the body of Leonidas was recovered by the Persians, Xerxes, in
a rage at the loss of so many of his soldiers, ordered that the head
be cut off and the body crucified. This was very uncommon for the
Persians; they had the habit of treating enemies that fought bravely
against them with great honor, as the example of Pytheas captured
earlier off Skyros shows. However, Xerxes was known for his rage,
as when he had the Hellespont whipped because it would not obey
Xerxes was curious as to why there was such a small Greek force
guarding Thermopylae and interrogated some Arcadian prisoners.
The answer was that all the other men were participating in the
Olympic Games, forbidding them to participate in war. When Xerxes
asked what the prize for the winner was, "An olive-wreath" came
the answer. Upon hearing this, Tritantaechmes, a Persian general,
spontaneously responded by saying to Mardonius: "Good
heavens! Mardonius, what kind of men are these against whom you
us to fight? Men who do not compete for money, but for honor".
Two Spartans survived the conflict. Aristodemus suffered an eye
injury and was sent behind the lines, eventually ordered back to
Sparta with the retreating allies by the King. Pantites, was sent
by Leonidas to raise support in Thessaly but returned to Thermopylae
only after the battle's conclusion. Pantites hanged himself in
disgrace after being shunned as a "trembler".
After the departure and defeat of the Persians, the Greeks collected
their dead and buried them on the hill. A stone lion was erected
to commemorate Leonidas. Forty years after the battle, Leonidas'
body was returned to Sparta where he was buried again with full
honors and funeral games were held every year in his memory.
The fierce resistance of the Spartan-led army offered Athens the
invaluable time to prepare for a decisive naval battle. The subsequent
Greek victory at the Battle of Salamis left much of the Persian
navy destroyed and Xerxes was forced to retreat back to Asia, leaving
his army in Greece under Mardonius, who was to meet the Greeks
in battle one last time. The Spartans assembled at full strength
and led a pan-Greek army that defeated the Persians decisively
at the Battle of Plataea, ending the Greco-Persian War and with
it Persian expansion into Europe.
The simultaneous naval Battle of Artemisium was a stalemate, whereupon
the Athenian navy retreated. The Persians were now in control of
the Aegean Sea and all of peninsular Greece as far south as Attica.
The Spartans prepared to defend the Isthmus of Corinth and the
Peloponnese, while Xerxes sacked an evacuated city of Athens, whose
inhabitants had already fled to Salamis Island. In September, the
Greeks defeated the Persians at the naval Battle of Salamis, which
led to the rapid retreat of Xerxes. The remaining Persian army,
left under the charge of Mardonius, was defeated in the Battle
of Plataea by a combined Greek army again led by the Spartans,
under the regent Pausanias.
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