When a small group of patriots stood against one of the largest and most formidable armies ever assembled, there was little hope that they could emerge victorious.

Yet although they were outnumbered by at least 50-to-1, the patriots stood their ground, holding off the forces of the tyrant for a remarkable seven days, including three solid days of pitched combat.

No matter what the tyrant threw at them, the patriots inflicted terrible damage on the invaders. Even so, each attack took a toll on the defenders as well, and things looked grim.

They could have all survived if they had just surrendered when the invading ruler demanded.

But the patriots knew that slavery awaited their country if their small band gave in to the tyrant’s threats, and they were willing to give their lives to prevent that fate. Thus, when the invaders ordered them to surrender their weapons, the patriots’ leader had an answer ready:

“Molon labe.” (Come and take them.)

Those patriots were a force of some 7,000 Greeks that almost 2,500 years ago met the army of the Persian king Xerxes I at the narrow strip of land called Thermopylae (“Hot Gates”).

Led by King Leonidas, a contingent of 300 Spartans were at the forefront of the fighting. It was only after being betrayed by a civilian turned spy that Leonidas sent the main force of the Greek army back to Athens and remained with his Spartans and a few hundred other Greek soldiers to guard the rear against the Persian army, which has been numbered at between 300,000 and 1 million.

Those Spartans long ago became legend, and their last stand has been immortalized by historians, artists, writers and in two Hollywood movies.

The Spartans were superior fighters and notoriously calm even in the face of death (in fact, it’s from the Spartan suburb of Laconia that we get the word “laconic”). The man reckoned the bravest of all the Spartans was Dienekes, who served under Leonidas. When told by a fellow Greek that the Persian archers were so numerous their arrows would blot out the sun, Dienekes replied, “Good. Then we will fight in the shade.”

But it’s Leonidas’ simple phrase, molon labe, that has inspired soldiers and patriots throughout the ages.

It is an expression of defiance in the face of overwhelming odds or the threat of violence that tells any would-be oppressor that you’re not going down without giving a painful fight.

It’s a warning to dictators and villains that here stands someone willing to fight to the bitter end in defense of liberty.

And it’s a phrase that is being given fresh strength as it is uttered again in America.

The Left can pretend all it wants that it means no harm and only wishes to be “reasonable” in its current play to deprive Americans of their rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

But liberals better understand for their own sakes that there are Americans who realize what’s really going on and what’s at stake, who know their history and see clearly where this Administration wants to take our country by taking our guns.

Molon labe.