The Battle of Thermopolaye

4:56 AM Amer Bekic 0 Comments

In 480 B.C, 5,200 Greek hoplites, led by King Leonidas I of Sparta, held out against an of hundreds of thousands of Persian infantry at a narrow pass called Thermopolaye ("The Hot Gates"). The Greeks were hoping to engage the Persian foot soldiers of King Xerxes at Thermopolaye while the Athenian navy engaged the Persian fleet at Salamis. While the Greeks were outnumbered, Leonidas knew that the hoplite phalanx/shield wall would be enough to protect this pass, forcing the Persians to funnel their spearmen through the narrow passage and be annihilated.

The plan worked. The initial Persian charge of 10,000 Medes was devastated. Over the next few days, the Greeks slaughtered several waves of Persian infantry, including the Xerxes personal guard, The Immortals. However, a sheepherder turned traitor told the Persians about a goat path that flanks the Greeks' position, which forced the Greek armies to retreat.

King Leonidas was faced with a difficult choice. If they all retreated, the Greeks would all be slaughtered as they routed. If they stayed, they would killed to last man. Realizing that some men would need to sacrificing themselves in order to protect the rest of the retreating army, the 60-year-old King, his 300-man Royal Spartan Guard, 400 Thebans, 700 Thespians, and several-hundred salves volunteered to hold off the Persian horde.

While the rest of the Greeks retreated, the Spartans, Thebans, and Thespians were swarmed by two sides of the Persian army--those coming from the front of the pass and the goat path. When King Xerxes' brothers
offered the Greek holdouts mercy if they laid down their weapons, King Leonidas yelled "Molon Labe", or "Come and take them". The Greek soldiers fought to the death. Onlookers watched the hoplites resort to fighting with their fists and teeth when their weapons and shields broke. All were slaughtered.

Since then, the sacrifice of the Greek holdouts has been held up as one of the greatest displays of courage, fortitude, and honor ever seen on the battlefield. I'd day that qualifies as one of humanities brightest moments.