The three-day battle for the pass at the "Hot Gates" of Thermopylae was a critical contest in the Persian king Xerxes's massive invasion of Greece. The bloody stand made there by Leonidas and his small Spartan army in 480 B.C. has since become the very emblem of patriotism, courage, and sacrifice.
The ambitions of Xerxes were vast. Having amassed the largest force of men and ships ever assembled, he set out to conquer Greece, at the same time sending an army of Carthaginians to overrun Sicily. The two forces planned to open the gates to the wealth of the western Mediterranean.
Ernle Bradford's narrative spans the entire era of the invasion, from the building of an incredible wooden bridge across the Hellespont to the final crushing defeat of the Persian rear guard at the battle of Plataea. There, as before, the Spartans were the decisive force. It was at Thermopylae, however, that the fate of Xerxes's forces was determined by a small band of Spartans. In Thermopylae, Ernle Bradford brings to life the personalities and battles of this epic period with unmatched skill and verve.