Leonidas I.

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Modern plaque: Wanderer, if you come to Sparta , then report that you saw us lying here, just as the law ordered

Leonidas I ( Greek Λεωνίδας, the lion-like ; † August 480 BC with Thermopylae ) was from 490 to 480 BC. Chr. King of Sparta . He came from the family of the agiads .



Leonidas was the son of Anaxandridas II and his first wife. His younger brother Kleombrotos is also referred to by some authors as his twin brother. Since his half-brother Kleomenes I died without male descendants and Leonida's older brother Dorieus had also died, the rule fell to him. He married Cleomenes' daughter Gorgo and had a son with her, Pleistarchus , who succeeded him. Simultaneously with him the Eurypontid Leotychidas II ruled from the other Spartan royal house.

Battle of Thermopylae

Leonidas achieved historical importance mainly through his behavior as a general of the Hellenic League in the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. Chr. In this battle, a Greek army blocked (about 5,200 men, including 300 Spartans ) to Thermopylae to the Persian Empire army with a total strength of 50,000 to 100,000 men under Xerxes I stopped. At first they were able to withstand the Persians, who had an advantage due to the narrow passage. The Persians suffered heavy losses, while there were hardly any failures on the Greek side. Before they were encircled by the enemy, a large part of the Greek armed forces withdrew, and Leonidas stayed behind with around 1000 fighters (300 Spartians and 700 Thespians), probably to cover the withdrawal of the remaining troops, and fell together with the entire Spartan army and thespian troops.


Jacques-Louis David, Léonidas aux Thermopyles (1814)

After the end of the Persian Wars in 479 BC The northern Greek amphictyony put up a plaque to commemorate the last fight of Leonidas and his 300 Spartians. The inscription became famous as the Thermopylae epigram . Forty years after the battle, King Pausanias is said to have transferred the remains of Leonidas to Sparta and buried them in a tomb opposite the theater.


Visual arts

  • Perugino : Fortitudo with Lucius Sicinius, Leonidas and Horatius Cocles (fresco, Collegio del Cambio, Perugia, 1496–1500)
  • Jacques-Louis David : Léonidas aux Thermopyles (painting, Louvre , Paris, 1814)



Video games


  • Diodor , Bibliothéke historiké 11.4–11.
  • Herodotus , Histories 5.41; 7.175; 7.202-225; 8.15; 8.21; 8.71; 8,114; 9.10; 9.64; 9.78.
  • Junianus Justinus , Philippische Geschichte 2,11.
  • Pausanias , travels in Greece 1,13,5; 3,3,9; 3.12.9; 3.14.1; 7,6,3; 8.52.2; 10.20.2; 10.22.8.
  • Strabon , Geographica 10; 429; 467.


  • Nicholas GL Hammond: Sparta at Thermopylae. In: Historia . Volume 45, 1996, pp. 1-20.
  • Günther B. Philipp: As the law ordered? Comments on a new Leonidas legend. In: Gymnasium . Volume 75, 1968, pp. 1-45.
  • Karl-Wilhelm Welwei : Leonidas [1]. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 7, Metzler, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-476-01477-0 , Sp. 57.
  • Markus Winkler: Leonidas. In: Peter von Möllendorff , Annette Simonis, Linda Simonis (ed.): Historical figures of antiquity. Reception in literature, art and music (= Der Neue Pauly . Supplements. Volume 8). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02468-8 , Sp. 609–620.
  • Loretana de Libero: Leonidas in Stalingrad. Use, effect and perception of ancient motifs in the 6th Army. In: Thersites. Journal for Trancultural Presences & Diachronic Identities from Antiquity to Date, 10 (2019), pp. 1–49 (https://thersites-journal.de/index.php/thr/article/view/145/286)

Web links

Commons : Leonidas I.  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Cleomenes I. King of Sparta
490-480 BC Chr.