The Last stand of 300 and The Battle of Artemisium has been an inspiration to heroes and warriors throughout the ages. It was fought on 2 fronts one at Thermoplyae where the spartans fought, the other at Artemisium where Athens lead a naval battle, both against the Persian empire under the rule of Xerxes.
Two main events lead to this battle, The Revolt of Ionia and The Battle of Marathon. Athens supported the revolt of Ionia and in vengence the battle of Marathon happend. Whe Persia attempts revenge for the second time they send the Persian War Machine, said to be the greatest army of the day. When a Greek scout finds the Persians on the move Athens puts out a call for help. At the time Greek was not a true nation, so each city feels no loyalty to eachother. But Sparta does listen, to an extent.
The Sparta king, Leonides was willing to help. This is because he thinks he is apart of a Prophecy told by the Orcale.
"Oh Men of Sparta
Either Your Glorious City will be take by the sons of Persia
Or all Sparta must mourn for the loss of a king as an exchange
A King decendant of great Heracles"
Leonides believes he is the king in this prophecy. The Spartan elders disagree and only allowd Leonides to take 300 men. He picks his best men but only men who have fatherd sons, so they're bloodline is carried on. He then leads his 300 men to Thermopylae with the aid greeks from other city states. The total army is about 7000 free greeks.
In Athens the Athenian war veteran commander Themistocles leads the greek fleet. He was present during the battle of Marathon and learnt something no other greek had. They saw Marathon as a victory of land over navy, he learnt that the next time persia attacks it will be by both land and sea. So Athens must invest in they're navy rather then they're army, regrettably no one believes him. After the discovery of a vast silver mine he lies to Athens saying there was a new enemy forming on the island of Aegina. So Athens used its wealth in its fleet rather then wasteing it's wealth on an already very powerful army. So a lie was another very important part of this battle.
The sides a deployed time for battle.
LocationEditThe terrian of the battlefronts was key to victory.
A small pass along the coast of Greece. It is at the face of large mountian which has a sheer cliff. it then has a small pass which at the time was about 20ft wide. It then has a cliff which faces the Agean Sea. This is a perfect Chokehold to the greeks advantage.
A small straight in between the main body of Greece and the island of Euboea. It guards Thermoplyea from a sea invation
Each side had it's own force.
|Land Army||up to 7000 including the spartans|
|Land Army||possibly up to 2 million men|
The Battle: Day 1Edit
On the first day the sides took they're places.
Before the battle Xerxes attepmts to negotiate with Leonides, he sends a messenger. He says "You are facing the greatest army in the world. Dont be foolish. Lay down your weapons and you lives will be spared". Leonides takes out his sword to intimadate the messenger who says "Our arrows ill block out the sun".
The spartan luitenate says "Then we will fight in the shade". The Spartens then set up they're formation known as the Phalanx. The Persans move about a football field away from the Greeks and forfill the promice to block out the sun. 5000 Archers fire they're arrows. The arrows do nothing to the greeks. They're strong armor, shields and effective formation makes the arrows bounce off.
The Persans then deside to attack in close combat. They charge and basically bounce off the Phalanx which dosent move at all. The Greeks then attack back with they're spears. Wounds are mostly fatal as they are in the chest of face. Persan Infantry are easy targets for the greeks. They battle all day in battle pulses. At the end of the battle the greeks walk up and down the battlefield and kill any persan survivors. The total kill count of the first day is about 10,000 dead persans and almost no Greek deaths.
In the Artemisium Straight the Athenian commander Themistocles who is on the Greek Flagship. Before the battle the Persans send 200 hundread of they're fleet around the island of Euboea to surrond the greek fleet. In the afternoon the greeks sail out into the straight and basically taunt the persans to attack. They create a circle formation in a narrower part of the straight.Then they rush the persan fleet and attack.
During the battle in the tight waterway the greeks come out victorious. Taking 30 enemy ships captive and many more persans prisoner. Sence they started later in the day the battle was short.
End of Day 1Edit
At the end of the first day Xerxes has been surpised and imparissed by Leonides and Themistocles. He contemplates on what to do next. The persans morale are incredibly low.
That night a storm roles in which just adds to the disconfert of the Persans. The Persan fleet sent around the island of Euboea is totally destroyed. This is seen as an omen, which is cursed by the persans and welcomes by the greeks.
The Battle: Day 2Edit
On the second day both sides line up and are ready for battle.
On the second day Xerxes has had enough and sends in the immortals. The silent and masked, heavy infantry of persia. Both sides deploy not far from eachother. The Persans silent and facelss and the Greeks loud and proud.
The Persans make the first move and charge at the greeks. Like the first day the greek phalanx dosent budge. They then lock in battle pulses throughout the day. Again the persan death count is huge.
Because of the storm the night before the small persan attack force is not bearing down on the greek flank. Themistocles can focus his forces on the front and he attacks the persans again and once again they come out victorious.
End of Day 2Edit
Again Xerxes is imparissed and the persans are even more demoralized. But then a greek traitor named informs him of a small path that leads around the greeks and can be used to outflank them. This pass is known by Leonides who has positioned 1000 troops from a city called Phocia at the top of the pass. But the gaurding army is missing when 10,000 persans begin marching through. This is because that pass has an intersection which can also lead to Phocia. This makes the troops think that they're homeland will be attack, so they pull back. This gives the persan army a free pass to the greek's flank.
That night Greek scouts inform Leonides of the Persans movement. He then quietly and under the cover of darkness slowly sends the greeks away. All but the 300 spartans and about 1000 Thespians.
There are multiple reasons why these last few greeks stayed. One was possibley because of the orcales prophecy. The other and more likely reason was so that they may cover the greek's retreat, giving them time so they can fight another day.
The Battle: Day 3Edit
Being out-flanked the 1300 greeks take they're last stand. A persan scouts see the greeks batheing and cleaing themselves. They see this as vanity this is the greeks way to ready themselves for battle and death.
"They fought like madmen devode of care for anything other then the moment" -Herodotus
The Spartans assume they're usual Phalanx. Facing the enemy on both sides. The persans attack and after awhile the Phalanx shattered. The battle became a frenzy of gore and death. The greeks fought harder then ever before. They fought with everything they could. Leonides is hit by Persan arrows. He fell to his knees and watched his brethren fall. He fell over and died.
"Leonides fell in this fight. Having shown that he was a man of quality, like the heroes of old. There was a great battle over the body of Leonides. Four times the greeks beat back the enemy and finally recovered the body by they're valor" -Herodotus
Leonides' luitenent and the last of the greeks retreat with they're kings body into a narrower part of the pass. The persans fire they're arrows one last time. The last of the greeks is killed.
Xerxes later walks the battlefield. Hes lost around 20,000 in three days. He orders all Persan troops to be buried so the corspes will not demoraleize his army. He then orders Leonides' head to be stuck on a stake.
Themistocles again holds off the Persan fleet but sustains damage to his fleet and has lost a signifigant amount of men, but because of the collapse of the land defence the sea defence is no longer important. His fleet then retreats back to Athens. On the way the stop off a delphi and consult the orcale.
"Why do you sit. You who await doom.
Flee to the furthest parts of the earth. Zeus the all-seeing give you a wooden wall.
The only thing to be indistructable. A benifit to you and your children"
Almost all of Athens thinks this means they should hide behind the walls of the acropolis. However Themistocles thinks this means the wooden walls of the ships and that the city should be evacuated.
Athens then evacuates its people leaving the city almost emty. There are a few people who stay to defend the Parethion. But Xerxes and the persans burn Athens to the ground.
The Athenians who leave retreat to the island of Salamis. Themistocles lures the persans into the strait of Salamis and ambushes them. The Persans are almost all destroyed. They must retreat from Greece because if they do not have any warships they cannot defent they're transports. So Xerxes leaves Greece and never returns.
Afterwards the greeks fight back and in the very end Alexander the Great defeats the Persan empire and spreads greek culture and democracy over the world, which is the basis to western culture.
Had the 300 spartans failed in holding the line Athens would have been destroyed with all its people. Ending democracy and causing the whole world to become a dictatorship.
Greece saved the world at Thermopoylae. By becomeing a unified country rather then a bunch of random city states.