You've seen it on bumper stickers, or possibly tattooed on someone's arm. Maybe you know what it means, and are here for the history lesson. Or, you know the backstory but wonder how it relates to the pro-gun community today.
The most common American pronunciation is “mow-lahn lah-bay,” and the more classic Greek version is “mow-loan lah-vay.”
Either of these would be considered correct.
I'll start with what will excite the history buffs: the epic backstory.
In midsummer of 480 BC, halfway around the world, King Xerxes of the First Persian Empire (also known as the Achaemenid Empire) had decided to invade Greece. At this point, Greece was actually an alliance of Greek city-states. They rallied together, led by King Leonidas I of Sparta, to defend against the invasion.
Xerxes had a huge army, between 100,000-150,000, and was determined to conquer all of Greece. In the dual invasion, he attacked them by sea and by land.
The Battle of Thermopylae took place in the narrow, coastal region of Thermopylae (didn't see that coming, did you?), a place also called “The Hot Gates.” King Leonidas led a much smaller army in defiance, about 7,000, and held off the much larger Persian army for three days.
I should mention that Leonidas knew they were doomed, right from the beginning. Even so, allegedly, sometime during that three day battle, Xerxes sent a message to Leonidas, offering to spare their lives, if they would only lay down their weapons.
Leonidas responded, with the words that still echo today, “Molon labe,” or, “Having come, take them.” Meaning, roughly, once you're here, we will be dead, and then you can take our weapons.
Modern-day translation: Come at me, bro.
There is no way of knowing for certain whether or not this was actually stated, but historians believe it did. Pro-gun activists across America, myself included, have adapted this as a declaration of our right to keep and bear arms. It's a challenge to anyone who wants to take away or limit that natural right.
It stands for both patriotism and defiance; meaning that if anyone, government or otherwise, decided to try and take our weapons away, they would need to kill us first. We recognize how blessed we are to live in a country where freedom and choice is still something of meaning and importance. It's a reminder of how easily that independence can be wiped out.
Because when anyone decides that we shouldn't be able to keep and bear arms, it's probably because they intend to do something that we would shoot them for.
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