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Molon Labe (Come and take them)
Molon Labe (Come and take them)

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We don’t often think of the original Texan pioneers, most of them debtors and criminals on the run, as history scholars. But October 1835, the restless subjects of the Mexican empire proved they’d been paying attention in class. The weather was rainy; the mood was dark. For the past year, the Mexican dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had become increasingly paranoid and protective of his power, dissolving state legislatures and abolishing militias. The alarmed Texan colonists, who called themselves Texians at the time, began to talk about revolution and independence.

But in the meantime, a troop of Mexican soldiers had marched to Gonzalez, TX to confiscate the local militia’s cannon. When they arrived, they found just eighteen defiant Texians guarding the cannon, flying a flag that read Come and Take It. Unable to cross the rain-swollen Guadalupe river, the Mexicans had no choice but to camp out and wait. Texians used the chance to call for volunteer reinforcements, and attacked the Mexicans early on October 2nd. Taken by surprise, the Mexicans promptly retreated, and not a single Texian died. It was the beginning of the Texas Revolution.

1,200 years earlier, the Persian king Xerxes I stood before a force of 300 Spartans and demanded that they too lay down their arms. King Leonidas, facing an enemy army of thousands, answered with molon labe – Greek for ‘come and get them.’ The battle that followed is one of the most famous in all history. For three days the outnumbered Spartans beat back the Persians, losing in the end but allowing the city of Athens time to evacuate and escape. Ever since, molon labe has been a cry of defiance, and a refusal to disarm. When the Texians painted ‘Come and Get It’ on their flag that day, they were simply next in history’s long line of soldiers who chose freedom.