In 479 B.C., the Persian army invaded Greece from Macedonia,
three hundred Spartans, led by their king Leonidas, and a few thousand
allies held off the enormous Persian army of Xerxes at the pass of Thermopylae,
dying to a man.
“Thus nobly did the whole body of Lacedaemonians and Thespians
behave, but nevertheless one man is said to have distinguished himself
above all the rest, to wit, Dieneces the Spartan. A speech which he made
before the Greeks engaged the Medes, remains on record. One of the Trachinians
told him, ‘Such is the number of barbarians, that when they shot
forth their arrows the sun would be dardened by the multitude.’
Dieneces, not at all frightened at these words, but making light of the
Median numbers, answered, ‘Our Trachininan friend brings us excellent
tidings. If the Medes darken the sun, we shall have our fight in the shade’.
. . The slain were buried where they fell; and in their honor . . . an
inscription was set up, which said:
Here did four thousand men from Pelops’ land
Against three hundred myriads bravely stand.
This was in honor of all. Another was for the Spartans alone:
Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell
That here, obeying her behests, we fell.”
Herodotus, The Persian Wars, VII, 226-228