Thermopylae

THERMOPYLAE - Distance from Ermioni: 353 kms / 4 hours

Thermopylae (Thermopiles) is world famous for the battle where 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas, made their famous stand against the Persian invaders in August 480 BC.  Thermopylae translated to English means 'hot gates' which is related to the nearby hot sulphur springs.  In Greek mythology, this area was known for its cavernous entrance to Hades.  In ancient times, Thermopylae was called Malis, named after the Greek tribe of Malians that lived nearby, as is the present Malian Gulf.  The shoreline of the Malian Gulf has receded almost 9 kms since 480 BC, where the narrowest coastal passage in antiquity would have been less than 100 metres wide, creating an excellent military defensive position.  Thermopylae is the only land route between Lokris and Thessaly and has been the site of several battles, as recently as the Nazi German invasion of Greece in April 1941.

The present battlefield site is devoted to the allied Hellene defence of the second Persian invasion of Greece, led by the Great King Xerxes.  In addition to the monument to King Leonidas, there is a monument to the brave 700 Thespians who stayed until the last with the Spartans, and an Information Centre.  Across the road from the Leonidas monument there is the Kolonos Hill, where the Spartans made their last stand with the body of their King.  At the top of this small hill there is the epitaph of Simonides which reads "Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws, we lie"

Walking distance from Sparta (Ancient Lacedaemon) to Thermopylae: 378 kms   Approximately 8 days march.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When King Leonidas, with his 300 Hippeis royal bodyguard and their 900 Laconian Helots arrived at Thermopylae, they came with over 6,000 Hellene hoplite warriors from different Greek city states.  They set about strengthening the existing Phocian Wall at the 'Middle Gate' of the coastal pass and prepared to meet the large invading Persian army, of approximately 200,000 men.  After a number of days, the Persians finally attacked, but were repeatedly driven back by the well armed and disciplined hoplite warriors.  Even the Persian Immortals, King Xerxes own bodyguard, failed in their attacks.  At this point, the Persians were shown an old goat path that led behind Mount Anopaea and came out at the rear of the Hellenic army.  Xerxes sent half of his Immortals to surround the Greek army which had so successfully fought in the narrow pass.  When King Leonidas learnt of this manoeuvre, he quickly dismissed most of his allied army so that they would be able to retreat to the Isthmian Wall, near Corinth, and fight another day.  He chose to stay in the pass with his Spartans as a rearguard.  He was joined by the remnants of the helots that accompanied him, 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans, with approximately 1,000 Phocian troops defending the Eastern side of the pass.  On the third and last day of battle, the allied Greeks went out into the open pass to meet the Persian advance, and after a fierce engagement King Leonidas was killed.  The Spartans fought for his body, and after retrieving their King, retreated to Kolonos Hill to make their last stand.  After refusing to give up the body of Leonidas, the remaining defenders were killed to the last man with a hail of arrows.

  

 

 

 

 

 

The Thermopylae Information Centre, or to give it its proper name, The Innovative Centre of Historical Information, was opened in 2010 by the prefecture of Lamia.  It was established to preserve the memory of the historic battle and explain the details of this conflict.  Set in three rooms, it includes a 3D film, interactive consoles and personal profiles of the people involved in the battle.  The Centre has no archaeological exhibits on display, apart from a mannequin dressed as a Spartan warrior.  There is a small gift shop and cafe serving hot and cold drinks and sandwiches.  The centre is open throughout the year, apart from national holidays, and generally open every day of the week between 10:00 - 17:00, as opening times vary depending on the time of the year.  Admission: 3 Euros.  Admission to the monuments and battlefield site: Free 

The present village of Thermopylae (Thermopiles) lies less than a kilometre away from the Leonidas and Thespian monuments and the main battlefield area which was just beyond the Phocian Wall.  In the 5th Century BC the coastline of the Malian Gulf would have been along the present EO1 road leading from the battlefield area to the present village, leaving a narrow coastal passage less than 100 metres wide in certain parts of the pass.  The small village of Thermopylae has a church, taverna, school and a few residential homes arranged around a traditional main square.  If you enquire at the taverna, where they serve good home-made food and wine, they may be able to arrange a guest room for you for an overnight stay, as there doesn't seem to be any hotels within the village.  Alternatively, you could continue driving further NorthWest to the main city of Lamia, approximately 15 kms away, where there are a number of small hotels, guest houses and restaurants/tavernas along the way to choose from. 

Location

Thermopylae
Greece
38° 48' 23.544" N, 22° 32' 6.0684" E
Picture Gallery
Thermopylae - Coastline in 480 BC Thermopylae - Present historic site and village Thermopylae - 'Hot Gates' sulphur springs Thermopylae - 'Hot Gates' sulphur springs Thermopylae - Monument to Leonidas and his 300 Spartans Thermopylae - Statue of Spartan King Leonidas Thermopylae - Spartan monument to Eurotas Thermopylae - Spartan monument to Taygetos Thermopylae - Monument to the 700 Thespians Thermopylae - Detail of the Thespian monument Thermopylae - Information Centre - Gift & Coffee shop Thermopylae - Information Centre entrance Thermopylae - Remains of the original Phocian Wall Thermopylae - Kolonos Hill - The Spartans last stand Thermopylae - The epitaph of Simonides Thermopylae - 'Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by . . .' The 300 Spartans (1962) Arrival at Thermopylae The 300 Spartans (1962) 'Spartans, from here we do not retreat' The 300 Spartans (1962) 'Molon Lave' - Having come, take them! The 300 Spartans (1962) 'Spartans, we shall attack and kill Xerxes' The 300 Spartans (1962) 'Spartans Advance!' The 300 Spartans (1962) 'We stay with our King' The 300 Spartans (1962) 'Finish them with arrows' The 300 Spartans (1962) '. . . that here obedient to their laws, we lie'