Battle of Thermopylae

Leonidas at Thermopylae, by Jacques-Louis David, 1814.
A map of almost all the parts of the Greek world that partook in the Persian Wars
The Spartans throw Persian envoys into a well
The site of the battle today. Mount Kallidromon on the left, and the wide coastal plain formed by accretion of fluvial deposits over the centuries; the road to the right approximates the 480 BC shoreline.
Map showing Greek and Persian advances to Thermopylae and Artemisium
5th century hoplite.
A flow map of the battle
Map of Thermopylae area with a reconstructed shoreline of 480 BC.
Contemporary depictions: probable Spartan hoplite (Vix crater, c.500 BC), and Scythian warrior of the Achaemenid army (tomb of Xerxes I, c.480 BC), at the time of the Second Persian invasion of Greece (480–479 BC).
Spartans surrounded by Persians, Battle of Thermopylae. 19th century illustration.
Crown-wearing Achaemenid king killing a Greek hoplite. Impression from a cylinder seal, sculpted circa 500 BC–475 BC, at the time of Xerxes I. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A Persian soldier at the time of the Second Achaemenid invasion of Greece.
The Capture of the Acropolis and the destruction of Athens by the Achaemenids, following the battle of Thermopylae.
Hidush (Indian soldier of the Achaemenid army), circa 480 BC. Xerxes I tomb. Herodotus explained that Indians participated on the Second Persian invasion of Greece.
Epitaph with Simonides' epigram
The Battle of Thermopylae, 19th century engraving
The Persian Gates narrow pass
Leonidas Monument
Thespian monument

For other battles at Thermopylae, see Battle of Thermopylae (disambiguation).

- Battle of Thermopylae

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Second Persian invasion of Greece

The second Persian invasion of Greece (480–479 BC) occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars, as King Xerxes I of Persia sought to conquer all of Greece.

A map showing the Greek world at the time of the invasion
The Spartans throw Persian envoys into a well.
The soldiers of Xerxes I, of all ethnicities, on the tomb of Xerxes I, at Naqsh-e Rostam.
Crossing the Hellespont by Xerxes with his huge army
Xerxes attending the lashing and "chaining" of the Hellespont (Illustration from 1909)
Probable Spartan Hoplite, Vix krater, circa 500 BC.
The ancient Achaemenid fort at Eion (hill to the left) and the mouth of the Strymon River (right), seen from Ennea Hodoi (Amphipolis).
Battle of Thermopylae and movements to Salamis, 480 BC.
The pass of Thermopylae in modern times
Achaemenid king killing a Greek hoplite. Circa 500 BC–475 BC, at the time of Xerxes I. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A few Athenians resisted in the Acropolis of Athens, which was stormed and burned down by the Achaemenid Army of Xerxes.
Remains of the Old Temple of Athena on the Acropolis, destroyed by the armies of Xerxes I during the Destruction of Athens.
Part of the archaeological remains called Perserschutt, or "Persian rubble": remnants of the destruction of Athens by the armies of Xerxes. Photographed in 1866, just after excavation.
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Battle of Plataea.
The main battle at Plataea. The Greek retreat becomes disorganised, and the Persians cross the Asopus to attack.
Achaemenid troops at the Battle of Plataea: Greek allies, Sacae, Indians, Bactrians, Medes and Persians, under Mardonius.
The Serpent Column, a monument dedicated by the victorious Allies
Diagram reconstructing the armament of a Greek hoplite
Persian soldiers, possibly Immortals, a frieze in Darius's palace at Susa. Silicious glazed bricks, c. 510 BC, Louvre.
The Scythians (Sakas) formed a large portion of the Achaemenid army. Detail of the tomb of Xerxes I at Naqsh-e Rostam, circa 480 BC.
A Persian soldier of the Achaemenid army. Detail of the tomb of Xerxes I at Naqsh-e Rostam, circa 480 BC.
Greek hoplite and Persian warrior depicted fighting. Ancient kylix, 5th century BC.

At the famous Battle of Thermopylae, the Allied army held back the Persian army for three days, before they were outflanked by a mountain path and the Allied rearguard was trapped and annihilated.

Battle of Artemisium

Series of naval engagements over three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece.

Site of the Battle of Artemisium (center). The location of the Battle of Thermopylae appears in the lower left corner.
A map showing the Greek world at the time of the battle
Beach at Cape Artemisium. Magnesia in the distance.
Departure of the Grecian fleet for Thessaly.
Map showing Greek & Persian advances to Thermopylae and Artemisium
The Ionian fleet, here seen joining with Persian forces at the Bosphorus in preparation of the European Scythian campaign of Darius I in 513 BC, was part of the Achaemenid fleet at Artemisium. 19th century illustration.
Sketch reconstruction of a Greek Trireme
Disaster to the Persian fleet off Euboea's eastern shore.
Euboea's eastern shore, the "Hollows", where a large part of the Achaemenid fleet was shipwrecked.
The heavily equipped Egyptians fought successfully against the Greek hoplites.

The battle took place simultaneously with the land battle at Thermopylae, in August or September 480 BC, off the coast of Euboea and was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and others, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I.

Greco-Persian Wars

The Greco-Persian Wars (also often called the Persian Wars) were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire and Greek city-states that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. The collision between the fractious political world of the Greeks and the enormous empire of the Persians began when Cyrus the Great conquered the Greek-inhabited region of Ionia in 547 BC. Struggling to control the independent-minded cities of Ionia, the Persians appointed tyrants to rule each of them.

Persian soldier (left) and Greek hoplite (right) depicted fighting, on an ancient kylix, 5th century BC
Herodotus, the main historical source for this conflict
Thucydides continued Herodotus's narrative
The Achaemenid Empire at its greatest extent under Darius the Great
Persian and Median Immortals in ceremonial dress, bas-relief in Persepolis
According to Herodotus, the Athenians, hoping for protection against Sparta, made the gift of "Earth and Water" to the Persians in 507 BC.
Coinage of Athens at the time of Cleisthenes. Effigy of Athena, with owl and ΑΘΕ, initials of "Athens". Circa 510-500/490 BC.
The burning of Sardis by the Greeks and the Ionians during the Ionian Revolt in 498 BC.
Map showing main events of the Ionian Revolt.
Map showing events of the first phases of the Greco-Persian Wars
The Greek wings envelop the Persians
Achaemenid king fighting hoplites, seal and seal holder, Cimmerian Bosporus.
The soldiers of Xerxes I, of all ethnicities, on the tomb of Xerxes I, at Naqsh-e Rostam.
Probable Spartan hoplite (Vix crater, c. 500 BC).
Major events in the second invasion of Greece
The pass of Thermopylae
Schematic diagram illustrating events during the Battle of Salamis
Spartans fighting against Persian forces at the Battle of Plataea. 19th century illustration.
Athens and her "empire" in 431 BC. The empire was the direct descendant of the Delian League
Map showing the locations of battles fought by the Delian League, 477–449 BC
Dynast of Lycia, Kherei, with Athena on the obverse, and himself wearing the Persian cap on the reverse. Circa 440/30–410 BC.
Coinage of Tiribazos, Satrap of Lydia, with Faravahar on the obverse. 388–380 BC.

Victory over the allied Greek states at the famous Battle of Thermopylae allowed the Persians to torch an evacuated Athens and overrun most of Greece.

Herodotus

Ancient Greek historian and geographer from the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey).

A Roman copy (2nd century AD) of a Greek bust of Herodotus from the first half of the 4th century BC
A romanticized statue of Herodotus in his hometown of Halicarnassus, modern Bodrum, Turkey

The Histories primarily cover the lives of prominent kings and famous battles such as Marathon, Thermopylae, Artemisium, Salamis, Plataea, and Mycale.

Battle of Salamis

Naval battle fought between an alliance of Greek city-states under Themistocles and the Persian Empire under King Xerxes in 480 BC. It resulted in a decisive victory for the outnumbered Greeks.

Map showing the Greek world at the time of the battle
Battle of Salamis, 1785 engraving
Greek trireme.
Fleet of triremes based on the full-sized replica Olympias
The Lycian dynast Kybernis (520-480 BCE) led 50 Lycian ships in the Achaemenid fleet.
The Ionian fleet, here seen joining with Persian forces at the Bosphorus in preparation of the European Scythian campaign of Darius I in 513 BC, was part of the Achaemenid fleet at Salamis. 19th century illustration.
The battle of Salamis, 19th century illustration.
Greek triremes at Salamis.
Battle of Salamis, by Wilhelm von Kaulbach (detail).
Death of the Persian admiral Ariabignes (a brother of Xerxes) early in the battle; illustration from Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls c. 1910
Artemisia, Queen of Halicarnassus, and commander of the Carian contingent of the Achaemenid fleet, at the Battle of Salamis, shooting arrows at the Greeks. Wilhelm von Kaulbach (detail).
The triumph of Themistocles after Salamis. 19th century illustration.
The wrath of Xerxes looking at the Battle of Salamis from his promontory, by Wilhelm von Kaulbach (detail).
Serpent Column, a monument to their alliance, dedicated by the victorious Allies in the aftermath of Plataea; now at the Hippodrome of Constantinople

In the resulting Battle of Thermopylae, the rearguard of the Greek force was annihilated, while in the Battle of Artemisium the Greeks suffered heavy losses and retreated after the loss at Thermopylae.

Thespiae

Ancient Greek city in Boeotia.

Silver Obol from Thespiae, 431-424 BCE. Obverse: Boeotian shield Reverse: crescent, ΘΕΣ(ΠΙΕΩΝ) of Thespians.
A kantharos from Thespiae (450–425 BC) inscribed in the Boeotian alphabet
The Venus of Arles, modeled after the Aphrodite of Thespiae by Praxiteles

Thespiae and Thebes were the only Boeotian cities to send a contingent to fight at Thermopylae, Thespiae sending a force of 700 hoplites who remained to fight beside the Spartans on the final day of the battle.

Simonides of Ceos

Greek lyric poet, born at Ioulis on Ceos.

Corinthian vase depicting Perseus, Andromeda and Ketos; the names are written in the archaic Greek alphabet.
Ioulis, present-day capital of Kea (Ceos in Ancient Greek), including remnants of the ancient acropolis. Like most Cycladic settlements, it was built inland on a readily defensible hill as protection against pirates
Detail of a mosaic in Pompeii (House of the Tragic Poet) showing a poet
Lyric Poetry, painted by Henry Oliver Walker (Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington D.C.). "Simonides calls painting silent poetry and poetry painting that speaks" — Plutarch.

He is popularly associated with epitaphs commemorating fallen warriors, as for example the Lacedaemonians at the Battle of Thermopylae:

Battle of Plataea

The final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece.

Persians and Spartans fighting at Plataea. 19th century illustration.
A map showing the Greek world at the time of the battle
The Achaemenid Empire and its allied Greek states (Macedonia, Thessaly, Malis, Locris, Phocis and Boeotia) at the time of the Battle of Plataea.
Movements of the Persian and Greek armies in 480–479 BC
Answer of Aristides to the ambassadors of Mardonius: "As long as the sun holds to its present course, we shall never come to terms with Xerxes".
The initial movements at the Battle of Plataea. The Greek line moves forward to the Asopus ridge.
Death of Masistius in early skirmishes.
The Spartan general Pausanias commanded the Allied Greek troops.
Disposition of Achaemenid troops beyond the Asopos river at the beginning of the Battle of Plataea. From left to right: Greek allies, Sacae, Indians, Bactrians, Medes and Persians.
Aristides, commander of the Athenians, informed by Alexander I of Macedon (a nominal ally of the Achaemenids) that delaying the encounter with the Persians would help further diminish their already low supplies. Battle of Plataea, 479 BC.
The battlefield of Plataea from the Achaemenid (northern) side.
Pausanias offering sacrifice to the Gods before the battle
Scene of the Battle of Plataea. 19th century illustration.
The main phase of the battle at Plataea. The Greek retreat becomes disorganised, and the Persians cross the Asopus to attack.
Scene of the Battle of Plataea on the south frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike, Athens. The scene on the right may show the fight over the body of Masistius. British Museum.
Greek hoplite and Persian warrior depicted fighting on an ancient kylix. 5th century BC
Coin of Alexander I of Macedon in the decade following the Battle of Plataea and the departure of Achaemenid forces (struck in 480/79-470 BC).

The previous year the Persian invasion force, led by the Persian king in person, had scored victories at the battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium and conquered Thessaly, Phocis, Boeotia, Euboea and Attica.

Classical Athens

The major urban centre of the notable polis (city-state) of the same name, located in Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League.

Delian League ("Athenian Empire") shown in yellow, Athenian territory shown in red, situation in 431 BC, before the Peloponnesian War.
Early Athenian coin, 5th century BC. British Museum.
Delian League ("Athenian Empire") shown in yellow, Athenian territory shown in red, situation in 431 BC, before the Peloponnesian War.
The modern National Academy in Athens, with Apollo and Athena on their columns, and Socrates and Plato seated in front.
Map of ancient Athens showing the Acropolis in middle, the Agora to the northwest, and the city walls.
Map of the environs of Athens showing Piraeus, Phalerum, and the Long Walls
The Acropolis imagined in an 1846 painting by Leo von Klenze
The Temple of Hephaestus in modern-day Athens
Plan Roman Agora at Athens
Artist's impression of the Theatre of Dionysus
The Karyatides statues of the Erechtheion on its Acropolis.

The Hellenic League led by the Spartan King Leonidas led 7,000 men to hold the narrow passageway of Thermopylae against the 100,000–250,000 army of Xerxes, during which Leonidas and 300 other Spartan elites were killed.

Themistocles

Athenian politician and general.

Herm of Themistocles (1875 illustration)
Profile view of an ancient Greek bust of Themistocles
A sluicing tank for silver ore, excavated at Laurium, Attica
A Roman-era bust of Themistocles in "Severe style", based on a Greek original, in the Museo Archeologico Ostiense, Ostia, Rome, Italy. The lost original of this bust, dated to circa 470 BC, has been described as "the first true portrait of an individual European".
Decree of Themistocles, National Archaeological Museum of Athens, 13330
Diagram of the approximate events of the Battle of Salamis
Romantic interpretation of the Battle of Salamis by Wilhelm von Kaulbach. Artemisia of Caria is seen shooting arrows in the direction of the Greeks led by Themistocles.
The triumph of Themistocles after the Battle of Salamis. 19th century illustration.
Themistocles honoured at Sparta.
Athenians rebuilding their city under the direction of Themistocles.
The northern wall of the Acropolis of Athens, built by Themistocles with built-in fragments of destroyed temples.
Column drums of the destroyed Older Parthenon, reused in building-up the North wall of the Acropolis, by Themistocles.
Ostracon with inscription: "Themist[h]ocles, son of Neocles"
Themistocles finds refuge with King Admetus.
Illustration by Walter Crane showing Themistocles standing silently before King Artaxerxes
Coin of Themistocles as Governor of Magnesia. Obv: Head of Zeus. Rev: Letters ΘΕ, initials of Themistocles. Circa 465-459 BC
Coin of Themistocles as Governor of Magnesia. Obv: Barley grain. ΘE to left. Rev: Possible portrait of Themistocles. Circa 465–459 BC.
Didrachm of Themistocles in Magnesia. Obv: Apollo standing in clamys, legend around ΘΕΜΙΣΤΟΚ-ΛΕΟΣ ("Themistokles"). Rev: Eagle with letters Μ-Α ("Magnesia").
Hemiobol of Themistocles in Magnesia, where he is seen wearing a tight bonnet with Olive wreath (a similar headdress can be seen on the coinage of Kherei). This possibly reflects the bonnets of Achaemenid Satraps, such as seen in the Herakleia head. Initials Θ-Ε around portrait and on reverse. c. 465–459 BC
A dignitary of Asia Minor in Achaemenid style, c. 475 BC. Karaburun tomb near Elmalı, Lycia.
Portrait of a ruler with olive wreath on the Magnesian coinage of Archeptolis, son of Themistocles, c. 459 BC. The portraits on the coinage of Archeptolis could also represent Themistocles.
Bust of Themistocles
Ruins of the Themistoclean Wall in the Kerameikos of Athens, Greece, named after Themistocles
Map of the Athenian Empire in 431 BC

However, the loss of the simultaneous Battle of Thermopylae to the Persians made their continued presence at Artemisium irrelevant, and the Allies thus evacuated.