King Leonidas statue - The battlefield of Thermopylae
The LEONIDAS III (2002) EXPEDITION
The Search For the "Path of Betrayal" and The Location Of The Phokian Skirmish,
June 1-15, 2002, Thermopylae, GREECE
The Center for Hellenic Studies (PAIDEIA) at the Univ. of Connecticut, Mr. Ilias Tomazos, President
The Honorable Dimitris Alambanos, Member of Parliament and the Prefecture of Fthiotis (Lamia region), Greece
The Honorable Demosthenes Matalas, Mayor of Sparta, Greece
The Pan-Laconian Federation of the USA and Canada, Ms. Athina Conits, President
Prof. Peter Green, Historian, Univ. of Iowa, USA
Eirini Manoli, State Licensed Archaeologist, Athens, Greece
The Leonidas 2002 Expedition is sponsored in part by:
Metal Detection Equipment kindly provided by GARRETT
Global Positioning Systems kindly provided by MAGELLAN
The Leonidas 2001 Expedition raised new questions and it has become necessary for us to return to the site for further work. Specifically, we shall be addressing the following points:
(1) Where is the actual location of the skirmish that took place between Hydarnes and the Immortals, and the contingent of 1000 Phokians sent by Leonidas to guard the Anopaia? Current thinking sites the location of this extremely important skirmish at Nevropolis. Yet we know from Herodotus that after the skirmish the Persians marched on and descended the mountain. However, it is impossible to descend the mountain from Nevropolis because the crest is a further 1.8 miles up the mountain.
A second location which is located at 3600 ft, and overlooks the Kastraki range and the Malian Plain is what we have come to call the crest. This is also a likely location for the skirmish since the defense of this site enables defenders to block access to the plain from two access routes. The first is from Nevropolis and the second access is the approach from Ano/Kato Damasta. Such a position also affords the defenders a view of part of the plain below. This may be an important point if Leonidas and the Phokians needed to maintain some form of communication. A third likely location, which can be approached by avoiding the crest all together is by way of the Kastraki range. The path leading through to this location also starts in the Ano/Kato Damasta area and progresses in a southeasterly direction toward Paleodrakospilia. It then turns east and passes through a set of twin rocky peaks which we have called the Rock Gates. This location is a strong candidate for the Phokian defense position because it effectively blocks access to the plain behind the Greek line from all three approaches discussed above. If the Phokians were unsure whether the Persians were coming around by way of Nevropolis, or the crest, or by way of Kastraki, the Rock Gates would have been the most likely place worth defending.
We propose to examine all three sites with metal detectors*** supplied to us by Garrett Metal Detectors. Since we know that the Persians fired thousands of arrows against the Phokians it should be possible to locate arrowheads at one of the three locations.
We believe the significance of the skirmish has not been fully articulated. For example, had the Phokians been able to hold the Persians, the pass at Thermopylae may have never been overrun. Thus, the Phokian defeat sealed the fate of Leonidas and the allies and contributed to the destruction of Athens. For these reasons locating the site of the skirmish has important historical significance.
(2) Unresolved inconsistencies in Herodotos regarding the beginning of the path require that we investigate further the path from Koutseki (Ano Damasta), by way of Chalkomata Spring, to Elevtherochori, or by way of the Monastery at Damasta, or by way of Kastraki. Three significant passages in Herodotus suggest that the location of the beginning of the path is not the upper Asopos (i.e., below Kastro Orias) but where the Asopos debouches into the Malian Plain. Herodotos writes, "South of Trachis (he means east) there is a cleft in the mountain range which shuts in the territory of Trachinia; and the river Asopos issuing from this cleft flows....." Further, he continues by stating that, "in this space is located the village of Anthili, which the river Asopos passes ere it reaches the sea." And finally, Herodotos describes the beginning of the path thus: "Beginning at the Asopos, where the stream flows through the cleft in the hills, it runs along the ridge of the mountain..." When taken together, these passages locate the beginning of the path near Trachis and Anthili (and we know their location from the works of various archaeologists), east of the Asopos Gorge. This approach may not be the same as the one employed by Pritchett and others (that is, from Koutseki, or Ano/Kato Damasta to Elevtherochori). However if it is, it would have the Persians engaging the Phokians about two or three hours before dawn, which is too early according to current thinking and our analysis. However, this inconsistency may not be quite so problematic if we have the Immortals starting their march from their encampment (near Varthates, we think), about the time of the lighting of the lamps, and not from the base of Mt. Kallidromos. Nevertheless, we are of the opinion that this path (from somewhere between Koutseki and just east of the Asopos Gorge) merits further investigation. And, we also need to factor in the time it took the Immortals to march from their camp near Varthates to the base of the mountain near Anthili or Kato/Ano Damasta (Koutseki) village. We estimate that this scenario would add another hour and a half to their march and would bring the total time taken for the night march in line with our proposed model. However, this hypothesis requires further testing onsite.
Commentary and Objectives for 2002 Expedition
Our previous expeditions in the summers of 2000 and 2001 have provided us with considerable information and insights regarding the path of the Immortals (which we have called The Path of Betrayal), and the possible location of the Phokian skirmish. We propose to return in the summer of 2002 and complete the work. We have considrerable resources and information at our disposal now and we feel confident that we shall be able to arrive at a "best case scenario" for the path and the site of the Phokian skirmish. Our research is guided by the following:
(i) Prior work and writings on the topic
(ii) Our own investigations in the field. So far we hiked most of the major paths suggested by previous authors, and a few others that we considered likely candidates as well. We cannot underscore the importance of actual field work in gaining significant understandings and insights about terrain, topography and levels of difficulty. For example, after hiking up to Elevtherochori from the Asopos, starting just below Katsro Orias, it became evident that the steep gradient would have rendered the Immortals useless for battle. It is just too steep and in 480 BC, before erosion took its toll on the mountain it may well have been an even steeper climb. These types of insights cannot be acquired by library research alone.
(iii) The use of sophisticated equipment such as Global Positioning, Metal Detectors and Satellite Imaging
(iv) Information obtained from interviews with locals, all of whom have a story to tell that reflects richness and tradition
(v) Textual analysis of the writings of Herodotos
(vi) The study of, and comparison of various modern and older maps. These show changes in terrain and how the work of man has now transformed some portions of Mt Kallidromos. For example, the northern slopes of Kallidromos around Ano/Kato Damasta have been bull-dozed, shaped and re-shaped to construct modern highways, gas stations and rest stops. Trees have been cut down and the general topography has been altered beyond recognition. Evidence of these radical transformations is provided by eyewitness interviews, through visual inspection and by examining older maps of the region. One major path beginning at Kato Damasta, which is clearly illustrated in the map of the British General Staff Map of 1944, 1994 edition, that leads both to Elevtherochori and to other portions of the mountain, has been almost obliterated by the work of man today.
*** SPONSORS: We are seeking funding for this expedition. Sponsors will be extensively acknowledged on our website, in media coverage and in published papers. If interested, please write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
June 2002 Expedition Members
Andrew Yiannakis, Ph.D., University of Connecticut, USA (email@example.com)