There have been many great rulers that led their people to incredible victories and for that, their names will echo through history for the ages to come. Leonidas who was the King of the Spartans is one of them. Leonidas was one of the world’s fiercest warriors and his skill on the battlefield is remembered to this day. In fact, the famous movie “300” directed by Zack Snyder displays the prowess and fierceness of the Spartan King. With that said, today we have gathered the top 20 facts that the history books fail to teach us about King Leonidas.
Leonidas was the King of Sparta but he knew that this “job” is too overwhelming for a single mind and he wasn’t the only one who ruled the people of Sparta. There was a second ruler and his sole purpose was to question every decision made by Leonidas so that the King always remembered to think about the good of his people and not his personal interests.
While Leonidas might be remembered in history for his famous battle of Thermopylae where it is said that he was accompanied only by 300 Spartans, this isn’t actually true. There were also somewhere around 3,000 to 7,000 Greek soldiers who fought alongside the Spartan King.
What many people don’t know about King Leonidas is that his name means the “son of a lion”. If there is something that we can be sure about, then it has to be the fact that Leonidas did indeed have the heart of a lion.
As everyone who watched the movie “300” knows already, King Leonidas eventually lost the battle of Thermopylae. Even though Xerxes I wanted to take the King’s fallen body and put it for display, Leonidas’s soldiers never let anyone get close to him and even managed to have his remains returned to Sparta.
King Leonidas was so famous for incredible skill in the art of war and for giving his life to Sparta that a hero cult was formed around him. The cult praised the fallen King’s actions and they lasted until the 2nd century AD.
A fun fact about the Spartans and their warrior culture is that they were created by a lawgiver named Lycurgus. The entire purpose of the Spartans was to create a military force that no one can defeat in hand to hand or weapon combat.
The Spartans were cruel during battles and they never hesitated to humiliate their enemies. This was a strategy which served the purpose of creating such a bad reputation that all enemies would think twice about attacking Sparta.
While King Leonidas might be remembered for his bravery, he is also known for starting the Agiad lineage of Kings. The interesting thing about this lineage is that every member claimed that he is a direct descendant of Hercules himself.
Movies and history books are saying that King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan troops managed to hold off the Persian army for seven days. However, this isn’t actually what happened. The reason why the Persian army took seven days to defeat the Spartans is because they waited for four days because they believed that the Spartans wouldn’t try to defend and that they were going to eventually surrender.
The Greeks are thankful for the sacrifices that the Spartan King made and they placed a giant monument carved in stone at the Thermopylae battle site. The monument has the following epitaph: “Go tell the Spartans, you who read: We took their orders and here lie died”.
While Hollywood might want to us believe that King Leonidas was a savage warrior who didn’t know anything but battle, this wasn’t actually the case. The King was known throughout the land for his great diplomatic skills and for starting a coalition with the Greek states in order to defeat the Persians.
History records show that King Leonidas died on August 11, 480 BC. Greek people still pay homage to the fallen King to this day!
This might come as a shock to most of you, but did you know that Leonidas was 60 years old when he rushed into battle at Thermopylae? While most people would think about retiring at that age, the King never lost his love for battle and war.
Have you ever wondered where George R.R. Martin got inspiration from to write Game of Thrones? Well, the Spartans might have played an important role in that because Leonidas and his beautiful wife Gorgo were actually blood relatives!
While most Kings were not loved by their people, this wasn’t the case for Leonidas. The people of Sparta loved their King and they followed him everywhere. Not just that, but Leonidas was famous all throughout ancient Greece and everyone respected him.
Another interesting fact about the Spartan is that the Oracle at Delphi once said that the city of Sparta is going to fall and the only way to save it is for the Spartans to grieve a dead king. It seems like the Oracle did knew what he was talking about because this is exactly what happened.
As Emperor Xerses I was marching closer to Sparta he couldn’t believe that a handful of warriors were trying to stop his army. He believed that this was a bad joke and that King Leonidas was just trying to make him laugh. The Emperor couldn’t have been more wrong!
As previously noted, King Leonidas was 60 years old when the battle at Thermopylae started. However, the Spartan King ruled for a total of ten years before passing away at the hands of the enemy forces.
King Leonidas was not just a great warrior, he could also talk really well and come up with witty comebacks on the spot. This is why when Emperor Xerses asked Leonidas to surrender because he was going to spare him and his men’s lives, the King responded with this famous comeback “Come and take them!”.
A cool fact about King Leonidas is that he had a great relationship with his younger brother, Cleombrotus. The brother was selected to be a commander of the Spartan troops after Thermopylae because he was the only one who could fill in the shoes of Leonidas.