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Clash of the Titans: The Persian Wars. Previously…. 500 BC: A rebellion against Darius in Ionia is supported by the Greek city-state of Athens 492 BC: Darius launches an invasion of Greece 490 BC: The Greeks and the Persians meet at the Battle of Marathon. The Contenders. The Persians.

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  • 500 BC: A rebellion against Darius in Ionia is supported by the Greek city-state of Athens
  • 492 BC: Darius launches an invasion of Greece
  • 490 BC: The Greeks and the Persians meet at the Battle of Marathon
the contenders
The Contenders

The Persians

The Greeks

  • 100,000 Infantry
    • Some say 200,000-600,000
  • 1,000 Cavalry
  • Total: 101,000
  • 9,000-10,000 Athenians
  • 1,000 Plataeans
  • Total: 11,000
arms and armor
Arms and Armor
  • Greek soldiers were called hoplites – heavily armored infantry (foot soldiers)
  • Hoplites fight in the phalanx – a rectangular formation where soldiers stand shoulder to shoulder
the immortals1
The Immortals
  • The Immortals were heavy, Persian infantry shock troops that generally wore black tiaras that covered their faces
  • They are called Immortals because there were never less than 10,000 of them
    • A sick, injured, or dead Immortal was immediately replaced to maintain the unit
the battle of marathon
The Battle of Marathon
  • Darius wants revenge for Athens aiding the rebellion against him
    • He’s so angry he orders one of his servants to stand next to him during his meals and say “Sire, remember the Athenians.”
  • Darius’ army lands at Marathon and is soundly defeated
    • Pheidippedes runs 26 miles back to Athens to shout “Nike-Victory! We win!” before collapsing dead
let s get ready to rumble
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble
  • Persia is humiliated by the defeat at Marathon
    • First crack in the invincible Persian military machine
    • Darius I dies before he can launch a second invasion
    • After seeing the defeat at Marathon, rebellions break out all over the Persian Empire
  • Darius’ son Xerxes intends to destroy Athens
xerxes may have been a little crazy
Xerxes may have been (a little) Crazy

Xerxes tried to cross the Hellespont, a strait of water between Europe and Asia

    • A storm came up and sank his bridge
  • Orders his men to whip the Hellespont!
    • Even had his men throw handcuffs into the water
    • “You hateful water, our master lays his judgment on you thus, for you have unjustly punished him even though he's done you no wrong! Xerxes the king will pass over you, whether you wish it or not! It is fitting that no man offer you sacrifices, for you're a muddy and salty river!” – Xerxes (Herodotus, Histories)
the battle of thermopylae 480 bc
The Battle of Thermopylae, 480 BC
  • Along with Marathon, this is one of the most important battles in human history
  • Themistocles, an Athenian general, learns from Marathon that the way to defeat Persia is with the navy
    • Appeals to Sparta for help
    • Athens will fight the naval war, Sparta the land war
    • Sparta answers the call
300 spartans
300 Spartans
  • Leonidas, King of Sparta, marched his personal guard of 300 Spartans north to Thermopylae
    • By the time they arrived over 7,000 had joined them
  • Sparta would hold Persia off at Thermopylae, a narrow pass on the road to Athens
  • Athens would fight at the Artemisium Straits
the last stand
The Last Stand
  • For 3 days Leonidas and the Spartans hold off close to 300,000 Persians
    • When the Persians discover a way to outflank the Greeks, Leonidas orders his 300 into the pass to hold off the attack while the rest of the army retreats
  • All 300 Spartans, including Leonidas, die
    • The Greek army and navy escape to fight another day
    • Thermopylae was a Persian victory
  • Xerxes marches on Athens and burns it to the ground
    • His (ridiculously stupid) actions unite all of Greece against him
  • Themistocles and the Athenian navy defeat the Persians at Salamis
    • The Persians lose 1200 ships
  • The Persian Army is wiped out at Plataea in 479 BC
    • Persia loses 257,000 soldiers in this one battle
  • Athens and Sparta stand alone as masters of the Aegean
  • Athens enters a golden age of empire
  • The Battles of Marathon and Thermopylae save democracy in the western world
    • But soon, Athens and Sparta will be fighting each other…