300 Spartans: the truth and fiction about the legendary battle of ThermopylaePictolic
Probably the legend of the 300 Spartans who bravely resisted the numerically superior army of the enemy to the last breath, heard it all. Hollywood movies dedicated to the plot, made a lot of noise, although historical accuracy to expect from them is not worth it. How was actually the legendary battle of Thermopylae?
Battle of Thermopylae happened in 480 BC during the Greco-Persian wars. Persia at that time was a young aggressive superpower, is seeking to expand its borders. Xerxes was the ruler, endowed with enormous power, autocratic and ambitious — he wanted to rule the world. He was feared but not worshiped, as shown in a Hollywood movie. Also surprising is its appearance — the king pierced, hung with chains, looks, to put it mildly, strange.
Persian soldiers of the guard "immortal". Detail of a mural from the Royal Palace
The attacking army of the Persians at times superior forces of the Greeks. According to various estimates, the number of Persians were from 80 to 250 thousand soldiers, the Greeks were 5 to 7 thousand. Despite unequal forces, in the first two days the Greeks repulsed the attacks of the Persians in Thermopylae gorge, but on the third day the tide of battle was broken. According to one version, a local resident Ephialtes told the Persians about the existence of a mountain of a workaround and showed it for a reward, on the other hand, the Persians themselves found this way. Anyway, on the third day they were able to enter from the rear. The messenger told the Spartans about it. Realizing unsuccessful outcome, Leonid himself invited the Greeks to return to their cities. He himself and his 300 Spartans remained.
Persian soldiers. The Palace bas-relief at Persepolis
If we abandon the excessive romanticizing and glorification of this decision, it becomes clear that Leonid had no other choice. In Sparta were very tough laws — without order no one had the right to retreat from the battlefield. If that happens — a Spartan will lose their civil rights, it will be a disgrace and exile. Leonid understood that all will die, but he had no choice, retreat was impossible. Spartan warrior had to fight to the death, otherwise he will become an outcast in society and he will wish for death, not to suffer the everlasting humiliation and contempt.
The Persian king Xerxes in the movie "the 300 Spartans"
Most of the questions raises the number of the Greek army. Herodotus on this occasion said the following: "the Hellenic forces waiting in the area of the Persian king consisted of 300 Spartan hoplites, 1000 tagarev and mantineia (for 500 and the other); then, 120 people from Orchomene in Arcadia and 1,000 from the rest of Arcadia. There were so many arcadias. Then, 400 from Corinth, 200 from Flint and 80 from Mycenae. These people came from the Peloponnese. From Boeotia there were 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans. In addition, the Greeks called for help OPENSKY larrow with all their militia and 1,000 fokichev". That is a total of 5200 soldiers. They were the servants of the helots.
Xerxes in the movie "the 300 Spartans"
The Spartans really were 300 — the number of soldiers in the guard was constant, if one died, his place was another. But in addition to the Spartans there were hundreds of Greeks from other city-States, totaling up to $ 5,000 and in the first two days of the battle they fought together at Thermopylae. But about 1,000 of the Greeks, in particular fespamers, left on their own, and after the order of Leonid back home. Nobody does not detract from the merit and the courage of the Spartans, but not only they were killed in an unequal battle that day. The loss of the Greeks during the three days amounted to about 4,000 people, of the Persians — 5 times more.
Shot from a film "300 Spartans", 2006
Hoplite — heavily armed Greek foot soldier
Jacques-Louis David. The battle of Thermopylae, 1814
The monument dedicated to the heroism of the 300 Spartans
The monument to king Leonidas and the 300 Spartans squad near the scene of the battle