It has been reported that others also remained, including up to 900 helots and 400 Thebans. While many of the Greeks took him up on his offer and fled, around two thousand soldiers stayed behind to fight and die. Whatever the real numbers were, however, it is clear that Xerxes was anxious to ensure a successful expedition by mustering an overwhelming numerical superiority by land and by sea. If they had all remained at the pass, they would have been encircled and would eventually have all been killed. ", It is reported that, upon arriving at Thermopylae, the Persians sent a mounted scout to reconnoitre.  The name "Hot Gates" comes from the hot springs that were located there.  It has also been suggested that Leonidas, recalling the words of the Oracle, was committed to sacrificing his life in order to save Sparta. On the north side of the roadway was the Malian Gulf, into which the land shelved gently. This account is fairly consistent with Herodotus' writings. , From a strategic point of view, by defending Thermopylae, the Greeks were making the best possible use of their forces. Herodotus reports that the Phocians had improved the defences of the pass by channelling the stream from the hot springs to create a marsh, and it was a causeway across this marsh which was only wide enough for a single chariot to traverse.  Also present were the 400 Thebans and probably the helots who had accompanied the Spartans. ", It is also said that on the southern side of the track stood cliffs that overlooked the pass.  In a later passage, describing a Gaulish attempt to force the pass, Pausanias states "The cavalry on both sides proved useless, as the ground at the Pass is not only narrow, but also smooth because of the natural rock, while most of it is slippery owing to its being covered with streams...the losses of the barbarians it was impossible to discover exactly. , Xerxes sent a Persian emissary to negotiate with Leonidas. The fame of Thermopylae is thus principally derived not from its effect on the outcome of the war but for the inspirational example it set.  The contingent of 700 Thespians, led by their general Demophilus, refused to leave and committed themselves to the fight.  In 1939, archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos, excavating at Thermopylae, found large numbers of Persian bronze arrowheads on Kolonos Hill, which changed the identification of the hill on which the Greeks were thought to have died from a smaller one nearer the wall. It is also the hill on which the last of them died. Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by, Stranger, tell the Spartans that we behaved, Stranger! Sparta. , The Persian army seems to have made slow progress through Thrace and Macedon. Cicero recorded a Latin variation in his Tusculanae Disputationes (1.42.101): Additionally, there is a modern monument at the site, called the "Leonidas Monument" by Vassos Falireas, in honour of the Spartan king. , The "congress" met again in the spring of 480 BC. Herodotus observes this was very uncommon for the Persians, as they traditionally treated "valiant warriors" with great honour (the example of Pytheas, captured off Skiathos before the Battle of Artemisium, strengthens this suggestion). Themistocles was in command of the Greek Navy at Artemisium when he received news that the Persians had taken the pass at Thermopylae. This offended the proud Greeks greatly; the Athenians went so far as to toss the Persian heralds into a pit, while the Spartans followed suit and tossed them into a well. At sea a detachment of 200 Persian ships attempted to surprise the Greek fleet, but the Greeks, forewarned, engaged the main Persian navy. Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus,  The Greeks fought in front of the Phocian wall, at the narrowest part of the pass, which enabled them to use as few soldiers as possible.  The poet Simonides, who was a near-contemporary, talks of four million; Ctesias gave 800,000 as the total number of the army that was assembled by Xerxes.. , Tactically, the pass at Thermopylae was ideally suited to the Greek style of warfare. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the Persians for three days in one of history’s most famous last stands. In Western culture at least, it is the Greeks who are lauded for their performance in battle.  At the Battle of Plataea, the Greek army won a decisive victory, destroying much of the Persian army and ending the invasion of Greece. Herodotus suggests they were brought to the battle as hostages to ensure the good behavior of Thebes.  Furthermore, to prevent the Persians from bypassing Thermopylae by sea, the Athenian and allied navies could block the straits of Artemisium. The length of the actual conflict was only seven days, with a four day stand off before three days of battle. The battle was fought for over three days, at the same time as the naval Battle of Artemisium on 20 August or 8–10 September, 480 BC. , Fearing the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont and trap his army in Europe, Xerxes now retreated with much of the Persian army back to Asia, though nearly all of them died of starvation and disease on the return voyage. , The Athenians had also been preparing for war with the Persians since the mid-480s BC, and in 482 BC the decision was taken, under the guidance of the Athenian politician Themistocles, to build a massive fleet of triremes that would be essential for the Greeks to fight the Persians. Having been turned back at Marathon in 490 BC, Persian forces returned to Greece ten years later to avenge their defeat and conquer the peninsula.  In fact, Herodotus' account of the battle, in Book VII of his Histories, is such an important source that Paul Cartledge wrote: "we either write a history of Thermopylae with [Herodotus], or not at all". The Spartans were not at Thermopylae to fight for freedom and liberty, they were there with other Greeks to fight for their perceived survival. Seeking the counsel of Demaratus, an exiled Spartan king in his retinue, Xerxes was told the Spartans were preparing for battle, and it was their custom to adorn their hair when they were about to risk their lives.  However, this is only one approach, and many other combinations are plausible. It features a bronze statue of Leonidas.  A preliminary expedition under Mardonius in 492 BC, secured the lands approaching Greece, re-conquered Thrace and forced Macedon to become a client kingdom of Persia's. John Ruskin expressed the importance of this ideal to Western civilization as follows: Also obedience in its highest form is not obedience to a constant and compulsory law, but a persuaded or voluntary yielded obedience to an issued command .... His name who leads the armies of Heaven is "Faithful and True"... and all deeds which are done in alliance with these armies ... are essentially deeds of faith, which therefore ... is at once the source and the substance of all known deed, rightly so called ... as set forth in the last word of the noblest group of words ever, so far as I know, uttered by simple man concerning his practice, being the final testimony of the leaders of a great practical nation ... [the epitaph in Greek].  With the Persian emissary returning empty-handed, battle became inevitable. 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