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The Persian WarsChristian EcklesV0074300GRS331
In 490 BC, King Darius I of Persia would begin the first in a series of campaigns aimed atconquering the Greek city states. These campaigns, The Persian Wars, would be amongst themost 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 andSparta) were victorious, and succeeded in preserving their cultures from assimilation andpossible destruction. When examining the battles associated with this conflict however, Persia’sdefeat is truly surprising. How was the most vast and powerful empire of the ancient worldbeaten by a small coalition of city states? While there are numerous reasons for this unlikelyoutcome, the factors which contributed most to Persia’s defeat were the immense size of itsinvasion force coupled with noteworthy strategic errors, and improper equipment.After the successful conquest of Thrace and sack of Eretria in 492-490 BC, Dariuspressed 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 Greekmainland, and was of paramount importance to survival of Athens. For the Persians, a victory atMarathon would open the door to further conquests in Greece, and offered Darius an opportunityto exact revenge upon the Athenians for their role in the Ionian Revolt. The uprising of the IonianGreeks in 499 BC had been the spark which first ignited Darius’ hatred for Athens, and promptedthe invasion of Greece. The Athenians had assisted the Ionians in their revolution by providingtroops, and in their initial assault into Persian territory successfully captured and razed the city ofSardis. Unfortunately for the Greeks, this victory would be short lived: During their withdrawalGreek forces were decisively defeated by the Persians, and the Ionian revolt was eventuallycrushed 494 BC. The destruction of Sardis was not forgotten by Darius however, and Herodotusrecords his reaction to the Athenian’s involvement in the revolt: “When it was reported to King
Darius that Sardis had been taken and burned by the Athenians and Ionians, and that the leaderof the joint attempt to bring about this was Aristagoras of Miletos, it is said that, first, when helearned this, he paid no attention to the Ionians, knowing well that they would not escapepunishment for their revolt, but asked who the Athenians were, and, after learning this, called forhis bow, took it, fitted an arrow, and shot it up to the sky, and as he did so said, ‘Zeus, grant thatI may punish the Athenians!’ After saying this, he ordered one of his servants to say to him threetimes 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 defendingAthenians and Plataeans were significantly fewer in number. Many Greek states had chosen to