| Famous Men of Greece|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of thirty-five of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Greece, from legendary times to its fall in 146 B.C. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
LEONIDAS AT THERMOPYLAE
 LEONIDAS was a son of one of the kings of Sparta. As a boy he was
trained in the gymnasium and excelled in all manly sports.
As a man he fought in the Spartan army. After the death of
his father and his half-brother he became king. Eleven
years later he led the Greek army against the Persians, who
a second time were threatening Greece. The second invasion
of the Persians came about in this way:
The defeat at Marathon had made Darius only the more
determined to conquer the Greeks. But four years later, in
the midst of his preparations, he died and Xerxes, his son,
came to the throne.
Xerxes after a while decided to carry out his father's plans
and spent four years in collecting men and horses and ships.
His army and fleet were the largest that the world had ever
The land forces met at Sardis, a city in Asia Minor, and
marched to the shore of the Hellespont, which you have
already learned is the narrow strait between Europe and
Asia. Xerxes ordered his
en-  gineers to make two bridges of boats across the strait for
the passage of the army. This was done, but the bridges
were not strong enough and a storm destroyed them. The loss
of his bridges made the king very angry, and it is said that
he had the strait scourged with three hundred lashes and a
set of chains thrown into it, to teach the water that he was
Two new bridges, stronger than the first, were built and
Xerxes then marched his army over them to the European shore
of the Hellespont. Here his fleet of twelve hundred war
ships and three thousand smaller vessels had already
arrived. On a hill overlooking the strait a throne of
marble was built, and upon it Xerxes sat and reviewed his
land forces drawn up along the shore, and his ships sailing
in the strait. It took the army seven days and seven nights
to cross the bridges.
After crossing, the land force made its way southward until
it reached a high and almost impassable mountain range.
Between this range and the sea the roadway at two points was
so narrow that there was room for only a single wagon.
There were hot sulphur springs near-by, and therefore the
Greeks called this narrow part of the
road Thermopylae, which means the "Gates of the Hot Springs." We usually
speak of it as the "Pass of Thermopylae."
THERMOPYLAE AS IT LOOKS TO-DAY
 The Persians intended to march through the Pass, but they
were stopped by a Greek force under Leonidas, king of
Sparta. His band numbered only about four thousand men, of
whom three hundred were Spartans, the rest being from
several different states.
The Greeks took their stand at the narrowest part of the
Pass. Against them Xerxes sent one division of his army
after another, but all were defeated and driven back. For
two days the fighting went on with great loss to the
Persians, while the Greeks lost hardly a man.
 At last, when it seemed impossible to overpower the Greeks,
a traitor showed a band of Persians a path that led over the
mountain. This path was poorly defended by Greeks from one
of the northern states. It was easily taken by the
Persians, who then marched round behind Leonidas.
Leonidas learned of their approach in time to escape. Some
of his army did retreat; but he, with three hundred Spartans
and seven hundred men of Thespiæ, a little town some
distance from Athens, refused to do so. Greece had trusted
the Pass to them to hold and they preferred to die rather
than leave their post. When some one said that the arrows
of the Persians would come in such showers as to conceal the
sun, one of the Spartans replied, "So much the better; we
shall fight in the shade."
Leonidas was now penned in between two divisions of the
Persian army, one at each end of the Pass. Instead of
waiting to be attacked he led his men forward against the
Persians. The Greeks fought desperately, but they had no
chance against such vast numbers. All were slain save one
A monument was afterward raised to their memory. It bore
the simple inscription, "Stranger, tell the Spartans that we
lie here in obedience to their commands."
After the battle Xerxes marched to Athens. He
 found it almost deserted. All the Athenians had fled save a
little band who held the Acropolis. They hurled rocks upon
the attacking Persians and for a long time resisted them.
At length however the Persians found a place where no guard
had been stationed, because the rocky wall was so steep that
it seemed impossible to scale it. Here they climbed up and
rushed in upon the brave defenders.
THE CAPTURE OF THE ACROPOLIS
The struggle was soon over. Some of the Athenians hurled
themselves headlong down the rocky slopes. The rest were
put to death and the city fell into the hands of the
Persians, who plundered and burned it. Even the sacred
olive tree, which had sprung up at Athene's touch, was
burned to the ground.
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