Tag-Archive for » History «

Friday, February 06th, 2009 | Author:

480BC in the narrow Thermopylae pass in the northern Greece 7 thousand of Greek soldiers waits to face the largest force ever assembled, over 300,000 soldiers of the Persian Empire. Greeks were led by the 300 deadliest fighters The Spartans, their job was to hold that pass or die trying. In the Thermopylae pass, few stood against many for freedom and made their last stand.

Xerxes led the largest fighting force ever assembled, some of the historians still believe that their number was over 3 million. The Persian Empire was very big its border extends from the Indus River in India to Nile River in the Egypt. Xerxes invested lot of money and 5 years to assemble that army, built ships and buy food for invading Greece, his intention was to burn the Greek city Athens to punish them for supporting a rebellion against Persia 25 years ago. Xerxes sends a man to find out what lies in the way. The man discovers 7000 Greek soldiers blocking the east of the pass. The Persians out numbred the Greeks nearly 50 to one. In a strategic move the Greeks have chosen the Thermopylae pass as the battle place which is a narrow pass of around 200 yards in width. Leading the Greek army is the great Spartan king Leonidas one of the 2 kings of Sparta who was chosen to lead the army by all the Greek city states to go and hold the Thermopylae pass.

Xerxes waited for around 4 days to attacks and finally attacks on fifth day. About 150 yards away from the Greek army, thousands of Persian archers launch a barrage of arrows. Leonidas and Spartans waited all their life for this moment as they were born for battle.

Around 530BC 50 years before the battle of Thermopylae Spartan king Leonidas was born and inspected by a Spartan elder. Sparta at that time was a hard core warrior society. After birth every child was examined and was decided if he is fit to live in the society, if the baby has any imperfection, they didnt allow him to live. At the age of 7 every male child including leonidas is sent to the army camps for training. Leonidas was a strong baby and was spared by the Elders to live and was sent for the army training where young Leonidas will live, train and learn to kill or be killed, for the next 12 years. At the age of 18 his education completed and he enters the Spartan army.

This is the time for every Spartan mother to feel proud of, while handling his son the shield she would tell them in Greek Come with the shield or on it.

581BC one year before the battle of Thermopylae a Greek spy discovers that the Persian king Xerxes has assembled his army to invade Greece. The Xerxes plan was to burn the Greek city state Athens to the ground. When the Athenians discovered the intention of the Xerxes they quickly realized that they are going to need help. Despite their poor relations the Athenians reach their one of the major regional rival Spartans for help. Before deciding whether to help the Athenians the Spartans consult the Oracle (one of the most sacred Greek shrines). According to them the death & sacrifice of Leonidas will save the Sparta and Leonidas agreed to help the Athenians to battle the Persians as he believed that he is the descendant of Heracles and Gods have chosen him to save Sparta. The counsel of Sparta isn’t convinced and allows Leonidas to take a minimal force of 300(all with father and son) chosen by him.

Before the battle of Thermopylae, Xerxes sent a messenger to negotiate with the king Leonidas.
Messenger:
Don’t be stupid Spartans, lay down your weapons or prepare to die, you are facing the largest and the strongest army ever assembled, our arrows will blot out the sun.
One of the Spartan: Then we shall have our battle in the shade.

The Spartans used their shields to avoid the barrage of Persian arrows.

Stuck in the narrow pass the Persians could not break the human walls(phalanx) of the Spartans and were slaughtered.

Sooner the Persians began to realize that it was not the best of the idea to launch themselves on the Spartans waves after waves.

End of the day the Spartans killed many and lost few which gave them a hope of Victory, on the other side Persians were trying to find a way to surround the Greeks land force from behind.
Next morning Spartans and the Athenians took their respective positions prepared for the second Persian attack. In the noon Xerxes decided to march 10,000 of his best fighters (also known as the immortals) to the front.

Xerxes believed that the immortals will end the action, but the Spartan phalanx were so rock steady that even the immortals were not able to break it and were killed. One of the main reasons of failure of the immortals was that they had never faced such a highly skilled, trained and tactically flexible fighters like Spartans.

After 2 days the Persian body count was enormous.

After the second day of battle a Greek traitor named Ephialtis revealed the goat path to Xerxes in order to get rich quickly. Seeing that he can’t penetrate the Greek defense, he decided to use the path and ordered 10,000 of his soldiers to march and climb up the hill in the dark to surround the Greeks from behind. But this path was not unknown to Leonidas. Before the first day of the attack Leonidas had stationed 1000 people(Phoceans) in the pass. But when the Persian approached the Phocean land, the defending force was missing. Now the Persians have a unhindered path. By this time the Leonidas was doomed from above and behind. In the mid of the night Leonidas knew that the Phoceans have deserted the path.

Knowing that he has been out flanked, he decided to order his army to retreat, leaving only around 300 Spartans.

By the dawn all of the Greek troop retreated except Spartans and around 700 soldiers from Greek city state of Thespia as they decided to fight with the Spartans to the death(very few know about this). Now Leonidas and his 1000 men were surrounded by the 10s of thousands of Persians. Cleaned and prepared for the battle the Spartan took the field for the one last time. Third day fight began and the Spartans & Thespians fought like mad, they had nothing to lose as they were destined to death. After some time all the Spears & Swords of the Greeks were broken and they were fighting with whatever they could.

Somewhere in between the fight Leonidas was struck with the Persian arrow fire and fell on the third day.

There was a great battle over the body of the Leonidas, finally the Greeks recovered the body. At last the Persians called their archers for the one last time.

The last stand of the few hundred men will always be remembered.

Ē tan ē epi tas