The Mystery of Thermopylae

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The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between alliances of Greek city states, which were led by King Leonidas of Sparta, against the Persian Empire led by Xerxes over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. 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'). The event was later recorded by Herodotus, who interviewed the surviving soldiers. When it comes to history it is important to be able to differentiate between historical fact, fiction, and over aggrandizement. One must be careful when looking at an event such as the battle of Thermopylae, because of all of the myths surrounding it. Do the Spartans really deserve all of the credit that they have been given for what they did at The Hot Gates or has the tale become an aggrandizement of their accomplishment? A recent film that goes by the name “300” may be responsible for reigniting the mythos that seems to be weaved into the threads of Spartan history.

Many attributes have made the Spartans stand out from other Greek civilizations; their military, their society, and the battles they waged. Spartans were a militaristic state in Greece, their motto was “Ether with it, or on it” (meaning ether you won the battle or died trying). Sparta was also rivals to Athens at the time and would often compete in sports or fight in skirmishes much like two rival high schools. Out of everything that Sparta was the one thing most people think of when they hear the word Sparta is the battle of Thermopylae. No other Spartan conflict has been exploited as much as the battle of Thermopylae. Contrary to what you may or may not believe the Spartans were not the o...

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