The valor of King Leonidas (529–480 B.C.) and his three hundred Spartans is one of the most stirring tales in the annals of military history. It also provides an ideal introduction to the nature of warfare in classical Greece. The Persian invasion of Greece in 480 B.C. was a seminal event in the history of Greece and in world history. This lecture analyzes the historical accounts of Xerxes’s expedition against Greece in the framework of a critical discussion of the actual resources of the Persian Empire. It considers Persian and Greek tactics and strategy and contrasts the nature of military leadership in the Persian autocracy with that of the democratic Greek city-state. The Battle of Thermopylae (480 B.C.) is the focus of the lecture. What determined the tactics of the Spartans and the Persians? Was the Spartan stand really an act of desperate valor or a well considered strategic decision that played a major role in the ultimate victory of the Greeks?
Questions to Consider:
1. Do you believe that Thermopylae was a desperate gamble by the Spartans or did it make sense, strategically and tactically?
2. What do we mean when we say that Leonidas was a superb battlefield commander?