Persian Wars

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The Persian Wars

In 519 BC Darius I ascended the throne of the expanding empire of

Persia. A group of people called the Ionians, lived along the coast of Asia

Minor. They were under Persian rule, having been conquered by Emperor

Cyrus (ruled 550-530 BC), and at this time were unhappy about their


In 499 BC Aristagoras, the leader Miletus, one of the city-states,

organized a revolt of all the rest of the city-states along the coast. Darius

managed however, to subdue things in a five-year campaign. After this

long sought victory, Darius became bent on revenge against Athens, one of

the few states outside the area that had helped the rebles. He appealed to

Sparta to attack Athens from behind, but the Spartans saw straight

through his planned conquest of Greece and threw his envoy in a well.

The Persian army then landed at Marathon in 490 BC.

The 10,000

Athenian infantry were supported only by a small group of soldiers from

Plataea (Sparta procrastinated because it was in the middle of a festival),

but nevertheless the Athenians defeated the Persian archers and cavalry

through a series of ingenious maneuvers.

Darius died in 485 BC before his plans for another attempt reached

fruition, so it was left to his son Xerxes to fulfill his father's ambition of

conquering Greece. In 480 BC Xerxes gathered men from every nation of

his far-flung empire and launched a coordinated invasion by army and

navy, the size of which the world had never seen. The historian Herodotus

gave five million as the number of Persian soldiers. No doubt this was a

gross exaggeration, but it was obvious Xerxes intended to give the Greeks

more than a bloody nose.

The Persians dug a canal near present-day Ierissos so that their

navy could bypass...