Battle of Thermopylae, August 480 BC

Bildergebnis für jacques louis david leonidas at thermopylaeLeonidas at Thermopylae is an 1814 painting by Jacques-Louis David now on show at the Louvre. It shows the Spartan king Leonidas prior to the Battle of Thermopylae.

Thermopylae or Thermopílai in Greek, means hot gates. It is so called because of the hot springs in the area.

Where is Thermopylae Located?

Thermopylae, or Thermopylai, is a very narrow pass on Greece’s east coast. Back then it was the entrance to Greece from the north. The pass is 4 miles or 6 kilometers long.

At the time of the battle, the cliffs were right by the sea, making the pass a real pass. Today, the water is about a mile away.

Who Fought the Battle of Thermopylae?

Greek King Leonidas, 300 Spartans,

1,100 Boeotians, and their slaves

vs.

Persian King Xerxes and a huge Persian army.

The size of the Persian army differs depending on who you ask. Some say Xerxes had 200,000 troops, some say it was closer to 400,000.

In any event, the Battle of Thermopylae is most likely one of the most outnumbered battles ever fought.

Battle of Thermopylae - Map

Battle Action

The Spartans kept a much larger Persian army busy, but busy long enough for the Greeks at home to get ready to defeat the Persians.

The battle lasted two or three days and the Greeks might have been even more successful if Greek traitor Ephialtes wouldn’t have shown the Persians a secret path around the pass. This path enabled the Persians to attack the Greeks from both sides.

The Exact Dates of the Battle of Thermopylae

The Battle of Thermopylae took place over a period of three days in mid-August 480 BC. The exact dates are not known.

During the first two days, the Persians suffered many losses. At the end of the second day, the Persians were shown the pass, which led them behind the Greek army.

Parallel to their attack at Thermopylae, the Persians attacked at sea in the naval Battle of Artemisium. When the Greeks heard about the setback at Thermopylae, they withdrew southward.

Who Won the Battle of Thermopylae?

The Persians won the battle but the Greeks won the war.

The Battle of Thermopylae was part of the Greco-Persian Wars.

 What Were the Casualties of the Battle of Thermopylae?

The Persians killed each and every one of their enemies. But the Greeks gave them the fight of their lifetime. Persian King Xerxes ordered to bury some of his fallen soldiers because he was embarrassed by the great number the Greeks managed to slay.

Read the story straight from the source: The History of Herodotus by Herodotus

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4 thoughts on “Battle of Thermopylae, August 480 BC

  1. Sad. and extremely interesting, so those guys in the picture all died? Why do they show the soldiers nude? It seems they would be so vulnerable. If they are using the hot springs, then why do they have some of their battle gear on, if not only to depict they are soldiers? I know they didn’t go into battle nude, but perhaps I don’t understand its purpose in being so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all repelled by it. If they were preparing for war, then would it be akin to a last meal, as none survived? It’s just a curiosity.
    As modest as some generations prior to mine were about the human body, I find it interesting that so much famous art is of nudes. Perhaps I need to take an art course. LOL

    • This is a painting of the 300 Spartans! Yes they all died but they also took a big number of their enemy with them. Now the naked body in ancient Greece i guess it wasn’t that much taboo as it is now. The Spartans were the best warriors Greece had and in battle they carried a shield, a spire and a sword, so they wasn’t vulnerable at all. Ancient Greeks philosophy was that man must have a strong body and a sharp mind!

      • Sounds good to me. Thanks for the input. Yes, it sounded like they were veritable opponents. I think it’s funny that the opponents buried their dead so their egos would be less visibly tarnished. LOL

  2. I’ve read the Spartans were the ultimate warriors and that a Spartan mother would tell her son to come back with his shield or on it. Now that’s strict. Good post. 🙂 — Suzanne

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