Monday, November 8, 2010

The 700 Thespians

There is one thing I can say for certain about the Spartans: They always had good PR. Even today their reputation is continually enhanced in documentaries and popular culture. There was a documentary on History Channel International about the Battle of Thermopylae. As usual the Spartans get the lion's share of the credit. The brave 300 making their last stand against the innumerable Persian hordes. Granted, Leonidas was the leader of the loyalist Greek forces at the pass but the Spartans were in the minority. There were some 7000 infantry in total from the contributing cities. Even when the Greeks' flank was turned and Leonidas had the other contingents bug out, the Spartans weren't alone. Nor were they the majority of rearguard. The hoplites from Thespiae stayed. All 700 of them. I'm sure they fought as fiercely as the Spartans and made the Persians pay with blood for every inch of ground the invaders gained. Two things are more significant: First, the Thespians did not have to stay. They elected to stay. Second, the 700 hoplites were apparently the entire levy that Thespiae could muster. The loss of 300 hoplites was a significant blow to Sparta. Thespiae's loss of their entire Hoplite force would've been catastrophic. But who gets the credit? The Spartans. To whom does Simonides write his epitaph? The Spartans. The Thespians did not get a monument until 1997! Yep, the Spartans knew how to enhance their reputation.

So, here is to the unnamed 700 Thespians. May their memory live long.

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