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Old December 22nd, 2010, 06:33 PM   #1

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Phocian guards at Kallidromos


On Mt Kallidromos, overlooking the battle of Thermopylae, 1,000 Phocians pledged to Leonidas to hold the goat path that would allow the Persians to turn the Greek's flank at Thermopylae. The Persian commander Hydarnes, as well as the Immortals, a Persian Corps D'elit every bit as professional as the Spartans, were led by the infamous Greek traitor, Ephialtes up the famous path. When engaged, the Phocians broke their pledge and scattered. This is in complete contrast to the Spartan officered contingent of allies that held the incredibly larger, main Persian force to a bloody standstill at the Thermopylae pass. About the engagement between the Phocians and the Persians, one thing has slightly gnawed upon me. It isn't that the Phocians basically gave the path away without a fight, but in how Ephialtes knew whom exactly was in control of the contested route.
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217. The Persians took this path, and, crossing the Asopus, continued their march through the whole of the night, having the mountains of Oeta on their right hand, and on their left those of Trachis. At dawn of day they found themselves close to the summit. Now the hill was guarded, as I have already said, by a thousand Phocian men-at-arms, who were placed there to defend the pathway, and at the same time to secure their own country. They had been given the guard of the mountain path, while the other Greeks defended the pass below, because they had volunteered for the service, and had pledged themselves to Leonidas to maintain the post.

218. The ascent of the Persians became known to the Phocians in the following manner: - During all the time that they were making their way up, the Greeks remained unconscious of it, inasmuch as the whole mountain was covered with groves of oak; but it happened that the air was very still, and the leaves which the Persians stirred with their feet made, as it was likely they would, a loud rustling, whereupon the Phocians jumped up and flew to seize their arms. In a moment the barbarians came in sight, and, perceiving men arming themselves, were greatly amazed; for they had fallen in with an enemy when they expected no opposition. Hydarnes, alarmed at the sight, and fearing lest the Phocians might be Lacedaemonians, inquired of Ephialtes to what nation these troops belonged. Ephialtes told him the exact truth, whereupon he arrayed his Persians for battle. The Phocians, galled by the showers of arrows to which they were exposed, and imagining themselves the special object of the Persian attack, fled hastily to the crest of the mountain, and there made ready to meet death; but while their mistake continued, the Persians, with Ephialtes and Hydarnes, not thinking it worth their while to delay on account of Phocians, passed on and descended the mountain with all possible speed.
In 218, in reference to Hydarnes' concerns that the Persians were facing Spartans:
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Ephialtes told him the exact truth, whereupon he arrayed his Persians for battle.
How did Ephialtes know who was guarding the pass? If he had previously scouted the area, then Hydarnes should not have been suprised at all, knowing what awaited him and his troops. It being dawn/ daybreak, it seems unlikely that Ephialtes and Hydarnes would be able to completely recognize whom was in control of the pass, however the seeming unorganized behavior of the troops could tip off a Greek, familiar with the aura of the Lacedaemonians, that they in fact were not present. It makes me wonder if in fact Ephialtes had scouted the pass, and withheld the information as some form of hedge in his bets, just in case things went south for Hydarnes and the Immortals. I just do not recognize an obvious benefit to that form of duplicity.

Did Herodotus just choose to word it in a way that made Hydarnes and the Immortals seem more afraid of the Spartans then they actually were, to increase the propoganda of their mettle over that of the "barbarians?"
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 04:07 AM   #2

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Re: Phocian guards at Kallidromos


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Originally Posted by okamido View Post
On Mt Kallidromos, overlooking the battle of Thermopylae, 1,000 Phocians pledged to Leonidas to hold the goat path that would allow the Persians to turn the Greek's flank at Thermopylae. The Persian commander Hydarnes, as well as the Immortals, a Persian Corps D'elit every bit as professional as the Spartans, were led by the infamous Greek traitor, Ephialtes up the famous path. When engaged, the Phocians broke their pledge and scattered. This is in complete contrast to the Spartan officered contingent of allies that held the incredibly larger, main Persian force to a bloody standstill at the Thermopylae pass. About the engagement between the Phocians and the Persians, one thing has slightly gnawed upon me. It isn't that the Phocians basically gave the path away without a fight, but in how Ephialtes knew whom exactly was in control of the contested route.

In 218, in reference to Hydarnes' concerns that the Persians were facing Spartans:
How did Ephialtes know who was guarding the pass? If he had previously scouted the area, then Hydarnes should not have been suprised at all, knowing what awaited him and his troops. It being dawn/ daybreak, it seems unlikely that Ephialtes and Hydarnes would be able to completely recognize whom was in control of the pass, however the seeming unorganized behavior of the troops could tip off a Greek, familiar with the aura of the Lacedaemonians, that they in fact were not present. It makes me wonder if in fact Ephialtes had scouted the pass, and withheld the information as some form of hedge in his bets, just in case things went south for Hydarnes and the Immortals. I just do not recognize an obvious benefit to that form of duplicity.

Did Herodotus just choose to word it in a way that made Hydarnes and the Immortals seem more afraid of the Spartans then they actually were, to increase the propoganda of their mettle over that of the "barbarians?"
I think you are looking too much into this.This IS Herodotus,you know?''History" as a discipline was just starting to be born,and internal (non)logic is not something to be always expected,especially when you have in mind the way Herodotus collected his information.
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 04:18 AM   #3

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Re: Phocian guards at Kallidromos


I don't even know why they left the Phocians alone guarding the path.

Clearly, they weren't made of the same kind of mettle as the men guarding the actual pass.

If they'd been with the Spartans in the front, they'd have been more resolute, and if you'd put the Thespians guarding the path, you can be damn sure they wouldn't have retreated and just let the Persians pass without a fight to the death.
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 07:45 AM   #4
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Re: Phocian guards at Kallidromos


Herodotus.... the Father of History.... also the man who repeatedly stated that most of his information comes from sources which he cannot confirm to be accurate! That says it all!
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 08:29 AM   #5
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Re: Phocian guards at Kallidromos


The whole narrative of this battle is full with fantasy, wild exaggeration, inaccuracies and contradictions.

Aside from Herodotos, the purported "Immortals" were simply entirely unreported.
Plainly, nobody knows even why did Leonidas try this battle at all; it made no strategic sense.
The Persians were in all likelihood perfectly able to find their own way through the mountains by themselves ... especially because the neighbouring Thessalians were already on their side.
Besides, Ephialtes (and also Onetas) were actually Euboeans; their native poleis were already on the side of the Persians (the same as at least half Hellas).

IMHO, the story of the OP was just another patriotic tale from any Spartan or pro-Spartan source of Herodotos that simply tried to utterly denigrate any non-Spartan fighter of this battle just to promote their own countrymen.
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 10:44 AM   #6

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Re: Phocian guards at Kallidromos


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Originally Posted by sylla1 View Post
Plainly, nobody knows even why did Leonidas try this battle at all; it made no strategic sense.
If you think that history can be explained only with numbers, balancing of positives and negatives, pure strategic sense or plain materialism then I should inform you that you are wrong...

I don't think that Persians, if we believe the story with the path, had to be driven by "whole Greek cities" who were under their authority... a simple scouting could be the solution, since we speak about mount Kallidromon not Alpes...
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 10:55 AM   #7
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Re: Phocian guards at Kallidromos


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Plainly, nobody knows even why did Leonidas try this battle at all; it made no strategic sense.
how so? It seems to have made excellent sense. The Persians had to be stopped, so the best place was a region where their numbers weren't even worth having. Thermopolye (sp?) was that place. The only real cause for failure was the betrayal against Sparta.
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 12:51 PM   #8

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Re: Phocian guards at Kallidromos


Well in my opinion the Greek coalition did not intend to stop the Persians at Thermopylae. They just wanted to delay them in order to be able to muster and organize their troops.
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 04:12 PM   #9
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Re: Phocian guards at Kallidromos


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Originally Posted by Isoroku295 View Post
how so? It seems to have made excellent sense. The Persians had to be stopped, so the best place was a region where their numbers weren't even worth having. Thermopolye (sp?) was that place. The only real cause for failure was the betrayal against Sparta.
From Sparta herself, it seems, as most of the Peloponnesian soldiers were (evidently rightly) reserved for the defense of the Isthmus of Korinth ...

If by "betrayal" you may mean Ephialtes & Co., there was no reason why the Persians wouldn't have been able to find any mountain pass by themselves (especially with the help of the Thessalians) or to bypass the obstacle either by sea (even after the battle of Artemision) or by land (via western Hellas).

In any case, once the Thessalians became Persian allies, and with the evident expectation of several poleis of Central Hellas switching sides at the first chance (notoriously the Boeotians), Thermopylae had not been a viable option from months ago, not even in the short term.

Plainly, the absurd military suicide of Leonidas' army was just a futile waste of valuable resources.

Kleombrotos and Leothyxidas had been entirely right from the very beginning; the Isthmus of Korinth was the only viable option for stopping the Persians & allies, even if it naturally implied abandoning the physical cities of Athens, Megara, Plataea and the other extra-Peloponnesian continental Hellenes to the occupation by the enemy.

It was at the currently almost entirely forgotten stand at the Isthmus of Korinth under the command of Kleombrotos where Xerxes' army was actually stopped and free Hellas saved, and certainly not at Thermopylae.

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Originally Posted by Labienus View Post
Well in my opinion the Greek coalition did not intend to stop the Persians at Thermopylae. They just wanted to delay them in order to be able to muster and organize their troops.
A rational option; being that the case, it was an absolute strategic failure; the delay of three to four days of Xerxes' army could not have compensated for the painful loss of such valuable Hellene soldiers, so urgently required for the defense of the Isthmus.
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 04:34 PM   #10

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Re: Phocian guards at Kallidromos


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Originally Posted by sylla1 View Post
or to bypass the obstacle either by sea (even after the battle of Artemision) or by land (via western Hellas).
can you be more specific?
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