As we may all know, our history is riddled with war – with victory and defeat, with honour and cowardice, with strategic magnificence and failure-in-command. Thus, the generations of today look back at those times and bask in their echoes still. This is why we are going to explore some of the most iconic battlefields that you can visit yourself. Prepare to put on the ethereal armour, to sharpen your sword and to flex your body, for today, we ride to battle!
We have all seen the movie “300”, haven’t we? Well, Thermopylae is the place where Spartan King Leonidas, his 300 Spartiates and 7,000 hoplites attempted to halt the advances of King Xerxes I of Persia into Greece in the year of 480 BC. Fighting valiantly at the narrow coastal pass called the “Hot Gates” for its sulphur springs (yes, it actually was a coastal passage in 480), Leonidas and his men were eventually betrayed by a local man named Ephialtes and via an alternate path, they were outflanked. Leonidas dismissed most of his army and remained behind with 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans to guard their retreat. They were overrun, of course, and the King of Sparta fell. This iconic battlefield can be visited easily as it is located between Lokris and Thessaly, funnelling the bulk of the traffic happening between the two locations. Situated proudly on the east coast of Greece, it was a pivotal place for trade and for battles in ancient times. If you happen to be visiting Greece and if you happen to rent a vehicle also, make sure you stop at the battlefield and admire the place that was the host for so many battles. In case you aren’t a history-enthusiast, know that the Hot Gates have seen more than the Greco-Persian Wars – the Gallic Invasion, the Third Sacred War, the Roman-Seleucid Wars, the Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars are all great examples to research. And let us not forget about the World War II battle only referred to as another “Battle of Thermopylae” that you might also be interested in. In any case, the location of today’s highway is where the coastline used to be in 480 BC. Definitely a must-experience!
2. Silarius River:
Did you think that we would be talking about a river? Well, the Silarius is called Sele today and it is the location of the Battle of the Silarius River where Spartacus and his army of escaped slaves and gladiators fell to the legions of Marcus Licinius Crassus in 71 BC. Marking the end of the Roman Servile Wars (more specifically the Third Servile War), the battle was almost a slaughter for the armies of Spartacus. All of his generals fell on that day including Crixus, Gannicus, and Oenomaus. He himself was killed, as historians record, but his body was never found. An interesting legend says that prior to the battle, Spartacus killed his horse saying that if he should emerge victorious, he would claim many steeds but should the contrary come to pass, he would need none. Today’s Sele River is not painted in the blood of fallen warriors but it is a marvellous sight to behold. With its length of 64 kilometres and basin size of 1,200 square kilometres, one might understand why Spartacus and his armies ended up fighting there (water is life). Originating from Monti Picentini of Caposele, the river reaches into the Tyrrhenian Sea between Eboli and Capaccio. If you have a car, do consider visiting the place. Oh, and for all you movie fans out there, Spartacus’ story is exquisitely painted by the TV series “Spartacus – Blood and Sand”.
3. Kahlenberg Mountain:
Have you heard heard of the Siege of Vienna in 1683 and its significant strategic elements? Fought by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Habsburg Monarchy, and the Holy Roman Empire against the Ottoman Empire, the former alliance emerged victorious under the leadership of Polish King John III Sobieski. The Ottomans failed to take Vienna even with their dangerous attempt to blow a hole in the walls of the city. Sobieski led his famous Winged Hussars into the Ottoman ranks and obliterated them in no more than three hours. This was recorded as one of the largest cavalry charges in human history (over 18,000). If you happen to be visiting Vienna, be sure to hop over to the Kahlenberg Mountain, the iconic location where the aforementioned events took place – this is where Sobieski charged down from. Car and bus routes are the most common ones to take you there and if you are not a history-fan, then you can always visit the mountain for the view for it is simply fabulous.
4. Shiroyama, Kagoshima:
Many people know about the Battle of Shiroyama from the perspective of the film “The Last Samurai”. Now that we have fixated the timeline, know that the battle was fought between horribly-outnumbered Samurai of Satsuma under the leadership of Saigō Takamori and the Imperial Japanese Army under the generals Yamagata Aritomo and Kawamura Sumiyoshi in 1877. Saigō was mortally wounded but has managed to commit Seppuku with the aid of Beppu Shinsuke. Beppu and the remaining Samurai charged into the Imperial lines and died in the process. Shiroyama Hill can be visited today and a statue of Saigō can be admired at the adjacent Kagoshima Castle ruins. Note that the valiant Samurai leader was pardoned Emperor Meiji posthumously. If you wish to see the location where Bushido was respected to the fullest and one last time, do consider basking in the honourable grandeur of the place.
Did you enjoy our list? How many of the aforementioned battlefields have you visited and how much have they inspired you? Hit the comment section below and tell us all about it for we are eager to read everything that you might share! Safe travels, warrior (wink)!