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Battle of Thermopylae - New World Encyclopedia

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The SECOND battle of Thermopylae: Fragments reveal Roman fight against invading Goths in same pass Spartans fought '' battle. It is widely known that the Spartans produced some of the most brutally empire, the Spartans commanded large areas of Greece and all of Greece at one point. When the two sides clashed, they agreed to fight a battle with The two armies met at full strength minus their champions, and the. Herodotus: Xerxes Invades Greece, from The Histories So, when the men were met, the king spake thus to them: . To Athens indeed and to Sparta he sent no such demand; but these cities excepted, his messengers went everywhere.

On the road they meet some allies, who are shocked that the Spartans are sending such a small force.

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Leonidas asks the professions of the allied army, who are craftsmen and artisans. He points out that he has brought more soldiers than they. Joined by Arcadians and other Greeks, they arrive at Thermopylae. In sight of the approaching Persian army, they construct a wall to contain the Persians' advance. Strong storms destroy some of Xerxes fleet, but it is only a small percentage of the massive army they will face. A horribly disfigured man, Ephialtes Andrew Tiernancomes to see Leonidas to warn him of a disused goat path at the rear of his position.

Ephialtes claims that his parents fled Sparta at his birth to save his life. He hopes to redeem them by fighting for Leonidas. Leonidas explains that each Spartan warrior is a key part of the phalanx, and asks Ephialtes to show that he can lift his shield high enough to properly defend his fellow warriors.

When it becomes evident that he cannot, Leonidas gently tells him to care for the fallen instead. Ephialtes' fondest hopes are crushed. A Persian emissary arrives, and finds that the corpses of the previous scouting party now make up part of the large rock wall.

The Persian states that their arrows will blot out the sun, and the Spartans agree they will simply fight in the shade. The emissary's party is killed. Prior to the battle the Persians demand that the Spartans drop their arms and surrender. Leonidas refuses and challenges the Persians to come and take their weapons from them. With their tightly-knit phalanx formation, the Spartans funnel the Persians into the narrow terrain, repeatedly rebuffing them and inflicting heavy casualties.

Xerxes, impressed with Spartan fighting skill, personally approaches Leonidas to persuade him to surrender.

Battle of Thermopylae

He promises Leonidas wealth and power in exchange for his loyalty. Leonidas declines, promising instead to make the "God King" bleed, and turns to rejoin his army. Dismayed at the refusal, Xerxes sends his masked personal guard, "The Immortals", which name the Spartans also prove false. The battles continue, with the Spartans prevailing over soldiers and animals drawn from the vast reaches of the Persian empire: However, some of the brave Spartan warriors are killed, and it becomes clear that more will follow.

Ephialtes goes to Xerxes, and agrees to show the goat path to the Persians in exchange for a uniform, along with promises of women and wealth. Xerxes will grant Ephialtes his wish if he will kneel before the god king. Back in Sparta, Queen Gorgo has been trying to convince the council to send help to Leonidas. A friendly councilman arranges for her to speak, but explains that she will need Theron on her side. Theron agrees to help her if she will sleep with him - so she does.

At the Hot Gates, the Spartans learn they have been betrayed, and know their fight is doomed. The Arcadians retreat in the face of certain death. The Spartans refuse to follow. Leonidas orders a reluctant Dilios to return to Sparta and tell of their inevitable deaths. Only treasurers and priestesses remained behind, charged with guarding the property of the gods on the Acropolis.

If any Greek understood the danger of his assignment, it was almost certainly the Spartan commander, Leonidas. One of two Spartan kings — Sparta had no kingship in any real sense — Leonidas traced his ancestry back to the demigod Heracles. He had handpicked the warriors under his command; all were middle-aged men with children to leave behind as heirs.

He had selected men to die, and done so apparently without the philosophic reluctance of Xerxes. Leonidas and the Spartans had been trained to do their duty, and, having received an oracle that Sparta must either lose a king or see the city destroyed, Leonidas was convinced that his final duty was death.

On the way to Thermopylae, Leonidas sent his widely admired Spartans ahead of the other troops to inspire them with confidence. They arrived to find the pass unoccupied. It was only 50 feet wide and far narrower at some points. There were hot springs there — these gave the pass its name — an altar to Heracles and the remains of an old wall with gates that had fallen into ruin. The Greeks now rushed to rebuild it.

Leonidas I

What he saw astonished him — the Spartans, many of them naked and exercising, the rest calmly combing their hair. It was common practice for the Spartans to fix their hair when they were about to risk their lives, but neither the scout nor his king could comprehend such apparent vanity. The Greeks, too, began to receive intelligence on the size of the Persian force.

Sometime before the battle, the Spartan Dieneces was told that when the Persian archers let loose a volley, their arrows would hide the sun. To Dieneces that was just as well. For if the Persians hide the sun, he said, we shall fight in the shade. Despite the imperturbable courage of Dieneces and the other Spartans, the Greeks were shaken when the Persian host finally neared their position. The Spartan would do his duty. The Greeks would stay put and try to hold off the Persians until reinforcements could arrive.

The Persian army encamped on the flat grounds of the town of Trachis, only a short distance from Thermopylae. There, Xerxes stopped his troops for four days, waiting upon the inevitable flight of the overawed Greeks. By the fifth day, August 17, bc, the great king could no longer control his temper.

The impudent Greeks were, like the storm at the Hellespont, defying his will. He now sent forward his first wave of troops — Medes and Cissians — with orders to take the Greeks alive.

Leonidas I - Wikipedia

The Medes and Cissians were repulsed with heavy casualties. Determined to punish the resisters, Xerxes sent in his Immortals.

The crack Persian troops advanced confidently, envisioning an easy victory, but they had no more success than the Medes. What Xerxes had not anticipated was that the Greeks held the tactical advantage at Thermopylae. Persian boys, it was said, were taught only three things: There was no place for cavalry at Thermopylae and, even more critical, no place to volley arrows.

The Greeks had positioned themselves behind the rebuilt wall. They would have to be rooted out the hard way. The Persian army was neither trained nor equipped for such close fighting. Its preferred tactic was to volley arrows from a distance, the archers firing from behind the protection of wicker shields planted in the ground.

They wore very little armor and carried only daggers and short spears for hand-to-hand combat. Greek soldiers perhaps drew some confidence from their heavy armor and their long spears, which could outreach the Persian swords. But the Greeks also had another, more intangible, edge: They were defending their homes, and they were doing their duty — they were not fighting as slaves of some half mad god-king.

During that long first day of fighting, the Spartans led the Greek resistance. Experienced Spartan warriors would come out from behind the walls, do fierce battle with the Persians, then feign retreat in order to draw the Persians into a trap. Xerxes reportedly leapt to his feet three times in fear for his army. The second day of Thermopylae followed much the same course as the first.

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The various Greek contingents now took turns fending off the attacks, but the Persians failed to make any headway.

It is difficult to say how long the Greeks could have held off the Persians at Thermopylae — their casualties thus far were comparatively light — but the question was soon made moot. When the Greeks had first arrived, they learned that the presumably impregnable site possessed a hidden weakness: There was a track through the mountains that could be used by an enemy force to surround and annihilate the defenders of the gate.

Recognizing the danger, Leonidas had dispatched his Phocian contingent to guard the path.

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Thus the already small number of troops available at the gate was made smaller still by the division of the Greek forces. The Phocians themselves were charged with the difficult task of defending a route with no natural defenses.

It was, in the end, a Greek who betrayed that secret. The traitor, Ephialtes, was apparently motivated by greed when he revealed the mountain path to Xerxes. Acting immediately on the new information, the king sent Persian troops up the path during the night, when darkness concealed their movement among the oak trees. Near the top, they completely surprised the luckless Phocians. At last free to fight in their usual fashion, the Persians rained down arrows as the Phocians frantically sought to gather their arms.

In desperation, the Phocians raced to higher ground for a last stand. The Persians, however, had no interest in chasing the Phocians higher but instead turned down the trail, aiming for the pass at Thermopylae.

Lookouts raced down the hill to warn Leonidas of the descending Persian army. There was little time left. A quick council of war led to the decision to split up the Greek force.

There was no reason for the entire army to be annihilated at the wall. Most contingents were now allowed to return home and prepare for a later showdown. Leonidas and his Spartans, however, would remain at Thermopylae.

Standing by them were the loyal Thespians, who considered it an honor to die fighting beside the Spartans. Leonidas also kept as hostages some Thebans whom he suspected of having Persian sympathies. If the entire Greek army had fled, it would have eventually been caught from behind and slaughtered by the faster-moving Persian cavalry.

Leonidas was giving the retreating troops the only chance they had to escape and fight another day. It is in many ways the irony of Thermopylae that Sparta, arguably the least free of all the Greek states, now stood as the final defender of Greek freedom.

All the things that would make Greece great — science, art, poetry, drama, philosophy — were foreign to Sparta. The Spartans had developed a constitution of almost total subordination of the individual to the community.

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Spartan elders determined which infants could live or die. Spartan boys were sent into military training at the age of 7. Spartan men lived in barracks, away from their wives, for much of their adult lives.

The Spartans ate at a common table, they distributed land equally in an almost communistic fashion and they were forbidden to engage in what were deemed the superfluous arts. Such freedoms as their warrior elite enjoyed did not extend to non-Spartans living in their territory, the Helots, who served as their slaves. Yet the Spartan elite believed passionately in their freedom, and their sense of duty, imbued at an early age, guaranteed that no Spartan commander would ever have to resort to whips to drive his soldiers into battle.

On August 19, the Greeks elected to inflict as much damage as possible on the Persian army. There, they would battle the massive Persian army on open ground. They would do so, however, without the Thebans, who as Leonidas had expected surrendered to the Persians before the final assault began. Xerxes ordered his men in for the kill. Once again his commanders lashed their own troops to drive them forward. Many Persians were trampled to death by their own comrades.

Others, shoved aside, drowned in the sea. All the while, the Spartans and Thespians did their deadly work.

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No one, wrote Herodotus, could count the number of the dead. The Greeks fought with their long spears until the shafts had all broken. Then they fought with swords. In the course of the struggle, Leonidas fulfilled the prophecy that had doomed him.