Ancient history

Leonidas I

king of the Lacedaemonians from -491 to -480.


Leonidas belongs to the Agiades family. He is the youngest son of King Anaxandridas II and the successor of his brother Cleomenes I. He marries Gorgô, daughter of the latter.

When the Persians entered Greece, with an army 250,000 strong, a council meeting at Corinth in the fall of 481 decided to send about 5,000 men under the command of Leonidas to defend the defile of Thermopylae in order to to retain the Persians and allow the Greek fleet time to fall back beyond the strait formed by Euboea with the mainland.

Betrayed by a certain Ephialtes, who shows the Persians a way to bypass Leonidas, the latter will send back the majority of his troops keeping with him 300 Peers, with their helots, and the Thebans and Thespians volunteers (about 700 men). After a heroic resistance, he penetrated with his men into the Persian camp, sowing disarray before succumbing under the numbers.

Later his remains were transferred to Sparta where a magnificent tomb was erected for him while festivals, called Leonidae, were instituted.

“To you citizens of vast Sparta,
Your great glorious city either falls under the blows of the Perseids
Falls, or else it remains; but over the race of Heracles,
Over a dead king then shall mourn the land of Lacedaemon
His enemy, the strength of bulls will not stop him nor that lions,
When he comes:his strength is that of Zeus.
No, I tell you,
He does not won't stop until he's got his prey, or one or the other. »

(Pythia's response to the Persian Wars)