The monument to Leonidas and the 300 at Thermopylae
Purpose of the 2010 Leonidas Expedition
1. To complete our search and establish a "best case scenario" for the path
2. To complete our search of the location of the Phokian skirmish
argue that "a best case scenario" is probably the best solution that we
may be able to provide given that topographically much has changed
since 480 B.C. Ancient sources are incomplete and man and machine have
transformed the region in unimaginable ways. For example, paths that
are clearly visible in the British General Staff Map of 1943-44 simply
no longer exist today. Segments of the northern slope of Kallidromos
have been bull-dozed, trees have been cut down and four lane highways
crisscross the mountain. Thus, a "best case scenario" for the true
path, a scenario whose parameters demonstrate the best goodness of fit
with our model (see below) is, we believe, the best we can hope for,
for the beginning and first half of the path. However, unlike previous
expeditions, we possess global positioning equipment, ground sensing
equipment, aerial photos and we are also trying to obtain satellite
imagery of the region. In addition, we have been greatly informed by
the cumulative works from previous expeditions and our own on-site
visitations in the summers of 2000, 2001 and 2002.
location of the Phokian skirmish is another matter. Herodotus tells us
that the Persians fired thousands of arrows against the Phokians who
were guarding the path. The tips of their arrows were made of bronze or
iron. Since such arrowhead have already been found at the pass and at
Marathon (from the 490 B.C. invasion), we believe that they may be
retrievable on Mt. Kallidromos as well.
own research over Mt. Kallidromos, combined with the cumulative
knowledge from previous expeditions and the work of Herodotus, have
enabled us to develop a model which sites the Phokian skirmish in one
of six possible locations. These are:
The Rock Gates
The Kastraki Junction
To establish a best case scenario for the path certain pieces of evidence need to align:
descriptions of the terrain as given by Herodotus. These include a
description of the beginning of the path, the existence of oak trees
where the Phokian skirmish took place, and the fact that the way to the
top of the mountains is longer than the way down. Herodotus also
mentions that the Persians initially had the Mountains of the Oetaians
to their right and those of the Trachians to their left (Hdt. VII,
217). Herodotus also notes that before commencing the ascent, the
Persians crossed the Asopus and then marched all night until they
arrived near the top of the mountain, some time before first light,
probably around 5 am.
(1980) in pressing for the Varthates approach makes the case that the
march requires, first, a way around (periothos), and ascent (anavasis)
and a descent (katavasis). Further, Wallace interprets periothos to
mean " the way around the hills". However, this is not what the
original Greek says. The word "hills" is an interpolation by Wallace.
The existence of a periothos is based on one reference in Herodotus
(Hdt, VII, 223) in which he states that the descent was shorter and
faster than the way around (periothos) and the ascent. However,
periothos could be taken to mean a way around any topographical feature
of the path. Of course, if the Persians began their march from near
present day Varthates of ancient Heraclia, as we believe is the case,
they would have had to march around the rather prominent spur that juts
out northwards from Mt. Kallidromos and past Anthili at coordinates
22:29:50E and 38:48:20N. This may well be the "periothos" that
Herodotus refers to (Hdt, VII, 223) in describing the route taken by
the Persians. However, in describing the beginning of the path itself
Herodotus, says nothing about a way around. He simply states that it
begins near the Asopus, it is called the Anopaia and it has the same
name as the mountain. Which of the two descriptions is to be believed?
attempting to resolve this issue we fall back on the rule of "multiple
congruities" which, in this case, locates the beginning of the path
near the Asopus where the river flows out of the gorge and past the
ancient village of Anthili. Therefore, we interpret periothos to mean
that the Persians had to take some kind of a detour from their
encampment to the beginning of the path before commencing their ascent.
Since we know that they had to cross the Asopus before reaching the
beginning of the path, their encampment must have been west of the
Asopus, probably between the Asopus Gorge and the Xerias River,
somewhere near the region of modern day Varthates. We also believe that
since the Immortals were King Xerxes' guard, their encampment would
have been near their king. That was also a mark of honor. In addition,
kings always encamped upriver in order to have access to clean, fresh
water. This argument tends to invalidate the proposition that the
Immortals were encamped east of the Asopus because that would place
them down river and away from their king.
Objectives for the 2010 Leonidas Expedition
our discussion to date it appears that we can take the analysis no
further until we have physical evidence in the form of arrowheads
and/or spearheads from the Phokian Skirmish. In the summer of 2008,
therefore, we propose to search for such evidence at six locations
using various search instruments (e.g., ground penetrating radar,
geomagnetic imaging, and the like). We intend to search at the
The Crest: 38:45:20N/ elev. 3690ft.
The Rock Gates: 38:46:08N/ elev. 3303 ft. (2 miles east/north east from the crest)
Nevropolis: 38:45:13N/ elev. 3040ft.
The Trap: 38:45:53N/ at 3160ft.
The Junction (Damasta Monastery approach and route down from the Crest) at 38:45:56N/ at 3400 ft.
The Kastraki Junction at coordinates 38:46:00N/
NOTE: Full coorinates of the above locations will be provided after the expedition begins
The discovery of arrowheads
will enable us to eliminate rival hypotheses and will help strengthen
the case for both the location of the Phokian skirmish and the
direction of the true path. For example, if arrowheads are located at
Nevropolis the approach D-East past the Damasta Monastery by way of the
Trap and the Junction, as well as the Kastraki approach will be
invalidated, which will strengthen the case for Elevtherochori as
through-point to the Nevropolis. This will pit the northern slopes
approach against the Varthates hypothesis. Such a process of
elimination will help us considerably in devising a "best case
scenario" for the path and we can then focus on which of the two
approaches best aligns with the model discussed earlier.
THE 2010 LEONIDAS EXPEDITION
Principal Investigators/Expedition Members (Listed alphabetically)
Dr. Serge Besanger, Professor of Greek Philosophy, European School of Economics, FR
Dr. Paul Cartledge, Professor of History, Cambridge University, UK
Author of 'Thermopylae' and 'The Spartans'
Prof. Peter Green, Historian, University of Iowa, USA
Author of 'The Greco-Persian Wars'
Dr. Ian Macgregor Morris, Historian, University of Nottingham, UK
Author of 'The Sword King: The Life and Legend of Leonidas of Thermopylae'
Mr. Steven Pressifeld, Author, Honorary Member, USA
Author of 'Gates of Fire'
Dr. Barry Strauss, Historian, Cornell University, USA
Author of 'The Battle of Salamis' and 'The Trojan War'
Dr. Andrew Yiannakis, Research Professor in the College of Education and Project Organizer, University of New Mexico, USA
Dr. Stavros Douvis, Social Scientist, Ministry of Tourism and the University of Athens, GR
Dr. John Douvis, Social Scientist, Ministry of Tourism and the University of Athens, GR
Mr. John Trikeriotis, CPA, Business Manager, USA/AUS
Mr. Kostas Dervenis, Project Manager, Intracom, GR
Mr. Marco Cervera, State Licensed Archaeologist, MEX