Spartan Shield of King Leonidas
Leonidas (c. 530-480 B.C.) was a king of the city-state of Sparta from about 490 B.C. until his death at the Battle of Thermopylae against the Persian army in 480 B.C.
His military intelligence became apparent in August 480 BC. in the Battle of Thermopylae, with the way he lined up the military units and with the speed with which he alternated them on the battlefield. In front of the large army of the Persians, Leonidas with 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians put up a brave resistance, taking advantage of the natural configuration of the position. When Xerxes sent him a messenger and asked him to hand over his weapons and surrender, the Spartan king replied "Molon lave" in Greek, which means "come and take them", thus wanting to challenge him to fight and prove his worth. Leonidas and his army fell heroically in a battle that remained in world history to symbolize bravery and self-sacrifice. The heroic role model of Leonidas and the memory of the battle of Thermopylae was an example for many people in various phases of history. The modern Greeks used it against the Ottoman Empire, during the Greek Revolution of 1821. In honor of Leonidas during the Hellenistic period, the Spartans built a temple, the Leonidaion, and held an annual celebration, the Leonidia. The famous poet C. P. Cavafy wrote a poem in Leonidas’ commemoration:
“Honour to those who in their lives resolved to defend some Thermopylae”.
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