“Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”
We formed ranks across the widest street, a line of spears ten deep and fifty across. Not every Spartan had answered Lycurgus’ summons. Our numbers were few, our enemies many and our fear was overwhelming.
I am sure you have heard of the Spartans. These days every poet tells of our bravery and strength. Things were different in my youth. We were weak. We were afraid. The Messenians had come to take our land.
“Hold this line.” Lycurgus said, standing at the right of the first rank. “Brace your shields, guard the man to your left and strike hard with your spears.”
A ripple passed through our ranks as men shifted in response to his commands. I saw Ligeia standing among some other Spartan women on the rooftops overlooking the street. They had stripped the roofs almost bare and each held a heavy tile in her hand.
My eyes were drawn back to the enemy as they began their advance. Feet tramped down the street in an uneven rhythm. With the dust kicked up around them I could see nothing more than the flash of sunlight on polished bronze shields, a thicket of spears held overhand above their heads.
A cry rang out and the feet pounded louder and closer. My hand shook around the spear and my shield lowered. As surely as I knew my own name, I was certain we would die.
Faces writhing in anger and fear charged out from the swirling cloud of dust. The shields hammered together with a crash which threatened to topple the buildings around us and then the spears lunged out and down.
Sharp iron stabbed through soft flesh. Men fell to the ground and were trampled underfoot. I could not see what was happening on either side, but the men closest to me were being pushed back. The Spartans could not hold their line. Even a blind man could have seen it. We were ruined, condemned to death by the conspiring hand of fate.
Read about the real Lycurgus on Encyclopaedia Britannica!