F Heritage History | Story of the Greeks by Helene Guerber
Contents 
Front Matter Early Inhabitants of Greece The Deluge of Ogyges Founding of Important Cities Story of Deucalion Daedalus and Icarus The Adventures of Jason Theseus Visits the Labyrinth The Terrible Prophecy The Sphinx's Riddle Death of Oedipus The Brothers' Quarrel The Taking of Thebes The Childhood of Paris Muster of the Troops Sacrifice of Iphigenia The Wrath of Achilles Death of Hector and Achilles The Burning of Troy Heroic Death of Codrus The Blind Poet The Rise of Sparta The Spartan Training The Brave Spartan Boy Public Tables in Sparta Laws of Lycurgus The Messenian War The Music of Tyrtaeus Aristomenes' Escape The Olympic Games Milo of Croton The Jealous Athlete The Girls' Games The Bloody Laws of Draco The Laws of Solon The First Plays The Tyrant Pisistratus The Tyrant's Insult Death of the Conspirators Hippias Driven out of Athens The Great King Hippias Visits Darius Destruction of the Persian Host Advance of the Second Host The Battle of Marathon Miltiades' Disgrace Aristides the Just Two Noble Spartan Youths The Great Army Preparations for Defense Leonidas at Thermopylae Death of Leonidas The Burning of Athens Battles of Salamis and Plataea The Rebuilding of Athens Death of Pausanias Cimon Improves Athens The Earthquake The Age of Pericles Teachings of Anaxagoras Peloponnesian War Begins Death of Pericles The Philosopher Socrates Socrates' Favorite Pupil Youth of Alcibiades Greek Colonies in Italy Alcibiades in Disgrace Death of Alcibiades Overthrow of Thirty Tyrants Accusation of Socrates Death of Socrates The Defeat of Cyrus Retreat of the Ten Thousand Agesilaus in Asia A Strange Interview The Peace of Antalcidas The Theban Friends Thebes Free Once More The Battle of Leuctra Death of Pelopidas The Battle of Mantinea The Tyrant of Syracuse Damon and Pythias The Sword of Damocles Dion and Dionysius Civil War in Syracuse Death of Dion Philip of Macedon Philip Begins His Conquests The Orator Demosthenes Philip Masters Greece Birth of Alexander The Steed Bucephalus Alexander as King Alexander and Diogenes Alexander's Beginning The Gordian Knot Alexander's Royal Captives Alexander at Jerusalem The African Desert Death of Darius Defeat of Porus Return to Babylon Death of Alexander Division of the Realm Death of Demosthenes Last of the Athenians The Colossus of Rhodes The Battle of Ipsus Demetrius and the Athenians The Achaean League Division in Sparta Death of Agis War of the Two Leagues The Last of the Greeks Greece a Roman Province

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber




Leonidas at Thermopylae

The Persian army had come to the Pass of Thermopylæ; and Xerxes, seeing that it was guarded by only a few men, sent them a haughty message, bidding them surrender their arms.

Instead of seeing a meek compliance with this request, as they expected, the Persian heralds were amazed to hear Leonidas reply with true laconic brevity, "Come and take them!"

The Spartan king, however, had quickly seen that it would be impossible for him to do much more than stop for a while the advance of this mighty host. As a Spartan never drew back, he made up his mind to die on the field of battle, and bade his warriors comb their hair, don their choicest armor, and dress themselves in their richest attire, as was the custom when some great danger threatened them and they expected to die.

The Persians, seeing this, were greatly surprised, and advanced confidently, for they fancied that men who took so much trouble to curl and perfume their hair would not be hard to conquer. They soon found out their mistake.

As they advanced, the archers shot a volley of arrows, and in such numbers that they fairly darkened the sun. One of the allies, seeing this, ran to warn Leonidas; but he received the startling news with great coolness, and merely said, "Very well; then we can fight in the shade."

When Xerxes saw that the Greeks would not yield without striking a blow, he gave orders for the battle to begin. The Persians pressed forward, under the eye of their king, who sat high up on the rocks to see them conquer; but, to his surprise, they were driven back by that mere handful of men.

Again and again they tried to force the pass, but all their attempts proved vain. The Persian soldiers, amazed at the courage of the Greeks, were filled with superstitious fears, and began to refuse to advance, except when driven onward under the stinging blows of the lash.

The king was furious to see their close ranks give way time after time, and finally ordered his own Immortals to march on and scatter the army, which, although so small, was keeping millions of men at bay. He expected that everything would of course give way at the very first charge of these troops.

Imagine his wrath, therefore, when he saw the Immortals also retreat, after many useless efforts to drive away the enemy. The Persians did not know what to do. They could not advance, and were ashamed to retreat.