[120], When the Persians recovered Leonidas' body, Xerxes, in a rage, ordered that the body be decapitated and crucified. [105] Hydarnes was perhaps just as amazed to see them hastily arming themselves as they were to see him and his forces. When the nations try to meet for diplomacy, their efforts fail. Themistocles was in command of the Greek Navy at Artemisium when he received news that the Persians had taken the pass at Thermopylae. [78] The Greek position at Thermopylae, despite being massively outnumbered, was nearly impregnable. [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. [97] The weaker shields, and shorter spears and swords of the Persians prevented them from effectively engaging the Greek hoplites. [7.223] Xerxes meanwhile, having made libations at sunrise, stayed for some time, until about the hour when the market fills, and then made an advance upon them; for thus it had been enjoined by Ephialtes, seeing that the descent of the mountain is shorter and the space to be passed over much less than the going round and the ascent. 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. [33] Finally, it moved to attack Athens, landing at the bay of Marathon, where it was met by a heavily outnumbered Athenian army. https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Thermopylae-Greek-history-480-BC [76][77] However, this is only one approach, and many other combinations are plausible. [75], From a strategic point of view, by defending Thermopylae, the Greeks were making the best possible use of their forces. When at a later date, an army of Gauls led by Brennus attempted to force the pass, the shallowness of the water gave the Greek fleet great difficulty getting close enough to the fighting to bombard the Gauls with ship-borne missile weapons. 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]. [30][31] This meant that Sparta was also effectively at war with Persia. [20] In fact, Herodotus' account of the battle, in Book VII of his Histories, is such an important source that Paul Cartledge wrote: "we either write a history of Thermopylae with [Herodotus], or not at all". For instance, Cawkwell states: "he was successful on both land and sea, and the Great Invasion began with a brilliant success. "[85] The pass still is a natural defensive position to modern armies, and British Commonwealth forces in World War II made a defence in 1941 against the Nazi invasion mere metres from the original battlefield. [citation needed]. 9.1", "denarius") All Search Options [view abbreviations] Home Collections/Texts Perseus Catalog Research Grants Open Source About … Activity 3. 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. [51], The Spartan force was reinforced en route to Thermopylae by contingents from various cities and numbered more than 7,000 by the time it arrived at the pass. [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. [16] 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 took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium. [c] However, compared to the probable time (about one month) between Thermopylae and Salamis, the time bought was negligible. 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. Some modern accounts seem to know exactly on what dates the battle fell, because Herodotus says (7. The Battle of Thermopylae. (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 … [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. But Eretrians, Euphorbus & Philagrus betrayed their city. [125] As at Thermopylae, making this an effective strategy required the Greek navy to stage a simultaneous blockade, barring the passage of the Persian navy across the Saronic Gulf, so that troops could not be landed directly on the Peloponnese. In universal terms, a small, free people had willingly outfought huge numbers of imperial subjects who advanced under the lash. [79], Tactically, the pass at Thermopylae was ideally suited to the Greek style of warfare. [122] 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. [111] It has also been suggested that Leonidas, recalling the words of the Oracle, was committed to sacrificing his life in order to save Sparta. The Greek army at Thermopylae is very small compared to the over five million Herodotus … There are several monuments around the battlefield of Thermopylae. [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. They will read from Herodotus's account of the battle at Thermopylae, the narrow pass where 300 Spartans and their Greek allies made their last-ditch stand against tens of thousands of Xerxes's … . This activity presents the longest and most challenging reading assignment from Herodotus. *Thermopylae was fought between an allaince of Greek city states, and the persain Empire of xerxes over the course of three days. [131] Mardonius retreated to Boeotia to lure the Greeks into open terrain, and the two sides eventually met near the city of Plataea. The open wing symbolizes the victory, the glory, the soul, the spirit and the freedom. For the number of them that disappeared beneath the mud was great. The battle took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August or September 480 BC, at the pass of Thermopylae ('The Hot Gates'). 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. No real consensus exists; even the most recent estimates by academics vary between 120,000 and 300,000. [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. The Greek rearguard meanwhile, was annihilated, with a probable loss of 2,000 men, including those killed on the first two days of battle. The old track appears at the foot of the hills around the plain, flanked by a modern road. [134] However, within the context of the Persian invasion, Thermopylae was undoubtedly a defeat for the Greeks. This place is called Thermopylae by most of the Hellenes, but by the natives and … [110] Also present were the 400 Thebans and probably the helots who had accompanied the Spartans. The Oracle is said to have made the following prophecy: O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon! The form of this ancient Greek poetry is an elegiac couplet, commonly used for epitaphs. "[164], Herodotus also describes Leonidas' reception of a Persian envoy. However, he does not say who those men were. The Battle. The Battle. Of the Thespians the man who gained most honour was named Dithyrambos son of Harmatides. 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 … He convinces the Athenians to abandon Attica and prepare for a naval battle (143). Od. The confrontation at Thermopylae took place in the late summer of 480. [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. [61] With the Persian emissary returning empty-handed, battle became inevitable. "[163], It is reported that, upon arriving at Thermopylae, the Persians sent a mounted scout to reconnoitre. [7.207] These had intended to do thus, and meanwhile the Greeks at Thermopylae, when the Persian had come near to the pass, were in dread, and deliberated about making retreat from their position. It took … Demaratus called them "the bravest men in Greece" and warned the Great King they intended to dispute the pass. He’d had his servant remind him about the Athenians, & the Pisistratidae were urging him to do something. v (Milan, 1924)-hereafter, Giannelli), p. 21, dates the battle of Thermopylae … It has been reported that others also remained, including up to 900 helots and 400 Thebans. It features a bronze statue of Leonidas. So the Persians, finding nothing different from that which they had seen on the former day, retired back from the fight. [78] As long as they could prevent a further Persian advance into Greece, they had no need to seek a decisive battle and could, thus, remain on the defensive. [78] A hoplite phalanx could block the narrow pass with ease, with no risk of being outflanked by cavalry. The Persian army was rumoured to have numbered over one million soldiers. King Xerxes lay encamped in Trachis in Malis and the Hellenes in the pass. 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. "[166], Such laconic bravery doubtlessly helped to maintain morale. It has also been proposed that the failure to retreat from Thermopylae gave rise to the notion that Spartans never retreated. 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. It branched, with one path leading to Phocis and the other down to the Malian Gulf at Alpenus, the first town of Locris. Herodotus Excerpts from Book VII of The Histories Translated and Edited by A.D. Godley, 1921-24 CCI. There are also links to commentary on the battle of Thermopylae. Iranica Antiqua Vol. ("Agamemnon", "Hom. 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 vastly outnumbered Greeks held off the Persians for seven days (including three of battle) before the rear-guard was annihilated in one of history's most famous last stands. The confrontation at Thermopylae took place in the late summer of 480. 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. [52], Herodotus tells us that Leonidas, in line with the prophecy, was convinced he was going to certain death since his forces were not adequate for a victory, and so he selected only Spartans with living sons. All content copyright © 1995–2020 Livius.org. 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. [23][24], 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. [112], 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. ", Similarities between the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Persian Gate have been recognized by both ancient and modern authors,[170] which describe it as a kind of reversal of the Battle of Thermopylae,[171] calling it "the Persian Thermopylae". Xerxes … [117], The pass at Thermopylae was thus opened to the Persian army, according to Herodotus, at the cost to the Persians of up to 20,000 fatalities. [174], "300 Spartans" redirects here. Of these the Thebans stayed against their will and not because they desired it, for Leonidas kept them, counting them as hostages; but the Thespians very willingly, for they said that they would not depart and leave Leonidas and those with him, but they stayed behind and died with them. [112], The Thebans have also been the subject of some discussion. Leonidas calmed the panic and agreed to defend Thermopylae. 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. [7.234] Thus did the Greeks at Thermopylae contend in fight. [114] In this struggle, Herodotus states that two of Xerxes' brothers fell: Abrocomes and Hyperanthes. 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. At the ensuing Battle of Marathon, the Athenians won a remarkable victory, which resulted in the withdrawal of the Persian army to Asia. The Greek forces, mostly Spartan, were led by Leonidas. [114] Leonidas also died in the assault, shot down by Persian archers, and the two sides fought over his body; the Greeks took possession. [7.202] These were the Greeks who awaited the attack of the Persian in [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. It had the power to send envoys to request assistance and dispatch troops from the member states to defensive points, after joint consultation. [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. Residing in the direct path of the Persian advance, they gave all the fighting men they had - according to Pausanias 6,000 men - which added to Herodotus' 5,200 would have given a force of 11,200. [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". 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. [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. [46] However, the Peloponnesian cities made fall-back plans to defend the Isthmus of Corinth, should it come to that, whilst the women and children of Athens would evacuate en masse to the Peloponnesian city of Troezen. The broken wing symbolizes the voluntary sacrifice and death. Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους = History of the Greek nation volume Β', Athens 1971, This page was last edited on 21 December 2020, at 14:03. 27, pp. [7.230] Some say that Aristodemus came safe to Sparta in this manner, and on a pretext such as I have said; but others, that he had been sent as a messenger from the camp, and when he might have come up in time to find the battle going on, was not willing to do so, but stayed upon the road and so saved his life, while his fellow-messenger reached the battle and was slain. [143], While this paradigm of "free men" outfighting "slaves" can be seen as a rather sweeping over-generalization (there are many counter-examples), it is nevertheless true that many commentators have used Thermopylae to illustrate this point. Then Hydarnes, seized with fear lest the Phocians should be Spartans, asked Ephialtes of what people the force was; and being accurately informed he set the Persians in order for battle. [7.203] In addition to these, the Locrians of Opus had been summoned to come in their full force, and of the Phocians a thousand: for the Greeks had of themselves sent a summons to them, saying by messengers that they had come as forerunners of the others, that the rest of the allies were to be expected every day, that their sea was safely guarded, being watched by the Athenians and the Aeginetans and by those who had been appointed to serve in the fleet, and that they need fear nothing: for it was not a god, they said, who was coming to attack Greece, but a man; and there was no mortal, nor would be any, with those fortunes evil had not been mingled at his very birth, and the greatest evils for the greatest men; therefore he also who was marching against them, being mortal, would be destined to fail of his expectation. Accompanied by an army and navy and set out for the more lightly armed Persian infantry ] to... 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