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Sunday, April 05, 2015

THERMOPYLAE: VISITING A FAMOUS BATTLE SITE

The Battle of Thermopylae:  This famous battle was fought in 490 BC between an alliance of the Greek city states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persians, led by Xerxes 1.  The battle took place over three days.
Battle site


The Greek force of approximately 7,000 men marched north to block the pass of Themopylae, which would simultaneously block the Persian navy at the Straits of Artemisium. According to some sources the Persian army was said to have numbered over one million but was likely much smaller (perhaps 1000,000 and 150,000).  The Greeks arrived at the pass some time in late August or early September and managed to hold off the Persians for seven days before the rear-guard was annihilated. During two full days of battle, a small force of Spartans lead by Leonidas blocked the road through the pass so the Persians could not enter. After the second day they were betrayed by a local resident named Ephialtes, who showed the Persians how to access the pass by a different route thereby cutting off and trapping the Greeks. Brave Leonidas, knowing that they were outflanked, sent back the bulk of the Greek army and stayed, with his 300 Spartans, 700 Thespiasn, and 400 Thebans to defend the pass. Most them, including the 300 Spartans, were killed.

 map of battle

The Pass 
Because our trip to the islands had been hindered by bad weather, after our bus tour group left the spa resort at Kamena Vourla, we were treated to a side-trip Thermopylae, known for its hot springs.
Thermopylae, known for its hot springs. It was also called the "Hot Gates" 

The day we were there

 We stopped  view the monument in honour of Leonidas and his brave Spartans, and a visit to the small museum where you can view videos explaining the whole battle.
Statue honouring Leonidas and the Spartans

Thermopylae Museum
There was also an amazing exhibit of helmets from bronze age to Classical and Hellenic eras.  The artist who made them was there to explain each one.  There were also interesting murals of battle scenes and other artifacts on view.
Museum exhibits and artwork




Spartan helmet

One of my favorite novels is 'GATES OF FIRE" by Steven Pressfield, who has been very supportive of me and my writing of Shadow of the Lion.  This book tells about the famous battle of Thermopylae and the life of the Spartans. I've also had the privilege of visiting Sparta on a couple of occasions. Although there are few ruins left it is interesting to see the location of their city. There is also a fine statue honouring Leonidas.

I was quite thrilled to get the chance to visit this new museum and if you are interested in this period of Greek history, I recommend you make the journey.  Up in the entrance to the pass there is also a monument to the 300 Spartans which I have seen on occasions when I took the bus from Northern Greece to the south.
(* note: some of these photos are from internet sources.)