Leonidas I was a warrior king of the Greek city-state of Sparta, the 17th of the Agiad line. He was the husband of the daughter of Cleomenes I of Sparta. Leonidas had a notable participation in the Second Persian War, where he led the allied Greek forces to a last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae while attempting to defend the pass from the invading Persian army. According to Herodotus, Leonidas' mother was not only his father's wife but his niece and had been barren for so long that the ephors, the five annually elected administrators of the Spartan constitution, tried to prevail upon King Anaxandridas II to set her aside and take another wife. Anaxandridas refused, claiming his wife was blameless, whereupon the ephors agreed to allow him to take a second wife without setting aside his first; this second wife, a descendant of Chilon of Sparta, promptly bore Cleomenes. However, one year after Cleomenes' birth, Anaxandridas' first wife gave birth to a son, Dorieus. Leonidas was the second son of Anaxandridas' first wife, either the elder brother or twin of Cleombrotus.
King Anaxandridas II died in 520 BC, Cleomenes succeeded to the throne sometime between and 516 BC. Dorieus was so outraged that the Spartans had preferred his half-brother over himself that he found it impossible to remain in Sparta, he made one unsuccessful attempt to set up a colony in Africa and, when this failed, sought his fortune in Sicily, where after initial successes he was killed. Leonidas' relationship with his bitterly antagonistic elder brothers is unknown, but he married Cleomenes' daughter, sometime before coming to the throne in 490 BC. Leonidas was heir to the Agiad throne and a full citizen at the time of the Battle of Sepeia against Argos, he was a full citizen when the Persians sought submission from Sparta and met with vehement rejection in or around 492/491 BC. His elder brother, the king, had been deposed on grounds of purported insanity, had fled into exile when Athens sought assistance against the First Persian invasion of Greece, that ended at Marathon. Plutarch has recorded the following: "When someone said to him:'Except for being king you are not at all superior to us,' Leonidas son of Anaxandridas and brother of Cleomenes replied:'But were I not better than you, I should not be king.'"
As the product of the agoge, Leonidas is unlikely to have been referring to his royal blood alone but rather suggesting that he had, like his brother Dorieus, proven superior capability in the competitive environment of Spartan training and society, that he believed this made him qualified to rule. Leonidas was chosen to lead the combined Greek forces determined to resist the Second Persian invasion of Greece in 481 BC; this was not a tribute to Sparta's military prowess: The probability that the coalition wanted Leonidas for his capability as a military leader is underlined by the fact that just two years after his death, the coalition preferred Athenian leadership to the leadership of either Leotychidas or Leonidas' successor Pausanias. The rejection of Leotychidas and Pausanias was not a reflection on Spartan arms. Sparta's military reputation had never stood in higher regard, nor was Sparta less powerful in 478 BC than it had been in 481 BC; this selection of Leonidas to lead the defense of Greece against Xerxes' invasion led to Leonidas' death in the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.
Upon receiving a request from the confederated Greek forces to aid in defending Greece against the Persian invasion, Sparta consulted the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle is said to have made the following prophecy in hexameter verse: In August 480 BC, Leonidas marched out of Sparta to meet Xerxes' army at Thermopylae with a small force of 1,200 men, where he was joined by forces from other Greek city-states, who put themselves under his command to form an army of 7,000 strong. There are various theories on. According to Herodotus, "the Spartans sent the men with Leonidas on ahead so that the rest of the allies would see them and march with no fear of defeat, instead of medizing like the others if they learned that the Spartans were delaying. After completing their festival, the Carneia, they left their garrison at Sparta and marched in full force towards Thermopylae; the rest of the allies planned to do for the Olympiad coincided with these events. They accordingly sent their advance guard, not expecting the war at Thermopylae to be decided so quickly."
Many modern commentators are unsatisfied with this explanation and point to the fact that the Olympic Games were in progress or impute internal dissent and intrigue. Whatever the reason Sparta's own contribution was just 300 Spartiates, the total force assembled for the defense of the pass of Thermopylae came to something between four and seven thousand Greeks, they faced a Persian army who had invaded from the north of Greece under Xerxes I. Herodotus stated. Xerxes waited four days to attack. On the fifth day the Persians attacked. Leonidas and the Greeks repulsed the Persians' frontal attacks for the fifth and sixth days, killing
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