The Persian Wars SS.6.W.3.4
The Persian Empire • The Persians started out as a small tribe in present-day Iran. • They built a large empire by conquering their neighbors. • At its height, the Persian Empire was the largest empire the world had ever known. • King Darius reigned during this period.
The Ionian Revolt • In 546 B.C.E. the Persians had conquered the wealthy Greek settlements in Ionia. • The Ionians knew they could not defeat the Persians alone, so they asked mainland Greece for help. • Athens sent soldiers and a small fleet of ships. • Unfortunately, the Athenians went home after their initial success, and the Ionian army lost control of the region.
The Battle of Marathon • Angered by the aid Greece offered during the Ionian revolt, King Darius decided to conquer mainland Greece as well. • He demanded the Greeks obey him and pay tribute, but they refused. • In 490 B.C.E., Darius, furious at the Greeks for their refusal to pay, sent a large army across the Aegean Sea to Greece. • They assembled on the plain of Marathon.
The Battle of Marathon Continued • A brilliant general named Miltiades convinced the other Greek commanders to fight the Persians at Marathon…except the Spartans who were celebrating a religious festival and refused to come. • Although Miltiades was left with far fewer men than the Persians, he decided to attack.
The Strategy of Miltiades • At Marathon, Miltiades ordered the center portion of his army to advance. • When the Persians also came forward, he ordered the left and right sides of his army to sweep down and attack the Persians from the sides as well. • The Greeks won a stunning victory, but their fight with the Persians had just begun.
The Empire Strikes Back! • After King Darius died, his son, Xerxes, organized another attack on Greece. • He put together a huge army of more than 180,000 soldiers. • To get his army to Greece, Xerxes chose to cross the Hellespont, a narrow sea channel between Europe and Asia. • There he made 2 bridges by roping hundreds of boats together with wooden boards across their bows. • Then he walked his army across the channel into Europe.
Time to Work Together • Several Greek city-states were overwhelmed, so Athens and Sparta decided they had to come together to fight their enemy. • The Athenian navy would try to stop the Persian navy, and the Spartan army, led by King Leonidas, would try to stop the Persian army. • The Spartans chose to make their stand at a place called Thermopylae, where the Persian army would have to go through a narrow pass between the mountains and the sea.
Leonidas Makes a Tough Decision • Leonidas has only 6,000-7,000 Greek troops under his command to stop 180,000 Persians. • They were able to hold off the Persians for awhile, but then a Greek traitor led the Persians through a mountain path that would allow them to attack the Greeks from more than one angle.
The Battle of ThermopylaeYep, we finally made it to the 300! • Surrounded, Leonidas knew that he could only delay the Persian advance. • To keep his army from being destroyed, he ordered most of his troops to escape. • With a much smaller army, including 300 Spartans, he prepared to fight. • Although they fought bravely, all 300 were killed.
Time for Plan B! • When the news of the slaughter at Thermopylae reached Athens, most people panicked and fled. • Themistocles, an Athenian navy leader, decided to try to fight the Persian navy in the narrow channels between the islands and the mainland. • The Athenians knew those waterways well, and the Persians would find it hard to maneuver their ships around the Greek navy.
The Battle of Salamis • Themistocles set a trap for the Persian navy near a place called Salamis. • He sent a loyal slave to Xerxes’ camp with a message that Themistocles wanted to change sides and join the Persians. • If Xerxes attacked now, he said, half the Greek sailors would surrender.
The Battle of Salamis Continued • Xerxes fell for the trick and ordered his ships to enter the narrow waterway. • As the Persians approached, the Greek ships seemed to retreat in order to throw them off. • Really, they were just trying to lure them deeper into the channel. • Soon, the Persian ships were surrounded, and the Greeks sank 300 Persian ships. • The Greeks only lost 40 ships!
The Battle of Plataea • After the defeat at Salamis, Xerxes left the rest of his army in Greece with orders to attack again in the spring of 479 B.C.E. • When spring arrived, the Persians approached Athens once more, and a decisive battle took place near the town of Plataea. • Led by the Spartans, a force of 80,000 Greek troops destroyed the Persian army, and the threat from the Persian Empire was over. • This important victory preserved the Greeks’ independence.