Pledge 1$/month to support this channel – https://goo.gl/2wgFqk Meanwhile the Persians entered the pass and sent a mounted scout to reconnoiter. The Greeks allowed him to come up to the camp, observe them and depart. When the scout reported to Xerxes the size of the Greek force, and that the Spartans were indulging in calisthenics and combing their long hair, Xerxes found the reports laughable. Seeking the counsel of a Greek in his employ, Demaratus, he was told that the Spartans were preparing for battle and that it was their custom to adorn their hair beforehand. They were the bravest men in Greece, he said, and they intended to dispute the pass.
Xerxes remained incredulous. According to another account, he did send emissaries to the Greek forces. At first he asked Leonidas to join him and offered him the kingship of all of Greece. Leonidas answered, “If you knew what is good in life, you would abstain from wishing for foreign things. For me it is better to die for Greece than to be monarch over my compatriots.”
Then Xerxes asked him more forcefully to surrender their arms. To this Leonidas gave his noted answer, Μολών Λαβέ, which means “Come take them.” This quote has been repeated by many later generals and politicians, in order to express the Greeks’ determination to risk a sacrifice rather than surrender without a fight. It is today the emblem of the Greek First Army Corps.
Greek morale was high. Herodotus wrote that when Dienekes, a Spartan soldier, was informed that Persian arrows would be so numerous as to blot out the sun, he remarked with characteristically laconic prose, “So much the better, we shall fight in the shade.” Today Dienekes’s phrase is the motto of the Greek 20th Armored Division.
Xerxes waited four days for the Greek force to disperse. On the fifth day he ordered the Medes and the Cissians to take them prisoner and bring them before him.
Failure of the frontal assault
Xerxes sent in the Medes at first perhaps because he preferred them for their bravery or perhaps, as Diodorus Siculus suggested, because he wanted them to bear the brunt of the fighting—the Medes had been only recently conquered by the Persians.
The Medes coming up to take the Greeks prisoner soon found themselves in a frontal assault. The Greeks had camped on either side of the rebuilt Phocian wall. The fact that it was guarded shows that the Greeks were using it to establish a reference line for the battle, but they fought in front of it.
Details of the tactics are somewhat scant. The Greeks probably deployed in a phalanx, a wall of overlapping shields and layered spearpoints, spanning the entire width of the pass. Herodotus says that the units for each state were kept together. The Persians, armed with arrows and short spears, could not break through the long spears of the Greek phalanx, nor were their lightly armored men a match for the superior armor, weaponry, and discipline of the Greek hoplites.
And yet there are some indications they did not fight entirely in close formation. They made use of the feint to draw the Medes in, pretending to retreat in disorder only to turn suddenly and attack the pursuing Medes. In this way, they killed so many Medes that Xerxes is said to have started up off the seat from which he was watching the battle three times. According to Ctesias the first wave numbered 10,000 soldiers and was commanded by Artapanus.
The king then withdrew the Medes. Having taken the measure of the enemy, he threw the best troops he had into a second assault: The Immortals, an elite corps of 10,000 men. On his side, Leonidas had arranged a system of relays between the hoplites of the various cities so as to constantly have fresh troops on the front line. Yet in the heat of the battle, the units did not get a chance to rotate. Being able to approach the Greek line only in such numbers as the space allowed, the Immortals succeeded no better than the Medes. Xerxes had to withdraw them also. The first day of battle probably ended here.
The assault failed again. The account of the slain gives some indication of why: The wall of bodies must have broken up the Persian line and detracted from their morale. History judges them perhaps too harshly. Climbing over the bodies they could see that they had stepped into a killing machine, but the officers behind prevented them from withdrawing. The king at last stopped the assault and withdrew to his camp, totally perplexed. He now knew that a head-on confrontation against Spartan-led troops in a narrow place was the wrong approach. Thank you for helping me reach 50.000 subscribers. This is your small gift from me https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B84MQ-Hptu7NTVVlMHRKSUxSemM