This statue of Leonidas is located in the city of Sparta. Photo by Praxinoa, online courtesy Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
are the equal of any men
when they fight as individuals;
as a collective,
they surpass all other men.
Demaratus (former Spartan king) to Xerxes
Reported by Herodotus in Histories 7.104
Xerxes, also called the Great King, was on the move. The Persian leader - who considered himself a god - had amassed a huge army. Herodotus says it numbered 1,700,000 men from forty subject countries. Their destination? Greece.
Inheriting a substantial empire from his father - Darius I - Xerxes already had nearly everything a king could want. The ruins, for example, of his palace at Persepolis - in today’s Iran - are magnificent. But the battle, against Greece, would be personal.
This fight was about revenge.