The Spartans Last Stand: Geology of the Hot Gates

06.24.2021 - By PlanetGeo: The Geology Podcast

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Have you ever watched the movie 300 or heard of the Spartans making a stand against the Persian Empire?  It's an amazing story right...but it has some amazing geology behind it too.  

Geology has influenced historical events in momentous ways, and here on PlanetGeo we are going to start highlighting these ways.  This incredible story of the Hot Gates is just the first part of that series. 

In this episode we are going to cover Let’s start out with the words: Hot Gates.  First, the Gates part of that.  What formed the gates?  Well it’s a fault like the Grand Teton National Park, and the tectonics of this region are really complex! We will start narrow (at the gates themselves) and zoom out to the broader region and talk about how complex plate tectonics can be on the 3D surface of the planet. We will talk about the Hot part of the Hot Gates, and highlight some hydrothermal activity in the region.  This includes hot springs, steam, and volcanoes! Lastly, the Hot Gates don’t exist anymore.  The planet is always changing, sometimes rapidly. Sea level has changed over time in this region since 480 BC, 2500 years ago. The sea level change is not due to actual sea level changing though, it is due to a totally different process: the valley is filling up with sediment that pushes the shoreline back from the cliffs that used to form the Hot Gates.  This is totally normal stream behavior in areas with active mountain belts! 
So, here’s the backstory. The Persian Empire was massive and was interested in invading Greece.  There were several major battles here but we are focusing on one in particular where 300 spartan warriors stood their ground against at least 50,000 persians and maybe many more (history is foggy here). 
They were able to fend off so many adversaries by using the local geology to their advantage, they took a stand in the Hot Gates, which were a series of three narrow passes between a cliff face and the Aegean Sea.  This is a really interesting part of geoscience in that much of history is shaped by geoscience. 

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