Knowing in advance about the imminent death, a detachment of Spartans, led by their fearless king, worthily accepted the battle of the enemy, which in number exceeded their forces many times over. But the warriors of Sparta, by their convictions, were born to fight in battles and not to know neither fear nor pain.
How it all began
To begin with, that only some time after the end of the bloody Marathon battle, the inhabitants of ancient Hellas began to gradually recover. Many thought that after the victory of the Greek warriors over the hordes of the Persians, the invasion on their part would not happen again, because, as they believed, they were rebuffed. Indeed, the Greeks fought very worthily and won an undeniable victory, but this was not enough to understand that a new invasion of Persian warriors was coming, which could not be prevented.
In honor of the victory, the Athenian coins were minted with the addition of a laurel branch image, which was supposed to remind the inhabitants of the city of the courage of their own people. We mentioned the Greek money for a reason, as it also has a direct bearing on the further development of events. The fact is that a huge silver mine was found near Athens. From this silver minted city coin, and later influential men of the city planned to divide all the wealth among themselves.
However, an outstanding citizen of the capital Themistocles was able to convince a meeting of influential citizens in the need to use the riches of the weapons of the state. From that moment it was decided to strengthen the fleet, thanks to which 230 Trier were purchased ─ three-row combat ships, which made the capital fleet the most powerful in all Hellas. How did Themistoclus manage to convince people to abandon their vast wealth and invest in building ships? Very simple: he is one of the few who understood that the Persians can only be fought at sea, and on land they will face a complete rout without any chance of winning.
Persians demand from the Greeks full recognition of their king
In October 486 BC. er the great king of the Persians, Darius, died, and his own son Xerxes (or Hshayarshan, the “king of heroes”), who several years after the death of his father concentrated a large army on the border with Hellas, replaced him. At that moment the king of the Persians was active in the upcoming war with the Greeks, since his plans included the conquest of Greece. He made an agreement with Carthage. He became his ally in raids on Sicily to plunder wealthy settlements, most of which were Greeks.
Huge forces of the countless Persian army were pulled to the Greek borders to destroy the proud power once and for all. Xerxes ordered his ambassadors to convey a personal demand for unquestioning obedience to him of all the cities and recognition of his only king. The Persians sowed panic in the cities of Greece among the population, and most of them were ready to surrender and accept the king Hshayarshan.
However, the Spartans and the inhabitants of Athens rejected this ultimatum and decided to offer decent resistance to the terrible king. When the Persian ambassadors arrived in Sparta, they were simply thrown into a deep well, and in Athens they were awaited a cruel execution for the desecration of the Greek people. They made it clear to Xerxes that they would prefer to die free people than to accept his gracious power.
Beginning of the invasion
Furious with the insolence of the Greeks, Xerxes decided to personally lead the offensive. This happened in 481 BC. in the autumn, when, on his orders, the hordes of Persian soldiers were concentrated not far from Sard. Here the troops were preparing for the battle, and in early April 480 BC. er Persian troops marched on the Greeks. By June of the same year, the soldiers had reached Macedonia. Thus began the battle of Thermopylae. The date of the battle itself falls on August of the same year.
To shorten the way, they decided to cross the Strymon, for which pontoon bridges were built, along which the troops crossed the river. By the time the Persian fleet arrived in the city of Terme, which comprised 4.5 thousand ships, 1.5 thousand of which were combat and the rest were transport. In addition to the huge fleet of Persian soldiers, there were about 200 thousand souls, which was more than enough to defeat the Greeks and Sparta.
The Greeks, in turn, already knew about the invasion of the hated Persian army and began to prepare to repel the imminent offensive. The battle of Marathon hardened many warriors, and the victory gave courage and new forces. However, this was not enough to repel numerous enemy invasions. The best commanders of Hellas began to look for a way out of the most complicated military situation. In this case, the militia of the Greek army barely numbered 10 thousand soldiers. It was easy to compare the numerical ratio of the forces of both armies.
The Greek plan was that the army of Xerxes could supposedly be stopped near the Tempe settlement, which was located near Peneas, a small river, where it was possible to block the passage of Persians from Macedonia to Thessaly. However, the Greeks miscalculated with the strategy, because the opponents chose a way around Tempe. They moved southward and came close to the city of Fesalia Larissa. The Greek soldiers had to urgently retreat, because they were not prepared for such an onslaught and did not expect the Persians to bypass them on their own land.
The forced retreat of the Greek army was not only due to the fact that in relation to the Persians, the forces were unequal. Here the corruption of the Thessalian aristocracy, which, thanks to certain promises of Xerxes, began to sympathize with him very quickly played a significant role. In addition, they could easily lay the Greek militia. Therefore, without a fight, I had to surrender the Thessalian lands to the Persians. The local troops were famous for their cavalry, so with the help of the Greeks, the Thessalians could resist the enemy invasion. However, they had a different opinion, and after some deliberation, they went over to the side of the Persian "sovereigns".
Meanwhile, the Persians were actively attacking the Greek lands, and in order to resist the Persians, the Greeks put their entire fleet on the flanks near Artemisia, which was geographically located in the northeast of Euboea. The leader of the Greeks in the battle of Thermopylae was Leonid, while the Greek fleet was commanded by Eurybied, who was a Spartan by birth and a very competent strategist. The Greeks were fully armed and awaited the arrival of one and a half thousand Persian warships. But here the nature played a cruel joke with the Persians. The strongest storm broke out, which destroyed about seven hundred of their ships.
Looking ahead, we note that thanks to the competent strategy of Eurybiad, which located the fleet in the Cape, the fleet of the Greeks remained unharmed. The Persians opposed the fleet of Hellas with the remaining half of their ships. A fierce two-day battle took place near Artemisia, due to which the Greeks managed to completely block the entrance to the Malian Strait. It was assumed the battle the next day, but the Greeks were stunned by the news that the battle of Thermopyla was over the death of the Spartan king Leonid and his soldiers. Further containment of the Persian fleet made no sense.
Fermopil gorge and Leonid warriors
Now it is necessary to move to the land of the island of Evbey, where the Hellenic fleet was located nearby and the sea battle with the Persians took place. Not far from the northernmost point of Euboea, along the slope of steep mountains, a road passed through the gorge from the sea shore. These were Thermopylae. Greece still honors this place, not only as part of the story, but also thanks to the healing sulfur springs that exist to this day. But back in 480 BC. er ─ the year of the Battle of Thermopylae, where the Spartan king Leonid and his five thousand squadron settled down.
The foresight of the Greeks could be envied by many well-known commanders, because even 100 years before the battle of Fermopilsky began, the Hellenes blocked the passage through the gorge with a powerful wall. Leonid and his soldiers settled down behind this fortification and waited for the Persian invasion. Thus began the battle of Thermopylae.
It should be a little distracted and talk about the Greek soldiers, from among which the army of the ancient Greek state was formed. In the city-states of which ancient Hellas consisted at that time, artisans, farmers, workers and citizens of other social strata lived who could afford to buy uniforms and weapons and, if necessary, defend the state. From these people formed military units. The warriors themselves were called hoplites. Infantry, consisting of the hoplites, led the fighting in the phalanx. Each warrior stood close to his comrade. They were covered with shields, and in front of them were long spears. In the event of the death of a comrade-in-arms behind them, the warriors came in their place, so the unit moved to the enemy without stopping. The Greeks were very good at swords and were good knife fighters. As the Marathon battle, and the battle of Thermopylae did not frighten the Greeks, and they were ready for anything.
At the end of the hostilities, the hoplites returned to their policies and proceeded to the usual craft. Any goplit could lose his citizenship if he fled from the battlefield or betrayed his fellow in arms. But the Spartans were trained and trained in military affairs continuously throughout their lives. Their motto was that either they would all win together, or together they would die for Sparta - their land. Therefore, the battle of Thermopylae was perceived by them as an approach to the next feat for the sake of their homeland.
The warriors of Tsar Xerxes consisted of many thousands of army consisting of equestrian units and well-trained infantry. The cavalry was subdivided into divisions, which included chariots, as well as camels with horsemen. In general, the Persian cavalry existed as independent units, which carried out most of the combat missions. As a rule, it was located in the conduct of the battle on the flanks. The riders were armed with spears and light piercing weapons, with which every warrior skillfully treated. It should be noted that the Persians were magnificent riders, and on horses they were driven without saddles. In addition, the horses were not shod, and they were forced to be brought on ships to the places of the upcoming battles.
Persian warriors could not do without attendants, so many of them had servants. It is no secret that some of the Greek soldiers went over to the Persians and were gladly accepted into the army. The traitor Hellenes fought without servants, and no one doubted their courage after the defeat of the Persians under the Marathon.
For the Persians to be a warrior was a matter of all their lives. After the boy reached the age of five, he was taken from his parents to special camps, where he had been undergoing military training from an early age. If the child was from a rich family of a nobleman or from among the nobility, then he was already doomed to become a commander. The children were taught a fistfight, riding, survival in difficult conditions, were taught to use weapons. Already at the age of fifteen, the young man was a fully trained warrior.
The Persian service lasted until the age of thirty, after which the warrior had the right to go into state affairs, continue his father’s affairs, or remain in the service. Persian infantry skillfully owned many weapons. These were spears with sharp steel points, daggers, battle axes, knives, etc., and they were protected by light braided shields. The shields of the Persians completely protected them from being hit by arrows. In addition, the Persian warriors were famous for their ability to accurately shoot a bow.
The beginning of a grand battle
The history of the Battle of Thermopylae dates back to mid-August 480 BC. er Leonid did not have long to wait for the appearance of the army of Xerxes. He envisioned possible options for the development of events, so he decided to close the entrance of the Middle Gate with the main part of his soldiers, and he located about a thousand Foki warriors to the left of the mountain, thereby blocking the passage along one trail that led around the gorge.
According to his calculations, the battle in Fermopilsky gorge should have started exactly in the place where he had placed his forces. This passage was not the only one, but for the offensive it was more advantageous than the others in terms of strategy.
And the battle of Thermopylae began. The Persians came close to the wall of the gorge, gradually the number of arrivals at the Middle Gate became more and more. However, the Persians did not dare to go on the attack first, because they understood that it would not be so easy to fight in the cramped walls between the sheer cliffs. Only five days after the psychological confrontation of the two warring parties, the king of the Persians gave the order to attack. The Persians, built in combat calculations, went on the attack, and the battle of Thermopylae became fierce.
The fearless leader of the Greeks in the Battle of Thermopylae was Tsar Leonid, who also had an incredible commanding sense. He decided to loosen the military units of the Persians, for which he had to resort to one trick.
When the battle of Thermopylae began, his squad went to the counterattack. Having let the Persians closer, the soldiers abruptly turned in the direction of the gorge and rushed in different directions. At this point, the Persians thought that the praised Greek warriors were afraid, and, after destroying the military structure, began to catch up with the runaway Hellenes. However, the Greeks, reaching the gorge, quickly lined up in a line, and just as quickly began a crushing attack on the Persians. From their numerous troops, the first to know the crushing blows of the Spartans and Greeks were the Kessians and the Medes. Moreover, the Greeks used their cunning tactics more than once in one day of battle, and all the time successfully.
Seeing the defeat of his warriors, Xerxes ordered Gidarna, the commander of the “immortal” squadron, to destroy 300 Spartans and several thousand hoplites, and then free up the passage to the gorge at any cost. However, they could not carry out the order, because they succumbed to the tricks of the Greeks and suffered huge losses.
The day of the battle
Despite the fact that the Persians had a numerical advantage, their attacks were unsuccessful. The Greeks defended themselves competently in a narrow gorge, so the frontal attacks of the Persians had no chance, and they suffered huge losses. In addition, Leonid spent replacing soldiers, so the heroes of the battle at Thermopylae, who were laid out yesterday, not sparing their strength, could rest from incredible fatigue and recover.
It would seem that Xerxes will never be able to defeat Leonid and his warriors. However, among the local Greeks, there was a man named Ephialtes, who for a certain amount agreed to lead the Persians through the Anopeysky Gorge and bypass the army of the Spartan king from the rear. Recall that Tsar Leonid envisaged the possible development of such events and left the Phocian warriors there. Ephialtes knew their number. He reported this to the Persian king. He, in turn, sent there the many thousands detachment of the "immortals" led by Gidarny.
On the response tricks of the Persians
Ghidarn with his detachment, led by Efialt, set out in the evening, bypassing, to the rear of the Greeks. At dawn, they saw Foki warriors, which Leonid had left to cover the rear. Ghidarn ordered the archers to shoot arrows at them. Phokidians were ready to take the fight, but the Persians ignored them and moved to the main forces of the Spartans. The Foki warriors immediately understood the maneuver of the Persian enemies, so their commander ordered one of them to inform the Spartans of the impending danger. Leonid soon found out about the threat, and he had very little time left until the arrival of Gidarn’s detachment.
The wise Spartan king urgently gathered the chiefs of the units and informed them that the Persians would soon appear here, and the further defense of the gorge loses all meaning. Therefore, he dismissed all the warriors. With him were only his surviving warriors - 300 Spartans. The battle of Thermopylae, or rather its outcome, was predetermined. We also note that in addition to these people with Leonid, about four hundred Theban warriors remained, as well as seven hundred Thespian men willing to die with the Spartans.
The final battle of the Spartans
Soon the Persians surrounded Leonid and his army. As soon as the enemy approached the Spartans closely, the Thebans, as one, rushed to the feet of the Persians with a plea for mercy. Leonid left them near him, because they were traitors, and according to Spartan laws, they had to die in battle in order to prove that they were honest and courageous warriors. A small detachment of the Spartan king, headed by him, rushed into an unequal battle with the soldiers of Xerxes.
In a fierce battle, Leonid died first, and the remaining warriors continued to fight the enemy over the body of their king. Soon they managed to take the body of Leonid, and the Spartans with the remnants of the Thespians were forced to retreat into the depths of the gorge under the onslaught of a huge army of Persians. Then it all ended very quickly. Xerxes ordered the archers to spray the Spartans with arrows until, due to the clouds of arrows, not a single enemy could be seen. Exactly at noon, the surviving Spartans died. The battle of Thermopylae was ended by the heroic death of courageous warriors.
King Hshayarshan ordered his soldiers among the mountains of corpses to find the body of the hated king of Sparta. When the body of Tsar Leonid, stitched with arrows and cut into battle, brought Xerxes to the warrior, he cut off his head and planted it with a spear, thereby showing his fury to the heroic resistance of Spartan opponents.
And after the end of the bloody battle for the king of heroes, the path to Hellas was opened. Most of the cities-policies without a fight surrendered to the Persian king. The remaining part of the Greek army, which continued the command of Cleombrot, the brother of the deceased king of Sparta, to provide further resistance to the Persian invasion was forced to retreat to the area of the Peloponnese and Corinthian isthmus.
At the end of the war between the Greeks and the Persians, the Hellenes erected a monument in memory of the great Spartan king Leonid and his fearless warriors ─ the statue of a lion. For centuries, the Spartans revered by the Greeks. The memory of them is still alive.