“300 SPARTANS ALONE FOUGHT THE PERSIAN ARMY AT THERMOPYLAE”
In 480 BCE King Leonidas made a brave last stand against a horde of enemies at the head of only 300 of his ferocious hoplite warriors. It is one of the most compelling stories of ancient Greece, but is it entirely true?
In reality, between 6,000–7,000 fellow Greeks joined the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, travelling from across Greece to defend against the Persian invasion led by King Xerxes I. Among those fighting with the 300 Spartans, Herodotus lists 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans, 1,120 Arcadians, 1,000 Phocians, and more. Nonetheless, the Greeks were still greatly outnumbered against up to 100,000 Persian soldiers.
The Greek army was deployed in a narrow coastal pass, nicknamed the Hot Gate, where the overwhelming numbers of attacking Persians could not be effected. According to Herodotus, the crucial turning point in the battle came when the Persian army was led to a secret mountain pass, enabling them to overcome the Phocian guards.
In the 2006 film 300, it is at this point that the Spartans’ allies abandon them out of fear, while Leonidas declares he and his men will stay and fight to the death. However, even this scene is inaccurate, as several of the
Greek allies remained fighting to the bitter end, including those forces from Thespiae and Thebes.
While the Thespians reportedly stayed willingly with Leonidas,
Herodotus writes that the king kept the
Theban troops against their will. Regardless, the Persian army eventually crushed their Greek opponents, who had fought their way into legend.
King Leonidas I died at Thermopylae along with his 300 Spartan hoplites and their allies