Leonidas at Thermopylae
Jacques-Louis David's " Leonidas at Thermopylae" was made 1814 A.D. and now resides at the Louvre Museum, Paris France.
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David had begun the Leonidas at Thermopylae in 1798 as a companion piece to The Intervention of the Sabine Women. However, it was completed much later, in 1814.
David cleverly uses stories about the Battle of Themopylae within the painting.
- The sentinel trumpeters sound the call to arms, the Battle of Themopylae begins
- On the right, two soldiers rush to gather their weapons that are hanging from the branches of an oak tree.
- Sitting down next to his king, is Agis, Leonidas' wife's brother. He is looking up at his commander for orders.
On either side of Leonidas are two very young warriors, hardly more than boys, one inexperienced youth is still tieing his sandal, while the other bids a last farewell to his aged father. Leonidas had tried to send the two young men away under the pretext of carrying a message, but they had refused to go. It is perhaps this undelivered scroll that is partially visible at Leonidas' feet; it reads in Greek, 'Leonidas, son of Anaxandrides, King to the Gerousia. Greetings.'
- The famous Spartan red cloaks are prominent throughout the art work.
Three young soldiers lift up wreaths above two altars dedicated to Hercules and Aphrodite
- At the top left the soldier climbs the rock to inscribe the message with the pommel of his sword. "
Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
that here, obedient to their laws, we lie."
- In the background the baggage train departs with their remaining possessions, these things are no longer needed in this world.
- The staunch resolution to fight is perhaps most evident at the left of the painting where the blind soldier Eurytas, who had also been sent away, returns led by his slave, carefully negotiating a step with his sandalled foot.
'Blind as he was, he would still be able to strike out and take at least one or more of the enemy with him.'
- In the background (not clearly visable) the Persian fleet can be seen.
- Leonidas, the central figure, sits on a rock facing out at the viewer, contemplating his and his soldiers' fate. The plume on his helmet is befitting a king, and reaches down his back. His upwards stare is a final glance to the gods, the temple above his head is a symbol of that, as well as an indication of what they are fighting for. He has a beard but no moustache, a Spartan tradition. In his hands he holds a spear, sword and sheild, everything a Spartan warrior needs for battle. The rock he sits on is like a makeshift throne, his right foot on the ground signals the beginning of the battle. He is moving off the throne onto the ground looking similar to a demi-god decending from heaven to join into the battle.