Battle of Thermopylae
Overview
 
The Battle of Thermopylae (icon ; , Machē tōn Thermopylōn) was fought between an alliance of Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

s, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece
Second Persian invasion of Greece
The second Persian invasion of Greece occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars, as King Xerxes I of Persia sought to conquer all of Greece. The invasion was a direct, if delayed, response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece at the Battle of Marathon which ended Darius I's attempts...

. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium
Battle of Artemisium
The Battle of Artemisium was a series of naval engagements over three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The battle took place simultaneously with the more famous land battle at Thermopylae, in August or September 480 BC, off the coast of Euboea and was fought between an alliance of...

, in August or September 480 BC
480 BC
Year 480 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Vibulanus and Cincinnatus...

, at the pass of Thermopylae
Thermopylae
Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. "Hot gates" is also "the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades"....

 ('The Hot Gates'). The Persian invasion was a delayed response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece
First Persian invasion of Greece
The first Persian invasion of Greece, during the Persian Wars, began in 492 BCE, and ended with the decisive Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. The invasion, consisting of two distinct campaigns, was ordered by the Persian king Darius I primarily in order to punish the...

, which had been ended by the Athenian
Classical Athens
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was a notable polis of Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Hippias...

 victory at the Battle of Marathon
Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate...

 in 490 BC
490 BC
Year 490 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Camerinus and Flavus...

.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Thermopylae (icon ; , Machē tōn Thermopylōn) was fought between an alliance of Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

s, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece
Second Persian invasion of Greece
The second Persian invasion of Greece occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars, as King Xerxes I of Persia sought to conquer all of Greece. The invasion was a direct, if delayed, response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece at the Battle of Marathon which ended Darius I's attempts...

. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium
Battle of Artemisium
The Battle of Artemisium was a series of naval engagements over three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The battle took place simultaneously with the more famous land battle at Thermopylae, in August or September 480 BC, off the coast of Euboea and was fought between an alliance of...

, in August or September 480 BC
480 BC
Year 480 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Vibulanus and Cincinnatus...

, at the pass of Thermopylae
Thermopylae
Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. "Hot gates" is also "the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades"....

 ('The Hot Gates'). The Persian invasion was a delayed response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece
First Persian invasion of Greece
The first Persian invasion of Greece, during the Persian Wars, began in 492 BCE, and ended with the decisive Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. The invasion, consisting of two distinct campaigns, was ordered by the Persian king Darius I primarily in order to punish the...

, which had been ended by the Athenian
Classical Athens
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was a notable polis of Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Hippias...

 victory at the Battle of Marathon
Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate...

 in 490 BC
490 BC
Year 490 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Camerinus and Flavus...

. Xerxes had amassed a huge army and navy, and set out to conquer all of Greece. The Athenian general Themistocles
Themistocles
Themistocles ; c. 524–459 BC, was an Athenian politician and a general. He was one of a new breed of politicians who rose to prominence in the early years of the Athenian democracy, along with his great rival Aristides...

 had proposed that the allied Greeks block the advance of the Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae, and simultaneously block the Persian navy at the Straits of Artemisium
Artemisium
Artemisium is a cape north of Euboea, Greece. The legendary hollow cast bronze statue of a debatable Zeus or Poseidon was found off this cape in a sunken ship.-See also:* Temple of Artemis...

.

A Greek force of approximately 7,000 men marched north to block the pass in the summer of 480 BC. The Persian army, alleged by the ancient sources to have numbered over one million but today considered to have been much smaller (various figures are given by scholars ranging between about 100,000 and 300,000), arrived at the pass in late August or early September. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held off the Persians for seven days in total (including three of battle), before the rear-guard was annihilated in one of history's most famous last stand
Last stand
Last stand is a loose military term used to describe a body of troops holding a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds. The defensive force usually takes very heavy casualties or is completely destroyed, as happened in "Custer's Last Stand" at the Battle of Little Big HornBryan Perrett...

s. During two full days of battle, the small force led by King Leonidas I
Leonidas I
Leonidas I was a hero-king of Sparta, the 17th of the Agiad line, one of the sons of King Anaxandridas II of Sparta, who was believed in mythology to be a descendant of Heracles, possessing much of the latter's strength and bravery...

 of Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 blocked the only road by which the massive Persian army could pass. After the second day of battle, a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by revealing a small path that led behind the Greek lines. Aware that his force was being outflanked, Leonidas dismissed the bulk of the Greek army, and remained to guard the rear with 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians
Thespiae
Thespiae was an ancient Greek city in Boeotia. It stood on level ground commanded by the low range of hills which runs eastward from the foot of Mount Helicon to Thebes, near modern Thespies.-History:...

, 400 Thebans
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

 and perhaps a few hundred others, the vast majority of whom were killed.

After this engagement, the Greek navy, under the command of the Athenian politician Themistocles, at Artemisium received news of the defeat at Thermopylae. Since the Greek's strategy required both Thermopylae and Artemisium to be held, and given their losses, the withdrawal to Salamis
Salamis Island
Salamis , is the largest Greek island in the Saronic Gulf, about 1 nautical mile off-coast from Piraeus and about 16 km west of Athens. The chief city, Salamina , lies in the west-facing core of the crescent on Salamis Bay, which opens into the Saronic Gulf...

 was decided. The Persians overran Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

 and then captured the evacuated Athens. However, seeking a decisive victory over the Persian fleet, the Greek fleet attacked and defeated the invaders at the Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens...

 in late 480 BC. Fearing to be trapped in Europe, Xerxes withdrew with much of his army to Asia (losing most to starvation and disease), leaving Mardonius
Mardonius
Mardonius was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC.-Early years:Mardonius was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne...

 to complete the conquest of Greece. The following year, however, saw a Greek army decisively defeat the Persians at the Battle of Plataea
Battle of Plataea
The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes...

, thereby ending the Persian invasion.

Both ancient and modern writers have used the Battle of Thermopylae as an example of the power of a patriotic army defending native soil. The performance of the defenders at the battle of Thermopylae is also used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment, and good use of terrain as force multipliers and has become a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds.

Sources

The primary source for the Greco-Persian Wars is the Greek historian Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

. The Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

, writing in the 1st century BC in his Bibliotheca Historica
Bibliotheca historica
Bibliotheca historica , is a work of universal history by Diodorus Siculus. It consisted of forty books, which were divided into three sections. The first six books are geographical in theme, and describe the history and culture of Egypt , of Mesopotamia, India, Scythia, and Arabia , of North...

, also provides an account of the Greco-Persian wars, partially derived from the earlier Greek historian Ephorus
Ephorus
Ephorus or Ephoros , of Cyme in Aeolia, in Asia Minor, was an ancient Greek historian. Information on his biography is limited; he was the father of Demophilus, who followed in his footsteps as a historian, and to Plutarch's claim that Ephorus declined Alexander the Great's offer to join him on his...

. This account is fairly consistent with Herodotus'. 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 Perses by the great dramatist Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

. Archaeological evidence, such as the Serpent Column
Serpent Column
The Serpent Column — also known as the Serpentine Column, Delphi Tripod or Plataean Tripod — is an ancient bronze column at the Hippodrome of Constantinople in what is now Istanbul, Turkey...

 (now in the Hippodrome of Constantinople), also supports some of Herodotus' specific claims.

Background

The Greek city-states of Athens and Eretria
Eretria
Erétria was a polis in Ancient Greece, located on the western coast of the island of Euboea, south of Chalcis, facing the coast of Attica across the narrow Euboean Gulf. Eretria was an important Greek polis in the 6th/5th century BC. However, it lost its importance already in antiquity...

 had supported the unsuccessful Ionian Revolt
Ionian Revolt
The Ionian Revolt, and associated revolts in Aeolis, Doris, Cyprus and Caria, were military rebellions by several regions of Asia Minor against Persian rule, lasting from 499 BC to 493 BC...

 against the Persian Empire of Darius I in 499-494 BC. The Persian Empire was still relatively young, and prone to revolts amongst its subject peoples. Moreover, Darius was a usurper, and had spent considerable time extinguishing revolts against his rule. The Ionian revolt threatened the integrity of his empire, and Darius thus vowed to punish those involved (especially those not already part of the empire). Darius also saw the opportunity to expand his empire into the fractious world of Ancient Greece. A preliminary expedition under Mardonius
Mardonius
Mardonius was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC.-Early years:Mardonius was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne...

 in 492 BC, to secure the land approaches to Greece, re-conquered Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

, and forced Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 to become a client kingdom of Persia.

In 491 BC, Darius sent emissaries to all the Greek city-states, asking for a gift of 'earth and water' in token of their submission to him. Having had a demonstration of his power the previous year, the majority of Greek cities duly obliged. In Athens, however, the ambassadors were executed by throwing them in a pit to receive 'earth'; in Sparta, they were thrown down a well to receive 'water'. This meant that Sparta was also effectively at war with Persia.

Darius thus put together an amphibious task force under Datis
Datis
For other uses of the word Dati, see Dati .Datis or Datus was a Median admiral who served the Persian Empire, under Darius the Great...

 and Artaphernes
Artaphernes (son of Artaphernes)
Artaphernes, son of Artaphernes, was the nephew of Darius the Great, and a general of the Achaemenid Empire.He was appointed, together with Datis, to take command of the expedition sent by Darius to punish Athens and Eretria for their support for the Ionian Revolt. Artaphernes and Datis besieged...

 in 490 BC, which attacked Naxos, before receiving the submission of the other Cycladic Islands
Cyclades
The Cyclades is a Greek island group in the Aegean Sea, south-east of the mainland of Greece; and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago. The name refers to the islands around the sacred island of Delos...

. The task force then moved on Eretria, which it besieged and destroyed. Finally, it moved to attack Athens, landing at the bay of Marathon
Marathon, Greece
Marathon is a town in Greece, the site of the battle of Marathon in 490 BC, in which the heavily outnumbered Athenian army defeated the Persians. The tumulus or burial mound for the 192 Athenian dead that was erected near the battlefield remains a feature of the coastal plain...

, where it was met by a heavily outnumbered Athenian army. At the ensuing Battle of Marathon
Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate...

, the Athenians won a remarkable victory, which resulted in the withdrawal of the Persian army to Asia.

Darius therefore began raising a huge new army with which he meant to completely subjugate Greece; however, in 486 BC, his Egyptian
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 subjects revolted, indefinitely postponing any Greek expedition. Darius then died whilst preparing to march on Egypt, and the throne of Persia passed to his son Xerxes I. Xerxes crushed the Egyptian revolt, and very quickly re-started the preparations for the invasion of Greece. Since this was to be a full scale invasion, it required long-term planning, stock-piling and conscription. Xerxes decided that the Hellespont would be bridged to allow his army to cross to Europe, and that a canal should be dug across the isthmus of Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

 (rounding which headland, a Persian fleet had been destroyed in 492 BC). These were both feats of exceptional ambition, which would have been beyond any other contemporary state. By early 480 BC, the preparations were complete, and the army which Xerxes had mustered at Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

 marched towards Europe, crossing the Hellespont on two pontoon bridge
Pontoon bridge
A pontoon bridge or floating bridge is a bridge that floats on water and in which barge- or boat-like pontoons support the bridge deck and its dynamic loads. While pontoon bridges are usually temporary structures, some are used for long periods of time...

s.

The Athenians had also been preparing for war with the Persians since the mid-480s BC, and in 482 BC the decision was taken, under the guidance of the Athenian politician Themistocles
Themistocles
Themistocles ; c. 524–459 BC, was an Athenian politician and a general. He was one of a new breed of politicians who rose to prominence in the early years of the Athenian democracy, along with his great rival Aristides...

, to build a massive fleet of trireme
Trireme
A trireme was a type of galley, a Hellenistic-era warship that was used by the ancient maritime civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans.The trireme derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar...

s that would be necessary for the Greeks to fight the Persians. However, the Athenians did not have the manpower to fight on land and sea; and therefore combating the Persians would require an alliance of Greek city states. In 481 BC, Xerxes sent ambassadors around Greece asking for earth and water, but making the very deliberate omission of Athens and Sparta. Support thus began to coalesce around these two leading states. A congress of city states met at Corinth
Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

 in late autumn of 481 BC, and a confederate alliance of Greek city-states
History of Greece
The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern state of Greece, as well as that of the Greek people and the areas they ruled historically. The scope of Greek habitation and rule has varied much through the ages, and, as a result, the history of Greece is similarly...

 was formed. It had the power to send envoys asking for assistance and to dispatch troops from the member states to defensive points after joint consultation. This was remarkable for the disjointed Greek world, especially since many of the city-states in attendance were still technically at war with each other.

The 'congress' met again in the spring of 480 BC. A Thessalian
Thessaly
Thessaly is a traditional geographical region and an administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey....

 delegation suggested that the Greeks could muster in the narrow Vale of Tempe
Vale of Tempe
The Vale of Tempe is a gorge in northern Thessaly, Greece, located between Olympus to the north and Ossa to the south. The valley is 10 kilometers long and as narrow as 25 meters in places, with cliffs nearly 500 meters high, and through it flows the Pineios River on its way to the Aegean Sea...

, on the borders of Thessaly, and thereby block Xerxes' advance. A force of 10,000 hoplite
Hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

s was dispatched to the Vale of Tempe
Vale of Tempe
The Vale of Tempe is a gorge in northern Thessaly, Greece, located between Olympus to the north and Ossa to the south. The valley is 10 kilometers long and as narrow as 25 meters in places, with cliffs nearly 500 meters high, and through it flows the Pineios River on its way to the Aegean Sea...

, through which they believed the Persian army would have to pass. However, once there, they were warned by Alexander I of Macedon
Alexander I of Macedon
- Biography :Alexander was the son of Amyntas I and Queen Eurydice.According to Herodotus, he was unfriendly to Persia, and had the envoys of Darius I killed when they arrived at the court of his father during the Ionian Revolt...

 that the vale could be bypassed through the Sarantoporo Pass, and that the army of Xerxes was overwhelming, the Greeks retreated. Shortly afterwards, they received the news that Xerxes had crossed the Hellespont.

A second strategy was therefore suggested by Themistocles to the Greeks. The route to southern Greece (Boeotia, Attica and the Peloponnesus) would require the army of Xerxes to travel through the very narrow pass of Thermopylae
Thermopylae
Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. "Hot gates" is also "the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades"....

. This could easily be blocked by the Greek hoplites, despite the overwhelming numbers of Persians. Furthermore, to prevent the Persians bypassing Thermopylae by sea, the Athenian and allied navies could block the straits of Artemisium. This dual strategy was adopted by the congress. However, the Peloponnesian cities made fall-back plans to defend the Isthmus of Corinth should it come to it, whilst the women and children of Athens had been evacuated en masse to the Peloponnesian city of Troezen
Troezen
Troezen is a small town and a former municipality in the northeastern Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Troizinia, of which it is a municipal unit....

.

Prelude

The Persian army seems to have made rather leisurely progress through Thrace and Macedon, but finally, in August, news of the imminent Persian approach reached Greece. At this time of year the Spartans, de facto military leaders of the alliance, were celebrating the festival of Carneia. 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. It was also the time of the Olympic Games
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

, and therefore the Olympic truce, and thus it would have been doubly sacrilegious for the whole Spartan army to march to war. On this occasion, the ephor
Ephor
An ephor was the leader of ancient Sparta and shared power with the Spartan king...

s decided the urgency was sufficiently great to justify an advance expedition to block the pass, under one of its kings, Leonidas I
Leonidas I
Leonidas I was a hero-king of Sparta, the 17th of the Agiad line, one of the sons of King Anaxandridas II of Sparta, who was believed in mythology to be a descendant of Heracles, possessing much of the latter's strength and bravery...

. Leonidas took with him the 300 men of the royal bodyguard, the Hippeis, and a larger number of support troops drawn from other parts of Lacedaemon (including helots
Helots
The helots: / Heílôtes) were an unfree population group that formed the main population of Laconia and the whole of Messenia . Their exact status was already disputed in antiquity: according to Critias, they were "especially slaves" whereas to Pollux, they occupied a status "between free men and...

). This expedition was to try to gather as many other Greek soldiers along the way as possible, and to await the arrival of the main Spartan army.

The legend of Thermopylae, as told by Herodotus, has it that the Spartans consulted the Oracle at Delphi earlier in the year. The Oracle is said to have made the following prophecy
Prophecy
Prophecy is a process in which one or more messages that have been communicated to a prophet are then communicated to others. Such messages typically involve divine inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of conditioned events to come as well as testimonies or repeated revelations that the...

:

O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon!

Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus,

Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country

Mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles.
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.

En route to Thermopylae, the Spartan force was reinforced by contingents from various cities (see below) and numbered more than 5,000 by the time it arrived at the pass. Leonidas chose to camp at, and defend, the 'middle gate', the narrowest part of the pass of Thermopylae, where the Phocians
Phocis (ancient region)
Phocis was an ancient region in the central part of Ancient Greece, which included Delphi. A modern prefecture, also called Phocis is named after the ancient region, although the modern region is substantially larger than the ancient one.-Geography:...

 had built a defensive wall some time before. News also reached Leonidas, from the nearby city of Trachis
Trachis
Trachis was a region in ancient Greece. Situated south of the river Spercheios, it was populated by the Malians.Its main town was also called Trachis until 426 BC, when it became Heraclea Trachinia. It is located to the west of Thermopylae. Trachis is located just west of the western-most tip of...

, that there was a mountain track which could be used to outflank the pass of Thermopylae; in response, Leonidas had stationed 1,000 Phocians on the heights to prevent such a manoeuvre.

Finally, in mid-August, the Persian army was sighted across the Malian Gulf
Malian Gulf
The Malian or Maliac Gulf is a gulf of the Aegean Sea in the region of Phthiotis in eastern Central Greece. The gulf is named after the ancient Malians who lived on its shores....

, approaching Thermopylae. With the Persian army's arrival at Thermopylae, the Greeks held a council of war. Some Peloponnesians suggested withdrawal to the Isthmus of Corinth
Isthmus of Corinth
The Isthmus of Corinth is the narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the rest of the mainland of Greece, near the city of Corinth. The word "isthmus" comes from the Ancient Greek word for "neck" and refers to the narrowness of the land. The Isthmus was known in the ancient...

 and blocking the passage to Peloponnesus. The Phocians
Phocis (ancient region)
Phocis was an ancient region in the central part of Ancient Greece, which included Delphi. A modern prefecture, also called Phocis is named after the ancient region, although the modern region is substantially larger than the ancient one.-Geography:...

 and Locrians
Locris
Locris was a region of ancient Greece, the homeland of the Locrians, made up of three distinct districts.-Locrian tribe:...

, whose states were located nearby, became indignant and advised defending Thermopylae and sending for more help. Leonidas calmed the panic and agreed to defend Thermopylae.

A Persian emissary was sent by Xerxes to negotiate with Leonidas; the Greeks were offered their freedom and the title "Friends of the Persian People," moreover they would be re-settled on better land than they currently possessed. When these terms were refused by Leonidas, the ambassador asked him more forcefully to lay down his weapons; Leonidas' famous response was for the Persians to "Come and get them" . With the Persian embassy returning empty-handed, battle became inevitable. However, Xerxes delayed attacking for four days, waiting for the Greeks to disperse, before sending troops to attack them.

Persian army

For a full discussion of the size of the Persian invasion force, see Second Persian invasion of Greece


The numbers of troops which Xerxes mustered for the second invasion of Greece have been the subject of endless dispute, because the numbers given in ancient sources are very large indeed. Herodotus claimed that there were, in total, 2.6 million military personnel, accompanied by an equivalent number of support personnel. The poet Simonides
Simonides of Ceos
Simonides of Ceos was a Greek lyric poet, born at Ioulis on Kea. The scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria included him in the canonical list of nine lyric poets, along with Bacchylides and Pindar...

, who was a near-contemporary, talks of four million; Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

 gave 800,000 as the total number of the army that was assembled by Xerxes.

Modern scholars tend to reject the figures given by Herodotus and other ancient sources as unrealistic, and as a result of miscalculations or exaggerations on the part of the victors. Modern scholarly estimates are generally in the range 70,000–300,000. These estimates usually come from studying the logistical capabilities of the Persians in that era, the sustainability of their respective base of operations, and the overall manpower constraints affecting them. Whatever the real numbers were, however, it is clear that Xerxes was anxious to ensure a successful expedition by mustering an overwhelming numerical superiority by land and by sea.
The number of Persian troops present at Thermopylae is therefore as uncertain as the number for the total invasion force. For instance, it is unclear whether the whole Persian army marched as far as Thermopylae, or whether Xerxes left garrisons in Macedon and Thessaly.

Greek army

According to Herodotus, and Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

, the Greek army included the following forces:
Group Number – Herodotus Numbers – Diodorus Siculus
Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

ns
300 300
Lacedaemonians/
Perioeci
900? 1,000
(including the Spartans?)
Spartan helots 900?
Mantineans 500 3,000
(other Peloponnesians sent with Leonidas)
Tegea
Tegea
Tegea was a settlement in ancient Greece, and it is also a former municipality in Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Tripoli, of which it is a municipal unit. Its seat was the village Stadio....

ns
500
Arcadian Orchomenos 120
Other Arcadia
Arcadia
Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan...

ns
1,000
Corinthians 400
Phlians
Phlius
Phlius was a Greek city in the northwestern Argolid, in the Peloponnese, said to be named after the Greek hero, Phlias. Although geographically close to Argos, the city became a Spartan ally and a member of the Peloponnesian League....

200
Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

ans
80
Total Peloponnesians 3,100 or 4,000 4,000 or 4,300
Thespians
Thespiae
Thespiae was an ancient Greek city in Boeotia. It stood on level ground commanded by the low range of hills which runs eastward from the foot of Mount Helicon to Thebes, near modern Thespies.-History:...

700
Malians 1,000
Thebans
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

400 400
Phocians
Phocis (ancient region)
Phocis was an ancient region in the central part of Ancient Greece, which included Delphi. A modern prefecture, also called Phocis is named after the ancient region, although the modern region is substantially larger than the ancient one.-Geography:...

1,000 1,000
Opuntian Locrians
Opuntian Locris
Opuntian Locris or Eastern Locris was an ancient Greek region inhabited by the eastern division of the Locrians, the so-called tribe of the Locri Epicnemidii or Locri Opuntii .-Geography:...

"All they had" 1,000
Grand Total 5,200 (or 6,100) plus the Opuntian Locrians 7,400 (or 7,700)


Notes:
  • The number of Peloponnesians
Diodorus suggests that there were 1,000 Lacedemonians
Laconia
Laconia , also known as Lacedaemonia, is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the southeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. Its administrative capital is Sparti...

 and 3,000 other Peloponnesians, for a total of 4,000. Herodotus agrees with this figure in one passage, quoting an inscription by Simonides
Simonides
* Simonides of Ceos, , a lyric poet* Semonides of Amorgos, an iambic poet* Flavius Simonides Agrippa, son of Roman Jewish Historian Josephus* Constantine Simonides, 19th-century forger of 'ancient' manuscripts...

 saying there were 4,000 Peloponnesians. However, elsewhere, in the passage summarized by the above table, Herodotus tallies 3,100 Peloponnesians at Thermopylae before the battle. Herodotus also reports that at Xerxes' public showing of the dead, "helots were also there for them to see", but he does not say how many or in what capacity they served. Thus, the difference between his two figures can be squared by supposing (without proof) that there were 900 helots (three per Spartan) present at the battle. If helots were present at the battle, there is no reason to doubt that they served in their traditional role as armed retainers to individual Spartans. Alternatively, Herodotus' "missing" 900 troops might have been Perioeci, and could therefore correspond to Diodorus' 1,000 Lacedemonians.
  • The number of Lacedemonians
Further confusing the issue is Diodorus' ambiguity about whether his 1,000 Lacedemonians include the 300 Spartans. At one point he says: "Leonidas, when he received the appointment, announced that only one thousand men should follow him on the campaign". However, he then says that: "There were, then, of the Lacedaemonians one thousand, and with them three hundred Spartiates". It is therefore impossible to be clearer on this point.


Pausanias
Pausanias (geographer)
Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century AD, who lived in the times of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece , a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece from firsthand observations, and is a crucial link between classical...

' account agrees with that of Herodotus (whom he probably read) except that he gives the number of Locrians, which Herodotus declined to estimate. Residing in the direct path of the Persian advance, they gave all the fighting men they had; according to Pausanias 6,000 men, which added to Herodotus' 5,200 would have given a force of 11,200.

Many modern historians, who usually consider Herodotus more reliable, add the 1,000 Lacedaemonians 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. However, this is only one approach, and many other combinations are plausible. Furthermore, the numbers changed later on in the battle when most of the army retreated and only approximately 3,000 men remained (300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans, possibly up to 900 helots and 1,000 Phocians stationed above the pass; less the casualties sustained in the previous days).

Strategic and tactical considerations

From a strategic point of view, by defending Thermopylae, the Greeks were making the best possible use of their forces. As long as they could prevent further Persian advance into Greece, they had no requirement to seek a decisive battle, and could thus remain on the defensive. Moreover, by defending two constricted passages (Thermopylae and Artemisium), the Greeks' inferior numbers became less problematic. Conversely, for the Persians the problem of supplying such a large army meant that the Persians could not remain in the same place for too long. The Persians must therefore retreat or advance; and advancing required the pass of Thermopylae to be forced.

Tactically, the pass at Thermopylae was ideally suited to the Greek style of warfare. A hoplite
Hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

 phalanx
Phalanx formation
The phalanx is a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar weapons...

 would be able to block the narrow pass with ease, with no risk of being outflanked by cavalry. In the pass, the phalanx would have been very difficult to assault for the more lightly armed Persian infantry. The major weak point for the Greeks was the mountain track which led across the highland parallel to Thermopylae, and which would allow their position to be outflanked. Although probably unsuitable for cavalry, this path could easily be traversed by the Persian infantry (many of whom were versed in mountain warfare
Mountain warfare
Mountain warfare refers to warfare in the mountains or similarly rough terrain. This type of warfare is also called Alpine warfare, named after the Alps mountains...

). Leonidas was made aware of this path by local people from Trachis
Trachis
Trachis was a region in ancient Greece. Situated south of the river Spercheios, it was populated by the Malians.Its main town was also called Trachis until 426 BC, when it became Heraclea Trachinia. It is located to the west of Thermopylae. Trachis is located just west of the western-most tip of...

, and he positioned a detachment of Phocian troops there in order to block this route.

Topography of the battlefield

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. On the southern side of the track stood the cliffs that overlooked the pass, and on the north side was the Malian Gulf. Along the path itself was a series of three constrictions, or "gates" (pylai), and at the center gate a short wall that had been erected by the Phocians in the previous century to aid in their defense against Thessalian invasions. The name "Hot Gates" comes from the hot spring
Hot spring
A hot spring is a spring that is produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater from the Earth's crust. There are geothermal hot springs in many locations all over the crust of the earth.-Definitions:...

s that were located there.

Today, the pass is not near the sea but is several miles inland because of sedimentation in the Malian Gulf. The old track appears at the foot of hills around the plain, flanked by a modern road. Recent core sample
Core sample
A core sample is a cylindrical section of a naturally occurring substance. Most core samples are obtained by drilling with special drills into the substance, for example sediment or rock, with a hollow steel tube called a core drill. The hole made for the core sample is called the "core hole". A...

s indicate that the pass was only 100 meters 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." The pass still is a natural defensive position to modern armies, and British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 forces in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 made a defense in 1941
Battle of Thermopylae (1941)
The Battle of Thermopylae during World War II occurred in 1941 following the retreat from the Olympus and Servia passes. British Commonwealth forces began to set up defensive position at the pass at Thermopylae, famous for the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC, when 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians...

 against the Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 invasion metres from the original battle field.
  • Maps of the region:
  • Image of the battlefield, from the east

First day

On the fifth day after the Persian arrival at Thermopylae (which would become the first day of the battle), Xerxes finally resolved to attack the Greeks. First of all, he ordered five thousand archers to fire a barrage of arrows at the Greeks, but the bronze shields and helmets deflected the missiles, leaving no permanent damage. After that, he sent a force of ten thousand Medes
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

 and Cissians against the Greeks, to take them prisoner and bring them before him. They soon found themselves launching a frontal assault
Frontal assault
The military tactic of frontal assault is a direct, hostile movement of forces toward the front of an enemy force . By targeting the enemy's front, the attackers are subjecting themselves to the maximum defensive power of the enemy...

 on the Greek position. The Greeks fought in front of the Phocian wall, at the narrowest part of the pass. Details of the tactics are scant; Diodorus says "the men stood shoulder to shoulder" and the Greeks were "superior in valor and in the great size of their shields." This is probably describing the standard Greek phalanx, in which the men formed a wall of overlapping shields and layered spear points, which would have been highly effective as long as it spanned the width of the pass. The weaker shields and shorter spears of the Persians prevented them from effectively engaging the Greek hoplites. Herodotus says that the units for each city were kept together; units were rotated in and out of the battle to prevent fatigue, which implies the Greeks had more men than necessary to block the pass. The Greeks killed so many Medes that Xerxes is said to have started up three times off the seat from which he was watching the battle. According to Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

, the first wave was "cut to ribbons" with only two or three Spartans dead. The majority of the Persian force was annihilated, and the few remaining survivors managed to fall back to the safety of the Persian camp.

According to Herodotus and Diodorus, the king, having taken the measure of the enemy, threw his best troops into a second assault the same day: the Immortals
Persian Immortals
The "Immortals" was the name given by Herodotus to an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian Wars...

, an elite corps of 10,000 men. However, the Immortals fared no better than the Medes had, failing to make headway against the Greeks. The Spartans apparently used a tactic of feigning retreat, and then turning on, and killing the enemy troops when they ran after the Spartans.

Second day

On the second day, Xerxes again sent in the infantry to attack the pass, "supposing that their enemies, being so few, were now disabled by wounds and could no longer resist."
However, the Persians fared no better on the second day than on the first. Xerxes at last stopped the assault and withdrew to his camp, totally perplexed.

Late on the second day of battle, however, as the Persian king was pondering what to do next, he received a windfall; a Trachinian
Trachis
Trachis was a region in ancient Greece. Situated south of the river Spercheios, it was populated by the Malians.Its main town was also called Trachis until 426 BC, when it became Heraclea Trachinia. It is located to the west of Thermopylae. Trachis is located just west of the western-most tip of...

 traitor named Ephialtes informed him of the mountain path around Thermopylae and offered to guide the Persian army. Ephialtes was motivated by the desire of a reward. For this act, the name of Ephialtes received a lasting stigma, his name coming to mean "nightmare" in the Greek language and becoming the archetypal traitor in Greek culture.

Herodotus reports that Xerxes sent his commander Hydarnes
Hydarnes
Hydarnes was an eminent Persian, the commander of the "Ten Thousand Immortals" during the time of king Xerxes invasion of Greece.Perhaps the most famous episode involving Satrap Hydarnes and his Immortals came at the Thermopylae in 480 BC, when they came into contact with Leonidas of...

 that evening, with the men under his command, the Immortals, to encircle the Greeks via the path. However, he does not say who those men are. The Immortals had been bloodied on the first day, so it is possible that Hydarnes may have been given overall command of an enhanced force including what was left of the Immortals, and indeed, according to Diodorus, Hydarnes had a force of 20,000 for the mission. The path led from east of the Persian camp along the ridge of Mt. Anopaea behind the cliffs that flanked the pass. It branched with one path leading to Phocis and the other down to the Malian Gulf at Alpenus, first town of Locris
Locris
Locris was a region of ancient Greece, the homeland of the Locrians, made up of three distinct districts.-Locrian tribe:...

.

Third day

At daybreak on the third day, the Phocians guarding the path above Thermopylae became aware of the outflanking Persian column by the rustling of oak leaves. Herodotus says that they jumped up and were greatly amazed. Hydarnes was perhaps just as amazed to see them hastily arming themselves as they were to see him and the Persian forces. He feared that they were Spartans but was informed by Ephialtes that they were not. The Phocians retreated to a nearby hill to make their stand (assuming that the Persians had come to attack them). However, not wishing to be delayed, the Persians gave them a volley of arrows, before passing by to continue with their encirclement
Encirclement
Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces. The German term for this is Kesselschlacht ; a comparable English term might be "in the bag"....

 of the main Greek force.

Learning from a runner that the Phocians had not held the path, Leonidas called a council of war
Council of war
A council of war is a term in military science that describes a meeting held to decide on a course of action, usually in the midst of a battle. Under normal circumstances, decisions are made by a commanding officer, optionally communicated and coordinated by staff officers, and then implemented by...

 at dawn. Some of the Greeks argued for withdrawal, but Leonidas resolved to stay at the pass with the Spartans. 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). The contingent of 700 Thespians
Thespiae
Thespiae was an ancient Greek city in Boeotia. It stood on level ground commanded by the low range of hills which runs eastward from the foot of Mount Helicon to Thebes, near modern Thespies.-History:...

, led by their general Demophilus
Demophilus (Thespiae)
Demophilus led a contingent of about 1,000 Thespians at the Battle of Thermopylae . He stood along with the 300 Spartans at the last stand, and is immortalised in many books and movies....

, refused to leave with the other Greeks but committed themselves to the fight. Also present were the 400 Thebans, and probably the helots that had accompanied the Spartans.

Leonidas' actions have been the subject of much discussion. It is commonly stated that the Spartans were obeying the laws of Sparta by not retreating, but it seems it was actually the failure to retreat from Thermopylae that gave rise to the notion that Spartans never retreated. It is also possible that recalling the words of the Oracle, Leonidas was committed to sacrifice his life in order to save Sparta. However, since the prophecy was specific to him, this seems a poor reason to commit 1,500 other men to a fight to the death. The most likely theory is that Leonidas chose to form a rearguard so that the other Greek contingents could get away. If all the troops had retreated, the open ground beyond the pass would have allowed the Persian cavalry to run the Greeks down. If they had all remained at the pass, they would have been encircled and would eventually have all been killed. By covering the retreat, and continuing to block the pass, Leonidas could save more than 3,000 men, who would be able to fight at some later point. The Thebans have also been the subject of some discussion. Herodotus suggests that they were brought to the battle as hostages to ensure the good behavior of Thebes. However, as Plutarch long ago pointed out, if they were hostages, why not send them away with the rest of the Greeks? The likelihood is that these were the Theban 'loyalists', who unlike the majority of the fellow citizens, objected to Persian domination. They thus probably came to Thermopylae of their own free will, and stayed at the end because they could not return to Thebes if the Persians conquered Boeotia. The Thespians, resolved as they were not to submit to Xerxes, faced the destruction of their city if the Persians took Boeotia. However, this alone does not explain the fact that they remained; the remainder of Thespia was successfully evacuated before the Persians arrived there. 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. This seems to have been a particularly Thespian trait – on at least two other occasions in later history, a Thespian force would commit itself to a fight to the death.

At dawn Xerxes made libations, pausing to allow the Immortals sufficient time to descend the mountain, and then began his advance. A Persian force of ten thousand men, consisting of light infantry and cavalry, charged at the front of the Greek formation. The Greeks this time sallied forth from the wall to meet the Persians in the wider part of the pass in an attempt to slaughter as many Persians as they could. They fought with spears until every spear was shattered and then switched to xiphē (short swords). In this struggle, Herodotus states that two brothers of Xerxes fell: Abrocomes
Abrocomes
Abrocomes was a son of king Darius I of Persia and his wife Phratagune, who died with his full brother Hyperanthes in the battle of Thermopylae, while fighting over the body of Leonidas.-Other sources:* at Project Gutenburg...

 and Hyperanthes
Hyperanthes
Hyperanthes was a son of Darius the Great of Persia and brother to Xerxes I. He was present in the second invasion of Greece in 480 BC. According to Herodotus, he fought and died alongside his other brother Abrocomes in the battle of Thermopylae in the final phase known as the "Battle of...

. Leonidas also died in the assault, shot down by Persian archers, and the two sides fought over his body, the Greeks taking possession. As the Immortals approached, the Greeks withdrew and took a stand on a hill behind the wall. The Thebans "moved away from their companions, and with hands upraised, advanced toward the barbarians..." (Rawlinson translation), but a few were slain before their surrender was accepted. The king later had the Theban prisoners branded with the royal mark. Of the remaining defenders, Herodotus says:
"Here they defended themselves to the last, those who still had swords using them, and the others resisting with their hands and teeth."
Tearing down part of the wall, Xerxes ordered the hill surrounded, and the Persians rained down arrows until every last Greek was dead. In 1939, archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos
Spyridon Marinatos
Spyridon Nikolaou Marinatos was one of the premier Greek archaeologists of the 20th century.- Career :...

, excavating at Thermopylae, found large numbers of Persian bronze arrowheads on Kolonos Hill, changing the identification of the hill on which the Greeks died from a smaller one nearer the wall.

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. The Greek rearguard meanwhile, was annihilated, with a probable loss of 2,000 men, including those killed on the first two days of battle. Herodotus says at one point that 4,000 Greeks died, but assuming that 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.

Aftermath

When the body of Leonidas was recovered by the Persians, Xerxes, in a rage against Leonidas, ordered that the head be cut off and the body crucified
Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

. Herodotus observes that this was very uncommon for the Persians, as they had the habit of treating "valiant warriors" with great honor (the example of Pytheas, captured off Skiathos
Skiathos
Skiathos is a small Greek island in the northwest Aegean Sea. Skiathos is the westernmost island in the Northern Sporades group, east of the Pelion peninsula in Magnesia on the mainland, and west of the island of Skopelos.-Geography:...

 before the Battle of Artemisium
Battle of Artemisium
The Battle of Artemisium was a series of naval engagements over three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The battle took place simultaneously with the more famous land battle at Thermopylae, in August or September 480 BC, off the coast of Euboea and was fought between an alliance of...

, strengthens this suggestion). However, Xerxes was known for his rage, for instance, when he had the Hellespont whipped because it would not obey him. After the Persians' departure, the Greeks collected their dead and buried them on the hill. After the Persian invasion ended, a stone lion was erected at Thermopylae to commemorate Leonidas. A full forty years after the battle, Leonidas' bones were returned to Sparta where he was buried again with full honors; funeral games were held every year in his memory.

With Thermopylae now opened to the Persian army, the continuation of the blockade at Artemisium by the Greek fleet became irrelevant. 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
Saronic Gulf
The Saronic Gulf or Gulf of Aegina in Greece forms part of the Aegean Sea and defines the eastern side of the isthmus of Corinth. It is the eastern terminus of the Corinth Canal, which cuts across the isthmus.-Geography:The gulf includes the islands of; Aegina, Salamis, and Poros along with...

 where they helped to ferry the remaining Athenian citizens across to the island of Salamis
Salamis Island
Salamis , is the largest Greek island in the Saronic Gulf, about 1 nautical mile off-coast from Piraeus and about 16 km west of Athens. The chief city, Salamina , lies in the west-facing core of the crescent on Salamis Bay, which opens into the Saronic Gulf...

.

Following Thermopylae, the Persian army proceeded to burn and sack the Boeotian cities which had not submitted to the Persians, Plataea
Plataea
Plataea or Plataeae was an ancient city, located in Greece in southeastern Boeotia, south of Thebes. It was the location of the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, in which an alliance of Greek city-states defeated the Persians....

 and Thespiae
Thespiae
Thespiae was an ancient Greek city in Boeotia. It stood on level ground commanded by the low range of hills which runs eastward from the foot of Mount Helicon to Thebes, near modern Thespies.-History:...

, before marching on the now evacuated city of Athens. Meanwhile, the Greeks (for the most part Peloponnesian) prepared to defend the Isthmus of Corinth
Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

, demolishing the single road that led through it, and building a wall across it. As at Thermopylae, to make this an effective strategy required the Greek navy to stage a simultaneous blockade, barring the passage of the Persian navy across the Saronic Gulf
Saronic Gulf
The Saronic Gulf or Gulf of Aegina in Greece forms part of the Aegean Sea and defines the eastern side of the isthmus of Corinth. It is the eastern terminus of the Corinth Canal, which cuts across the isthmus.-Geography:The gulf includes the islands of; Aegina, Salamis, and Poros along with...

, so that troops could not be landed directly on the Peloponnese. However, instead of a mere blockade, Themistocles persuaded the Greeks to seek a decisive victory against the Persian fleet. Luring the Persian navy into the Straits of Salamis, the Greek fleet was able to destroy much of the Persian fleet in the Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens...

, which essentially ended the threat to the Peloponnese.

Fearing that the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont and trap his army in Europe, Xerxes now retreated with much of the army back to Asia, though nearly all of them died of starvation and disease on the return. He left a hand picked force under Mardonius
Mardonius
Mardonius was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC.-Early years:Mardonius was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne...

 to complete the conquest the following year. However, under pressure from the Athenians, the Peloponnesians eventually agreed to try to force Mardonius to battle, and marched on Attica. Mardonius retreated to Boeotia to lure the Greeks into open terrain and the two sides eventually met near the city of Plataea. There, at the Battle of Plataea
Battle of Plataea
The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes...

, the Greek army won a decisive victory, destroying much of the Persian army, and ending the invasion of Greece. Meanwhile, at the near-simultaneous naval Battle of Mycale
Battle of Mycale
The Battle of Mycale was one of the two major battles that ended the second Persian invasion of Greece during the Greco-Persian Wars. It took place on or about August 27, 479 BC on the slopes of Mount Mycale, on the coast of Ionia, opposite the island of Samos...

 they also destroyed much of the remaining Persian fleet, thereby reducing the threat of further invasions.

Significance

Thermopylae is arguably the most famous battle in European ancient history, repeatedly referenced in ancient, recent and contemporary culture
Battle of Thermopylae in popular culture
The Battle of Thermopylae of 480 BC, has long been the topic of cultural inspiration, as it is perhaps the most famous military last stand of all time. This "against all odds" story is passed to us from the writings of the Greek Herodotus, who was not present at the battle himself...

. In Western culture at least, it is the Greeks who are lauded for their performance in battle. However, within the context of the Persian invasion, Thermopylae was undoubtedly a defeat for the Greeks. It seems clear that the Greek strategy was to hold off the Persians at Thermopylae and Artemisium; whatever they may have intended, it was presumably not their desire to surrender all of Boeotia and Attica to the Persians. The Greek position at Thermopylae, despite being massively out-numbered, was near-impregnable. If the position had been held for even slightly longer, the Persians might have had to retreat for lack of food and water. Thus, despite the heavy losses, forcing the pass was a clear Persian victory, both tactically and strategically. The successful retreat of the bulk of the Greek troops, though morale-boosting, was in no sense a victory, though it did take some of the sheen off the Persian victory.

It is sometimes stated that Thermopylae was a Pyrrhic victory
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

 for the Persians, that is, one in which the victor is as damaged by the battle as the defeated party. However, there is no suggestion in Herodotus that this was the effect of the Battle of Thermopylae on the Persian forces. Furthermore, this idea ignores the fact that the Persians would, in the aftermath of Thermopylae, conquer the majority of Greece, and the fact that Persians were still fighting in Greece a year later. 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. However, compared to the probable time (about one month) between Thermopylae and Salamis, the time bought by the last stand at Thermopylae was negligible. Furthermore, this idea also neglects the fact that a Greek navy was fighting at Artemesium during the Battle of Thermopylae, incurring losses in the process. 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’s own procrastination. Far from labeling Thermopylae as a pyrrhic victory, modern academic treatises on the Greco-Persian Wars tend to emphasise the success of Xerxes in breaching the formidable Greek position, and in the subsequent conquest of the majority of Greece. For instance Cawkwell states that "he was successful on both land and sea, and the Great Invasion began with a brilliant success... Xerxes had every reason to congratulate himself," whilst Lazenby describes the Greek defeat as "disastrous".

The fame of Thermopylae is thus principally derived, not from its effect on the outcome of the war, but for the inspirational example it set. Thermopylae is famous because of the heroism of the doomed rearguard, who, facing certain death, remained at the pass. Ever since, the events of Thermopylae have been the source of effusive praise from many sources; e.g. "...the fairest sister-victories which the Sun has ever seen, yet they would never dare to compare their combined glory with the glorious defeat of King Leonidas and his men." A second reason is the example it set of free men, fighting for their country and their freedom:
"So almost immediately, contemporary Greeks saw Thermopylae as a critical moral and culture lesson. In universal terms, a small, free people had willingly outfought huge numbers of imperial subjects who advanced under the lash. More specifically, the Western idea that soldiers themselves decide where, how, and against whom they will fight was contrasted against the Eastern notion of despotism and monarchy — freedom proving the stronger idea as the more courageous fighting of the Greeks at Thermopylae, and their later victories at Salamis and Plataea attested."
Whilst this paradigm of "free men" outfighting "slaves" can be seen as a rather sweeping over-generalization (there are plenty of counter-examples), it is nevertheless true that many commentators have used Thermopylae to illustrate this point.
Militarily, although the battle was actually not decisive in the context of the Persian invasion, Thermopylae is also of some significance, on the basis of the first two days of fighting. The performance of the defenders is used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment, and good use of terrain as force multipliers.

Epitaph of Simonides

Simonides
Simonides of Ceos
Simonides of Ceos was a Greek lyric poet, born at Ioulis on Kea. The scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria included him in the canonical list of nine lyric poets, along with Bacchylides and Pindar...

 composed a well-known epigram
Epigram
An epigram is a brief, interesting, usually memorable and sometimes surprising statement. Derived from the epigramma "inscription" from ἐπιγράφειν epigraphein "to write on inscribe", this literary device has been employed for over two millennia....

, which was engraved as an epitaph
Epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...

 on a commemorative stone placed on top of the burial mound of the Spartans at Thermopylae. It is also the hill on which the last of them died. The original stone has not survived, but in 1955, the epitaph was engraved on a new stone. The text from Herodotus is:

.

Ō ksein', angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti tēide
keimetha, tois keinōn rhēmasi peithomenoi.

"Stranger, announce to the Spartans that here
We lie, having fulfilled their orders."


The alternative ancient reading for substitutes "laws" for "orders." 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).

The form of this ancient Greek poetry is an elegiac couplet
Elegiac couplet
The elegiac couplet is a poetic form used by Greek lyric poets for a variety of themes usually of smaller scale than the epic. Roman poets, particularly Ovid, adopted the same form in Latin many years later...

, commonly used for epitaphs. Some English renderings are given in the table below.

It was well known in ancient Greece that all the Spartans who had been sent to Thermopylae had been killed there (with the solitary exception of the hapless Aristodemus), and the epitaph exploits the conceit that there was nobody left to bring the news of their deeds back to Sparta. Greek epitaphs often appealed to the passing reader (always called 'stranger') for sympathy, but the epitaph for the dead Spartans at Thermopylae took this convention much further than usual, asking the reader to make a personal journey to Sparta to break the news that the Spartan expeditionary force had been wiped out. The stranger is also asked to stress that the Spartans died 'fulfilling their orders'.
Translation Notes
Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
William Lisle Bowles
William Lisle Bowles
William Lisle Bowles was an English poet and critic.-Life and career:He was born at King's Sutton, Northamptonshire, where his father was vicar. At the age of fourteen he entered Winchester College, the headmaster at the time being Dr Joseph Warton...

Stranger, tell the Spartans that we behaved
as they would wish us to, and are buried here.
William Golding
William Golding
Sir William Gerald Golding was a British novelist, poet, playwright and Nobel Prize for Literature laureate, best known for his novel Lord of the Flies...

Stranger! To Sparta say, her faithful band
Here lie in death, remembering her command.
Francis Hodgson
Francis Hodgson
Francis Hodgson , was a reforming Provost of Eton, educator, cleric, writer of verse, and friend of Byron....

Stranger, report this word, we pray, to the Spartans, that lying
Here in this spot we remain, faithfully keeping their laws.
George Campbell Macaulay
George Campbell Macaulay
George Campbell Macaulay , also known as G. C. Macaulay, was a noted English Classical scholar. He was the father of the well-known English author Rose Macaulay.-Family:...

Stranger, bear this message to the Spartans,
that we lie here obedient to their laws.
William Roger Paton
Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
that here obedient to their laws we lie.
Steven Pressfield
Steven Pressfield
Steven Pressfield is an American novelist and author of screenplays, principally of military historical fiction set in classical antiquity...

Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell
That here, obeying her behests, we fell.
George Rawlinson
George Rawlinson
Canon George Rawlinson was a 19th century English scholar, historian, and Christian theologian. He was born at Chadlington, Oxfordshire, and was the younger brother of Sir Henry Rawlinson....

Go, way-farer, bear news to Sparta's town
that here, their bidding done, we laid us down.
Cyril E. Robinson
Go tell the Spartans, you who read:
We took their orders, and lie here dead.
Aubrey de Sélincourt
Aubrey de Selincourt
Aubrey de Sélincourt was an English writer, classical scholar and translator. Educated at the Dragon School and Rugby School, he won an open classical scholarship to University College, Oxford...

Friend, tell Lacedaemon
Here we lie
Obedient to our orders.
William Shepherd
Oh Stranger, tell the Spartans
That we lie here obedient to their word.
From the 1962 film The 300 Spartans
The 300 Spartans
The 300 Spartans is a 1962 Cinemascope film depicting the Battle of Thermopylae. Made with the cooperation of the Greek government, it was shot in the village of Perachora in the Peloponnese...

Stranger, go tell the Spartans
That we lie here
True, even to the death
To our Spartan way of life.
J. Rufus Fears
J. Rufus Fears
J. Rufus Fears is an American historian, scholar, teacher and author on the subjects of ancient history, the history of liberty, and the lessons of history....

Go tell the Spartans, passerby:
That here, by Spartan law, we lie.
Frank Miller
Frank Miller (comics)
Frank Miller is an American comic book artist, writer and film director best known for his dark, film noir-style comic book stories and graphic novels Ronin, Daredevil: Born Again, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300...

 (subsequently used in the 2007 film, 300
300 (film)
300 is a 2007 American fantasy action film based on the 1998 comic series of the same name by Frank Miller. It is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. The film was directed by Zack Snyder, while Miller served as executive producer and consultant...

)


John Ruskin
John Ruskin
John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects ranging from geology to architecture, myth to ornithology, literature to education, and botany to political...

 expressed the importance of this ideal to Western civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 as follows:
Also obedience in its highest form is not obedience to a constant and compulsory law, but a persuaded or voluntary yielded obedience to an issued command .... His name who leads the armies of Heaven is "Faithful and True"... and all deeds which are done in alliance with these armies ... are essentially deeds of faith, which therefore ... is at once the source and the substance of all known deed, rightly so called ... as set forth in the last word of the noblest group of words ever, so far as I know, uttered by simple man concerning his practice, being the final testimony of the leaders of a great practical nation ... [the epitaph in Greek]

Leonidas monument

Additionally, there is a modern monument at the site, called the "Leonidas Monument", in honor of the Spartan king. It features a bronze statue of Leonidas. A sign, under the statue, reads simply: "Μολών λαβέ
Molon labe
The Ancient Greek phrase ' means "Come and take them". It is a classical expression of defiance reportedly spoken by King Leonidas I in response to the Persian army's demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae...

" ("Come and get them!"--as in answer to Xerxes' demand that the Greeks give up their weapons). The metope below depicts battle scenes. The two marble statues on the left and the right of the monument represent, respectively, the river Eurotas
Eurotas River
The Eurotas or Evrotas is the main river of Laconia prefecture and one of the major rivers of the Peloponnese, in Greece. The river's springs are located just northwest of the border between Laconia and the prefecture of Arcadia, at Skortsinos. The river is also fed by underwater springs at...

 and Mount Taygetos, famous landmarks of Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

.

Thespian monument

In 1997, a second monument was officially unveiled by the Greek government, dedicated to the 700 Thespians who fought with the Spartans. The monument is made of marble and features a bronze statue depicting the god Eros, to whom the ancient Thespians accorded particular religious veneration. Under the statue, a sign reads "In memory of the seven hundred Thespians."

A plate, below the statue, explains its symbolism:
  • The headless male figure symbolizes the anonymous sacrifice of the 700 Thespians to their country.
  • The outstretched chest symbolizes the struggle, the gallantry, the strength, the bravery and the courage.
  • The open wing symbolizes the victory, the glory, the soul, the spirit and the freedom.
  • The broken wing symbolizes the voluntary sacrifice and death.
  • The naked body symbolizes Eros, the most important god of the ancient Thespians, a god of creation, beauty and life.


The monument to the Thespians is placed beside the one to the Spartans.

Associated legends

Herodotus' colorful account of the battle has provided us with many apocryphal incidents and conversations away from the main historical events. These accounts are obviously not verifiable, but they form an integral part of the legend of the battle. They often demonstrate the Laconic speech (and wit) of the Spartans to good effect.

For instance, Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 recounts in his Sayings of Spartan Women that upon his departure, Leonidas' wife Gorgo
Gorgo, Queen of Sparta
Gorgo was the daughter and the only child of Cleomenes I, King of Sparta during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. She was the wife of King Leonidas I, Cleomenes' half-brother, who fought and died in the Battle of Thermopylae. Gorgo is noted as one of the few female historical figures actually named...

 asked what she should do if he did not return; to which Leonidas replied, "Marry a good man and have good children."

It is reported that, upon arriving at Thermopylae, the Persians sent a mounted scout to reconnoiter. The Greeks allowed him to come up to the camp, observe them, and depart. When the scout reported to Xerxes the size of the Greek force and that the Spartans were indulging in calisthenics
Calisthenics
Calisthenics are a form of aerobic exercise consisting of a variety of simple, often rhythmical, movements, generally using multiple equipment or apparatus. They are intended to increase body strength and flexibility with movements such as bending, jumping, swinging, twisting or kicking, using...

 and combing their long hair, Xerxes found the reports laughable. Seeking the counsel of Demaratus
Demaratus
Demaratus was a king of Sparta from 515 until 491 BC, of the Eurypontid line, successor to his father Ariston. As king, he is known chiefly for his opposition to the other, co-ruling Spartan king, Cleomenes I.-Biography:...

, an exiled Spartan king in his retinue, Xerxes was told that the Spartans were preparing for battle and that it was their custom to adorn their hair when they were about to risk their lives. Demaratus called them "the bravest men in Greece" and warned the Great King that they intended to dispute the pass. He emphasized that he had tried to warn Xerxes earlier in the campaign, but the king had refused to believe him. He added that if Xerxes ever managed to subdue the Spartans, "there is no other nation in all the world which will venture to lift a hand in their defense."

Herodotus also describes the reception of a Persian embassy by Leonidas. The ambassador told Leonidas that Xerxes would offer him the kingship of all Greece if he joined with Xerxes. Leonidas answered: "If you had any knowledge of the noble things of life, you would refrain from coveting others' possessions; but for me to die for Greece is better than to be the sole ruler over the people of my race." Then the ambassador asked him more forcefully to surrender their arms. To this Leonidas gave his famous answer: "Come and get them."

Such Laconic bravado doubtlessly helped to maintain morale. Herodotus writes that when Dienekes
Dienekes
Dienekes or Dieneces was a Spartan soldier present at the Battle of Thermopylae. He was acclaimed the bravest of all the three hundred Spartiates selected to fight in that battle. Herodotus related the following anecdote about Dienekes:...

, a Spartan soldier, was informed that Persian arrows would be so numerous as "to block out the sun", he retorted, unconcerned; "So much the better...then we shall fight our battle in the shade."

After the battle, Xerxes was curious as to what the Greeks had been trying to do (presumably because they had had so few men) and had some Arcadian deserters interrogated in his presence. The answer was that all the other men were participating in the Olympic Games. When Xerxes asked what was the prize for the winner, the answer was "an olive-wreath". Upon hearing this, Tigranes
Tigranes
Tigranes was the name of a number of historical figures, primarily kings of Armenia.The earliest Tigranes is mentioned in the Cyropaedia and in Armenian historical sources. He was an Armenian king from the Orontid Dynasty and an ally of Cyrus the Great. One of his sons was also named Tigranes...

, a Persian general, said: "Good heavens, Mardonius
Mardonius
Mardonius was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC.-Early years:Mardonius was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne...

, what kind of men are these that you have pitted against us? It is not for riches that they contend but for honor!" (Godley translation) or otherwise "Ye Gods, Mardonius, what men have you brought us to fight against? Men that fight not for gold, but for glory."

In popular culture

The Battle of Thermopylae has been an icon
Cultural icon
A cultural icon can be a symbol, logo, picture, name, face, person, building or other image that is readily recognized and generally represents an object or concept with great cultural significance to a wide cultural group...

 of western civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 from its very aftermath. This icon expresses itself in countless instances of adage
Adage
An adage is a short but memorable saying which holds some important fact of experience that is considered true by many people, or that has gained some credibility through its long use....

s, poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

 and song
Song
In music, a song is a composition for voice or voices, performed by singing.A song may be accompanied by musical instruments, or it may be unaccompanied, as in the case of a cappella songs...

, literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

s, television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 and video games. A more serious aspect has been its didactic use. The battle appears in many books and articles
Article (publishing)
An article is a written work published in a print or electronic medium. It may be for the purpose of propagating the news, research results, academic analysis or debate.-News articles:...

 on military topics. The movies The 300 Spartans
The 300 Spartans
The 300 Spartans is a 1962 Cinemascope film depicting the Battle of Thermopylae. Made with the cooperation of the Greek government, it was shot in the village of Perachora in the Peloponnese...

 (1962) and 300
300 (film)
300 is a 2007 American fantasy action film based on the 1998 comic series of the same name by Frank Miller. It is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. The film was directed by Zack Snyder, while Miller served as executive producer and consultant...

 (2006) were based on the events during and close to the time of the battle. At the 2011 Shanksville, Pennsylvania dedication of the monument to United Airlines Flight 93
United Airlines Flight 93
United Airlines Flight 93 was United Airlines' scheduled morning transcontinental flight across the United States from Newark International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco International Airport in California. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the Boeing 757–222 aircraft operating the...

, former United States President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 compared the heroics of the passengers on that flight to Thermopylae, and asked that their heroics, too, be remembered after 2500 years.
Prior to the battle, the Hellenes remembered the Dorians, an ethnic distinction to which the Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

ns belonged, as the conquerors and displacers of the Ionians
Ionians
The Ionians were one of the four major tribes into which the Classical Greeks considered the population of Hellenes to have been divided...

 in the Peloponnesus. After the battle, Spartan culture became an inspiration and object of emulation, a phenomenon known as Laconophilia.

See also

  • Aristodemus of Sparta
  • Battle of the Persian Gate
    Battle of the Persian Gate
    The Battle of the Persian Gate was a military conflict between the Achaemenid Empire and Alexander the Great at the Persian Gates. The Achaemenid army was commanded by the satrap of Persis, Ariobarzanes and the invading Macedonian army was commanded by Alexander the Great. In the winter of 330 BC,...

  • Gates of Fire
    Gates of Fire
    Gates of Fire is a 1998 historical fiction novel by Steven Pressfield that recounts the Battle of Thermopylae through Xeones, a Spartan Helot and the sole Greek survivor of the battle....

  • Spartan Army
    Spartan Army
    The Spartan army was the military force of Sparta, one of the leading city-states of ancient Greece. The army stood at the centre of the Spartan state, whose citizens' primary obligation was to be good soldiers. Subject to military drill from infancy, the Spartans were one of the most feared...

  • Battle of Saragarhi
  • Battle of Pavan Khind
    Battle of Pavan Khind
    Battle of Pävankhind was a rear guard battle and a Last Stand that took place on July 13, 1660 at a mountain pass in the vicinity of fort Vishalgad, near the city of Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India between the Maratha sardar Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Siddi Masud of Adilshah. The Marathas held the...


External links

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