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Forum LockedThe Battle of Thermopylae

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TMPikachu View Drop Down
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    Posted: 20-Oct-2006 at 16:40
What exactly went on in that event? Was there really only 300? I'm not expert on this, which is why I'm asking.

Didn't Sparta also use slave-soldiers (helots?) So would they have reinforced the 300?

And in general, Persia just seems really, really weak. The only time they're ever mentioned in history books is in crushing defeats to european powers. But I figure "that aint right", Persian empire was something to be feared back then, which is what made the Spartan stand off so impressive.

I just find it hard to believe that only 300 men, even in a chokepoint, could've killed as many persians as depicted. I imagine there was some glorification to it, or alot.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Adalwolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Oct-2006 at 17:32
I believe there were probably a few hundred helots with them, as well as about 700 Thespians. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hellios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Oct-2006 at 18:23
Originally posted by TMPikachu TMPikachu wrote:

What exactly went on in that event? Was there really only 300? I'm not expert on this, which is why I'm asking.

Didn't Sparta also use slave-soldiers (helots?) So would they have reinforced the 300?

And in general, Persia just seems really, really weak. The only time they're ever mentioned in history books is in crushing defeats to european powers. But I figure "that aint right", Persian empire was something to be feared back then, which is what made the Spartan stand off so impressive.
 
I just find it hard to believe that only 300 men, even in a chokepoint, could've killed as many persians as depicted. I imagine there was some glorification to it, or alot.
 
OMG, there are too many Spartan threads now.  Here, I'll just cut & paste from another thread:
 
The 300 Spartans?  You mean the battle of Thermopylae.  Man, I don't feel like debating that one, so I'll make it very short:
 
For some Greek nationalists the battle of Thermopylae is like a national heroic thing.  I say just respect those members & don't antagonize them.
 
For others the battle of Thermopylae is "propaganda".
 
For me, the battle of Thermopylae was just another battle where a numerically inferior army was able to cause disproportionate losses to the enemy through the strategic use of terrain, before eventually succumbing to superior numbers.  Debating the exact numerical ratio is rather pointless.
 


Edited by Hellios - 20-Oct-2006 at 18:25
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote konstantinius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Oct-2006 at 22:51
    Sparta didn't use helots in the front line; they followed their masters as servants. It's not that there couldn't have been more Spartans; this was supposed to be a delaying action. The main stand would be made at the higly defensible Isthmus of Corinth by the Athenians and the bulk of the Peloponesian cities, including Sparta. Thermopylae was supposed to buy time untill the wall being erected across the narrow strait was finished an all forces assembled.
    When Leonidas realized fully the hopelesness of their situation, he followed the Greek way of free-thinking men and put it to vote in front of the assembled greeks. The Spartans, all 300 of them, and headed by their king, were of course going to stay; they had been directed to do so by their city and they were equals among equals willingly doing their duty. The multitude of the Persian levies had been conscripted to fight in the multi-national army of a foreign king for whom they didn't particularly care. This might be one element in helping you understand the ratio of the killing.
    Leonidas thanked the allies and assured that leaving was not cowardice; most of them voted to leave except the 700 Plataeans who decided to stay on their own FREE WILL. Perhaps the fact that the city of Plataea is not far from Thermopylae might have counted in their decision: in the eyes of the Persians they were enemies and their city would suffer the consequences.
    An earthen rampart was thrown up apparently completely blocking the path between the shore--a little narrower than today's-- and the foothills of the inland mountain. Along this wall, brutal close combat must have commenced for three days untill the Persians, guided by a local traitor, Efialtes, skirted over the mountain along a path and hit the Spartans from behind.  The last of them were  taken down by arrows from afar since  the Persians  had suffered so heavily up close. Supposively their tomb is approximately where today's statue of Leonidas stands off to the side of the coastal road. A sign apparently existed at the grave that has since become a symbol of selfless sacrifice for one's country. In ancient Greek, it rendered something like: "O stranger, you who pass by, tell the Lakaedemonians that we are lying here faithfull till the end to their callings." I'm Greek by birth and this brings tears to my eyes; speaking of sentimentalization!Embarrassed
     The rest of the campaign was a disaster for the Persians; although they captured and burned Athens, they suffered the heaviest recorded naval defeat of all times at Salamis. The army that was left behind under Mardonius was severely defeated at Plataea the next year and suffered heavily in its retreat back across Thessaly and Macedonia.

The Persian civilization is very old and has gone through different phases. The empire that attacked the Greek cities had been built not too long ago by Cyrus I when the Medes brought down the second and last Assyrian (Babylonian) empire. The Persians dominated the Medes, expanded into A. Minor, and came into conflict with the Ionian cities, sister ones of those back on the greek mainland. Miletus revolt, was backed by Athens, and was crushed by the Persians who launched punitive expendition  that resulted in the first defeat at Marathon. The next year they show up in force and the result was Thermopylae/Salamis.
The Persian empire of the time inherited the long traditions of the previous civilizations in the area--Sumerian and Babylonian among others-- and was extending over a huge expanse of territory reaching out to the Aegean and the Lebanese coast. There were magnicifent public buildings and cities like Ctesiphon and Persepolis, a law code, Zoroastrian religion, a good road system and the world's first postal mounted service, mainly serving military reasons. Persepolis was probably the major metropolis of its time, comparable only perhaps to Babylon; unfortunately it was burned to the ground by Alexander and we will never know what it really looked like. The only thing that survives today are the bases of columns, a sad reminder of the previous magnificense of the place. Militarily the Persian elite fought mounted as cavalry supplemented by a small, professional infantry force at the core of which laid the "Immortals", the king's bodyguard; they fought mainly as archers and were equipped with light infantry weapons and wicker shields. This core was supplemented by the levies due to the king's army from all the subject peoples; thus the Persians could field very large armies which was one reason for their military succes to that date, against peoples of similar military disposition. On the downside, the army lacked coherence, fought differently, spoke different tongues, dressed unlike, and was, at times, literally proded into battle by its Persian officers at the back of the line with whips in their hands.
Nothing had prepared the Persians for the encounter with the heavily armored hoplite of the Greek cities who fought aggressively and upfront in what is now known as close quarters shock combat. Also, nothing had prepared the Persians for the encounter with the Greek spirirt of the polis, the city-state: self-determination, non-theocratic way of thinking, representative goverment and civil rights, and willful military service.  I can almost visualize  the terror of the untrained, tribal Persian levies (the elite units probably did a lot better but they were very lightly armed) as they were carried by the human waves behind them against the  metal of the phalanx who itself heaving and bleeding, feet slipping in a soil soaked with blood and excrement, pushed against the enormous wall of flesh in front of it, in a brutal, bloody horrendous encounter. The hoplites were exhausted, of course, and more of them died or became incapacitated by wounds and broken limbs. Each renewed Persian assault thinned the Spartan ranks as well. There are characteristic incidents of non-chalant heroism, like the blinded Spartan (lost both eyes during combat) who was ordered to return to Sparta by Leonidas but refused (yes, Greeks could REFUSE their king, in Persia you would be flayed alive) since he knew that he would be rejected by his omoioi ("equals", the class of full spartan citizens) back home regardless of his being blind. Or the Persian amazement of how calmly the Spartans prepared for a lost battle in which they were going to die, carefully oiling and combing their long, dark hair (it was Spartan custom that death in battle should find someone when he looked at his best; in other words, they dressed up for war and dying).


There are several themes that contribute to the easy idealisation of thermopylae in western eyes:
--democratic west vs. opulent, theocratic east with west winning.
--admiration of a perfectly-tuned military machine such as that of Sparta
--admiration of the moral code of the spartans.
--cultural connection, i.e. west has become the heir of Greco-roman civ.
--hollywood with the upcoming "300"; what f...ing freaks the Persians really
  wereLOL!!


Edited by konstantinius - 21-Oct-2006 at 07:33
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Balaam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Oct-2006 at 09:26
I thought it was 700 Spartans not 300?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Adalwolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Oct-2006 at 13:36
I don't think the helots were used on the front lines either, I think they used javelins and slings behind the Spartan front line.

To Balaam: it was 300 Spartans, and 700 Thespians. The 300 Spartans were King Leonidas' personaly body guard.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kids Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Oct-2006 at 14:06
I doubt that the Greco-Perisan war was a really significant chapter in the Persian history.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Imperator Invictus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Oct-2006 at 16:03
The Greco Persian war wasn't even the most important border invasion to the Achaemenid Empire. Of greater importance is probably the Persian campaign against the Massagetae, which saw Cyrus the Great killed in battle.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote konstantinius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Oct-2006 at 20:02
Originally posted by Kids Kids wrote:

I doubt that the Greco-Perisan war was a really significant chapter in the Persian history.


No, of course it wasn't. Alexander who would later destroy the entire empire was Chinese, as we all knowSmile


Edited by konstantinius - 21-Oct-2006 at 20:03
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Timotheus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Oct-2006 at 21:55
I find it interesting how the Thespians always get overlooked. Hanson had an interesting bit about that in his book Ripples of Battle.

And no, it wasn't a significant chapter in Persian history, but it certainly was in Greek history, and by progression in Western Civilization -- though, I might add, likely not as important as Salamis.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Quinnthology Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Oct-2006 at 01:18
Gates of Fire is a great book on this issue.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote perikles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Oct-2006 at 07:27
Originally posted by Kids Kids wrote:

I doubt that the Greco-Perisan war was a really significant chapter in the Persian history.

    I am sure that it wasn't
Lets see the facts. Persia lost thousand of troops, spent so many funds and of course the Greeks wanted to revenge and counter strike with Alexander the Great which prevail the mighty Persian empire and some part of India.
So i guess it wasn't big deal.
And if we think the firt attempt of Persians to Athens and Marathanona that were completely defated by the army of Athens... i guess you are right!!!
This campaign was the beggining of the disaster for the Persian empire
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote konstantinius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Oct-2006 at 08:08
Originally posted by Quinnthology Quinnthology wrote:

Gates of Fire is a great book on this issue.


I agree. Brutal descriptions of battle, for one.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote perikles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Oct-2006 at 10:10
Originally posted by konstantinius konstantinius wrote:


Originally posted by Quinnthology Quinnthology wrote:

Gates of Fire is a great book on this issue.
I agree. Brutal descriptions of battle, for one.

    great book it describes the battle and the way of life of Spartans very good. Many detais

    

Edited by perikles - 22-Oct-2006 at 10:10
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Edited by Hellios - 23-Oct-2006 at 10:32
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmata Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Oct-2006 at 13:40
The battle of thermopylae was actually fought with 7,000 Greeks against 200,000 Persians. Themistocles, the Athenian leader wanted to confront the persians by land and sea, while Leonidas and his royal guard of 300 Spartans took position at Thermopylae. According to one of my sources. in reality the Thermopylae battle had 2 stages, by sea and land; Leonidas and hist Spartans faced the persians by land, according to my book it says that "Leonidas and his 300 Spartan hoplites, along with a thousand or more other greek soldiers, fought courageously to their deaths." Im not sure if its right or not, but its what i got in one of my books, just sharing...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Yiannis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Oct-2006 at 04:23
The army's position at Thermopylae was closely linked to the Greek Navy's blockade at Artemisium. Than means that after the stalemate in the battle between Greek and Persian navy at Artemisium and the subsequence Greek navy withdrawal, the army's position at Thermopylae was anyway unattainable, because the Persian would soon be able to disembark troops behind them.
 
Same would be the other way round. If the Army was defeated, the Navy would not be able to hold at Artemisium since the coast would be at enemy hands (no possibilities for watering, resting of sailors etc).
 
So if the operation to hold the Persians off was to succeed, both Army and Navy had to hold their ground.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hellios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Oct-2006 at 05:34
Yiannis...
 
LOL
 
 
Tongue
 
 
LOL
 
 
 
lol...
 


Edited by Hellios - 25-Oct-2006 at 05:36
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Darius of Parsa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Oct-2007 at 06:11

7,000 greeks defeated 30,000 or so Persians using a 10 foot long pike. This is not very impresive on the Greek's side, the only reason they deafeated so many Persians is because of their phalanx formation. The Persian spear (roughly 6 feet long) couldnt reach the Greeks and their master marksmanship didnt touch the Greeks. (the spartans had thick armour) The 300 Spartans were an elite group of Greeks that assisted in the battle, but did not fight the Persians single handedly



Edited by Darius of Parsa - 03-Oct-2007 at 06:13
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Temujin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Oct-2007 at 18:25
contrary to popular believe, the Hoplite armour did not cover the whole body and even an arrow in the tigh would already disable a Hoplite and thin the ranks of the phalanx.
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