Be that as it may, Pantites returned alone only to discover that his king and comrades were all dead, while arrows, broken spears, shields, and fresh Persian mass graves remained the only witnesses to what had happened. Farrokh, Kaveh. ” (“Molon Lave—Come and take them!”) was said to be the response by the Spartans at Thermopylae to the Persian demand that the Greeks surrender their weapons. Off to the side of the larger statue of Leonidas at Thermopylae, there is a monument to the 700 Thespians who died alongside the Spartans. This would have significantly cut down the amount of time required to make this journey. 2500 Anniversary: The Battle of Thermopylae (Hot Gates), In 2020 Greece celebrates the 2500-year-anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae, when King Leonidas and his men said "Molon Labe" and fought to death against one million Persians; protecting the foundations of our civilization in one of the most famous battles in history that shaped our world! But at the time, few Greeks were professional soldiers, except for the Spartiates, who were highly-trained soldiers that ended up having a significant impact on the Battle of Thermopylae. He did this by tying ships side-by-side across the entire stretch of water, which allowed his troops to easily cross from Asia into Europe while also avoiding Byzantium. The Greek force consisted of approximately 7000 men, of whom 300 were Spartan hoplites, 700 Thespians, and 100 Phocians, among others. New York: Osprey, 2007. Pen and Sword, 2006. It is believed that he was sending a message asking for additional troops, although this part of the story is disputed. Lastly, the Greek army was grossly outnumbered. The Athenians, who had led the fight against the Persians the first time around, began building a new fleet using silver they had recently discovered in the mountains of Attica. Meanwhile, receiving word that the Persians had found a way around the Pass of Thermopylae, the Greek fleet at Artemisium turned around and sailed south to try and beat the Persians to Attica and defend Athens. When Xerxes saw how small the Greek force was, he allegedly ordered his troops to wait. Before the battle that lasted three days began, Leonidas had ordered Pantites to go into Thessaly. A major selling point for the Battle of Thermopylae was the idea that only 300 Greek soldiers — specifically Spartans — went to impede the Persian invasion. Leonidas, one of the Spartan kings at the time (Sparta always had two), led the Greek forces, whereas the Persians were led by their emporer Xerxes, as well as his main general, Mardonius. But not wanting to expose those retreating to the Persian advance, Leonidas informed his troops that he would remain with his force of 300 Spartans, but that all others could leave. The Greeks (7,000 men) made it to the pass first, but the Persians arrived shortly thereafter. After the Battle of Thermopylae, things did not look good for the Greeks. Nearly 600 years… Xerxes prepared for his invasion by amassing one of the largest armies the ancient world had ever seen. Although there were 300 Spartans present at the defense of Thermopylae, there were at least 4,000 allies involved on the first two days and 1,500 men involved in the fatal last stand.Still a tiny figure compared to the forces against them—there is evidence that the vast Persian army has been vastly exaggerated—but more than the legend, which forgets some contributors. After three days, it became clear to Xerxes the Greeks were not going to surrender, so he began his attack. Up until the Battle of Thermopylae, the Immortals were the premier fighting force in the ancient world. Indeed, he fought fiercely and bravely at Plataea and was wounded. To do this, the Persian king, Darius I, enlisted the help of a man named Aristagoras, who was ruling as the tyrant of the Ionian city Miletus. However, as impressive as the size of Xerxes’ army was,  the preparations he undertook for his invasion are perhaps even more remarkable. When called upon, they would mobilize and fight to defend the polis, which would have been a great honor. Every move outside the battle plan was considered as endangering the lives of fellow warriors. But now, he was mad at the Greeks for their insurrection, and he had his eyes set on revenge. There are three different ways you can cite this article. His son, Xerxes I, rose to the throne in 486 BCE, and after spending some time consolidating his power within the empire, he set out to avenge his father and force the Greeks to pay for their insubordination and insurrection, setting the stage for the Battle of Thermopylae. The Persians, who had grown over the previous century to be the most powerful empire in western Asia and the second largest empire in the world, set out to bring the Greeks under their control once and for all. Unveiled in 1997, it depicts Eros, the oldest of the gods. However, Spartan King Leonidas knew to do nothing doomed his people to almost certain death. Herodotus, whose account of wars between the Greeks and Persians is the best primary source we have on these long wars, estimated the Persians had an army of nearly 2 million men, but most modern estimates put this number much lower. He left his top general, Mardonius, in charge of carrying out the rest of the attack. 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 Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and others, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I. Unfortunately, there were too few Spartan-IIs to turn the tide of the war. This move resulted in a resounding victory for the Greek fleet, and Xerxes, seeing now that the invasion was taking longer than he’d expected, and that it might not succeed, left the frontline and returned to Asia. The size of the Persian army is disputed. Greece, which operated more as a network of independent city-states that alternated between collaborating and fighting with one another than a coherent nation, had a significant presence in western Asia, mostly along the southern coast of modern-day Turkey, a region known as Ionia. Only 2 Spartans are said to have survived: 1 fell at the Battle of Plataea a year later, and the other hanged himself in shame. The coward was not punished, but he was treated as if he did not exist; he was invisible and no one would touch him. Battle. After the battle was finally won by the Persians and the remaining rear guard of … The Battle of Thermopylae. Wars between the Greek and the Persians would continue for another 25 years, but there was never another battle fought on Greek territory between the two sides. According to modern historians, he sent his army in waves of 10,000 men, but this did not do much. The first is the Battle of Artemesium, a battle fought concurrently with Thermopylae. Greek forces put up little resistance, and Darius I managed to reach Eritrea and burn it to the ground. Is Covid-19 Triggering a Populist Backlash in Greece? Anyone could see that the Persians would be back, and so most went about preparing for round two. This determination in the face of almost certain defeat is part of the reason why the Battle of Thermopylae is such a famous story. When Pantites returned to the free city-state of Sparta, thanks to the sacrifice of his fellow Spartans at Thermopylae, he was accused of cowardice — and he soon killed himself. Herodotus – ancient Greek historian – writes that when Dienekes, a Spartan soldier, was informed that Persian arrows would be so numerous as “to block out the sun”, he retorted, “So much the better…then we shall fight our battle in the shade.” Such bravery doubtlessly helped to maintain morale. The Greco-Persian Wars. He had no civil rights and was even obliged to step aside when a Spartan passed by. Xerxes, confident he would now win the Battle, waited until the late afternoon to give his Immortals the chance to make it through the pass and advance on the remaining Greeks. One of the reasons the Battle of Thermopylae is so famous is because of the preparations the Persians took to fight it. According to the historian Herodotus, there were only three men out of Leonidas’ elite army who did not fight in the epic battle. Here’s a carving of what the Immortals may have looked like in ancient times: The rest of the soldiers Xerxes took with him to Greece came from other regions of the empire, mainly Media, Elam, Babylon, Phoenicia, and Egypt, among many others. Once the Persians had managed to conquer Lydia, they would have been interested in conquering Greece, as imperial expansion was one of the most important tasks of any ancient king. To add to this, Xerxes, the Persian king, was out for revenge after the Greek army had defeated his father just 10 years prior. Like Thermopylae, it was a holding action, and the success of each Greek action depended on the other battle. Most of the Athenian population had been taken to the nearby island of Salamis, and it looked as though this would be the site of a potentially decisive Persian victory. However, when the Persians invaded Lydia and conquered it in the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Ionian Greeks became part of the Persian Empire, yet in their quest to maintain their autonomy, they proved difficult to rule. However, most historians now believe he sent off most of his force so that they could rejoin with the rest of the Greek armies and live to fight the Persians another day. By the end of August, or perhaps beginning of September 480 BCE, the Persian army was nearing Thermopylae. Of the 300 Spartans that remained to fight off the Persian advance, none survived, including their king, Leonidas. That these men were willing to stay behind and fight to the death speaks to the spirit of the Spartan fighting force, and it reminds us of what people are willing to do when their homeland and very existence are threatened. However, there are numerous modern recreations. Découvrez comment nous utilisons vos informations dans notre Politique relative à la vie privée et notre Politique relative aux cookies. 2. Others attribute the move to the notion that Spartan soldiers never retreated. This offended the proud Greeks greatly; the Athenians went so far as to toss the Persian heralds into a pit, while the Spartans followed suit and tossed them into a well. However, the impossible odds the Greeks faced going into the battle combined with the legends surrounding Leonidas and the three hundred Spartans has helped turn this battle and its famous last stand into a momentous event in ancient history. Many like to think these 300 Spartans were the only ones fighting, but they weren’t. Accessed December 2, 2020. The phalanx was a formation of soldiers set up as an array that when combined with the heavy armor worn by hoplites proved to be nearly impossible to break. So, in 499 BCE, much of Ionia was in open rebellion, an event known as the Ionian Revolt. This story of Spartan King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans is one of bravery and valor. One can only imagine how motivated they really were to kill their countrymen at the bequest of their imperial overlord. The Greek phalanx, along with their heavier bronze armor and longer spears, stood strong despite being so hopelessly outnumbered. The Vale of Tempe provided them with this geographical advantage, but when the Greeks got word that the Persians had learned of a way to go around the vale, they had to change their strategy. A map indicating the location and military positions taken in the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE between the Persian invading forces of Xerxes I against a small Greek force led by Spartan king Leonidas. The other man, Eurytus, is said to have gone into battle anyhow, led by his servant. The Persian army at the beginning of the battle is estimated to have numbered 180,000 with most of the troops being taken from the various regions of Persian territory. However, they knew it was unlikely they would be able to fend off the Persians on their own, so they called on the rest of the Greek world to come together and form an alliance to fight the Persians. As a result, almost everyone knows about the 300 Spartans who died trying to hold back the Persian Empire’s 300,000-strong army on its way to conquer Greece. Pantites failed to return to Thermopylae in time for the battle, and branded with shame in the eyes of his fellow Spartans, he hanged himself. His regular army, the well-trained, profession corps known as the Immortals, totaled just 10,000 soldiers. Wikimedia Commons Students may be familiar with this famous battle from its depiction in Zack Snyder's movie 300 , … Knowing full well that this meant their doom, he told his soldiers it was time to depart. His next objective was Athens – the other city which offered support to the Ionians – but he never made it. Remember that Leonidas has dispatched a force of 1,000 Locrians to defend the second route around the pass. How many Spartans survived in the battle of Thermopylae? Green, Peter. He figured the Greeks would see just how outnumbered they were and eventually surrender. Thermopylae 480 BC: Last stand of the 300. This final victory officially drove the Persians from Europe and removed the threat of Persian invasion. But a local Greek, who was likely trying to win over Xerxes’ favor in an attempt to receive special treatment after their victory, approached the Persian camp and alerted them to the existence of this secondary route. Leonidas sent the local contingent to defend Anopaea, a single-file pass near Thermopylae, while the 300 Spartans and others remained on the narrow, yet somewhat larger pass of Thermopylae. Branded a Coward, Died a Hero: The Story of the Only Survivor... 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After seeing what the Greeks had managed to do at the Battle of Thermopylae, and now without a fleet to support his invasion, Mardonius was hoping to avoid a direct battle, so he sent envoys to the leaders of the Greek alliance to sue for peace. Meanwhile, Darius I sent his fleet to attack Eritrea and Athens. The Spartans withdrew to a small hill near the pass, together with the few other Greek soldiers who had refused to leave. Most hoplites were regular citizens who were required to buy and maintain their own armor. Spartan soldiers falling at the battle of Thermopylae (Source: Wikimedia Commons) At sunrise, after making libations, Xerxes ordered the army to advance and descend the mountain. The Greek rearguard, meanwhile, was annihilated, with a probable loss of 4,000 men, including those killed on the first two days of battle. In the Battle of Thermopylae Leonidas and his brave 300 were the heroes — and Ephialtes of Trachis, the vile traitor who betrayed the Spartan army, served as the villain. But before retreating, an envoy was sent to Thermopylae to see how the battle was transpiring, for they did not want to abandon the fight altogether and leave the right flank of the Greek force at the pass exposed. After Leonidas was killed, the Greeks attempted to recover his body, but they failed. Much legend has been attributed to this decision made by Leonidas. Credit: Public Domain. For example, during the Battle of Thermopylae, the Persian army consisted partly of Ionian Greeks who had been forced to fight as a result of losing their rebellion. But just as on the first day, the Greek phalanx proved to be too strong to beat even with a heavy barrage from Persian arrows, and the Persians were once again forced to return to camp having failed to break the Greek lines. But it did also result in the death of Leonidas, as well as his entire force of 300 Spartans and 700 Thebans from the initial tally of 7,000 men. However, the Athenians were responsible for putting together and directing the Allied navy. The alliance was technically under the direction of the Athenians, but the Spartans also played a key role largely because they had the largest and most superior land force. Carey, Brian Todd, Joshua Allfree, and John Cairns. During these three days, a few things happened that would have an impact on the Battle of Thermopylae as well as the rest of the war. In between each attack, Leonidas rearranged the phalanx so that those who had been fighting would be given a chance to rest and so that the front lines could be fresh. Seven hundred Thespians and 300 Thebans refused the order to withdraw and remained with the Spartans. 3. Taking up a defensive position here would bottleneck the Persians and help to level the playing field. On either August 20 or September 8-10, 480 BC, the Persians defeated the Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae. The Spartans were joined by three to four thousand soldiers from the rest of the Peloponnese, cities such as Corinth, Tegea, and Arcadia, as well as another three to four thousand soldiers from the rest of Greece, meaning a total of around 7,000 men were sent to stop an army of 180,000. In contrast, the Greeks lost just 4,000 men, according to estimates made by Herodotus. Facing an invading Persian army numbering around 100,000 men or more under king Xerxes, Leonidas and his 300 Spartans led a coalition of some 6,000 troops assembled from the city-states of Greece. If your web page requires an HTML link, please insert this code: The Battle of Thermopylae: 300 Spartans vs the World, Gods of Death How old is the United States of America? The Greek army, despite being severely outnumbered, were able to fight back the Persians during two days of fighting. First, the Persian fleet was caught in a wicked storm off the coast of Euboea that resulted in the loss of around one-third of their ships. The Persians were meticulous record keepers; but no Persian source has survived. He was even called “Aristodemus the Coward” from then on. Ann Rutledge: Abraham Lincoln’s First True Love? Frost, Frank J., and Plutarchus. The Greeks living there maintained a decent autonomy despite falling under the dominion of Lydia, a powerful kingdom that held most of the territory in what is now eastern Turkey. The story goes that Xerxes, as he made his way into Greece, sent envoys to the still free Greek cities offering peace in exchange for tribute, which the Spartans of course refused. To cite this article in an academic-style article or paper, use: Matthew Jones, "The Battle of Thermopylae: 300 Spartans vs the World", History Cooperative, March 12, 2019, https://historycooperative.org/the-battle-of-thermopylae-300-spartans-against-the-world/. Most of Xerxes’ army was made up of conscripts from around the empire. The battle resulted in the death of Leonidas, who became a hero for his decision to remain behind and fight to the death. Who is the longest reigning WWE Champion of all time? They became the archetype for the courageous last stand. The name of the King of Sparta became synonymous with bravery and devotion, while that of Ephialtes came to be the ultimate symbol of treason and the baser instincts, forever to be connected with the image of a pile of dead Spartan soldiers at Thermopylae Pass. 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. The Greeks were able to hold the Persians at sea for the duration of Thermopylae, suffering similar numbers of … On the other side, Leonidas, was following the prediction of the oracle, which had stated that Sparta or one of its kings would be lost while leading an army of dedicated, valiant warriors who were ready to sacrifice themselves along with him. The Persian victory at Thermopylae allowed for Xerxes’ passage into southern Greece, which expanded the Persian empire even further. This decision to ignore the gods and fight anyway has helped enshrine Spartan King Leonidas as the epitome of a just and loyal king who felt truly indebted to his people. On at least one key detail Herodotus’ informants were sound: excavations at Thermopylae in the 1930s unearthed arrowheads of an Anatolian design in large numbers on a hill in the pass, confirming both the location and the manner of the deaths. As a result, he consulted the Oracle anyway, and he was denied permission to summon an army and go to war, leaving him with the tremendous dilemma between appeasing the gods and defending his people. To link to this article in the text of an online publication, please use this URL: https://historycooperative.org/the-battle-of-thermopylae-300-spartans-against-the-world/. Seeing this as his opportunity to finally break the Greek line, Xerxes sent a large force of Immortals to find the pass. Because of this, the Battle of Thermopylae has remained in our collective memories for well over 2,000 years. Herodotus tells us that 20,000 Persians died at the hands of the Greeks at Thermopylae, and that their bodies had to be concealed in hurriedly dug ditches lest Xerxes' army grow disheartened. In the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas and his brave 300 were the heroes — and Ephialtes of Trachis, the vile traitor who betrayed the Spartan army, served as the villain. Yet, as is often the case, many of the perceptions we have The ‘mainland’ Spartans on the other side… Before going into much more detail about the events that took place leading up to and during the Battle of Thermopylae, here are some of the most important details of this famous battle: 1. The Battle of Thermopylae, fought between the Greeks and the Persians in 480 BCE, has gone down in history as one of the most significant last stands of all time, despite the fact the “hero,” the Greeks, walked away from this battle defeated and on the brink of complete destruction. It wasn’t until weeks later that they were able to get it, and when they returned it to Sparta, Leonidas was enshrined as a hero. However, the previous encounters were mainly fought by the Anatolian Greeks. The Battle of Thermopylae lasted a total of seven days, but there was no fighting on the first four, as the Persians waited to see if the Greeks would surrender. However, Aristagoras failed in his invasion, and fearing that Darius I would retaliate by killing him, he called on his fellow Greeks in Ionia to rebel against the Persian king, which they did. It was instrumental to the Greeks’ success against the Persians. Several waves of 10,000 Medes were all beaten back. Fields, Nic. It forever cemented Thermopylae as a place where ancient… The Battle of Thermopylae was one of many battles fought between the Greeks and the Persians during the Greco-Persian Wars, which took place between c. 499 BCE and c. 450 BCE. Most believe it is made from Leonidas’ likeness. When their weapons broke, they fought with their hands and teeth (According to Herodotus). It is true there were only 300 Spartan soldiers at the Battle of Thermopylae but they were not alone, as the Spartans had formed an alliance with other Greek states. This turned out to be the battle of Plataea, just one year after Thermopylae. Modern historians believe Darius I retreated to regroup for a second invasion, but he died before he ever had the chance. The Romans knew him as Cupid. Warfare in the Ancient World. But when the threat posed by the Persian forces ended, this sense of camaraderie also disappeared, but the Battle of Thermopylae would go on to serve as a reminder for what the Greeks could do when they worked together. Geography played an important role in the Battle of Thermopylae, as it does in nearly any military conflict. But this also created a situation where people were forced to fight, at times against their will. For this accused of cowardice, death may have been preferable. Second, Leonidas took 1,000 of his men, mainly people from the nearby city of Locris, to guard the relatively unknown passageway that circumvented the narrow Pass of Thermopylae. Only the Theban prisoners and a presumed handful of the Spartans' servants had survived the carnage. The Persians knew about these ceremonies and had chosen (once again) to campaign against Greece during the summer. The Greek alliance originally wanted to confront the Persian forces in Thessaly, the region just to the south of Macedon, at the Vale of Tempe. Nearly everyone took him up on this offer except for around 700 Thebans. A Fallen King. The Battle of Thermopylae took place at the end of August/beginning of September in 480 BCE. The movement of the Persians through Thermopylae. On the first day, Xerxes sent his Median and Kissian troops, and after their failure to clear … Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War. Outright denial of the will of the gods was not an option, but Leonidas also knew remaining idle would allow his people, and the rest of Greece, to be destroyed, which was also not an option. After three days began, Leonidas had ordered Pantites to go into Thessaly of almost certain death that remained fight... 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