The famous battle of Thermopylae, when the 300 strong Spartan army lead by King Leonidas and his Athenian allies fought King Xerxes and his massive Persian army, was all recorded by a Greek scribe.

How was that possible? Especially when you consider that in the last battle the Greek soldiers were all killed. Surely King Xerxes wouldn't let a scribe at the scene of the battle survive after saying to King Leonidas he would cut all Greek scribes tongues out.

  • 4
    As long as Xerxes didn't cut their hands :-p
    – SJuan76
    Jul 30, 2015 at 19:59
  • 2
    You make it sound like there had to be an official scribe to record the battle as it was unfolding. Instead of giving a person a clay or wax table on which to write, give him a sword so he can fight! There is the possibility that witnesses to the battle left the area well be end but when it was obvious what the outcome would be.
    – Fred
    Jul 31, 2015 at 1:39
  • Thespian and Theban allies, IIRC.
    – Zither13
    Aug 15, 2015 at 13:54
  • I've learnt much about ancient greek scribes,since i posted this,Plutarch is a personal favorite,id like to delete this if possible as its a bit stupid lol
    – turinsbane
    Feb 13, 2016 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


The Greek historian Herodotus is the main primary source of information about the battle of Thermopylae. Most other records of the battle come from historians who lived centuries after the battle. They are all fairly consistent with each other.

How did Herodotus get his information? The most common way historians did for centuries. By travelling the world and speaking to natives of the places he visited. How reliable is he? that is a question that has been asked since the time of Herodotus's death.

Here is what Herodotus says about his works:

I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it.

Book 7, Ch. 152.

Unfortunately, if there where any Persian records on Thermopylae, none have survived to the present (or been found). We have to rely mainly on the Greek historians on this matter.


There were a lot more than 300 Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae. The 300 were just the Spartan contingent. According to Herodotus the whole Greek army had about 5,000 men in it from all parts of Greece.


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