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Discuss the impact of the Battle of Thermopylae.What were the Spartans able to learn from this experience?

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Suzie Hilellis

on 26 May 2014

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Transcript of Discuss the impact of the Battle of Thermopylae.What were the Spartans able to learn from this experience?

Discuss the impact of the Battle of Thermopylae.What were the Spartans able to learn from this experience?
The Background
The Prophecy- According to Herodotus :the Histories
Hear your fate, O dwellers in Sparta of the wide spaces,
Either you famed, great town be sacked by Perseus' sons,
Or, if that be not , the whole land of Lacedaemon
Shall mourn the death of a king in the house of Heracles,
For not the strength of lions of bulls shall hold him,
Strength against strength; for he has the power of Zeus,
And will not be checked till one of those he has consumed.
This prophecy according to Herodotus was told to King Leonidas I by the Oracle of Delphi when he went to ask whether or not Sparta should go to Thermopylae. Sparta was a very religious city-state debating whether or not to send troops to Thermopylae because the Olympics were happening around the same time and they didn't want to offend the gods.
The Ionian Revolt
In 499 BC the cities of Ionia rebelled against their Persian governor. While this happens they were supported by the Athenians. The rebellion continued until 493 BC. With fires being lit and temples being destroyed, Athens became a target for Persian forces mainly for her encouragement and support towards the Ionian rebellion.
- "One house was set alight by a soldier, and the flames rapidly spread until the whole town was ablaze.............In the conflagration at Sardis a temple of Cybebe, a goddess worshiped in that part of the world, was destroyed, and the Persian later made this a pretext for their burning of Greek temples."
- Herodotus: The Histories-Book Five p.380-381 on the Ionian Revolt.
Childhood and Life
"Nobody was allowed to live as he wished;in the city, as in a camp, the Spartans had a fixed way of life and an occupation directed the public welfare, thinking they belonged wholly to the fatherland not themselves"
Plutarch- Lycurgus 24.1
Life for Men
- Spartan boys were taken from their home at the age of seven. They had a very strict education and training. They were told to fight each other but never in anger. Spartan education put heavy emphasis on physical fitness. The training of boys was divided into age groups and once they were young adults - 30 they were expected to marry. The men had to live in the barracks until they were 30 and if they were married they had to visit there wife in secrecy.
Life for Women
- Women of Sparta received a education and physical education. The Spartans believed that physical training made women fit which would have healthy children which in turn would become good soldiers. Physical educational is believed to mainly have focused on gymnastics, choral song and dance.
The Battle
- As mentioned in the text to the left by Plutarch , everything was done in the benefit of the state. In Sparta only two types of people received headstones; a soldier who died in battle or a woman who died in childbirth. This was because both acts were for the benefit of the state.
Drill And Battle Tactics
According to Xenophon Spartan hoplites were organised into files (Fig3) . Each file (enomotia) is commanded by an enomatarch. Files were linked into fifties. Two fifties were joined to form a lochcos. A lochos was the smallest division in the Spartan army.
The army was called up by age groups beginning with the youngest. Veterans were only used in a emergency to guard the baggage.
Young Spartans soldiers were first taught to march in a single file. When they had accomplished this they were taught to form columns of various depths.. When a lochos three men abreast was given the order to form phalanx the first enomatiai behind moved up on the left to form a block of 12 men wide and 12 men deep (Fig2) . When instructions were issued the movements would be made at the sound of a trumpet.
enomotia: unit of 36 men
lochos: 4 enomotiati
"There were two types of hoplite in Greece, the Spartan, whose life was devoted to warfare , and the others who only took up arms in emergency" - The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, pg 30
The Battle
The drill and battle tactics assisted the Greeks at Thermopylae through the phalanx formation. While the Persians attacked and the Greeks defended. The phalanx gave them head to toes coverage as seen in Fig 1. there was enough space to use their spear. The spear (Fig 4) was made of wood with a iron head and a bronze sauroter (butt). The butt of the spear would be used to stab at any fallen enemies on the ground and once/if the spear broke it would during close up contact which it would have eventually the spear was turn and the butt was used as a head.
Fig 1.
Fig 2
Fig 3
Fig 4
As mentioned in above quote from
Herodotus' Histories
the burning of the temples during the revolt was a reason to burn the Greek temples in Athens to the ground as well. Herodotus tells us that the Persian King Darius, ordered a servant to tell him three times, before each meal "Master, remember the Athenians". This was because the Athenians sent troops to the revolt , so the Athenians encouraging the revolt basically began the Greco- Persian Wars.
Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus, a Greek city in the southwest of the Asian Minor.
Lived in the 5th Century- his birth was between 500BC to 470BC and his death was between 429BC to 413BC.
Doesn't mention having witnessed the Greco-Persian Wars.
- This means he would have heard it from someone else resulting in the possible account of bias, however there would have been bias either way due to him being Greek, and him writing in the perspective of a Greeks.
He wrote the histories which covers the growth of the Persian Empire and the Greco-Persian Wars.
What was the Battle of Thermopylae?
The battle of Thermopylae occurred in 480BC and lasted for 3 days. Due to the battle of Thermopylae being a naval battle and a ground battle it took place in two places; the Thermopylae pass and the Artemesian Strait. King Leonidas of Sparta was head of the ground battle and the Athenian politician Themistocles was head of the naval battle. The Greeks were up against the Persian Empire- that reached from modern day Turkey and Egypt to India. The ratio of Greeks to Persian forces on land was 1:50 while the ratio of Greek to Persian at sea was1:6.
How many Greeks?
The Greek forces included the 300 Spartans and their helots with 2,120 Arcadians, 1,000 Lokrians, 1,000 Phocians, 700 Thespians, 400 Corinthians, 400 Thebans, 200 men from Phleious, and 80 Mycenaeans.
Why was the pass a good spot for the battle?
The pass was narrow. As shown in Fig 1the Greeks had a numerical advantage due to the Persian having to fit so many warriors in such a small space. Many Persian were trampled by there own men or they fell in the ocean. The Greeks stopped the Persian advance due to the formation of a phalanx. Letting the heavy force hold its own barely being affected by the Persian attack. As shown in the image a smaller number of men would have had a advantage over many men.
The Impact

After the Battle of Thermopylae, and the death of King Leonidas, Sparta prepared for the Battle of Plataea which was one year after. Spartan society wouldn't have changed much within that year apart from the government. There were 16 Spartan ships at the Battle of Salamis (approx. 3200 Spartans -200 men per boat) which was happening during and for a few days after Thermopylae.
Spartan moral would have been crushed but spirits also would have been lifted. Moral would have been crushed due to the loss of not only Sparta's most elite warriors but also their king.The loss at Thermopylae would have also increased Spartan moral; because the Greeks to Persian ratio was 1:50. If the Greeks won with that ratio Spartans still would have held the reputation they had previously; a purely military state that was devoted to warfare.

-"A slave’s life is all you understand, you know nothing of freedom. For if you did, you would have encouraged us to fight on, not only with our spear, but with everything we have." - Histories by Herodotus 7.135

Herodotus' tells us that Spartans always had a rule to abide by and one loss was not going to change anything, society would remain the same.

After the death of Leonidas his son, Pleistarchus was automatically made king , during the earlier part of Pleistarchus' reign, his uncle Cleombrotus and then, after Cleombrotus' death , his cousin Pausanias acted as regent as Pleistarchus was not of age. After the death of Pleistarchus in 458BC Pausinias son, Pleistonanax ruled. These desicions were probably made by a 28-member 'council of elders' who were consulted on any major event concerning the citizens of Sparta.
The Thermopylae Pass (Fig1)
"Athens and Sparta, remained convinced that with courage and careful rational planning they had a chance of preserving their independence. The very size of the Persian effort proved to them that the enemy was engaged in a desperate gamble so that, if the Greeks were willing to risk total destruction, they could count on favorable probabilities. The element of extreme daring in taking a calculated risk is emphasized also by Thukydides (I 73, 144) in his references to the Greek strategy in this war."
What the Spartans and their allies learnt from the Battle of Thermopylae
This is a quote from the official Iran Chamber Society on the Greco-Persian Wars, whose main objective is to counter the view of Herodotus and the achievements of the Greeks. This shows that both sides of the argument are very biased with the Greeks side claiming the number of Persians could have been up to 3 million and the Iranians saying it couldn't possibly have been more than 100,000. Regardless of which number is more accurate it is irrefutable that the Persians vastly outnumbered the Greeks. Therefore the above passage would be a relatively accurate assessment of what the Greeks would have learnt from the Battle of Thermopylae.
• Academic.reed.edu, (2014). Herodotus: Book Five. [online] Available at: http://academic.reed.edu/humanities/hum110/Hdt/Hdt5.html [Accessed 20 May. 2014]. I found this source reliable as it was an education website and it was useful because it gave me dialogue that was relevant to my source.
• Ancientgreece.com, (2014). Ancient Greece - Persian, Peloponnesian, Spartan, Greek Wars. [online] Available at: http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/Wars/ [Accessed 20 May. 2014]. I questioned the reliability of this website but it was useful because it gave me background information that was relevant to my assignment.
• Cartwright, M. (2014). Thermopylae. [online] Ancient History Encyclopedia. Available at: http://www.ancient.eu.com/thermopylae/ [Accessed 20 May. 2014]. The website would be reliable as it is an encyclopedia and it assisted me with the background of Thermopylae in all aspects
• Connelly, P. (n.d.). The Greek Armies. 1st ed. pp.28-35. This source was one of my main sources and I found it highly factual as it gave me information on the Spartan army, drill and battle tactics as well as the Battle of Thermopylae.
• Ehistory.osu.edu, (2014). eHistory.com: The Ionian Revolt. [online] Available at: http://ehistory.osu.edu/world/articles/ArticleView.cfm?AID=19 [Accessed 20 May. 2014]. This site is would be reliable as it is an educational site that assisted me in finding background information on the Ionian Revolt.
• Gill, N. (2014). The Spartan King Who Led the 300. [online] About.com Ancient / Classical History. Available at: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/people/g/leonidas.htm [Accessed 20 May. 2014].This site gave me background information on the 300 and Leonidas the reliability may be questioned do to it being a blog.
• Greekresearch.wikispaces.com, (n.d.). greekresearch - Acient Spartan Training and Warfare. [online] Available at: http://greekresearch.wikispaces.com/Acient+Spartan+Training+and+Warfare [Accessed 20 May. 2014]. This website gave me information on Ancient Spartan warfare and training
• Herodotus., De Sélincourt, A. and Marincola, J. (1996). The histories. 1st ed. London: Penguin Books. This novel is one of my main sources and it helped immensely with my assignment as it gave me information on practically everything needed
• History Channel, (2013). Battle of Thermopylae. [ivideo] Available at: [Accessed 5 May. 2014]. This video was reliable and gave me different modern historians perspectives on the Battle of Thermopylae
• History Net: Where History Comes Alive - World & US History Online, (n.d.). Greco-Persian Wars: Battle of Thermopylae. [online] Available at: http://www.historynet.com/greco-persian-wars-battle-of-thermopylae.htm [Accessed 20 May. 2014]. This website gave me information on the Greco-Persian Wars in general.
• Nathanbauman.com, (2014). Herodotus’ The Histories Journal: Book 5 (The Ionian Revolt, Part 1) | West Coast Odysseus. [online] Available at: http://nathanbauman.com/odysseus/?p=4301 [Accessed 20 May. 2014]. This wesite provided me with quotes and relevant information to my assignment, it was reliable because it was a copy of the Herodotus’ the Histories on internet.
• Perseus.tufts.edu, (n.d.). A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology,Paca'rius, De'cimus, Pleistarchus, Pleistarchus. [online] Available at: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0104%3Aalphabetic+letter%3DP%3Aentry+group%3D33 [Accessed 20 May. 2014]. This website gave me information on who reigned after Leonidas.
• StudyMode, (2014). Cultural Bias and Structure in Herodotus by Mattsoldo. [online] Available at: http://www.studymode.com/essays/Cultural-Bias-And-Structure-In-Herodotus-110672.html [Accessed 20 May. 2014]. It gave me information on bias that could have been presented in Herodotus’ works and why.
• Iranchamber.com, (2014). Iran Chamber Society: History of Iran: The Persian Wars. [online] Available at: http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/persian_wars5.php [Accessed 21 May. 2014]. I used this website as a major source as it countered with Herodotus’ the Histories and gave me perspective of modern historians
• Forrest, W. (1968). A History of Sparta. Unknown. This source assisted in giving me background information about the Persian wars
• Hooker, J. (1980). The Ancient Spartans. Unknown. This novel assisted in giving me information and quotes on Spartan Life
• Fig 1- Ionian Revolt Slide -Commons.wikimedia.org, (2014). File:Ionian Revolt Campaign Map.png - Wikimedia Commons. [online] Available at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ionian_Revolt_Campaign_Map.png [Accessed 21 May. 2014].
• Fig 4 -Battle and Tactics Slide-Medievalcollectibles.com, (2014). Spartan Spear - MC-MAZ-300SP by Medieval Collectibles. [online] Available at: http://www.medievalcollectibles.com/p-10169-spartan-spear.aspx [Accessed 21 May. 2014].
• Picture of Herodotus’ The Histories -Paxlibrorum.com, (2014). The Histories — Pax Librorum. [online] Available at: http://www.paxlibrorum.com/books/histories/ [Accessed 21 May. 2014].
• Picture of Herodotus-Telegraph.co.uk, (2008). The Histories by Herodotus: Justin Marozzi's companion volume - Telegraph. [online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/artsandculture/3397653/The-Histories-by-Herodotus-Justin-Marozzis-companion-volume.html [Accessed 21 May. 2014].
• Fig 1,2,3 on The Battle and Tactics Slide- Connelly, P. (1977). The Greek Armies. 1st ed. pp.28-35.
• Thermopylae Pass – Screenshot an Edit -History Channel, (2013). Battle of Thermopylae. [ivideo] Available at: [Accessed 5 May. 2014].
Questions for Source Analysis
1) What is your source demonstrating/ revealing about the topic area?
2) How does the source contribute to your understanding of the question?
3) Is the source useful in helping you to answer the question? (Consider the perspective of the source, what does reveal/ does not reveal about the question)
4) Is the source reliable when answering when answering? ( Consider who wrote the source, if it is primary or secondary, any possible bias)
Herodotus (source1)
1) As Herodotus wasn’t a actual witness to the battle but the battle was contemporary to his life and his writings reflect the observations of a person living with the perspective of the victors. His account is biased by the virtue that he belonged to the society that had been victorious
2) It was useful because it gave me a background of the events leading up to the battle of Thermopylae and the subsequent battles.
3) It does not answer the main inquiry question (Discuss the impact of the Battle of Thermopylae. What were the Spartans able to learn from this experience?) but it is useful in providing background information and insight into the societies perspective of the battle of Thermopylae.
4) Yes, I believe that the source is reliable when answering the question although it is definitely bias and as it was written in the story- telling style of the time the emphasis was not on hard facts but more on the psychological and emotional aspects.

Greek Armies by Peter Connelly (source 2)
1) My source, being secondary , revealed information such about the battle of Thermopylae, the Struggle for the pass as well as drill and battle tactics, Sparta: a military state and the organization of the Spartan army
2) The source doesn’t contribute to the question exactly but it provides background information on everything mentioned above particularly drill and battle tactics and the battle
3) Because it does not answer the main inquiry question it provides a historians perspective on the battle through novel which you would expect to have no images except it is full of diagrams and definitions which helped to give me a better understanding
4) I believe it is a reliable source seeing as he was best known for Greek and Roman military equipment and having written several other books.

Sparta History Channel Documentary (source 3)
1) This source was a video which gave me all the information I needed from the Battle of Thermopylae covering basically everything that was relevant and leading up to the Greco-Persian Wars specifically the Battle of Thermopylae.
2) The source doesn't contribute to the actual question of What were the Spartans able to learn from this experience? But it contributed to the discussion leading up to the answers of that question.
3) Truthfully , it didn’t help tell me what the Spartans learnt from Thermopylae, it wasn’t supposed to. I just referred to it as a background video.
4) Yes even though it was a History Channel Documentary on YouTube that had a name of This Is Sparta!! It had legitimate historians opinions in it which helped me get a understanding of their view of Thermopylae.

Iran Chamber Society (source 4)
1) It contrasts the view of Herodotus and challenges the claim of Greek superiority over the Persian army. Several historians such as
Niebuhr, Gobineau and Macan offer alternate perspectives to those commonly used as source material for this topics e.g. Herodotus: The Histories , and the number of soldiers Greek and Persian at Thermopylae.
2) Although this source disputes many of the perspectives given by ancient historians it confirms the central premise of Persian numerical superiority.
3) Yes, this is the most helpful source in answering the question as it offers a rational and objective theory as to why the Greeks presented the history as they did. The Greek perspective was not meant to be only a history but also a propaganda piece building on the idea of the superiority of the Greek soldier. It served as a moral boost and helped embed the idea of superiority into the psychology of the Greek nation, effectively making them believe that they could retain their independence and protect their borders irrespective of the size of their enemy.
4) Yes, the source is reliable but is written from an opposite perspective which challenges the Greeks claims.
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