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battle of Thermopylae

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In the pass between the mountains and the sea (see preceding entry) 6,000–7,000 Greeks, led by Leonidas king of Sparta, attempted to hold the invading Persians, probably in August 480 bc. See persian wars. The small size of the army may have been due to religious scruples, or to Peloponnesian reluctance to send troops so far north. The Greeks held their position for two days, but then a local Greek betrayed the existence of an alternative route. The Phocians guarding this route withdrew to the nearest hill, leaving the way open, and when the rest of the Greeks learned of the enemy's approach, most retreated, either in panic, or because Leonidas told them to go. He, with the remnants of the Spartans, Thespians, Thebans, and, possibly, Mycenaeans, fought to the last, except possibly the Thebans, who are said to have surrendered.

Subjects: Classical studies

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