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"Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World"
#76
Retreating from the narrow pass to thew wide plain of Fthiotis and then Beotia with Persian cavalry and light troops hot on you heels was a recipe for disaster. The fact that the Peloponesians retreated first to Platea and then to Athens and Finlay Isthmus says that the Persians had difficulty to aggressively pursue. There was no evidence of battles and fighting until the defense of Acropolis and Salamis. Leonidas be lived that the position was still tenable if Hydarnes was repulsed. Seems that only the Thespians tried to aid him. Their steadfast contact, if nothing else allowed the others to retreat.
The Greeks had reasons to stand. Heretria first surrendered and then sacked.
Same at ENNEA ODOI and the rumors that the Persians were offring human sacrifices. Clearly they believed that they would receive NO Mercy.
If that is not a reason to stand then what else does anybody nead?
The is also another think that was contested in Thermopylae and the Persian Wars: A a national culture resisting a multi-ethnic globalistic empire.
And we live in times that thougts like that make people uncomfortable.
Kind regards
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#77
[quote="Jona Lendering

Do I prefer incompetence to heroism if I have to explain something? Certainly; that goes without saying. [/quote]

On the contrary, it very much requires saying. This is how I believed you thought, now you confirm it - and I still reject it. I fear you are suffering from the trained academic or scientific mind and have become so accustomed to doubting and testing that you are prepared to doubt on no evidence rather than suspend judgement. Yes, I noticed that you said (twice) that we just don't know, but it has always been clear what you prefered to believe and now you have stated it. It's your preference I can't understand.

You can explain the Charge of the Light Brigade as incompetence, but this does not detract from the courage of the cavalrymen involved, who went ahead though they "knew someone had blundered". Prince Bagratian, learning from captured troopers that they had had no alcoholic incentive to courage (as was quite common) and, indeed, had had no breakfast, told them, "You are noble fellows."

I see Leonidas in the same light. He knew the promised reinforcement wasn't coming, saw what an impossible situation he was in and made the best of it.

Finally, for whatever reason the final day went as it did, the battle most assuredly did set the course of history, changing the world in the sense that it set a limit to the imperial ambitions of Persia.
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#78
Quote:the battle most assuredly did set the course of history, changing the world in the sense that it set a limit to the imperial ambitions of Persia.
No, that had already been done at Marathon... :wink:
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#79
Quote: Finally, for whatever reason the final day went as it did, the battle most assuredly did set the course of history, changing the world in the sense that it set a limit to the imperial ambitions of Persia.

I just cannot agree with that, no matter whether Leonidas was brilliant, lucky, incompetent or courageous and devout to his duty; Thermopylae did not change history.
Now I can see why the aristocratic literary class of ancient Greece might like to dwell of the exploits of the hoplites of one of their favorite oligargical states. I find it surprising however that today Thermopylae is still treated as an isolated battle rather than as the adjunct holding operation to the much more critical naval battle at Artemesium.

Quote: I see Leonidas in the same light. He knew the promised reinforcement wasn't coming, saw what an impossible situation he was in and made the best of it.

But it also seems reasonable to suggest Leonidas made a mistake by not sending more dependable troops to back up the Phocians.

I think Jona is being a bit harsh in suggesting incompetence, but I also don’t think Leonidas necessarily meant for his whole command to sacrificed. hoplite14gr is correct the withdrawal of his all heavy infantry rearguard would have been difficult, but not impossible. During the Lamian war the Macedonian heavy infantry was able to break off battle when its own cavalry was defeated by the superior Greek cavalry.
Paul Klos

\'One day when I fly with my hands -
up down the sky,
like a bird\'
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#80
Quote:I think Jona is being a bit harsh in suggesting incompetence
That is indeed just a suggestion, but not mine; it's Beloch's. Because we can not know what happened, we must take it into account. Just like other suggestions, like devotio and the hypothesis put forward by Herodotus, intentional sacrifice ("kamikaze", as Paul Cartledge said).

As far as I am concerned, I think the incompetence-hypothesis is more plausible than the other two, because war is a clumsy business.

Quote:I find it surprising however that today Thermopylae is still treated as an isolated battle rather than as the adjunct holding operation to the much more critical naval battle at Artemesium.
I think this is correct for the popular imagination, in works of art like Frank Miller's 300 and Cold War propaganda like The Three Hundred Spartans. But authors like Charles Hignett and Peter Green have correctly interpreted Thermopylae as a side show, a point made, originally, by Julius Beloch.

And let's face it: why should a person read Hignett or Green, if he can read Herodotus? Only Beloch approaches Herodotus' literary quality, but he wrote in a language that, since Germany lost WW1, is no longer the language of scholarship. Therefore, Herodotus' misrepresentation that Artemisium and Thermopylae were independent battles, is taken far too serious. If only Herodotus had presented the two battles day-by-day (like Green does), he would have prevented this misunderstanding. But Herodotus thinks that they took place on the same days 'by coincidence'; he simply misunderstood how close they were connected.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#81
Quote: But Herodotus thinks that they took place on the same days 'by coincidence'; he simply misunderstood how close they were connected.

I not sure Herodotus just misunderstood. By the time he was composing his work the Athenian navy was one of the critical elements in the body of anti-democratic thinking and critique which was current among at least some of the Athenian elite – the navy was when everything stated to go really wrong by empowering the dregs of the demos and their metric allies. Considering Sparta (at least as seen from a distance, like all the way across the Peloponnesus from a comfortable estate in Athens or Corinth…) was also a favorite example of how things ought to be, and I think Herodotus’ handling of the battles begins to look rather calculated.

Herodutus’ treatment of the battle thus minimizes the role of the navy by making both parts of the overall battle seem equally important. Moreover, the noble self-sacrifice of a true hoplite like Leonidas can be contrasted with the ultimate shiftiness of a leader like Themistocles.
Paul Klos

\'One day when I fly with my hands -
up down the sky,
like a bird\'
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#82
Quote:As far as I am concerned, I think the incompetence-hypothesis is more plausible than the other two, because war is a clumsy business.

Under the circumstances, I think this argument is too weak to debunk Herodotus. You insist that there were no surviving witinesses to the battle, but there are many on the persian side in addition to the Thebans. Many of them will yet die, but a few might have actually written down their experience, and many more will have told stories.

As far as whether this battle changed history, I think there's something we have to keep in mind. The numbers game and the taking of land etc. are only indirect means of achieving some political goal. War is very much a subordinate thing to politics. Nobody ever won a war while losing the politics. The great war was thought to end in unconditional surrender, yet it had to be fought all over again 20 short years later from scratch because the politics were wrong enough to fully negate the bloodiest war in history to that time.

Thermopylae leaves us this, an early example of a group of people putting the law above their own lives, and their friends refusing to abandon them. It is natural for human beings to look purely after their own self interest and it is evident that most people are very strongly, if not completely self-interested. Only education can temper this instinct into concern for a collective interest. All of the progress our species has made has been possible only because of those few people who can find the wisdom to subjugate their own interest to that of a greater purpose. The age of city states would have died out if this lesson had not been passed on.

Why should a person risk death or harm to themselves for any cause? The answer is I suppose that by getting other people to follow us in that regard we might, with some luck, make our own lives much better. Without this kind of trade, the word 'trust' can have no meaning. Without trust their can be no love. In fact, we measure our own self worth according to how we serve our friends. People who don't learn this remain miserable, people who do are happy, even in death!

So when Leonidas says to Xerxes, "If you knew what was good in life, you would not covet what others have. Know that I prefer to die for the liberty of Greece rather than act as a Monarch over my countrymen." it could be said that he is teaching us the very foundation of happiness? :lol:
Rich Marinaccio
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#83
Quote:You insist that there were no surviving witinesses to the battle, but there are many on the persian side in addition to the Thebans. Many of them will yet die, but a few might have actually written down their experience, and many more will have told stories.
The problem is that Herodotus has probably not interviewed Theban survivors of Thermopylae. He now tells that the Thebans were traitors, who were at the Hot Gates against their intention, almost as hostages. This is, as Plutarch already pointed out, unfair, and it is generally assumed that Herodotus did not use a Theban source.

Interviewing Persians was impossible; the only sign of a Persian informer is an error (Anauša, "Immortals", for Anûšiya, "Companions"). Herodotus introduces the story about Xerxes jumping up from a chair (which betrays his effiminacy and ought to be suspect anyhow) with "they say", usually a sign that he takes some distance from what is said.

Which leaves the liaison officer who connected Thermopylae with Artemisium. He may indeed have been the source for Herodotus' story about what went on in Leonidas' mind. But then I wonder why Herodotus weakens his story by not naming this valuable source.

In my view, it remains a puzzle.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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