The Epic Battle of Thermopylae Remains One of the Most Stirring Defeats of All Time! It’s a little spoiler to say the Greeks lost. But the battle lives on to the present day largely due to the ideals of sacrifice, bravery, and patriotism it represented. A small Greek force faces off against the vastly outnumbered invading Persian army in a fight to the death that still resonates today.
There are few more captivating tropes in storytelling than the doomed band of heroes facing off against a far superior force. And there is perhaps no better precedent for this archetype than one of the first such examples in recorded history: The Battle of Thermopylae. It’s also a potent example of an outnumbered force using military and tactical advantages to their utmost and exacting a heavy toll on their enemy. Add in hubris, betrayals, and eminently quotable speeches, and you’ve got the recipe for one great story.
Thermopylae is a mountain pass near the sea in northern Greece that was the site of several battles in antiquity, the most famous being that between Persians and Greeks in August 480 BCE. Despite being greatly inferior in numbers, the Greeks held the narrow pass for three days with Spartan king Leonidas fighting a last-ditch defense with a small force of Spartans and other Greek hoplites. Ultimately the Persians took control of the pass, but the heroic defeat of Leonidas would assume legendary proportions for later generations of Greeks, and within a year the Persian invasion would be repulsed at the battles of Salamis and Plataea.
Highlights of Inspiring Thermopylae and the 300 Spartans private tour
- Thermopylae’s Battlefield
- The monument of King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans
- The monument of the 700 Thespians
- The Kolonos hill
- The hot Springs
- Thermopylae’s Innovative Centre of Historical Information
- Experienced English-speaking tour driver
Thermopylae translated to English means ‘hot gates’ which is related to the nearby hot sulfur springs. In Greek mythology, this area was known for its cavernous entrance to Hades. In ancient times, Thermopylae was called Malis, named after the Greek tribe of Malians that lived nearby, as is the present Malian Gulf. Since 480 BC, the shoreline of the Malian Gulf has receded over 8 km, where the narrowest coastal passage in antiquity would have been less than 100 meters wide, creating an excellent military defensive position. Thermopylae is the only land route between Lokris and Thessaly and has been the site of several battles, as recently as the Nazi-German invasion of Greece in April 1941.
The present battlefield site is devoted to the allied Hellene defense of the second Persian invasion of Greece, led by the Great King Xerxes. In addition to the monument to King Leonidas, there is a monument to the brave 700 Thespians who stayed until the last with the Spartans and an Information Centre. Across the road from the Leonidas monument, there is the Kolonos Hill, where the Spartans made their last stand with the body of their King. At the top of this small hill, there is the epitaph of Simonides which reads “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws, we lie”
After careful preparations, the Persian king Xerxes decided to attack the Yaunâ (Greeks) in the summer of 480. His commanders had warned him that great risks were involved: in 490, at Marathon, about 10,000 Athenians had defeated 25,000 Persians. Therefore, Xerxes prepared himself well and built a very large army.
The Greeks, who had against all odds managed to overcome their perennial struggles and had accepted Spartan leadership, understood that if they wanted to survive the invasion, they first had to annihilate the Persian transport fleet because, without its support, the enemy army would be forced to return. The Greek navy, therefore, made a stand at Artemisium. Artemisium: a northern cape of the isle of Euboea, well known for the naval battle in which the navy of the united Greeks blocked the advance of the Persian naval forces (480 BCE).
The time is August 480 B.C.; the place; is Thermopylae, Greece, the occasion; the aftermath of a great battle. 10 years after the defeat at Marathon, the Persian invasion of Greece was resumed by King Xerxes in 480 BC. A vast army of Persians was on the march to conquer Greece. A small force of Greeks had been all that stood in their way. And yet, in a pass that narrows to a space smaller than a baseball diamond, the impossible almost happened. For three days, just over seventy to one hundred Greeks, spearheaded by an elite unit of three hundred Spartans, gave a savage beating to the Persian army that outnumbered them by perhaps 30-to-1. About 200,000 men willing to die for the glory of Xerxes, the Persian Great King, came up against the most efficient killing machine in history.
Led by Leonidas, the three hundred Spartans stood and fell taking the pride of the Persian Empire down with them. Sparta the steadfast and self-sacrificing, Greece unflagging in its fight for freedom, Xerxes the flummoxed, Efialtis the traitorous: These are the images left in the summer heat. Thermopylae battle has been considered a prototype ever since inspiring many Generals all over the world victoriously.
The strategic decision…
… to fight the Greeks at Thermopylae had finally punished the Persians. Xerxes had learned how high the price of the victory would be if he could pay it at all. How hard to think that so few men could devastate so many. Yet Thermopylae is no ordinary place — or rather, was no ordinary place. The silting-up of the land over the millennia leaves the ancient scenery hard to recognize today. Yet what a landscape it was.
Leonidas didn’t want any songs or tributes. His wish was simple; Remember us! Remember why we died! And the brave 300 Spartans died but their legend stands and echoes through the centuries. Today it teaches us; “even if a beast of men and horses is threatening you, you don’t retreat and don’t surrender. You stand and fight for your rights and die for your country”. After all, that was the Spartan law! The greatest honor for a Spartan was to die for their country. Freedom for us all is the greatest value!
Spartans; The best soldiers the world has ever known!
To conclude, you will visit the battlefield in Thermopylae, the monument of the 300 Spartans, and the statue of Leonidas standing exactly opposite Kolonos Hill (visit) where the persistent Spartans left their last breath. A place too sacred for words. The statue of the 700 Thespian and the hot springs.
The philosopher Apollonios Tyanefs in the 1st century AD was once asked; which is the highest mount in the world? His answer was astonished: “Kolonos is the highest mountain in the world because on this mountain law-keeping and noble self-sacrifice have put up a monument which has its base on the earth and reaches the stars”.
On the way back to Athens, we’ll have a short stop at Kammena Vourla, a little town on the water to enjoy a traditional Greek lunch by the sea.
- Shore Excursion - Private tour
- Activity level: Moderate
Included in the tour
- Car and Driver
- A professional English-speaking driver or escort with good knowledge of the history and culture of Greece, to guide you till you enter archaeological sites and museums. Tour drivers are not licensed to companion you inside the archaeological sites and museums. If you'd like to have a licensed state tour guide to escort you inside the sites and museums, we can arrange it for you at an additional cost. Licensed by the state tour guides are freelance and it is subject to availability on bookings day!
- Transport by air-conditioned Mercedes-Benz vehicle or similar appropriate for the size of your group
- Accommodation is based according to availability (for multiple-day tours only)
- Pick-up from and return to your hotel
- Pick-up from the Port of Piraeus
- Private tour, Road tolls and local taxes
- Our terminal: Leof. Andrea Siggrou 37, 117 43 Athina, Greece.
Excluded from the tour
- Entrance fees to the archaeological sites and museum
- Wine tasting fee (wine tours)
- Olive oil tasting fee (olive oil tasting tours)
- Gratuities (optional)
- Food and beverage
- Your private chauffeur/guide will discuss a program best suited to your interest and mobile abilities. Option for a professional tour guide with a state license at an extra cost. Read more for the difference between a STATE LICENSED TOUR GUIDE and a TOUR DRIVER GUIDE in Greece!
- Dress: religious and marmoreal sites: shoulders and knee must be covered
- Terms & Conditions and Frequent Questions
- Confirmation will be received at the time of booking
- A voucher will be emailed to you with our contact numbers and all necessary information for your tour.
- This is your ticket and proof of purchase. On the day of the tour please present a paper voucher in order to redeem your tour/activity.
Persons with Disabilities
- Due to uneven surfaces, certain sites are not recommended for persons with walking disabilities or using a wheelchair. Such sites are the Acropolis, the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, Mycenae, Delphi and Meteora
- In all cases, we recommend comfortable flat-solid walking shoes, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Please note that on this tour, your tour driver is not licensed to accompany you on your climb. If you want this service you may book a licensed by-state tour guide for an extra cost.
- In case a group is followed by a licensed tour guide or an English speaking tour-escort the professional driver is not obliged to speak English!
Opening hours & Admission fees
- Opening Hours:Summer April 1st to October 31st from 08:00 AM to 07:30 PM
- Winter: November 1st to March 31st from 08:30 AM to 03:00 PM
- Free admission fees: Children under 18 & Students from E.U.
- Reduced admission fees: Citizens of the E.U. aged over 65 & Students from countries outside the E.U.
Free admission days
- March 6: In memory of deceased Minister of Tourism & visionary Melina Mercouri
- June 5: Environment international day
- April 18 : International monuments day
- May 18: International museums day
- September 27: International tourism day
- The last weekend of September annually (European Heritage Days)
- National Holidays
- Sundays in the period between 1 November and 31 March
- The first Sunday of every month, except for July, August, and September
- NOTE: If the first Sunday is a holiday then the second is the free admission day
Holidays in Greece
- January 1: closed
- January 6: 08:30 AM - 03:00 PM
- Shrove Monday: 08:30AM - 03:00 PM
- March 25: closed
- Good Friday: 12:00 PM - 03:00 PM
- Holy Saturday: 08:30 AM - 03:00 PM
- Easter Sunday: closed
- Easter Monday: 08:30 AM - 03:00 PM
- May 1: closed
- Holy Spirit Day: 08:30 AM - 03:00 PM
- 15 August 15: 08:30 AM - 03:00 PM
- October 28: 08:30 AM- 03:00 PM
- December 25 & 26: closed