Thermopylae, where the Spartans made themselves immortal
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On this day in 480 BC the battle of Thermopylae took place.
A narrow pass some fifty miles north of Athens, at this spot, a small force of seven thousand Greeks, held back the huge invading Persian army (150,000), for two days. Helped by the nature of the land, the Greeks were doing well and the Persians could make no headway, until the traitor Ephialtes, showed the Persians a secret way round the pass.
Hearing that they had been betrayed and were being outflanked, the Spartan King Leonidas sent his main Greek force south to the safety of the Isthmus of Corinth and remained to fight a rear-guard action with three hundred Spartans and a few hundred others. All were eventually killed. The Spartans were buried together at Thermopylae and the poet Simonides composed this epitaph, famous for its pathos and simplicity: ‘O stranger, go tell the Spartans that here we lie, obedient to their commands.’
Today’s poem is by C P Cavafy,
Honor 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 are rich, and when they are 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 honor is due to them
when they foresee (as many do foresee)
that in the end Ephialtis will make his appearance,
that the Medes will break through after all.
Today I ask that I will not be found wanting in times of need and that I will strive to do my best each day