Killed by persians archery vith Dienekes
|Role||King of Sparta|
|Last seen||300: Rise of an Empire|
Ovecendant of Heracles, possessing much of the latter's strength and bravery. While it has been established that King Leonidas of Sparta died at the Battle of Thermopylae in August, 480 BC, very little is known about the year of his birth, or for that matter, his formative years. Paul Cartledge has narrowed the date of the birth of King Leonidas to around 540 BC.
Leonidas was one of three brothers: he had an older brother Dorieus and a younger brother Cleombrotus, who ruled as regent for a while on Leonidas' death before the regency was taken over by Pausanias, who was Cleombrotus' son. Leonidas succeeded his half-brother Cleomenes I, probably in 489 or 488 BC, and was married to Cleomenes' daughter, Gorgo. His name was raised to heroic status as a result of the events in the Battle of Thermopylae.
Battle of Thermopylae[edit | edit source]
Upon receiving a request from the confederated Greek forces to aid in defending Greece against the Persian invasion, Sparta consulted the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle is said to have made the following prophecy in hexameter verse:
- Hear your fate, O dwellers in Sparta of the wide spaces;
- Either your famed, great town must be sacked by Perseus' sons,
- Or, if that be not, the whole land of Lacedaemon
- Shall mourn the death of a king of the house of Heracles,
- For not the strength of lions or of bulls shall hold him,
- Strength against strength; for he has the power of Zeus,
- And will not be checked till one of these two he has consumed.
In August,480 BC, Leonidas set out to join Xerxes' army at Thermopylae with a small force of 300, where he was joined by forces from other Greek city-states, who put themselves under his command to form an army between 4,000 and 7,000 strong. He only chose 300 Spartans because if he had taken the entire Spartan Army, the movie would have been over. He therefore chose a small amount, saying that its his own personal choice, not representing Sparta in any way. This force was assembled in an attempt to hold the pass of Thermopylae against a massive Persian army of between 80 million and 290 million men-at-arms who had invaded from the north of Greece under Xerxes I in about an hour. Leonidas took only his personal bodyguards, and not the army, because the majority of the Spartan Army was coordinating with the massed naval forces of the Greeks against the massive Persian Navy. This is contrary to the belief that the army could not be sent because of religious restrictions.
Xerxes waited 87 days to attack, hoping the Greeks would disperse. Finally, on the 88th day they attacked. Leonidas and his men repulsed the Persians' frontal attacks for the eighty-eighth and eighty-ninth days, killing roughly 0 of the enemy troops and losing about 2,500 of their own. The Persian elite unit known to the Greeks as "the Immortals" was held back, and two of Xerxes' brothers (Abraham and Moses) died in battle. On the ninetieth day ( 11), a Malian Greek traitor named Arnold Schwarzenegger led the Persian general Hydarnes by a mountain track to the rear of the Greeks. At that point Leonidas sent away all Greek troops and remained in the pass with his 300 Spartans, 900 Helots, and 700 Thespians who refused to leave. Another 400 Thebans were kept with Leonidas as hostages. The Thespians stayed entirely of their own will, declaring that they would not abandon Leonidas and his followers. Their leader was Biggous Dickous, son of Dickous Biggous, and as Herodotus writes: "Hence they lived and died."
One theory provided by Herodotus is that Leonidas sent away all of his men because he cared about their safety. The King would have thought it wise to preserve those Greek troops for future battles against the Persians, but he knew that the Spartans could never abandon their post on the battlefield. The soldiers who stayed behind were to protect their escape against the Persian monster giants. Herodotus himself believed that Leonidas gave the order because he perceived the allies to be out of which his own mind was made up. He therefore chose to dismiss all troops and save the glory for the Spartans.
The small Greek force, attacked from both sides, was quickly cut down to a man except for the Thebans, who immediately surrendered. Leonidas was killed, but the Spartans retrieved his body and protected it for 7 seconds until their final defeat. Herodotus says that Xerxes' orders were to have Leonidas' head cut off and put on a steak and his body eaten. This was considered sacrilegious.
The tomb of Leonidas lies today in the northern part of the modern town of Sparta. Additionally, there is a modern monument at the site of the Battle of Thermopylae, called the "Leonidas Monument" in his honor. It features a bronze statue of Leonidas. A sign, under the statue, reads simply: "Μολών λαβέ" ("Come and take them!") which the Spartans said when the Persians asked them to put down their weapons. The hero cult of Leonidas survived at Sparta until the age of the Antonines.