Our complex is quite close to Thermopylae, where the King of Sparta, Leonidas, and his three hundred Spartan warriors gave their lives for their homeland. Today you can admire the monument that has been set in honor of the ancient heroes and take commemorative photos in front of the statue of Leonidas.
Here we will say a few words about the famous battle, where the brave Spartans, along with the 700 Thespians, died voluntarily by putting the benefit of their homeland over themselves. In 480 BC Xerxes launched the second Persian invasion of Greece. The Persian army numbered hundreds of thousands of soldiers coming from various nations under Persian sovereignty. According to Herodotus, that figure was more than one million but modern historians are questioning this number. In any case, it is certain that Xerxes’ army was enormous for the time.
This supernumerary army was called upon to be faced by the Greeks. Sparta at that time was the Greek city-state with the most powerful army, so it assumed the burden of the land defense of the Greek territory. Shortly before the Battle of Thermopylae, the Spartans had taken an oracle from Delphi, who said that either a King of Sparta would die in the battle (a disaster that had never struck the city before) or Sparta would be lost.
Leonidas knew this oracle and knew it was almost impossible to resist the Persians successfully at the time. The Greeks needed more time and of course inspiration. For this reason, he decided to sacrifice his life and secure the salvation of Sparta and all of Greece.
So he left for Thermopylae with only 300 Spartans who formed the Royal Guard, also known as Ippeis. In this case, because they knew that no one would return alive, men who had male offspring were selected to continue their generation.
Together with the Spartans, warriors from other cities of Greece, such as Tegea and Thespies, went also. Overall, the Greek force did not count more than seven to eight thousand men. Against them, there was one of the biggest armies of the time. But that did not mean that the Greeks went there to surrender. For three days they fought hard and stopped all the soldiers Xerxes sent against them. Even the select “Immortals” did not manage to break the lines of the Greeks. The physiology of the area and Leonidas’ military genius, who had the wisdom of facing the Persians in the Straits of Thermopylae where their large number was canceled and turned into an disadvantage, played a major role in this.
Xerxes had really begun to despair as he did not find a way to break the Greek front. At that moment, a Trachian named Efialtis was presented in front of him. Efialtis knew the area and offered to lead the Persians for a fee behind the lines of the Greeks following a hidden path on the Kallidromos Mountain. So the Immortals began to circle the Greeks.
Leonidas learned about the cyclical movement as he had put the Phokies to guard this passage. So he had time to make his decision. His decision was simple and irreversible. He would sent away all the allies to return to their homelands and he would stay with the three hundred to keep the passage and fight to death. The only ones who did not accept the offer to leave were the warriors from Thespies who along with their leader Demofilos, stayed with the Spartans, and thus they passed forever in the heroes’ pantheon next to the three hundred.
The last day of the battle was the toughest of all. Now the Spartans and the Thespians did not intend to fight to live, they knew they would die. So they did whatever they could to cause greater losses to the enemy before it happened. Leonidas was killed in the front line of the battle and the Persians tried four times to take his body but all the times the Spartan warriors managed to repel them. The battle continued around until midday when the last Greek warrior died.
This sacrifice of Leonidas gave the necessary inspiration that the rest of the Greeks needed in order to defeat the Persians once and for all in the naval battle of Salamina and the battle of Plataea and thus to repel them from the Greek territory.
Typically, the famous heroes who have given their lives for the homeland have large monuments and lengthy mortal inscriptions. This does not apply to Leonidas and the three hundred Spartans. Simonidis of Kios wrote his epitaph following the Spartan philosophy.
Stranger, go tell the Spartans that here we lie obeying to their laws