10 great Spartan leaders and their accomplishments

The Spartan leaders are the ones who mobilized all the energies and the unparalleled military efficiency of Sparta for military expansion.

Thanks to a successful combination of military, diplomatic, and intrigue skills, the Spartan leaders transformed Sparta from an insignificant town in the Peloponnese into an undisputed power in Ancient Greece.

From Lycurgus to King Leonidas, we present today a top 10 of the most influential Spartan leaders who have left their mark on the history of Sparta.

#10 Lycurgus(10th to 7th century B.C)
Spartan Leader Lycurgus

The first among the Spartan Leaders who deserves to be mentioned is the semi-mythical Lycurgus, the Great Reformer.

If you could travel back in time, and ask a Spartan citizen why his state is so different than any other Greek City-States, his answer will surely be this: Lycurgus.

Considered by many the second founder of Sparta and the Father of the Spartan Constitution, which defined all the institutions and laws of the Spartan State.

Shortly said, Lycurgus layed the framework of the Spartan State as we know it today.

Without the laws enacted by Lycurgus, which prioritize the military efficiency, order, and strict hierarchy above all other aspects of the Spartan society, most probably Sparta wouldn’t have become the dominant land power of Ancient Greece, capable of fielding large armies.

According to the famous Greek Historian Herodotus, Lycurgus arrived in a time of turmoil for Sparta(kakonomōtatoi) and brought through his laws the required order(Eunomia) that facilitated its rise to power.

The laws enacted by Lycurgus covered all aspects of the Spartan society: political, military and economy.

Through the ‘Great Rhetra”  it is said that Lycurgus introduced 2 of the main institutions of the Spartan State: Gerousia and Apella.

In the warfare field, according to Xenophon, Lycurgus introduced the “Agoge” the Spartan strict military training which will later make Sparta the great military power of Greece.

By the ancient sources, the existence of Lycurgus is not doubted, although today many recent studies consider that he is more a legendary figure.

Most modern historians agree with the idea, that the reforms which made Sparta a great military power, weren’t the result of one man, but rather the constitutional process was a gradual one, extended over generations. Some modern-day historians also advanced the hypothesis that Lycurgus was invented by the Spartan rulers so the laws of Sparta could have more legitimacy for the general public.

Other historians also mention that many of Lycurgus innovations, from dining groups, iron money, and organization of the population by age cohorts, were present in other Greek communities at that time.

Mythical or not, the name of Lycurgus undoubtedly left a mark in the history of Sparta.

#9 Agis I(1032-1001 BC or 930-900 BC)
Agis I, spartan leader

According to ancient sources, he ruled Sparta in the 11th Century BC. His genealogy can be traced back first to the Eurysthenes, one of the legendary founders of Sparta, then all away to the Great Hero Heracles. Because of his legendary genealogy, he is rather a mythical figure exactly like Lycurgus.

According to ancient tradition, Agis I biggest achievements are the establishment of the port city of Patrai and the creation of the helots.

As we know a port city in the ancient world was vital for influence, economic power, and trade. Though a militarized society, the Spartans realized the importance of owning a port city.

Also, the conquest of the coastal settlement of Helos represented another great achievement of Agis I.

Unlike the establishment of Patrai, the citizens of Helos decided to rebel against the Spartan rule, but the revolt was quickly crushed. After the rebellion was crushed, the Spartans created the helots’ institution. From now on, the slaves from Helos would provide cheap labor and equipment for future wars of Sparta.  

It is believed that starting with the rule of Agis I, the institution of dual kingship began in Sparta.

Regarding the creation of the dual kingship, modern-day historians consider that this settlement can be rather attributed to the fact that the Agiads had their base of power in the village of Pitana, and the Eurypontids in Limnai. Most probably the dual kingship was established when the villages of Pitana and Limnai decided to join their forces to form the polis of Sparta.

#8 Anaxandridas II(550-520 BC)

Spartan Leader Anaxandridas II rule will prove to be vital for the transformation of Sparta into the Hegemon(supreme leader) of the Peloponnese Peninsula. There are few surviving records about the character of this mighty King of Sparta, who is also the father of the future King Leonidas. From Plutarch we know that someone asked Anaxandridas why the Spartans march so fearlessly into battle, to which the Spartan King replied: ‘It’s because we train ourselves to have regard for life, and not, like others, to be timid about it.” In short only, the one who fears to live his life, have fear of death.

We also know that he valued effort, drive, and justice. Anaxandridas II’s rule will prove to be crucial in transforming Sparta into the dominant power in Peloponnese. Also under Anaxandridas reign, the Peloponnesian League takes shape.  

After the subjugation of the Messenians, Sparta became the largest city-state in Ancient Greece.

The next major step for the Spartan expansionist policy was the conquest of Arkadia. In this region, two major cities had to be subdued: Tegea and Argos.

Tegea manages to hold for one century the Spartan expansion until the reign of Anaxandridas II, it was during his reign that the Spartans realized that it was better to subdue the city not through military conquest but by cunning propaganda and diplomacy.  

Around 560 BC, the Spartan State started to spread propaganda according to which Sparta was the rightful heir to the Achaian lands of Agamemnon, through the heir of Menelaos.

To help solidify this claim, the Oracle of Delphi was enlisted, the Oracle told the Spartans that if they cannot recover the bones of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, which were buried near Tegea, then they cannot conquer the city.

Coincidentally, a Spartan called Lichias discovered the remaining of Orestes, in a well near Tegea, and brought them to Sparta.

With the remains now secured in Sparta, Anaxandridas fulfilled the prophecy of the Oracle by finally defeating the Tegean army. Sparta was now in control of two-fifths of the Peloponnese.

This final victory against Tegea though didn’t represent the transformation of its citizens into helots.

The Spartans instead had chosen to incorporate the city into the newly formed Peloponnesian League, because their main enemy at this time was Argos.

This historical event seems to have triggered a domino effect, and shortly other Greek city-states from Peloponnese agreed to join the Alliance: Corinth, Elis, Sicyon, Megara, and Epidaurus.

The larger city-states joined because they wanted to be sure that their oligarchical regimes would have Spartan support, while the minor cities joined because they needed military protection.

According to Plutarch in return for military support, Sparta will receive help from her allies for crushing potential helot rebellions. Also, the new members of the League promised to support Sparta against Argos.

The next step after absorbing Tegea and the creation of the Peloponnesian League were to subdue Argos, the biggest rival of Sparta in the Peloponnese.

Anaxandridas would lead his forces against Argos, a champion battle between 300 Spartans and 300 Argives failed to decide the fate of the war, and the next day the Spartan forces and Argives fought a large scale battle in which the Spartans emerged as the victors.

Anaxandridas II’s reign had transformed Sparta into the dominant power of the Peloponnese and prepared the Spartan forces for the next major challenge.

#7 Cleomenes I(520-490 BC)
cleomenes, spartan leader

The rule of this Spartan leader is surrounded by controversy, considered a bold military leader and a ruler with mental instability at the same time.

He was the son of the successful Spartan King, Anaxandridas II with his second wife. As we have previously mentioned Anaxandridas rule was influential in expanding the Spartan rule over Peloponnese.

In foreign policy, Cleomenes I sought to present himself and Sparta as the biggest enemy of tyranny.

The first major opportunity to show that Sparta was the biggest ally in the fight against tyrant rulers came in 510 BC.

Athens was ruled with an iron fist by Hippias, the descendant of Pisistratus. The unhappy Athenian aristocracy, seeking to gain support from the Spartans, bribed the Oracle of Delphi and tricked the Spartans into sending a military expedition to free Athens from the rule of Hippias.

The first military expedition organized by Cleomenes I which was sent around 512 BC proved to be a disaster, but this didn’t discourage the Spartan leader.

Following this defeat, Cleomenes personally led a military invasion that surrounded Hippias and his loyal forces on the Athenian Acropolis. Hippias’s attempt to save his family by smuggling them out of Athens quickly backfired, the Spartans found out about the plans and captured the tyrant’s family.

The capture of Hippias family gave Cleomenes a huge diplomatic advantage, forcing Hippias to surrender and go into exile.

After Hippias was deposed, the Alcmaeonid aristocratic faction from Athens which was led by Isagoras, which was pro-Spartan, took power and tried to form an oligarchical government.

For a short time, Cleomenes I achieved something unimaginable, to bring Athens into the Spartan sphere of influence with the help of a combination of military might and inside help from pro-spartan factions.

This achievement didn’t last because Isagoras, the leader of the pro-Spartan faction, lost the power struggle against Cleisthenes, and the Spartan Puppet Government quickly fell.

Another important episode where Cleomenes I was directly involved occurred during the Ionian Revolt(around 499 BC) against the Persian Rule.

The ruler of Miletus, Aristagoras, who placed himself as the leader of the Ionian rebellion, first tried to obtain Spartan support for the fight against the Persian army.

According to Herodotus, he first tried to flatter the Spartan leader, then Aristagoras tried to present the benefits of this expedition by showing a bronze tablet with the map of the world.

Cleomenes I asked Aristagoras for 2 days to think, at the second meeting the Spartan ruler asked how many days will take to reach the Persian city of Susa. When he heard from Aristagoras that it would take 3 months, the Spartan leader declined the invitation.

Clearly, the Spartan ruler thought that while the main Spartan army will be away for so many months, the Helots and the Argives will take the opportunity to strike when Sparta was vulnerable.

The last military expedition led by Cleomenes I was in 494 BC against the arch-foe of Sparta, the city of Argos. The invasion culminated with the decisive Battle of Sepeia, in which 6000 Argives were killed and Spartan supremacy in the Peloponnese was forever cemented.

#6 Agesipolis I (395-380 BC)

We all know that Spartan leaders for courage and iron discipline, in the case of Agesipolis I ,we can also add cunning among the qualities of a good Spartan ruler.

He was the son of the exiled King Pausanias(409-395 BC).

Being an infant and starting with a bad reputation because of his father’s legacy, he was taken under the protection of the co-ruler, King Agesilaos II.

According to Plutarch, Agesipolis was “quiet and retiring” so you would think that his character is far from the Spartan ideal of a ruler or soldier.

Agesipolis proved to be a worthy leader during a military expedition in 385 BC against the city of Mantineia.

According to historian Xenophon, Mantineia defiantly refused the Spartan demands to demolish its own walls.

This act of defiance couldn’t go unpunished. According to Spartan tradition, Agesilaos had to lead the Spartan army against the city, but he refused to tell that the Mantineians supported his father Agis II against the Messenians and this would prove ingratitude.

So the leadership of the invasion passed to Agesipolis, now it was the best opportunity for him to prove his skills.

Because the Mantineians still refused to surrender, Agesipolis surrounded the city and diverted the course of the nearby river Ophis. The water started to undermine the foundations of the walls, and the Mantineians could do nothing to stop the process. After some time, the walls of the city have crumbled and the Mantineians surrendered. This was Agesipolis greatest military victory.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, the promising rule of Agesipolis ended quickly because of a fever he caught during a successful military campaign against the city of Toroni, he was in his thirties when he passed away.  

#5 Pausanias(445-426BC & 408-395 BC)

King from the Agiad dynasty, he was the son of King Pleistoanax.

The rule of Pausanias is best remembered for his decisive contribution during the last stage of the Peloponnesian War.

After the victory at Aegospotami, Lysander blocked Piraeus, Athens’s main port, while Pausanias laid siege to the city itself with the main Spartan Army.

This double blockade finally forced Athens to capitulate. After surrendering, Athens was caught in a brutal civil war between the so-called Thirty Tyrants and the democrats.

After the final victory over Athens, a rift between Pausanias and Lysander’s visions started to emerge.

While Lysander was in favor of installing an oligarchical regime and supported the Thirty Tyrants faction, Pausanias secretly negotiated with both democratic and oligarchical factions in an attempt to maintain a Democratic Athens but under the Spartan sphere of influence.

Pausanias’ strategy can be best studied as a reaction to the growing power of Lysander. By keeping Athens democratic, Pausanias hoped to slow down Lysander’s rising star.

There were rumors, that Lysander wanted to overthrow the Spartan government in a coup-etat, and by conquering Athens both economically and politically, this would’ve skyrocketed his popularity and influence back in Sparta.

Most probably Pausanias, predicting Lysander’s intentions acted accordingly and by negotiating the reconciliation between the Athenian factions, he stopped Lysander’s plans.

For disbanding the main Spartan Army and keeping the Athenian democracy, Pausanias was put on trial back in Sparta. The vote in the Gerousia was tight 14 to 14, but the Ephors voted in favor of acquitting Pausanias, thus his reign continued till 395 BC.

The Spartan power reached its pinnacle during the reign of Pausanias, but also it was during this time that the seeds of Spartan decline were planted.

 In 395 both Pausanias and Lysander were again in charge of the Spartan army during the attack on Thebes. Lack of coordination resulted in the death of Lysander and Pausanias retreating with his forces.

Knowing that the Spartan officials will put him on trial for his behavior and actions, Pausanias exiled himself and never again returned to Sparta.

#4 Lysander(?-395 BC)
lysander in battle

Lysander occupies a special place in our list of great Spartan leaders, first because he was not a King of Sparta, secondly and the most important reason is that unlike other Spartan leaders he quickly learned something important. As a navarch/admiral of the newly created Spartan fleet during the Peloponnesian War, he professionally used every victory in the field of battle to expand his influence in Spartan politics and personal wealth.

Little is known about the early life of the military leader who brought the final victory for Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. According to some sources his father’s name was Aristocleitus, a member of the Heracleidae, from this perspective Lysander could claim to be the legendary descendent of Hercules. 

Though his ancestry was semi-mythical, he was not part of the Spartan royal family.

His brilliant military career began in 407 B.C when he was appointed navarch of the newly created Spartan fleet with the base in Ephesus. When Lysander secured the financial and military support of Cyrus the Younger, Persian prince and satrap of Lydia, the tide of the war significantly changed in favor of Sparta.

In a short time, in 406 B.C he obtained a great naval victory against Athens at Notium. Unfortunately for Lysander, the Spartan law denied him to continue to occupy the position of navarch and the position was passed to a successor, Callicratidas.

Anticipating this, Lysander sabotaged his successor efforts, by sending back to Cyrus the Younger all the financial support.   

Without the financial support of the Persians, Callicratidas suffered a great defeat against the Athenian fleet.

After Callicratidas was defeated, the Allies of Sparta sought to reappoint Lysander, but as we know the Spartan law was very strict. 

Luckily for Lysander, the Spartans found a solution, by appointing him as second in command to the new admiral Aracus. In reality, the supreme command was in the hands of Lysander.

He didn’t waste time and led a powerful Spartan fleet towards Hellespont, intending to cut the grain supply routes for Athens. 

Anticipating this move, the Athenians sent their remaining fleet under the command of Admiral Conon to stop Lysander.

The result was the Battle of Aegospotami, in which Lysander had decisively crushed the Athenian fleet. This Spartan naval victory meant that the grain supplies for Athens were completely cut.

After the battle, Lysander with his fleet went towards Athens and blockaded the important port of Piraeus, while the main Spartan army led by King Pausanias started the siege of Athens itself. 

Knowing that the military situation was without hope, the Athenians surrendered. 

This was Lysander’s moment of glory, like with other Greek-city states, he sought to install an oligarchical regime in Athens, known today as the Thirty Tyrants. 

Unfortunately for Lysander, the oligarchical regime in Athens will not last long, because the Spartan rulers, especially King Pausanias, saw his rising influence as a threat. 

As a result, Pausanias started negotiations with both the democratic and oligarchic factions from Athens, and democracy was reinstated. 

The great military career of Lysander will end during the battle of Haliartus, according to some historians, his death was caused because of the lack of coordination with the forces of King Pausanias. 

#3 Brasidas(? – 422 B.C)
Brasidas, important spartan leader

No list of Spartan leaders would be complete without mentioning the central figure of the Archidamian War(first phase of the Peloponnesian War, named after king Archidamus II), who through strength, discipline and initiative, turned the tide of the war in favor of Sparta.

Little is known about the life or military and political career of Brasidas before the start of the Peloponnesian War.

His first great military achievement was the saving of the city of Methone from an Athenian Invasion.

The city garrison of Methone was weak and couldn’t stand a chance against the mighty Athenian expeditionary force, but Brasidas with his forces rushed to the city and surprised the Athenians.

For saving the city of Methone, he was praised by the citizens of Sparta and was awarded the high office of Ephor Eponyms in 430 B.C

Brasidas proved to the Athenians that he was a worthy foe, by distinguishing himself during the Battle of Pylos(429 BC), thwarting the Athenian invasion of Megara, marching through Thessaly to join forces with the Macedonian King Perdicass.

Brasidas’ invasion of the Chalkidiki peninsula was a work of a military genius. If the expedition ended with victory, many of the Athenian allied city-states would’ve entered in the Spartan sphere. 

The long-time goal of this expedition was to cut the vital supply lines of timber and grain to Athens. 

The Chalkidiki campaign successfully began in September 424 with the capture of Acanthus, in the following months, more Greek-city states will fall to Brasidas blitzkrieg: Stagira, Argilus, Amphipolis. 

His campaign suffered only a minor setback in front of the city of Eion, the Athenians sent Thucydides to save the city. Thucydides saved Eion but later was found responsible for losing Amphipolis and exiled from Athens.

Shortly said, Brasidas with his initiative and boldness meant that he was the most important figure during the majority of the major battles of the Peloponnesian War.

Unfortunately for both Sparta and the Peloponnesian League, the Great Warrior meets his end during the siege of Amphipolis, although Brasidas’ charge ended with a brilliant victory, the Spartan leader was killed during the fight.

The death of Brasidas and Kleon, the Athenian leader, during the siege of Amphipolis, will mark the end of the Archidamian War(first phase of the Peloponnesian War) and the beginning of peace talks between Athens and Sparta, which will end with the signing of what is known today as the Peace of Nicias.

#2 AGIS III(338-331 B.C)
Agis III great spartan leaders

The reign of the Spartan leader, Agis III is important to mention because he tried to achieve the unthinkable, to rebel against Alexander the Great by creating a large Anti-Macedonian military coalition to liberate the Greek City-States.

The days of Spartan Hegemony over Greece were all gone, and from the Battle of Leuctra(371 B.C) to Agis III reign Spartan power was in a constant decline.

Agis III tried like many other Spartan leaders before him, to reverse the decline of Sparta, by audacious military actions against their biggest enemies. His rise to power coincides with a time of political and military turmoil for all Ancient Greek-City States.

With the great victory at Cheronaea(338 BC), Philip II secured his powerbase in Greece. Athens and Thebes surrendered to the Macedonian King, the only major obstacle that was left was Sparta.

It was Agis III that said no to Philip when asked to join the newly created “Greek League”, a military alliance created by the Macedonian King officially to support a future invasion of Persia.

By refusing to join the League, Sparta effectively isolated itself for a few years, waiting for the opportunity to strike back when the Macedonians were weak.

When Philip was assassinated, his dream of invading the Persian Empire will be continued by his successor, his son Alexander.

In case of any potential Greek rebellion, Alexander left a Macedonian garrison of 15.000 troops under the command of General Antipater, while the main Macedonian army was fighting the Persians.

This was the moment King of Agis III was waiting for. His major plan was to rally the Greek City-States under the Spartan banner and raise a massive Greek Army to fight the Macedonian occupiers.

For his plan to succeed, Agis realized that he first needed finance and then a highly trained and well-equipped army.

The financial aid for Agis cause came from a Persian admiral called Pharnabazus, who commanded a Persian fleet around the Aegean Sea.

After Alexander won the Battle of Issus against Darius III, 8000 Greek mercenaries who fought for the Persian King were left without a job.

Luckily for them, Agis desperately needed every soldier available for the big fight against the Macedonians. The Spartan King quickly enlisted them in his Army.

After securing the necessary funding and troops, Agis’s first major move was the invasion of Crete.

The success of this invasion resulted in Alexander’s decision to divert some Macedonian ships and reinforcements to keep the Spartans in check.

Another major consequence of Agis’s successful campaign in Crete was that many Greek City-States from the Peloponnesian Peninsula started to rally around Sparta(Ellis and most of the Achaean and Arcadian towns).

Agis even sent an appeal to Athens for military aid, but his request was rejected by the Athenians.

Maybe the chain of events would’ve been different if the Athenians agreed to offer full military support and aid the Spartans in liberating Greece from the Macedonians.

Agis, now the leader of a large military coalition(22.000 Spartans and Allies) decided to lay siege to the city of Megalopolis in 331. The main goal was to try to lure the Macedonians into a decisive battle.

During this siege, Agis and his forces defeated an important Macedonian relief force under the command of Corragus.

Antipater, couldn’t intervene immediately to save the city of Megalopolis because of 2 important reasons: first, he didn’t have enough forces; secondly, he was already involved in a war against Thracian tribes.

Upon hearing the news about the siege of Megalopolis, Antipater made ceased the hostilities against the Thracians and rushed to help the city defenders.

In 7 months, Antipater raised a considerable force of 40.000 troops and in the autumn of 331, he led his troops in the final and decisive battle against the Spartan phalanx.

The battle was hard, as both sides had highly trained and experienced troops.

The best description of the Battle of Megalopolis is offered by the Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily:

“Antipater added soldiers from those of the Greeks who were still loyal and built up his force until it numbered not less than 40,000. When it came to a general engagement, Agis was struck down fighting, but the Spartans fought furiously and maintained their position for a long time. When their Greek allies were forced out of position they themselves fell back on Sparta. More than 5,300 of the Spartans and their allies were killed in battle, and 3,500 of Antipater’s troops.”

Also, Diodorus, describes the final moments of the mighty Spartan King:

“As he was being carried by his soldiers back to Sparta, he found himself surrounded by the enemy. Despairing of his own life, he ordered the rest to make their escape with all speed and to save themselves for the service of their country, but he himself armed and rising to his knees defended himself, killed some of the enemy and was himself slain by a javelin cast.”

If the numbers offered by Diodorus are accurate, it means that the Spartans lost 25% of their army in one single battle, which is a high casualty rate, from which Sparta will never recover.

After the Battle of Megalopolis, 50 Spartan leaders were taken as prisoners to Macedon, while Sparta was forced to join the Greek League.

The Spartans will never fully recover from this big defeat.

#10 Leonidas(489-480 B.C)
monument to king leonidas

Without Leonidas’ great stand and self-sacrifice in the battle against the Persian invaders, most probably Ancient Greece as we know it today with its important cultural legacy would not exist.

The battle of Thermopylae, even if it ended in defeat for the Spartan leader and his 300 Spartiates(elite Spartan forces), would prove to be decisive for the survival of the Greek World, because it offered precious time for the remaining free Greek City-States to organize an effective resistance against the invading forces led by King Xerxes I. 

King Leonidas(son of the lion) was the son of the great Spartan leader Anaxandridas II(560-520 B.C) and half-brother of King Cleomenes I.

Being the leader of Sparta and a Central figure of the Peloponnesian league meant that he could use his immense reputation and prestige to try to organize a united Greek front for the big fight against the Persians.

That is what exactly Leonidas manage to achieve, in 481 B.C, Sparta along with Athens organized a Congress in which other 29 city-states participated. The main result of this Congress, which probably took place in the city of Corinth, was the foundation of the Hellenic League.

The Hellenic League was the first time in the History of Ancient Greece, when the many City-States tried to rally under a single banner.

Because Sparta held military supremacy on land, it was decided that Leonidas would be the supreme commander of the united Greek forces, while Athens would focus its efforts on building a massive naval force to counter the Persians at sea.

Being a skilled military commander, Leonidas realized that the only chance for the united Greek army to be able to hold against the Persians was to organize a solid defensive line by using the favorable terrain as best as possible.

The location chosen for the decisive battle was the Thermoylae pass.

According to Herodotus, Leonidas was commanding a united force of approximately 6000 troops: the 300 Spartiates were supported by 1000 Peloponnesian perioikoi, 500 Tegeans, 500 Mantineans, 1.200 troops from Arkadia, 400 Corinthians, 200 Phlians, and 80 Mycenaeans.  These are according to Herodotus the Peloponnesian units of the combined Greek army.

These units were joined by 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans and 1000 Phocians.

Another Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus, gives other numbers for the Greek forces, according to Diodorus the Lacedemonian forces were stronger.

Another Historian, Pausanias, gives a different figure for the combined forces lead by Leonidas, 11.200 troops, higher than both Herodotus and Diodorus.

As we all know, the Thermopylae pass and Leonidas skill in building a massive shield wall blocked the advance of Xerxes forces for 2 days.

Leonidas could’ve hoped to hold the Persian troops for many more days, unfortunately for the Spartan leader and his troops, the Persians with the help of a Greek local, manage to find a way to flank their position.

The fate of the Greek troops was now sealed, the main force decided to pull back, while the 300 Spartiates along with the Thespians, Thebans and Mykenaians forces decided to stay and fight to the end.

Leonidas’ mission now dramatically changed, from holding against Xerxes I  to inflicting as much damage as possible to the Persian forces before dying.

Leonidas and his forces fought valiantly until the end, and even after he fell in battle, his loyal Spartans fought to retrieve his body four times after repulsing the Persian attacks.

According to Herodotus, after the Battle, Xerxes I, insulted the Spartan leader by decapitating its head and mounting it on a pike, while his body was crucified. A true sacrilege.

Sources:

John Carr, Sparta’s Kings, Pen and Sword Military, 2012
Philip Matyszak, Sparta Rise of a Warrior Nation, Pen and Sword Military, 2017
Alfred S. Bradford, Leonidas and the Kings of Sparta: Mightiest Warriors, Fairest Kingdom, Praeger; 1st edition, 2011
https://www.livius.org/sources/content/herodotus/herodotus-on-thermopylae/
https://www.livius.org/articles/person/agis-iii/

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