Saturday, March 5, 2011


Incredibly, there is actually a blog called this, and even better it's Steve Pressfield's blog. Pressfield is the author of Gates of Fire, of course; story of the epic battle of Thermopylae, where the three hundred Spartans sacrificed themselves to save their country - the cradle of our Western Civilization - from assimilation and servitude to the Persian Empire.

Steve Pressfield explores the Warrior Ethos in his writings. As well as Gates of Fire, Pressfield also wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance, a story of the warrior mystique juxtaposed upon a golf tournament. Bagger Vance was successfully produced as a movie, of course, directed by Robert Redford and starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron.

Set in Depression-era Savannah, a privileged Southern aristocrat Rannulph Junah suffers shell-shock from his experiences of World War I, where his entire platoon was wiped out; in the course of the story, Junah attempts to recover his game and his life with help from a mystical caddy. The Legend of Bagger Vance is loosely based on the Hindu sacred text Bhagavad Gita, where the warrior hero Arjuna refuses to fight. The God Krishna appears as Bhagavan to help him to follow his path as the warrior and hero that he was meant to be. This relationship was fully explained by Steven J. Rosen in his book Gita on the Green, for which Steven Pressfield wrote the foreword.

The game of Golf is actually symbolic combat based on ancient warfare; the golf clubs are actually tiny war hammers, and the white ball symbolizes the skulls of our enemies, which we tap into holes in the ground.

Back to Thermopylae

This is a worthy event to investigate, for anyone interested in the Warrior Ethos.

The Battle of Thermopylae (Greek: Μάχη τῶν Θερμοπυλῶν) was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes. The battle occurred during the second Persian invasion of Greece, at the pass of Thermopylae ('The Hot Gates'). The Persian invasion was a delayed response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece, ten years prior at the Battle of Marathon. Xerxes amassed a huge army and navy and set out to conquer all of Greece.

The Second Persion Invasion of Greece.

A Greek force of approximately 7,000 men marched north to block the pass in the summer of 480 BC. The Persian army (alleged by the ancient sources to have numbered one million but actually considered at between 100,000 and 300,000) arrived at the pass in late August or early September. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held off the Persians for three days in combat, before the rear-guard was annihilated in one of history's most heroic last stands. During two full days of battle, the small force led by King Leonidas I of Sparta blocked the only road by which the massive Persian army could pass. After the second day of battle, a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by revealing a small path that led behind the Greek lines. Aware that his force was being outflanked, Leonidas dismissed the bulk of the Greek army, and remained in a rearguard element of 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans and perhaps a few hundred others, the vast majority of whom were killed.

I had the opportunity to visit the site of the Battle of Thermopylae, while training with Greek Special Forces prior to the 2004 Olympics.

Simonides Monument on the Kolonos hillock, believed to be the actual location of the Last Stand.

"Go tell the Spartans, Passerby, that here, in accordance to their laws, Three Hundred lie."

At the time of the battle, Thermopylae was actually a pass between the mountains and the sea; control of this pass was critical to the Greek defensive strategy. Due to seismic activity, however, the shoreline has shifted, and the seas have withdrawn. A modern highway roughly follows the ancient shoreline.

A modern view of the pass at Thermopylae, viewed roughly from the area of the Spartan camp northward toward the Persian position. The modern road marks the ancient shoreline.

Thermopylae shoreline changes over the course of history.

Thermopylae is viewed by scholars as “the battle that changed the world”. The clash between the Spartans and other Greeks on one side, and the Persian horde on the other, was a clash between freedom and slavery. The Greek victories at Thermopylae Marathon, fought some ten years earlier, were turning-points not only in the history of Ancient Greece, but also of World History; subjugation to the Persians would have snuffed out Western Civilization in its infancy. In the mid-19th century, the economist John Stuart Mill described the battle of Marathon as “more important than the battle of Hastings, even as an event in English history”.

The modern monument of the Spartans with the bronze statue of Leonidas. An inscription reads Molon Labe; King Leonidas' reply to Xerxes demand that the Greeks lay down their arms: "Come and Get Them."

Saturday Bird HERE - King Leonidas would approve.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the pictures and info. I used it to show my kids the story of the Brave 300. The maps were very helpful!