The Battle of Thermopylae

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The Battle of Thermopylae took place in 480 BC between the Spartan led Greek forces and the Persians. Despite the comparatively few losses of the Greeks in comparison with the Persians, the battle was ultimately a loss for the Greeks due to the treachery of Ephialtes. According to Tom Holland, “The Athenians . . . no doubt at Themistocles’s urging” voted for troops to be sent to Thermopylae, a narrow and easily defensible pass, under the leadership of the Spartan king Leonidas. Between 7000 and 8000 Greeks had been sent to oppose hundreds of thousands of Persians. At first the Greeks were able to defend the pass and killed many Persian soldiers in close combat. However Ephialtes, a Greek man, told the Persians of a mountain pass which they could use to bypass the Greek defences. With the news of this betrayal, Leonidas sent most of the Greek forces back to Athens to ensure their survival, remaining with a few thousand soldiers who, despite managing to inflict casualties upon the Persian forces, were eventually all killed. Strategically the Battle of Thermopolyae was of little importance but the stories of the battle boosted Greek morale in the face of Perisan invasion,

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The Power of Words

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“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” How often have we heard these words said? Whether they were said as an encouragement not to worry about what people say or are said before an explanation that the opposite us true, these words have probably been said to you at some stage of your life. And to some extent, both responses are true. Words might not have the power to physically hurt us, but they do have the power to have other sorts of impact on our lives.

Everyone I think has experienced the power of words. Whether they’ve experienced them through the power of stories which created an image in their head which was impossible to destroy. Or the words which gave them courage or destroyed it. That is something I think we should all recognise. Words have the power to be used both for help and harm.

It is not a single word which does this though. The power of words comes from weaving them together, combining a series of words to create new meaning. Sometimes these words flow easily and at other times it’s a struggle to get more than a single word out at a time. There is a great skill, which comes usually through practise, in using words effectively. However regardless of the skill employed in their creation, words will always have some power.

Whether you are conscious of how you use words or not, they can still have power over other people. Like all things, the power words have can be used both for good and evil. As you use words in everyday life it is worth remembering their power and occasionally taking the time to consider how you use them. It is easy to not think about the power of words but these seemingly little things are incredibly powerful.

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Places We’d Rather Be

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Photo by ThoughtStudent

We all have places we’d rather be. Things we’d rather be doing. Sights we’d rather be seeing. This is true whether it comes from dissatisfaction with our current situation or excitement for the future. Whilst I’d generally describe myself as content in my present situation, I’m not immune to this desire to be somewhere else.

Perhaps it is a form of procrastination. My mind wants to avoid the task at hand, so it takes me away to a place I want to go to. The problem appears to be solved as I focus on something more pleasant than the work I’m meant to be doing.

At times it comes from an excitement for the future which makes you question the relevance of the task at hand. Why bother tidying the house when I’ll be away next week? The possibility ahead makes the present seem mundane.

Perhaps it comes from the memories of the past and a desire to relive them. We think back to the fun we had and wish we could go back there. Too often though we forgot that life was not perfect in the past but because we perceive its perfection, we desire to return to it.

At times though, the reality is that where you are is horrible and it’s not a place where anyone should be. And it’s okay to dream of something better and to actually go and find it. But for many people, this is not the case and where they are really isn’t too bad.

We all have places we’d rather be, some we will get to one day whilst others will remain in our imaginations. There is a time for thinking or going to that place you’d rather be, but there’s also a time for contentment and satisfaction in the place where you are.

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Stories of Life, Part 6

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The invention of digital cameras and their popularity has forever changed the way in which people record the events of their lives. The ability to capture a moment of time and preserve it forever is something which appeals to many people. The photos we have, whether physical and digital, are a way of sharing the stories of our lives and I think that’s why we take them.

Most of the photos I take are of landscapes. I think that is because I take photos to remind myself of what I have done. To remember the scenes which made me smile, think or laugh so that months or years later I can look back and say “remember when . . .” I also take photos of landscapes because I notice the beauty in the world and I want to remember that it exists, that the world is bigger and more beautiful than what I’d normally see each day (not that what I see is not beautiful, it is in a different way, not in the ‘awestruck at the sight of it’ way).

But if you were to flick through the photo albums of my childhood, you would find something different. They are filled with photos of people and all the places they had been. A record of the activities that filled my days. They weren’t taken by me, they were taken by other people, people who wanted to be reminded in the future of how I was when I was little and all the things which I had done.

Photos I think exist with the express purpose of telling the stories of life. They do this in many ways whether it is preserving the way we looked, recording a moment of beauty or just something which caught our eye. Whether you’re a prizewinning photographer or just take photos for fun, the photos you take are a story of your life.


This is the sixth in series of posts exploring how humans leave things behind which can tell a little bit of who they are. If you enjoyed this one, why not check out some of the others.

Stories of Life, Part 1 – Objects

Stories of Life, Part 2 – Words

Stories of Life, Part 3 – Trees

Stories of Life, Part 4 – Marks

Stories of Life, Part 5 – People

Stories of Life, Part 7 – Footprints

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To Do Lists

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I don’t remember the first time I created a to-do list, but I know that I’ve been using them for a while. I usually try and write down my lists rather than leaving them in my head because it frees up my brain to remember other things. Also the feeling of accomplishment I get from crossing a task of my list helps me feel as though I am making progress. I generally have several different checklists going at once for different reasons. Some are big picture with tasks like ‘write a book’ and others are smaller like ‘write chapter one’.

Unfortunately many of my to-do lists have half finished tasks. Which is frustrating at times because I feel like I’m not doing everything that I should be. Sometimes it’s because I’ve set myself too much to do, but I am getting better at setting realistic and achievable goals as I (slowly) realise how long it actually takes me to do things. Sometimes however I did have the time, but I just didn’t use my time the way I should have. Of course there are occasionally emergencies, but other times it is simply because I procrastinated or I got distracted by other things. I’m trying to be more conscious of how I use my time because I don’t want to waste it and to-do lists work almost like an accountability partner.

To-do lists might not work for everyone, but I find them helpful. I like seeing a visual representation of everything I have to do and the progress I’ve made. I’ve found myself becoming more aware of time and find it easier to set achievable goals. My system is not perfect and sometimes I have to discard unfinished to-do lists because they are no longer relevant, but most of the time I’m able to make progress in my list and that is why I keep using them.

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Count the Stars

Have you ever tried to count the stars? I’ve tried to do it once or twice and even though I can’t see that many, I lose track too easily. The world is too big for me to ever fully understand it or to see all there is to see.

It’s not normally my choice to be in a position where I feel small but then who amongst us really likes to? But compared to the stars, that is what we are in our universe. Tiny, little creatures who’ve somehow managed to achieve relative greatness. But because the night sky is so big and the stars are so many I’m okay that in the grand scheme of things I might not be significant.

Realising my insignificance changes my perspective on the world around me. I notice the little things. The birds which fly past racing each other. One flying under the balcony, the other over it, a moment which no one else saw but me and it made me smile.

Next time you’re outside at night, why don’t you take a moment and look up at the sky? You don’t have to be looking for anything in particular, just the twinkling brightness of far away light. It’s a pretty incredible thing that we can see the light from so far away. Go count the stars and remember that you are small but small things can still bring happiness to people.

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The Battle of Salamis

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The Battle of Salamis in 480 BC marked the turning point towards Greek victory against Persia. Themistocles convinced both the Greeks and the Persians that Salamis was the best place for this battle. The Peloponnesians wanted to strengthen and defend the Isthmus, however he argued that the Persians could sail around the Isthmus and attack the mainland somewhere else. Instead Themistocles suggested that they attack the Persian fleet in a narrow strait near Salamis, where the smaller Greek ships could move more easily and the Persians could not utilise their superior numbers. Ultimately the decision of battle was left to the Spartan Eurybiades, whose leadership Athens had accepted to ensure unity amongst the Greek States. However Themistocles blackmailed him into accepting his plan, threatening to leave for Italy if his plan was not accepted. Whether Eurybiades saw the wisdom of the plan or feared the consequences if he did not follow it, he made the decision to follow Themistocles’s advice. Having ensured Greek involvement in his plan, Themistocles sent a message to Xerxes that the Greek ships were going to escape, causing Xerxes to move his ships to block off their escape route which left them in the position that Themistocles wanted them in. By nightfall most of the Persian navy had been destroyed and would no longer be able to supply their troops with supplies, further changing the way in which they fought the Greeks who had proved naval dominance, marking a turning point for the Greeks.

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