Ancient civilization battle of thermopylae


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Ancient civilizations are long gone but their footprint exists in almost all aspects of our current western culture. the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and other non existing cultures laid the foundations for what we consider great western civilization and culture. No matter what direction we look and what understanding we seek, we find the legacy of the ancient people. We see the influence of old cultures in science, arts, architecture, law and medicine. We get excited with any new archeological discoveries of something from the far past. We want to know more about their daily lives, how they existed and how they died. the history of ancient Greek civilization and Greek mythology been for a long time a subject for many historians, fiction writers, poets and  movie makers. Recently Hollywood filmmakers created a movie which sparked a lot of discussions, arguments about its historical value and international controversy over the Hollywood's portrait of Persian people.

In this paper we will examine the historical battle of thermopylae, the movie '300' and discuss the legacy and influence of this specific battle on entire western civilization.

The battle of thermopylae took place late in the summer 480. It has been considered as one of the bloodiest battles in the history of all battles. A very small force of soldiers led by Spartan King Leonidas fought for 3 days with a  huge army of Persian king Xerxes. After 3 days of bloody fight, as the legend says, a local resident betrayed King Leonidas and showed the Persian King a mountain path used by goats. Persians used it to get behind the Spartans and conquered the small army of 300 who stayed and fought till the last man was dead.

The Persian empire was one of the most powerful empires in history. Darius I, the great emperor  of Persia, tired to expand his empire by possessing more territories and reached for Greek city-states in 491. He asked for a gift of 'earth and water' as a token of submission to him. Some of the city-states obliged and some refused. this prompted for Darius to attack Greece with a big force and hatred. He destroyed Naxos and Eretria. He moved to attack Athens, and was met with a huge Athenian army.

The battle of marathon was a big success for Athens but left  Darius very mad. He began raising a huge new army and all he wanted now was to conquer entire Greece. Darius died before conquering the Greece but his son Xerxes was left with a big task to complete the family business. According to historians 'there was never much doubt in Xerxes 's mind that the conquest of mainland Greece was unfinished family business and a top priority of imperial action'. (P. Cartledge, 2006)

It was a custom for Xerxes to give his enemy the chance to accept the new emperor and avoid the armed invasion. And many of smaller city-states did so. When Xerxes sent his messengers to Sparta and asked to the 'earth and water', King Leonidas kicked the messengers down a well. the proud nation of Sparta would never submit to Xerxes. leonidas understands that his action will prompt for the Xerxes invasion. August 480 BC is time for the Greek religious festival of Carneia and no one ever goes to war during that time. the legend of thermopylae, as told by Herodotus ,has it that Leonidas consulted the Oracle of Delphi before going to war. the Oracle predicted that by going to war Leonidas and his people will die. Convinced that death is coming, Leonidas selected only Spartans with living sons to continue the legacy of the Sparta after they all die in the battle. the place to stop the invading Persians was carefully selected because of its strategic importance.

As mentioned in. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 'Hot gates due to existing hot springs, thermopylae represented the best chance to stop  or at least delay the Persian army'. A narrow mountain pass, thermopylae was a bottleneck which Persians had to go thru in order to get to Sparta. So, the battle started and lasted for 3 days. Persians did not expect such a defense and the tactical approach to the fight. According to historical sources, Xerxes allegedly sent message to Leonidas :  'Hand over your arms '. 'Leonidas is said to have sent back a classically laconic response (just two words in Spartan geeks - molon labe ): 'Come and get them yourself!' (P.Cartledge ,2006). In the end of 2nd day of the battle, a Greek traitor showed the Xerxes secret path to get behind the Greek army where 'rather ill-prepared, and unprofessional Greek hoplite troops ' were not able to protect  Leonidas 's soldiers. When the Persian army attacked Spartans from the front and back, Leonidas knew that the end was coming. the prophecy of Oracle would come true.

Leonidas too showed himself a true Spartan by words with which he allegedly ordered his men to take their early-morning meal before the final encounter: 'This evening, we shall dine in Hades. ' (P. Cartledge, 2006). As some resources say, the Greeks had killed around 2=twenty thousand Persians, including two of Xerxes 's own half brothers. (P. Cartledge, 2006).

The Battle of thermopylae is long gone and a lot of people never heard about it. Some people maybe heard the famous phrase 'come and get it yourself'. In a search of great entertainment,  after movies like Cleopatra, troy, Chariots of Fire and.. ., Hollywood created an action movie '300'. It is adaptation of comic novel by Frank Miller. In the movie, Dilios, a Spartan soldier, narrates the story of King Leonidas. the movie goes thru the Leonidas 's boyhood, stressing the Spartan way of upbringing to the time. the Spartans believed that if they could rid their society of weak people starting from children then they could keep a strong upper advantage for their military. Spartan soldiers were trained since they were seven years old. they were sent to a "military and athletic school" where they were trained intensively. these schools taught the young Spartans every aspect that would be need in the time of war. Discipline and pain tolerance were practiced extensively through these schools. Movie replicates the comic book '300' and uses great visual effects to stimulate the audience. It follows the 3 days of bloody battles. In a great Hollywood fashion the reality mixes with a legend. It is almost surreal picture of a great battle. Zack Snyder 300's director,

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