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Greco-Persian Wars

The Greco-Persian Wars or Persian Wars or Medic Wars were a series of conflicts between several Greek city-states and the Persian Empire that started about 500 BC and lasted until 448 BC. The expression "Persian Wars" usually refers to both of the two Persian invasions of the Greek mainland in 490 BC and in 480-479 BC; in both cases, the allied Greeks successfully repelled the invasions. Not all Greeks fought against the Persians; some were neutral and others allied with Persia, especially as its massive armies approached.

What is known today is derived primarily from Greek sources (mainly Herodotus), and to a lesser extent some Roman writings. The Persians enter Greek history after they conquered the Lydians
and the Greek city-states of Ionia that were previously controlled by the Lydians. When in 499 BC an attempt to help restore the aristocrats in Naxos failed, the Ionians rebelled against the Persians. Token aid was sent from the Greek mainland, especially Athens, but this failed to prevent a Persian victory. Persian General Mardonius campaigned in 492 BC in Thrace to consolidate Persian power but was stopped by a storm. An amphibious force under Datis and Artaphernes razed Eretria but was defeated in Marathon a few days later by General Miltiades of Athens.

Ten years later, in 480 BC, after massive preparation King Xerxes led a huge force to subjugate Greece. A small force of about 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians led by King Leonidas of Sparta held off a Persian army of more than 200,000. For three days at Thermopylae the Greeks fought a desperate action to delay the entry of the Persians into the Greek heartland. They caused huge causualties, but all were eventually killed in the battle. Now in Greece proper, the Persians sacked and razed the city of Athens under the orders of Xerxes, but the Persian fleet was defeated in the battle of Salamis. Xerxes left Mardonius with part of the original force to finish the job and fled to Asia Minor. The next year Mardonius was defeated and killed in the battle of Plataea; the remaining Persian fleet was destroyed in the battle of Mycale. The Greek fleet sailed to the Hellespont where the Athenians and the freshly-liberated Ionians besieged Sestus.

In the next year the Spartans under Pausanias campaigned for the last time in Byzantium which fell after a siege. Pausanias was recalled and the Athenians continued alone. They set up the Delian
League to continue the fight. The Persians were first driven from Thrace and then, after the battle of Eurymedon from Ionia. The war moved to Cyprus and then Egypt, after it revolted against the Persians. Sparta became alarmed over the power of Athens, which controlled the Delian League, and declared war. Athens was eventually defeated in Egypt, came to peace with Sparta and signed the Peace of Callias with Persia. With that peace Cyprus returned to Persia which was forced out of the Aegean. The war ended, but the Greeks and the Persians continued to meddle in each other's affairs until Persia was conquered by a Hellenic force unified by the Macedonian, Alexander the Great.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
15 Mar 2007

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The Greeks, The Lydians and The Persians

The Lydians of Western Asia Minor were the first nations to conquer the Asiatic Greeks. Alyattes
II first made war on Miletus which ended with a treaty of alliance between Miletus and Lydia, which meant that Miletus would have internal autonomy but follow Lydia in foreign affairs. Thus they sent an army to aid him in his war against the Medes. During a battle between the Lydians and the Medes a total solar eclipse took place, believed to be that of May 28, 585 BC, which had been predicted by Thales the Milesian. The battle was suspended out of alarm, peace was signed that was strengthened by a royal marriage, and the river Halys was set up as the frontier between the Lydians and the Medes. Croesus succeeded his father in 560 BC and made war on the other Greek city states of Asia Minor. He conquered them and forced them to pay tribute but did not extend his realm to the islands of the Aegean.

Cyrus the Great rebelled against the Medes in 554 BC/553 BC and after four years conquered the Medes and founded the Persian Empire. Croesus saw this as an opportunity to extend his realm and asked the oracle of Delphi whether he should make war. The Oracle replied with one of its more famous answers, that if Croesus was to cross the river Halys he would destroy a great empire. Croesus did not realise the ambiguity of the statement and marched to war but was defeated and his capital fell to Cyrus. The Greek city-states then sent messenger to Cyrus asking to have the same terms as under Croesus but, with the exception of Miletus, Cyrus refused, saying they should have asked while the outcome of the war was undecided, as had Miletus. Cyrus then conquered Assyria before he died. His successor Cambyses II

regarded the Ionians and Aiolians as slaves inherited from his father; and he proceeded to march an army against Egypt, taking with him as helpers not only the other nations of which he was the ruler, but also those of the Hellenes over whom he had power besides (Herodotus II,1 translated by G. C. Macaulay)

Persian satraps of Asia Minor installed tyrants in most of Ionian cities and forced Greeks to pay taxes for the "King of Kings." The campaign against Egypt in 525 BC was successful when the Cypriot cities, Polycrates of Samos (both of whom had a fleet) and the leader of the Greek mercenaries of Egypt Phanes of Halicarnassus came to his side. This conquest increased discontent with the Persians due to a reduction in trade because Phoenicians, who had willingly joined the Persian empire earlier took part of the market. Furthermore the fall of the Greek colony Sybaris in Southern Italy in 510 BC closed the western markets for the Ionian city states. In the mean time Darius the Great, Cambyses' successor conquered Libya and part of India, thus creating a massive empire.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
15 Mar 2007

Xerxes' Invasion

Preparation and size of the Persian forces
Immediately following the return of Datis's expedition, Darius began preparations for a second, full-scale invasion of Greece. On the fourth year after the battle Babylonia and Egypt both revolted against Persian rule, delaying the preparations. In 486 BC, Darius passed away, leaving the empire and the war against the Greeks to his son and successor, Xerxes
I. In 480 BC, after roughly 4 years of preparation, Xerxes I mounted a massive expedition against Greece. Herodotus gives the names of 46 nations from which troops were drafted. The campaign was delayed one year because of another revolt in Egypt and Babylonia. The Persian army was gathered in Asia Minor in the summer and autumn of 481 BC. The army of the Eastern satrapies was gathered in Kritala of Cappadocia and was led by Xerxes to Sardis where it passed the winter. Early on spring it moved to Abydos where it was joined with the army of the western satrapies. The numbers regarding the force he mustered for the invasion against Greece, given by Herodotus, have been a subject of endless dispute.

Herodotus gives the following numbers for the invasion forces:

Fleet crew:517,610
Arabs and Libyans:20,000
Greek allies324,000

This number needs to be at least doubled in order to account for support troops and thus Herodotus reports that the whole troop numbered 5,283,220 men, an estimate that has been rejected by modern historians. Other ancient sources give other numbers. The poet Simonides, who was a near-contemporary, talks of four million. Ctesias of Cnedus who, as mentioned earlier, was Artaxerxes
Mnemon's personal physician wrote a history of Persia according to Persian sources that unfortunately has not survived, and gives 800,000 as the total number of the original army that met in Doriskos. Modern scholars have proposed different numbers for the invasion force, estimations based on knowledge of the Persian military systems, their logistical capabilities, the Greek countryside, and supplies available along the army's route, especially water.

One school of thought rejects the figures given in ancient texts as exaggerations on the part of the victors. Based on analysis of the resources available to armies of the ancient era, the Persian force was between 60,000 and 120,000 combatants, plus a retinue of non-combatants made larger because of the presence of the Persian king and high-ranking nobility. The upper limit was 250,000 total land forces. The main reason most often given for these values is a lack of water; Sir Frederick Maurice , a British
in World War I, was among the first to claim that the army could not have surpassed 175,000 due to lack of water.

A second school contends that ancient sources do give realistic numbers. According to the texts the Greeks at the end of the battle of Plataea mustered 110,000 (Herodotus) or 100,000 (Pompeius) troops: 38,700 hoplites and 71,300 or 61,300 peltasts respectively, the difference probably being 10,000 helots. In that battle, according to Herodotus, they faced 300,000 Persians and 50,000 Greek allies. This gives a 3-to-1 ratio for the two armies, which proponents of the school consider a realistic proportion.

Furthermore, Munro and Macan argue for realism based on Herodotus giving the names of 6 major commanders and 29 µ???a???? (muriarxoi)—leaders of the baivabaram, the basic unit of the Persian infantry, which numbered about 10,000 strong. As troops were lost through attrition, the Persians preferred to dissolve crippled baivabarams to replenish the ranks of others.
It is therefore likely that the units were at full strength. Adding casualties of the battles and attrition due to the need to guard cities and strategic obtains a force of 400,000 minimum.

According to that view lack of water is not the determining force. The available surface water in Greece today satisfies the needs of a much larger population than the number Xerxes' troops, though the majority of that water is used for irrigation.

Nicholas Hammond accepts 300,000 Persians at the battle of Plataea, though he claims that the numbers at Doriskos were smaller, without explaining how the change in numbers happened. The metrologist Livio Catullo Stecchini (who was a controversial figure) argues that Ctesias' figure of 800,000 battle troops for the Persian army was accurate and that Herodotus figure of 1,700,000 includes both battle and support troops. Dr. Manousos Kampouris argues that Herodotus' 1,700,000 for the infantry plus 80,000 cavalry (including support) is very realistic for various reasons including the size of the area from which the army was drafted (from modern-day Libya to Pakistan), the lack of security against spies, the ratios of land troops to fleet troops, of infantry to cavalry and Persian troops to Greek troops.
On the other hand Christos Romas believes that the Persian troops accompanying Xerxes were a little over 400,000.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
18 Mar 2007