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(died 480 BC, Thermopylae, Locris [Greece]) King of Sparta (c. 490–480 BC). He is noted for his heroic stand against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480. Seeing the hopelessness of the situation, he sent most of his troops in retreat and with his 300-man royal guard withstood the Persian army for two days, battling valiantly to the last man. He became the object of a hero cult at Sparta, and he stands as the epitome of bravery against overwhelming odds. The legend that Spartans never surrender derived from this episode.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Leonidas, visit Britannica.com.