In 480 B.C., the Persians arrayed one of the largest forces the ancient world had ever seen — 120,000 soldiers by conservative modern estimates, and over 1 million according to the ancient chronicler Herodotus — to invade and enslave Greece. Dispatched in a desperate attempt to stop them were less than 7,000 Greeks, led by 300 elite Spartan warriors.
Even the Greeks knew it was probably a suicide mission, yet the volunteers from Sparta and Athens faced thousands of Persian conscripts at a narrow coastal mountain pass called Thermopylae or “Hot Gates” after a volcanic spring nearby. Xerxes, the Persian king, sent emissaries to negotiate with the vastly outnumbered Greeks. When Xerxes asked for their weapons and surrender, Spartan King Leonidas told him, “Come and take them.”