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"Go, traveller, to Sparta, and say that we lie here, on the spot at which we were...
stationed to defend our country."
I recently read History of Alexander the Great
, by Jacob Abbott.
In it, he gives a brief account of the infamous Battle of Thermapylae, which is the inspiration of the film 300. The description he gives of the conduct of the Spartans is so hardcore and impressive that I thought it was worth sharing. They certainly don't make men like them anymore. The title of the thread is from an engraving at the site of the battle, and it appears in the passage quoted below.
The Pass of Thermopylae was a scene strongly associated with ideas of military glory and renown. It was here that, about a hundred and fifty years before, Leonidas, a Spartan general, with only three hundred soldiers, had attempted to withstand the pressure of an immense Persian force which was at that time invading Greece. He was one of the kings of Sparta, and he had the command, not only of his three hundred Spartans, but also of all the allied forces of the Greeks that had assembled to repel the Persian ivasion. With the help of these allies he withstood the Persian forces for some time, and as the Pass was so narrow between the cliffs and the sea, he was enabled to resist them successfully. At length, however, a strong detachment from the immense Persian army contrived to find their way over the mountains and around the Pass, so as to establish themselves in a position from which they could come down upon the small Greek army in their rear. Leonidas, perceiving this, ordered all his allies from the other states of Greece to withdraw, leaving himself and his three hundred countrymen alone in the defile.
He did not expect to repel his enemies or to defend the Pass. He knew that he must die, and all his brave followers with him, and that the torrent of invaders would pour down through the Pass over their bodies. But he considered himself stationed there to defend the passage, and he would not desert his post. When the battle came on he was the first to fall. The soldiers gathered around him and defended his dead body as long as they could. At length, overpowered by the immense numbers of their foes, they were all killed but one man. He mad his escape and returned to Sparta. A monument was erected on the spot with this incription: "Go, traveller, to Sparta, and say that we lie here, on the spot at which we were stationed to defend our country."