Thermopylae

One of the my favourite poets is C.P. Cavafy, a gay Greek-Egyptian civil servant of the early 20th century. In this poem he honours the Spartan infantry who in 480 BC made a stand against an overwhelmingly superior Persian invasion force, before a treacherous local guide, Ephialtis, showed the enemy a way to attack the defenders from behind. Cavafy uses that example to praise all those who, in different ways, imitate the Spartans in their daily lives.

Honour to those who in the life they lead
define and guard a Thermopylae.
Never betraying what is right,
consistent and just in all they do
but showing pity also, and compassion;
generous when they are rich, and when they are poor,
still generous in small ways,
still helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hating those who lie.
 
And even more honor is due to them
when they foresee (as many do foresee)
that in the end Ephialtis will make his appearance,
that the Medes will break through after all.

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