What do you think it would be like to live in ancient Greece? You would need to learn its alphabet. Maybe you would learn all about Greek mythology. You might even meet some famous Greek heroes, like Hercules!
Well, that is, if Hercules was a real person. The jury’s still out on that question. However, one very real warrior was said to be the descendant of the legendary demigod. Who are we talking about? Leonidas, of course!
Leonidas was born in the 540s B.C.E. in the Greek city-state of Sparta. His father was a king, but Leonidas had two older brothers. He was never supposed to take over as ruler. However, fate had other plans. Both of his brothers died, and Leonidas was crowned around 490 B.C.E.
Sparta set itself apart from the other Greek city-states in a number of ways. First, it was the largest at about 3,280 square miles (8,500 square km). Also, while it was far from an equal society, Spartan women had more rights than those in most other city-states. Finally, Sparta was known all over Greece for its superior military.
All Spartan men trained for military service starting at the age of seven. They lived together with their age groups and trained into adulthood. Spartan warriors were known as highly skilled, fearless fighters.
No Spartan fighter is as famous today as Leonidas. He had trained as a soldier just like other Spartan men. He was known as a fierce warrior when he became king. Today, he is most well-known for leading Greek troops in the Battle of Thermopylae.
In 480 B.C.E., Xerxes I led 80,000 Persian troops in an invasion of Greece. The city-states allied together. They agreed that Leonidas should lead their combined military in defense of their homes. The oracle at Delphi predicted that Sparta would lose its king in such a war. Still, Leonidas agreed to lead Greek troops against the Persians.
In the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas brought 300 Spartans to face Xerxes I. The Spartans were joined by a few thousand soldiers from other Greek city-states. For two days, they held the Persians off at the Thermopylae pass. However, a traitor told Xerxes I about a hidden mountain path. It took his troops behind Greek lines. Leonidas ordered most of the Greek forces to pull back. Only the 300 Spartans, as well as soldiers from Thespiae and Thebes, remained.
In the end, Leonidas and all of his troops were defeated. The Persians continued into Greece. However, they left the peninsula after losing in battle to the Athens navy.
Leonidas became legendary all over Greece. His story is still told today in books and movies. Do you know stories about any other great historical warriors? Take some time today to read the stories of Alexander the Great, Amanirenas, or Pheidippides. History is full of interesting people to learn about!
Read more at Wonderpolis.org