Historical facts about King Leonidas, Xerxes and Background for Battle of Thermopylae

Most of you must have enjoyed watching Zack Snyder’s popular movie 300. Like most movies it uses the battle of Thermopylae as its background with certain exaggerations too. Though King Leonidas fought with 300 Spartans but they were not alone there were some Thebans and Thespians too. But I do not mean to undermine the valour of King Leonidas and his 300 brave Spartan men who lied down their lives for their motherland.


300 Brave Men Fought against Millions

King Leonidas


Leonidas, the name itself means Lion’s son or Lion like. He was born around 540 BC and he was one of the three sons of King Anaxandridas II of Sparta. Anaxandridas was considered by many to be the descendant of Hercules. From his very childhood Leonidas had great leadership capabilities and valour. After the death of his father Cleomenes (one of Leonidas’ step brothers) ascended the throne in 520-516 BC. But soon Cleomenes was deposed on grounds of his insanity and fled into exile when Greeks sought the support of Spartans during the Battle of Marathon. Soon there was another Persian invasion imminent and in regards to Leonidas’ valour he was chosen as the next king of Sparta.


Statue of King Leonidas of Sparta

Xerxes I


In fact Persians had been long trying to annex Greece and expand their empire even further. Darius the Great had tried time and again to annex Greece but he failed. When Xerxes I ascended the throne he wanted to fulfil his father’s dream. But he was kept busy by the revolts in Ionian Greek cities against the Persian empire. He suppressed all the revolts in Egypt and Babylon. After this Xerxes I turned his attention to conquering Greece. He started campaign in 480 BC Spring with soldiers from many nations of the Persian empire such as Assyrians, Phoenicians, Indians, Egyptians, Jews, Babylonians and Arabs. According to Heredotus who was the main source for these events Xerxes I commanded an army in excess of two million soldiers. He marched his way across Hellespont towards the Northern Greek states of Thessaly and Macedonia. Some smaller northern Greek city states such as Thessaly and Argos took side with the Persians and offered their gift of earth and water on the request of Xerxes. Other city states feel with little resistance. Xerxes marched along coast to Central Greece.


Xerxes I the King of Kings

Olympic Games


The news of Persian army spread across Greece. But unfortunately, Spartans who were considered best warriors were holding a religious festival and Olympic games and by Spartan law the military could not wage war during such times. Soon a messenger was sent to Leonidas by the Persians. Leonidas was asked to lay down arms and except Persian supremacy. He refused the proposal. He consulted the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle suggested that the army could not move out immediately but they could do so as soon as the games are finished. King Leonidas decided that due to urgency Spartans would march out with a small army and protect the pass at Thermopylae.


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11 thoughts on “Historical facts about King Leonidas, Xerxes and Background for Battle of Thermopylae

  1. mind blowing, outstanding and superb information u have. i am also a great supporter of Leonidas.

    • good on you for supporting the losing side, in case you did not know, the country of Greece is still on the planet, and the empire of Persia ceased to exist over 2,000 years ago.

  2. The greatest Hero of all times , hè not only save Greece but all Europe! What if Persians was expanding in Greece and than Europe?

  3. Can you tell me who wrote this article so i can use it for a school essay i need to cite this but i dont know who wrote it.

  4. quite surprising that an Indian supports the colonial bs put out by Hollywood. The Greeks were mendicants wanting to be like the Persians. The western history is dependent on one person Herodotus who fabricates most of the events.
    So Mr. Chauhan be ware that he Persians were humane Cyrus eliminated slavery. The Sprtans were the cruelest of all killing Helots at will and for sadistic pleasure. Is this who you admire?

  5. Merely a smiling visitor here to share the love , btw outstanding style. Audacity, a lot more audacity and always audacity. by Georges Jacques Danton.

  6. King Anaxandridas had 4 sons: Kleomenes, Dorieos, Leonidas, and Kleombrotos. Kleomenes was not the step brother of Leonidas, he was his half-brother! They had different mothers! Check Herodotos 5.39-41.

    You write that Leonidas was chosen as the next king due to his valour. He was chosen because he was the next in line by seniority!

    Thessaly and Argos were not smaller northern Greek city states as you claim! Thessaly was the largest league state (called a koinon) in northern Greece and Argos was a major city state in southern Greece!

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