Leonidas as a 50 year old.

No, not this oracle.

No, not this oracle.

Before setting out against the forces of Xerxes, King Leonidas consulted the Oracle at Delphi. He was given the following prophecy:

For you, inhabitants of wide-wayed Sparta,
Either your great and glorious city must be wasted by Persian men,
Or if not that, then the bound of Lacedaemon must mourn a dead king, from Heracles‘ line.

To state it simply, it’s either your city is laid to waste or your king must die. Though some scholars argue that the Delphic pronouncement was given after the Battle at Thermopylae it is hard to imagine going against a force 200,000 strong without thinking of a brush with death.

It is believed that, unlike Gerard Butler’s representation, Leonidas was around fifty years of age when the Persians threatened to invade. Xerxes, then, was  only thirty-nine. Perhaps, at that age, Leonidas was already looking forward to graying the same way his father had and enjoying his grandkids.

I'm 50. And you? How old are you?

I’m 50. And you? How old are you?

It seems, however, that all the circumstances of his life had lead to the decisive battle at Thermopylae. Knowing that he will never see his wife again, he tells her:

Marry good men and give birth to good children.

His life may end, but the city will live on and will continue to produce heroes.


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