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Greco-Persian Wars Lecture notes

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Darryl Dee

th September 17 1. The Greco-Persian Wars • Herodotus and his “Historia” - Herodotus, born 484 BCE, was labeled the “father of history” because he recorded the conflict between the Greeks and the Persians - This is our principal primary source for the wars - Called his work “researches” or “historia” - Herodotus claims that the Persian wars were a cause of series of events that eventually led to violence - 2 Characteristics that Herodotus stressed: the violence of war and although he was equal handed, Herodotus only kept account the Persian point of view • Xerxes and the Second Persian Invasion of Greece - In 490 BCE, Great King Darius launched the first Persian invasion of Greece, an operation to punish Athens and the other city states for helping the Ionian Revolt - But Athens defeated the invasion army at the Battle of Marathon - After Darius died, his son Xerxes continued the plans to conquest Greece and gathers all his troops from every satrapy (province) of his empire - Herodotus states there were 1.2 million Persians, but modern historians estimate it at 250,000 men - Xerxes called up the imperial navy made up of men from Phoenicians, Egyptians and Ionian Greeks totaling 1,207 ships • Greek Defensive Preparations - On the eve of the Persian Invasion, the Greek city-states joined together into an alliance under the leadership of Athens and Sparta; however some city states remained neutral and others sided with the Persians - Sparta would lead the Greek allies on land, composed of 10,000 hoplites for its core of the defense - Sparta’s kings would be the supreme commanders - Athens made its major effort at sea; the statesmen and soldier Themistocles convinced the Athenians to use a rich silver strike from the city’s mines at Laurium to build a fleet - Athens built 300 triremes, the state of the art warship at the time - The terrain of Thermopylae gave the Greeks a defensive advantage, allowing a smaller army to ward off a larger one - Also, it prevented the Persians to use cavalry because of the mountainous terrain - While the land military defended Thermopylae, the navy stayed at the cape of Artemisium to face off with the Persian Navy - When the Persian invasion approached Greece in 480 BCE, the Spartans were celebrating the religious festivals of Cadmeia and Olympia - To avoid the wrath of the gods, they refused to dispatch their main army to the pass of Thermopylae until after the festivals were over - The Spartans decided to send one of their kings, Leonidas, with a picked force of 300 hoplites; they were to join an army of hoplites from other cities - This force would act as an “advance guard” to hold the pass against the Persians until the main Greek allied army could arrive while the navy deployed to Artemisium 2. Thermopylae • The Battle - A mountain path that led to the rear of Greek Position was defended by the 1000 Phocians and built the Phocian Wall to seal it off - Xerxes waits 4 days to try and get more Greeks to turn , but after that, Xerxes began the battle by sending the Medes against the Greeks - The Medes were being beat and Xerxes reinforced them with Persian troops from Susa but the same results occurred - The pass was too narrow for the Persians to unleash a heavy barrage of arrows, nullifying their advantage in archery - Spartans used a tactic of feigned retreat: they would pretend to flee, draw in the Persians and turn around and kill them - The climax of the day was when the Persian Immortals attacked the Spartan hoplites, the Immortals drew heavy losses and Xerxes called off the attacks for the day - The Persian army are running out of supplies and must go back to their homeland to get food and resources • The Last Stand - A Greek traitor Ephialtes tells Xerxes about the mountain path leading to the Greek’s rear position and Ephialtes leads the Persian Immortals there - The Phocians retreat their position and the Persians go through the path; Leonidas finds out and tells everyone to leave but the 300 men that were chosen. In the end, the rest of the Greek troops stay - On the third day, Leonidas leads the troops to the Phocian wall into a wider part of the pass - Leonidas has the weaker troops fight first, then followed by his elite troops - At this time, Leonidas is killed and the Persians and Spartans fight for the body - The Greek army is trapped and surrounded and shot down allowing the Persians to advance • Thermopylae’s Significance - The Persians claim the city state of Boeotia and forces Thebes to betray the Greek effort and advance further south to occupy Athens - During the Battle of Salamis, the Greeks fight the Persian imperial fl
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