Leonidas (reign ca. 490-480 B.C.)Leonidas (reign ca. 490-480 B.C.) - The hero of Thermopylae, Leonidas was king of Sparta. One of two actually, for Sparta split its monarchy way back around 1000 B.C.. At that time, Sparta's lone king, Aristodemus had twin sons, Eurysthenes and Procles. Rather than choose a sole heir, Aristodemus divided rule between both. And since then, Spartan monarchs descended from two lines, the Agiad (named for Agis, the son of Eurysthenes) and Eurypontid (named for Eurypon who was either the son or grandson of Procles). Leonidas came from the Agiad line. Going back even further, he claimed Hēraklēs (Roman Hercules) as an ancestor. And by the fortitude he and his Spartans displayed, it doesn't sound so far-fetched. It's uncertain how old he was at Thermopylae, but it's believed he was at least 50. According to Herodotus, Leonidas either chose or was chosen to lead the Greeks, in part, to fulfill the oracle given at Delphi, which said, "Oh! ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon, Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus, Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country Mourn for the loss of a king, descendent of great Hēraklēs" (Herodotus 7:222). It appears he joined the battle knowing his sacrifice was a certainty. The final order he gave to his men on the third morning at Thermopylae was, "Eat a hearty meal men...for tonight we dine in hell" (a legendary quote for sure). Today, on the spot where the battle took place, a plaque reads: "Go tell the Spartans passerby, that here obedient to their laws we lie."