Persian Wars

  • War between ancient Greek city-states and Persia
  • Based from a big part on writings from Herodotus
  • 492 – 449 BC
  • Ionian revolt

    • Greek city-states in Anatolia were under Persian control
    • They revolted in 499 – 494 BC
      • A map showing main events
      • Led by Aristagoras, the tyrant of Miletus
        • He asks Sparta and Athens to help him Spartans declined, but Athens came to help
          • Probably because former Athenian tyrant Hippias was exiled in Persia and seemed to be planning his return to power
          • Athens mustered a fleet of 20 ships supplemented by 4 additional ships from from another polis called Eretria
            • The revolt spread after the battle of Sardis (498 BC) (important persian outpost)
      • In 494 BC, the revolt was finally crushed
        • Miletus was sacked and burned as a revenge for the destruction of Sardis
  • After the revolt, Persians went demanding earth and water as a symbol of surrendering
    • Sacrilige in Athens and Sparta
      • When the convoy came to Athens, they were killed
      • When the convoy came to Sparta, the Spartans threw them into a well and told them to get their own earth and water

  • Persians invade mainland Greece
    • Their first target is Eritrea, they land there and destroy it
    • Battle of Marathon

      • 490 BC
      • Athenians and Persians (under their king Darius) meet north of Athens
      • Surprising decisive Greek victory
        • Mostly because of the hoplite tactics and much more effective and heavy armor
      • Athenian general in charge, Miltiades, puts the best troops off to the side, where they can attack Persian flanks
        • It worked great and Herodotus tells us the final causulties were 192 Greeks over 6,000 Persians
      • There’s the story of the famous runner Pheidippides, who ran from Athens to Sparta to deliver the news
      • Miltiades dedicated a helmet after this battle at the temple of Zeus in Olympia
    • Greeks have mitigated the Persian threat for a while

  • Xerxes (Darius' son) decides to finish what his father has begun
    • He builds a bridge over the Hellenspont
      • But a storm comes and breaks it
        • Xerxes gets so furious that he has the body of water flogged with whips, branded with irons, and he tosses chains into it to fetter the Hellenspont
    • The bridge is built and the Persians undertake parallel progress towards Greece
      • Land forces making their way along the coast parallel to the naval forces (see map below)
    • Battle of Thermopylae

      • 480 BC
      • Took place at a narrow coastal pass
        • Thermopylae means hot gates (there were hot springs)
      • Greeks were lead by the Spartan king Leonidas
        • Only 7,000 (300 of which were Spartans) Greeks (against 70,000–300,000 Persians)
      • Persian victory
        • Spartans held off wave after wave until a Greek trader led the Persians around the other sids
        • Greeks, especially Spartans, fought to the death
          • Around 4,000 greek casualties compared to 10,000–20,000 persian casualties
        • Leonidas is killed
  • Evacuation of Attica

    • Decree of Themistocles orders Athenians to evacuate
    • Persians eventually come to Athens
      • They kill the few remaining defenders
      • The sack and burn the city
  • Battle of Salamis

    • Delphi said the Athenians could trust their wooden walls
      • Athenians interpreted that to mean their ships
    • Later that year of 480 BC, the two fleets confront each other
      • The Greek fleet (led by Athenians under Themistocles) and the Persian fleet
    • Themistocles lures Persians into the narrow waters of the straits near the island of Salamis
      • Aristedes the Just was recalled from his ostracism and commanded a small troop the little island
      • The smaller, faster, more maneuverable Greek fleet had the upper hand here
    • Greek victory
      • 371–378 ships (Greeks, 40 causulties) vs. ~600-1200 ships (Persian, 200–300 causulties)
      • Xerxes flees back overland
  • Battle of Plataea

    • 479 BC
    • The Persian army under the command of Mardonius stays in Greece
    • On land with the Spartans in command under their king Pausania
    • Total Greek victory
      • Around 80,000 (modern consensus) to 110,000 (Herodous) Greeks vs 70,000–120,000 (modern consensus) or 350,000 (Herodotus) Persians
      • Persians, as per usual, had about 10 times more casualties
  • After this war Sparta and Athens have definitley risen to a position of hegemony in Greece
    • Formation of the Delian League
  • Peace of Callias

    • Pericles oficially ended the war between Athens and Persia