The Greeks who were in assembly, when
word came to them that the Persian forces were near, took action to dispatch the ships of war
with all speed to Artemisium
, recognizing that this place was well situated for
meeting the enemy, and a considerable body of hoplites to Thermopylae
to forestall them in occupying the passes at the narrowest part of
the defile and to prevent the barbarians from advancing against Greece
; for they were eager to throw their protection inside of Thermopylae
about those who had chosen the cause of the
Greeks and to do everything in their power to save the allies.
The leader of the entire expedition was Eurybiades the Lacedaemonian, and of the troops sent
the commander was Leonidas the
king of the Spartans, a man who set great store by his courage and generalship. Leonidas, when
he received the appointment, announced that only one thousand men should follow him on the
And when the ephors said that he was leading
altogether too few soldiers against a great force and ordered him to take along a larger
number, he replied to them in secret, "For preventing the barbarians from getting through the
passes they are few, but for the task to which they are now bound they are many."
Since this reply proved riddle-like and obscure, he was asked again
whether he believed he was leading the soldiers to some paltry task. Whereupon he replied,
"Ostensibly I am leading them to the defence of the passes, but in fact to die for the freedom
of all; and so, if a thousand set forth, Sparta
will be the more renowned when they have died, but if the whole body of the Lacedaemonians take
the field, Lacedaemon
will be utterly destroyed, for
not a man of them, in order to save his life, will dare to turn in flight."
There were, then, of the Lacedaemonians one thousand, and with them
three hundred Spartiates,1
while the rest of the
Greeks who were dispatched with them to Thermopylae
were three thousand.
Leonidas, then, with four thousand soldiers advanced to Thermopylae
. The Locrians, however, who dwelt in the
neighbourhood of the passes had already given earth and water to the Persians, and had promised
that they would seize the passes in advance; but when they learned that Leonidas had arrived at
, they changed their minds and
went over to the Greeks.
And there gathered at Thermopylae
also a thousand Locrians, an equal number of
and almost a thousand
Phocians, as well as some four hundred Thebans of the other party; for the inhabitants of
were divided against each other with
respect to the alliance with the Persians. Now the Greeks who were drawn up with Leonidas for
battle, being as many in number as we have set forth, tarried in Thermopylae
, awaiting the arrival of the Persians.