Monument at Thermopylae commemorating the 700 Thespians - Image courtesy of Vasilis Linidis
The military precision and supremacy of the Spartan phalanx, combined with the tenacity of each Spartan warrior which had been instilled since their youth, made Sparta the preeminent warrior state in ancient Greece. It was this reputation that preceded the elite 300 Spartan warriors before they arrived at Thermopylae and which together with their heroic self-sacrifice in 480 B.C. became part of the Spartan legend.
Boeotian hoplites as illustrated by Angus McBride from Nicholas Sekunda's 'The Ancient Greeks'
In addition to the Spartiates, several other Greek city-states sent troops to Thermopylae to defend against Xerxes' army. The city of Thespiae which was located in Boeotia, dispatched a contingent of 700 warriors which comprised a significant portion of their army. This band of warriors were led by Demophilus, the son of Diadromes.
The 700 Thespians
It was on the third and final day of the Battle of Thermopylae that the remnants of the Thespian contingent, while not the equivalent of the Spartans in training, armor, weaponry and tactics, fought and died alongside the remaining Spartiates to the bitter end. In the process, these valiant Greek warriors inflicted heavy casualties upon the Persian forces before succumbing to attrition. For this action, the city of Thespiae received the same fate as the city of Athens by being burned to the ground by the invading Persian army. While the Thespian contribution to Thermopylae has not been totally overlooked, it has been minimized because of the overwhelming Spartan superiority as described above.
The final day at Thermopylae as illustrated by Peter Connolly from 'Greece & Rome at War'
King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans have become synonymous with bravery and self-sacrifice, consequently, so should Demophilus and the 700 Thespians. They were ordered by King Leonidas to withdraw along with the remaining Greek warriors before their position at Thermopylae was surrounded. However, the Thespians refused to leave and it was during the fighting of those final hours that Herodotus praised the Thespian warrior Dithyrambus, son of Harmatides, who it was noted, excelled in this decisive battle.
The final battle of the 700 Thespians - Image courtesy of Vasilis Linidis
Therefore, the Thespians should be held with the highest esteem as the Spartan fallen. They distinguished themselves by remaining to fight and die with honor and courage along with the remaining Spartan heroes so that the rest of the Greek warriors could withdraw safely.