The battle of Thermopylae

Simonides composed a well-known epigram, which was engraved as an epitaph on a commemorative stone placed on top of the burial mound of the Spartans at Thermopylae. It is also the hill on which the last of them died. Spyridon Marinatos discovered large numbers of Persian arrowheads there. The original stone is not to be found now. Instead the epitaph was engraved on a new stone erected in 1955. The text is

Ω ξείν', αγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ότι τήδε
κείμεθα, τοις κείνων ρήμασι πειθόμενοι.

O xein', angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti tede
keimetha tois keinon rhemasi peithomenoi.

An ancient alternative rendering substitutes πειθόμενοι νομίμοις for ρήμασι πειθόμενοι.

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The form of this ancient Greek poetry is an elegiac couplet. Some English translations are given in the table below.

Translation Notes

Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
Steven Pressfield, in Gates of Fire

Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell
That here, obeying her behests, we fell.
George Rawlinson

Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
William Lisle Bowels

Go tell the Spartans, passerby,
That here, by Spartan law, we lie.
Frank Miller, in his comic series 300

Go tell the Spartans, you who read;
We took their orders, and are dead.
Audrey de Selincourt

Stranger, bear this message to the Spartans,
that we lie here obedient to their laws.
W. R. Paton

Stranger, report this word, we pray, to the Spartans,
that lying Here in this spot we remain, faithfully keeping their laws.
G. C. Macaulay

Stranger! To Sparta say, her faithful band,
Here lie in death, remembering her command.
Erich von Manstein Lost Victories

Friend, tell the Spartans that on this hill
We lie obedient to them still.
Michael Dodson, 1951

Stranger, tell the Spartans that we behaved as they would wish us to,
and are buried here.
William Golding, The Hot Gates, 1965

Ruskin said of this epitaph that it was the noblest group of words ever uttered by man. Its purpose is not to attract attention, but rather to show that they fear that Sparta may become suspicious that their soldiers left their duties, and they wished to ask travelers to tell Sparta the truth.

Leonidas monument

Additionally, a modern monument was constructed at the site, in the 50's, called the "Leonidas Monument" in honour of the Spartan king and his warriors.

It features a bronze statue of Leonidas. A sign, under the statue, reads simply: "Μολών λαβέ" ("Come and take them!"). The metope below depicts battle scenes. The two marble statues on the left and the right of the monument, represent respectively the river Evrotas and the mount Taygetus, hallmarks of Sparta.

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Thespians' monument

In 1997, a second monument was officially unveiled by the Greek government, dedicated to the 700 Thespians who fought with the Spartans. The monument is made of marble and features a bronze statue depicting god Eros, who was worshiped in ancient Thespiae. Under the statue a sign reads "In memory of the seven hundred Thespians".

A plate, below the statue, explains its symbolism :

  • The headless male figure symbolizes the anonymous sacrifice of the 700 Thespians to their country.
  • The outstretched chest symbolizes the struggle, the gallantry, the strength, the bravery and the courage.
  • The open wing symbolizes the victory, the glory, the soul, the spirit and the freedom.
  • The broken wing symbolizes the voluntary sacrifice and death.
  • The naked body symbolizes Eros the most important god of the ancient Thespians, the god of creation, beauty and life.

The monument of Thespians is placed beside the one of the Spartans.

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The text is based on material from the Wikipedia article "Battle of Thermopylae". Modifications, additions to the Wikipedia text and all the photos by the website author.