"Come And Take Them"
If there’s one phrase that’s ubiquitous throughout the firearm community, it may well be the words “Molon Labe;" or using Greek script, ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛABE, since the phrase is actually Greek. It's popular among concealed carry and gun rights activists. It's also a slogan for a number of military units around the world, including some in the American armed forces and, naturally, the Greek military.
The phrase adorns stickers, rifles, and more than a few tattoos among the pro-gun crowd. However, it also seems that a number of people aren’t really familiar with the history of the phrase nor what it represents.
To get to the origins, we have to go a little ways back in history. In particular, back to 480 BC.
The origin of the phrase is intricately tied to the Battle of Thermopylae. There, the Persian king Xerxes wanted to invade Greece. Standing in his way was King Leonidas and 300 Spartans (and a number of Thespians and Thebans, though history often forgets them). Xerxes offered the Greeks their freedom and survival from the onslaught of his army which reportedly numbered in the millions.
When Xerxes ambassador told Leonidas this, the Spartan king is claimed to have answered, “Molon labe.”
Translated, the phrase 'Molon Labe" means, “come and take them.”
When all was said and done, Leonidas was dead, as were his 300 Spartans, but tens of thousands of Xerxes troops were also slain. It was said to have been so bad that the Persians started to lose all taste for war.
Whether Leonidas actually said it...is impossible to actually tell. Plutarch says so, Herodotus doesn't mention it, and a number of other sources for the Battle of Thermopylae either quote Plutarch or don't mention it at all. It's possible that he did, but there's no real evidence for it. Regardless, it's still a good line.
Since then, the phrase has been used as a mark of defiance. Perhaps most famously was the English translation of the phrase and its appearance on a flag at the Battle of Gonzalez during the Texas Revolution.
These days, it serves a similar function, though. It’s a more polite way to tell someone to “bring it on.” You see, if someone like me says those two little words, we’re conveying a whole lot in a short period of time.
For one thing, we’re saying that we oppose any kind of gun control, that we won’t lay down our arms as a tyrant demanded of free people at Thermopylae. We’re saying that we’re committed to our cause, that we’re willing to die to protect our rights and the rights of our brothers and sisters.
More than that, though, Molon Labe is a warning.
When we say that, we’re warning lawmakers that if they push too far on gun control, they’re going to get a fight. It’s not a declaration of war, but it’s a warning that one will be coming if legislators decide they can take away our guns and ignore the Second Amendment. More than that, though, it’s a warning that the Second Amendment won’t go away quietly.
The truth of the matter is that gun owners tend to recognize that no people become enslaved unless they’re disarmed. No genocide happens unless people are disarmed. Atrocities which shock the world only happen to disarmed societies.
We Americans have decided that won’t be us.
The difference between some of us and other is that we recognize that America isn’t inherently immune to the thinking and hatred which causes these horrific events, so we stay armed to make damn sure it never happens.
Should such a tyrant come to power, we already know what will happen. He or she will demand our guns. They’ll give us all kinds of reasons why we should. They’ll likely get Congress to ban them all, and we’ll be told to turn them in.
In reply, all we’ll likely say are two words. “Molon labe.”