Here, where the mountains rose from the coast, a hot sulphur spring sprang up. As time went by, the sea ebbed and released a plateau that was almost a mile long. At times of Aristodemos, Thermopylae were a narrow pass, just wide enough to let cars through one by one. Xerxes had to pass this bottleneck with his army. But the pass was blocked by the Spartans.
Xerxes sends out a explorer. All he found out was that the Spartans laughed at their enemies and their deaths. In the open, they waited in their eye-catching red cloaks and full confidence in their weapons, ready to fight the enemy. There he saw some of the men practicing and others combing their hair. Astonished at this sight he went back unharmed without anyone following him or even paying the slightest attention.
When Xerxes heard this, he understood nothing at all. It seemed ridiculous to him that the Spartans were preparing to kill or be killed to the best of their ability. Xerxes commanded a massive army of 200,000 warriors. He said that such a number would simply sweep away the Spartans. He knew neither the nature of the terrain nor the fighting style of the Spartans.
The Spartans were not only superior to the enemy in drill and march, they also outdid him in skill. They fought in groups of two each dozens of men, called the conspirators, small mobile units, loyal to each other until death. Aristodemos served throughout his career in one and the same group. At 55 he left the army and a new man took his place. Everyone was sworn in to this family of comrades for life and death.
When Aristodemos prepared for battle, he put on a bronze breastplate. He protected his legs with bronze splints. Around his hips he strapped an iron sword with a curved blade. It was widened just before the tip, where it cuts itself into the opponent's flesh. On his head he wore a bronze helmet with a comb and slits for vision. So the Spartans were better protected than most other warriors. A privileged deserved warrior was the permission to wear his hair long as a sign for heroes.
Aristodemos stood in the first rank of the phalanx. He lifted his short spear over his shoulder, closed the shield wall with his comrades and advanced.
It will be terrible if the two fronts collide with each other with their round shields, and the screams will be terrible if they attack each other and pierce the opponent's chest with the spear. And in front of the hail of the projectiles they will not take a step back, no, despite the fracture of large stones their helmets will resist the violence of the unleashed battle.