As the Spartan army takes stock on the evening of the first day of battle, it’s found that both Alexandros’s father, Olympieus, and his brother-in-law, Ariston, have been killed in battle. At first, in the immediate aftermath of the fighting, although they know it’s just a temporary reprieve, survivors frolic with joy, while others weep and sing hymns of thanksgiving. Seven hours later, however, men are hollow-eyed, unable to absorb the scale of the carnage. Warriors’ senses are overwhelmed.
Survival brings different reactions as the battle wears on. There’s an initial euphoria, but as the devastation mounts, it becomes more than people can take in.
The enemy’s final attack that day is brought by Xerxes’ guard, known as the Immortals. These foes wear masses of gold ornament, tiaras, and kohl around their eyes. There are 10,000 of them, to the Greeks’ fewer than three thousand. But Leonidas encourages his men by saying that these Immortals, for the first time, are of Persian blood, some of them kinsmen of the King. They are not mere “spear fodder,” more valuable to him by far. Leonidas assures the Greeks that Xerxes will be frugal with these men’s lives, and that if they can only kill 10,000, the Persians will crack.
The Immortals are Xerxes’ finest personal guards, always kept at 10,000, with the fallen quickly replaced. They are known to be the fiercest of warriors. But Leonidas, ever encouraging of his men, heartens his men that the so-called Immortals are considered to be much dearer to Xerxes and that he won’t spare them so readily.