The three-day battle for the pass at Thermopylæ—the Hot Gates—was a critical contest in Xerxes's massive invasion of Greece. The bloody stand made there by Leonidas and his small Spartan army in 480 B.C. has been hailed ever since as an outstanding example of patriotism, courage, and sacrifice. The ambitions of King Xerxes were vast. Having amassed a Persian army that was the largest force of men and ships ever assembled, he set out to conquer Greece, at the same time sending an army of Carthaginians to overrun Sicily. Thus the two forces planned to open the gates to the wealth of the western Mediterranean and march upon most of the known world.Ernle Bradford's narrative embraces the entire era of the invasion, from the building of the incredible wooden bridge across the Hellespont to the final crushing defeat of the Persian rear guard at the battle of Platæa. There, as before, the Spartans were the decisive force, turning out in massive numbers. It was at Thermopylæ, however, that the fate of Xerxes's forces was determined by a small band of Spartans. In Thermopylæ, Ernle Bradford brings to life the personalities and fantastic battles of this epic period with unmatched skill and verve.
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