Two little words. With these two words, two concepts were verbalized that have lived for nearly two and a half Millennia. They signify and characterize both the heart of the warrior and the indomitable spirit of mankind.
In 480 BC, the forces of the Persian Empire under King Xerxes, numbering, according to Herodotus, two million men, bridged the Hellespont and marched in their myriads to invade and enslave Greece.
King Leonidas of Sparta and another Greek city-state agreed to help stop the invading Persians, and marched with 300 hand-picked troops to Thermopylae on the north coast of Greece. Thermopylae was the best of three possible defensive areas in which Xerxes’ invading army had to advance. This mountain gap along the coast was about 60 feet wide, and was the best location for a blocking action. The confines between mountains and sea were so narrow that the Persian multitudes and their cavalry would be at least partially neutralized. Since the 300 knew they were going to die fighting against overwhelming force, the first requirement was that each man had to have a son left behind.
When Leonidas was preparing to make his stand, a Persian envoy arrived. The envoy explained to Leonidas the futility of trying to resist the advance of the huge Persian army and demanded that the Spartans lay down their arms.
Leonidas told Xerxes envoy “MOLON LABE”, or “COME AND GET THEM”.
“Our archers are so numerous”, said the envoy, “that the flight of their arrows darkens the sun.”
“So much the better,” replied Dienekes, a Spartan warrior, “for we shall then fight in the shade.”
After days of fighting and having killed countless numbers of Xerxes’ elite troops, the 300 were finally overrun after being betrayed by a traitor who showed the enemy another pass behind the defenders. King Leonidas, his Spartans and their Thespian allies died to the last man. Xerxes marched on and destroyed Athens. The standard of valor set by this sacrifice inspired the Greeks to rally, and, in that fall and spring, the Greeks defeated the Persians at Salamis and Plataea and preserved the beginnings of Western Democracy and Freedom from perishing in the cradle.
Two memorials remain today at Thermopylae. Upon the modern one, called the Leonidas Monument in honor of the Spartan King who fell there, is engraved his response to Xerxes’ demand that the Spartans lay down their arms.
“MOLON LABE” - “COME AND GET THEM”
The second monument is a plaque dedicated to those heroes at the site. It reads: “Go tell the Spartans, travelers passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”
These two words, meaning “Come and get them!” live on today as the most notable quote in military history. And so began a long tradition, with this classic example of courage and valor, in its dismissal of overwhelming superiority of numbers, wherein the heart and spirit of brave men overcame insuperable odds.
The defiant utterance has been adopted by freedom loving Americans across the land as a battle cry in a war against oppression and insidious government control of the means to remain free- personal firearms. It says so clearly and simply, to those who would have us return to the days of government and individual oppression and control of our very basic rights as free men, do not try to take our arms. It signifies our determination to not strike the first blow, but that we will not stand mute and docile while we as a people are returned to a modern day “Dark Ages”. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution truly protects all the rest. Study history. Because those who fail to do so are doomed to repeat it. Stand firm with conviction, as the Minutemen of our colonial years did, and do not waiver. Some will fall in the fight, but many more will step up into the fight. The fight for our basic human rights and dignity will live on so long as good men everywhere are not afraid to speak their minds and use their guns. We must not be afraid to make the ultimate sacrifice. As one great patriot once said “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!!”, so should our own mind set be established. For the alternative to a free society is truly a death of the human spirit.