(GO TELL THE SPARTANS PASSERBY, THAT HERE OBEDIENT TO THEIR LAWS WE LIE)
The epitaph as written above and whose English translation appears below the Greek transcription was written by the poet Simonides, son of Leoprepes from the island of Creos. It is dedicated to the 300 Spartans and appears on the memorial at Thermopylae (see below).
Most fittingly, the plaque is decorated with the Green Laconian stone (Lapis Lacedaemonius) which was imported from the south of Sparta as described by Pausanias. This memorial is situated atop the hillock where it is believed that the Spartans and Thespians made their last stand. A large concentration of arrowheads were located by the Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos in 1939 which in all probability confirms the location.
The plaque at Thermopylae whose inscription is dedicated by Simonides to the 300 Spartans - Image courtesy of Vasilis Linidis
The enconium below also composed by the poet Simonides and dedicated to the 300 Spartans
was recorded by the historian Diodorus of Sicily - From Professor Peter Green's book 'Diodorus Siculus, Books 11-12.37.1'
"Of those who died at Thermopylai renowned is the fortune, noble the fate: Their grave's an altar, their memorial our mourning, their fate our praise. Such a shroud neither decay nor all-conquering destroy. This
sepulcher of brave men has taken the high renown of Hellas for its
fellow occupant, as witness Leonidas, Sparta's king who left behind a
great memorial of valor, everlasting renown."
'Leonidas at Thermopylae' by Jacques-Louis David - 1748-1825
Monument at Thermopylae dedicated to King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans
The monument above was designed by Basil (Vasilios) Phalereus and was erected in the 1950's opposite the hill of Kolonos, which is where the remaining Spartan and Thespian hoplites died. An accumulation of spears and arrowheads were located at the hill by the Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos in 1939, which confirmed the details of the final phase of the Battle of Thermopylae as recorded by the historian Herodotus.
According to Herodotus, who during his travels throughout Greece had seen the names of the 300 Spartan warriors who fought at Thermopylae inscribed on a monument in Sparta. Unfortunately, that memorial hasn't survived and has been lost to the ravages of time. Furthermore, their names were not recorded in the historian'sHistories which is the primary historical source of the battle and it combatants.
Below the statue of King Leonidas (see above) is a marble frieze, which depicts the defenders of Thermopylae who died during the battle. The heroes (see below) that distinguished themselves and who were recorded by Herodotus, have been immortalized by name and the respective city-state that each warrior represented.
Alpheus and Maron, Sparta Demophilus, the Thespian Dienekes, Sparta Dithyrambus, the Thespian Eurytus, Sparta Megistias, the Arcanian
I would like to acknowledge and thank Christiane Casale, London for the truly wonderful images of the surrounding battlefield and the tribute to these heroes of Thermopylae.
Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592
"The most valiant are
sometimes the most unfortunate. Thus there are triumphant defeats that
rival victories. Nor did those four sister victories, the fairest that
the sun ever set eyes on - Salamis, Plataea, Mycale, and Sicily - ever
dare match all their combined glory against the glory of the
annihilation of King Leonidas and his men at the pass of Thermopylae." - Michel de Montaigne
Honour to those who in the life they lead define and guard a Thermopylae. Never betraying what is right, consistent and just in all they do, but showing pity also, and compassion; generous when they're rich, and when they're poor, still generous in small ways, still helping as much as they can; always speaking the truth, yet without hating those who lie.
And even more honour is due to them when they foresee (as many do foresee) that Ephialtis will turn up in the end, that the Medes will break through after all.
Constantine P. Cavafy (Kavafis)
Konstantinos P. Cafavis 1863-1933
Τιμή σ’ εκείνους όπου στην ζωή τωνώρισαν και φυλάγουν Θερμοπύλες. Ποτέ από το χρέος μη κινούντες· δίκαιοι κ’ ίσιοι σ’ όλες των τες πράξεις, αλλά με λύπη κιόλας κ’ ευσπλαχνία· γενναίοι οσάκις είναι πλούσιοι, κι ότανείναι πτωχοί, πάλ’ εις μικρόν γενναίοι, πάλι συντρέχοντες όσο μπορούνε· πάντοτε την αλήθεια ομιλούντες, πλην χωρίς μίσος για τους ψευδομένους.
Και περισσότερη τιμή τούς πρέπειόταν προβλέπουν (και πολλοί προβλέπουν)πως ο Εφιάλτης θα φανεί στο τέλος, κ’ οι Μήδοι επί τέλους θα διαβούνε.
Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης (1903)
'The Oracles' by A.E. Housman
'Tis mute, the word they went to hear on high Dodona mountain When winds were in the oakenshaws and all the cauldrons tolled, And mute's the midland naval-stone beside the singing fountain, And echoes list to silence now where gods told lies of old.
I took my question to the shrine that has not ceased from speaking, The heart within, that tells the truth and tells it twice as plain; And from the cave of oracles I heard the priestess shrieking That she and I should surely die and never live again.
Oh priestess, what you cry is clear, and sound good sense I think it; But let the screaming echoes rest, and froth your mouth no more. 'Tis true there's better boose than brine, but he that drowns must drink it; And oh, my lass, the news is news that men have heard before.
The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning; Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air, And he that stands will die for nought, and home there's no returning. The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair.'
A.(Alfred) E. (Edward) Housman 1859-1936
The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece! Where burning Sappho loved and sung, Where grew the arts of war and peace, Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung! Eternal summer gilds them yet, But all, except their sun, is set...
The mountains look on Marathon--And Marathon looks on the sea; And musing there an hour alone, I dreamed that Greece might still be free; For standing on the Persians' grave, I could not deem myself a slave.
A king sat on the rocky brow Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis; And ships, by thousands, lay below, And men in nations--all were his! He counted them at break of day--And when the sun set, where were they?
And where are they? And where art thou? My country? On thy voiceless shore The heroic lay is tuneless now--The heroic bosom beats no more! And must thy lyre, so long divine,Degenerate into hands like mine?
'Tis something, in the dearth of fame, Though linked among a fettered race, To feel at least a patriot's shame, Even as I sing, suffuse my face; For what is left the poet here? For Greeks a blush--for Greece a tear....
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! Our virgins dance beneath the shade-- I see their glorious black eyes shine; But gazing on each glowing maid, My own the burning teardrop laves, To think such breasts must suckle slaves.
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep, Where nothing, save the waves and I, May hear our mutual murmurs sweep; There, swanlike, let me sing and die: A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine-- Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!
George Gordon Noel (Lord) Byron
Monument dedicated to the 700 Thespians - Courtesy of Vasilis Linidis
Thespian plaque at Thermopylae - Image courtesy of Vasilis Linidis