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Thermopylae

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Thermopylae is a mountain pass in Greece. The name means roughly "hot gateway", named for several natural hot water springs there.

The pass runs from Locris into Thessaly between Mount Oeta and the sea (Maliac Gulf).

It is chiefly famous for the heroic defence made by Leonidas, the Spartan king, with 300 Spartan soldiers against the Persian army of Xerxes I advancing upon Greece in 480 BC. Originally engaging the enemy with a force of some 7000 men from all over Greece, Leonidas aimed to hold the pass as long as possible so that the rest of Greece could rally their troops and navy. After a traitor named Einkidles showed the Persians a way through the pass, Leonidas realized that he was defeated. He dismissed all the Greeks save the Spartans, and fought until they were all dead. According to legend, the last Spartans were killed trying to recover their king's body.

Two other famous battles took place at the pass. In 279 BC Brennus and the Gauls were checked for several months by a Greek army under the Athenian Calippus, and in 191 BC Antiochus III the Great of Syria vainly attempted to hold the pass against the Romans under Manius Acilius Glabrio.

In the time of Leonidas the pass was a narrow track (probably about 14 yards wide) under the cliff. In modern times the deposits of the Spercheius have widened it to a breadth of 1 to 3 miles broad.

The hot springs from which the pass derived its name still exist close to the foot of the hill.



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