I would like to state for the record that visiting the battlegrounds of Thermopyles might just be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It’s difficult not to be impressed by the magnitude of what occurred on that spot. It’s also difficult to not constantly think of scenes from the movie 300. I fought an overwhelming urge to scream “THIS…IS…SPARTA!” Of course, there wouldn’t have been anyone there to hear me other than Parker and my parents and since they already know I’m slightly eccentric, they probably wouldn’t have thought anything of it.
Contrary to the landscape of 480 B.C., the current location of Thermopyles is nowhere near the ocean. With the shifting landscape, the sea is now miles away and the battlegrounds are located immediately next to a busy highway. The impassable mountains, however, as exactly as they were at the time of the battle.
There is an impressive (and sizeable) monument to King Leonidas, the Spartan king who lead the 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians against the invading Persian army. They decided to fight for their freedom instead of submit to foreign rule. I get goosebumps every time I think about the guts it took to make that decision.
Under the statue of King Leonidas are these famous words (translation to follow):
You see, when the Persians asked the defenders to give up their arms, Leonidas responded with the phrase, “Come and get them!” (More goosebumps.)
On the hill of Kolonos (behind where the 3-day fight occurred), an epitaph was placed to honor the dead soldiers that states, “You stranger, go to Lakedaimonians and let them know that we lie here, faithful to our laws.”
My hero worship certainly explains why for years, I was desperate to trace my lineage back to the warriors or Sparta instead of the intellectuals of Troy. I’m sorry ancestors, but it’s true. If you overlook the small little detail of mass genocide (they methodically bred out the weak genes), the Spartans were seriously cool.