We were scheduled to stay one night in Delphi, so the next morning we packed up and got back in the bus for a five-hour journey to the town of Kalambaka and the Meteroa region. However, before we got too far out of Delphi, we had the opportunity to make an unscheduled stop at somewhere that I had read about many times in various books. We got off the bus where Battle of Thermopolis (aka Battle of Thermopylae) took place. Our tour guide stands by that this is another very important battle (second to the Battle of Marathon).
But, to understand why, first we must go back to the past, to 490, when the Greek city-states first came together to fight off the Persians in the town of Marathon.
This was a decisive Greek victory, and the Persians did not try to invade Greece again for 10 years, meaning that all the city-states who were involved with this battle were extremely proud, especially the Athenians. One city-state that did not come to lend their aid was none other than the militaristic city-state of Sparta, who claimed that they had a festival to celebrate that they couldn’t push back. After the Greek victory, Athens did a fine job at rubbing this in Sparta’s face which greatly shamed them. So, when the Persians came to Greece again to try and take over a second time, Sparta was on the literal front lines to help defend Greece.
This first major battle was in Thermopolis, and, unfortunately for the Greeks, looked like it was going to end in the Persians favor early in the fighting. To save the lives of soldiers, as well as give the surrounding towns time to evacuate before the Persian troops came to ransack them, the Spartans forced everyone else to leave to fight another day. Sparta’s militaristic society did not allow them to surrender, so all 300 of their soldiers, as well as 900 soldiers from Thespis (whose people were called Thespians), were left to face off to 30,000 Persian troops. It was clear they were not going to win, so Xerxes, the Persian emperor asked King Leonidas of Sparta to give them their weapons, Leonidas responded “come and get them”. Epic.
Ultimately, all the Spartans and Thespians self-sacrificed themselves for the greater good of Greece, and the Greeks eventually did win the war against the Persians (again).
At the site today, there is a monument dedicated to the Spartans and another to the Thespians (who’s patron god was Cupid!).
After spending a brief time at the monuments, we got back on the bus and moved onto our destination: the mountain town of Kalambaka (pronounced Kalampaka) and the Meteroa region, which I will discuss in the next blog post!