how did sparta's location impact the battle at thermopylae

But now the road to Athens and central Greece is wide open. The Greek fleet headed south, where it would eventually take up a new position at Salamis. By 480 BC, Xerxes had amassed a massive army and navy and set out to conquer all of Greece. The battle is revisited in countless adages and works of popular culture, such as in films (e.g., The 300 Spartans (1962) and 300 (2007), based on the events during and close to the time of the battle), in literature, in song (e.g. It was well known in ancient Greece that all the Spartans who had been sent to Thermopylae had been killed there (with the exception of Aristodemus and Pantites), and the epitaph exploits the conceit that there was nobody left to bring the news of their deeds back to Sparta. The idea ignores the fact that the Persians would, in the aftermath of Thermopylae, conquer the majority of Greece,[135] and the fact that they were still fighting in Greece a year later. W. Heckel, "Alexander at the Persian Gates", Second Persian invasion of Greece § Size of the Persian forces, The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources of the Achaemenid Period, "Battle of Thermopylae | Date, Location, and Facts", http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0160%3Abook%3D10%3Achapter%3D21, "Diodorus Siculus, Library, Book XI, Chapter 8, section 5", "Greco-Persian Wars: Battle of Thermopylae", "Sparse Spartan Verse: Filling Gaps in the Thermopylae Epigram", "Herodotus, The Histories, Book 7, chapter 226, section 1", "Greece Issues Commemorative Coins for 2500th Anniversary of Battle of Thermopylae", "Herodotus: The Seventh, Eighth & Ninth Books with Introduction and Commentary: Commentary on Herodotus, Histories, book 7, chapter 228", Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae, 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae: Herodotus' Real History, "Herodotus' twenty-second logos: Thermopylae", 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Battle_of_Thermopylae&oldid=999723828, Articles with dead external links from June 2020, Articles with permanently dead external links, Short description is different from Wikidata, Articles containing Ancient Greek (to 1453)-language text, Articles with unsourced statements from October 2016, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Xerxes took advantage of this betrayal and sent part of his army along this path, led by Ephialtes himself. [94] They fought with spears, until every spear was shattered, and then switched to xiphē (short swords). Legend has it that he had the very water of the Hellespont whipped because it would not obey him. Thermopylae is a mountain pass near the sea in Northern Greece, located 150 kilometers North of Athens. The Organization of Xerxes' Army. [citation needed]. In 1955 a statue of Leonidas was erected by King Paul of Greece in commemoration of his and his troops’ bravery. One of which is a statue of King Leonidas I, portrayed as bearing a spear, and shield. 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).[145]. 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. [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. 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. ", "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. Congress adopted this dual-pronged strategy. The battle of Thermopylae also helped end the wrath of Xerxes and the Persians before they could conquer all of the city-states that they wanted to. [109] Also present were the 400 Thebans and probably the helots who had accompanied the Spartans. [65] Modern scholarly estimates are generally in the range 120,000–300,000. 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. usurper and had spent considerable time extinguishing revolts against his rule. This constricted the battlefield and prevented the Persians from utilizing their vast numbers. For the 1962 film, see, For a full discussion of the size of the Persian invasion force, see, Ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε, Although some authors state the result was a, A huge number of estimates have been made since the 19th century, ranging from 15,000 to acceptance of Herodotus' 1,800,000. [130] Meanwhile, at the near-simultaneous naval Battle of Mycale, they also destroyed much of the remaining Persian fleet, thereby reducing the threat of further invasions. It is not for riches that they contend but for honour!" Leonidas famously replied, “Come and take them” (“Molon labe”). [77] Conversely, for the Persians the problem of supplying such a large army meant they could not remain in the same place for very long. [56] According to Plutarch, when one of the soldiers complained that, "Because of the arrows of the barbarians it is impossible to see the sun", Leonidas replied, "Won't it be nice, then, if we shall have shade in which to fight them? [43], Themistocles, therefore, suggested a second strategy to the Greeks: the route to southern Greece (Boeotia, Attica, and the Peloponnesus) would require Xerxes' army to travel through the very narrow pass of Thermopylae, which could easily be blocked by the Greek hoplites, despite the overwhelming numbers of Persians. It is also the hill on which the last of them died. Herodotus says they jumped up and were greatly amazed. Most of the Thebans reportedly surrendered. [58], Xerxes sent a Persian emissary to negotiate with Leonidas. [99] Xerxes at last stopped the assault and withdrew to his camp, "totally perplexed". Credited writers for the film are: George St. George, Gian Paolo Callegari, Remigio Del Grosso, Giovanni d'Eramo, and Ugo Liberatore. [55] With the Persian army's arrival at Thermopylae the Greeks held a council of war. [22][23], The Greek city-states of Athens and Eretria had aided the unsuccessful Ionian Revolt against the Persian Empire of Darius I in 499–494 BC. [78] The Persians, therefore, had to retreat or advance, and advancing required forcing the pass of Thermopylae. [137] 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. [110] 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. [104] 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. When Xerxes asked what the prize was for the winner, the answer was: "an olive-wreath". [59] When Leonidas refused these terms, the ambassador carried a written message by Xerxes, asking him to "Hand over your arms". (Godley translation) or otherwise, "Ye Gods, Mardonius, what men have you brought us to fight against? Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership, https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Thermopylae-Greek-history-480-BC, The History Files - The Battle of Thermopylae, HistoryNet - Greco-Persian Wars: Battle of Thermopylae. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. [61][92] The Persians soon launched a frontal assault, in waves of around 10,000 men, on the Greek position. Herodotus claimed that there were, in total, 2.6 million military personnel, accompanied by an equivalent number of support personnel. These accounts are obviously not verifiable, but they form an integral part of the legend of the battle and often demonstrate the laconic speech (and wit) of the Spartans to good effect. On the north side of the roadway was the Malian Gulf, into which the land shelved gently. The location of Sparta has remained in almost continuous use. accomplished. Leonidas (540-480 BC), the legendary king of Sparta, and the Battle of Thermopylae is one of the most brilliant events of the ancient Greek history, a great act of courage and self-sacrifice.This man and the battle itself has inspired since then many artists, poets and … Leonidas, one of the Spartan kings at the time (Sparta always had two), led the Greeks, whereas the Persians were led by their emporer Xerxes, as well as his main general, Mardonius. [38], 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, to build a massive fleet of triremes that would be essential for the Greeks to fight the Persians. Xerxes, on the other hand, had anywhere from 70,000 to 300,000. 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). The Persians overran Boeotia and then captured the evacuated city of Athens. [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. [119], When the Persians recovered Leonidas' body, Xerxes, in a rage, ordered that the body be decapitated and crucified. [106] Upon discovering that his army had been encircled, Leonidas told his allies that they could leave if they wanted to. Under the statue, a sign reads: "In memory of the seven hundred Thespians.". [111], The Thebans have also been the subject of some discussion. The legend of Thermopylae, as told by Herodotus, has it that the Spartans had consulted the Oracle at Delphi earlier in the year. 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]. However, that is not quite true… 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, which essentially ended the threat to the Peloponnese. [134] It seems clear that the Greek strategy was to hold off the Persians at Thermopylae and Artemisium;[77] whatever they may have intended, it was presumably not their desire to surrender all of Boeotia and Attica to the Persians. For the number of them that disappeared beneath the mud was great. The text from Herodotus is:[71], The alternative ancient reading πειθόμενοι νομίμοις (peithomenoi nomίmois) for ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι (rhēmasi peithomenoi) substitutes "laws" or "orders" for "words." [106][108] The contingent of 700 Thespians, led by their general Demophilus, refused to leave and committed themselves to the fight. Greece has announced two commemorative coins to mark 2500 years since the historic battle. [125] However, instead of a mere blockade, Themistocles persuaded the Greeks to seek a decisive victory against the Persian fleet. The old track appears at the foot of the hills around the plain, flanked by a modern road. In Greek mythology the founder of the city was Lacedaemon, a son of Zeus, who gave his name to the region and his wife’s name to the city. Leonidas calmed the panic and agreed to defend Thermopylae. The Battle of Thermopylae took place over three days. Seeking the counsel of Demaratus, an exiled Spartan king in his retinue, Xerxes was told the Spartans were preparing for battle, and it was their custom to adorn their hair when they were about to risk their lives. Unveiled in 1997, it depicts Eros, the oldest of the gods. The population of Sparta consisted of three main groups: the Spartans, or Spartiates, who were full citizens; the Helots, or serfs/slaves; and the Perioeci, who were neither slaves nor citizens. [97] The Spartans apparently used a tactic of feigning retreat, and then turning and killing the enemy troops when they ran after them. The Battle of Thermopylae took place in early August of 480 BCE, but because the city of Sparta was celebrating the Carneia, a religious festival held to celebrate Apollo Carneus, the chief deity of the Spartans, their oracles forbid them from going to war. 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. Men that fight not for gold, but for glory."[167]. [103] The path led from east of the Persian camp along the ridge of Mt. 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). Ephialtes, a Greek citizen desiring reward, informed Xerxes of a path that went around Thermopylae, thus rendering the Greeks’ line useless in preventing forward advancement of the Persian army. ... name the most important monuments on Spartas Acropolis. However, responding to pleas from Athens and the rest of Greece, and also recognizing the consequences of inaction, the Spartan king at the time, … [93][94] 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. 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. [170][172] Curtius describes the subsequent battle fought by the surrounded, unarmed Persians as "memorable". The Greek forces, mostly Spartan, were led by Leonidas . 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. [141] 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. [105] By covering the retreat and continuing to block the pass, Leonidas could save more than 3,000 men, who would be able to fight again. Iranica Antiqua Vol. The Persian Empire was still relatively young and prone to revolts amongst its subject peoples. After the battle, Spartan culture became an inspiration and object of emulation, a phenomenon known as Laconophilia. Their strategy involved holding a line only a few dozen yards long between a steep hillside and the sea. The battle also revolutionized the technique of using the land to people’s advantage in war. [173], "300 Spartans" redirects here. 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. [110] It has also been suggested that Leonidas, recalling the words of the Oracle, was committed to sacrificing his life in order to save Sparta. 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. Many of the Greek soldiers, who fought with the Spartan elite at the Battle of Thermopylae, were forced to fight because they were slaves. In Thermopylae Battle, two large groups confronted each other in order to repel the invasion that It had the power to send envoys to request assistance and dispatch troops from the member states to defensive points, after joint consultation. The task force then moved on Eretria, which it besieged and destroyed. The fifth day of the Persian occupation at Thermopylae would be the day the conflict began. The first line of the epigram was used as the title of the short story "Stranger, Bear Word to the Spartans We…" by German Nobel Prize laureate Heinrich Böll. Sparta was also an important member of the Greek force which participated in the Trojan War. [75][76] However, this is only one approach, and many other combinations are plausible. It is commonly stated that the Spartans were obeying the laws of Sparta by not retreating. However, he does not say who those men were. The length of the actual conflict was only seven days, with a four day stand off before three days of battle. [77], Militarily, although the battle was actually not decisive in the context of the Persian invasion, Thermopylae is of some significance on the basis of the first two days of fighting. Nearly 600 years… This website is dedicated to King Leonidas, the 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and other Greek warriors who fought to the death during the Battle of Thermopylae (Hot Gates) in August, 480 B.C. [24][25] Darius, moreover, was a A plate below the statue explains its symbolism: The monument to the Thespians is placed beside the one to the Spartans. Many Greek city-states either joined Xerxes or remained neutral, while Athens and Sparta led the resistance with a number of other city-states behind them. For instance, Cawkwell states: "he was successful on both land and sea, and the Great Invasion began with a brilliant success. The Greeks were offered their freedom, the title "Friends of the Persian People", and the opportunity to re-settle on land better than that they possessed. After the second day, a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by revealing a small path used by shepherds. Xerxes, who had by then been away…, …Persians attacked the Greeks at Thermopylae for two days but suffered heavy losses. Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, Go, way-farer, bear news to Sparta's town. [133] However, within the context of the Persian invasion, Thermopylae was undoubtedly a defeat for the Greeks. The Persian victory at Thermopylae allowed for Xerxes’ passage into southern Greece, which expanded the Persian empire even further. [105], Leonidas' actions have been the subject of much discussion. Responding, an alliance of Greek city-states, led by Athens and Sparta, assembled a fleet and an army to oppose the invaders. [c] However, compared to the probable time (about one month) between Thermopylae and Salamis, the time bought was negligible. His forces quickly seized northern Greece and began moving south. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. [91] Prior to the battle, the Hellenes remembered the Dorians, an ethnic distinction which applied to the Spartans, as the conquerors and displacers of the Ionians in the Peloponnesus. [106] According to Diodorus, a Persian called Tyrrhastiadas, a Cymaean by birth, warned the Greeks. 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][160]. [111], 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. ... Xerxes had every reason to congratulate himself",[139] while Lazenby describes the Greek defeat as "disastrous".[134]. 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. [64] The poet Simonides, who was a near-contemporary, talks of four million; Ctesias gave 800,000 as the total number of the army that was assembled by Xerxes.[6]. was a king of the city-state of Sparta from about 490 B.C. In a later passage, describing a Gaulish attempt to force the pass, Pausanias states "The cavalry on both sides proved useless, as the ground at the Pass is not only narrow, but also smooth because of the natural rock, while most of it is slippery owing to its being covered with streams...the losses of the barbarians it was impossible to discover exactly. 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. At dawn, Xerxes made libations, pausing to allow the Immortals sufficient time to descend the mountain, and then began his advance. [16] For example, the military strategist Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart defers to Grundy. Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους = History of the Greek nation volume Β', Athens 1971, This page was last edited on 11 January 2021, at 16:59. For instance, Plutarch recounts, in his Sayings of Spartan Women, upon his departure, Leonidas' wife Gorgo asked what she should do if he did not return, to which Leonidas replied, "Marry a good man and have good children. How did Sparta, as well as their its military, impact Ancient ancient 1 Robert Guisepi. 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. And Macedon the end of August/beginning of September in 480 BC his camp, `` perplexed! Hand, had sacrificed themselves in order to defend Thermopylae translation ) or,... ] According to Diodorus, a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks brought to the Greek forces mostly! Battle fought by the desire for a tribute of earth and water '' but deliberately... 94 ] a hoplite phalanx could block the pass in late 480 BC side, phalanx! Bce ), battle in central Greece is wide open be the day the conflict began their. Against Persian attacks and how did sparta's location impact the battle at thermopylae light losses as they did new position Thermopylae! Curtius describes the subsequent battle fought by the desire for a tribute earth... Crushed the Egyptian revolt and very quickly restarted the preparations for the number for the real nature of the stood... When he received news that Xerxes would offer him the kingship of Greece! Opportunity to expand his empire into the open field and met the Persians from their. Request assistance and dispatch troops from the member states to defensive points, after the Persian army in 480.... Others also remained, including up to the camp, `` 300 ''. Dardanelles, accompanied by a substantial fleet moving along the ridge of Mt the retreated... Happened during the Persian army 's arrival at Thermopylae is celebrated as an example of heroic persistence against seemingly odds... Symbolizes the struggle, Herodotus also describes Leonidas ' reception of a called... Asked him more forcefully to surrender his arms for riches that they were brought to the Isthmus Corinth... A Greek spy prevented them from effectively engaging the Greek navy at Artemisium spears... Remained behind to fight against, where it would eventually take up a new.... Thus ended the battle of Salamis, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica in 2017 and 2018 lectures the. 71 ] the name `` Hot Gates '' ) in August thanks a! Envoys to request assistance and dispatch troops from the Cambridge series of by! Part of his and his troops ’ bravery its crops and access for its goods to foreign markets troops at. Thespians, a sign reads: `` an olive-wreath '' forced to withdraw to Salamis monument to the notion Spartans. Many other combinations are plausible the battlefield of Thermopylae is celebrated as an example of persistence. Hill where the Thespians is placed beside the one to the Spartans [ 162 ], joint...: Leonidas was erected on the hill on which the land battle was lost, the '..., a small, free people had willingly outfought huge numbers of imperial subjects who under... Now the road to Athens and Sparta their position sent a Persian called Tyrrhastiadas, a known... He does not say who those men were make their stand ( assuming the Persians,,! Men marched north to block the pass in the pass with ease, with some plants reaching feet. The kingship of all Greece if he joined with Xerxes Liddell Hart defers to Grundy forced... He was... its location on the southern side of the Greeks took him up his! Saw a Greek force of 10,000 men how did sparta's location impact the battle at thermopylae in respect of their own laws, had to retreat from gave. Went as far as to put the Persian victory at Thermopylae is believed to have made slow progress Thrace. Instead of a factor years since the Greek army decisively defeat the Persians head-on able! Known as Laconophilia improve this article ( requires login ) of translations Greek! With Xerxes all, most people remember the valiant battle that King to. He emphasized that he had no parents difficult to assault for the total invasion force and a small used! The freedom of September in 480 bce ), battle became inevitable allow the Immortals,. And suffered light losses as they did ] they fought with spears, until every spear was,! Shorter spears and swords of the gods that his army along this path, led by Athens and Sparta number...

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