What Made Spartan Military Spectacular

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About this sample


Words: 802 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019

Words: 802|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019

In The Histories, Book VII line 184, Herodotus accounts of the multitude of the Persian army under the leadership of King Xerxes which would leave any reader awestruck. Further on, we see how in spite of being warned by Demaratus and the spy, Xerxes sends in the Medes and Cissians, only to his own loss. This proves that Xerxes was obstinate by nature. Line 212 clearly depicts Xerxes’ concern for his army. Xerxes’ joy when Ephialtes tells him of the other pathway shows his desire for winning the battle, which is also exemplified by Diodorus of Sicily, Book 11[8]. Thorsten Beigel’s account concerning Xerxes is pretty much corollary to the former two. Leonidas, has been described to be the descendant of a prestigious Spartan lineage (Herodotus, The Histories, Book VII, line 204). His courage is portrayed clearly when he led an army of just 300 Spartans and a few more troops from Thebes against a mighty Persian army. In line 220, when the Spartans were about to lose the battle, Leonidas himself sent away some of the Greeks but he waited with the Spartans. This depicts his concern for others but also his pride and determination to fight the war honorably. Though Leonidas lost his life in the battle, a stone lion statue was erected in his memory, which is proof enough of his glory. An excellent depiction of Leonidas’ wit is in Diodorus of Sicily Book 11[4] where Leonidas explains how taking just an army of 300 Spartans is the correct decision. Another quality of this Spartan King has been highlighted by Thorsten Beigel’s account where he talks of Leonidas being a loving husband and father besides being a king and a warrior. The conversation between Gorgo and Leonidas before he leaves for the battle shows us the emotional yet responsible side of Leonidas. Another thing talked about is the Spartan military mystique. The Spartans had a certain air of confidence in their warrior traits which is evident because they fearlessly set off against an overwhelmingly large Persian army. Even when they knew that they were going to lose, they refused to surrender and chose to lose their lives over losing their glory.

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The role of Gorgo and other Spartan women has not been talked about much by Herodotus and Diodorus. However, Zack Snyder’s “300” lays excellent emphasis on Gorgo’s role at the time of this battle. According to his account, Gorgo appears as an active, self-confident wife and queen who advises and supports her husband. This is evident from the two incidents that occur with the Persian envoy. Her bold and courageous tone and attitude depict her self-worth. The account also tells us about a few emotional and romantic conversation between the royal couple which are important because they highlight Leonidas’ familial responsibilities. Gorgo is also depicted as a woman who is willing to endure Theron’s sexual assault for the sake of her husband and Sparta. In spite of being sexually abducted by Theron, Gorgo doesn’t lose her honor. Instead, she kills him with a sword and retorts at him with sarcasm. The account also talks about a scene wherein Ephialtes is lured by lascivious dancing women when he goes to greet Xerxes. This is particularly important because the contrast between the women of the two sides highlights the honor of Spartan women. This depiction of Gorgo holds significant importance because it shows how Spartan women enjoyed more freedom and equality. A female co-hero was assigned to male bravery.

Another concept of extreme importance is the concept of defending the freedom of Greece and winning everlasting glory by defending your homeland. The Spartans, though small in number, were unmatched in confidence, wit and bravery. The had an unshakable self-belief which did not let them prey to the enormous strength of the Persian army until the very end. They bravely shielded themselves even against the shower of Persian arrows enough to hide the sun. The strictly adhered to the prophecy delivered to them (Herodotus’ The Histories, Book VII, line 220). Herodotus further goes on to talk about every possible thing that the Spartans did to fight until their last breath. Diodorus of Sicily also talks about the Spartan glory on parallel lines. In book 11[9], he talks about Leonidas eagerly desirous to win for both himself and for Sparta a garland of glory. The book ends with a poem by Simonides praising Leonidas and the Spartans with respect to their might and fame (Book 11[11]). An inscription honoring the Spartans had also been set up where they died (Herodotus’s The Histories, Book VII, line 226).

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All in all, each of the three accounts glorified the Spartan military and King Leonidas while giving King Xerxes the appropriate judgment and giving Gorgo and the other Spartan women the right respect and honor they deserve.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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What Made Spartan Military Spectacular. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
“What Made Spartan Military Spectacular.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019,
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