The Persian army had come to the Pass of Thermopylae; and Xerxes, seeing that it was guarded by only a few men, sent them a haughty message, bidding them surrender their arms.

Instead of seeing a meek compliance with this request, as they expected, the Persian heralds were amazed to hear Leonidas reply with true laconic brevity, “Come and take them!”

The Spartan king, however, had quickly seen that it would be impossible for him to do much more than stop for a while the advance of this mighty host. As a Spartan never drew back, he made up his mind to die on the field of battle, and bade his warriors comb their hair, don their choicest armor, and dress themselves in their richest attire, as was the custom when some great danger threatened them and they expected to die.