The Battle of Thermopylae is one of history’s greatest last stands.

Welcome back to History With Heston. I’m J.R. Heston, a teacher and student of history. Since the Philadelphia School District pays its teachers like shit, I’m here on AJnet Mag giving history lessons for extra cash.

Today’s lesson is the Battle of Thermopylae, a battle in 480 BCE that served as Greece’s heroic last stand against the Persian Empire.

We’ve all seen the movie 300, where Gerard Butler plays an overly-dramatic King Leonidas kicking a Persian envoy into a bottomless pit, and Rodrigo Santoro plays an effeminate Xerxes I.

While entertaining, that movie is a load of bullshit. For starters, Xerxes didn’t look like a bald lesbian with a bondage fetish. In fact, Xerxes had a full head of long, curly hair, and a beard to match.

The real Battle of Thermopylae was a grueling and brutal struggle by several combined Greek city-states, including the Spartans, the Thespians, the Thebans, and others like the enslaved helots of Laconia and Messenia. 7,000 Greeks held off somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 Persians in a historic demonstration of the importance of force multiplication, taking advantage of their superior training and advantageous position to delay Xerxes’ attempt to conquer Greece.

Adverse conditions weren’t anything new to the Spartans. These guys were raised from birth to be survivalist killing machines. Starting as early as age seven, Spartan boys were practically starved and barely clothed, which forced them to steal in order to get by. If they were caught stealing, they were punished, not for stealing, but for the act of being caught. This rough training is why Sparta was referred to as “having a wall of men, instead of bricks”, and why most Greeks viewed a single Spartan as being worth several men from the other Greek city-states. Weakness was not tolerated in Spartan society. Unlike modern society, where weakness is not only accepted but encouraged.

Most of these pussies wouldn’t have lasted a single day in Sparta. Young boys today have a mental breakdown if you don’t refer to them by their preferred pronouns. Spartan boys were killed over less. Spartans were men by age 12. Most of the teenagers in my class of high schoolers and even some of my fellow faculty members still play with toys and watch cartoons.

It was their conditioning to adversity that bred the 300 Spartan men in Leonidas’s army and allowed them to hold the Persians off at the Battle of Thermopylae alongside the other Greeks for an entire week, including three days of constant battle. So many Persians were killed during the initial assault on the pass that Xerxes himself is said to have stood up in shock several times from his seat while overseeing the battle. The first wave, which consisted of around 10,000 men, were “cut to ribbons”, according to the historian Ctesias. The Spartans suffered at most two or three casualties. These hardened soldiers were probably standing in a river of Persian blood by the end of the failed charge. Meanwhile, most of the boys in my classes are worried about getting their shoes dirty and taking pictures of their stupid broccoli haircuts for Instagram. Nice perm, you little pussy. Too bad it wouldn’t protect you from an Immortal, some of the best soldiers the Persian Empire had to offer.

After the initial assault failed, Xerxes sent his Immortals to try to take the pass. This failed too after the Spartans tricked them by pretending to retreat, only to turn around and brutally slaughter them. The Spartans weren’t just tough, they were also clever. Unlike my students, who think that I don’t know how ChatGPT works, and try to use it to write their reports. ChatGPT gets you an instant F. Not that any of these unmotivated brats care, they’re more concerned with what’s trending today on TikTok. #Dipshit #Dumbass #Retards

On the second day of the battle, the Spartans were betrayed by Ephialtes, a local who knew about a secret path that would allow the Persians to flank the Spartans. Ephialtes informed Xerxes of the path, selling out his fellow Greeks in exchange for promises of wealth, which proved to be meaningless as Xerxes’ invasion of Greece ultimately failed after his crushing naval defeat later that year at Salamis. Ephialtes ended up fleeing to Thessaly, where he was later killed.

The Persians utilized the path to flank and encircle the Spartans. Upon learning of this, Leonidas immediately ordered the bulk of his forces to retreat, keeping behind a small guard to buy the retreat some time. In the face of impending death, the Spartan army charged headfirst into the sea of Persian warriors, slaying as many as they could, including two of Xerxes’ brothers. In the end, the Persians took the pass, but it cost them somewhere around 20,000 of their men, compared to around 4,000 on the Greek side. 4,000 young men who bravely faced an overwhelming force to save the lives of their countrymen, knowing that they would die. Today, we teach our young men to lock the doors, shut the lights off, and hide under their desks during a school shooting.

This generation of young men needs to toughen up, and they need look no further than King Leonidas and his Spartan soldiers at the Battle of Thermopylae for prime examples of being a man. Real men don’t tuck their tails between their legs and run away when faced with adversity and challenge. Real men meet that adversity head-on, giving it everything they have and accepting the possibility of failure.

And, for fuck’s sake, real men don’t have broccoli perms.

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By J. R. Heston

A graduate of Rutgers University and a Philadelphia public high school teacher with over 15 years of experience, Joseph "J.R." Heston is forever a student of history. He has agreed to write articles for AJnet in order to share his passion for history, and to supplement his income.