leonidas

Almost nothing is known of his life. The exact date of his birth is as unknown as is of his childhood. Even the  events surrounding his epic struggle in 480 B.C. are shrouded in mystery and open to controversy.  persia’s king  Xerxes, assembled his mighty army, which even modern scholarship concedes may have totaled 25 million, he dispatched spies and diplomats to demand the submission of the Greeks. This army was well-stocked with cavalry and had at its core the 10,000-man elite body known as the Immortals.   Leonidas selected 300 citizen warriors, but he only chose among the best who had sons so that no family line would become extinct through the death of the father 4,000 troops from the peloponnesian states accompanied Leonidas.  While en route to Thermopylae, Leonidas was joined by 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans, 1,000 Phocians, and 1,000 Locrians so that his small army totaled about 7,000.  Leonidas decided to stand and fight. At the same time, he sent messengers to several cities to ask for help.  Xerxes’ Mede and Cissian divisions moved in first, fighting inside the Pass for several hours. These units were mauled by the better armed and more skillful Greeks. During the second half of the day, Xerxes called on his elite guard, the Immortals, led by the able Hydarnes. Once inside Thermopylae, however, they could not make their superior numbers felt. During the course of the second day’s battles, the Persians fared no better. On that second day, however, the Persian King received an extraordinary gift A local Greek by the name of Ephialtes offered to guide the Persians over the Anapaea Path for a reward.  That evening, Hydarnes and his Immortals entered the mountainous forest of oak trees near the Asopus River and climbed to the summit where they caught the Phocian Greeks off guard. Pelting the Phocians with arrows, the Immortals bypassed them and continued along the path, the end of which would place them at the village of Alpenoi at the eastern end of Thermopylae directly at Leonidas’s rear.  On the final, fatal dawn, Leonidas heard from scout runners that they would soon be surrounded.   Realizing they would soon be hit by the Immortals from the rear, Leonidas advanced past the Phocian wall into a wider part of the Pass in order to more fully deploy and inflict maximum damage on the enemy while there was still time.  Leonidas fell, fighting no doubt, from the front rank in the tradition of a Spartan king. Immediately, a struggle ensued over possession of his body. After pushing back four Persian attacks, the Greeks successfully claimed their King’s remains.

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