10 euro - 2,500 years since the battle of Thermopylae
Series: Greece - Silver 10 euro coins
In the summer of 480 BC, some 7,000 Greek troops under Leonidas, king of Sparta, tried to halt the advance of the invading Persian army, led by Xerxes. Though vastly outnumbered, they decided to take up position at the straits of Thermopylae, which commanded the passage to mainland Greece. When the Persian king invited them to surrender their arms, Leonidas famously countered «Μολών λαβέ» (“come and take them”). Using the narrow pass to their advantage, the Greeks managed to hold their ground for two days, until they were betrayed by Ephialtes, who showed the Persians a mountain track leading them behind the Greek lines. On the third day, Leonidas, realising that the battle was lost, dismissed the troops of the other Greek cities, but chose to stay behind with his elite guard of 300 Spartans, the helots and the remaining Lacedemonians. They were joined by 700 Thespians, who also opted to stay, and they all fell on the battlefield. With their courageous last stand, Leonidas and his comrades inspired the Greeks to continue their fight against the Persians, setting an everlasting example of heroism and self-denial.