Assess the contribution of Athens to the Greek victory in the Persian wars

Essay by ChowbearHigh School, 12th grade January 2007

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Greece's conflicts with Persia in the Persian Wars lasted from around 499 BC until 448 BC and through Greece's multiple victories at Marathon, Salamis, Plataea and Mycale, eventually ended with Persia being repulsed. As one of the two super powers of ancient Greece, Athens played a considerable role in the Persian Wars. This can only be said as far as that it was in fact the genius of the Athenian leaders more then Athens as a state which contributed greatly to the Greek victory over the Persians, mainly through their tactics, unification and preparation of the Greek and Athenian forces. If we are to explore Athens contributions to victory during the war it is only fair to look at the hindrances that they too brought to the war effort in order to make an informed decision. It is also important to acknowledge that the luck of the Greeks played a particularly important role as well as the incompetence and arrogance of the Persian king Xerxes.

Xerxes became king of Persia after his father Darius died and like him lead an army to conquer Greece. Through Plutarch's account of the Persian Wars, Xerxes gullibility leads him to be manipulated more then once by Themistocles to great effect. Through misinformation, Themistocles tricks Xerxes into believing that he is a traitor and warns him to attack the Greek fleet at Salamis before they can escape and consequently, Xerxes loses the sea battle at Salamis. Strangely, Plutarch notes that Xerxes is tricked a second time by Themistocles where Xerxes receives a message from Themistocles warning him to withdraw back to Persia before the bridge spanning the Hellespont is destroyed, although the Greeks had no intention of destroying the bridge at trapping the Persian Army in Greece, and Xerxes believes the word of...