Leonidas I (/liˈɒnɪdəs, -dæs/; Doric Λεωνίδας Α´, Leōnídas A'; Ionic and Attic Greek: Λεωνίδης Α´, Leōnídēs A' [leɔːnídɛːs]; "son of the lion"; died 11 August 480 BC) was a warrior king of the Greek city-state of Sparta, and the 17th of the Agiad line; a dynasty which claimed descent from the mythological demigod Heracles. He was the husband of Gorgo, the daughter of Cleomenes I of Sparta. Leonidas had a notable participation in the Second Persian War, where he led the allied Greek forces to a last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC) while attempting to defend the pass from the invading Persian army.
Marble Hoplite statue, thought to be of Leonidas, (5th century BC), Sparta, Archæological Museum of Sparta, Greece
|King of Sparta|
|Born||c. 540 BC|
Sparta, Ancient Greece
|Died||11 August 480 BC (aged around 60)|
According to Herodotus, Leonidas' mother was not only his father's wife but also his niece and had been barren for so long that the ephors, the five annually elected administrators of the Spartan constitution, tried to prevail upon King Anaxandridas II to set her aside and take another wife. Anaxandridas refused, claiming his wife was blameless, whereupon the ephors agreed to allow him to take a second wife without setting aside his first. This second wife, a descendent of Chilon of Sparta (one of the Seven Sages of Greece), promptly bore a son, Cleomenes. However, one year after Cleomenes' birth, Anaxandridas' first wife also gave birth to a son, Dorieus. Leonidas was the second son of Anaxandridas' first wife, and either the elder brother or twin of Cleombrotus.
King Anaxandridas II died in 520 BC, and Cleomenes succeeded to the throne sometime between then and 516 BC. Dorieus was so outraged that the Spartans had preferred his half-brother over himself that he found it impossible to remain in Sparta. He made one unsuccessful attempt to set up a colony in Africa and, when this failed, sought his fortune in Sicily, where after initial successes he was killed. Leonidas' relationship with his bitterly antagonistic elder brothers is unknown, but he married Cleomenes' daughter, Gorgo, sometime before coming to the throne in 490 BC.
Leonidas was heir to the Agiad throne and a full citizen (homoios) at the time of the Battle of Sepeia against Argos (c. 494 BC). Likewise, he was a full citizen when the Persians sought submission from Sparta and met with vehement rejection in or around 492/491 BC. His elder brother, the king, had already been deposed on grounds of purported insanity, and had fled into exile when Athens sought assistance against the First Persian invasion of Greece, that ended at Marathon (490 BC).
Plutarch has recorded the following: "When someone said to him: 'Except for being king you are not at all superior to us,' Leonidas son of Anaxandridas and brother of Cleomenes replied: 'But were I not better than you, I should not be king.'" As the product of the agoge, Leonidas is unlikely to have been referring to his royal blood alone but rather suggesting that he had, like his brother Dorieus, proven superior capability in the competitive environment of Spartan training and society, and that he believed this made him qualified to rule.
Leonidas was chosen to lead the combined Greek forces determined to resist the Second Persian invasion of Greece in 481 BC. This was not simply a tribute to Sparta's military prowess: The probability that the coalition wanted Leonidas personally for his capability as a military leader is underlined by the fact that just two years after his death, the coalition preferred Athenian leadership to the leadership of either Leotychidas or Leonidas' successor (as regent for his still under-aged son) Pausanias. The rejection of Leotychidas and Pausanias was not a reflection on Spartan arms. Sparta's military reputation had never stood in higher regard, nor was Sparta less powerful in 478 BC than it had been in 481 BC.
Upon receiving a request from the confederated Greek forces to aid in defending Greece against the Persian invasion, Sparta consulted the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle is said to have made the following prophecy in hexameter verse:
For you, inhabitants of wide-wayed Sparta,
Either your great and glorious city must be wasted by Persian men,
Or if not that, then the bound of Lacedaemon must mourn a dead king, from Heracles' line.
The might of bulls or lions will not restrain him with opposing strength; for he has the might of Zeus.
I declare that he will not be restrained until he utterly tears apart one of these.
In August 480 BC, Leonidas marched out of Sparta to meet Xerxes' army at Thermopylae with a small force of 1,200 men (900 helots and 300 Spartan hoplites), where he was joined by forces from other Greek city-states, who put themselves under his command to form an army of 7,000 strong. There are various theories on why Leonidas was accompanied by such a small force of hoplites. According to Herodotus, "the Spartans sent the men with Leonidas on ahead so that the rest of the allies would see them and march with no fear of defeat, instead of medizing like the others if they learned that the Spartans were delaying. After completing their festival, the Carneia, they left their garrison at Sparta and marched in full force towards Thermopylae. The rest of the allies planned to do likewise, for the Olympiad coincided with these events. They accordingly sent their advance guard, not expecting the war at Thermopylae to be decided so quickly." Many modern commentators are unsatisfied with this explanation and point to the fact that the Olympic Games were in progress or impute internal dissent and intrigue.
Whatever the reason Sparta's own contribution was just 300 Spartiates (accompanied by their attendants and probably perioikoi auxiliaries), the total force assembled for the defense of the pass of Thermopylae came to something between four and seven thousand Greeks. They faced a Persian army who had invaded from the north of Greece under Xerxes I. Herodotus stated that this army consisted of over two million men; modern scholars consider this to be an exaggeration and give estimates ranging from 70,000 to 300,000.
Xerxes waited four days to attack, hoping the Greeks would disperse. Finally, on the fifth day the Persians attacked. Leonidas and the Greeks repulsed the Persians' frontal attacks for the fifth and sixth days, killing roughly 10,000 of the enemy troops. The Persian elite unit known to the Greeks as "the Immortals" was held back, and two of Xerxes' brothers (Abrocomes and Hyperanthes) died in battle. On the seventh day (August 11), a Malian Greek traitor named Ephialtes led the Persian general Hydarnes by a mountain track to the rear of the Greeks. At that point Leonidas sent away all Greek troops and remained in the pass with his 300 Spartans, 900 helots, 400 Thebans and 700 Thespians. The Thespians stayed entirely of their own will, declaring that they would not abandon Leonidas and his followers. Their leader was Demophilus, son of Diadromes, and as Herodotus writes, "Hence they lived with the Spartans and died with them."
One theory provided by Herodotus is that Leonidas sent away the remainder of his men because he cared about their safety. The King would have thought it wise to preserve those Greek troops for future battles against the Persians, but he knew that the Spartans could never abandon their post on the battlefield. The soldiers who stayed behind were to protect their escape against the Persian cavalry. Herodotus himself believed that Leonidas gave the order because he perceived the allies to be disheartened and unwilling to encounter the danger to which his own mind was made up. He therefore chose to dismiss all troops except the Thebans, Thespians and helots and save the glory for the Spartans.
Of the small Greek force, attacked from both sides, all were killed except for the 400 Thebans, who surrendered to Xerxes without a fight. When Leonidas was killed, the Spartans retrieved his body after driving back the Persians four times. Herodotus says that Xerxes' orders were to have Leonidas' head cut off and put on a stake and his body crucified. This was considered sacrilegious.
A bronze statue of Leonidas was erected at Thermopylae in 1955.  A sign, under the statue, reads simply: "ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ" ("Come and take them"), which was Leonidas' reply when Xerxes offered to spare the lives of the Spartans if they gave up their arms.
Another statue, also with the inscription ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ, was erected at Sparta in 1968.
He appears as the protagonist of Frank Miller's 1998 comic book series 300. It presents a fictionalized version of Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae, as does the 2006 feature film adapted from it.
Helena P. Schrader has produced a three-part biographical novel on Leonidas. Leonidas of Sparta: A Boy of the Agoge, Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer, and Leonidas of Sparta: A Heroic King.
In cinema, Leonidas has been portrayed by:
| Agiad King of Sparta
Year 480 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Vibulanus and Cincinnatus (or, less frequently, year 274 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 480 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.Anaxandridas II
Anaxandridas II (Greek: Ἀναξανδρίδας) was an Agiad king of Sparta between 560 BC and 520 BC, father of Leonidas I and grandfather of Pleistarchus. He was succeeded by Cleomenes I.Cleombrotus (regent)
Cleombrotus (Greek: Κλεόμβροτος, Kleómbrotos), regent of Sparta between 480 and 479 BC. He was a member of the Agiad family, the son of Anaxandridas II and the brother of Cleomenes I, Dorieus and of Leonidas I. When the latter died, he became the tutor of his nephew Pleistarchus, son of Leonidas, and leader of the Greek infantry at the beginning of the second phase of the Greco-Persian Wars. Cleombrotus was in command of the Spartan and Peloponnesian troops who built the wall across the Isthmus of Corinth that was intended to keep the Persian army out of the Peloponnese. He died soon after returning to Sparta from the Isthmus.He was the father of Pausanias and the Spartan general Nicomedes.Cleomenes I
Cleomenes (, though some older reference works give the pronunciation with the accent on the next to last syllable, which is closer to the Greek; Greek Κλεομένης Kleomenes; died c. 489 BC) was an Agiad King of Sparta in the late 6th and early 5th centuries BC. During his reign, which started around 519 BC, he pursued an adventurous and at times unscrupulous foreign policy aimed at crushing Argos and extending Sparta's influence both inside and outside the Peloponnese. He was a brilliant tactician. It was during his reign that the Peloponnesian League came formally into existence. During his reign, he intervened twice successfully in Athenian affairs but kept Sparta out of the Ionian Revolt. He died in prison in mysterious circumstances, with the Spartan authorities claiming his death was suicide due to insanity.Come and take it
"Come and take it" is a historic slogan, first used in 480 BC in the Battle of Thermopylae as "Molon labe" by Spartan King Leonidas I as a defiant answer and last stand to the surrender demanded by the Persian Army, and later in 1778 at Fort Morris in the Province of Georgia during the American revolution, and in 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales during the Texas Revolution.Dienekes
Dienekes or Dieneces (Greek: Διηνέκης, from διηνεκής, Doric Greek: διανεκής "continuous, unbroken") was a Spartan soldier who fought and died at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.
He was acclaimed the bravest of all the Greeks who fought in that battle. Herodotus (7.226) related the following anecdote about Dienekes:
"(...) the Spartan Dienekes is said to have proved himself the best man of all, the same who, as they report, uttered this saying before they engaged battle with the Medes:— being informed by one of the men of Trachis that when the Barbarians discharged their arrows they obscured the light of the sun by the multitude of the arrows, so great was the number of their host, he was not dismayed by this, but making small account of the number of the Medes, he said that their guest from Trachis brought them very good news, for if the Medes obscured the light of the sun, the battle against them would be in the shade and not in the sun."Herodotus also mentions that Dienekes said many other similar things which made him unforgotten. Plutarch in his "Sayings of the Spartans" also mentions this comment, but he attributes it to Leonidas I, Dienekes' general in the battle. According to Plutarch, when one of the soldiers complained to Leonidas that "Because of the arrows of the barbarians it is impossible to see the sun," Leonidas replied, "Won't it be nice, then, if we shall have shade in which to fight them?" The "Laconic phrase" of "then we will fight in the shade" was cited by Latin writers such as Cicero (in umbra igitur pugnabimus, Tusculan Disputations I.42) and Valerius Maximus (in umbra enim proeliabimur, III.7, ext. 8).
The street east of the Tomb of Leonidas in the modern town of Sparta is named for Dienekes (οδός Διηνεκούς, connecting Θερμοπυλών and Ηρακλειδών).
Dienekes is one of the main characters in Steven Pressfield's novel Gates of Fire (1998). Michael Fassbender played Stelios, who is based on Dienekes, in the film 300 (2006). He is a minor character in the video game Assassin's Creed: Odyssey (2018).Dorieus
Dorieus (died c.510 BC; Greek: Δωριεύς) was a Spartan prince of the Agiad dynasty who is mentioned several times in Herodotus. The second son of Anaxandridas II, he was the younger half-brother of Cleomenes I and the elder full brother of both Leonidas I and Cleombrotus. He founded colonies in Libya and Sicily, but both failed.Gorgo, Queen of Sparta
Gorgo (; Greek: Γοργώ [ɡorɡɔ͜ɔ́]; fl. 480 BC) was a Queen of Sparta. She was the daughter and the only known child of Cleomenes I, King of Sparta (r. 520–490 BC) during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. She was the wife of King Leonidas I, Cleomenes' half-brother, who fought and died in the Battle of Thermopylae. Gorgo is noted as one of the few female historical figures actually named by Herodotus, and was known for her political judgement and wisdom. She is notable for being the daughter of a king of Sparta, the wife of another, and the mother of a third. Her birth date is uncertain, but is most likely to have been between 518 and 508 BC, based on Herodotus' dating (Histories 5.51).Hydarnes II
Hydarnes II (Ancient Greek: Ὑδάρνης, Old Persian: Vidarna), son of Hydarnes, was a Persian commander of the Achaemenid Empire in the 5th century BC. His father was one of the seven conspirators against Gaumata.
During the reign of Xerxes I, Hydarnes was one of the commanders for the Second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. He was appointed as the leader of the 10,000-man contingent of "Immortals", while his brother Sisamnes commanded the levy of the Aryans.On the first day of the Battle of Thermopylae, Hydarnes led the Immortals against the phalanx of Spartans under Leonidas I, but an attempt to break through failed. On the second day, a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by telling the Persians about a hidden goat path around Thermopylae. This enabled Hydarnes and his Immortals to pass behind the Spartans, Thespians and Thebans and, as a result, defeat them.After the Persians were defeated at the Battle of Salamis, Xerxes I decided to return to Asia leaving a large army under Mardonius which wintered in Thessaly. Hydarnes wanted to stay at the side of the king and go back with him to Asia. So Xerxes tasked Hydarnes with the responsibility of getting the Persian army back over the Hellespont to Asia. After this, nothing further is reported about Hydarnes.Hypotaxis
Hypotaxis is the grammatical arrangement of functionally similar but "unequal" constructs (from Greek hypo- "beneath", and taxis "arrangement"), i.e., certain constructs have more importance than others inside a sentence.
A common example of syntactic expression of hypotaxis is the subordination of one syntactic unit to another in a complex sentence. Another example is observed in premodification. In the phrase "inexpensive composite materials", "composite" modifies "materials" while "inexpensive" modifies the complex head "composite materials", rather than "composite" or "materials". In this example the phrase units are hierarchically structured, rather than being on the same level, as compared to the example "Cockroaches love warm, damp, dark places." Notice the syntactic difference; hypotactic modifiers cannot be separated by commas.
A classical example of verbal hypotaxis is the blandly mocking Greek response King Leonidas I reportedly made to the Persian messengers at Thermopylae, Molon labe (i.e., "Having come, take!").
Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" has an example of hypotaxis in the second stanza: "O, for a draught of vintage! That hath been/ Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth, / Tasting of Flora and the country green" (1. 11–13). The "draught of vintage" is modified by the clauses in the successive lines.In Blake's poem "The Clod and the Pebble", the phrase "So sang a little Clod of Clay,/ Trodden with the cattle's feet" (l. 5–6) is an example of hypotaxis; line 6 modifies the "Clod of Clay" in line 5.Leonidas (ship)
The Leonidas (Named after king Leonidas I of Sparta) was a labour transport ship (schooner) that played an important role in the history of Fiji. She had been earlier used to carry indentured labourers to the West Indies, having transported 580 Indian indentured labourers to St Lucia in 1878. Captained by McLachlan, the ship departed from Calcutta, India on 3 March 1879 and arrived at Levuka, Fiji, on 14 May that year. The indentured labourers who disembarked were the first of over 61,000 to arrive from the Indian Sub-continent over the following 37 years, forming the nucleus of the Fiji Indian community that now numbers close to forty percent of Fiji's population.Leonidas I. Robinson
Third Lieutenant Leonidas I. Robinson (unknown–June 6, 1891) was the first graduate of the School of Instruction of the Revenue Cutter Service to die in the line of duty. He drowned during small-boat operations June 6, 1891 at Icy Bay near Sitka, Alaska while assigned to the USRC Bear. He was a member of the graduating class of 1889 and is honored on the Wall of Remembrance at the United States Coast Guard Academy. The Wall of Remembrance honors those graduates who perished during an operational mission.Leotychidas
Leotychidas (also Leotychides, Latychidas; Ancient Greek: Λεωτυχίδας; c. 545 BC–c. 469 BC) was co-ruler of Sparta between 491–476 BC, alongside Cleomenes I and later Leonidas I and Pleistarchus. He led Spartan forces during the Persian Wars from 490 BC to 478 BC.
Born in Sparta around 545 BC, Leotychidas was a descendant of the Royal House of the Eurypontids (through Menamus, Agesilaus, Hippocratides, Leotychides, Anaxilaus, Archidamos, Anaxandridas I and Theopompus) and came to power in 491 BC with the help of the Agiad King Cleomenes I by challenging the legitimacy of the birth of Demaratus for the Eurypontid throne of Sparta. Later that year, he joined Cleomenes' second expedition to Aegina, where ten hostages were seized and given to Athens. However, after Cleomenes' death in 488 BC, Leotychidas was almost surrendered to Aegina.
In the spring of 479 BC, following the death of his co-ruler Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae, Leotychidas commanded a Greek fleet consisting of 110 ships at Aegina and later at Delos, supporting the Greek revolts at Chios and Samos against Persia. Leotychidas defeated Persian military and naval forces at the Battle of Mycale on the coast of Asia Minor in the summer of 479 BC (possibly around mid-August). In 476 BC, Leotychidas led an expedition to Thessaly against the Aleuadae family for collaboration with the Persians but withdrew after being bribed by the family. Upon returning to Sparta he was tried for bribery, and fled to the temple of Athena Alea in Tegea. He was sentenced to exile and his house burned. He was succeeded by his grandson, Archidamus II, son of his son Zeuxidamus, called Cyniscus, who had died in his father's lifetime. Leotychidas died some years later, around 469 BC.
Leotychidas is not to be confused with another Eurypontid, Leotychides, who was the (allegedly illegitimate) son of Agis II.Molon Labe (Falling Skies)
"Molon Labe" is the seventh episode of the second season of the American television drama series Falling Skies, and the 17th overall episode of the series. It originally aired on TNT in the United States on July 22, 2012. It was written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Holly Dale. The title is drawn from the defiant cry reportedly uttered by Sparta's King Leonidas I to Persians demanding that he surrenders his army's weapons, Molon labe ("Come and take it").Molon labe
Molon labe (Ancient Greek: μολὼν λαβέ, romanized: molṑn labé, lit. 'having come, take' pronounced [mo.lɔ᷆ːn la.bé]), meaning "come and take [them]", is a classical expression of defiance. According to Plutarch, Xerxes I—king of the Achaemenid Empire—demanded that the Spartans surrender their weapons and King Leonidas I responded with this phrase. It is an example of a laconic phrase.Pleistarchus
Pleistarchus or Plistarch (Ancient Greek: Πλείσταρχος Pleistarkhos; died around 458 BC) was the Agiad King of Sparta from 480 to 458 BC.The Hot Gates
The Hot Gates is the title of a collection of essays by William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies. The collection is divided into four sections: "People and Places", "Books", "Westward Look" and "Caught in a Bush". Published in 1965, it includes pieces that Golding had written over the previous ten years. "Caught in a Bush" contains his childhood recollections "Billy the Kid" and "The Ladder and the Tree", and his essay "Fable", which answered questions about Lord of the Flies appears in "Books". "Fable" is based on lectures Golding gave at UCLA in California and he hoped it would answer "some of the standard questions which students were asking" (7). The book starts out with an essay on the Battle of Thermopylae, which can be translated from ancient Greek to English as "hot gates", thus giving it the title. The Hot Gates are famous for being the place where Leonidas I made his last stand against the Persian army under Xerxes I.Thermopylae
Thermopylae (; Ancient Greek and Katharevousa: Θερμοπύλαι (Thermopylai) [tʰermopýlai], Demotic Greek (Greek): Θερμοπύλες, (Thermopyles) [θermoˈpiles]; "hot gates") is a place in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. The Hot Gates is "the place of hot springs" and in Greek mythology it is the cavernous entrances to Hades".Thermopylae is world-famous for the battle that took place there between the Greek forces (notably the Spartans) and the invading Persian forces, commemorated by Simonides in the famous epitaph, "Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, That here obedient to their laws we lie." Thermopylae is the only land route large enough to bear any significant traffic between Lokris and Thessaly. This passage from north to south along the east coast of the Balkan peninsula requires use of the pass and for this reason Thermopylae has been the site of several battles.
In ancient times it was called Malis which was named after the Malians (Ancient Greek: Μαλιεῖς), a Greek tribe that lived near present-day Lamia at the delta of the river, Spercheios in Greece. The Malian Gulf is also named after them. In the western valley of the Spercheios their land was adjacent to the Aenianes. Their main town was named Trachis. In the town of Anthela, the Malians had an important temple of Demeter, an early center of the Anthelan Amphictiony.
The land is dominated by the coastal floodplain of the Spercheios River and is surrounded by sloping forested limestone mountains. There is continuous deposition of sediment from the river and travertine deposits from the hot springs which has substantially altered the landscape during the past few thousand years. The land surface on which the famous Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 480 BC is now buried under 20 metres (66 ft) of soil. The shoreline has also advanced over the centuries because of the sedimentary deposition. The level of the Malian Gulf was also significantly higher during prehistoric times and the Spercheios River was significantly shorter. Its shoreline advanced by up to 2 kilometers between 2500 BC and 480 BC but still has left several extremely narrow passages between the sea and the mountains. The narrowest point on the plain, where the Battle of Thermopylae was probably fought, would have been less than 100 metres (330 ft) wide. Between 480 BC and the 21st century, the shoreline advanced by as much as 9 km (5.6 mi) in places, eliminating the narrowest points of the pass and considerably increasing the size of the plain around the outlet of the Spercheios.A main highway now splits the pass, with a modern-day monument to King Leonidas I of Sparta on the east side of the highway. It is directly across the road from the hill where Simonides of Ceos's epitaph to the fallen is engraved in stone at the top. Thermopylae is part of the infamous "horseshoe of Maliakos" also known as the "horseshoe of death": it is the narrowest part of the highway connecting the north and the south of Greece. It has many turns and has been the site of many vehicular accidents.
The hot springs from which the pass derives its name still exist close to the foot of the hill.