Thermopylae is one of the most famous battlefields in the western world. The famous site of the historic battle between the 300 Spartans led by Leonidas and the Persian army of Xerxes 480B.C. The huge monument to Leonidas and the 300 cypresstrees commemorate the death of the heroic Spartans. On the monument wall the words “Molon Lave” is written under the statue. The phrase means, “Come and get it”, this is the phrase that Leonidas said to the Persian king Xerxis when he was told to hand over his weapons. The phrase has become a slogan of defiance all over the world. Shortly After the battle the ancient memorial was placed just across the highway from the modern memorial. It is a small carved stone plaque that says, “Stranger, tell the Spartans that we lay here obedient to their laws”. This ancient memorial is on the small hill across the national road from the modern one.
Clearly Thermopylae was a location of great strategic importance, because it commands the pass through which one goes after traveling south from Thessaly through Lokris and into Boeotia. Holding the pass could block an invader and even turn him back, though on all three of the famous occasions the defense of the pass failed. The Athenians took up a position there in 352 and discouraged Philip II from invading. In 323 during the Lamian War, the last-ditch effort by Athens to break free from Macedonian control, the general Leosthenes blocked the Macedonian Antipater by stationing troops at Thermopylae. However, the pass at Thermopylae was not the only way south from Thessaly into Central Greece, it was merely the best and easiest route.
But the modern visitor to the site sees two not very imposing looking hills they lie to the south, not to the west. This discrepancy has led some scholars to assert that Herodotus never even saw the site, and that if he could make so basic an error all of his topographical information about the site, which is copious and detailed, must not be trusted others tried to save his credibility by positing that he saw the site around noon, so that the sun was directly overhead and it was impossible to orient himself. W. Kendrick Pritchett, who is generally credited with injecting new life into the study of ancient topography, has mounted a vigorous defense of Herodotus’s reliability on this and other sites. Pritchett points out that Herodotus seems to have done a very careful study of the site despite the error over the directions, he gives many distances in stades and plethra, and his account also includes an unusually high number of obscure toponyms.