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View of the Thermopylae pass from the area of the Phocian Wall. In ancient times, the coastline would have been much closer to the mountain.

Thermopylae (pronounced /θərˈmɒpɨliː/) (Ancient and Katharevousa Greek Θερμοπύλαι, Demotic Θερμοπύλες: "hot gateway") is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from several natural hot water springs.



Map of changes to the shoreline at Thermopylae, 2500 BC to present

Thermopylae is located in eastern central Greece on the only land route large enough to bear any significant traffic between Lokris and Thessaly. Passage from north to south along the east coast of the Balkan peninsula requires use of the pass. Further west the way is blocked by mountains and the Gulf of Corinth. For this reason the area has been the site of several battles.

The area is dominated by the coastal floodplain of the Spercheios River, surrounded by steeply sloping forested limestone mountains. The continuous deposition of sediment from the river and travertine deposits from the hot springs has substantially altered the landscape during the past few thousand years. The land surface on which the famous Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 480 BC is now buried under 20 metres (66 ft) of soil. The shoreline has retreated greatly over the centuries because of the sedimentary deposition. The level of the Gulf of Malia was significantly higher during prehistoric times and the Spercheios was significantly shorter. The shoreline retreated by up to 2 kilometers between 2500 BC and 480 BC but still left several extremely narrow passages between the sea and the mountains. The narrowest point on the plain, where the Battle of Thermopylae was probably fought, would have been less than 100 metres (330 ft) wide. Between 480 BC and the 21st century, the shoreline retreated by as much as 9 km (5 miles) in places, eliminating the narrowest points of the pass and considerably increasing the size of the plain around the outlet of the Spercheios.[1]

A main highway now splits the pass, with a modern-day monument to King Leonidas I of Sparta on the east side of the highway. It is directly across the road from the hill where Simonides of Ceos's epitaph is engraved in stone at the top. Thermopylae is part of the infamous "horseshoe of Maliakos" also known as the "horseshoe of death": it is the narrowest part of the highway connecting the north and the south of Greece. It has many turns and has been the site of many vehicular accidents.

The hot springs from which the pass derives its name still exist close to the foot of the hill.


Thermopylae means "hot gates" in Greek. This is derived from the myth that Heracles had jumped into the river in an attempt to wash off the Hydra poison imbibed in the cloak that he could not take off. The river was said to have turned hot and stayed that way ever since.


The hot springs from which Thermopylae takes its name.
Leonidas'monument in Thermopylae

Greco-Persian Wars

Thermopylae is primarily known for the battle that took place there in 480 BC, in which an outnumbered Greek force of four thousand (including the famous 300 Spartans, 500 warriors from tegea, 500 from Mantinea, 120 from Orchamenus, 1000 from the rest of Arcadia, 200 from Philius, 80 Mycenae, 700 Corinthians and 400 Thebans) held off a substantially larger force of Persians under Xerxes. For two days they held out between two narrow cliff faces to prevent the use of Xerxes' vast cavalry and infantry force, before being outflanked on the third via a hidden goat path named the Anopaia Pass. The name since then has been used to reference heroic resistance against a more powerful enemy.

Third Sacred War

In 353 BC/352 BC during the Third Sacred War, 5,000 Phocian hoplites and 400 horsemen denied passage to the forces of Philip II of Macedon.

Gaulic invasion of the Balkans

In 279 BC a Gallic army led by Brennus successfully defeated a Greek army under Calippus of Syracuse.

Roman-Seleucid Wars

In 191 BC Antiochus III the Great of Syria attempted in vain to hold the pass against the Romans under Manius Acilius Glabrio.

Balkan invasion by the Heruli

In 267, the Germanic tribe of Heruli defeated the Greek force that tried to stop them.

Greek War of Independence

In 1821, a force of Greek fighters led by Athanasios Diakos made a stand near the pass to stop a force of 8,000 Turks from marching down from Thessaly to put down revolts in Roumeli and the Peloponnese. Diakos, after making a last stand at the bridge of Alamana with 48 of his men, was captured and killed.

World War II

In 1941 during World War II the ANZAC forces delayed the invading German forces in the area enough to allow the evacuation of the British expeditionary force to Crete. This conflict also became known as the Battle of Thermopylae. Such was the fame of Thermopylae that the sabotage of the Gorgopotamos bridge in 1942 was referred in German documents of the era as "the recent sabotage near Thermopylae".

Notes and references

  1. ^ Rapp, George Robert; Hill, Christopher L. Geoarchaeology: The Earth-science Approach to Archaeological Interpretation, p. 96. Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN 0300109660

External links

Coordinates: 38°48′19″N 22°33′46″E / 38.80528°N 22.56278°E / 38.80528; 22.56278

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

THERMOPYLAE (Gr. Oc t)Os, hot, and ran, gate), a Greek pass leading from Locris into Thessaly between Alount Oeta and the sea (Maliac Gulf). It is chiefly famous for the heroic defence made by Leonidas, the Spartan king, with 300 Spartan soldiers against the Persian army of Xerxes advancing upon Greece in 480 (see Leonidas and authorities there quoted). Two other famous battles took place at the pass. In 279 B.C. Brennus and the Gauls were checked for several months by a Greek army under the Athenian Calippus, and in 191 Antiochus of Syria vainly attempted to hold the pass against the Romans under M'. Acilius Glabrio. In the time of Leonidas the pass was a narrow track (probably about 14 yds. wide) under the cliff. In modern times the deposits of the Spercheius have widened it to a breadth of i z to 3 m. broad. The hot springs from which the pass derived its name still exist close to the foot of the hill. There is one large spring used as a bath and four smaller ones, and the water, which is of a bluish green colour and contains lime, salt, carbonic acid and sulphur, is said to produce good effects in cases of scrofula, sciatica and rheumatism. The accommodation for bathers is, however, quite inadequate.

For the topography see Grundy, Great Persian War, pp. 277-291.

Theroigne De Mericourt, Anne Josephe (1762-1817), a Frenchwoman who was a striking figure in the Revolution, was born at Marcourt (from a corruption of which name she took her usual designation), a small town in Luxembourg, on the banks of the Ourthe, on the 13th of August 1762. She was the daughter of a well-to-do farmer, Peter Theroigne. She appears to have been well educated, having been brought up in the convent of Robermont; she was quick-witted, strikingly handsome in appearance and intensely passionate in temper; and she had a vigorous eloquence, which she used with great effect upon the mobs of Paris during that short space of her life (1789-93) which alone is of historical interest. The story of her having been betrayed by a young seigneur, and having in consequence devoted her life to avenge her wrongs upon aristocrats, a story which is told by Lamartine and others, is unfounded, the truth being that she left her home on account of a quarrel with her stepmother. In her career as courtesan she visited London in 1782, was back in Paris in 1785, and in Genoa in 1788, where she was a concert singer. In 1789 she returned to Paris. On the outbreak of the Revolution, she was surrounded by a coterie of well-known men, chief of whom were Petion and Desmoulins; but she did not play the role which legend has assigned her. She took no part in the taking of the Bastille nor in the days of the 5th and 6th of October, when the women of Paris brought the king and queen from Versailles. In 1790 she had a political salon and spoke once at the club of the Cordeliers. The same year she left Paris for Marcourt, whence after a short stay she proceeded to Liege, in which town she was seized by warrant of the Austrian Government, and conveyed first to Tirol and thereafter to Vienna, accused of having been engaged in a plot against the life of the queen of France. After an interview, however, with the emperor Leopold II., she was released; and she returned to Paris in January 1792, crowned of course with fresh laurels because of her captivity, and resumed her influence. In the clubs of Paris her voice was often heard, and even in the National Assembly she would violently interrupt the expression of any moderatist views. Known henceforth as "la belle Liegoise," she appeared in public dressed in a riding habit, a plume in her hat, a pistol in her belt and a sword dangling at her side, and excited the mob by violent harangues. Associated with the Girondists and the enemies of Robespierre, she became in fact the "Fury of the Gironde." She commanded in person the 3rd corps of the so-called army of the faubourgs on the 20th of June 1792, and again won the gratitude of the people. She shares a heavy responsibility for her connexion with the riots of the 10th of August. A certain contributor to the journal, the Acts of the Apostles, Suleau by name, earned her savage hatred by associating her name, for the sake of the play upon the word, with a deputy named Populus, whom she had never seen. On the 10th of August, just after she had watched approvingly the massacre of certain of the national guard in the Place Vendome, Suleau was pointed out to her. She sprang at him, dragged him among the infuriated mob, and he was stabbed to death in an instant. She took no part in the massacres of September, and, moderating her conduct, became less popular from 1793. Towards the end of May the Jacobin women seized her, stripped her naked, and flogged her in the public garden of the Tuileries. The following year she became mad, a fate not surprising when one considers her career. She was removed to a private house, thence in 1800 to La Salpetriere for a month, and thence to a place of confinement called the Petites Maisons, where she remained - a raving maniac - till 1807. She was then again removed to La Salpetriere, where she died, never having recovered her reason, on the 9th of June 1817.

See M. Pellet, Etude historique et biographique sur Theroigne de Mericourt (1886); L. Lacour, Les Origines du feminisme contemporain. Trois femmes de la Revolution (Paris, 1900); Vicomte de Reiset, La Vraie Theroigne de Mericourt (Paris, 1903); E. and J. de Goncourt, Portraits intimes du X VIII'. siecle (2 vols., 18 57-5 8); and the play Theroigne de Mericourt of M. Paul Hervieu, produced at the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt in 1902.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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From Latin Thermopylae, from Ancient Greek Θερμοπύλαι (Thermopúlai).





  1. A narrow pass on the East-central coast of Greece adjacent to the Maliakos Gulf, northwest of Athens. Its name is derived from its hot sulphur springs. It was the site of the Battle of Thermopylae, at which the Spartan King Leonidas stood off, for a time, the Persian armies of Xerxes.



  • Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)[1]
  • Fictional Portayals[2]


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