In the Battle of Thermopylae of 480 BC, an alliance of Greek city-states
fought the invading Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae in
Vastly outnumbered, they held back the invader
of history's most famous last stands. A small force led by King
Leonidas of Sparta blocked the only road through which the massive
Xerxes I could pass. After three days of battle, a local resident
named Ephialtes betrayed them by revealing a mountain path
that led behind their lines. Dismissing the rest of the army,
King Leonidas stayed behind with 300 Spartans and 700 Thespian
volunteers. Though they knew it meant their own deaths, they held
and secured the retreat of the other forces.
succeeded in taking the pass but sustained heavy losses, extremely
to those of the Greeks. The fierce resistance of the Spartan-led
army offered Athens the invaluable time to prepare for a decisive
The performance of the defenders at the battle of Thermopylae
is often used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment,
and good use of terrain to maximize an army's potential, and has
become a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds. The heroic
sacrifice of the Spartans and the Thespians has captured the minds
of many throughout the ages and has given birth to many cultural
references as a result.
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