The Persian Wars Essay - The Persian Wars Christian Eckles V0074300 GRS331 In 490 BC King Darius I of Persia would begin the first in a series of

The Persian Wars Essay - The Persian Wars Christian Eckles...

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The Persian Wars Christian Eckles V0074300 GRS331
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In 490 BC, King Darius I of Persia would begin the first in a series of campaigns aimed at conquering the Greek city states. These campaigns, The Persian Wars, would be amongst the most important in antiquity, and become a testament to the resiliency and fortitude of the Greeks. Despite the overwhelming number of Persian combatants, the Greek forces (lead by Athens and Sparta) were victorious, and succeeded in preserving their cultures from assimilation and possible destruction. When examining the battles associated with this conflict however, Persia’s defeat is truly surprising. How was the most vast and powerful empire of the ancient world beaten by a small coalition of city states? While there are numerous reasons for this unlikely outcome, the factors which contributed most to Persia’s defeat were the immense size of its invasion force coupled with noteworthy strategic errors, and improper equipment. After the successful conquest of Thrace and sack of Eretria in 492-490 BC, Darius pressed his forces onward, and proceeded to land at Marathon with the intent of reaching Athens. The battle which erupted would be the first between the Persians and Athenians on the Greek mainland, and was of paramount importance to survival of Athens. For the Persians, a victory at Marathon would open the door to further conquests in Greece, and offered Darius an opportunity to exact revenge upon the Athenians for their role in the Ionian Revolt. The uprising of the Ionian Greeks in 499 BC had been the spark which first ignited Darius’ hatred for Athens, and prompted the invasion of Greece. The Athenians had assisted the Ionians in their revolution by providing troops, and in their initial assault into Persian territory successfully captured and razed the city of Sardis. Unfortunately for the Greeks, this victory would be short lived: During their withdrawal Greek forces were decisively defeated by the Persians, and the Ionian revolt was eventually crushed 494 BC. The destruction of Sardis was not forgotten by Darius however, and Herodotus records his reaction to the Athenian’s involvement in the revolt: “When it was reported to King
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Darius that Sardis had been taken and burned by the Athenians and Ionians, and that the leader of the joint attempt to bring about this was Aristagoras of Miletos, it is said that, first, when he learned this, he paid no attention to the Ionians, knowing well that they would not escape punishment for their revolt, but asked who the Athenians were, and, after learning this, called for his bow, took it, fitted an arrow, and shot it up to the sky, and as he did so said, ‘Zeus, grant that I may punish the Athenians!’ After saying this, he ordered one of his servants to say to him three times every day before dinner ‘Sire, remember the Athenians’.” 1 Thus, at Marathon the stage was finally set for Darius to strike the killing blow against Athens: The Persians brought to bear an invasion force upwards of 20,000 men, while the defending Athenians and Plataeans were significantly fewer in number. Many Greek states had chosen to
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