Thermopylae consists of a tapered plain that stretches for about 3 1/2 miles, from east to west.
Mountains lie to the south, and to the north is the sea, here known as the Gulf of Malis.
of only about one hundred million, Xerxes’ empire held perhaps one-fifth of the people on the planet.
In comparison, Greece was tiny, covering an area of less than fifty thousand square miles, much of it already in Xerxes’ hands before Thermopylae.
The realm covered nearly three million square miles, which makes it about as big as the continental United States of America, and contained perhaps as many as twenty million people.
Yet with an estimated total world population in 500 b.c.
After the battle, as Xerxes son of Darius toured the battlefield, he came upon Leonidas’ body and ordered the beheading of the corpse and the impalement of the severed head on a pole.
Led by Leonidas, the three hundred Spartans stood and fell and took the pride of the Persian Empire down with them.
The gantlet at Thermopylae had punished the Persians.
Xerxes had learned how high the price of victory would be, if he could pay it at all.
In June 480 the Persians had begun their march on Greece from the Hellespont.
Xerxes commanded a huge army of about 150,000 combat soldiers and a massive fleet of about twelve hundred warships.
The dirt of battle is probably still upon Leonidas, and there is a dark purple bruise on his chin from the pooling of what little blood is left.