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Thermopylae: The Battle for the West (original 1980; edition 2004)

by Ernle Bradford

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185363,896 (4.05)2
Member:stephmo
Title:Thermopylae: The Battle for the West
Authors:Ernle Bradford
Info:Da Capo Press (2004), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:war, ancient greece, sparta

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Thermopylae: The Battle for the West by Ernle Bradford (1980)

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    The Histories by Herodotus (bookfitz)
    bookfitz: The Ancient Greek historian provides an account of Thermopylae and the rest of the Persian invasion.
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This book is a good complement to The Greco-Persian Wars by Peter Green (touchstone problems and Gates of Fire which I read last year.
The book does not focus on Thermopylae as much as the title would suggest. It tells the full story of Xerxes invasion of Greece and does so very well.
One point well made about the battle of Thermopylae is the effect it had in uniting the Greeks as a group against the Persians. It should be noted that the Persians included all of the nations of the east from Asia Minor down to Egypt and across the fertile crescent to the eastern edge of present day Afghanistan and the Indus river. That is a big part of the world and it was all united under Xerxes against Greece. Greece on the other hand was not united at all and many of the kingdoms and city-states joined Xerxes seeing him as the eventual victor.
Athens and Sparta were the prime powers who opposed Persia and they did not function well as allies.
The war had three phases. The northern phase consisted of the Battle of Thermopylae and the naval battle of Artemisium. In the naval battle the Persians were also victims of the weather and Greece's rocky coast. The Persian navy greatly outnumbered the Greeks but lost a good one-third of their ships to the weather. In the main naval battle the Greeks held their own, much to the surprise of the Persians.
Contrary to popular belief there was a total of 7,000 Greek hoplites at Thermopylae of whom only 300 were Spartans. The first two days of fighting at the pass was brutal warfare. The Persian weapons were no match for the Greeks and large numbers of Persians died with the Persian Immortals attacking the Greeks at the end of the first day.
The second day the Persians drove forward their troops with the whips of overseers to be slaughtered by the Greeks. That night a Greek soldier offered to lead Persian troops around the pass to attack the Greeks from the back. The Greeks found this out and those who went forward to fight the third day knew they would die. Thespians and Thebans joined the Spartans for the third day and after they were encircled they were all killed.
The Persians then take the rest of northern Greece and sack the city of Athens. The action then shifts to the naval battle in the Gulf of Salamis. Themistocles by the use of clever strategy gets the Persian fleet to enter the Gulf where their numbers and size are no advantage. The skill and tactics of the Greek ships and their men defeat the Persian fleet. At this point Xerxes goes back to his capital at Susa leaving his brother-in-law Mardonius with a large army to defeat the remainder of the Greeks.
At the battle of Platea the Greek armor and training overcomes the Persian cavalry and the Persians are defeated.
The book also mentions a Carthiginian attempt to defeat the Greek cities of Sicily, a populous and wealthy island, as part of Xerxes attempt to defeat the west. This also was thwarted.
The book is made interesting by the author's references to incidents from his service in World War II. It is a well written book that gets a lot of information in its short length.
If Xerxes had conquered Greece there would have been no Classical Greece that laid the foundation of Western civilization. Historical events do make a difference to what the present world is like. The events in this book provide a real appreciation of that fact. ( )
1 vote wildbill | Feb 17, 2009 |
Amazingly readable, and most satisfying. ( )
  Mithril | Jan 17, 2009 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this history of a defining moment in Western civilization. I highly recommend it! ( )
  drneutron | Jun 18, 2007 |
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Epigraph
The worth and value of a man is in his heart and his will; there lies his real honour. Valour is the strength, not of legs and arms, but of heart and soul; it consists not in the worth of our house or our weapons, but in our own. He who falls obstinate in his courage, if he has fallen, he fights on his knees (Seneca). He who relaxes none of his assurance, no matter how great the danger of imminent death; who, giving up his soul, still looks firmly and scornfully at his enemy -- he is beaten not by us, but by fortune; he is killed, not conquered.

The most valiant are sometimes the most unfortunate. Thus there are triumphant defeats that rival victories. Nor did those four sister victories, the fairest that the sun ever set eyes on -- Salamis, Platea, Mycale, and Sicily -- ever dare match all their combined glory against the glory of the annihilation of King Leonidas and his men at the pass of Thermopylae.

MONTAIGNE, trans. Donald M. Frame
Dedication
For friends long dead on the sea-lanes of summer
Crete, Malta, Tobruk
First words
A great many distinguished scholars have devoted intensive research into all and every aspect of the Greco-Persian wars. (Preface)
I should like to express my particular thanks to Mr. A. R. Burn, whose writings on this subject first aroused my interest and enthusiasm some years ago. (Acknowledgments)
The whole of the East was on the move.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0306813602, Paperback)

An impressively accessible narrative depicting the three-day battle for the pass at Thermopylae (the Hot Gates)--a critical contest in Xerxes's massive invasion of Greece. The bloody stand made there by Leonidas and his small Spartan army in 480 B.C. has been hailed ever since as an outstanding example of patriotism, courage, and sacrifice.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:59 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A narrative depicting the three-day battle for the pass at Thermopylae (the Hot Gates)--a critical contest in Xerxes's massive invasion of Greece. The bloody stand made there by Leonidas and his small Spartan army in 480 B.C. has been hailed ever since as an outstanding example of patriotism, courage, and sacrifice. --From publisher's description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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