Persian Wars, Conflict and Timeline

Persian Wars were a historical moment that involved two great nations—Greece and Persia. The relation between the two great empires before the war was very heated. The king of Persia considered the Greeks a threat and believed that they had to be destroyed. Before the open war broke out there was an incident that led to it. Commonly it is called the Ionian revolt that took place in the pre-war time. The Greek cities became involved, as they were demanding and fighting for their independence (Nossov, 2012). During the Dark ages, a lot of people from ancient Greek tribes moved to live on the coast of Asia Minor. They had created their culture and established a piece that would not allow any other cities to join. According to Herodotus, the union was very weak and no one had any plans to become a part of it. At that time, Sparta became one of the strongest places in Greece and had a positive and close relationship with Lidia. Eventually, they established a union, around 550 B.C. In 500 B.C. Greeks of Miletus revolted against Persian ruling and this became the start of the conflict. Miletus received 25 ships as help, which gave the ability king Darius I to announce a war to Greeks, after the Miletus revolt was put down (Mikalson, 2003).

The start of the war was in 490 B.C. The army of Darius consisted of a hundred thousand men, which came onto the shore of Attika near a place of Marafon, located 42 kilometers away from Athens. The Athenian army had ten thousand men and was led by ten strategists, the main of which was Miltiad. Another thousand men joined from the city of Platea. Herodotus states that Athenians lost 195 men and Persians 6400 (Molyneux, 1992). The strategy of Athenians was to make sure that the Persian army stays at Marathon. This was accomplished by blocking the places of exit that led from the plains. This meant that they will not be taken by surprise and outmaneuvered. They did not look for open battle and time was working to their advantage, as the arrival of Spartans was getting nearer. So, Athenians stayed in the defense position, which was most beneficial to them (Souza, 2003). Because Persians had a great cavalry, the Athenians knew that the hoplites will be an easy target for them and so, the defense strategy was the best of choices. The Persians were very tactical in their setup and battle. Compared to the heavy ammunition of the Athenians, Persian infantry had light armor. During the battle, their tactics and rank suffered the order of the structure. At the beginning of the battle there were about 1500 meters between the two armies. The Persians were spread out in a long line and so Athenians had to rearrange themselves to make theirs of the same length. Then there was a quick advance by the Athenians. They ran towards the Persians, according to Herodotus. This fact seems questionable, as they had heavy armor and running would be extremely exhaustive to them. One of the versions states that they marched part of the way. After getting to the point where Persian arrows would reach them, which was about 200 meters, they ran (Sandler, 2002). This surprised Persians greatly. The battle lasted a long time and it seemed that Greeks were weaker but eventually they let Persians get into the center and Athenians surrounded them from two sides. This was the deciding point and Persians started to back up to their ships. The person who was in charge of the Athenian army was Miltiades. His tribal leaders were Themistocles and Aristides. Datis was the leader of the Persian army. The Greek armies were always successful in their battles because of their skill and endurance. Their tactics were outstanding. One of the advantages that they possessed was the lighter and more maneuverable ships. The navy was strong tactically when the Greek ships would burn Persian ones and safely getaway. The training that the warriors received was very serious. The children would start their army service very early, at the age of 7 and it would be their major goal in life. Everyday training with experienced warriors, very strict and sometimes violent punishment, created the best soldiers. The determination to never give up or back off was the turning point in all the battles with the Persians. Every time the Persians were shocked that with their great numbers they lost the battles. But the fact that Greeks had lesser numbers was not the factor. Their understanding that wars are won by skill and not numbers was the major point in the battles. The Greeks made wonders with the use of the geography of the area, as well as their defense systems. They used it to their advantage and showed Persians that the ability to predict and calculate was more important than anything else (Pomeroy, 1999).

The Ionian revolt was the start of the major conflict. The Greek settlements rebelled against the Persians, as they wanted to gain their independence. This lasted from 499 to 493 B.C. Persians have assigned tyrants to rule the Ionian cities and two specific tyrants named Histiaeus and Aristagoras have gained much opposition by their actions. Aristagoras was the tyrant at Miletus in 499 B.C. and has made a march with Artaphemes with the plan to take over Naxos. This was unsuccessful and because he feared that he will be removed from his ruling, he provoked Ionia to take up action against Darius the Great who was the king of Persia (Hanson, 2010). The first invasion of Greece took place from 492 to 490 B.C. But the battle of Marathon ended with the win of the Athenians (Greer, 2004). The second invasion of the Greeks was from 480 to 479 B.C. In the year 480 B.C. there were several battles, in August, the battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium and in September, the battle of Salamis. In June of 479 B.C., the battles of Plataea and Mycale were the last ones in the second invasion. The wars of Delian League lasted from 477 B.C. to 449 B.C. During this time, Athens has been the leader in the union of Greek cities, which consisted of 150 to 173 city-states. As the Greeks have defeated Persians in the battle of Plataea at the end of the Second Invasion, the purpose of this Union was to fight the Persian Empire (Cassin-Scott, 2002).

The movie “300 Spartans” depicts the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. It shows strength and skill of 300 men. The Spartans were greatly outnumbered by the Persians but their goal was to hold Persians off long enough, so that the Greeks have time to prepare for battle. The main part of the movie shows the fight in a narrow passageway, which the Persians are forced to go through, as it is the only way. The battle ends when all Spartans die in battle. Compared to the real events that took place, the movie is a lot different. It is not mentioned that they have formed an alliance with other Greek City-States and their numbers were much higher. Also, the fact that the Greeks turned down the alliance with Arcadians in the movie because they are not skilled enough, is not what really happened (Nunnari, 2006).

The movie showed Greeks as very admirable and moral people, making the viewer sympathize with them but in reality, Greeks were also ruthless warriors. There were several conquests that they have taken towards the areas that were in their region, to capture slaves. One accurate thing is the training of boys. It started at age 7, when children would be put in barracks, have very intense and demanding training every day, spending years in the preparation. Some of the quotes used in the movie were taken from historical records and are assumed to be accurate (Breisach, 2007).

Persian Wars are considered to be one of the major events in history. The outcome greatly influenced the present-day world and it is said that had the outcome been different, with Persians winning, the world would be a much different place.


Breisach, E. (2007). Historiography: Ancient, medieval, and modern, third edition. Chicago, United States: University of Chicago Press.

Cassin-Scott, J. (2002). The Greek and Persian Wars 500-323 BC. New York, United States: Oxford University Press.

Greer, T. (2004). A brief history of the Western world. Belmont, United States: Cengage Learning.

Hanson, V. (2010). Makers of ancient strategy: From the Persian Wars to the fall of Rome. Princeton, United States: Princeton University Press.

Mikalson, J. (2003). Herodotus and religion in the Persian Wars. North Carolina, United States: University of North Carolina Press.

Molyneux, J. (1992). Simonides: A historical study. Wauconda, United States: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers.

Nossov, K. (2012). Greek fortifications of Asia Minor 500-130 BC. Westminster, United States: Osprey Publishing.

Nunnari, G. (Executive Producer). (2006). 300. [FILM]. Burbank, Cal.: Warner Brothers.

Pomeroy, S. (1999). Ancient Greece: A political, social, and cultural history. New York, United States: Oxford University Press.

Sandler, S. (2002). Ground warfare: H-Q. Santa Barbara, United States: ABC-CLIO.

Souza, P. (2003). The Greek and Persian Wars 499-386 BC. Westminster, United States: Osprey Publishing.

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