The 300 Spartans

by Glen

A small group of brave men stood against a vastly superior force.

King Xerxes meant to burn Athens and Sparta to the ground, and slay every man there, selling the women and children into slavery. But to get to Athens his army had to pass through very mountainous country. At one part it was necessary to go through a narrow pass called the Pass of Thermopylae. This was entered by a small path which had steep· cliffs on one side and the sea on the other.

Then the road ran for about a mile between the sea and the cliffs, coming at last to another tiny path round the cliff like that at the entrance. After that the way was easy.

300 spartans

King Leonidas and his Spartans

"If we can keep the Pass of Thermopylae the Persians will not be able to come to Athens," said the leaders of the Greeks. "We will send soldiers there and they shall stop the Persians from coming any further."

So Leonidas, King of the Spartans, took 300 of his men and went to Thermopylae. On the way others joined him, and when he arrived at the Pass he had 7,000 men with him. He found an old wall in the narrowest part of the Pass, and this he commanded to be rebuilt, so that if the Persians tried to rush past him his men would have some defense.

The Coming of Xerxes

Soon Xerxes arrived with his vast army. He was told that Leonidas and the Spartans were holding the Pass so that the Persians might not get through.

"He will not stay there long!" said Xerxes with a laugh. "All we need do is to camp outside the Pass and when Leonidas sees our tremendous numbers he will run away!"

But the Spartans took no notice of the great camp outside the Pass and Xerxes grew impatient. He sent scouts to see what the enemy were doing, and when they came back and told him what they had seen he was amazed.

"These Spartans are combing out their long hair and wrestling with each other," reported the scouts. "Their arms are stacked against the wall, and they took no notice of us, though we rode as near as we dared."

"These men are mad," said Xerxes.

"Nay, they are not," said one who knew the Spartans and their customs. "These Spartans always comb their hair and deck it when they are going into battle to fight to the death. Oh, Xerxes, if you can defeat these men you will easily conquer the whole of Greece! "

Xerxes sent an angry message to Leonidas, bidding him surrender and give up his arms. Leonidas sent back a short fierce message- "Come and take them."

The Battle Begins

Then the Persian king determined to destroy the Spartans utterly, and he sent a strong band of soldiers to fight them. As soon as the Spartans saw that battle was to be given them at last they rejoiced and went eagerly to the fray. But the Persians found the Pass so narrow, that only a few men could get by at a time, and these were at once killed by the waiting Spartans. Again and again the Persians tried to storm the Pass, but time after time they were driven back, hundreds of their number being killed whilst not one of the Spartans was yet slain.

Xerxes was furiously angry. How dare Leonidas keep the Pass like this and force his great army to camp outside, rapidly getting short of food.

"I will send my Ten Thousand Immortals against them," said Xerxes, "then they will soon be destroyed."

Fighting Becomes Fiercer

Proudly the Ten Thousand marched against the Spartans. But since the Pass was so narrow they could not use the full force of their numbers. The Spartans were now enjoying themselves to the full, and played many a trick on the unwitting Persians. Often they would pretend to be overcome with terror, and would fly away down the Pass, with the Ten Thousand after them. Then they would turn on them, and in the narrow space would slay hundreds, giving no mercy and expecting none.

Three times that day did Xerxes leap up from his throne in terror, thinking that the Spartans were defeating his forces and destroying them completely.

The battle went on till night fell, and still the Pass was held.

A Cowardly Traitor

Xerxes was in despair, when a cowardly Greek called Ephialtes came to him, and said that in return for gold he would lead the Persians by a secret path over the hills, and show them how they could enter the other end of the Pass, and fall upon the Spartans from the back. Joyfully Xerxes consented, and sent a large band of men off with the traitor.

Now Leonidas heard that he had been betrayed, and knew at once that defeat was certain. So he called all his 7,000 men to him, and told them that any man who wished to go might do so before the Persians came upon them.

All left the Pass at once, with the exception of the brave 300 Spartans, whose law bade them either win or die. Soon the Pass was empty save for Leonidas and his dauntless little force.

His Wonderful Three Hundred

Leonidas did not mean to be caught in the Pass and slain easily. He gave the command to charge the whole Persian army! He and his force suddenly rushed out from the Pass and attacked the terrified Persians, who were so afraid of the Spartans that they had to be whipped on to the fight by their officers.

Again and again the Spartans charged the Persians, and soon hundreds were slain or drowned in the nearby sea.

Then suddenly Leonidas heard a shout behind him, and turned to see the traitor leading the Persians up the Pass to attack him from the back.

Leonidas at once retired to a little hillock with the men he had left, and there made a last stand. The Spartans fought with spears, and when these were broken they drew their swords. At the last they had to use their bare hands, for even their swords were smashed.

One by one the Spartans fell. The Persians sent arrows, spears, javelins and stones against the brave little band, and shouted with joy as they saw it get smaller and smaller. What could stand against such an onslaught?

To the Death

Then at last not a Spartan was left. Of all that wonderful 300 nothing could be seen but a still and silent heap of dead. They had obeyed their law, and fought to the death.

Afterwards the Greeks put a stone lion on the spot where the Spartans fell, and on it were carved these words for all the passers-by to read:

"Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by, That here obedient to their laws we lie."

The War Continues...

Updated: 03/14/2012, Glen
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
cmoneyspinner on 04/13/2013

Great retelling of the story. But in the end, it seems a loss of precious human life because of the vanity of men.

tandemonimom on 06/27/2011

Wonderful retelling of the story! The addition of dates and maybe a map would be helpful, too.

Prospero on 06/24/2011

riveting stuff! Good to see you here Glen.

SimeyC on 06/22/2011

The documentary you list was far better than the 'action' movie 300 - amazing story! thanks for the aritcle!

You might also like

The Introduction of Women in The Military: Women's Auxiliary C...

What part did women play during the First World War, and how important was it?

My Grandfather's War

My Grandfather enlisted in the Australian Army in October 1916 to serve in th...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...