A lot has changed in 2,500 years: the sea is now over a mile from the Hot Gates, and a road runs a bare 30 meters from the edge of the wall that once ended in the Aegean.
But the topography is unmistakable.
The mountains to the left are obviously impassable, and it is obvious why the God-King Xerxes himself felt so powerless against them that he did not force his army to march over them before the traitor revealed the trail.
Looking out across the same view the Greeks must have seen, it is easy to understand why this pass seemed like an ideal place to meet the Persians (and years later the Romans and the Germans). To men as tough as the Spartans, trained from age 7 (or before), this was obviously the best place to kill the troops of the Eastern God-Emperor: there was nowhere for the enemy to hide.
View from the burial mound
to the north and west along the coast
The modern site does not have many maps: initially, we could find none. From the top of the Greek burial-mound, though, there was a trail. Hoping to find the old wall, I started down it with zylch.
While we could no wall (only a flower truly caught my eye), we did get a startling view of the mountains as they must have looked so many years ago: the road and the roofs of houses were gone from our sight, and even the sound of traffic was dampened.
We later discovered that we had traveled for a short time on the traitorous goat path, left ingloriously undefended by the Phoicans.
When we returned to the burial mound, I was disappointed to have not found the wall. Still, I look some time to offer and pray to the dead buried beneath me.
And on my descent, there it was.
In what appeared to be a construction site, 100 meters from the base of the mound, I saw the wall. As I wondered how I could possibly have walked by it, I pointed it out with excitement to zylch, and convinced her to come with me.
I came up to it, stood on it, and looked around it. The wall is obviously reconstructed, but its position is obviously correct, as are its formation and size.
Here stood the men who I have held in awe and reverence for twelve years. Here they brushed out their long hair, singing as they were surrounded by certain death. Here, they fought over the body of a king descended from Herakles, fated to die that Sparta may live. Here, at this wall, Western warfare was defined.
Here, the Spartans were obedient to their laws.
And now, we had to go. Next stop: the oracle that doomed either a city or one of her kings. Delphi.
The Phocian Wall