Battle of Thermopylae
Warlike confrontation that took place in 480 BC. C., in the Thermopylae gorge. Causes and consequences of Battle of Thermopylae
|Date||September 480 BC C.|
|Belligerents||Persian Army vs. Greek army.|
|Outcome||Persian army victory.|
The battle of Thermopylae was a warlike confrontation that took place in early September 480 BC. C. in the gorge of Thermopylae , current territory of the Hellenic Republic of Greece.
This battle comprises the second of the medical wars , during which two great forces faced each other:
- Persian army : made up of about 250,000 men and led by the Achaemenid emperor Xerxes I.
- Greek Army : made up of troops sent by different Greek polis, especially Athens and Sparta. At Thermopylae, the Greek forces were represented by a contingent of 300 Spartan hoplites led by their king Leonidas and some 5,000 allies, from different regions of Hellas, including Arcadia.
The victory of this battle was obtained by the Persians, after a heroic resistance on the part of the Greeks.
Development of the Battle of Thermopylae
The Persian troops crossed the Strait of the Dardanelles (ancient Hellespont) using two floating bridges. Then they occupied Thrace and Macedonia and invaded Hellas from the north. However, to be able to enter the country of the Greeks they had to cross the Thermopylae gorge , also called Hot Gates, because there were hot springs there. Causes and consequences of Battle of Thermopylae
In the V century a. This gorge consisted of a pass about 100 meters wide, between the slopes of the mountains and a cliff with an almost straight fall towards the Aegean Sea. That narrow place was chosen by the Greeks to stop the invading forces from passing by , since it canceled out the numerical difference and prevented them from being overtaken by the flanks.
At the same time, and so that the Persians could not disembark with their troops south of Thermopylae, the Greek fleet blocked the passage of the Asian navy in the Strait of Artemisium.
Once at Thermopylae, Xerxes sent emissaries to try to convince Leonidas to surrender, but the Spartan king rejected all the offers made by the Persians.
Xerxes launched several waves of invaders one after another, but all were repulsed by the Greeks. They fought in close formation, side by side, brandishing long spears with their right hand and holding bronze shields with their left. The Persians fought with small wicker shields and shorter spears. Thrown on the run, they crashed into an impenetrable wall of shields and pointed spears.
The Persian victory was possible due to the betrayal of a Greek, Ephialtes of Thessaly , who led the Persians through a little-known trail that put the Asians in the rear of the defenders. Seeing himself surrounded, Leonidas ordered the flight of the allies and prepared to resist with his three hundred Spartans. It also had about 1,000 men who refused to leave.
Taken front and back, the Greeks were finally defeated and slaughtered with a hail of Persian arrows .
Causes and consequences of the Battle of Thermopylae
The causes of the Battle of Thermopylae were the following:
- The defeat suffered by the Persians in the first medical war, the Battle of Marathon , which was a great humiliation for the Persian Emperor Darius I. Causes and consequences of Battle of Thermopylae
- The desire of Xerxes I to avenge the defeat suffered by the imperial troops, in addition to subduing the Greeks and extending their dominions across the Balkan peninsula . Xerxes had ascended the throne in 486 BC. C. and was the son of Dario I and Atosa, daughter of Ciro the Great, founder of the Persian Empire .
- The firm decision of the Greek polis to defend their independence and freedom and prevent their country from becoming part of the Persian Empire.
- The execution of the Persian ambassadors in Athens and Sparta . In 481 a. C., Xerxes had sent emissaries to all the cities of Hellas to demand the delivery “of the water and the earth” like symbol of submission to their authority. Most of the Greek cities accepted this demand. The Athenians, on the other hand, tried the Persian ambassadors, sentenced them to death, and executed them. In Sparta, King Leonidas had them thrown into a well without any process. Xerxes considered the murder of his emissaries a declaration of war.
The consequences of the Battle of Thermopylae were as follows:
- Despite having lost 20,000 men, the Persian forces penetrated Hellas and occupied Boeotia . They then invaded the Attica region and sacked the city of Athens , which had been abandoned by its inhabitants.
- The seven days lost by Xerxes at Thermopylae gave the Greeks time to assemble a powerful army with which to face the invasion.
- Themistocles, the commander of the Greek fleet, withdrew to the south and stationed himself in the waters of the Saronic Gulf. There the battle of Salamis took place , during which the Greeks defeated the Persians.
Importance of the Battle of Thermopylae
The sacrifice at Thermopylae of Leonidas and the 300 Spartan hoplites endured over time as a symbol of the struggle for the defense of freedom, and of how discipline and proper use of the land could act as multiplier effects of the performance of a small army. , but well trained and with high morale.
So that this heroic defense will never be forgotten, the Greek government built a monument at Thermopylae surmounted by a bronze statue representing the Spartan monarch. A legend under the statue reads, “Come and take them,” the phrase with which Leonidas rejected all of Xerxes’ proposals to hand over his weapons and surrender. Causes and consequences of Battle of Thermopylae