King Leonidas

Life overview

Not much is known about Leonidas  from his younger days. It is believed that Leonidas was born in the year 540 BC and died in the year 480 BC. He was a member of the Agiad house and was the third son of Anaxandridas II. Leonidas’ half brother named Cleomenes was the king of Sparta and had only one child – a daughter named Gorgo. Since, Cleomenes died without having a son, and Leonidas was the most closely related to Cleomenes, Leonidas thus inherited  the throne to Sparta. When he became the new king of Sparta he married the daughter of Cleomenes, Gorge. Gorge was very supportive of  the majority of the decisions Leonidas made including one of the most memorable –  his involvement at the battle of Thermoplae.

Battle of Thermopylae

The Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC) was a key point in the Persian war because it allowed the Greek navy to position itself and also allowed Athens to be evacuated. Leonidas had received a request from the main Greek forces to help defend all of Greece from the invasion. He went to the Delphic oracle to help decide what he should do. There he was told a prophecy : “For you, inhabitants of wide wayed Sparta, Either your great and glorious city must be wasted by Persian men, Or if not that, then the bound of Lacedaemon must mourn a dead king, from Heracles’ line. The might of bulls or lions will not restrain him with opposing strength; for he has the might of Zeus.”.  Leonidas decided to aid the Greek forces by defending against Persia even if it meant his death.  Leonidas’ role in this historic event was  as a general in the battle leading a small army made up of  at least 300 hundred Spartan soldiers and other Greek forces into battle. They fought at a valley created by two cliffs to help funnel the Persian’s large army into a small area. This caused the Persian’s large numbers to be a disadvantage instead of helping them overwhelm the Greek’s army. The size of the two military forces  were estimated to be 150,000 Persian soldiers, and about 14,000 troops under Leonidas’ command. The battle consisted of 3 days of  intense fighting between the two forces. Leonidas’ goal was to hold off the Persian army long enough to force Xerxes to sail somewhere to resupply on food and water which would lower the Persian army’s size and force. Leonidas was able to cause large number of casualties for the invading Persian army within the three days. This was the result of both Leonidas’ soldiers who were better trained and  the superior equipment of the Greeks. For example; the Greek spears were longer and they had more durable armor compared to the Persian’s woven armor, wooden shields and short spears. The formation Leonidas was using was known as  the phalanx, which is a rectangular or square mass of soldiers armed with shields and spears to defend and attack as one through synchronized movements. Using these advantages, Leonidas was able to hold the Persians off successfully without losing very many men.  The only issue with his tactic was that when a part of the formation is broken, the whole group becomes vulnerable which could lead to a large number of causalities if not a wipeout of the entire army.  On the third day of the battle the phalanx formation was broken due to a betrayal. A traitor named Ephialtes betrayed the Grecian army by revealing a path that led to the back of the phalanx formation and allowed the Persians to flank the Spartan army and defeat them. Leonidas and his troops fought hard but they were all nearly killed. The deaths included King Leonidas himself. Leonidas’ body was rumored to have been fought over, but the Greeks failed to retrieve it. It was said that Xerxes ordered his head to be put on a stake and displayed for others to see. His body was recovered 40 years after his death. If it wasn’t for his sacrifice, the Persian invasion may not have been stopped and the world as we know it wouldn’t be the same.


Work Cited


Jacquelyn, Kristen, Miranda


Socrates who was believed to be born in Classical Athens had lived his childhood during the Golden Age. Where his father Sophroniscus made a living as a stonemason and his mom, Phaenarete had been a midwife.



Bust of Socrates


Many people seemed to give Socrates a bad reputation since he would walk around Athens with his hair a mess, with no shoes, and with dirty clothes. People started to wonder why he went from a war hero to someone who seemed to not care anymore. Socrates had started living his life constantly questioning what he was doing, and how to live what he had called a “good” life. As a philosopher he gained many followers of his beliefs. One of his well-known followers or “student” was another philosopher named Plato. Who would later carry out Socrates’s philosophical ways. Socrates was known for constantly pushing the limits of ones human knowledge.


  • Euthyphro – Piety/Impiety
    • The persecution of Socrates questions on whether his actions are deemed piety/impiety. In the discussion with Euthyphro, Socrates can be seen in the story as a patient witness to Euthyphro claims on the right path towards being piety. As he claims when he heads to his on personal trial on the same day of Socrates as the plaintiff to a murder that he believes was committed by his own father. Socrates on the other hand can be seen heading to trail for being accused of corrupting the youth and lack of faith in the gods. Though compared to Socrates own trial, he can be shocked of this knowledge of knowing that Euthyphro has brought about charges against his own father. Due to the knowledge of the ways of the value of connections between families in Ancient Greece, in which family is the most important factor in Greek culture. Though the main focus of “Euthyphro” is whether the actions of his father lead him towards the path of impiety. Seeing as one of the workers of Euthyphro’s father was in fact at fault for killing one of his servants, he sought justice by sending a messenger off to the city to see the steps needed to be taken to complete this task. Although in the process of doing this he had decided to tie up the killer and toss him a ditch till the appointed time, who unfortunately didn’t live to hear the messenger’s verdict due Euthyphro’s father’s lack of care throughout the time. This Euthyphro deems enough fact to charge his own father for his actions that lead towards the man’s death. This leads Socrates to begin questioning Euthyphro’s on the facts that make a man to be pious, which causes an obscuring view of a determined answer of a proper term for piety/impiety. Though from a person’s own perspective that piety can only be achieved if they hold a honest/pure amount of virtue and their own beliefs.


  • Death and Immortality


  • Symposium
    •  The speech given by Socrates concerning the “Ladder of Love”, best describes the process of how humans build up a close relations towards one another. All human beings that are born into existence wish to be remembered in some way in hopes of staying immortal to others in history. To succeed in this great heroic figures would be portrayed in sacrificing themselves for those they love in retribution and passion. The “Ladder of Love”, basically shows us the stages of human interest for one another through desire for another body to the possible similarities between one another and how they truly connect in the final stages, such as in observing that persons characteristics and knowledge within them. Although humans can be seen searching for love in

      hopes of living life forever due to the magnificent feelings it grants them. Although in learning love in this process is that love doesn’t have to be about a person physically touching another human being, but also spiritual, such as loving another from a distance and knowing their partner feels the same for them.

      The explanatory strengths of this speech is that it describes the facts of how an actual person in the motion of the beginning, middle, and ending of falling in love with one another. Although the theory of Socrates speech could questionable, due to the fact that the source he originally found this speech could be lacking some truth, especially with the facts that Socrates himself claims that not even he knew that much about love. Though the philosophical work that’s portrayed within the speech in process of desire for a lover to having a deeper understanding for their personal being.


  • On the Nature of the Soul


  • Republic
    • In books I and II, Socrates and his fellow scholars can be found within Celphalus’ house, speaking of how to achieve a good lifesocrates and platothrough the process of justice. Thus causing Socrates to give his own speculation of the term of justice, which he believes to be the process of “telling the truth and paying ones debts” as the only exempt way to achieving a good life. Although this causes each scholar within the house to go into a deeper discussion of the advantages and disadvantages with his own term of justice, thus giving their own conclusions over the form of justice.


  • Was tried for two charges:
    • Corrupting the youth
    • Impiety
      • Failed to acknowledge the Gods
      • Created new Gods, or lack thereof
  • He also questioned almost everything, which Greek authority did not agree with
  • Was killed by being forced to drink Hemlock, a poisonous plant.



Works Cited

  • Plato, and C. D. C. Reeve. “Euthyphro.” A Plato Reader: Eight Essential 

Dialogues. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2012. N. pag. Print.

  • Plato, and C. D. C. Reeve. “Republic.” A Plato Reader: Eight Essential

Dialogues. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2012. N. pag. Print.

  • Plato, and C. D. C. Reeve. “Symposium.” A Plato Reader: Eight Essential

Dialogues. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2012. N. pag. Print.


Bucephalas, Hephaistion, & Olympias

By Linda McNulty, Madison Brazan, Bianca Pulido

When studying Alexander the Great and his empire, many often make the mistake of focusing only on Alexander himself, or upon the Diadochi following his death. However, Alexander did not cultivate significant relationships only with his generals, but with a few other key figures as well. In this section of the Roadrunners’ Guide to the Ancient World, we will explore three of these figures as they are depicted both in history and in myth, in order to form a more complete picture of the relationships that impacted Alexander and his life—his second-in-command, best friend, and possible lover Hephaistion, his mother Olympias, and his horse since childhood, Bucephalas.


Medallion depicting Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, part of a series to honor Roman Emperor Caracalla as the descendant of Alexander

The story of Olympias, wife of Philip II of Macedon and mother of Alexander the Great, is often clouded by myth and accusation if not eclipsed by her son’s own tale of greatness. However, it is important to recognize her individually, as a wife, as a mother, and more importantly perhaps as a calculating statesperson whose position was threatened by her husband’s practice of polygamy.

Olympias was the daughter of Neoptolemus, king of Epirus, and likely enjoyed dominance in Philip’s court because her son, Alexander, was treated as the heir quite early in life.[1] The mental deficiencies of Philip’s older son, Arrhidaeus, and Alexander’s superior education and regency in Macedonia[2] all worked to secure Olympias’ position in court until Philip’s marriage in 337 BC to a Macedonian noblewoman, Cleopatra. [3]A quarrel between Cleopatra’s father and Alexander over his legitimacy caused Olympias to withdraw with her son to Epirus until Philip’s assassination the following year.[4]

Though it is not likely she was complicit in the assassination of her husband, Olympias worked to secure her position and Alexander’s by having Cleopatra and her infant with Philip killed.[5] During Alexander’s invasions, she maintained her position in Macedonia against the current regent, Antipater, until tense relations caused a second retreat to Epirus in 331.[6] Though she was asked to be regent for her grandson, Alexander IV, she did not return until Antipater’s son Cassender, placed Arrhidaeus on the Macedonian throne.[7]

Olympias, whose return was initially supported by the Macedonian army, quickly lost popularity when she chose to secure stability for her family by torturing and ordering the deaths of Arrhidaeus (stabbing) and his wife (suicide by hanging).[8] She continued with the death of a selection of roughly 100 of Cassender’s friends and supporters, but her efforts to undermine Cassender’s leadership in Macedonia ultimately failed in 316 BC when a blockade in Pydna forced her to surrender.[9] There are various accounts of her subsequent death, but tombstone inscriptions indicate that her memory was revered well after her fall.[10]

Mosaic of Alexander the Great

Alexander and Bucephalas at the Battle of Issus, as shown in the famous Alexander Mosaic from the Roman House of the Fawn, c. 100 BCE.

Like a great many normal people, Alexander the Great had a beloved companion animal—his horse, Bucephalas. According to Plutarch, Bucephalas was a Thessalian horse whom Alexander tamed by virtue of his own courage and intelligence when he was just a boy. [1]  He took Bucephalas with him on campaign throughout the East and, again according to Plutarch, would frequently ride him into battle, although Alexander was careful not to tire out the horse too greatly beforehand because of his age—“While he was drawing up the phalanx in formation, reviewing the troops, or giving out orders, he rode another horse to spare Bucephalas, who was by now past his prime; but when he was about to go into action, Bucephalas would be led up, and he would mount him and at once begin the attack.” [2]

Apparently, Alexander so loved his horse that once, when his expedition was near the Caspian Sea, a local tribe captured Bucephalas for ransom and enraged Alexander to the point that he declared he would slaughter their entire village if Bucephalas was not returned safely to him. [3] Again, this source is Plutarch, and his accounts, while highly entertaining, are not always very reputable. However, this anecdote is probably true in conveying how attached Alexander was to his horse.


A coin minted for Roman-controlled Macedonia, c. the 200s AD. On the obverse is a helmeted Alexander, the text reading ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ, or “Of Alexander”. On the reverse side, Alexander is shown with the rearing Bucephalas. The inscription designates it as a Macedonian coin.Alexander did get Bucephalas back, if he had indeed been captured, and the horse lived until he was estimated to be about 30 years old, dying in 326 BCE after the Battle of the Hydaspes. Whether he died of injuries from the battle or from old age is disputed among the ancient sources, but what modern scholars do know is that Alexander’s grief was so great that he founded a city on the banks of the Hydaspes River in present-day Pakistan which he named Bucephalia in honor of his fallen horse. The city remains to this day, and is now thought to be either the town of Phalia or of Jalalpur Sharif.














Hephaestion was born around 356 B.C.E, the same year as Alexander the Great, in the capitol of Macedonia, Pella, to an aristocratic family. Like all Greek boys, he would have been educated and it highly likely that he was educated by the philosopher, Aristotle, alongside of Alexander the Great. This is how some many sources believe the two young men met and became close childhood friends.


The weddings at Susa; Alexander to Stateira (right), and Hephaestion to Drypetis (left). Late 19th-century engraving.

However, childhood friends are not the only thing Alexander and Hephaestion became. They became family by marriage when Alexander the Great gave Hephaestion his wife’s sister, Drypetis. Many historians have found the two men closer to lovers rather than simply childhood friends. He was by far the dearest to the king of all his friends [1] according to the historian, Quintus Curtius. During the campaigns across Greece, Hephaestion and Alexander went to the tomb of Achilles and Alexander laid a garland on his tomb while Hephaestion did the same to the tomb of Patroclus [2]. This is partially why the pair have been compared to the heroic lovers from Homer’s infamous Iliad. Now, the other reason has more to do with Hephaestion’s tragic death.

Around 324 B.C.E, Hephaestion fell gravely ill from a fever and Alexander the Great was absolutely devastated.  While the accounts of Alexander’s grief differs from each author who transcribes it, they can all agree on one thing and that is that his anguish was abundant. There are also different accounts on what Alexander the Great did after Hephaestion’s death. In Plutarch’s Life of Alexander the Great, he writes that Alexander killed the physician, Glaucus, because he believed it was his fault [3]. He also is said to have not appointed anyone else as commander of the cavalry, so that the “division of the cavalry was still called Hephaestion’s” according to Arrain’s The Anabasis of Alexander. While the modern world has no true way of knowing what the friendship of Alexander and Hephaestion truly was like, it’s unlikely the pair were merely friends. Whether they are believed to be lovers or not, Alexander the Great cared for Hephaestion more than any of his men and far more than simply a king to one of his generals.


Busts of Alexander the Great (right) and Hephaestion (left) at the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu, California. Made from Parian marble, dated at about 320 BCE

[1] Plutarch, The Age of Alexander. London and New York: Penguin Books, 2011. “Life of Alexander,” 6. Pgs. 284-5.

[2] Ibid., 32. Pg. 317.

[3] Ibid., 44. Pg. 329.


[1] Carney, Elizabeth, “The Politics of Polygamy: Olympias, Alexander and the Murder of Philip,” Historia: Zeitschrift Für Alte Geschichte 41 (1992): 171-172, accessed November 28, 2015,

[2] Carney, Elizabeth, Olympias: Mother of Alexander the Great (New York: Routledge, 2006), 25.

[3] Britannica Academic, s. v. “Olympias,” accessed November 28, 2015,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Carney, Elizabeth, Olympias: Mother of Alexander the Great (New York: Routledge, 2006), 44.

[6] Britannica Academic, s. v. “Olympias,” accessed November 28, 2015,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Carney, Elizabeth, Olympias: Mother of Alexander the Great (New York: Routledge, 2006), 75.

[9] Ibid, 77.

[10] Edson, Charles, “The Tomb of Olympias,” Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 18 (1949): 95, accessed November 28, 2015,

Medallion depicting Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, part of a series to honor Roman Emperor Caracalla as the descendant of Alexander

[11] “Medallion with Olympias” by Unknown – Walters Art Museum. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –


[1] Curtius Rufus, Quintus. Histories of Alexander the Great. Trans. Rolfe, John Carew. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Univ. Press, 1946. Print.

[2] Arrianus, Lucius Flavius. The Anabasis of Alexander. Trans. Chinnock, E. J. Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London. 1884. Print

[3] Plutarch, John Dryden, and Arthur Hugh Clough. The Life of Alexander the Great. New York: Modern Library, 2004. Print