The Battle of Thermopylae (// thər-MOP-i-lee; Greek: μάχη τῶν Θερμοπυλῶν, machē tōn Thermopylōn) was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August or September 480 BC, at the narrow coastal pass of Thermopylae ('The Hot Gates'). The Persian invasion was a delayed response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece, which had been ended by the Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. Xerxes had amassed a huge army and navy, and set out to conquer all of Greece. The Athenian general Themistocles had proposed that the allied Greeks block the advance of the Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae, and simultaneously block the Persian navy at the Straits of Artemisium.
A Greek force of approximately 7,000 men marched north to block the pass in the summer of 480 BC. The Persian army, alleged by the ancient sources to have numbered over one million but today considered to have been much smaller (various figures are given by scholars ranging between about 100,000 and 150,000), arrived at the pass in late August or early September. The vastly outnumbered Greeks held off the Persians for seven days (including three of battle) before the rear-guard was annihilated in one of history's most famous last stands. During two full days of battle the small force led by Leonidas blocked the only road by which the massive Persian army could pass. After the second day of battle a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by revealing a small path that led behind the Greek lines. Leonidas, aware that his force was being outflanked, dismissed the bulk of the Greek army and remained to guard the rear with 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans and perhaps a few hundred others, most of whom were killed.
Ancient history is the aggregate of past events from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages or the Postclassical Era. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, with Sumerian Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC.
The term classical antiquity is often used to refer to history in the Old World from the beginning of recorded Greek history in 776 BC (First Olympiad). This roughly coincides with the traditional date of the founding of Rome in 753 BC, the beginning of the history of ancient Rome, and the beginning of the Archaic period in Ancient Greece. Although the ending date of ancient history is disputed, some Western scholars use the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, the closure of the Platonic Academy in 529 AD, the death of the emperor Justinian I, the coming of Islam or the rise of Charlemagne as the end of ancient and Classical European history.
Xerxes I of Persia (//; Old Persian: Xšaya-ṛšā IPA: [xʃajaːrʃaː] meaning "ruling over heroes";New Persian: خشایارشا ; Greek: Ξέρξης [ksérksɛːs]; Hebrew: אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, Modern Aẖashverosh Tiberian ʼĂḥašwērôš), also known as Xerxes the Great (519–465 BC), was the fourth King of Kings of Persia. In Judeo-Christian tradition, Xerxes I is believed to be the Persian king identified as Ahasuerus in the biblical book of Esther.
The 1st millennium BC encompasses the Iron Age and sees the rise of many successive empires, and spanned from 1000 BC to 1 BC.
The Neo-Assyrian Empire, followed by the Achaemenids. In Greece, Classical Antiquity begins with the colonization of Magna Graecia and peaks with the rise of Hellenism. The close of the millennium sees the rise of the Roman Empire. In South Asia, the Vedic civilization blends into the Maurya Empire. The early Celts dominate Central Europe while Northern Europe is in the Pre-Roman Iron Age. The Scythians dominate Central Asia. In China, the Spring and Autumn period sees the rise of Confucianism. Towards the close of the millennium, the Han Dynasty extends Chinese power towards Central Asia, where it borders on Indo-Greek and Iranian states. Yayoi period in Japanese islands. The Maya civilization rises in Central America, while in Africa, Ancient Egypt begins its decline, rise of the Nubian Empire, and Aksum's birth. The religions of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism (Vedic religion and Vedanta), Jainism and Buddhism develop. Graeco-Roman Europe, India and China see the rise of literature. World population greatly increases in the course of the millennium, reaching some 170 to 400 million people at its close depending on the estimates used.