Role and Contribution of Leonidas

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Leonidas was another leader who contributed greatly to the eventual outcome of the Persian wars. Again, the Greeks were outnumbered and the choice was made to leave Athens and fight at another more suitable location. Although it was not Leonidas who chose the location of the battle, and although the battle of Thermopylae was a subsequent failure (Greek loss), the actions of Leonidas allowed for the success at the battle to come. As the Greek forces had been betrayed by a local sheep-herder (Ephialtes), Leonidas made the remarkable decision to stay with his 300 Spartan soldiers and fight at a wall remaining from a previous battle. Leonidas’ valour and courage is legendary. Herodotus records him retorting to a frightened soldier about the Persian arrows covering the sky: ‘then we shall fight in the shade’. Leonidas and his men were completely outnumbered yet they managed to delay the troops for roughly 4 days. This decision made by Leonidas meant that the Athenian troops could return to Athens, evacuate the city and decide on a battle place that suited the Greeks- Salamis. It was this delay that allowed Themistocles to persuade to the other military leaders to fight at Salamis which, according to Barry Strauss, was the turning point in the Persian wars. Although the Spartans were eventually beaten at Thermopylae, they reduced the number of Persian troops and delayed their invasion. It was Leonidas’ decision to stay and his valour to stay with his troops that allowed for the subsequent victory at Salamis, which led to the victory of the entire Persian

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