Khai Ly


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"If you men think thatI rely on numbers, then all Greece is not sufficient, for it is but a small fraction of their numbers; but if on men` valor, then this number will do," said Leonidas. Being one of three sons of King Anaxandridas II who died in 520 BC. He was a successful and strong militant king of the small Greek-city state of Sparta in the years of 489-480 B.C. Leonidas was further known as the "Lion`s son" or "Lion-like," which his name represents. Being known to the world was simple task for the great ruler as he waged war with about 300 loyal and dedicated warriors who fought with him in his last battle. That last battle was known as The Battle of Thermopylae which Leonidas and his men participated in was outragous when comparing numbers. This is due to the fact that the brave militant king had only about 300 Spartans who were outnumbered one to four.

Personal Background

Leonidas was born into the world in the year of 540 BC, one of three sons of King Anaxandridas II who died in 520 BC. "Anaxandridas was considered by many to be the descendant of Hercules" (Annoy). "The importance for Leonidas is that although he would initially have grown up in an apparently intact family unit, he would soon have been confronted with the underlying rivalries between his older brothers, Cleomenes and Doreius" (Schrader). His half brother Cleomenes I was made king until approximately 516 BC. Hearing the news, Dorieus the second brother of Leonidas, was outraged causing him to leave Sparta and attempt to set up a colony in Africa. This action was failed in the process which made him seek his fortune. Soon after, he was killed leaving two sons of Anaxandridas II remaining. Leonidas was seen as a future successor in the eyes of the citizens. He married Cleomenes` daughter Gorgo sometime around 490 BC, the year of taking the throne. During this time, Cleomenes I the present ruler of Sparta, was forced to flee from his home due to the "First Persian invasion of Greece" as they requested assistance against the incoming enemies. The invasion lasted from 492-490 BC and an Athenian victory. The war was separated into two campaigns, the first one taking place in 492 BC. Persian king
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Darius I who saw the chance to extend his empire. Extending his empire would lead into Europe allowing Darius I to secure the western frontier. The second campaign, in 490 BC, was led by Datis and Artaphernes. Datis was a median(region) admiral who served the Persian empire being noticed for his leadership with companion in lead, Artaphernes. Artaphernes led the Persian forces along with Datis against the Greeks destroying and besieging Eretria, a town in Euboea, Greece but, lost to the Athenians at the "Battle of Marathon" in the year 490 BC. Thus concluding the end of the first invasion of Greece by the Persians. Soon after, Leonidas prove able to rule due to the being superior in the training and society environment of Sparta. He was voted into a position to lead the combined Greek forces to resist the attack of the second Persian invasion of Greece. The second invasion of Greece by the Persians took place in 480-479 BC as King Xerxes I had ideas of ruling all of Greece. The second invasion was a response to the defeat of the first invasion of Greece which destroyed Darius I`s attempts to dominate Greece by conquest. His son, Xerxes gathered his resources and men after the death of his father to proceed with the plans for the second invasion. The invasion began in 480 BC when the Persian army marched onward until the advance was blocked at the pass of Thermopylae. A small Allied force under the rule of King Leonidas I of Sparta was guarding the passageway causing an outbreak to occur. "Leonidas led a small force of Greeks - mostly Spartan (the famous 300), but also Thespians and Thebans" (Gill). Furthermore, he and his army of 14,000 faced off in combat with Xerxes and his army of about 70,000-300,000 as Leonidas and his men spent their last few moments together. "All the Spartans and Thespians died, including Leonidas, whose corpse the Persians mangled" (Gill).

Personality Traits

Leonidas going through a lot of experiences especially when he was a child, learned and held onto many characteristics and traits. Modern physicians and psychiatrists recognize that childhood has a significant impact on a person`s impact on a physical and mental development, learning abilities, emotional maturity, and interpersonal skills" (Schrader). Being the middle child of the same-sex often means that child is often rebellious and irresponsible. Alternatively, they can be seen as the "peace-makers," being more focused on peer-groups rather than family. "The most consistent characteristic of middle-children is that they are almost always the opposite of their older sibling (Schrader). This might be a key idea of explaining Leonidas` personality because his older brother, Cleomenes I was rebellious with the mindset that he had the destiny to lead. Leonidas on the other hand could be seen as loyal and a "team player". At Thermopylae, he was not so much commanding subordinates or subjects as rallying comrades. They paid him back in the highest currency known to man: with their loyalty unto death" (Schrader). The scenario at the Battle of Thermopylae of Xerxes requesting Leonidas to join his side but him denying such a selfish demand shows his loyalty to his people. In addition to the connection of both of these two powerful rulers, the battle of Thermopylae showed us how brave Leonidas was and how strong-willed he was waging war with
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an army of his size against one that is many sizes larger.


“If you men think that I rely on numbers, then all Greece is not sufficient, for it is but a small fraction of their numbers; but if on men's valour, then this number will do.” This quote was said by Leonidas to someone who questioned his “hazardous risk” as he made the decision to go to war with such a small amount of men. The following war and the one major obstacle the great ruler had to face was his last battle against the Persian king identified as Xerxes. This battle was an oncoming struggle for Leonidas and his men as they knew they were outnumbered one to four with his force of approximately 14,000 men including fellow Spartans and Greeks from nearby city-states. The following battle called “The Battle of Thermopylae” was a mountain pass located in northern Greece allowing the Greeks to hold position of the passageway up until three days using their last efforts alongside their Spartan king Leonidas to defend the narrow pass. On the first day of the three-day period, Xerxes sent his troops but failed to clear the passageway thus, sending in his “elite immortals” but the close combat strategy of the Greeks seemed to be too superior allowing them to hang in a bit longer resulting in the end of the first day. The following day started off the same with the Persians being slaughtered in close combat quarters but news from Ephialtes, a local shepherd from Trachis informed the Persians of an alternative route - “the Anopaia path-- which would allow them to avoid the majority of the enemy forces and attack their southern flank” (Cartwright). With a portion of the Greek forces being cut off by the flank, Leonidas orders his men to retreat to fight their last breaths on the final day. With the mindset of trying to delay the Persians, the remaining 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians of Leonidas` army stood and fought until the last man. Being charged from the front and flanked from the back, Leonidas and his men took their last breaths together fighting in the name of Sparta and all of Greece. ”Ultimately the Persians took control of the pass, but the heroic defeat of Leonidas would assume legendary proportions for later generations of Greeks” (Cartwright).

Historical Significance

There are many in history that has made major impacts on the future. Leonidas is one of those contributing members who made a change for the future of Sparta. Many citizens of Sparta saw him as an important figure of Greece and Spartan history. This is possibly due to the achievements he has achieved throughout his lifetime a militant king. “Leonidas fascinates us not because he was a Spartan king, but because he was prepared to defy impossible odds for the sake of freedom” (Schrader). One of his contributing achievement affecting all of Greece would be his final battle at “The Battle of Thermopylae.” This was a major factor that helped determine to everyone that he was significant to history because he was prepared to face any dangerous situation head on with strategic battle plans. Losing his life in the final Battle of Thermopylae was quite defensive rather than aggressive due to the fact that he consciously faced death. He knew he would lose his life in this upcoming war which turned out to be true. Even with the idea that his life would be put on the line, it did not dishearten him. “ Leonidas` conscious decision to die in order to save Sparta from destruction was proto-christian. His example is morally up-lifting, and his story inspirational” (Schrader). Leonidas is significant to Greek history because he symbolize the bravery and the courage of Greece. His decision to stay and fight with his 300 handpicked Spartan soldiers again the thousand soldiers of Persia made him an important figure in Greek history. His action of staying and deciding to fight with so little men shows us his bravery taking over. In addition, it allows us to realize the dedication and courage he had for his men and hometown of Sparta to fight under such circumstances.

Cartwright, Marl. "Leonidas." Ancient History-Encyclopedia. May 12, 2013. Web. October 16, 2014.

Giu, N.S. "King Leonidas of Sparta." Abouteducation. Web. September 15, 2014.

Historian, The. "Biography Leonidas I of Ancient Sparta." Humanites360. October 29, 2007. Web. December 4, 2014.

Jarusn Owen. "History of Ancient Sparta." Livescience. May 15, 2013. Web. October 2, 2014.

Shakraborry, annoy. "Historical Facts about King Leonidas Xerxes and Backgrounds for Battle of Thermopylae." Annoyzview. February 24, 2014. Web. November 6, 2014.