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The ephors are a group of five priests of the old gods. While viewed as detestable, it is the tradition and the law to seek their blessing in matters of war. No king of Sparta has ever gone to war without their blessing.


When Leonidas planned to meet the oncoming army of Persia, he brought his plea to the ephors. They immediately rejected him, for waging war during the sacred festival of the approaching Karneia was forbidden. The ephors brought Leonidas' plea to the oracle. She made her statement in an ancient tongue, and the ephors translated, once again rejecting war. After Leonidas had gone, the ephors met with a Persian who promised them gold and women.