Colin F. Jones
THE BATTLE OF THERMOPYLAE: circa 480 B.C.
~ 1 ~
Leave them in the hills, those who are weak,
The strong shall grow to become those we seek,
From their seventh year to military school they’ll hive,
To learn endurance, discipline and how to survive.
At twenty a true soldier they will become,
To do their duty until their time is done.
They’ll serve until they are sixty years old,
Though at thirty as an equal they can go home.
But self denial and simplicity will mark their ways,
True men of Greece until the state decays.
They will serve the state for this they are designed,
Thus to our military ways they’ll be confined.
The Messenians our Helots are now our slaves,
To work the lands or dig their graves.
The King of Persia Xerxes I prepared his troops for war,
A vast army of millions raised over four years or more,
An Alliance was formed by the Greeks to defend,
Led by Leonidas the Sparta King on who they could depend
We must, shall hold the narrow pass at Thermopylae,
For there the Persian Army must find a way,
Into the Greek central areas over the hills beyond,
Before the Greek central armies have time to respond.
The long spears of the Spartans’ Hoplites phalanx,
Slaughtered the first wave as the Persians advanced,
and by the end of the day had defeated two more,
but a traitor named Ephialtes changed sides in the war,
And led the Persians to a different pass,
From where the Phocians retreated before the great mass.
~ 3 ~
Alone stood King Leonidas with three hundred men,
To guard the narrow pass at Thermopylae,
They knew it was over but their military pride,
Gave them the courage to fight till they died.
Outnumbered they were thousands to one,
With the foe at the rear as well as the front,
They could lay down their arms and ask to retreat,
Stand as dignified Soldiers in outnumbered defeat,
But the Spartans were Warriors who would fight to the end,
For the state and for glory, for self and for King.
So they stood in eight ranks with spears in their hand,
In their bronze armour so splendid and Helmets so grand
For this was their moment their moment to die,
The three hundred Spartans raised their battle cry.
~ 4 ~
Spartans stand fast! To the last man fight!
Tis together we stand; be it day or night!
For what greater glory can a Warrior claim,
Than that of death ‘neath the shield and chain,
By pike and Axe on the battle field,
Than to succumb to death; yet never yield?
Stand fast beside your King and cheer,
There are none on Earth the Spartans fear,
We face the Persians knowing we will die,
But we’ll live to see a million Mothers cry.
For tenfold fall to each Spartans spear,
While tenfold more flee in justified fear.
Stand fast! Stand fast! Proud Warriors all;
Born to the Battle to win or fall.
©Copyright October 17, 2004 by Colin F. Jones
Author’s Note: The 300 Spartans killed 50 times their number before being brutally slain by the Persians. Herodotus wrote that when Dienekes, a Spartan soldier, was informed that Persian arrows blotted out the sun, he remarked “Good, then we shall fight in the shade.”