2 degrees before.500 years ago, 480 b. Chr., Persians and Greeks clashed here quite badly. Athens and another Greek city had previously supported the Ionian rebellions in Asia Minor (west coast of present-day Turkey), which had already been under Persian control for some time, with fleet contingents. The Ionians were Greeks and enjoyed partial autonomy under Persian rule, but were mostly ruled by tyrants appointed by the Persians. Persia wanted to establish peace on its western border and tried to do so as early as 490 bc. Chr. To subdue the Greek cities. However, this failed because the Greeks, mainly the Athenians, defeated the land forces of the Persians at Marathon. Incidentally, the delivery of the message of victory at Marathon led to the Marathon race. Marathon lies ca. 42 km from Athens.
480 v. Chr. The Persians then wanted to take over under Xerxes I. And they went along with ca. 50.000 warriors in the country. With a fleet of ca. 000 warriors in the country. With a fleet of ca. 600 ships (today's estimates – contemporary historians at that time hopelessly exaggerated the land army z.B. To 5 million. Main country Attica. Peleponnes to. Athens is located in Attica, Sparta in the Peleponnesian peninsula. Athens and Sparta were also the most powerful cities in Greece at that time. Athens was a commercial metropolis with a strong fleet, Sparta had subjugated almost the entire Peleponnes. Because the Spartans were hopelessly outnumbered by the so-called Helots, the inhabitants of the Peleponnesus, their main occupation was to practice the art of war and to suppress the rebellions of the Helots, on whose tributes they lived, again and again by military force. The Spartan full citizens were indeed free people and lived in a democracy, but only because they had enslaved half a country.
When the Persians approached, the Spartans wanted to defend Greece at the Isthmus, the isthmus that separates the Peleponnes from Attica and the rest of the Greek mainland. Of course the Athenians did not want this, because this would have meant the destruction of their city. Therefore, they proposed to face the Persians further north. It was agreed on the pass at Thermopylae (literally translated: hot gates – meaning hot water springs, which with a temperature of approx. 42 degrees leave the mountain). The pass was a narrow, approx. 15 m wide between the shallow sea and the mountains – the only possibility to reach Athens and the Peleponnes from the north with a large land army. I had always imagined this to be a mountain pass, and was therefore surprised that it was only a piece of beach.
The Spartans were obviously in a quandary with the agreement for Thermopylae. On the one hand, they did not want to oppose the Persians alone, on the other hand, they also had advantages if their biggest competitor in Greece – Athens – would be weakened by the enemy. They opted for a compromise that was as cool as it was calculating: instead of sending their entire force of ca. 8.000 men, they sent only a detachment of 300 soldiers under the leadership of Leonidas I., one of the two kings of Sparta. As a pretext served an oracle saying, which supposedly advised them not to take part in the conflict. Also the other Greek cities did not send their entire contingent, so according to today's estimates only ca. 5.000 – 7.000 men opposed the Persian army at Thermopylae. This tactical behavior of the Greek city-states is typical. Almost cost the neck of the ancient Greek culture at that time. I imagine the system of city-states like the world of today. You meet every four years for Olympic competitions and pretend to live in a peaceful world, and the rest of the time you fight for influence and resources with all available means such as economy, propaganda and war.
When, in August 480 b. Chr. When the clash took place at the passage of Thermopylae, the Greek army was able to withstand the Persian attackers for several days due to its favorable strategic defensive position. In particular, the Persians could not use their superior cavalry in the narrow place. According to the legend, the Greeks could only be defeated by a betrayal of one of their own. A certain Ephialtes showed the Persians an ancient goat path that could be used to bypass the Greeks' position and stab them in the back. With this trick the contemporary Greek historiography (or shouldn't it better be called propaganda) tried to?) to make up for the reckless strategic behavior of the city-states by sending a minimal army to defend themselves. An army facing an outnumbering of 10 to 1 can hardly win even in a strategically favorable place. Nevertheless, it is said that they could be overcome only by a betrayal. Who believes it… Whether the goat path really existed and the defensive army of the Greeks really threatened to be encircled is irrelevant. In any case, the battle was hopeless in the long run. They had to retreat. Since the Greek army consisted of foot soldiers, the Persian cavalry would have completely annihilated it in open space. For this reason, Leonidas' decision to defend the passage with a small rearguard of 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians, whose territory connected directly behind Thermopylae, until the rest would have made their way to safety, was a zero-sum game. If all had retreated, all would have died as well. The behavior of Leonidas was the least to save the honor of Sparta. Those who stayed behind were actually able to hold off the Persian army long enough before they were all killed, including Leonidas. The advancing Persians then destroyed the evacuated Athens. Thus the Spartans had achieved their secondary objective, the weakening of Athens. The Persian army was stopped by the approaching winter. The loss of their fleet at Salamis. The fleet of the Greeks was victorious among other things because a storm had destroyed a large part of the Persian ships. Xerxes retreated with his army back to Macedonia for the winter. Only again in 479 v. Chr. Started an attack on the main land of the Greeks. This time he was confronted by an army of ca. 30.000 to 40.000 Greek soldiers, which was victorious at Plataia (between Thebes and Athens). The Persians should never again try to conquer the Greek cities militarily thereafter. The behavior of the Spartans at Thermopylae became. Is regularly distorted historically. While contemporary antique sources (especially Athenian) see it as a great defeat of the Spartans, from the Spartan point of view it was glorified as a sacrificial death and an exemplary military performance of duty.
The cinematic representation "300" of 2007 is thereby the largest nonsense. The very idea of a professional soldier going into close combat bare-chested just because it looks better must make anyone with an interest in history shake their head. The idea of this American film was simply to depict an elite army, just as the American army sees itself fighting the Taliban. But it was probably the other way around (see this critical article in the welt).
Even the 1962 cinematic rendition "The 300 Spartians," which is at least much closer to the historical facts, transfigures the confrontation as a common Greek act to save their free world. This world was neither free – especially not the Helots oppressed by the Spartans – nor did the Greeks see themselves as a people acting together.
Today, the site near Thermopylae has undergone major geological changes. Due to sedimentation, the sea is now several kilometers away at the then 15-meter-wide spot. The only thing that remains is a hill fortified by the Thespians.