King Leonidas of Sparta led the troops and died in battle.  The Greek fleet—seeking a decisive victory over the Persian armada—attacked and defeated the invaders at the Battle of Salamis in late 480 BC. While there are many theories regarding Leonidas' choice, including the idea that Spartans never retreated, it was most likely a strategic decision as a rearguard was necessary to prevent the Persian cavalry from running down the retreating army. , It is sometimes stated that Thermopylae was a Pyrrhic victory for the Persians (i.e., one in which the victor is as damaged by the battle as the defeated party). It is, therefore, your duty to retire.  At this time of year the Spartans, de facto military leaders of the alliance, were celebrating the festival of Carneia. Thereupon the Spartans sent these men to Media for execution." By 480 BC, Xerxes had amassed a massive army and navy and set out to conquer all of Greece. ", "The Battle of Thermopylae was a Pyrrhic victory for [the Persians] but it offered Athens invaluable time to prepare for the decisive naval battle of Salamis one month later. M. Trundle, “Thermopylae”, in: C. Matthew and M. Trundle (eds. Anopaea behind the cliffs that flanked the pass. , The terrain of the battlefield was nothing that Xerxes and his forces were accustomed to. This quiz is incomplete! First, he ordered 5,000 archers to shoot a barrage of arrows, but they were ineffective; they shot from at least 100 yards away, according to modern day scholars, and the Greeks' wooden shields (sometimes covered with a very thin layer of bronze) and bronze helmets deflected the arrows. The Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus, writing in the 1st century BC in his Bibliotheca historica, also provides an account of the Greco-Persian wars, partially derived from the earlier Greek historian Ephorus. Wary of being trapped in Europe, Xerxes withdrew with much of his army to Asia (losing most to starvation and disease), leaving Mardonius to attempt to complete the conquest of Greece. On the morning of the fifth day, Xerxes sent troops against Leonidas' position with the goal of capturing the Allied army. The great Battle of Thermopylae and the valiant fight of 300 fearless Spartans under the command of warrior King Leonidas against 10,000 elite Persian soldiers is one of … How did the Persians win the Battle of ... plus 300 of his own Spartan warriors, with which he was expected to hold back the might of the Persian Army at the Pass of Thermopylae. It was a narrow pass so the massive Persian army's front line got smaller as it pushed through. , However, this alone does not explain the fact that they remained; the remainder of Thespiae was successfully evacuated before the Persians arrived there. A few months later, the Greeks were victorious in the naval battle of Salamis, and in 479 BC, the rest of the Persian army was defeated in the battle of Plataea. Cicero recorded a Latin variation in his Tusculanae Disputationes (1.42.101): Additionally, there is a modern monument at the site, called the "Leonidas Monument" by Vassos Falireas, in honour of the Spartan king. The constricted topography of Thermopylae was ideal for a defensive stand by the armored Greek hoplites as they could not be flanked and the more lightly armed Persians would be forced into a frontal assault.  Leonidas chose to camp at, and defend, the "middle gate", the narrowest part of the pass of Thermopylae, where the Phocians had built a defensive wall some time before. SourceThe Greek alliance originally wanted to confront the Persians in Thessaly, the region just to the south of Macedon, at the Vale of Tempe. Not only that, but they also held the advantage militarily as the Spartans were trained form a very young age to fight as soldiers, while the Persians did not train as soldiers until well into their adult years. Leonidas stationed 1,000 Phocians on the heights to prevent such a manoeuvre. P. Cartledge, Thermopylae: The Battle that Changed the World (2006). For the number of them that disappeared beneath the mud was great. Along the path itself was a series of three constrictions, or "gates" (pylai), and at the centre gate a wall that had been erected by the Phocians, in the previous century, to aid in their defence against Thessalian invasions. The headless male figure symbolizes the anonymous sacrifice of the 700 Thespians to their country. However, Xerxes was known for his rage. Moving north with 300 men from the royal guard, Leonidas gathered additional troops en route to Thermopylae. Men that fight not for gold, but for glory.". The Battle at Salamis: When the Persian king, Xerxes, invaded Greece in the spring of 480 BCE, he did so at the head of a vast army.  Curtius describes the subsequent battle fought by the surrounded, unarmed Persians as "memorable". John Ruskin expressed the importance of this ideal to Western civilization 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].  In this struggle, Herodotus states that two of Xerxes' brothers fell: Abrocomes and Hyperanthes.  Far from labelling 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 the subsequent conquest of the majority of Greece. . The rear-guard was annihilated and the Persians rolled on to occupy central Greece. The Battle of Salamis was a naval battle between Greek and Persian forces in the Saronic Gulf, Greece in September 480 BCE. They retreated. , Following Thermopylae, the Persian army proceeded to sack and burn Plataea and Thespiae, the Boeotian cities that had not submitted, before it marched on the now evacuated city of Athens and accomplished the Achaemenid destruction of Athens. This battle has been at the center of legends and myths since it took place; and for good reason.  Ioannis Ziogas points out that the usual English translations are far from the only interpretation possible, and indicate much about the romantic tendencies of the translators. Under the statue, a sign reads: "In memory of the seven hundred Thespians.".  In fact, Herodotus' account of the battle, in Book VII of his Histories, is such an important source that Paul Cartledge wrote: "we either write a history of Thermopylae with [Herodotus], or not at all".  George B. Grundy was the first modern historian to do a thorough topographical survey of the narrow pass at Thermopylae, and to the extent that modern accounts of the battle differ from Herodotus' where they usually follow Grundy's. Xerxes may have been victorious but too many of his men were killed and too much time was wasted with futile mini battles with determined, under-manned Spartans. Moreover, in the pass, the phalanx would have been very difficult to assault for the more lightly armed Persian infantry. News of the imminent Persian approach eventually reached Greece in August thanks to a Greek spy. To Sparta say, her faithful band, Stranger, report this word, we pray, to the Spartans, that lying. Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus, Having been turned back at Marathon in 490 BC, Persian forces returned to Greece ten years later to avenge their defeat and conquer the peninsula. Xerxes found the scout's reports of the size of the Greek force, and that the Spartans were indulging in callisthenics and combing their long hair, laughable. Some English renderings are given in the table below. This account is fairly consistent with Herodotus' writings.  A Persian force of 10,000 men, comprising light infantry and cavalry, charged at the front of the Greek formation. “ The performance of the defenders at the battle of Thermopylae is often used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment and good use of terrain to maximise an army’s potential, as well as a symbol of courage against extremely overwhelming odds.” The Battle of Thermopylae’s political origins can be traced back to Xerxes’ predecessor, Darius I (the Great), who sent heralds to Greek cities in 491 bce in the hopes of persuading them to accept Persian authority. ", It is reported that, upon arriving at Thermopylae, the Persians sent a mounted scout to reconnoitre. This battle, which is also said to have claimed two younger brothers of Xerxes, had far more psychological than military importance. The performance of the defenders is used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment, and good use of terrain as force multipliers.. The Persians overran Boeotia and then captured the evacuated city of Athens. A plate below the statue explains its symbolism: The monument to the Thespians is placed beside the one to the Spartans.  As the Immortals approached, the Greeks withdrew and took a stand on a hill behind the wall. , In 1997, a second monument was officially unveiled by the Greek government, dedicated to the 700 Thespians who fought with the Spartans.  Some of the Greeks argued for withdrawal, but Leonidas resolved to stay at the pass with the Spartans.  As at Thermopylae, making this an effective strategy required the Greek navy to stage a simultaneous blockade, barring the passage of the Persian navy across the Saronic Gulf, so that troops could not be landed directly on the Peloponnese. By and large, the battle of Thermopylae from Herodotus’ The Histories was an extremely notable and remarkable battle for the history of the west, as well as the world.  The Persians soon launched a frontal assault, in waves of around 10,000 men, on the Greek position. In Western culture at least, it is the Greeks who are lauded for their performance in battle.  The likelihood is that these were the Theban "loyalists", who unlike the majority of their fellow citizens, objected to Persian domination. However, he does not say who those men were. For instance, Cawkwell states: "he was successful on both land and sea, and the Great Invasion began with a brilliant success. The invasion was brought to an end the following year after the Greek victory at the Battle of Plataea. However, the following year saw a Greek army decisively defeat the Persians at the Battle of Plataea, thereby ending the Persian invasion. Although the Persians had enjoyed the upper hand in previous contests during the recent Ionian revolt, the terrain at Thermopylae would better suit Greek warfare.  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 "congress" met again in the spring of 480 BC.  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. But Thermopylae, with its tale of courage against the odds and resolution in the face of death, captured the imagination and it maintains its hold two and a half millennia later as the definitive last stand and the ultimate patriotic sacrifice. The primary source for the Greco-Persian Wars is the Greek historian Herodotus. Herodotus, a contemporary writer put the Persian army strength as one million and went to great pains to describe how they were counted in groups of Ten thousand at a review of the troops. Map showing Greek and Persian advances to Thermopylae and Artemisium.. However, a glance at any photograph of the pass shows there are no cliffs, only steep slopes covered in thorny bushes and trees.  The original stone has not survived, but in 1955, the epitaph was engraved on a new stone. A Thessalian delegation suggested that the Greeks could muster in the narrow Vale of Tempe, on the borders of Thessaly, and thereby block Xerxes' advance.  These were both feats of exceptional ambition, which would have been beyond any other contemporary state. After defeating the Persian defence, Alexander continued through the Mountains and soon reached Persepolis where he seized the Persian royal treasury and burned the royal palace to the ground – a symbolic end to Achaemenid rule over Persia. This expedition against Athens threatened all of Greece. After the Persian invasion was repulsed, a stone lion was erected at Thermopylae to commemorate Leonidas. Marching from Asia Minor, Xerxes intended to bridge the Hellespont and advance on Greece through Thrace. It is not for riches that they contend but for honour!" Michel de Montaigne, quoted in Holland, p. Macauley translation of Herodotus, p. 220, Rawlinson translation of Herodotus, p. 51, Sélincourt translation of Herodotus (1954).  The Persians, therefore, had to retreat or advance, and advancing required forcing the pass of Thermopylae.  However, in order to appease the Achaemenid king somewhat, two Spartans were voluntarily sent to Susa for execution, in atonement for the death of the Persian heralds. Lazenby, The Defence of Greece 490-479 BC (1993). Herodotus observes this was very uncommon for the Persians, as they traditionally treated "valiant warriors" with great honour (the example of Pytheas, captured off Skiathos before the Battle of Artemisium, strengthens this suggestion). While most favored an immediate retreat, Leonidas decided to stay at the pass with his 300 Spartans.  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. The Organization of Xerxes' Army. What advantages did the Greeks have at Thermopylae? , Fearing the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont and trap his army in Europe, Xerxes now retreated with much of the Persian army back to Asia, though nearly all of them died of starvation and disease on the return voyage.  Support thus began to coalesce around these two leading states. However, once there, being warned by Alexander I of Macedon that the vale could be bypassed through Sarantoporo Pass and that Xerxes' army was overwhelming, the Greeks retreated. To this Leonidas gave his famous answer: Μολὼν λαβέ (pronounced Greek pronunciation: [moˈlɔːn laˈbe]) "Come and get them. The Greeks would have … The form of this ancient Greek poetry is an elegiac couplet, commonly used for epitaphs. 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