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King Leonidas of Sparta is one of the most important figures of Spartan history and is an important figure in Greek history as well. Leonidas and his hand picked 300 held off the Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae. In 480 BCE, Xerxes I of Persia sent an army of 150,000 troops with ships to supply them against the Greeks. The Greeks were greatly outnumbered and out supplied. Leonidas was leading the combined Greek land forces. He realized that the best spot to defend Greece was the narrow pass of Thermopylae. He sent the majority of the Greeks off to the back part of the mountains and he and 300 Spartans prepared to hold the pass against the Persians. They were successful at holding off the Persians for two full days, killing thousands upon thousands of Persian soldiers. The delay allowed the Athenians to flee Athens and hide, so that when the Persians finally took Athens, they took an empty city. Leonidas' brave stance inspired the Greeks and enabled them to stand against Persia. This paved the way for the development of Greek culture and government which in turn paved the way for the development of European culture. Thus King Leonidas remains a significant figure in Greek and, truly, in world history.
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