Saturday, June 14, 2008

Following the Footsteps of St. Paul (12)

(monument to the Battle of Thermopylae)

One of the spots I have wanted to visit on this trip is Thermopylae (nothing to do with St. Paul) – the site of the battle of Thermopylae. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to visit it. I was the first off the bus and forced Kos, our Greek guide to take me to the hill where the bodies of the 300 Spartans were burnt and to see for myself the site of the battlefield.

Here are some of my previous posts on this

King Leonidas
300 comic
300 movie
Battle of Thermopylae

This is the second Persian invasion in 480 B.C.. The first invasion by King Darius was stopped by the Greeks at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Though the Greeks were not conquered, the war had caused them dearly. Many cities including Athens were burnt and their economies destroyed. This invasion was by the new King Xerxes.
(King Leonidas of Sparta)

(there are two hills on the left and between them is the pass,
what is in the foreground was at that time part of the sea)

I am fascinated by Sparta and their warrior culture. Reminds me of the Klingons (Star Trek fans will understand). Their males and females brought up as warriors and spend their days training and night carousing. All the work were done by the Mycenaean which the Spartan had enslaved. “I am Sparta” was a cry that only citizens were allowed to use. When a Spartan soldier go to war, his mother or wife would tell them “to come back with your shield or on it.” No surrender. Do or die.

I am also fascinated by King Leonidas. Sparta, unlike other Greek city-states have two kings at one time. At the time of the Persian invasion, the other king has died and Leonidas was in sole command. He consulted the Oracle at Delphi.
The legend of Thermopylae as told by Herodotus has it that Leonidas consulted the Oracle at Delphi before setting out to meet the Persian army. The Oracle is said to have made the following prophecy in hexameter verse:

O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon!
Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus.
Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country
Mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles.

I am impressed by Leonidas' nobility that he set forth knowing that he have to give his life in exchange for his country. What greater gift can one man give to his country? This is a valuable lesson about sacrifice.

(the site of the battle underneath the trees)

(The memorial stone over site where the warriors were cremated)

As a memorial to the 300 Spartans that stayed to fight, 3 inscriptions were set up.
The first one, in honor of all, read:
Here did four thousand men from Pelops' land
Against three hundred myriads bravely stand.

Another was for the Spartans alone:
Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell
That here, obeying her behests, we fell.

The third inscription was from a seer of Leonidas:
The great Megistias' tomb you here may view,
Whom slew the Medes, fresh from Spercheius' fords.
Well the wise seer the coming death foreknew,
Yet scorned he to forsake his Spartan lords.

Esther from the Bible

Esther, Queen of Persia and wife of Assuerus, who is identified with Xerxes (485-465 B.C.). She was a Jewess of the tribe of Benjamin, daughter of Abihail, and bore before her accession to the throne the name of Edissa (Hádássah, myrtle). Her family had been deported from Jerusalem to Babylon in the time of Jechonias (599 B.C.). On the death of her parents she was adopted by her father's brother, Mardochai, who then dwelt in Susan, the capital of Persia. King Assuerus (Xerxes) being angered at the refusal of his wife Vasthi to respond to his invitation to attend a banquet that he gave in the third year of his reign, divorced her and ordered the most attractive maidens of the kingdom brought before him that he might select her successor from among them.

Xerxes may have married Esther at 482 or 481 B.C. before he went to war to avenge his father, and fought the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. There is no record whether Ester went to Greece with Xerxes or stayed at Babylon.


  1. Alex, I was doing my devotion on Esther after Nehemiah. It baru struck on me the Battle of Thermopylae had some related event back at Jews exiled in Persian. Esther became Queen 1-2 years later after this battle. where all Jews were saved by her petition to King Xerves. Maybe she was already receiveing her 12 month beauty treatments (ESTher 2:10)while King Leonidas fighting?
    simon wong

  2. hi Simon,
    welcome. You may be right.