|Modern Thermopylae. Photo courtesy of tumblr.com|
Thermopylae also known as “hot gates”, from hot sulphur springs nearby, is a narrow pass on the east coast of central Greece between the Kallídhromon massif and the Gulf of Maliakós, about 85 miles (136 km) northwest of Athens and lie between the cliffs of Mt. Oeta and the Malic Gulf. Silt accumulation has gradually widened the once-narrow pass. In ancient times, Thermopylae was used as an entrance into Greece from the north. In antiquity its cliffs were by the sea, but silting has widened the distance to more than a mile today.
The Battle of Thermopylae had been immortalized by several monuments and epitaphs around the battlefield of Thermopylae.
According to a Greek news writer, Anastasios Papapostolou, the anniversary of the famous battle was commemorated on August 6, 2012 described as “Molon Labe: Anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC)”. This is so because when King Xerxes I of Persia asked the Spartans to lay down their arms and surrender 2492 years ago, King Leonidas of Sparta said the phrase “Molon Labe”, which means “Come and take them” in ancient Greek .
On top of the burial mound of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, an epitaph was placed on a commemorative stone with a well- known epigram engraved which was composed by Simonides. The site was also the hill on which the last of the Spartans died. The original stone has not survived, but in 1955, the epitaph was engraved on a new stone. The text from Herodotus is:
Ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδεκείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.Ō ksein', angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti tēidekeimetha, tois keinōn rhēmasi peithomenoi."Stranger, announce to the Spartans that here, We lie, having fulfilled their orders." The form of this ancient Greek poetry is an elegiac couplet, commonly used for epitaphs.
There were many translations of the epigram in English such as “ Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by, That here, obedient to their laws, we lie” by Williiam Lisle Bowles and “Stranger! To Sparta say, her faithful band, Here lie in death, remembering her command” by Francis Hodgson, among many others.
In addition, there is a modern monument at the site, called the "Leonidas Monument", in honor of the Spartan king. It features a bronze statue of Leonidas with a phrase under it that reads simply: "Μολών λαβέ" ("Come and get them!" The metope(square spaces) below depicts the battle scenes. The two marble statues on the left and the right of the monument represent, respectively, the river Eurotas and Mount Taygetos, famous landmarks of Sparta.
In 1997, a second monument was officially unveiled by the Greek government, dedicated to the 700 Thespians who fought with the Spartans. The monument is made of marble and features a bronze statue depicting the god Eros, to whom the ancient Thespians accorded particular religious veneration. Under the statue, a sign reads "In memory of the seven hundred Thespians." The monument to the Thespians is placed beside the one to the Spartans.
|Photo courtesy of 300spartanwarriors.com|
A plate, below the statue, explains its symbolism:
The headless male figure symbolizes the anonymous sacrifice of the 700 Thespians to their country.
The outstretched chest symbolizes the struggle, the gallantry, the strength, the bravery and the courage.
The open wing symbolizes the victory, the glory, the soul, the spirit and the freedom. The broken wing symbolizes the voluntary sacrifice and death. The naked body symbolizes Eros, the most important god of the ancient Thespians, a god of creation, beauty and life.
The Battle of Thermopylae has remained an icon of western civilization ever since it was fought in 480 BC. The battle is revisited in countless adages, in literature, songs, and in films, television programs and video games. The battle is discussed in many books and articles on the theory and practice of warfare. The movies The 300 Spartans (1962) and 300 (2007) were based on the events during and close to the time of the battle.
After the battle of Thermopylae, the Spartan culture became an inspiration and object of emulation all over the world. This phenomenon is known as Laconophilia, (Laconism) which is love or admiration of Sparta and of the Spartan culture or constitution. The term derives from Laconia, the part of the Peloponnesus that the Spartans inhabited. Admirers of the Spartans typically praise their valor and success in war, their "laconic" austerity and self-restraint, their aristocratic and virtuous ways, the stable order of their political life and their constitution, with its tripartite mixed government.
I, for one, am a strong follower of Laconism, as many of us are.
April 30, 2013
Fresno, California USA