Her father is insane—but, I love her.

Leonidas and his brothers were sent to the Agoge for training, while Cleomenes stayed with the king.
Leonidas and his brothers were sent to the Agoge for training, while Cleomenes stayed with the king.

Leonidas had two older brothers: Cleomenes was the eldest son of his father’s second wife; born after Cleomenes, to the first wife and also, the mother of Leonidas was Dorieus. As children, Dorieus, Leonidas and Cleombrotus, the youngest, were not expected to take over the throne. This was given to Cleomenes.

History, upon retrospect; however, is comical. By 520 BC, Cleomenes had ascended to the throne.

Leonidas’ elder brother, Dorieus, simply could not stand Cleomenes and the fact that the man was prone to fits of madness. He simply could not bear being ruled by an incompetent king. (No, this is Sparta.) Soon Dorieus left Sparta to create a colony all his own.

Dorieus, in his attempts at building his separate colony was met with initial success but was later killed. At around 490 BC, the citizens had finally caught on to Cleomenes’ insanity and deposed him on this basis. It was around that time that Leonidas ascended to the throne and chose Gorgo for his wife. Gorgo was in fact the daughter of Cleomenes but Leonidas married her, nonetheless. He would not regret this choice.

Queen Gorgo, too, was a tad mad... about the details.
Queen Gorgo, too, was a tad mad... about the details.

How was Sparta alerted of Xerxes’ invasion? A spy sent word to them. To keep the message concealed; however, as it passed through numerous checkpoints, the message had to be written on a piece of wood that was hidden within a wax tablet. Innocuous enough to get through the guards.

When the tablet reached Lacedaemon, there was no one, I understand, who could find out the secret, till Gorgo, the daughter of Cleomenes and wife of Leonidas, discovered it, and told the others. “If they would scrape the wax off the tablet,” she said, “they would be sure to find the writing upon the wood.” The Lacedaemonians took her advice, found the writing, and read it; after which they sent it round to the other Greeks.

So it seems proved, by Gorgo, that behind every military leader is a wife who can read between the lines and promptly connect the dots.

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