It is to this second, far grander conflict that the most famous Herodotean tales of the Persian Wars belong; not for nothing do the names Thermopylae and Salamis still mean something today. In particular, the heroically suicidal stand of the three hundred Spartans—who, backed by only a couple of thousand allied troops, held the pass at Thermopylae against tens of thousands of Persians, long enough for their allies to escape and regroup farther to the south—has continued to resonate. Partly, this has to do with Herodotus’ vivid description of the Greeks’ feisty insouciance, a quality that all freedom fighters like to be able to claim. On hearing that the Persians were so numerous that their arrows would “blot out the sun,” one Spartan quipped that this was good news, as it meant that the Greeks would fight in the shade. (“In the shade” is the motto of an armored division in the present-day Greek Army.)