Thursday, July 16, 2020



William Golding, "The Hot Gates," The Hot Gates and Other Occasional Pieces (London: Faber and Faber, 1965), pp. 3-12 (at 11-12):
I came to myself in a great stillness, to find I was standing by the little mound. This is the mound of Leonidas, with its dust and rank grass, its flowers and lizards, its stones, scruffy laurels and hot gusts of wind. I knew now that something real happened here. It is not just that the human spirit reacts directly and beyond all argument to a story of sacrifice and courage, as a wine glass must vibrate to the sound of the violin. It is also because, way back and at the hundredth remove, that company stood in the right line of history. A little of Leonidas lies in the fact that I can go where I like and write what I like. He contributed to set us free.

Climbing to the top of that mound by the uneven, winding path, I came on the epitaph, newly cut in stone. It is an ancient epitaph though the stone is new. It is famous for its reticence and simplicity — has been translated a hundred times but can only be paraphrased:

'Stranger, tell the Spartans that we behaved as they would wish us to, and are buried here.'
The Greek, from Herodotus 7.228:
ὦ ξεῖν᾿, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
    κείμεθα τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.

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