CLASS 2035: Glory of Athens & Shadow of Sparta
Classics Major Essay
What advantages did Xerxes enjoy when he invaded Greece in 480 BC and why did he not gain victory over the Greeks?
Cormac Griffin (A1177407)
The victory of the Greeks over the Persians in the Second Persian War is, to this day, one of the peaks of Hellenic history. Arguably, this is because the result was so unforeseen. The disjointed and fragmented Greeks, divided by rivalry and infighting, took on the might of the Persian Empire, the greatest Empire the world had yet seen. Further, Xerxes, the Persian ruler, had recognised and learned from the mistakes of his father's earlier incursion into Greece and had prepared a massive army for the arduous campaign. Surely only one outcome was possible: the total subjugation of Greece. This essay explores the advantages Xerxes enjoyed when he invaded Greece, particularly his preparations and his armies' military prowess, and then analyses why he lost the war.
Some unusual explanations for this loss are not explored - for example, historians of the time argued that the doom of Xerxes and his armies was willed by the gods: "Xerxes' egotism is not so much a sin as an indication of celestial disfavour."Ã¯Â¿Â½ Other possible explanations, such as excessive Persian hubris and tyrannical behaviour contrasting with Greek freedom, also seem implausible explanations. Of much more illuminating power are the views of the analytical Thucydides who observed that the Persians were beaten mainly by their alacrity and errors in judgement.Ã¯Â¿Â½ Ultimately, superior military tactics and intelligence, particularly in naval engagements, the strain of maintaining a vast and overextended Empire, key Persian mistakes and the very prosaic issue of poor supply lines all combined to bring the Emperor's armies to a crushing defeat.
The two inter-related...