[52] 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. [121] A full 40 years after the battle, Leonidas' bones were returned to Sparta, where he was buried again with full honours; funeral games were held every year in his memory. [59] When Leonidas refused these terms, the ambassador carried a written message by Xerxes, asking him to "Hand over your arms". [107] Some of the Greeks argued for withdrawal, but Leonidas resolved to stay at the pass with the Spartans. The Thespians held Eros above all other gods, likely because he had no parents. [74], From a strategic point of view, by defending Thermopylae, the Greeks were making the best possible use of their forces. 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. However, on the second night a Greek traitor guided the best Persian troops around the pass behind the Greek army. [15] 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. ", "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. [94] A Persian force of 10,000 men, comprising light infantry and cavalry, charged at the front of the Greek formation. Thermopylae is a mountain pass near the sea in Northern Greece, located 150 kilometers North of Athens. [80], It is often claimed that at the time, the pass of Thermopylae consisted of a track along the shore of the Malian Gulf so narrow that only one chariot could pass through at a time. [78], Tactically, the pass at Thermopylae was ideally suited to the Greek style of warfare. Only when the Greeks were betrayed did the battle take a detrimental turn for them. If they had all remained at the pass, they would have been encircled and would eventually have all been killed. [24][25] Darius, moreover, was a Despite the defeat at Thermopylae, the bravery and sacrifice of Leonidas and his men inspired the Greeks to eventually win a decisive victory against Persians at the naval ‘Battle of Salamis’ in September 480 BC. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. One of which is a statue of King Leonidas I, portrayed as bearing a spear, and shield. The performance of the defenders 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. For the number of them that disappeared beneath the mud was great. [99] According to Ctesias, the first wave was "cut to ribbons", with only two or three Spartans killed in return. A plate below the statue explains its symbolism: The monument to the Thespians is placed beside the one to the Spartans. [48][49] 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. Thereupon the Spartans sent these men to Media for execution." Translation by American historian, Professor J. Rufus Fears in his Ancient Greeks lectures for the. The Helots, who outnumbered Spartan citizens at least 5 to 1, revolted several times causing the Spartans to use what little Spartan warriors they had left to subdue the revolts. [126], Fearing the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont and trap his army in Europe, Xerxes now retreated with much of the Persian army back to Asia,[127] though nearly all of them died of starvation and disease on the return voyage. Since the Greek strategy required both Thermopylae and Artemisium to be held, given their losses, it was decided to withdraw to Salamis. Archaeological evidence, such as the Serpent Column (now in the Hippodrome of Constantinople), also supports some of Herodotus' specific claims. No real consensus exists; even the most recent estimates by academics vary between 120,000 and 300,000. In terms of sources I will rely on what current knowledge of the Spartans we have from limited material remains and skewed textual evidence and will examine recent studies, accounts, articles, and films as sources for American society. The Battle of Salamis gained legendary status, similar to the one of the Battle of Thermopylae, mostly because of the desperate circumstances and the unlikely odds. Free men, in respect of their own laws, had sacrificed themselves in order to defend their way of life against foreign aggression. [46], The Persian army seems to have made slow progress through Thrace and Macedon. [65] Modern scholarly estimates are generally in the range 120,000–300,000. [c] However, compared to the probable time (about one month) between Thermopylae and Salamis, the time bought was negligible. [123] 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. [113][122], With Thermopylae now opened to the Persian army, the continuation of the blockade at Artemisium by the Greek fleet became irrelevant. Both ancient and modern writers have used the Battle of Thermopylae as an example of the power of a patriotic army defending its native soil. To Sparta say, her faithful band, Stranger, report this word, we pray, to the Spartans, that lying. At dawn, Xerxes made libations, pausing to allow the Immortals sufficient time to descend the mountain, and then began his advance. The performance of the defenders is used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment, and good use of terrain as force multipliers.[143]. ", Similarities between the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Persian Gate have been recognized by both ancient and modern authors,[169] which describe it as a kind of reversal of the Battle of Thermopylae,[170] calling it "the Persian Thermopylae". 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