Thermopylae A Speedbump for the Persian War Machine

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Leonidas at Thermopylae, by Jacques-Louis David (1814). (Public Domain)

Thermopylae A Speedbump for the Persian War Machine

If there is a single event that made Spartas military legend a seminal moment when the ‘Bronze Lie’ was forged, it is the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, fought 10 years after Marathon. Nearly everything committed to popular memory about this battle is wrong, including the notion that it was its own battle at all – when in fact it was a holding action meant to delay the Persian army, while the far more important naval fight at Artemisium (named for the nearby temple of Artemis), so inextricably linked to Thermopylae that the two actions should be considered a single battle, unfolded.

Scene of the Battle of the Thermopylae by John Steeple Davis (Public Domain)

The Spartan King Leonidas’ famous reply: molon labe (come and take them), to the Persian king Xerxes’ demand that the Spartans lay down their arms, has become a rallying cry for far-right groups around the world, particularly among American ‘gun rights’ advocates such as the National Rifle Association (NRA). What these right-wing groups always conveniently leave unmentioned is that Xerxes did come and take them, and in very short order.

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