Leonidas I

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Leonidas I of Sparta

Statue of Leonidas I of Sparta (1968).
Born circa 540s BCE
Sparta
Died 10 August, 480 BCE
Thermopylae
Children Pleistarchus
Parents Anaxandridas II
Relatives Gorgo (wife)

Leonidas I was a king of Sparta. He was the 17th of the Agiad dynasty. His father was Anaxandridas II, who was a descendant of Herakles. He took the throne in 489 or 488 BC. His queen was Gorgo. Leonidas’ name is now very well known because of the battle of Thermopylae.

Thermopylae[change | change source]

Invasion of Greece[change | change source]

In 480 BC, the Persians with their king Xerxes attacked Greece. When the Greeks asked the Spartans to join their army against the Persians, the Spartans went to the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle gave a prophecy. It said that either Sparta would fall or the Spartans would lose a king.

Fighting back[change | change source]

In August 480 BC, Leonidas went to Thermopylae with 300 of his bodyguards. Other Greek forces joined him there and formed an army of 4,200 soldiers. This army would try to hold the pass of Thermopylae against the great army of Xerxes I, King of Persia.

Siege[change | change source]

Leonidas and his men held Thermopylae for 3 days. On the 3rd day, a Greek traitor named Ephialtes led the Persian army behind the Spartans. It was then that Leonidas sent away all the Greek troops except 700 Thespians, who refused to leave. The small Greek force was attacked from both sides. They fought hard but finally they were all killed. Xerxes told his men to remove Leonidas' head and put it on a stake. He also told them to crucify his body. Now, there is a monument near Leonidas’ death site. It has the following inscription:

Go, stranger, and in Lacedaemon tell that here, obeying her behests, we fell, that we died here obeying what they told us to do

After the battle[change | change source]

Only 2 Spartans did not die in the battle. One was Kirtanian. He was injured and sent behind the rest of the soldiers. The other was Pantites. He was sent by Leonidas to get help in Thessaly. He did not get back to Thermopylae until after the battle was done. At the end, he hanged himself because he was called a coward.