassable hills on the other, King Leonidas and his men chose the perfect topographical position to battle the Persian invaders. [80], It is often claimed that at the time, the pass of Thermopylae consisted of a track along the shore of the Malian Gulf so narrow that only one chariot could pass through at a time. 298, rather than 300, Spartans, died at Thermopylae. [130] Meanwhile, at the near-simultaneous naval Battle of Mycale, they also destroyed much of the remaining Persian fleet, thereby reducing the threat of further invasions. [107] Some of the Greeks argued for withdrawal, but Leonidas resolved to stay at the pass with the Spartans. The outstretched chest symbolizes the struggle, the gallantry, the strength, the bravery and the courage. [121] A full 40 years after the battle, Leonidas' bones were returned to Sparta, where he was buried again with full honours; funeral games were held every year in his memory. [105] The Thespians, resolved as they were not to submit to Xerxes, faced the destruction of their city if the Persians took Boeotia. Their strategy involved holding a line only a few dozen yards long between a steep hillside and the sea. Ephialtes, a Greek citizen desiring reward, informed Xerxes of a path that went around Thermopylae, thus rendering the Greeks’ line useless in preventing forward advancement of the Persian army. [16] For example, the military strategist Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart defers to Grundy. "[162], It is reported that, upon arriving at Thermopylae, the Persians sent a mounted scout to reconnoitre. [71] The original stone has not survived, but in 1955, the epitaph was engraved on a new stone. Herodotus observes this was very uncommon for the Persians, as they traditionally treated "valiant warriors" with great honour (the example of Pytheas, captured off Skiathos before the Battle of Artemisium, strengthens this suggestion). The text from Herodotus is:[71], The alternative ancient reading πειθόμενοι νομίμοις (peithomenoi nomίmois) for ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι (rhēmasi peithomenoi) substitutes "laws" or "orders" for "words." ... Xerxes had every reason to congratulate himself",[139] while Lazenby describes the Greek defeat as "disastrous".[134]. 27, pp. [110], The most likely theory is that Leonidas chose to form a rearguard so that the other Greek contingents could get away. [79] Leonidas was made aware of this path by local people from Trachis, and he positioned a detachment of Phocian troops there in order to block this route. [98] The Greeks killed so many Medes that Xerxes is said to have stood up three times from the seat from which he was watching the battle. [51], Herodotus tells us that Leonidas, in line with the prophecy, was convinced he was going to certain death since his forces were not adequate for a victory, and so he selected only Spartans with living sons. This website is dedicated to King Leonidas, the 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and other Greek warriors who fought to the death during the Battle of Thermopylae (Hot Gates) in August, 480 B.C. [128] He left a hand-picked force, under Mardonius, to complete the conquest the following year. Sparta, ancient capital of the Laconia district of the southeastern Peloponnese, southwestern Greece. [103] The path led from east of the Persian camp along the ridge of Mt. Responding, an alliance of Greek city-states, led by Athens and Sparta, assembled a fleet and an army to oppose the invaders. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). [78], Tactically, the pass at Thermopylae was ideally suited to the Greek style of warfare. The battle took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium. The battle also revolutionized the technique of using the land to people’s advantage in war. [20] Also surviving is an epitome of the account of Ctesias, by the eighth-century Byzantine Photios, though this is "almost worse than useless",[21] missing key events in the battle such as the betrayal of Ephialtes, and the account of Diodorus Siculus in his Universal History. [56] According to Plutarch, when one of the soldiers complained that, "Because of the arrows of the barbarians it is impossible to see the sun", Leonidas replied, "Won't it be nice, then, if we shall have shade in which to fight them? If they had all remained at the pass, they would have been encircled and would eventually have all been killed. Herodotus suggests they were brought to the battle as hostages to ensure the good behavior of Thebes. [18], On the Battle of Thermopylae itself, two principal sources, Herodotus' and Simonides' accounts, survive. The Greeks allowed him to come up to the camp, observe them, and depart. The fifth day of the Persian occupation at Thermopylae would be the day the conflict began. "[57] Herodotus reports a similar comment, but attributes it to Dienekes. [53] In fact, as noted below, the pass was 100 metres wide, probably wider than the Greeks could have held against the Persian masses. A Greek force of approximately 7,000 men marched north to block the pass in the middle of 480 BC. [94] They fought with spears, until every spear was shattered, and then switched to xiphē (short swords). The naked body symbolizes Eros, the most important god of the ancient Thespians, a god of creation, beauty and life. Only when the Greeks were betrayed did the battle take a detrimental turn for them. [77] As long as they could prevent a further Persian advance into Greece, they had no need to seek a decisive battle and could, thus, remain on the defensive. [113] As the Immortals approached, the Greeks withdrew and took a stand on a hill behind the wall. Xerxes delayed for four days, waiting for the Greeks to disperse, before sending troops to attack them.[61]. The Greeks were offered their freedom, the title "Friends of the Persian People", and the opportunity to re-settle on land better than that they possessed. Congress adopted this dual-pronged strategy. There are even accounts that a local shepherd informed Alexander's forces about the secret path, just as a local Greek showed the Persian forces a secret path around the pass at Thermopylae. During the Carneia, military activity was forbidden by Spartan law; the Spartans had arrived too late at the Battle of Marathon because of this requirement. The number of troops which Xerxes mustered for the second invasion of Greece has been the subject of endless dispute, most notably between ancient sources, which report very large numbers, and modern scholars, who surmise much smaller figures. Despite the disparity in numbers, the Greeks were able to maintain their position. [19] In fact, Herodotus' account of the battle, in Book VII of his Histories, is such an important source that Paul Cartledge wrote: "we either write a history of Thermopylae with [Herodotus], or not at all". [29][30] This meant that Sparta was also effectively at war with Persia. After the battle, Spartan culture became an inspiration and object of emulation, a phenomenon known as Laconophilia. Most of the Thebans reportedly surrendered. [56] Some Peloponnesians suggested withdrawal to the Isthmus of Corinth and blocking the passage to Peloponnesus. Having been turned back at Marathon in 490 BC, Persian forces returned to Greece ten years later to avenge their defeat and conquer the peninsula. The Helots, who outnumbered Spartan citizens at least 5 to 1, revolted several times causing the Spartans to use what little Spartan warriors they had left to subdue the revolts. [55] With the Persian army's arrival at Thermopylae the Greeks held a council of war. The location of Sparta has remained in almost continuous use. [93][94] Details of the tactics are scant; Diodorus says, "the men stood shoulder to shoulder", and the Greeks were "superior in valour and in the great size of their shields. A sign, under the statue, reads simply: "Μολὼν λαβέ" ("Come and take them! After three days of holding their own against the Persian king Xerxes I and his vast southward-advancing army, the Greeks were betrayed, and the Persians were able to outflank them. The present town of Sparta, with about 10,000 inhabitants, was built in 1834 as a gesture of pride in the new independence of Greece . [109] Also present were the 400 Thebans and probably the helots who had accompanied the Spartans. [77] A hoplite phalanx could block the narrow pass with ease, with no risk of being outflanked by cavalry. The Perioeci, whose name means “dwellers-around,” worked as craftsmen and traders, and b… Thereupon the Spartans sent these men to Media for execution." Prior to the battle, the Hellenes remembered the Dorians, an ethnic distinction which applied to the Spartans, as the conquerors and displacers of the Ionians in the Peloponnesus. Herodotus reports that the Phocians had improved the defences of the pass by channelling the stream from the hot springs to create a marsh, and it was a causeway across this marsh which was only wide enough for a single chariot to traverse. A variant of the epigram is inscribed on the Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino. 3. In regard to A plate below the statue explains its symbolism: The monument to the Thespians is placed beside the one to the Spartans. The Greek culture, as a result, would get to flourish uninterrupted. Coherence needed. In a later passage, describing a Gaulish attempt to force the pass, Pausanias states "The cavalry on both sides proved useless, as the ground at the Pass is not only narrow, but also smooth because of the natural rock, while most of it is slippery owing to its being covered with streams...the losses of the barbarians it was impossible to discover exactly. Nearly 600 years… The Battle of Thermopylae took place at the end of August/beginning of September in 480 BCE 2. In August or September 480 BC, the Persian army of Xerxes the Great met the Greek allied force led by King Leonidas in the Battle of Thermopylae. [110] It seems that the Thespians volunteered to remain as a simple act of self-sacrifice, all the more amazing since their contingent represented every single hoplite the city could muster. But the Battle of Thermopylae more importantly defended the very future of the modern world. [138] George Cawkwell suggests that the gap between Thermopylae and Salamis was caused by Xerxes' systematically reducing Greek opposition in Phocis and Boeotia, and not as a result of the Battle of Thermopylae; thus, as a delaying action, Thermopylae was insignificant compared to Xerxes' own procrastination. [114] In 1939, archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos, excavating at Thermopylae, found large numbers of Persian bronze arrowheads on Kolonos Hill, which changed the identification of the hill on which the Greeks were thought to have died from a smaller one nearer the wall. This account is fairly consistent with Herodotus' writings. Many of the Greek contingents then either chose to withdraw (without orders) or were ordered to leave by Leonidas (Herodotus admits that there is some doubt about which actually happened). First, he ordered 5,000 archers to shoot a barrage of arrows, but they were ineffective; they shot from at least 100 yards away, according to modern day scholars, and the Greeks' wooden shields (sometimes covered with a very thin layer of bronze) and bronze helmets deflected the arrows. [95][97] However, the Immortals fared no better than the Medes, and failed to make any headway against the Greeks. [47] At this time of year the Spartans, de facto military leaders of the alliance, were celebrating the festival of Carneia. Translation by William Shepherd, from the Cambridge series of translations by Greek and Roman authors. The battle of Thermopylae, and particularly the Spartans' role in it, soon acquired mythical status amongst the Greeks. Sending the main army in retreat, Leonidas and a small contingent remained behind to resist the advance and were defeated. After the Persian invasion was repulsed, a stone lion was erected at Thermopylae to commemorate Leonidas. [125] However, instead of a mere blockade, Themistocles persuaded the Greeks to seek a decisive victory against the Persian fleet. [104] The Phocians retreated to a nearby hill to make their stand (assuming the Persians had come to attack them). In the face of such imposing numbers, many Greek cities capitulated to the Persian demand for a tribute of earth and water. [97] The Spartans apparently used a tactic of feigning retreat, and then turning and killing the enemy troops when they ran after them. Recent core samples indicate that the pass was only 100 metres (330 ft) wide, and the waters came up to the gates: "Little do the visitors realize that the battle took place across the road from the monument. To Sparta say, her faithful band, Stranger, report this word, we pray, to the Spartans, that lying. In other words, the "orders" are not personal but refer to official and binding phrases (the Ancient Greek term can also refer to a formal speech).[145]. For the number of them that disappeared beneath the mud was great. The battle itself had shown that even when heavily outnumbered, the Greeks could put up an effective fight against the Persians, and the defeat at Thermopylae had turned Leonidas and the men under his command into martyrs. The simultaneous naval Battle of Artemisium had been a tactical stalemate, and the Greek navy was able to retreat in good order to the Saronic Gulf, where they helped to ferry the remaining Athenian citizens to the island of Salamis. [64] The poet Simonides, who was a near-contemporary, talks of four million; Ctesias gave 800,000 as the total number of the army that was assembled by Xerxes.[6]. [118] Herodotus says, at one point 4,000 Greeks died, but assuming the Phocians guarding the track were not killed during the battle (as Herodotus implies), this would be almost every Greek soldier present (by Herodotus' own estimates), and this number is probably too high. [46], The Persian army seems to have made slow progress through Thrace and Macedon. [53] News also reached Leonidas, from the nearby city of Trachis, that there was a mountain track that could be used to outflank the pass of Thermopylae. ", Barkworth, 1993. They were the biggest slave owners in Greece. [137] Furthermore, this idea also neglects the fact that a Greek navy was fighting at Artemisium during the Battle of Thermopylae, incurring losses in the process. Despite the defeat at Thermopylae, the bravery and sacrifice of Leonidas and his men inspired the Greeks to eventually win a decisive victory against Persians at the naval ‘Battle of Salamis’ in September 480 BC. Anopaea behind the cliffs that flanked the pass. [c] However, compared to the probable time (about one month) between Thermopylae and Salamis, the time bought was negligible. The vastly outnumbered Greeks held off the Persians for seven days (including three of battle) before the rear-guard was annihilated in one of history's most famous last stands. Iranica Antiqua Vol. This great battle in 480 happened during the Greco-Persian Wars in which King Xerxes of Persia was attempting to gain more territory. In terms of sources I will rely on what current knowledge of the Spartans we have from limited material remains and skewed textual evidence and will examine recent studies, accounts, articles, and films as sources for American society. More than they had helped him invaded Greece as a result, get! J. Rufus Fears in his Ancient Greeks lectures for the film 300 ( 2006 ) dispatch troops from the springs... 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