“Foreign, tell the Lacedaemonians that we are here, faithful to their laws” which means: we died here following the Spartan traditions. These were written in the inscription of Simonides that was set up at the site of the battle of Thermopylae together with a stone lion. Where one of the most important battles of ancient Greek history was given. And thousands of tourists from all over the world may arrive every year to see the place and the monument of Leonidas that now exists there but they face a paradox.
The famous Battle of Thermopylae
It was in 480 BC when the Persian forces led by King Xerxes attempted their second invasion to Greece. According to Herodotus (Ancient Greek Historian) records, the Persian army consisted of 2.6 million men. Of course, modern historians estimate that the Persian soldiers were between a hundred and three hundred thousand
The Straits of Thermopylae were called to defend 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas (The king of Sparta). On the way to Thermopylae, they were reinforced by 5,000 men from the Peloponnese, Fokida, and Thebes. At the beginning of September, the Persians reached the straits of Thermopylae. They were going to cross into southern Greece. Of course, the Greeks had predicted to close the passage. The Spartans lined up in the center, where the narrowest point of the passage was, and the rest of the forces were around them. However, they didn’t make it,
The organized and crowded Persians eliminated all the power left on the battlefield. The Greek fleet, after learning the news, decided to move away from Artemisio and retreat to Salamina, where it later achieved an important victory.
The Battle of Thermopylae is a great example of self-denial and selflessness, and so it stayed in history.
The paradox in the monument of Leonidas in Thermopylae
The monument of Thermopylaeis located at the point where Leonidas with 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, and 400 Thebans were left at the end of the alliance of Lacedaemonians and Peloponnesians to stand against his mighty army of Xerxes
It’s an awe-inspiring place. It is no coincidence that it is a sight that hundreds of thousands of people from every side of the planet have already visited it. They get there because they know it is a great monument of history not only for Greek history but also for world history. However, there is a paradox. Instead of being the central and prominent point of the area, because of the New High-speed road Athens-Thessaloniki, the passers-by no longer see it. Driving through the new road doesn’t allow you to spot any signage so that someone can easily spot the place. And because of that, you may pass a few meters away from this historic place and where the battle took place and you may not know it.
Though the Old National Road visitors saw on the road a sign for the monument of Leonidas and made a stop to admire it. However, the whole picture does not refer you to an archaeological site where the rules for the protection of monuments and visitors are respected. Even in order to reach the monument of Leonidas you have to walk at your own risk the old National Road.
And certainly, the pictures do not recall a place that is trying to project its history, on the other hand, interested in attracting tourists. It is certainly paradoxical for a place to be famous for such a historic battle but to be completely cut off from every central point and the main road…