Leonidas and His Three Hundred

three hundred
King Leonidas

Leonidas (c. 530-480 B.C.) was a king of the city-state of Sparta from about 490 B.C. until his death at the Battle of Thermopylae against the Persian army in 480 B.C. Although Leonidas lost the battle he was immortalized with his death and that of his three hundred personal bodyguards at Thermopylae.

Like all male Spartan citizens, Leonidas had been trained mentally and physically since he was big enough to walk. In addition, Spartan children were taken away from their mothers at an early so to start their training to become Hoplites.

Hoplites were armed with a round shield, spear, and iron short sword. Equally important, in battle, they used a formation called a phalanx, in which rows of hoplites stood directly next to each other.  So that their shields overlapped with one another. During a frontal attack, this wall of shields provided significant protection to the warriors behind it. The Roman used a similar tactic. Except they used a rectangular shield to form a wall when the shields overlapped.

The problem with the phalanx is if the enemies attacked either from the side or behind they were unprotected and vulnerable. It was this fatal weakness of the formidable phalanx formation.  These proved to be Leonidas’  and his three hundred undoing against an invading Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.


Leonidas was the third son of Anaxandridas II of Sparta. He was the half-brother of the late King Cleomenes I of Sparta. Leonidas was crowned King after the death of his half-brother. Cleomenes’ died of a suspected suicide. Leonidas was also married to Cleomenes’ only child, the wise Gorgo, Queen of Sparta.

Battle of Thermopylae,

 The battle of Thermopylae took place in northern Greece (480 BC) during the Persian Wars. Not to mention, this was basically a revenge reprisal by the Persians (now Iran) after they were defeated at Marathon ten years earlier. This time the Persian invasion was led by King Xerxes in 480 bce. Leonidas King of Sparta and his new alliance with Athens had decided what must be done to save Greece. Leonidas knew that the army of Xerxes was going to invade Greece from the north via the very narrow Thermopylae passage and by sea. Athens would be responsible for the taken care of the Persian fleet.

Leonidas realized that the only way his small force with his three hundred personal bodyguards was to stop Xerxes army would be at Thermopylae. There the Persian King Xerxes had led a vast army overland from the Dardanelles. The army accompanied by a substantial fleet that was moving along the coast. His forces quickly seized northern Greece after he defeated King Leonidas and his forces at the narrow pass of Thermopylae.  Next to the sea nearby in the straits of Artemisium.

The End of the King and the Three Hundred

King Leonidas succeeded with his plan to hold back the Persians. Leonidas efforts gave Greece the opportunity to organize to fight Xerxes. King Leonidas armored Greek infantry held a line only a few dozen yards long between a steep hillside and the sea. This battlefield was very narrow and was personally picked by Leonidas. It prevented the Persians from bringing their superior numbers to bear. The Greeks were able to hold back two days the fierce Persian attacks. They succeeded to impose heavy casualties on the Persians while suffering relatively light losses themselves.

Unfortunately, King Leonidas and his 300-man who refused to leave their King and retreat. Mainly, because it was contrary to Spartan law and custom. This led to their demise and their infamy.


The Spartan motto was “come back carrying your shield or upon it”. They never left their men behind.

This thought is also followed by the United States Marines.


“Leonidas I” June 2017 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonidas_I>

History.com Staff “LEONIDAS” June 2017 <http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/leonidas>

N.S. Gill “King Leonidas of Sparta and the Battle at Thermopylae” June 2017 <https://www.thoughtco.com/king-leonidas-of-sparta-battle-thermopylae-112481>

Donald Sommerville “Battle of Thermopylae GREEK HISTORY” [480 BC] June 2917 <https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Thermopylae-Greek-history-480-BC>



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The Old Spartan, A Short Story of A Man Sensing The End

The Old Spartan

The Old Spartan

By Panayotis

The old Spartan woke up from a deep sleep, soaking wet from perspiration, he could feel the droplets of sweat sliding down the side of his chest. He arched his back up and lifted himself onto his elbows. From that position, he could easily see out of his bedroom window.

It was still drizzling, almost as hard as it had been when he fell asleep. The old Spartan tried to lay there; thinking that today was his 70th birthday. He thought about the surprise birthday party that his family had been planning. As a matter of fact, he thought that the hardest part about a surprise birthday party was going to be convincing everyone that he was surprised.

His mind drifted back to images of his dream that lingered in his mind like smoke swirling in the room. He had this dream many times before, but this time there was something different and something surreal about it. In his dream, he was back in the old country – Greece. The old Spartan was sitting at a table by himself, drinking a glass of wine and listening to the old men of the village. The old men loved to hang around the tavern arguing about politics, religion and of course the meaning of life. Except in his dream today, it was different.

The fine line between dream-life and real-life was blurred. He was sitting in the taverna, sipping his glass of wine listening to the old men when the silhouette of a cloaked man appeared in the doorway and approached him.
The stranger walked with his head held high, as the stranger’s face came into view he could see that it was a face strong in character and wisdom.

The strangers face had the intensity that only a man of greatness could possess. The stranger asked if he could sit with him, he told the old Spartan that he had to talk to him and it was of the greatest importance. The old man was uncertain of the man’s motive, one look into the stranger’s eyes, told him differently, that he could trust the stranger.
A few moments passed and nothing was said, finally, the old man asked the stranger for his name. What the stranger told the old man, left him in awe.

A few moments passed and nothing was said, finally, the old man asked the stranger for his name. What the stranger told the old man, left him in awe.
“I am called Leonides – I am called King of Sparta.”
The old man stared at the stranger sitting across from him, in total disbelief but was still able to muster the strength to ask, “How can this be?”

In the stranger’s regal face, the old man saw greatness and humility. He realized that he truly was in the presence of the great King. The King continued to speak as he explained the purpose of his visit.
“I have gone through many hardships and trials for our people. I sit here in front of you with a chest that is bursting with pride for our small Spartan force. With the help of our allies, we fought and delayed Xerxes’s army from destroying our beloved Greece.”

The King continued that Xerxes would have marched into Greece and would have destroyed Greece and the Greek culture. It would have put civilization back into the dark ages and they almost succeeded.
The old man sat quietly in front of the King as the King continued to speak. “Now we are called again to face an insurmountable task. To defeat the threat of destruction of our way of life.”

“Yes, but why are you speaking to me, I am an old man.”
The King smiled and stretched out his powerful hand and gently held the old man’s hand.

“Your heart and soul are not old, but that of a youth.” Also, he told the old man that his group of three hundred Spartans was not enough to face this new threat. He would need the courage and strength of many more Spartan men.

The old man sat listening to the King, he nodded and hung his head low, seemingly in shame. The old man expressed that it was too late for him. He was too old to go with the King. The old Spartan wished that he could go, but he just could not.

He suddenly remembered that today was his 70th birthday and his family was having a surprise birthday party for him. Not to mention there was no way he could disappoint his son and grandchildren. It was too important for him to be there.

“Yes, it is important for you to be there. So I’ll come back to get you, so you can join your fellow Spartans to help us in our quest.”
The old man forced himself up so that he could sit on the side of his bed. His eyes looked out his bedroom window as he saw the sun struggling to break from the dawn and spill its brilliance upon the old Spartan’s face.

He sat there thinking that his recurring dream always finished the same way. That the King would tell him that he would come back for him and take him with him. Except, his dream had never been so real.
Yes, today was his birthday and looking at the brilliant sun that had partially escaped the horizon as it entered the clear beautiful Florida sky, he thought that – today would be a great day to die. He pushed the dream into the back rooms of his mind and went on with his day.

The old man just got back to his home after his daily walk and opened his front door to the shrieks of Happy Birthday Papou. Of course, the old man put on a face of total surprise as his grandchildren raced to their grandfather to get their hugs and kisses. The grandchildren held their grandfather’s hand as they led him into the dining room. His son came and gave him a hug and kisses as he wished his father a happy birthday with much more to come. The old man smiled as he told his son that all his boys were the biggest pride of his life.

The supper was delicious, the old man could not remember the last time he had such a great meal since the passing of his wife. He sat at the table listening to the hustle and bustle of his family as they passed out slices of his birthday cake after he had blown out the candles. The old Spartan could still see the two candles 7 and 0 on top of the cake.

He decided to have his coffee in his garden that he loved so much, every time he sat in it, memories of his darling wife came back to him.
“Here Dad, here is your coffee, do you want anything else?” The old man didn’t answer, his mind had returned to his dream and King Leonides. The son stood to wait for his father to answer, but none was coming, so he went inside. The old Spartan took a sip of his coffee as he looked proudly over his well-tended garden. He heard someone speak to him from behind him and turned around. It was King Leonides.

Time To Go

“I have come back for you, are you ready?” The old man sat there and said yes he was ready.
He stood up and walked to the King’s side. First, he had to go tell his son goodbye. “It won’t be necessary, said the King.”
The old man turned as he heard his grandchildren speaking to him, only to see that they were not talking to him but was talking to someone in his chair. He watched his grandchildren run to tell their father that Papou was asleep.

The old man started to walk towards the figure in his chair when the King stopped him. He was about to say something when his son came out to the man in the chair as he spoke to him. The old Spartan watched as his son gently touched the cheek of the figure in the chair. Then slowly sank into the next chair as he buried his face in his hands and started to weep.

“You are a great man., loved by your family. An accomplishment that is rarely seen.” The old man watched as his son wept. Similarly, he watched as the rest of his family came into the garden and gathered around the motionless figure in the chair. They too silently started to weep.

Not Alone

The old Spartan looked at Leonides, he suddenly realized that the King was no longer covered by a dark cloak, but was wearing a brilliant gold-covered chest armor. On his head was a beautiful helmet with flaming red plumes. His sword hung by his side as his red cape rippled in the wind.
“Your majesty, how can I help you with your quest when I’m alone?”
The King raised his hand and laid it on the shoulder of the man. “You are not alone my dear friend look around you.”

The old Spartan turned and tried to see, into the growing mist. His vision cleared as many shapes and figures of other men that had risen to the call of the King’s Quest slowly encircled them. He could see men as far as his old eyes could see.
He turned back to Leonides and said, “I am ready my King”
“So be it,” said the Spartan King as the great King of Sparta led his new army, with the old Spartan by his side.

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