Battle of Thermopylae: Spartans vs. Persians

Recently, thanks to the 300 movie, the mythical Battle of Thermopylae once again had a great impact among history buffs. The enormous feat of the hero Leonidas was known to all. We are located between September 17 and 19, 480 BC. In those days one of the most brilliant examples of courage and sacrifice in the history of Humanity would take place.

What was the Battle of Thermopylae like?

Led by the great Spartan king Leonidas, between 6,400 and 6,700 Greeks from all the city-states of the country had resisted the onslaught of a great Persian army under the command of the fearsome Xerxes I. To continue their feat, more than heroic, the Greeks They settled in the well-known and narrow Passage of Thermopylae.

In 480 BC that pass was only about 100 meters wide, from the mountains on the south face to the waters of the Gulf of Malis. The only road between Thessaly and Greece passed through that winding gorge, and therefore, it was a wise and dramatic choice to stop the unstoppable advance of the Persians. Thermopylae means “hot gates”, since there were hot springs in the region.

Xerxes waited up to 4 days before launching his attack. Estimates of the size of the Persian army vary greatly, but most modern scholarship believes that it numbered about 250,000 men. The Greeks formed their traditional phalanx, and managed to resist the attacks of the Persians, with the loss of many men.

On the second day, Xerxes himself led the Persian assault with his personal guard, a powerful contingent of more than 10,000 men known as the Immortals. But the Greeks continued to resist, and it is believed that more than 50,000 Persian soldiers fell on this day. Their bows could not pierce the armored cars of the Greeks, and they fell helplessly into the bottleneck formed by the pass.

The lack of protection of the Persian armor made them lose many men in hand-to-hand combat. The Greek hoplites were much better equipped and able to fight face to face with their adversaries. This failure greatly angered Xerxes, to such an extent that he went so far as to execute some of his commanders.

It was then that Ephialtes, a Greek traitor, informed the Persians of the existence of a goat trail in the mountains that protected the left flank of Leonidas’s men. Xerxes wasted no time in sending one of his commanders, Hydarnes, to attack the Greeks on that flank.

Leonidas had left some 1,000 Boeotian volunteers guarding the Greek rear, but at dawn on the third day, and by surprise, a hail of Persian arrows inundated them. Despite his desperate position, Leonidas remained determined to defend the pass. But first, he wanted to ask his men who would follow him to the end, even knowing that death seemed certain.

Three hundred Spartans stayed with the hero. Knowing that he had no hope of survival, Leonidas fearlessly advanced in phalanx formation. The Greeks fought until they broke their spears and swords. They fought by throwing rocks at the enemy, with their hands, with their teeth. In this bare-body attack Leonidas was killed.

It was at this precise moment that the Spartans fled towards the hill of Kolonos. The Persians and their archers rained down their arrows on the Greek positions. The few survivors were massacred. Leonidas’s body was beheaded and crucified, and his bones did not return to Sparta until many years later.

Although they could not stop the advance of the Persians, the courage and daring of the Greek soldiers who gave their lives for their fatherland at Thermopylae later led all the Greek states to gather a large military force to inflict a decisive defeat on the Persians. persian empire. Those who had the honor of falling on the battlefield of the narrow pass achieved, years later, the most important victory of their lives: glory.

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