As an aid to students, teachers and parents dealing with the challenges of home learning, we have constructed an A–Z of the World taken from E. H. Gombrich’s, A Little History of the World. Day by day, we will be sharing a bite size introduction to a historical figure, event or period – using Gombrich’s magical words – along with links to free resources, so that readers of all ages can discover more. Today, Gombrich covers Xerxes.
E. H. Gombrich: The great Darius, King of Kings of the vast Persian empire, died shortly after his army was defeated by the Greeks at Marathon, leaving his son and successor, Xerxes, to take revenge on Greece once and for all.
One part of this gigantic army attacked Greece by sea, while another part marched overland. In northern Greece, a small army of Spartans, who had made an alliance with the Athenians, tried to block the Persian advance in a narrow pass called Thermopylae. The Persians called on the Spartans to throw down their weapons. ‘Come and get them yourselves!’ was the reply. ‘We’ve enough arrows here to blot out the sun!’ threatened the Persians. ‘So much the better’, cried the Spartans, ‘then we’ll ﬁght in the shade!’ But a treacherous Greek showed the Persians a way over the mountains and the Spartan army was surrounded and trapped. All three hundred Spartans and seven hundred of their allies were killed in the battle, but not one of them tried to run away, for that was their law. Later, a Greek poet wrote these words in their memory:
Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by,
That here obedient to their laws we lie.
Free Resources to Learn More about Xerxes
BBC Bitesize (KS2)
BBC In Our Time
BBC News Magazine
Ancient History Encyclopedia
The Yale Blog
This page provides access to a list of free online resources. It is not intended to endorse any particular resource.
All the descriptions in this A-Z are taken from E. H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World.
Philip Pullman described the book as, “A brilliant piece of narrative, splendidly organised, told with an energy and confidence that are enormously attractive, and suffused with all the humanity and generosity of spirit that Gombrich’s thousands of admirers came to cherish during his long and richly productive life. It’s a wonderful surprise: irresistible, in fact.”
Following in the footsteps of E. H. Gombrich’s worldwide bestseller A Little History of the World, the books in our Little Histories series explore the history of the world’s most remarkable people, events and ideas. With engaging personal insights, our authors will take you on a whistle-stop journey from ancient times to the present – exploring all of life’s big subjects from archaeology to science. Other Little Histories available include, Philosophy, Economics, Science, Literature, Language, Religion and Poetry. More details about the whole series can be found on the Little Histories website.
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