I agree with your criticism of hyper-masculinity (think guys who refer to themselves as "Alpha-males")
But the story of these old warriors has always struck me as special. There were many ancient wars and battles like this. But the story of these spartans is remarkable. They made the best tactical use of their few men, their phalanx formation and the geographical battlefield to keep off so many enemy soldiers for 3 days.
While they lost 300 spartans together with I think 400 Thebans and some more, the Persians were said to have more than 20,000 men in the battle. 2 of Xerxes' brothers were killed too.
Historians conclude that Leonidas made the last stand as a rearguard to allow his Allies to retreat. He saved many lives that day by sacrificing his own.
It was a hail of arrows that finally killed the Spartans, after they gave more than 3000 men a chance to retreat, which opened up the pass far enough that the Persians couldn’t be held back any longer.
Ignoring Hyper-masculinity for a moment, i think Leonidas was a remarkable military leader. A great tactician and an honorable superior.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Tom