Leonidas 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
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.
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