NARRATOR: Greece, that hard and timeless land, where even the stones speak of man's courage, of his endurance, of his glory.
And none more eloquently than this lonely pillar in a desolate pass, some 200 miles north of modern Athens.
Across the hush of 24 centuries, this is the story of a turning point in history, of a blazing day when 300 Greek warriors fought here to hold with their lives their freedom and ours.
ALL: (CHANTING) Xerxes! Xerxes! Xerxes!
At last we are in Europe.
Mardonius. My Lord.
How long will it be before the whole of our troops pass into Greece?
About seven days and seven nights, My Lord.
Whip them on if they are slow.
I am anxious to avenge my father's defeat.
My Lord, this army will give you not only Greece, but the whole world.
You are right.
It was my father's dream.
One world. One master.
But to Marathon 10 years ago he sent a mere wave.
I am leading an ocean!
So this is the Spartan spy caught trying to count my troops.
Yes, My Lord. All our best torture is wasted on him.
He's worn out two of my men without uttering a sound.
Bring him here.
Why do you not speak?
I have nothing to say.
Tell me, is it true that the Spartans are the bravest warriors in all Greece?
You will find that out for yourself.
Fool. You have but few men.
Your little country is divided. You have no single ruler.
How can you defy me, the master of the whole world?
That's not for you to understand, sir.
For you are the master of slavery, and you know nothing of freedom.
Let us see how insolence meets death.
ALL: (CHANTING) Xerxes! Xerxes!
Come here, my friend.
I have spared your life, but not out of pity.
I am told the Greeks are holding some sort of assembly at Corinth.
Go there, and tell them what you have seen here.
A power that neither man nor the gods can thwart.
What evil wind has blown you into this scorpion's nest?
I'm here with Demaratus. You are here with Xerxes.
I am in his camp but not with him.
You know, after all, Demaratus was once our king in Sparta, before he was exiled.
I'm not interested in Demaratus.
Kings have their ways, but you...
You are in the camp of our enemies and therefore an enemy of Greece.
You know my son Phylon in Sparta, don't you?
Please give him a message from me.
Tell him not to judge me until he knows all the fac...
That Greek spy this morning, he was a brave man.
He was a Spartan, My Lord.
Demaratus, you were once king of those people.
Tell me, do you really believe that Sparta will fight?
My Lord, do you wish for a truthful answer or an agreeable one?
Tell me the truth. I shan't hold it against you.
The Spartans will fight, even if the rest of Greece submits.
How can they fight, or do anything together, when they even have two kings ruling them?
The one who stole my throne is a mere usurper.
But the other, Leonidas, is a true Spartan king.
His name means lion, and he lives up to it.
There is no man who can match him in courage and skill in battle, nor in devotion to his country.
You seem to have great regard for Spartan kings, Demaratus.
I have, My Lord.
I was one myself.
Yet you do not look to me like a formidable fighter.
I have never yet met the man I could not master.
I'll give you a chance to prove your words.
I have in my bodyguard a remarkable young man.
I've seen him kill four good swordsmen with as many thrusts just for displeasing me with their bragging words.
Now you can prove your boast.
Once again, Demaratus, you've succeeded in spoiling my dinner.
May I enter this war council?
By all means.
My ships have just dropped anchor.
Five vessels fully fitted and manned.
This is a pleasant surprise, Artemisia.
I expected your ships but not you yourself.
If my men fight, I want to be with them.
That's the least a queen can do for her subjects.
To watch them die for her?
I never deny my subjects that pleasure.
Come sit with me. Artemisia, queen of Halicarnassus.
We visited her city last year.
The great king sought her advice about the war.
I'm glad to have you with me, Artemisia.
Everyone gives me different advice.
Artovadus to abandon this war, Mardonius to conquer the whole world, and Demaratus to seek peace with the Spartans.
Only because I know my people well.
I can always predict their actions.
Even when they choose to discard one of their kings?
Will you forgive me, My Lord?
I do not relish the noble lady's wit.
It has served me well, Demaratus.
At least I am still with my people, and still a queen.
XERXES: Well spoken, Artemisia.
I've tried to curb his arrogance with the wrong weapon.
A woman's tongue is far deadlier than the sword.
Why do you permit him to remain here?
He may serve my purpose.
The Greeks are assembled at Corinth to discuss my demands.
Above all, I don't want them to unite.
But once they disagree among themselves, men like Demaratus may be of great use to me.
To us, you mean.
Yes. I need your advice too.
Come tonight, Artemisia.
Will you come?
Only if you promise to limit our discussion to the Corinth assembly.
As I said before, the independence of our cities is the cornerstone of our freedom.
Therefore, I propose that each city deal with this problem independently without surrendering its dignity.
But also without futile heroics, which can only end in the mass suicide of the Greek race.
We shall now hear from the representative of Athens, Themistocles.
Ten years ago, the father of the present king of Persia invaded Greece at Marathon.
On that occasion, the Athenians rose to challenge him.
Our Spartan friends, famed for their piety no less than their military prowess, volunteered help but were delayed by, if I remember correctly, a religious festival.
Whereupon the Athenians, unaided, outnumbered 10 to one, attacked the invader and threw him into the sea.
We've no time for history now. Things are different today.
Yes. Things are different today.
Today the danger is much greater.
The whole of Asia is descending upon us.
Many times more men than there are Greeks.
These men are fierce, savage, bloodthirsty, merciless.
But that is not the reason why we should fear them.
That is not the source of their power.
Their power lies in their unity.
Remember that one terrible word, which will surely destroy Greece, unless we counter it with a unity of our own.
A unity of free men fighting together, resisting this united tide of tyranny.
We all know Themistocles to be a master of words.
But before we allow ourselves to be led by them, let us consider some other words that have been spoken.
Has Athens not sent for and received a prediction from the Delphic oracle?
Oh, come now, Themistocles.
No Greek state acts without first consulting the gods.
Then why not reveal this prediction to us instead of trying to draw us into a hopeless war?
There are no hopeless wars, friend, only hopeless cowards.
You are evading the answer.
I happen to know this prediction by heart.
And here it is, "Fly to the world's end, doomed ones. Leave your homes.
"For fire and the headlong god of war shall bring you low."
This clearly seems to me that the gods foretell the doom of Athens.
Isn't it wonderful that we have among us such a clever man?
Not only does he know how to steal state secrets, but he understands the meaning of the gods as well.
Now, since the sacred text has been filched, there's no longer any point in keeping it a secret.
Here is the rest of the prediction, "Then farseeing Jove grants this
"to the prayers of Athenae, "'Safe shall the wooden wall continue for thee
"'and thy children."'
Perhaps you can explain to us the meaning of these words.
They have no meaning. No meaning?
Do you infer, then, the gods dispense nonsense?
Don't put words into my mouth to confuse the issue.
You know no wooden walls can stand against an army like Xerxes'.
Anyway, Athens no longer has a wooden wall.
And where did you steal this piece of information?
Has it a wooden wall now?
Answer me. Yes or no? Yes.
A wooden wall?
A splendid one. I know how splendid because I have supervised its building.
Our new Athenian ships, manned by the bravest sailors in the world.
There is our wooden wall.
The wall farseeing Jove declares shall keep us safe.
The gods don't lie.
Shall we not heed their words rather than listen to fools, thieves and blasphemous cowards?
This is an insult.
Following divine advice, Athens shall fight to her victory.
A victory she invites all Greece to join.
I represent Phocis.
We are a small state.
We can field but a thousand soldiers.
Who will help us if we fight? Will Sparta come to our defense?
MAN: Sparta. ALL: Sparta.
The delegate from Phocis asks the vital question.
Athens has ships, but Sparta has the finest army in Greece.
Sir, is it not fitting that we now hear from the representative of Sparta?
King Leonidas of Sparta.
A Spartan king cannot act without the authority of his people.
But I know my people, and I know they will fight.
Will they lead all others?
Sparta will fight, whether others will follow or not.
Now you will hear words never before uttered in the history of our country.
Athens, to prove her trust in Spartan valor, does hereby resign her claim to naval leadership and places her ships under Spartan command.
From this day onward, every Athenian ship will sail under Spartan orders.
(ALL CHATTERING EXCITEDLY)
MAN: We've right to celebrate.
We've done it. We've done it.
Leonidas, it's going our way.
Of course, we must expect them to argue for a while.
Yes, argue, while our house burns.
When people are free to speak their minds, they're generally more easily handled.
That fool nearly caught me with that prediction.
I wouldn't care to go through an ordeal like that again.
Of course, it was throwing in the navy won the day for us.
Why did you do it? The Spartans are no sailors.
Thereby, your admiral won't know how to interfere with my running the fleet.
You don't mind, do you?
No. Sparta will do her duty.
She better do it fast.
The Persians are moving like a plague of locusts.
If we attack them here, on the plain of Thessaly, or their ships on the open sea, they'll run over us without even noticing.
We must find a position which cannot be turned.
What about here?
The Pass of Thermopylae? Yes.
It's the best line of defense north of Corinth.
These mountains run across Greece.
The Persians must pass through here.
With a small force, I can hold that narrow strip of land between the mountains and the sea until the others are ready.
And I can bring the fleet through the narrow straits above Thermopylae protecting your flank, with your admiral's consent, of course.
This is a splendid plan.
When can you march? I must speak to the council first.
But once we start, we march faster than any soldiers on Earth.
In the meantime, you can send a small force of Athenians to occupy the pass.
No, don't let's deceive ourselves.
No Greek will stir until he sees the Spartans march.
Actually march, you know.
Red cloaks. Flutes and all.
I know. Only this will unite Greece.
I'll leave at once. I'll deploy the ships.
I'll meet you in this bay of Locris, you and your men.
We'll be there.
Agathon! I thought I should never see you again.
What happened? I was a guest of the Persian king.
And escaped? No, he gave me a horse.
So I could come tell the Greeks what I have seen.
Then why were you not in council? Because I'm not a good liar.
I don't want to frighten them.
Then the army is as enormous as they say.
Leonidas, it is bigger than anything you can imagine.
For six days I watched them pass. Six days.
I ran out of numbers, and still more of them came.
They're drinking the rivers dry. And at night, there are more of their campfires than there are stars in the sky.
When I was a boy, I always wanted to reach the stars with my spear.
I don't trust that woman. Neither do I. But what can we do?
During the day he seeks our advice.
Then comes the night and... Shh!
Hydarnes, why must you disturb me tonight?
I have urgent news, My Lord.
Our scouts report that the Greeks have abandoned the whole of Thessaly.
I knew they would. Sit down and have some wine.
Beyond Thessaly lies the Oeta range with just one narrow pass near the sea, called Thermopylae.
I'm in no mood for geography.
But, My Lord, we must send a cavalry column to secure the pass before our army reaches it.
You must do what I order you to do!
But, My Lord, as a soldier, it is my duty to w...
Your duty is to obey me.
I don't want the Greeks to think I'm afraid of them.
If they want a fight, let them come out into the open.
I'll leave Thermopylae as an open door for them to do so.
And supposing... Enough!
It's my war and I'll conduct it my way.
We should be in Sparta by late afternoon. Yes.
Tell me, did you see Demaratus in the Persian camp?
No, but I saw a real Persia-lover there.
Who? Grellus, father of young Phylon.
I slashed his face with a whip.
Why, I can't believe it. He was always a good man.
Then he has no business to be among the barbarians.
I'm only sorry now I didn't run him through with a spear.
And Phylon should be questioned.
He might have known about his father's actions.
We shall speak to him.
What have you been doing today? Exercising with spear, sword and javelin.
Talking about the war. Any news?
Everyone's saying we're going to march north.
Some say as far as Thessaly.
Hey, this is a really good war.
They say Xerxes has brought a hundred nations with him. Isn't that wonderful?
When does your aunt expect King Leonidas back?
Maybe tonight. Why?
The men gave me a very good idea.
I can ask Leonidas for his permission to marry you.
I'm sure the law is that the king can act for my father in time of war.
And I could speak to my aunt.
I love you, Ellas.
I've never loved anyone else.
I think I loved you when we were children, from the earliest moment I can remember.
And now we can marry.
And I want you.
I know. I want you too, Phylon.
But... But we must wait.
Why wait? You are mine. I am yours.
What is there to keep us apart?
Only ourselves, Phylon. Just for a little while.
I want time to think.
We must be strong.
We are Spartans.
Remember what they say, "Once the rain is fallen, nothing can put it back into the sky."
And since when have Spartans become afraid of rain?
Phylon, son of Grellus, you shall soon march in defense of our land.
Are you ready to hear the laws sacred to a Spartan warrior?
Yes, Queen Gorgo. Here they are.
You must treasure freedom above life, shun pleasure for the sake of virtue, endure pain and hardship in silence, obey orders implicitly, seek the enemies of Greece wherever they may be and fight them fearlessly, until victory or death.
Now, taking the place of your dead mother, I'm giving you this shield.
There are but these five words to remember.
What does it mean? "With this or on this."
Either come home victorious with this shield or dead on it.
Please excuse me.
MAN: Happy day, Phylon. Congratulations.
We, the elders of Sparta, have a sacred duty to perform.
We are the guardians of Spartan blood.
It is for us to see to it that that precious blood is not shed, whatever the occasion may be, far away from our native soil.
Then you suggest that we do not send our men north.
Not above Corinth, Taemes.
We have no common cause with empty talkers of Athens and their sinful ways.
We must defend southern Greece, where we have our homes and our allies.
Greetings, King Leotychides. Greetings, King Leonidas.
I bear important news.
Sparta has been selected to lead the united Greek cities in the war against Persia both on land and on the sea.
Athens has surrendered her naval leadership to us.
But it's for the council to decide how Sparta acts.
But the council must act quickly. Why?
In order that we Spartans may reach the first line of defense in time.
And where might that be? The Pass of Thermopylae.
Thermopylae. Of course. That's the pass that protects Athens.
No! It's a pass that protects Greece.
Mere cities don't matter now. It is Greece that counts!
Only by being united can we hope to avoid slavery.
Now, I am no politician, but I will plead this cause with you until the moon wanes and the night brings forth a new day.
Of course I'll speak to him about you and Phylon.
You two should be married.
What can be keeping him so long?
He went straight to the council without even stopping to see me.
He's never done that before.
But, Aunt Gorgo, this is a dangerous time.
Everyone is talking about the war and our men marching north.
Do you think that...
I didn't even greet you. Forgive me.
And you haven't asked about your son.
How is he? Is he well? Is he well?
Today he fought with his toy sword against a boy a whole head taller than he, and he defeated him.
You could hear his war cry all the way to the marketplace.
Strong lungs are no proof of wisdom.
You should have heard old Xenathon speak tonight.
Shouting the isolation of Sparta. He made me sick.
But he loves our country. Not as much as he hates Athens.
He can never forget that his two sons were killed by the Athenians in fair battle.
Dead children are not easy to forget, Leonidas.
To remember is one thing, but to grow bitter in hatred, that's another.
That man is dangerous.
He could sway that council to put me in a terrible position.
I could not disobey, and I cannot break my word.
I promised Themistocles to lead my men in defense of Thermopylae.
Thermopylae? But that's so far away from Sparta.
To a Greek, no part of Greece is far away.
You are tired, my love.
Before the sun rises, you must rest.
It's past midnight.
See how dark the sky is?
When you left for Corinth, I went to see Megistias, the old priest.
He sacrificed a lamb and read the entrails.
He said that there was wonderful good fortune for both of us.
He said that you will be the Spartan king best remembered amongst men.
And he said, that for centuries to come, women will sing songs about my love for you.
Leonidas, this man brings an urgent message.
Themistocles begs us to march north at once.
He says the whole of Greece is waiting.
Ride back and tell him we march today.
The urgent summons from the council.
The prediction of the oracle has just arrived from Delphi.
Alert my bodyguard. Yes.
"Dwellers in glorious Sparta, "hear now the words of your fate.
"Either your famous city goes down in front of the Persians, "or, if your city is spared, "the land of Sparta must mourn for the death of one of her kings."
You may leave.
The priestess has spoken.
And the meaning is clear.
It is either Sparta or a Spartan king. I accept the challenge.
And, in your opinion, what must be done?
The army must march at once. There is no time to lose.
The council must grant dispensation to the Spartans to leave during the festival.
It is not the Spartan way to neglect the holy festivals.
Nor to neglect Greece.
The alert order has gone out to my personal bodyguard, who are not subject to the decisions of the council.
All the other troops are waiting in their quarters.
Do not let them wait long, friends.
Let me look. Let me look at you.
How handsome you are.
The red war cloaks are so becoming to men.
This way no enemy will ever see Spartan blood.
Ellas, we may march tomorrow. I must go to the king now.
Yes. Let us go. I've spoken to my aunt already.
My father's gone to the king's house and is waiting.
Seems that all my life I've waited for just this day.
At last you're going to be my wife.
The wife of a real Spartan soldier. Just wait till I come back.
I'll bring 10 Persian slave girls to wait on you hand and foot.
Oh. Bring just one and you'll be a dead Spartan.
Now, as soon as the council proclaims a state of war, the whole army will come under my orders, while King Leotychides, in accordance with the law, will remain at home.
Pentheus, son of Sallus, will be my second in command.
I thank you for honoring me.
May I put forward a personal request? Of course, Pentheus.
My daughter Ellas is waiting outside with young Phylon.
He asked permission to speak to you about a matter concerning both our families.
Let them come in.
Sir, I've come to ask your permission to marry Ellas, daughter of Pentheus.
Her father's granted his consent, but my father is away on family business in Thrace, and might be detained by the war.
I beg you to act in his stead.
When did you last hear from your father? Not since he left Sparta, sir.
He was supposed to return way before now.
Have you any idea what might have caused this delay?
No, sir. Is there anything wrong?
Agathon believes so.
While I was being tortured by the Persians, I saw your father in the enemy camp.
No. Not my father. He was there with ex-king Demaratus.
Why, that's not possible. I'm not used to telling lies.
Why, you may have been mistaken.
I tell you I spoke to him!
He still bears the mark of my whip on his face.
Sir, I beg you, by the immortal gods, let me wipe out this disgrace.
Put me in the first line of battle. Let me die a Spartan.
As a freeborn man, you are not responsible for your father's actions, yet I cannot ask my soldiers to accept into their ranks a man whose father is consorting with the enemy.
But, sir... That is my final word.
You will surrender your war cloak to the officer on duty.
You may go.
I cannot find him anywhere.
I'm frightened. I don't know what to do.
Take hold of yourself.
Sparta gives her women more freedom than any state.
In return, it demands strength.
How can I be strong?
I love him.
You must be strong.
Remember the Spartan mother who killed her son when he came home with a wound in his back.
Why should I remember? Phylon would never turn his back to the enemy.
If only they would let him fight.
I am not a general. I cannot order the men to take him with them.
How can you talk like this? You know Phylon.
His mother was your best friend. That does not matter.
Have you heard? Heard what?
The council has made its decision. Here it is, "People of Sparta, the army will presently march
"in defense of our land against the Persian king.
"The men are hereby ordered to depart
"immediately after the sacred festival of Carnea."
So you cannot go today. I can and I will.
And disobey the council?
My personal bodyguard is not subject to the council's orders.
But that's only 300 men.
I promised to have my men at Thermopylae.
I didn't say how many. But... This is madness.
Less so than to celebrate a festival and lose the war.
Leave us, please, Ellas. Yes, Aunt G...
Oh, Ellas. You know how sorry I am.
Leonidas, why not wait until the festival is over, and then lead out the whole army as a Spartan king should lead it?
It's only a few days.
No, even today might be too late.
All Greece waits for the Spartans to march.
A mere 300 men?
Since when have Spartans started counting numbers going into battle?
I know, but... We are but a vanguard.
The rest will join us just as soon as the festival is over.
But what if the Persians attack you before then?
Then we shall fight alone.
Leonidas, my love, I know your courage.
I am proud of you.
But there are times when prudence...
I don't know what I am saying.
I only know I cannot live without you.
You must trust me, Gorgo.
I love you more than life itself.
I don't want you to die.
It would be my end too.
Leonidas, the men are ready.
Agathon, the law allows me to take 300 men.
Dismiss all those with no living sons, and replace them with volunteers who have.
I don't want any Spartan family to die out.
Why are you here? Because I love you.
There is nothing to love now. I've been rejected by my own people.
I have no honor, no country.
No name, no home. I'm an outcast. I, too, am an outcast.
I've left my father's house, and I shall not return unless you come with me.
Sparta does not want me.
I'm ashamed of you. What if the king has refused to take you with him?
You're a free man and a soldier.
Prove it to him, and he will take you back.
How can I prove it?
Surely not by killing yourself.
My shield. Yes. Your shield. You left it behind.
Did you forget the words my aunt spoke, giving it to you?
Victory or death.
Take this shield.
Follow our soldiers.
Show them that you are a man and a Spartan.
And I shall be there watching you.
Three hundred men to stand against the whole of Asia.
And all Spartans.
This is the Bay of Locris, where we're to meet with Themistocles.
In the meantime, we'll rest here until sundown.
Then we'll march all night. We must be in Thermopylae by sunrise.
Look. There he is now.
LEONIDAS: Take Themistocles to that fisherman's hut.
Do you want to bathe, Ellas? No. Just to rest.
Are you ill, Ellas? No. Of course not.
Just tired and so cold somehow.
Yes. You are shivering.
And you haven't eaten in two days. I shouldn't have brought you with me.
We'll rest now. Yes, we'll rest now.
We have 271 ships lying in the straits.
The Persians are in the bay beyond.
Twelve hundred warships, with a good number of auxiliary craft.
Then we are outnumbered six to one.
Yes, but geography is on our side.
In the narrow waters, we can give them a good fight.
How many men have you brought? Three hundred Spartans.
Three hundred? My personal bodyguard.
Other Spartans will follow after the festival.
We are religious people. I know.
Someday I may enter religion myself.
It's better than politics.
With the gods behind you, you can be far more irresponsible.
Themistocles, we invoked divine help coming here.
This is no time for impious remarks.
Forgive me, friend.
Greetings, friends. Leonidas. Demophalus.
We've heard that all of Sparta's on the march.
I've been riding since sunrise, trying to catch up with you.
Your men move like lightning.
They have an urgent appointment at Thermopylae.
Yes, we heard about that too.
Can my warriors of Thespiae join you?
There's always room for good men. How many of you?
About 700, all volunteers.
I couldn't hold them back when they heard about Sparta leading us in this war.
Where do we find you?
We'll be at Thermopylae at daybreak. The rest of our armies join us there.
Wonderful. But don't start the killing before we arrive.
You Spartans go wild when you smell the enemy.
Leave some for us. We are Greeks too.
"We are Greeks too."
Did you hear what that man said?
Can this be the beginning of the miracle we've been waiting for?
Let us pray so.
You know, Leonidas, people call me a master politician.
Also a cynic, mountebank and a charlatan. They're all wrong.
I'm nothing but a sentimental old fool desperately in love with a dream.
One, free united Greece.
That is no dream.
I think we should have told Demophalus that we are only 300 Spartans at this moment.
And ruin all my work?
I've sent 20 runners round with the news that the entire Spartan army is marching north.
But that's not true. Truth is a heady wine, friend.
A politician must never exaggerate people's capacity for it.
I thank the gods I am only a soldier.
And I thank them I'm a politician.
Between us, we may make our dream come true.
I must get back to my boats.
Get the men ready.
Spartans, we have reached Thermopylae.
The orders are, from this wall, we do not retreat.
Greetings, friends. Ephialtes, bring some water.
Oh, she is ill. Poor child.
(WHIMPERS) Ephialtes! Where is that fool?
Ephialtes! Your wife?
Thermopylae. How far is it?
Not far. Just over those cliffs there.
You see, if you go by... Be quiet. Quiet.
And then you... (WHIMPERING)
Take her inside.
(WHIMPERS) Gently. Don't hurt her.
Hmph. Goats have more brains than men.
Who can understand the way of gods?
They create lovely girls and then turn them into wives.
You are the first strangers to visit us in years.
It was kind of you to give us shelter.
We have been herding goats here in the mountains all our lives, my wife and I.
She'll be better by sunrise.
But her feet are all swollen and sore.
Our home is far away. Athens?
By the gods, no. Have you not heard of Sparta?
Yes. They speak little, fight much, eat the black broth that turns up the stomach and their girls go about naked.
Naked? That's what I heard.
When? When I was young.
Ephialtes, more milk?
I'm going to look after the goats.
I heard a wolf last night in the mountains.
Your son? Do you think we'd have a son like that?
We don't know where he came from.
He just arrived one day, said he had quarreled with the people down in the valley.
Maybe a runaway slave, maybe a thief.
But in the mountains, everyone is equal.
Have you heard anything about the Persians?
We see them when it's clear. Come with me.
Look. Between those two hills.
Have they been there long? For several days.
And they are still coming. More campfires every day.
Lucky for us that Thermopylae is the only way through the mountains.
You mean it's lucky that the Persians don't know the other way.
Is there another way? Yes.
There is an old goat track. It winds through the mountains and it comes down beyond the pass.
Nobody uses it now, but it's still there.
We must let the Spartans in the pass know about this.
If the Persians found out about it, our men would be trapped.
King Xerxes would give much gold to know about it, wouldn't he?
It's getting cold. We'll talk there.
I don't want you to get sick too.
This is called the Middle Gate of Thermopylae.
It is too narrow for fighting in open order.
We will use our special tactics for close-in fighting.
And the rest can learn from watching the Spartans.
Shall we keep the men in their own units?
Yes. Men prefer to die among their friends.
Who are you? I am a goatherd.
I know these mountains well.
I have come to tell you there is a path leading through them from the north.
It's a bad path, but the Persians could use it.
We know there is a path. Our scouts are looking for it, but they can't find it.
I can show the way. It runs by the Callidromus Mountain.
We'd better hurry, sir. The accursed barbarians are probably looking for it too.
Agathon, dispatch all the Phocian troops.
Have them block that path and guard it. Yes, Leonidas.
Thank you, my friend.
If I had gold, I would give it to you.
But all we have is our armor.
Take with you the best sword you can find.
I don't do this for gold.
And I am too old to use a sword. If I were younger, I would bring my own sword and be standing with you in battle.
Let's go, friend. It's a long walk.
Xerxes has men in millions. We have Greek.
(MEN YELLING IN DISTANCE)
I cannot really believe there's only this one pass through the mountains, Demaratus.
I've not heard of another one, My Lord.
Where is the main Greek army? My Lord, our scouts swam past Thermopylae.
The Greeks are camped far beyond it.
Still only a small force. I presume they are waiting for more men.
The more the better.
If they insist on fighting, we can wipe them all out in one battle.
What about the pass itself?
Still held by just a few Spartans.
Some are rebuilding the wall.
Others are just sitting on the rocks and sharpening their weapons.
The fools. Not a good sign, My Lord.
It means that the Spartans will certainly fight, whether reinforcements arrive or not.
Why, they are mad.
I cannot think why you want to be king of such an extraordinary people, Demaratus.
I shall capture them alive and put them in cages and exhibit them all over Persia.
MAN: My King!
How did this happen? Speak!
We were on patrol, My Lord, near the pass.
Suddenly the Spartans came at us like devils, swarms of them.
We fought, but it was a narrow place and we could not get near them.
Hydarnes, see that my brother's body is buried with full honors.
And as for these cowards, let them be buried too.
My Lord... Alive!
No. My Lord, as a soldier, death is my duty.
And if I offend you, I shall be glad to die for it.
But I fear that I must warn you.
You have been listening to bad advice, My Lord.
If we had occupied the pass...
I know that I've listened to some people too much, but that period is over.
Mardonius. My Lord?
Tomorrow at dawn, we take the pass and march on.
I want no prisoners or slaves in this war.
Every Greek is to be put to the sword.
Very good, My Lord.
Give your men this one night, then destroy all the soldiers' women.
There are enough women in Sparta and Athens, and I want my men to be eager to get at them.
Very good, My Lord.
Well done, Myron. Not many of that Persian patrol got away.
Oh, it was easy, sir. Five of us and only 10 of them.
There is some movement in the enemy camp, sir.
It looks as though they intend to attack in the morning.
We need one more day to finish rebuilding that wall.
We must gain that day.
Isn't that the king's tent near the shore?
Pick out 30 men for me, all good swimmers.
I could swim the Evrótas River when I was a boy of four.
No, Agathon. You must stay here. I want you to take over command.
But if you're killed...
Why, then Greece will fight all the more fiercely.
But without Xerxes, all that great horde would fall to pieces.
Have the men assemble by that rock at sundown.
I'm going to stay here tonight. Go back, friend, and thank you.
The orders are silence and speed.
If I am killed, Pentheus will take command.
(REVELRY IN THE DISTANCE)
Let me go! Oh!
Silence. Where's the king?
Gone away to visit the queen.
MAN: My Queen!
General alarm. There is a great fire on the shore.
The king's camp is burning.
Go and see that my boat is made ready.
I'll kill you both!
How is it? It missed the main artery, I think.
We shall see now.
This day will pass in peace. I see it on the barb.
The blood curdles well.
As always, Megistias, your omens speak truthfully.
The Persian camp is disrupted. It'll take them all day to put it together.
Where's that young fool? Here.
He... He saved my life, Leonidas.
I know that.
He also disobeyed his orders.
In wartime, the punishment is death. You know that, Phylon.
Yes. So death it will be.
Get him his armor and a red cloak.
That's the only way for Spartans to die these days.
Half the camp burned!
Myself almost captured!
And all by a handful of Greeks. Where were your men, Hydarnes?
These Spartans are scarcely human, My Lord.
They see in the night like cats!
This is no answer!
I'm surrounded by incompetent fools!
Fear, panic, disorder.
How can this happen to the army that was made to conquer the world?
Panic started amongst the conscript savages.
By the end of the day, we shall restore order.
But this day is already lost, and the Spartans are still in the pass!
By noon tomorrow, I want to see every one of them destroyed, or all of you will forfeit your lives!
(WOMEN SCREAMING) Come on now! They're killing our women!
WOMAN: Let me go! Let me go!
Phylon, you're a Spartan again.
Yes. Leonidas took me back into the army.
You must've done something wonderful.
Nothing any other Spartan wouldn't have done.
But, Ellas, how are you now?
My fever's all gone. Old Toris made me a bowl of herbs.
She's so kind.
I can look at you again. I'm no longer ashamed of myself.
I've never been ashamed of you.
I knew you were always a good soldier, but...
I've been watching Samos and Toris.
They're such good and simple people.
They know nothing about honor and glory.
But Toris knows that every night her man will be sleeping at her side.
They live for themselves. They do no harm.
Is it a crime to want to live in peace?
No, Ellas, but you shouldn't speak like that.
Why, you yourself gave me the shield.
I know. I know it all.
I know that for a Spartan, life is a kind of preparation for death.
But why should a love like ours go down and be trampled in dirt and blood?
We must be ready to die for our country, Ellas.
But we don't have to die. I want to live and come to you with victory.
Victory? Did you see the enemy in the plain out there?
And there are only 300 of you.
We have men from other cities with us, many of them good men.
But everybody expects the Spartans to die first.
Why hasn't the Spartan army arrived?
They will come. When?
I don't know, but they will come.
Our people won't abandon us.
Those are the brown horses of Leonidas.
Yes. And that's my aunt's servant riding them.
Must be an important message from Sparta. I must get back to camp.
Ellas, I must go.
My wife is a very clever woman.
Even if the messenger had been captured, no one would have guessed that there was a message hidden under the wax.
Shall we leave you alone, Leonidas?
This news concerns us all.
Our troops are not coming.
The council made a secret decision to fortify the Isthmus of Corinth, and not to go beyond it.
Then we cannot stay here! We can! And we must!
We received no orders to leave and we have our duty to Greece.
Other Greeks followed us here because they believed in our word, and we are not going to break it.
Here we stay!
And here we stand! For how long?
Until we win!
Greetings, friends. What are the omens?
Last night a mountain lioness came down to the pass with three of her cubs.
She cried piteously, as if begging mercy for her children.
This is a bad omen for Persia.
I accept the omen. The Spartans will meet the first attack.
The rest of the troops will stand by in reserve until I send for them.
My men want to fight, Leonidas.
All Greeks want to fight, but the Spartans were here first.
We will lead and the others will watch us, ready to move in when ordered.
To your places, friends.
How many all together? Twenty thousand, My Lord.
And the rest of the army are ready to march through the pass after it's been cleared.
We should be in Athens in four days. Good.
I've ordered Mardonius to draw up the Sagartian horsemen behind the infantry.
Just before coming into contact with the enemy, the cavalry will surprise the Spartans and take them alive.
Excellent, My Lord.
I shall have Leonidas nailed to a board, and watch him die as we eat our meal at noon.
Come. Let us enjoy this in peace.
The enemy is on the move, sir, drawing near to us.
Good. It also means that we are drawing nearer to them.
They intend to surprise us by faking an infantry charge.
Pass the word to Agathon and Pentheus.
Be ready for horsemen.
MAN: Spartans... Attack!
MAN: Squadron, advance!
Drive them into the sea!
Don't let them escape!
What does this mean?
Leonidas has guessed our maneuver, My Lord!
He has killed most of our horsemen, forcing the rest back to confound our foot soldiers.
Then he attacked! He is slaughtering my men like sheep!
The miserable cowards! No, My Lord.
These men are a match for any regular soldiers, but the Spartans fight like machines!
What news? A Persian herald.
Hydarnes wants to speak with you.
Shall I bring him here? So he can see our defenses? No. Here.
Get me a clean cloak.
How many men for your escort?
A Spartan king needs no escort to talk to a mere Persian.
Greetings, Leonidas. Greetings, Hydarnes.
The Great King admires the valor of you and your men.
Thank him, and tell him we will earn even more of his admiration today.
Stubbornness will avail you nothing.
It's only a matter of time before you lose this battle.
Perhaps, but by that time, you will have lost your war.
Yesterday we only probed your defenses.
When we attack today, our arrows will blot out the sun!
Then we will fight in the shade.
But this slaughter is useless.
Surrender your arms, and my king will spare you and your Spartans.
What shall I tell him?
Come and take them!
Out of our way!
(MEN YELLING, SCREAMING)
(YELLING, SCREAMING CONTINUES)
The greatest army in the world routed by these savages!
We are giving Leonidas cheap victories, My Lord.
Horses and chariots cannot maneuver in that pass!
I must see this pass cleared this morning. And we must do it quickly!
Send in the Immortals, My Lord. My own bodyguard?
They are the only men we have that can match the Spartans.
Once we have wiped out the Spartan fanatics, the rest of the Greeks will give way.
Very well, Hydarnes. But I hold you responsible.
(SCREAMING, YELLING IN DISTANCE)
Pentheus, what would you do now if you were Xerxes?
Send in fresh troops, my very best.
That is just what he's doing.
These are his Immortals. The whole Persian army is watching them.
If we beat them back, fear will grip the others. Phylon!
We shall fall back deliberately.
You will pretend to be dead and stay here.
Put the torches under the chariot.
To your places, friends.
And what are we to do now?
It was your idea! You told me to send in the Immortals!
How can you expect these others to fight after what they've seen today?
My Lord, you have the power to have me slain.
Death is too good for you! Get out of my sight!
I don't want to see your insolent face again!
The Spartans fought well.
So did the Thespians and all the other Greeks.
We can hold Thermopylae.
I've... I've waited for the time when I could see you alone.
I'm... I'm going down into the valley.
Look. This is no place for you.
Come with me. Come with me now.
I'll give you rubies and gold.
Touch me again and I'll strike you.
You strike me?
Surely you, at least, must be the bearer of good tidings.
Would that I were.
Artemisia, you are hurt?
No, I'm all right. But your fleet had no more success today than your army.
And three of my ships were sunk.
Even the gods seem to conspire against me.
My ships falter. My troops in revolt, seized by fear that spreads like leprosy through the camp.
What am I to do? Halt these senseless attacks, which the Greeks are turning into victories demoralizing your men.
Another day of this and your own troops will destroy you.
You must stop this war.
With two of my brothers slain and Leonidas still in the pass?
I've sworn to destroy him!
This is Hydarnes' fault!
When the Immortals failed, all others lost heart.
I'll have his heart for this!
I'll have it cut out and brought to me on a platter!
No! Then you'd admit defeat.
There's a better way. What is it?
Even the greatest king cannot defy the gods.
Tell your men you've had a message from heaven to return to Persia.
By this you would save your honor, reaffirm your divine origin and rob Leonidas of victory.
It was a dark day when the first woman came into this world.
My Lord. I've had a vision in which my father's shade appeared to me.
He told me to destroy the rebellious foreign troops, go back to Persia and collect a new army.
I dare not disobey him.
We march at sunrise.
Go and see that all is made ready.
Very good, My Lord.
Now I know why they call you Great King.
They tell me your mother was a Greek, and that you're a secret enemy trying to destroy me with your advice.
If I could prove it, I'd have your throat cut.
The bone is not broken and none of the muscles are cut.
Let me seal the wound with the iron.
Help him, Megistias. We need such men.
My Lord. Yes?
I beg you to accept this gift I bring to you.
Gift? What gift? Victory!
What sort of a joke is this? A joke, My Lord?
This man will lead you to the victory which you have forsworn so easily.
Listen to him!
Who are you?
My name is Ephialtes.
I live in these mountains.
What are you doing here?
I know a secret path through these mountains.
What secret path? An old goat track.
It comes down on the other side of Thermopylae.
Can you lead us there? You see, I'm a poor man.
Not anymore. This is worth gold to you, as much gold as you can carry.
Take him away.
Hydarnes, cancel all orders.
Take half the Immortals and go with this man.
I will lead the troops from this side.
We will attack at sunrise and trap Leonidas.
Now you can have Greece as I promised you, empty and beautiful.
Doesn't that make you happy? What if this is a trap?
A trap? Those mountains are treacherous.
You could lose your whole army there.
You must have a dependable guide other than that Greek traitor.
Yes, but I have no one. Yes, you have.
Grellus, he's here with Demaratus.
Why not let him go with your troops?
Take me to the king. I am Ellas, daughter of Pentheus and the queen's niece.
Father! The Persians! What are you doing here?
The Persians are coming through the mountains.
Phylon's father came to the hut where I was staying.
I led him here. We have been betrayed.
Hydarnes and his Immortals, they're coming down behind you.
They broke through your Phocian guard.
I escaped during the night to warn you.
You traitor. No!
If he was a traitor, why is he here?
Call the Spartans to arms.
Artemisia sent me, Leonidas.
Phylon, you ride back through the pass.
Tell all Greek troops to retreat before they're cut off.
Then I can return, sir. No.
I didn't come here to be a messenger! You're here to obey orders!
Phylon, the message you carry today will buy centuries of freedom for Greece.
Tell the Spartans that we are staying here obedient to their word.
Ellas, you must hurry. Ellas.
Tell my wife to take care of our son.
Tell her that I am thinking of them both.
I will, Leonidas.
Why are you here? Take your men out.
My Thespians are staying.
And disobeying me?
We obey our honor.
Where do we fight?
You're a bad soldier, but a good Greek.
Go to the end of the pass and hold it as long as you can.
Only Spartans with living sons have the privilege to fight today.
And you've got one of the best.
Come, old friend.
Today we carve out our own omens.
Sir, the main body of the Greek army escaped in the direction of Opus.
Who are left in the pass?
The Thespians are at one end, the Spartans at the other facing the army of the king.
I wish I had men like that fighting for me.
Thespians, advance! Attack!
Have you heard?
Agathon has just told me.
We've been betrayed.
Take your ships out of the straits at once.
This is our last morning at Thermopylae.
I must move the fleet, but the ships can still take you out of this.
No. We shall stay here.
What about your wounded?
Spartan wounded go home only with victory.
In defeat, they die with the rest.
I would share this day with you, Leonidas, but I must be with the fleet when it fights again at Salamis.
I know you don't put much trust in omens, Themistocles, but last night Megistias received a most wondrous vision.
Megistias, tell him your vision.
I saw ships burning between two shores, many of them, with Persian markings on their sails.
There was Xerxes sitting upon a marble throne, his face wrapped in gloom, listening to the cries of burning men.
And behind him, the goddess Athena, all in white, a golden spear in her hand.
She was smiling.
Tell him all.
And a voice was saying, "Divine Salamis, "you will bring death to the enemies of Greece.
"When the seeds are sown, all their harvests are gathered in."
Thank you, old man.
They're advancing, sir. King Xerxes is leading them in his chariot.
I'll be right there.
We shall be watching you fight at Salamis, Megistias and I.
We shall not fail you, friend.
Sir, Hydarnes is attacking the Thespians in our rear.
We are cut off.
And the others? All retreated safely.
Tell Demophalus to hold out as long as he can.
The orders for the day.
We can no longer defend the pass,
so we shall attack and kill Xerxes!
Fall into ranks!
(YELLING, SCREAMING CONTINUES)
Right flank, advance!
Get the body of Leonidas!
Fall back! Fall back!
(YELLING FADES TO SILENCE)
My Lord, your Immortals have destroyed the Greek rear guard to the last man!
You hear Hydarnes' message?
Go deliver my final offer to the Spartans.
The Immortals have wiped out your rear guard, but the Great King grants you your lives.
Give us the body of Leonidas and you can depart.
We stay with our king.
Your position is hopeless.
In a few moments you will be dead.
But Greece will live.
Speak. My King, they will not surrender.
Shall we attack, My Lord?
I shall waste no more of our men.
Finish them with arrows.
NARRATOR: "Oh, stranger, "tell the Spartans that we lie here obedient to their word."
This last message of the fallen heroes rallied Greece to victory, first at Salamis, as predicted, and then at Plataea.
But it was more than a victory for Greece.
It was a stirring example to free people throughout the world of what a few brave men can accomplish once they refuse to submit to tyranny.