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Headword: *lewni/dhs
Adler number: lambda,272
Translated headword: Leonides, Leonidas
Vetting Status: high
[Leonides], king of [the] Lakedaimonians, Anaxandrides' son, the twentieth king from Heracles. This man was the leader of the Greeks who resisted [the Persians] at Thermopylai. And in this place, it is said, Heracles set aside his body and became a god.[1] And Leonidas, when it was reported that the sun becomes invisible when the Persians shoot their arrows, said 'Let us be of good courage, because we shall fight in the shade'.[2] And to the soldiers, as they were getting their breakfast, 'Eat your breakfast', he said, 'for you shall have your dinner in Hades'.[3] When the king [i.e. Xerxes] drew near, all the others were wary of the multitude [of his troops] and fled, but the Thebans deserted: the king captured and branded them, with the three hundred Spartiate soldiers.[4] An epitaph was written for Leonidas: 'o stranger, tell the Lakedaimonians that we lie here, obedient to their laws'.[5] This Leonidas, together with the three hundred, resisted Xerxes around Sphakteria (sic).[6] And having acquitted himself nobly he died, when he was surrounded because of treachery; because a certain Ephialtes showed the road through the openings[7] to the Persians.
"And the famous Macedonian or a Leonidas in resolve or a Kallimachos or a Kynaigeiros -- but it will be enough to adduce the [name] Roman -- as he overheard the words of the doctors, asked whether the Roman side had won".[8]
Greek Original:
*lewni/dhs, *lakedaimoni/wn basileu/s, *)anacandri/dou, a)f' *(hrakle/ous k# basileu/s. ou(=tos h(gemw\n tw=n ei)s *qermopu/las a)panthsa/ntwn *(ellh/nwn h)=n. e)n de\ tw=| to/pw| tou/tw| le/getai to\n *(hrakle/a a)poqe/menon to\ sw=ma a)poqewqh=nai. *lewni/dhs de\ a)paggelqe/ntos, o(/ti toceuo/ntwn tw=n *persw=n o( h(/lios a)fanh\s gi/netai: qarrw=men, e)/fh, o(/ti u(po\ skia=| maxhso/meqa. a)ristopoioume/nois de\ toi=s stratiw/tais, a)rista=te, e)/fh, w(s e)n a(/|dou deipnh/sontes. e)pelqo/ntos de\ tou= basile/ws, oi( me\n a)/lloi pa/ntes to\ plh=qos eu)labhqe/ntes e)/fugon, *qhbai=oi de\ hu)tomo/lhsan: ou(\s labw\n e)/stice basileu\s su\n stratiw/tais triakosi/ois *spartia/tais. e)pige/graptai e)pi\ *lewni/dou e)pi/gramma: w)= cei=n', a)/ggelle *lakedaimoni/ois, o(/ti th=|de kei/meqa, toi=s kei/nwn r(h/masi peiqo/menoi. ou(=tos o( *lewni/dhs peri\ *sfakthri/an a(/ma triakosi/ois a)nte/sth *ce/rch|. kai\ a)risteu/wn e)teleu/thse kuklwqei\s e)k prodosi/as, *)efia/ltou tino\s dei/cantos *pe/rsais th\n dia\ tw=n o)pw=n o(do/n. o( de\ *makedw\n e)kei=nos ei)/te *lewni/dhs to\ fro/nhma h)\ *kalli/maxos h)\ *kunai/geiros, a)rke/sei de\ to\ *(rwmai=on a)pokalei=n, w(s tw=n lo/gwn tw=n i)atrikw=n u(ph/|sqeto, h)/reto, ei) to\ *(rwmai+ko\n ei)/h nenikhko/s.
Leonidas (the appropriate Doric form) was Agiad king of Sparta between c.490 and 480 BCE, in which year he perished heroically in the defense of Thermopylai. See generally OCD(4) s.v. Leonidas(1); Poralla/Bradford, A Prosopography of Lacedaemonians s.v. Leonidas; and, for the primary narrative, Herodotus 7.198ff. (web address 1).
[1] Herodotus refers only elliptically to Heracles' death by burning and his apotheosis, at 7.198.4 (web address 1).
[2] Herodotus attributes this saying not to Leonidas but to the Spartan Dienekes (7.226: web address 2).
[3] Not in Herodotus, but see e.g. Plutarch, Moralia 225D; also in Cicero, Valerius Maximus, et al.
[4] As the text is punctuated, 'with the three hundred Spartiates' must be taken with the preceding phrase about the branding of the Thebans; however, this makes no sense. Perhaps the punctuation should be emended so that the next sentence reads 'With the three hundred Spartiates, an epitaph was written for Leonidas', though even this is syntactically awkward.
[5] This epitaph (Greek Anthology 7.249), by Simonides, was for the Spartiates and not for Leonidas alone; the wording given by Herodotus has a)gge/llein for the Suda's unmetrical a)/ggelle. See Herodotus 7.228 (web address 3), which also quotes an individual epitaph for the prophet Megistias but not for Leonidas.
[6] Apparently a garbled reference to the Athenian capture of Spartan forces on Sphakteria in 425 BCE, i.e. during the Peloponnesian War (see Thucydides 4.8-41: web address 4); Sphakteria played no part in the Persian War. Adler notes that in the present entry Hermann suggested a corruption of *Qermopu/las fulakth/rion, but the connection of Leonidas with Sphakteria also appears at sigma 1713, q.v. For a recent study of the problem see Paradiso, as cited there.
[7] So the transmitted text; however, o)pw=n 'openings' should probably be emended (as in the editio princeps of the Suda) to o)rw=n 'mountains'.
[8] Theophylact Simocatta, Histories 2.6.6, on the death of an anonymous (but heroic) soldier in Heraclius' army. The four names there, called up from the past, make only a loose chronological and contextual fit with each other: nos.2-4 are Persian-War heroes (for Kallimachos see kappa 226; for Kunaigeiros, kappa 2695), but 'the famous Macedonian' can hardly be other than Alexander the Great (alpha 1121).
Burn, A.R. Persia and the Greeks (1962) pp. 407ff.
Green, P. The Greco-Persian Wars (1996) pp. 109ff.
Hignett, C. Xerxes' Invasion of Greece (1963)
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3,
Web address 4
Keywords: biography; chronology; dialects, grammar, and etymology; ethics; food; geography; historiography; history; military affairs; mythology; poetry; religion
Translated by: Elizabeth Vandiver on 10 December 2003@16:44:20.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords; cosmetics) on 11 December 2003@03:38:50.
Elizabeth Vandiver (Added note; cosmetics) on 11 December 2003@11:18:42.
Elizabeth Vandiver (Cosmetics) on 11 December 2003@11:22:08.
David Whitehead (augmented note 6) on 12 December 2003@05:24:08.
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords; tweaking) on 5 April 2013@04:22:41.
David Whitehead on 5 April 2013@04:35:28.
Catharine Roth (upgraded links, coding) on 6 April 2013@00:24:11.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 5 August 2014@03:21:53.
David Whitehead (expanded n.6) on 27 May 2016@06:47:51.


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