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Two little words. With these two words, two concepts were verbalized that have lived for nearly two and a half Millennia. They signify and characterize both the heart of the Warrior, and the indomitable spirit of mankind. From the ancient Greek, they are the reply of the Spartan General-King Leonidas to Xerxes, the Persian Emperor who came with 600,000 of the fiercest fighting troops in the world to conquer and invade little Greece, then the center and birthplace of civilization as we know it. When Xerxes offered to spare the lives of Leonidas, his 300 personal bodyguards and a handful of Thebans and others who volunteered to defend their country, if they would lay down their arms, Leonidas shouted these two words back.
The Spartans were betrayed from within by an act of treachery on the part of a disgruntled, native Greek, Ephialtes, by name. Ephialtes went to the Persians and convinced Xerxes he could lead the Persian soldiers through a tiny mountain pass which would bring them in behind the Spartans. Once Leonidas learned the Persians were coming in behind him in great force, he released the other Greek armies from their obligation to stay and fight. All left but the 700 Thesbians, who stayed and died to the last man, fighting alongside the Spartans. The battle at Thermopylae (480 B.C.), actually enabled the Greeks by giving them time to marshall their forces against Xerxes and his Persians, in the naval battle of Salamis, just off the coast of Atticus. Themistocles, the leader of the Greeks, managed to deceive Xerxes, causing Xerxes to order his fleet to attack the Greeks at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Greek navy was under the supreme command of another Spartan, Eurybiades. He and his navy, practically obliterated Xerxes' navy, sinking more than 200 ships. The blow was decisive. Xerxes, realizing his cause was hopeless, along with his Persians, then made an ignominious retreat into Asia. Historians believe without a doubt that had Xerxes and his Persians managed to destroy Greece, there would not have been any "western European Civilization," as we know it. Today, we would be more of an "asian" civilization, rather than what we know of as our culture. After all, it was Greek culture and civilization, which led to Roman civilization and culture, which eventually led to ... us. Due to Leonidas and his Spartans, the 700 Thesbians, and Eurybiades and his sailor warriors, we today enjoy what became a western European culture. There is an ancient monument in the pass at Thermopylae commemorating Spartan law, valor, and honor. It reads, "Stranger, go tell the Lacedaemononians [Spartans] that we lie here in obedience to their commands."
Пάλιν δ̀ὲ̀ του̑ Ξέρξου γράψαντος 'πέµψον τὰ ὅπλα' ἀντέγραψε 'µολὼν λαβέ' To Xerxes' demand, "Hand over your arms," [Leonidas] retorted,"come and get them." (Plutarch, Moralia, III, Apophthegmata Laconica, "Sayings of Spartans")