[26] Darius then died whilst preparing to march on Egypt, and the throne of Persia passed to his son Xerxes I. [107] Upon discovering that his army had been encircled, Leonidas told his allies that they could leave if they wanted to. Scholars, artists, authors, and filmmakers in recent years have been interested in Herodotus’s depiction of the Battle of Thermopylae, creating several different versions and interpretations of the story across multiple forms of media. A sign, under the statue, reads simply: "Μολὼν λαβέ" ("Come and take them! One of which is a statue of King Leonidas I, portrayed as bearing a spear, and shield. [111], However, this alone does not explain the fact that they remained; the remainder of Thespiae was successfully evacuated before the Persians arrived there. [171][173] Curtius describes the subsequent battle fought by the surrounded, unarmed Persians as "memorable". [142] 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. [13][14] The Persian army arrived at the pass in late August or early September. After the Persian invasion was repulsed, a stone lion was erected at Thermopylae to commemorate Leonidas. The Greek army at Thermopylae is very small compared to the over five million Herodotus … [139] George Cawkwell suggests that the gap between Thermopylae and Salamis was caused by Xerxes' systematically reducing Greek opposition in Phocis and Boeotia, and not as a result of the Battle of Thermopylae; thus, as a delaying action, Thermopylae was insignificant compared to Xerxes' own procrastination. [136] 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. Thermopylae was a very narrow pass that would prevent the Persians from using their cavalry in battle. Scholars, artists, authors, and filmmakers in recent years have been interested in Herodotus’s depiction of the Battle of Thermopylae, creating several different versions and interpretations of the story across multiple forms of media. [61] With the Persian emissary returning empty-handed, battle became inevitable. When Xerxes asked what the prize was for the winner, the answer was: "an olive-wreath". [49][50] On this occasion, the ephors decided the urgency was sufficiently great to justify an advance expedition to block the pass, under one of its kings, Leonidas I. Leonidas took with him the 300 men of the royal bodyguard, the Hippeis. This place is called Thermopylae by most of the Hellenes, but by the natives and … This account is fairly consistent with Herodotus' writings. *Thermopylae was fought between an allaince of Greek city states, and the persain Empire of xerxes over the course of three days. [7.209] Hearing this Xerxes was not able to conjecture the truth about the matter, namely that they were preparing themselves to die and to deal death to the enemy so far as they might; but it seemed to him that they were acting in a manner merely ridiculous; and therefore he sent for [former Spartan king] Demaratus, the son of Ariston, who was in his camp, and when he came, Xerxes asked him of these things severally, desiring to discover what this was which the Spartans were doing: and he said: "Thou didst hear from my mouth at a former time, when we were setting forth to go against Greece, the things concerning these men; and having heard them thou madest me an object of laughter, because I told thee of these things which I perceived would come to pass; for to me it is the greatest of all ends to speak the truth continually before thee, O king. Each lay encamped in these places. ... Xerxes had every reason to congratulate himself",[140] while Lazenby describes the Greek defeat as "disastrous".[135]. In Athens, however, the ambassadors were put on trial and then executed by throwing them in a pit; in Sparta, they were simply thrown down a well. All content copyright © 1995–2020 Livius.org. *The battle occured because the forces of xerxes1, king of persia marched through Thrace and Macedon on their way to Greece. [111], The most likely theory is that Leonidas chose to form a rearguard so that the other Greek contingents could get away. [134] Ever since, the events of Thermopylae have been the source of effusive praise from many sources: "Salamis, Plataea, Mycale and Sicily are 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". The Greeks get ready for the big battle. The number of troops which Xerxes mustered for the second invasion of Greece has been the subject of endless dispute, most notably between ancient sources, which report very large numbers, and modern scholars, who surmise much smaller figures. 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. In the experiment, children are … However, a glance at any photograph of the pass shows there are no cliffs, only steep slopes covered in thorny bushes and trees. [130] However, under pressure from the Athenians, the Peloponnesians eventually agreed to try to force Mardonius to battle, and they marched on Attica. 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. Macaulay, with adaptations. The remaining soldiers fought to the death. For instance, Cawkwell states: "he was successful on both land and sea, and the Great Invasion began with a brilliant success. [124] Meanwhile, the Greeks (for the most part Peloponnesians) preparing to defend the Isthmus of Corinth, demolished the single road that led through it and built a wall across it. [79] The Persians, therefore, had to retreat or advance, and advancing required forcing the pass of Thermopylae. However, the following year saw a Greek army decisively defeat the Persians at the Battle of Plataea, thereby ending the Persian invasion. [7.222] The allies then who were dismissed departed and went away, obeying the word of Leonidas, and only the Thespians and the Thebans remained behind with the Spartans. The Athenian politician and general Themistocles had proposed that the allied Greeks block the advance of the Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae, while simultaneously blocking the Persian navy at the Straits of Artemisium. 46 Giulio Giannelli, La spedizione di Serse da Terme a Salamina (pubblicazioni della universitá cattolica del sacro cuore, serie quinta: scienze storiche, vol. However, there is no suggestion by Herodotus that the effect on the Persian forces was that. [78] The major weak point for the Greeks was the mountain track which led across the highland parallel to Thermopylae, that could allow their position to be outflanked. Although coming from a mountainous country, the Persians were not prepared for the real nature of the country they had invaded. [30] 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. This precipitates in the Battle of Thermopylae where the Greeks hold a narrow pass for three days with only three hundred men or so. The performance of the defenders is used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment, and good use of terrain as force multipliers.[144]. He however when he was bidden to go would not himself depart, but sent away his son who was with him in the army, besides whom he had no other child. [55], 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. Today, it is considered to have been much smaller. There are even accounts that a local shepherd informed Alexander's forces about the secret path, just as a local Greek showed the Persian forces a secret path around the pass at Thermopylae. [c] However, compared to the probable time (about one month) between Thermopylae and Salamis, the time bought was negligible. The simultaneous naval Battle of Artemisium had been a tactical stalemate, and the Greek navy was able to retreat in good order to the Saronic Gulf, where they helped to ferry the remaining Athenian citizens to the island of Salamis. [115] 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. This was ended by the Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon. [127], 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,[128] though nearly all of them died of starvation and disease on the return voyage. [94][95] Details of the tactics are scant; Diodorus says, "the men stood shoulder to shoulder", and the Greeks were "superior in valour and in the great size of their shields. [7.212] And during these onsets it is said that the king, looking on, three times leapt up from his seat, struck with fear for his army. The old track appears at the foot of the hills around the plain, flanked by a modern road. Hear then now also: these men have come to fight with us for the passage, and this is it that they are preparing to do; for they have a custom which is as follows: whenever they are about to put their lives in peril, they attend to the arrangement of their hair. The battle is also discussed in many articles and books on the theory and practice of warfare. "[96] This probably describes the standard Greek phalanx, in which the men formed a wall of overlapping shields and layered spear points protruding out from the sides of the shields, which would have been highly effective as long as it spanned the width of the pass. The Persian army was rumoured to have numbered over one million soldiers. "[115], Tearing down part of the wall, Xerxes ordered the hill surrounded, and the Persians rained down arrows until every last Greek was dead. [7.213] Then when the king was in a strait as to what he should do in the matter before him, Ephialtes the son of Eurydemos, a Malian, came to speech with him, supposing that he would win a very great reward from the king; and this man told him of the path which leads over the mountain to Thermopylae, and brought about the destruction of those Greeks who remained in that place. Knowing that the end was near, the Greeks marched into the open field and met the Persians head-on. [113] 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.[111]. The Battle of Thermopylae in which the Greeks hold the pass for 3 days The secret pass divulged by Ephialtes of Trachis, which Hydarnes uses to lead forces around the mountains to encircle the Greeks … [6], 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, an elite corps of 10,000 men. Leonidas calmed the panic and agreed to defend Thermopylae. Herodotus says they jumped up and were greatly amazed. [135] It seems clear that the Greek strategy was to hold off the Persians at Thermopylae and Artemisium;[78] whatever they may have intended, it was presumably not their desire to surrender all of Boeotia and Attica to the Persians. A well-known epigram, usually attributed to Simonides, was engraved as an epitaph on a commemorative stone placed on top of the burial mound of the Spartans at Thermopylae. Vegetation is scarce and consists of low, thorny shrubs. of History, US Military Academy (CC BY-SA) Thermopylae is a mountain pass near the sea in northern Greece which was the site of several battles in antiquity, the most famous being that between Persians and Greeks in August 480 BCE. Since however Cleomenes had died without male child, and Dorieus was then no longer alive, but he also had brought his life to an end in Sicily, thus the kingdom came to Leonidas, both because was of elder birth than Cleombrotus (for Cleombrotus was the youngest of the sons of Anaxandrides) and also because he had in marriage the daughter of Cleomenes. [48] At this time of year the Spartans, de facto military leaders of the alliance, were celebrating the festival of Carneia. Anopaea behind the cliffs that flanked the pass. [96][98] However, the Immortals fared no better than the Medes, and failed to make any headway against the Greeks. [47], The Persian army seems to have made slow progress through Thrace and Macedon. The naked body symbolizes Eros, the most important god of the ancient Thespians, a god of creation, beauty and life. News of the imminent Persian approach eventually reached Greece in August thanks to a Greek spy. Leonidas, aware that his force was being outflanked, dismissed the bulk of the Greek army and remained to guard their retreat with 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians. How Themistocles had previously … [86], On the fifth day after the Persian arrival at Thermopylae and the first day of the battle, Xerxes finally resolved to attack the Greeks. It features a bronze statue of Leonidas. 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. [83], The terrain of the battlefield was nothing that Xerxes and his forces were accustomed to. This was remarkable for the disjointed and chaotic Greek world, especially since many of the city-states in attendance were still technically at war with each other. The Battle of Thermopylae. King Xerxes lay encamped in Trachis in Malis and the Hellenes in the pass. [15] The Greco-Persian Wars, are also described in less detail by a number of other ancient historians including Plutarch, Ctesias of Cnidus, and are referred to by other authors, as in Aeschylus in The Persians. [7.232] He however in the battle at Plataea repaired all the guilt that was charged against him: but it is reported that another man also survived of these three hundred, whose name was Pantites, having been sent as a messenger to Thessaly, and this man, when he returned back to Sparta and found himself dishonored, is said to have strangled himself. The barbarians with Xerxes were accordingly advancing to the attack; and the Greeks with Leonidas, feeling that they were going forth to death, now advanced out much further than at first into the broader part of the defile; for when the fence of the wall was being guarded, they on the former days fought retiring before the enemy into the narrow part of the pass; but now they engaged with them outside the narrows, and very many of the barbarians fell: for behind them the leaders of the divisions with scourges in their hands were striking each man, ever urging them on to the front. [7.205] For as he had two brothers each older than himself, namely Cleomenes and Dorieus, he had been far removed from the thought of becoming king. [51] 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.[50]. [53] 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. Credited writers for the film are: George St. George, Gian Paolo Callegari, Remigio Del Grosso, Giovanni d'Eramo, and Ugo Liberatore. Activity 3. Xerxes amassed a huge army and navy, and set out for the second time to conquer all of Greece. [105], Learning from a runner that the Phocians had not held the path, Leonidas called a council of war at dawn. 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. On the north side of the roadway was the Malian Gulf, into which the land shelved gently. In universal terms, a small, free people had willingly outfought huge numbers of imperial subjects who advanced under the lash. [118] The Greek rearguard, meanwhile, was annihilated, with a probable loss of 2,000 men, including those killed on the first two days of battle. 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. "[164], Herodotus also describes Leonidas' reception of a Persian envoy. [138] Furthermore, this idea also neglects the fact that a Greek navy was fighting at Artemisium during the Battle of Thermopylae, incurring losses in the process. [74], Many modern historians, who usually consider Herodotus more reliable,[75] add the 1,000 Lacedemonians and the 900 helots to Herodotus' 5,200 to obtain 7,100 or about 7,000 men as a standard number, neglecting Diodorus' Melians and Pausanias' Locrians. Having stated this at the beginning of the twenty-second logos, Herodotus … The commander of these was Demophilos the son of Diadromes. Some modern accounts seem to know exactly on what dates the battle fell, because Herodotus says (7. Scholars report various figures ranging between about 100,000 and 150,000 soldiers. While they all knew it was coming, they didn’t see it … [63][64]Top rank: Persian, Median, Elamite, Parthian, Arian, Bactrian, Sogdian, Chorasmian, Zarangian, Sattagydian, Gandharan, Hindush (Indians), Scythian.Bottom rank: Scythian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Arabian, Egyptian, Armenian, Cappadocian, Lydian, Ionian, Scythian, Thracian, Macedonian, Libyan, Ethiopian. [25], The Ionian revolt threatened the integrity of his empire, and Darius thus vowed to punish those involved, especially the Athenians, "since he was sure that [the Ionians] would not go unpunished for their rebellion". "[167], 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. [84], Today, the pass is not near the sea, but is several kilometres inland because of sedimentation in the Malian Gulf. Although probably unsuitable for cavalry, this path could easily be traversed by the Persian infantry (many of whom were versed in mountain warfare). [114][123], With Thermopylae now opened to the Persian army, the continuation of the blockade at Artemisium by the Greek fleet became irrelevant. 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 aut… Greece has announced two commemorative coins to mark 2500 years since the historic battle. To Sparta say, her faithful band, Stranger, report this word, we pray, to the Spartans, that lying. 149–167, "Two Spartans of noble birth and great wealth, Sperthias son of Aneristus and Bulis son of Nicolaus, undertook of their own free will that they would make atonement to Xerxes for Darius' heralds who had been done to death at Sparta. After that, Xerxes sent a force of 10,000 Medes and Cissians to take the defenders prisoner and bring them before him. [68] In Western culture at least, it is the Greeks who are lauded for their performance in battle. Book seven of the histories of Herodotus. [citation needed]. 9.1", "denarius") All Search Options [view abbreviations] Home Collections/Texts Perseus Catalog Research Grants Open Source About … After an … Thus they contended then. 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 defence. Iranica Antiqua Vol. [111] The likelihood is that these were the Theban "loyalists", who unlike the majority of their fellow citizens, objected to Persian domination. [97] The weaker shields, and shorter spears and swords of the Persians prevented them from effectively engaging the Greek hoplites. [99] The Greeks killed so many Medes that Xerxes is said to have stood up three times from the seat from which he was watching the battle. King Xerxes lay encamped in Trachis in Malis and the Hellenes in the pass. [92] Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country, Mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles. As Holland puts it, "in short...we will never know. Modern scholars tend to reject the figures given by Herodotus and other ancient sources as unrealistic, resulting from miscalculations or exaggerations on the part of the victors. [114] In this struggle, Herodotus states that two of Xerxes' brothers fell: Abrocomes and Hyperanthes. 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. This page was created in 2008; last modified on 16 July 2020. [162], In 1997, a second monument was officially unveiled by the Greek government, dedicated to the 700 Thespians who fought with the Spartans. [7.231] When Aristodemus had returned home to Sparta, he had reproach and dishonor; and that which he suffered by way of dishonor was this - no one of the Spartans would either give him light for a fire or speak with him, and he had reproach in that he was called Aristodemus the coward. The Battle of Thermopylae, which Herodotus recorded in his writing The Histories, was one of the most arduous and notable battles of western history. The Persians overran Boeotia and then captured the evacuated city of Athens. Herodotus catalogs the many c... Read More; Book 7, The Battle of Thermopylae: Herodotus notes that while Xerxes ostensibly meant to punish Athens, his real intent was to conquer all of Greece. [119] Herodotus says, at one point 4,000 Greeks died, but assuming the Phocians guarding the track were not killed during the battle (as Herodotus implies), this would be almost every Greek soldier present (by Herodotus' own estimates), and this number is probably too high. [35] Xerxes crushed the Egyptian revolt and very quickly restarted the preparations for the invasion 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. "[82], It is also said that on the southern side of the track stood cliffs that overlooked the pass. He ex... Read More; Book 8, The Battle of Artemisium: Herodotus records the size and composition of the Greek fleet—271 ships in total. of the men of Tegea and Mantinea a thousand, half from each place; from Orchomenos in Arcadia a hundred and twenty. On the first day, Xerxes sent his Median and Kissian troops, and after their failure to clear the … The Battle. Free Online Library: SIMONIDES, EPHORUS, AND HERODOTUS ON THE BATTLE OF THERMOPYLAE. Herodotus 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. In the face of such imposing numbers, many Greek cities capitulated to the Persian demand for a tribute of earth and water. The text from Herodotus is:[72], The alternative ancient reading πειθόμενοι νομίμοις (peithomenoi nomίmois) for ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι (rhēmasi peithomenoi) substitutes "laws" or "orders" for "words." When the nations try to meet for diplomacy, their efforts fail. [40] However, the Athenians lacked the manpower to fight on both land and sea; therefore, combating the Persians would require an alliance of Greek city-states. [45] Shortly afterwards, they received the news that Xerxes had crossed the Hellespont. [112] If the position had been held for even a little longer, the Persians might have had to retreat for lack of food and water. Upon hearing this, Tigranes, a Persian general, said: "Good heavens, Mardonius, what kind of men are these that you have pitted against us? Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, Go, way-farer, bear news to Sparta's town. [78] Conversely, for the Persians the problem of supplying such a large army meant they could not remain in the same place for very long. Herodotus was an extremely significant historian who … No real consensus exists; even the most recent estimates by academics vary between 120,000 and 300,000. 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. [105] However, not wishing to be delayed, the Persians merely shot a volley of arrows at them, before bypassing them to continue with their encirclement of the main Greek force. It has been reported that others also remained, including up to 900 helots and 400 Thebans. But Eretrians, Euphorbus & Philagrus betrayed their city. Archaeological evidence, such as the Serpent Column (now in the Hippodrome of Constantinople), also supports some of Herodotus' specific claims. [115] In 1939, archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos, excavating at Thermopylae, found large numbers of Persian bronze arrowheads on Kolonos Hill, which changed the identification of the hill on which the Greeks were thought to have died from a smaller one nearer the wall. Xerxes delayed for four days, waiting for the Greeks to disperse, before sending troops to attack them.[62]. Od. [129] He left a hand-picked force, under Mardonius, to complete the conquest the following year. It was fought over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. Translation by William Shepherd, from the Cambridge series of translations by Greek and Roman authors. Battle of Thermopylae 480 BCE by Dept. (Herodotus 7.99) After the battle of Thermopylae and the Persian occupation of Attica, King Xerxes consulted his naval commanders about fighting a battle against the Greek fleet, which was gathering … Battle of Thermopylae, (480 bce), battle in central Greece at the mountain pass of Thermopylae during the Persian Wars. Then when the Medes moved forward and attacked the Greeks, there fell many of them, and others kept coming up continually, and they were not driven back, though suffering great loss: and they made it evident to every man, and to the king himself not least of all, that human beings are many but men are few. The two marble statues on the left and the right of the monument represent, respectively, the river Eurotas and Mount Taygetos, famous landmarks of Sparta. Nominally, Xerxes ' expedition was directed against Athens, but its real objective was the conquest of the whole of Greece. , moreover, in mid-August, the gallantry, the most important god of the roadway the... 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Prophecy: O ye men who dwell in the late summer of 480 monument to the Greek style warfare... Herodotus reports a similar comment, but by the surrounded, unarmed as. [ 126 ] However, instead of a factor the naked body symbolizes Eros, the Persians at battle! By Sparta, and then began his advance poetry is an elegiac couplet, commonly used for epitaphs revolts his... Which allows for varying interpretations of the imminent Persian approach eventually reached Greece in thanks! The natives and their neighbors Pylae king later had the very water of the battlefield of Thermopylae has a... Eventually have all been killed scout to reconnoitre met again in the streets of broad Lacedaemon Persian invasion it. August thanks to a nearby hill to make their stand ( assuming the Persians sent a mounted to. Bear news to Sparta 's town main historical events Mantinea a thousand, half from each place from! By Sparta, and then began his advance `` ye Gods, Mardonius, what men have you brought to... 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