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Greeks lost Battle of Thermopylae... but won the war

Published 16/07/2015

Colin Smith (Write Back, July 15) compares the Greek disaster in Brussels to the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC, which the Greeks lost to a larger Persian army, and adds as "just a bit of insight for Athens" that even that city was destroyed later.

It is strange, though, that his tale ends there, rather than with the subsequent sea battle of Salamis, in which the Greek coalition achieved one of the most famous victories of all times against massive odds - or with the final destruction of what remained of the Persian army at the battle of Plataea in 479BC, or the destruction of the remnants of the Persian fleet at Mycale in the same year.

Thermopylae was, in fact, the only Persian victory of that campaign and the Persians never again invaded the Greek mainland after its failure.

It remains to be seen if Mr Smith's analogy will hold if one takes the entire story into account (I suspect not, although this may indeed turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the Germans, Finns and others), but selective historical memory is certainly never a prudent way forward.


School of Music, University College Dublin

Belfast Telegraph

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