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The Battle of Thermopylae

Posted On 2013-08-26

The Battle of Thermopylae

The battle of Thermopylae was the first of the many battles that happened between the Persians and Greeks. These battles happened between 480-479 BC. The first battle was historic given that the Greek contingent was small but determined to resist the huge Persian army. This battle has been immortalized in time by the Hollywood blockbuster film 300.


The fear psychosis in Ancient Greece created by the Persians


Ancient Greece was the target for the marauding Persians. The people of Greece lived in fear. Xerxes was the king of the mighty Persian army. When the invasion of Greece began, people went berserk. At this time, some sparring Greek cities decided to come together to counter the invasion. Sparta was one among them. It was decided that Sparta would take the lead in the resistance. Sparta had a strong reputation in warfare.


The place of action – a narrow passageway


In central Greece, between the mountains, there existed a narrow passage that led to the sea called Thermopylae. This pass route was an important point to defend given that it opened Greece to the northern world. The Greeks led by the Sparta king Leonidas waited for the Persian army. They knew that the Persian army will take this route.


About 300 Spartan men waited along with 6000 soldiers from other Greek cities. They faced more than 100,000 Persian soldiers. This was probably one of the bloodiest battles in history.


The beginning of the battle phase


When the Persians arrived, nothing happened for many days. No battle was fought. Xerxes sent men to find the whereabouts of the Greeks. The messengers told the king that 300 men had blocked the pass. These men were exercising and seemed to be ready to fight to death. Finally, the Persians started the attack. The Greeks fought the Persians with equal valor. The narrow pass nullified the advantage of a huge army that the Persians had. Also, the Greeks used longer spears which were more effective.


The overwhelmed Persians


The Greeks used multiple strategies to overwhelm the Persians. Even after two days of battle the Persians could not gain any significant advantage. Although the Persians were losing men by the hoards, there was luck on their side. A Greek traitor spilled important information to them. There was another path above this narrow passage. This path would allow the Persians to secretly make their entry and come to the other side of the passage and corner the Greeks.


The Persians sent their best soldiers through this path at night. On the third day at dawn break, the Greeks were surrounded. Leonidas instructed his men to continue fighting till the last. He also gave the choice of fleeing. But the Spartans did not retreat.


The end of the battle


The Persians finally overwhelmed the fighting Spartans. They killed many Spartan soldiers with a volley of thousands of arrows. No Spartan surrendered meekly and they fought till the last. They were killed and not one of them surrendered. The Persians eventually won the battle of Thermopylae.

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