Remembering the Battle of Thermopylae
LSA Classical Association Virtual Event, 15th October, 2020
This year's Classical Association programme commenced with the first virtual event in which Professor Low of Durham University provided an insight into the Battle of Thermopylae and debunked many commonly held myths about the Spartans in the process. Despite not being held in the usual way - in our senior school hall, accompanied by the infamous classics cakes - the event was engaging as ever.
Prof Low described how cities engaged in fake burials to commemorate group sacrifice, even when no one died; and how the tradition of a dead Spartan warrior being carried home on his shield never actually happened. She went on to reflect on how the story is deployed in troubling and rather negative ways by far right groups; but also more positively, it has also been deployed by AD Hope (1907-2000) in his “inscription for a war” to promote a lesson in pacifism. CP Cavafy (a poet from Alexandria) has also used it to illustrate a lesson of resilience and the importance of compassion and justice.
The discussion was then brought closer to home - to Southport war memorial, Simonides, on which the insciption reads, “Faithful to her we fell, and rest content”, with Prof Low explaining that this idea of loyalty and the satisfaction gained by sacrficing oneself being core to Spartan thinking. However, the reverse side refrences Pericles who died fighting the Spartans, thus bringing together the two enemies in Greek world, commemorating both the Spartans and Athenians and how they were united in the way they commemorated their dead. Further insight was provided during the question and answer session, when an attendee explained that the memorial was created as a result of an architectural competition.
To find our more about this year's programme and how you can join the association, please visit: https://lsaclassics.com/.