Thermopylae (from the Latin Thermopylae, -arum (pl. Tant.), And this from the Greek Θερμοπύλαι, with the same name in Katharévousa, and in Demotic Greek Θερμοπυλες: “Hot Doors”, sometimes simply Pylae, -arum (Greek: gym30λαι), is a gorge in Greece . Its name means: “hot springs”, due to its many natural hot springs. Another possible translation would be “Hot Gates.” According to myth, the waters of Thermopylae were heated when Heracles plunged into them as he burned to death.


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  • 1 Description
  • 2 History
  • 3 Geography
  • 4 See also
  • 5 Source


The pass extends from Lócrida, in Thessaly, between Mount Eta and the sea (Maliaco Gulf). It is an unavoidable step in the journey between the north and south of Greece, and due to its geographical characteristics it was chosen as the scene of several battles in the history of Greece. The most renowned battle in antiquity is the Battle of Thermopylae , of 480 BC, in which the Greek safeguard, made up of 1000 Greek hoplites (300 Spartans and 700 Thespians), contained the clearly superior advance of the Persian army in command of Xerxes I, king of the Achaemenid Empire. Although Xerxes I eventually defeated the Spartans, his army was in turn defeated in the Plata plain .


Two other famous battles were fought at Thermopylae. The least famous is the confrontation between 353 and 352 BC during the Third Holy War, when 5,000 Athenian hoplites and 400 horsemen hindered the forces of Philip II of Macedonia , and the battle of 267 when the Heruli defeated the contingent. Greek who tried to stop them.

In 279 BC, the Gauls, commanded by Breno, were held back for several months by a Greek army under the command of the Athenian Calipo, and in 191 BC, Antiochus III the Great, of Syria, tried in vain to stop the passage of the Romans led by Manio Acilio Glabrio.

In 1821, a force of Greek fighters led by Athanasios Diakos made resistance near the pass to stop an army of 8,000 Turks marching from Thessaly to quell the revolts in Rumelia and the Peloponnese. Diakos, after putting up a last stand on the Alamana bridge with 48 of his men, was captured and shot.

In 1941 during World War II , ANZAC delayed the invasion of Wehrmacht troops in the area long enough to allow the evacuation of the British expeditionary force to Crete. This conflict was also known as the Battle of Thermopylae, probably because the two sides were only aware of the name of this site in the entire Phthiotis region. Such was the fame of Thermopylae that the sabotage of the Gorgopótamos bridge in 1942 was referred to in German documents of the time as “the recent sabotage near Thermopylae.”

In the time of Leonidas I, in 480 BC, the pass was a narrow path (probably about 12 m wide) located in the lower part of the gorge. In modern times, the Esperqueo River deposits have expanded it to a width of about 1.5 to 5 km. The hot springs, from which the pass took its name, still exist near the foot of the hill.



The area is dominated by the floodplain of the Esperqueo River, surrounded by steep slopes in forested limestone mountains.

The continuous deposition of sediments from the river and travertine deposits from the hot springs, have substantially altered the landscape during the last thousands of years. The surface of the earth on which the famous Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 480 BC is now buried under 20 meters of earth. The coast has largely retreated over the centuries due to sedimentation.

The level of the Maliaco Gulf was significantly higher during Prehistory and lower that of the Sperqueo. The coast retreated a maximum of 2 kilometers between 2500 BC and 480 BC, but there are still several very narrow passes between the sea and the mountains.

The narrowest point on the plain where the Battle of Thermopylae was fought would probably have been less than 100 meters wide. Between 480 BC and the 21st century , the coastline has retreated up to 9 km in places, eliminating the narrowest points of the pass and considerably increasing the size of the plain around the mouth of the Esperqueo. The Delphi Amphictionia held its assemblies there.

The river that flows from the hot springs gives off a sulphurous smell. In the foreground you can see the buildings of the modern baths. In ancient times, fountains created marshes .


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