By Christopher Miskimon

Thermopylae is famous as the location of the battle between a force of 300 Spartans (albeit with thousands of other Greek troops present) and the invading Persian army in 480 BCE. However, it has also been the location of other battles throughout history. There have been at least 27 other actions at Thermopylae, ranging from later Greek armies to the Romans and Byzantines through to the Huns and Ottomans in later centuries. Finally, three fights against the attacking Germans of the Third Reich during 1941-43 showcase the area’s long-lasting value. They range from simple crossings of the area during various wars to set piece battles to commando raids to sabotage the occupying Nazis.

This new work details 27 separate actions which occurred at Thermopylae over more than two millennia of history. The authors personally surveyed the ground to gain insight into their subject. They also used their personal knowledge of several ancient languages to produce personal translations of the source material. Rather than try to glorify the events, they present them as accurately and rationally as any historian is able. The book is engaging and easy to follow, with thorough explanations of the troops, weapons, tactics and commanders who have moved and fought over Thermopylae over many centuries.

The Killing Ground: A Biography of Thermopylae (Myke Cole and Michael Livingston, Osprey Publishing, Oxford UK, 2023, maps, photographs, notes, bibliography, index, $35, HC)

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