d. 480 BC

Leonidas was a king of Sparta at the time of invasion of Xerxes. His famous defense of the pass of Thermopylae is one of the greatest military feats of all time, and has come to symbolize Spartan valor and tenacity.

There was considerable debate in Sparta in the weeks leading up to the Persian attack about how best to defend Greece. Many cities on the Peloponnese wanted to withdraw behind the Isthmus of Corinth, whereas cities in Attica and Boeotia of course, wanted to make a stand much further north. Sparta, as leader of the united Greek forces, made the decision to make a stand at Thermopylae, a narrow pass between the mountains and the Aegean Sea in Thessaly. Leonidas called for 300 picked Spartans, to lead a combined Greek force of 7000 men. At the pass, the Spartans held off Xerxes forces, which were said to be over a million strong, for three days, killing thousands, alarming the Persian troops, and preventing any forward progress. Eventually a traitor showed the Persians an alternate route through the mountains and the Greek forces were surrounded. At this point, Leonidas dismissed all of the rest of the army save his 300 Spartans, and 400 Thespians, who refused to leave. With this small force he fought on, killing as many Persians as possible until his entire army perished in the effort.

There have been few military victories in the history of mankind as shrouded in glory as the defeat of Leonidas at the pass of Thermopylae.

Key events during the life of Leonidas:

489 BC
Succeeded to the Agiad Throne of Sparta, on the death of Cleomenes I.
480 BC
Sent with 300 picked Spartans, to lead 7000 Greek troops against the Persians at Thermopylae.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Battle of Thermopylae  in  Xerxes  by  Jacob Abbott
Brave Three Hundred  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Three Hundred  in  Pictures from Greek Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Lion King  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
Of the Battle of Thermopylae  in  The Story of the Persian War  by  Alfred J. Church
Leonidas at Thermopylae  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Leonidas at Thermopylae  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland
How the Spartans Fought at Thermopylae  in  Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men  by  Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding
The Bravest Men of All Hellas  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
How the Spartans Died at Thermopylae  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris
The Brave Three Hundred  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Charles D. Shaw
How Leonidas Kept the Pass  in  On the Shores of the Great Sea  by  M. B. Synge
Great Persian Invasion (cont.)  in  The Story of the Greek People  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

The Defence of Thermopylae
 in Greatest Nations - Greece

 in Stories from Greek History

Leonidas at Thermopylae
 in The Story of the Greek People

Short Biography
Ephialtes Greek traitor who showed Xerxes a way around the pass of Thermopylae.
Xerxes Raised an enormous army for Persian invasion of Greece. Defeated at Battle of Salamis.
Pausanias Spartan General who led Greece against Mardonius at the Battle of Plataea.
Eurybiades Head of Spartan Fleet during the Persian War.
Hydarnes Son of Hydarnes, satrap of Media. Leader of the Persian Immortals. Fought at Thermopylae.
Gorgo Daughter of Cleomenes I, wife of Leonidas.
Bulis and Sperthias Volunteered to sacrifice their lives to the Persian King to expiate the murder of Ambassadors.
Demaratus Exiled King of Sparta, advisor to Xerxes during his invasion of Greece.
Simonides Greek lyric poet. Wrote a famous epitaph honoring fallen Spartans at Thermopylae.,