Battles of the Persian Invasions of Greece

Battles of the Persian Invasions of Greece

This map shows the main battles of the Greco-Persian Wars in the central Greek theatre. We start with Eretria (490 BC) and Marathon (490 BC), battles of Darius's invasion of 490 BC. Ten years later Xerxes invaded in person, famously defeating the Spartans and allies at Thermopylea, but at the same time his fleet suffered a setback at Artemisium. The Persian victory at Thermopylea forced the Greeks to pull back. The Athenians were forced to abandon the city and take refuge on Salamis island, while the main Greek army waited at the Isthmus of Corinth. The decisive naval battle of Salamis convinced Xerxe to return home, although he left a powerful army behind. Only after this force was defeated at Plataea (479 BC) was the Persian invasion finally over.

Leonidas. Leonidas, (died 480 bc, Thermopylae, Locris [Greece]), Spartan king whose stand against the invading Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae in central Greece is one of the enduring tales of Greek heroism, invoked throughout Western history as the epitome of bravery exhibited against overwhelming odds.

Thermopylae. Aristodemus was one of only two Spartan survivors, as he was not present at the last stand. The Greek historian Herodotus believed that had both Aristodemus and Eurytus returned alive, or had Aristodemus alone been ill and excused from combat, the Spartans would have ascribed no blame to Aristodemus.


Cyrus conquered the Kingdom of Media in 550 BCE, which created conflict with the neighbouring Lydian Kingdom. [2] Cyrus planned to catch the Lydian king unprepared for battle, but at Thymbra, Croesus had more than twice as many men as Cyrus. The Lydians marched out to meet Cyrus and quickly armed all the reserves there before their allies could arrive, which they never did. According to Xenophon, Cyrus had 196,000 men in total, [3] [ page needed ] [4] which was composed of 31,000 to 70,000 Persians. That consisted of 20,000 infantry, which may have included archers and slingers 10,000 elite infantry/ cavalry, which may have been the Persian Immortals and 20,000 peltasts and 20,000 pikemen. All except the archers and slingers are known to have carried small to large shields. The others were 42,000 Arabians Armenians and Medians, which amounted to 126,000 infantry. There were also 300 camel cavalry, 300 chariots, and 5-6 siege towers, which were known to hold 20 men each. It all amounted to more than 1,000 men, partly because there was one citizen, and one soldier on each chariot.

Xenophon tells us that Croesus had an army of 420,000 men, [5] [ page needed ] which was composed of 60,000 Babylonians, Lydians, and Phrygians, also Cappadocians, plus nations of the Hellespont. This amounted to 300,000 men which included 60,000 cavalry. There were also 120,000 Egyptians, plus 300 chariots, which may have been at least 500 men. The numbers of the battle given by Xenophon, even if untrue, are considered within the realm of possibility, but less than half may have engaged in the actual battle.

Cyrus deployed his troops with flanks withdrawn in a square formation. [6] The flanks were covered by chariots, cavalry and infantry. Cyrus also used baggage camels to create a barrier around his archers. The smell of the camels disrupted the Lydian horses and scattered their cavalry charge as the archers fired upon Lydian forces. [7]

As Cyrus had expected, the wings of the Lydian army wheeled inward to envelop this novel formation. As the Lydian flanks swung in, gaps appeared at the hinges of the wheeling wings. Disorder was increased by the effective overhead fire of the Persian archers and mobile towers, stationed within the square. Cyrus then gave the order to attack, and his flank units smashed into Croesus' disorganized wings. Soon, the Lydian cavalry lost many soldiers and were forced to retreat. With most of Cyrus' army intact and the loss of most of the Lydian cavalry, Cyrus ordered all cavalry and infantry to attack what remained of Croesus' forces. Most of the infantry soon surrendered, but Croesus and a small part of the infantry retreated and headed for the Lydian capital of Sardis, which resulted in a decisive victory for the Persians.

Herodotus gives an account of the battle but does not give any numbers. His account of the battle's progress and outcome, however, confirms what Xenophon gives later.

After the battle, the Lydians were driven within the walls of Sardis and put to siege by the victorious Cyrus. The city fell after the 14-day Siege of Sardis, reportedly by the Lydians' failure to garrison a part of the wall that they had thought to be unsusceptible to attack because of the steepness of the adjacent declivity of the ground. [8] Croesus was captured, and his territory, including the Greek cities of Ionia and Aeolis, was incorporated into Cyrus' already-powerful empire.

That development brought Greece and Persia into conflict and culminated in the celebrated Persian wars of Cyrus' successors. Along with acquiring Ionia and Aeolis, Cyrus also had the Egyptian soldiers, who fought on behalf of the Lydians, voluntarily surrender and join his army. [9]

According to the Greek author Herodotus, Cyrus treated Croesus well and with respect after the battle. [10] The Babylonian Nabonidus Chronicle apparently contradicts that by reporting that Cyrus defeated and killed the king, but the identity of the Lydian king is unclear. [11]

Analysis: Cultures Of The Mountains And The Sea

Pheidippides, a younger runner, ran back to Athen to tell of their victory against the Persians so that they can be on defense. In 480 B.C., the new Persian king (Darius the Great’s son) Xerxes attempted to destroy Athens. The country was divided and some city-states even fought alongside the Persians. Xerxes army used a secret path around a mountain pass to get closer to Athens. Sparta sacrificed all their soldiers to defend the pass.&hellip

4 Answers 4

OK. I know that I said in the comments that the short answer to the question is "yes". In fact, the short answer should more accurately be "probably".

That's because this question is an example of a particular bête noire of mine. It falls within the weird and wacky, "what-if . " world of counter-factual history.

(I think I've mentioned elsewhere on a number of occasions that I am really not a fan of counter-factual history. In this article, Richard J Evans sets out some of the reasons why 'What if' is a waste of time. I think he is right!)

This question is an excellent example of the problems with counter-factual history, so, just to illustrate the point, let's set out the problem:

In this case, the facts are as follows:

  • The Greco-Persian Wars lasted from the first invasion in 492 BC (stopped in its tracks at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC), to 450 BC, when the series of conflicts were effectively ended with the Battle of Salamis-in-Cyprus.
  • The Greeks won.
  • At this point in time, the Greeks were the dominant civilisation in the eastern Mediterranean (although Greece was by no means a unified nation, as would be shown with the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC).
    was the commercial centre of the western Mediterranean with colonies extending into the Iberian peninsula. was beginning to establish itself as a major power in Italy, with its early Italian campaigns running from 458–396 BC.
  • In Europe to the north were "the Celts". Our understanding of exactly who "the Celts" were, the structure of their society, and how effective they would be as a fighting force in the early fifth century BC is, at best, imperfect. We know that the Celtic army that invaded Italy in 390 BC, and defeated a large Roman army, was formidable. It is much harder to say with any confidence how effective a Celtic army would have been as a fighting force against a large organised army a century earlier.

So, now to the "counterfactual" bit.

We imagine that Greece lost. How would Rome, Carthage and "the Celts" have fared?

  • Carthage was predominantly a maritime power at that point. Perhaps we could reasonably expect that they would have given the Persians a run for their money at sea. However, so much would have depended on tactics that I don't think we can even be confident of that.
  • What about the land forces? From what we know of the "factual" histories of the period, there isn't much to suggest that the land forces of either Rome or Carthage would have been a match for those of Persia. But once again, tactics count for so much.

The Persians outnumbered the Greeks by at least two-to-one at Marathon, and the Greeks were fighting without the Spartans. A "counterfactual" history might have postulated a Persian victory given those facts, and the "counterfactual" history would have been wrong.

(Similarly, given the relative known facts of the armies at the battles of Crécy and Agincourt, a "counterfactual" history might well have anticipated a French victory. Ah well!)

  • So what about the Celts? Well, for a start, how interested would the Persians have been in conquering the Celts? As far as we know, the Celts didn't have much that the Persians would have recognised as the trappings of "civilisation" at that point. Perhaps the Persians would simply have regarded the Celts as "barbarians" and "not worth the trouble". Alternatively, perhaps they would have pushed on to complete their "conquest of the world". If so, how would the Celts have fared against a massed Persian army? We simply don't, and can't, know.

With that many unknowns, we are heading into the realm of guesswork, bordering on fantasy!

So, let's get back to the question. If the Greeks had fallen and were taken under Persian rule would there have been any force in Europe capable of preventing a complete annexation of Europe?

Probably not, but the Greeks didn't fall, so we will never know.

Was Greece the one and only stand?

The Greco-Persian Wars included two invasions of Greece and a number of Greek counter-attacks against Persia, so "one-and-only" certainly wouldn't be how I would phrase it. Beyond that, as I said, we are in the realm of counter-factual history, and so we will never know.

Did I mention that I am really not a fan of counterfactual history?

Europe is big, Persia is far off to one side, and supply would be really long. (Living off the land would be impossible for Persia's huge army.) Thus, I don't think Persia could have gone any farther than the Black Sea and what we call the Balkans.

(What the Greek victory did do, though, was ensure that the roots of Western civilization didn't get snuffed out. That's not your question, though. )

Well, this a hypothetical and geopolitical question that has no real known answer. However, I will submit a theoretical explanation that will attempt to answer your question.

First, for the historical record, a sizable part of Greece was lost to the Persian Empire during the 400's BC/BCE, it was called, "Anatolia"-(present-day Turkey). The Western Anatolian regions, such as Ionia, Lydia, Lycia and Phrygia, were under Persian colonial rule for 100 plus years.

However, Greece proper, was able, for the most part, to prevent a massive Persian colonial onslaught with numerous battle victories, the most successful and famous of battles, was The Battle of Marathon. Yet, despite Greece's various battled victories over the Persian Empire, they still suffered some defeats, including the Persian Empire's sacking and burning of Athens, as well as the famous Battle of Thermopylae-(i.e The Ancient Greek "Alamo").

But, let's say, that the entirety of Greece fell to the Persian Empire 2400 years ago, including all of its archipelagos, Crete and its entire mainland the question is, what may have ensued?

If the Persian Empire had successfully conquered Greece proper-(similar to how the Roman and Ottoman Empires conquered Greece proper centuries later), because of its Eastern location, there is a fairly good chance that the Persians would have moved Northward into the European continent. Had the Persian Empire pursued this direction, they would have initially encountered the Illyrians-(the Ancient Albanians).

As I had mentioned in a previous posting, Illyria, was Ancient Albania, however, the original Illyrian landmass was far greater in size when compared with present-day Albania and the nearby region of Kosovo. Ancient Illyria, essentially spanned throughout much of Southeast Europe's interior, including much of present-day Albania.

It is unclear as to whether or not the Ancient Thracians, were of Illyrian ethnic descent. (My personal view is that the Ancient Thracians were a primitive Greek tribe with some Illyrian cultural influences). If, let's say, the Thracians-(the present-day region of Thrace exists in Southern Bulgaria, Northeast Greece, as well as Northwest Turkey) were of Illyrian ethnic descent, then the Persians would have encountered the most well trained of Illyrian warriors. And had the Persian Empire encountered the Thracian warriors, there is a fairly good chance that even a well trained Persian colonial military may have faced a very tough challenge. The Ancient Thracians were known to have been a fierce group of warriors and they may have prevented the Persian from moving Northward into the European continent.

But let's say, the Persians wanted to avoid all contacts with the Thracians and/or the Illyrians and instead, preferred to have colonized Mediterranean Europe. Let's say the Persian Empire had completed their conquest of Greece's Ionian archipelago-(i.e. Corfu, Ithaca, Lefkada) and wanted to conquer the Italian peninsula. (We'll exclude Sicily, since Sicily, namely, the city of Siracusa, played an important role within the lengthy Peloponnesian War and instead, focus on the Italian mainland).

If the Persian Empire attempted to conquer the Eastern Italian mainland, then they would have still encountered Greek navies who would have been dispatched from various Magna Graecia towns along the Eastern Italian town coast. If the Persians wanted to avoid the Magna Graecia Eastern Italian towns, they may have been successful in conquering parts of the Eastern Italian mainland that were populated with primitive (pre-Roman) Latin tribes. If such a scenario had worked, then perhaps the Persians would have marched into a small, but burgeoning city of Rome-(during its Early Republic phase). And from Rome, perhaps onto Ancient Tuscany-(Home of the Etruscans) and perhaps Northward into the European continent. And from Rome, perhaps westward towards the South of France, as well as Eastern Spain-(Has this scenario unfolded, then The Persian Empire would have encountered the Phoenician Empire).

Again, it is hard to envision such scenarios, because we are so accustomed to the actual historical results. Every historical scenario stated here never happened, though they are possible scenarios that may have unfolded, had Greece been defeated by the Persian Empire.

Battles of the Persian Invasions of Greece - History

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (Click to enlarge)

Our main sources for early Hoplite warfare come from the writings of Herodotus, who was born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, on the southwest coast of Asia Minor, in 484 BCE. He was an Ionian who traveled widely and lived for a while in Athens, before settling in Thurii, a Greek colony in southern Italy. He died about 424 BCE.

We also get information from Thucydides, an Athenian who wrote of the Pelopponnesian Wars. We can also find references in the works of several of the Greek playwrights' material on Hoplite warfare. We can find an account of the Second Persian Invasion in the play "Persae" by Aeschylus, who fought at Marathon during the First Persian Invasion, and possibly took part in the Second Persian War also. Apart from these sources, we must rely on later writers for this time period.

The First Persian War
Cyrus the Great, through a series of daring attacks upon his neighbors, blended with masterful diplomacy, had created the Persian Empire in a very short period of time. From his base territory around Susa, situated just east of the Persian Gulf, Cyrus quickly defeated and annexed the Medes. From there, he turned his attention to the Lydians in Asia Minor, conquering Croesus, the Lydian King, and taking Sardes, the Lydian capital.

Cyrus then divided his Empire into several provinces (Satrapis) governed by "Satraps". The Aegean Coast was soon subjugated by Haspagus, while Cyrus concentrated upon the capture of Babylon in the east. Shortly after this, Cyrus met his death fighting the northern barbaric tribes. His son, Cambyses, conquered and added Egypt to the Empire before he was overthrown by a usurper, who ruled for a short period, until the usurper was in turn overthrown by Darius the Great, who was of the royal Achaemenid family.

Darius reorganized the Empire into 20 satrapies. He decided to expand his Empire into southeast Europe, and led his Imperial army in an invasion across the Bosphorus, and even northward beyond the Danube. In battles with the Scythians, his armies fared badly, and the Imperial force likely would have been surrounded and destroyed if not for the Ionian Greeks contingent, which stood fast and guarded the Danube bridgehead while Porius withdrew his forces.

From this, the Ionians decided the time was ripe for a revolt against Persian rule. An envoy was sent from Miletus, the main city of the Ionians, to mainland Greece, petitioning the Greek city-states for armed aid against the Persians. The Spartans refused aid, but the Athenians chose to contribute twenty ships to the cause of Greek independence in the east. Eretria, on the island of Euboa, also sent five ships as aid. At first the revolt of the Ionian cities was successful, with the Greeks marching into and burning Sartus, where the Persian Satrap had his capital. But this success was short-lived, as the Persians retaliated and the Greek fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Lade in 494 BCE. The city of Miletus was destroyed by the Persians, and its inhabitants were massacred or enslaved.

Due to the aid given to the Ionians by Athens and the other city-states of the mainland, Darius prepared a punitive strike against the Greek mainland. His fleet, under the command of his son-in-law, set sail in 492 BCE., sailing along the northern Aegean coastline. The fleet was badly damaged in a storm off the coast of Mount Athos, forcing Darius to send a second fleet.

The second fleet, under new commanders, crossed the central Aegean, hopping from island to island. Eretria was quickly captured and destroyed by the Persians. The Persians then crossed to the northwest coast of Attica, and disembarked on the plain of Marathon, from which the road ran south straight to Athens. The road was the only practical route south, as it skirted Mount Pentelicus. At Marathon, the Persians found an Athenian army deployed across the road, blocking their route. The Athenian army, in a desperate battle, routed the Persians on the plain. The surviving Persians and those who had not been committed to the battle were then transported around Cape Sunium by their fleet to attack Athens from the Saronic Belf. But they found that the victorious Athenian army had arrived back from Marathon and had manned the defenses of Athens shortly before the Persians arrived. The Imperial fleet returned to Asia Minor.

The Battle of Thermopylae (Click to enlarge)

The Second Persian War
During the ten years following the First Iranian Invasion of Greece, Darius the Great' son Xerxes became the new Persian King of Kings and began preparations for another invasion of Greece.

He started his preparations by sending envoys to spread propaganda designed to induce as many areas of Greece to capitulate without a fight as possible.

He also made plans to bridge the Hellespont and his engineers devised a plan that used over 600 ships to construct two huge pontoon bridges. He also ordered a canal to be dug across the isthmus to avoid the Cape of Mount Athos to protect his fleet from storms rounding that dangerous Cape.

Emperor Xerses conscripted the Imperial troops from every satrapy of the Persian Empire, amassing the largest army that had been seen to this date. In 481 BCE, he had his headquarters at Sardes in Lydia. He sent out envoys to all of the Greek city-states except Athens and Sparta, demanding the earth and water of submission. It is estimated that Xerxes' force contained over 150,000 (Herodotus claimed that the Persian army were over 1,000,000 soldiers and Athenians and Spartans only 300!) combatants, approximately half of which would have been Iranian troops consisting of Persian and Medes soldiers. It included the very best cavalry of the Mediterranean area, fast cavalry armed with spear and bow. His Imperial fleet contained approximately 1200 ships, of which many would have been transports carrying supplies and the horses for his cavalry (the cavalry of the day did not use horseshoes, and most of the horses would have came up lame if they had made the long trek from Persian territory to the Greek mainland). He would also have had to carry a large amount of supplies of all kinds for such a large force to be able to live in such an arid land as Greece. The fleet would need to provision the army from the sea if there was to be any chance of success.

It was the plan of Xerxes to subjugate the whole of Greece, and it was for this reason he had made such extensive preparations, including agreements with the Carthaginian and Phoenician Cities of the Western Mediterranean to attack the Greek Western Colonies and tie up Greek resources.

In the Spring of 480 BCE, Xerxes crossed the Hellespont with his army into Thrace, where he was met by his fleet and proceeded to make his way in three separate columns toward Thessaly.

The Greeks gathered at Corinth in 481 BCE to discuss strategy and what was to be done to defend Greece against the coming Persian invasion. All of the Greek city-states that were not already under Persian domination sent representatives to this meeting. An alliance led by Athens and Sparta was formed to deal with this crisis. At this time the Delphic Oracle predicted that disaster would befall the Greeks and advised the Athenians that their only hope lay in a wooden wall. Most people took this to mean the wooden palisades around the Acropolis, but Themistocles interpreted it to mean the Greek fleet.

The Spartans and the other Peloponnesian States held the view that the main defense should be at the Isthmus of Corinth, as it was the entryway to the Pelopponnese. This plan was objected to by Athens and the city-states of Central Greece, as it would lay them open to pillage by the Imperial Persian Army. The plan also was unsound in the fact that it would leave the defenders open to being outflanked by sea and attacked from two sides at the same time. It was consequently decided that a force would be sent to hold the Persians in Thessaly because the Greeks had an inferiority of numbers, this would only be possible if the narrow passes could be defended. Due to a request of the Thessalonians, a force of 10,000 Hoplites was sent under the command of Evaenetus and Themistocles. These were transported by ship to Hallos and from there marched to the Vale of Tempe. On arrival, Evaenetus determined there were too many passes to be held with the forces at hand, and so retreated to the Isthmus of Corinth.

The Greek Council of Corinth decided to attempt a defense of Central Greece in the area west of the Euboean Channel. This was a position that would be favorable to the Greeks due to its narrow, easily defended passes. Also, because any outflanking movement by the Persian fleet would carry it into the Euboean Channel where its numbers would cause it to be at a disadvantage. It was thought that if the land forces could hold long enough to cause the Persians to attempt such a move with their fleet, the Greek Navy would have a chance to inflict a defeat upon the Persian fleet that would be sufficient to prevent the Persians from carrying forward their invasion. It was the Greek plan to stand at Thermopylae supported by their Navy in the Malian Gulf. Led by Leonidas, a King of Sparta, the Greek army consisted of some 7000 to 8000 Hoplites and light troops. Some of these were Boeotians who were of dubious loyalty. It also included the famous 300 (which archaeological and historical evidence today suggest that they were 3,000), the Spartan King's Bodyguard. Themistocles commanded the Greek fleet of approximately 300 (3,000) triremes, of which 147 were from Athens. This was based in the Bay of Artemision, just to the north of Euboea.

Many think it was the Persian plan to arrive simultaneously at Thermopylae with their army and at the northern end of the Euboean Channel with their fleet while Phoenician Naval Contingents went to enter the channel from the south, trapping the Greek fleet. This plan, if there was such a plan, was defeated by the weather. The Imperial Fleet was mauled by a storm off the East Coast of Magnesia and according to Herodotus lost 400 warships. The Phoenician Contingent was also scattered by the storm, allowing the Greek ships guarding the Chalcis Channel to escape back to the main Greek fleet at Artemision.

Themistocles was determined to take advantage of the disorder of the Persian Fleet and persuaded the Greeks to attack. The battle which followed was inconclusive, but demonstrated that the Greeks had a superiority in mobility, which caused problems for the larger Persian forces. The next day, the Persians mounted a counter-offensive, but again the outcome was inconclusive, and despite heavy destruction of ships on both sides the Greeks managed to hold the Persians, preventing them from supporting their army at Thermopylae.

During this period, the Persians had been attempting to break through the pass at Thermopylae. The pass was formed of three narrow defiles, the central one of which was chosen by Leonidas to defend. These defiles in contemporary sources are called gates, and there were two other gates, a west gate just east of the mouth of the Asopus River, and the east gate lying near the town of Alpeni. These gates were an equal distance on either side of the central gate that Leonidas had chosen to defend. To the south of the pass was the escarpment of Mount Oeta, and through this ran a pass which ran from the East gate to the Asopus, by which means the central gate of Thermopylae could be outflanked. Leonidas deployed his troops in the middle gate, which was probably only four meters wide, meaning a few men would be able to hold it against a much larger number. It was the intention of the Greek city-states to reinforce Leonidas' small army eventually, but for the present time he would have to make due with what troops he had available to him. To prevent himself being flanked from the south, Leonidas placed 1000 Phocian troops, which were all the troops he could spare, in a position to guard the pass through the escarpment and then prepared to await Xerxes' arrival.

Upon reaching the Malian plain, Xerxes delayed his attack for four days, probably hoping to hear of a Persian naval victory at Artemision before engaging the Greek Hoplites in the pass. Xerxes finally began his attack on the fifth day, but was repulsed by the Greek Hoplites due to their superior training, armour, and equipment, giving them a superiority in the close confines of the pass over his lighter armed and equipped troops. Xerxes repeated his attack on the second day, and was once again repulsed. Xerxes by this time realized some other means of breaking through the Greek position would have to be found. With his navy engaged at Artemision, he was running short of supplies and so must find a quick resolution.

The answer to his problems was found in one, Ephialtes, who told Xerxes of the existence of the pass guarded by the Phocians. Xerxes sent his Immortals across this path guided by Ephialtes to attack Leonidas' position from the rear. The Immortals made short work of the Phocians, routing them and clearing the path. Leonidas was soon apprised of the imminent danger to his troops, and it is thought that he began a strategic withdrawal, sending his contingents from central Greece southward, retaining only the Spartans, their Peloponnesian allies, and some Theban and Thessalonians troops. He moved the troops he retained to a small hillock east of the middle gate, and prepared a rearguard stand. It is thought by some historians that the contingents from central Greece actually broke and ran away, leaving Leonidas with only his Spartan and Peloponnesian troops to withstand the Persian onslaught. Leonidas sent word of the disaster to the fleet at Artemision before he and his remaining troops were overran by the sheer weight of numbers of the Persian troops. It is said only the Thebans asked for quarter. The Persian troops encircled Leonidas and probably destroyed his remaining troops with massed missile fire.

Upon hearing of the fall of Leonidas and his troops at Thermopylae, the Greek fleet withdrew to the Saronic Gulf, where it finally was positioned off Salamis. The whole of Attica was now open to the invader, and the Persians moved into Boeotia, setting up their headquarters at Thebes. The Athenians, seeing that it was hopeless trying to defend Athens alone, withdrew their non-combatant population to Aegina, Troezen, and Salamis, while all of their able-bodied men manned their ships to await the next battle. Only a small garrison was left to defend the Acropolis of Athens. The Spartans and their Peloponnesian allies built a fortification across the Isthmus of Corinth, and the Greek army was now in the defensive position the Spartans had wanted all along.

The Battle of Salamis

The Battle of Salamis (Click to enlarge)

All of Attica soon fell to the Persian army, but as long as the Greek fleet remained there was no possibility of Persia's total mastery of Greece. Xerxes knew he must meet and defeat the Greek fleet if he was to accomplish his aims.

Themistocles favored an early battle with the Persian fleet, preferably on Greek terms, but as usual other Greek leaders disagreed with him. The Peloponnesians preferred that the fleet concentrated on the defense of the Isthmus. However, as the Athenian contingent made up more than half of the total fleet, Themistocles was able to force a decision by threatening to withdraw all of the Athenians if battle was not offered in the Straights of Salamis. Themistocles could see that this position was favorable to the Greeks because of the tactical disadvantages the large Persian fleet would have trying to maneuver there. The narrow confines of the Straights of Salamis would limit the Persians' ability to maneuver.

On September 22, 480BCE, the Greek fleet held a position between the north coast of the Island of Salamis and the coast of Attica to the northwest of Piraeus. The Persians had deployed facing north in a line three deep, ranging from the Cynosura Promontory on Salamis to Piraeus. Themistocles purposely left the channel between Salamis and Magara open and unguarded, possibly to tempt Xerxes to divide his fleet in the type of tactics the Persians had attempted at Artemision. Xerxes did exactly this, sending his Egyptian contingent around Salamis to take and seal the western channel. The Greek fleet drew up in battle formation facing Heracleion on the shore of Attica, with the Athenians taking the left wing and the Aeginetans the right. The Greek fleet had some 300 warships at its disposal.

On the morning of the battle, the Persians deployed with their right wing held by the Phoenicians and the Ionian ships on the left. While still trying to get into position, the Persians were attacked by the Greeks, who forced the leading Persian ships back upon their comrades, causing disorder in the Persian formation as the Persian ships were already close packed in the narrow confines of the Straight. This was immediately followed by an Athenian flank attack on the Phoenician ships which were pushed back into the Persian center and onto the coast of Attica. Eventually the Greeks made an encircling movement behind the Persian center which proved decisive, and the Ionian Greeks, with their resistance broken, retreated. Xerxes' navy had suffered heavy losses, which were according to Herodotus over 200 ships, and withdrew to Phaleron, from whence it returned eventually to Hellespont. Xerxes was now faced with the impossible task of provisioning his huge army with such a depleted fleet, and he had no option but to withdraw the majority of his forces from Greece.

This defeat of the Persians was caused by a combination of superior Greek tactics and the Persians' own ineptitude in tactical and strategic planning. Xerxes failed to see that a smaller, well-trained and equipped force could prevail over a much larger and less trained and equipped foe. Also, he failed to see that independence was a powerful motivating cause for the Greeks. The victory at Salamis strengthened both the morale and the will of the Greeks, and dealt a fatal blow to the reputation and morale of Xerxes' army.

Xerxes was forced to return to his Empire to prevent widespread revolt encouraged by his defeat. He left part of the Imperial army in Thessaly, Thrace, and Macedonia under Mardonius and Artabazus, while taking the bulk of his army back across the Hellespont to restore control on his Eastern Aegean Coast, where he also sent his fleet for the same purpose. Mardonius had in his force 12,000 cavalry and about 50,000 infantry, of whom some where contingents from Central and Northern Greece. He also had included in this force the Immortals and the Guard Cavalry. The Persian forces in Thessaly, Thrace, and Macedonia were a continued threat to Greek independence and the Greeks soon made plans to deal with them.

Plataea and Mycale
There was an attempt made to entice the Athenians into a treaty with Persia, which met with failure, and Mardonius, in hopes of threatening them into submission, marched on Athens. This motivated Athens into making an agreement with Sparta to make an immediate offensive against the invader. Also, it was felt that at any time Xerxes might send a refurbished fleet to assist Mardonius.

While Sparta was advancing through the Corinthian Peninsula in 479BCE, Mardonius set fire to Athens, and retired to Boeotia, where he would have terrain suited to his cavalry. Deploying his force opposite Mount Citherae on the Asopus Plain, between Thebes and Plataea. He also cleared a number of trees from the area, giving more room for his cavalry to maneuver. He was waiting, deployed in this position, when the 35,000 Greek Hoplite force commanded by Pausanius traversed Mount Citherae and camped near Plataea on a slope overlooking the Plain.

Mardonius gave away whatever advantage the ground gave him by immediately attacking with his cavalry against the Greeks on ground which was unsuitable for a cavalry action. Predictably, the Persian cavalry lost the action and was forced to retreat. Some have put forth the idea that Mardonius was willing to sacrifice the cavalry he did to draw the Greeks forth onto the plain in a more open position, which is what eventually happened. Pausanius marched his men onto the Plain and deployed them between Plataea and Asopus. The Spartan Hoplites were deployed on the right flank, the Athenians on the left, with the remainder of the allies deployed in the center. Mardonius deployed his forces facing them on the other side of the river, and in this position, according to Herodotus, the opponents remained for eight days. Each commander seems to have been waiting for the other to make the first move. Persian raids in the mountains behind the Greek lines was threatening Pausanius' supplies, a situation that could no longer be sustained by the Greeks in a stationary position. This was alleviated when Mardonius decided to commit hiself and attacked with his cavalry, his missiles pinned down the Greeks.

The Persians managed to outflank the Greeks and push them away from their one source of water, the Gargaphia Spring, which had lain behind the Spartan position. The Persians had cut the Greek supply routes through Mount Citherae, and it was now clear that Mardonius was content to pursue a policy of attrition against the Greeks, which might succeed if Pausanius did not manage to reestablish a route of supply and bring in provision for his troops.

The Spartan commander was now faced with retreating under very hazardous conditions into Mount Citherae to attempt to hold the main passes. Pausanius proposed to withdraw the Spartans deployed on the Greek right to Mount Citherae, in order to reopen the supply lines, while the allied forces in the Greek center would retreat south toward Plataea, and at the last the Athenians would move southeastward across the path taken by the allies and position themselves as the new Greek center.
Several things factored to hamper this maneuver. The attempt was made in darkness, severely limiting coordination. Some believe that the Athenians refused to obey Pausanius' order to withdraw, which caused them to be cut off from the rest of the army which had proceeded as planned toward Mount Citherae. There seems to have been some dissention in the Spartan ranks, which delayed the Greek right flank, and the maneuver was not executed until daylight.

Mardonius sent his cavalry to harass the Spartans until his infantry could be brought up to engage them, and directed the Boeotians on the Persian right to attack the exposed Athenians while he threw the bulk of his army against the Greek right. Realizing that he and his Spartans would have to take the brunt of the Persian attack, Pausanius sent to the already embattled Athenians requesting assistance, but they were by now pinned down and could not respond.
When the Persian infantry was engaged with the Spartans, Pausanius decided to take advantage of the congestion caused in the Persian ranks by their numbers and launched a counter-attack. There followed a bloody and fierce battle which remained undecided until Mardonius fell and his men fled. The Athenians had in the meantime managed to right the Boeotians and the Greek forces captured and destroyed the Persian camp.

Following this victory, the Greeks besieged Thebes, which surrendered after twenty days and handed over to Pausanius those leaders who were aligned with the Persians. These leaders were summarily executed. The remainder of the Persian army was in full withdrawal toward the Hellespont under the command of Artabazus.

A message was received from the Ionian Greeks in the summer of 479BCE suggesting that if they were given the support of a fleet they would rise and revolt against the Persians. A Greek fleet left Delos under the command of the Spartan King Leotychidas sailing for Samos off the Eastern Aegean Coast, and from there it proceeded to Mycale in Ionia, where Xerxes had amassed a large army to maintain control of the Ionian Greeks. Leotychidas landed his force near Mycale and assaulted the Persian position and destroyed the Persian fleet, which was beached there.

The Greeks, by destroying the Persian sea power, secured protection for themselves against further invasion from Asia, and were now masters of the Aegean Sea. The victory at Mycale lead to the Ionian Greeks rising in rebellion throughout the Ionian coastal areas and expelling the Persian tyrants and garrisons.

The Greeks then moved against Sestos to take control of the Hellespont from the Persians, and destroy their gateway into Greek territory. Xanthippus led the Athenians in a siege of Sestos and the city fell in the spring of 478BCE. Hostilities did not cease immediately, and after many years there were still Persian troops remaining in Thrace. The conflict did not finally end until the Peace of Callias in 449-48BCE.

Although Darius I wanted revenge on the Greeks for the defeat at Marathon, uprisings in Egypt and Babylon took up much of his time. He died before he could launch another invasion, so it was left to his son, Xerxes, to deal with Greece. Xerxes became king in 486 BC, and once he handled the rebellions in Egypt and Babylon, he turned his attention to Greece.

The Achaemenid Empire had been at war with Greece since the 499 BC rebellion and enjoyed its fair share of successes. Darius&rsquo forces swept through Greece only to suffer a decisive loss at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. When Xerxes returned, he won the famous Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC followed quickly by a win in the Battle of Artemisium when the Greek forces retreated to Salamis.

By now, the Persians controlled all of Boeotia, and the population of Athens was evacuated by the Greeks. Upon capturing Athens, Xerxes ordered it to be razed, and it appeared that total conquest of Greece was within his grasp. He was exasperated by the stubborn Greek defiance and resolved to destroy the enemy&rsquos navy as soon as possible. The Greek alliance left their ships off the coast of Salamis because they believed a decisive win would bring an end to the Persian invasion.

In what was the first great naval battle in history to be recorded by historians, the Persian fleet of approximately 900-1200 ships greatly outnumbered the Greek alliance&rsquos 300 or so ships. The commander of the Greek army, Themistocles, tricked the Persians by luring them into the narrow waters of the strait of Salamis. In this tight space, the vast Persian numbers proved to be their undoing as they couldn&rsquot maneuver as well as the enemy. The Greek ships rammed and boarded the Persian ships and sank up to 300 of them while losing just 40 ships of their own.

The devastating loss scattered Xerxes&rsquo fleet, and it took a year for him to assemble enough of an army to invade Greece once again. At that stage, the Greek states gained a significant amount of strength and won decisive victories at Plataea and Mycale in 479 BC. If the Persians had won at Salamis, the entire development of Ancient Greece would have been hampered along with that of western civilization. As a consequence, it is among the most important battles of all-time.

The Athenians' Last Stand: How the Battle of Salamis Changed the Course of History

The Battle of Salamis pushed back Xerxes forces and save Greek civilization.

The Persian armada came forward in a huge crescent formation, a wooden convex whose ram-tipped flanks threatened to envelop and “swallow” the Greek triremes. But Persian numbers were so great they tended to foul one another, thrashing and flailing like a school of fish in a net as oars interlocked and hulls rubbed and bumped together.

This tended to help the Greeks, but the contest was far from one-sided, however, and the Greeks were roughly handled by the Persians. The Egyptians captured five Greek vessels and their crews, a notable feat that even Herodotus speaks of with admiration. Greek triremes were designed for ramming enemy ships, not grappling and boarding. Their sleek hulls could cut through the water with the effortless grace of a dolphin, and when propelled by skilled oarsmen they had a quicksilver quality that made them hard to pin down. Yet an Athenian trireme carried only about 10 hoplite marines and perhaps four archers. By contrast, enemy ships could carry a complement of 40 marines, making Greek ships vulnerable if boarded.

Herodotus records that the Egyptians wore cuirasses and were armed with long swords and battle axes, weapons equal to a hoplite’s spear or sword. Once the hoplite marines were overwhelmed, the 170 rowers had little choice but to surrender. Greek oarsmen carried no weapons and wore little clothing, and so were vulnerable.

Clenched in a Stalemate With Both Sides Bloodied

When the day ended neither side could claim a clear-cut victory, though the Greeks probably did more damage to the enemy than they themselves sustained. Nevertheless the Greek fleet had taken some severe blows, and it was said that half of the Athenian squadron had been damaged.

As night fell the Greeks fished out their dead from the waters and gathered wood for funeral pyres. Triremes too damaged for further service were also put to the torch. Plutarch, a Greek historian living in Roman times, wrote that a layer of ash from the pyres and the burned wrecks could still be seen at Artemisium six hundred years after the battle. It was fitting that the ashes of the Greek sailors mingled with the sands of Artemesium, becoming part of the very native soil they died to defend.

The Last Stand of King Leonidas of Sparta

The night was dark, illuminated by the flickering flames that greedily consumed the battle dead, and the rising smoke added a physical pall to an already uncertain mood. The gloom only deepened when a swift triaconter—a single-banked galley of 30 oars—under Habronithus arrived with terrible news. A Greek traitor had shown the Persians a mountain pass that flanked Leonidas’s position at Thermopylae. The Spartan king and some seven thousand Greek Allied troops had held the pass for several days, inflicting heavy casualties on the Persian host, but once their position was flanked it became untenable.

Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans chose to stay, although this would mean a death sentence. Perhaps 1,500 Allied troops also elected to remain, and the rest withdrew. On August 20, the same day as the battle of Artemisium, Leonidas and his troops were overwhelmed and perished to the last man. Later, a monument was erected over the Spartans’ grave that was a fitting tribute to their heroism and self-sacrifice. Its legend ran: O xein angellein Lakdaimoniois hoti tede keimetha tois keinon rhemasi peithomenoi, or “Tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, That obedient to their laws we lie.”

For the moment, however, the tidings of Thermopylae were grave indeed. Artemesium was becoming untenable, and there was nothing more to do but withdraw the fleet as soon as possible. As it was, many of the Greek ships were barely seaworthy and badly in need of repair. Rams were cracked and sprung from their timbers, and hulls bore terrible battle scars. Enemy rams had gouged holes that were near the waterline, and oars had been splintered to “kindling.” Blood stains were everywhere, crimson blotches that were freshened by the wounds of the injured that were carried aboard for evacuation.

Persia’s Human Avalanche Rolls Over Athens

With Thermopylae secure, the Persian juggernaut rolled south with little or no opposition. Xerxes’ human avalanche swept through Boeotia and was soon on the outskirts of Attica, Athens’ home territory. Themistocles issued an order (keygma) for the total evacuation of the city. Men serving with the fleet were allowed shore leave to gather women, children, other dependents (including slaves), and perhaps some household goods, and bring them to Piraeus. Once in the seaport, the dependents would take ships to Salamis or Aegina, islands in the Saronic Gulf off Attica.

Apparently some people had already been evacuated to Salamis, Aegina, and (relatively) far-off Troezen in the Peloponnesus some weeks earlier, but a substantial portion of the Athenian population had remained behind. Now, the evacuation would be total. Athens was transformed into a hive of activity, its narrow streets and broad Agora thronged with departing people. It was a melancholy procession, a kaleidoscope composed of every age, sex, and economic condition.

The lifeblood of any city is its people, and Athens was being bled white of its resident population. Its streets and lanes were like veins, producing a hemorrhage of humanity that soon rendered the city a lifeless corpse. Yet a small die-hard garrison still held the Acropolis, confident that their reading of the “wooden walls” prophecy was the correct one.

The shoreline of Piraeus was now the scene of heart-rending partings and tearful goodbyes. Athenian men put dependents on waiting ships “and themselves crossed over to Salamis, unmoved by the cries and tears and embraces of their own kin.” Since space aboard ships was limited, the aged and infirm were left behind. Household pets also remained in Athens, because wartime emergencies left no room for sentiment.

The last overcrowded ship left Piraeus August 26, and the Persians arrived in Athens a day later. Apart from the Acropolis and a few pockets here and there, the city was basically empty. Athens was quiet, save for the mournful howling of dogs that had been left behind, their baying a funeral dirge for a stricken city.

The Persians swept through the city like a swarm of locusts, pillaging and burning as they went. Terms were offered to the Acropolis garrison, but were stoutly refused. When the Persians tried to mount an attack on the main gate, the defenders hurled boulders down the slope to crush them. Persian archers climbed the nearby Areopagus hill and shot fire arrows at the Acropolis. Soon the wooden barricade the defenders had erected was ablaze.

Finally a force of Persians managed to climb a steep cliff to the Sancuary of Aglaurus, and from there gained entrance to the Acropolis. All the defenders were put to the sword none was spared, not even noncombatants who were cowering within the temple sanctuary. All buildings on the summit were torched, including the Temple of Athena Polis. Luckily the sacred wooden cult statue of Athena had been evacuated some time before.

Forcing Persia’s Hand: A Naval Showdown

The city states of the Peloponnesus were now obsessed with their own defense. The Pelopponesus was a near-island connected to the mainland by a narrow strip called the Isthmus of Corinth. Led by Sparta, the Peloponnesian states built a five-mile-long defensive wall across the Isthmus to block the Persian advance. The men from the Peloponnesian states also wanted to make a naval stand at the Isthmus. The waters off Salamis island seemed too confining if defeated, it was felt they would be bottled up and unable to escape. On the other hand, if defeated at the Isthmus, member states could retreat home for a last stand.

In Themistocles’ view this was a recipe for disaster. Defeat at the Isthmus would mean total defeat for the Greek cause, because once the Greek fleet scattered the Persians would have control of the sea. Once the Persians had control of the sea, they could land anywhere in the Peloponnesus, easily outflanking the Isthmus of Corinth wall that was being so painstakingly erected.

Themistocles declared that fighting at the Isthmus “would be greatly to our disadvantage, with our smaller numbers and smaller ships.… The open sea is bound to help the enemy, just as fighting in a confined space is bound to help us.” The Athenian concluded by saying, “If we beat them at sea … they will not advance to attack you at the Isthmus.”

His proposals were beginning to find favor, but there were a few stubborn holdouts. The Corinthian admiral Adeimantus bluntly told Themistocles to shut up, since he was a man without a country. It was a none-too-subtle reference to the evacuation of Athens and its subsequent occupation and destruction by the “barbarian” Persians.

Far from being cowed by Adeimantus’s rudeness, Themistocles shot back that on the contrary, “The Athenians have a city and a country greater even than Corinth, as long as they have two hundred ships full of men no Greeks could beat them off if they chose to attack.” Turning to Euryabiades, Themistocles produced his trump card in the form of a threat. If the Allies didn’t follow his plan, Athens would withdraw from the war and immigrate to Italy. “If you don’t follow my advice,” Themistocles warned, “we will pack up our households and sail off to Sirus in [southern] Italy.”

2. The Battle of Thermopylae, 480 BC

In 2020, Greece celebrates the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae (Hot Gates), when a small force of Greeks stood their ground in one of history’s most famous and important last stands, to delay the advance of the Persian army. 10 years after the Battle of Marathon and the first, unsuccessful, attempt to subjugate Greece, the Persian Empire under King Xerxes I lunched its second attempt, amassing a massive army and navy with the aim to conquer all of Greece.

The Athenian politician and general Themistocles suggested that the allied Greek forces should block the advances of the Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae (that took its name from the thermal water springs in the area) and the Persian navy at the straits of Artemisium. Athenians did not have the numbers to contribute both in land and sea, so they focused their efforts on the naval battle. The Spartans would lead the allied army in Thermopylae. However, the advance of the Persian army happened to coincide once again with the Carneia, the religious festival of the Spartans that forbade military action during the festivities, and the Olympic Games which demanded the Olympic truce. The Spartans consulted the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi who, according to Herodotus, gave the following prophecy:

"O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon!
Honor the festival of the Carneia!! Otherwise,
Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus,
Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country
Mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles."

The Spartans decided to send one of their two kings, King Leonidas, with the 300 men of the royal bodyguard. Their aim was to persuade along the way as many Greeks as possible to join their forces and follow them to Thermopylae, where they would await the arrival of the main Spartan army. Xerxes waited four days before attacking the pass of Thermopylae, in case the Greek forces would surrender. The small Greek forces led by the 300 of King Leonidas successfully defended the pass for two whole days. However, a local named Ephialtes, motivated by the desire for reward, informed King Xerxes of a mountain path around Thermopylae. Learning of the news, Leonidas ordered the other Greek forces to retreat and told them that he would stay with his guard to protect their retreat and give them time. The contingent of 700 Thespians refused to leave and stayed behind with the Spartans to fight and die. The self-sacrifice of the 300 Spartans and the 700 Thespians allowed more than 3000 men to retreat and fight again in the next battle.

“Oh stranger, tell the Lacedaemonians that
we lie here, obedient to their laws.”

This epitaph was engraved on a commemorative stone placed on the ground where the Spartans fell at Thermopylae, usually attributed to Simonides of Ceos. Following the fall of the pass of Thermopylae, Themistocles and the Greek navy abandoned the Straits of Artemisium and retreated to Salamis where the Athenian general convinced the allied forces to seek a decisive victory against the Persian fleet. The significance of the Battle of Thermopylae lies not on its effect on the outcome of the Persian Wars. Its importance lies on the inspirational example it set. The people of Greece understood that even heavily outnumbered could put up an effective fight against the Persians and the defeat at Thermopylae turned Leonidas and the rest of his men into martyrs. That boosted the morale of the Greeks for the upcoming battles. "Which of the following," writes Diodorus of Sicily commenting on the sacrifice of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, "will not envy the death of these men, who, having found themselves in the grip of an overwhelmingly superior state, physically bowed, but remained unmoved by their soul."

Persian Wars For Kids – Ancient Greece Facts

The Persian Wars were a series of showdowns between the Greeks and the Persians from 492 BC to 449 BC.

The war involved two major invasions by Persia, in 490 and 480 BC. Some of history’s most famous battles were fought at Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Platea during the Persian Wars.

The Greeks ultimately won the Persian Wars. If the Greeks had lost, we would have lost many important contributions like democracy, architecture, art, and even the Olympic Games.

Who were the Persians?

During this time period, the Persians had the world’s largest and most powerful empire. Their lands stretched from Egypt to India.

The Greek city-states usually fought against each other. But they made an exception and worked together to fight the Persians. Greek city-states like Athens and Sparta united for the Persian Wars.

Greek soldiers of Greco–Persian Wars

What started the Persian Wars?

Persia was continuing to expand its empire. They had conquered the Ionians, Greeks who lived along the coast of Turkey.

Athens and other Greek city-states had sent ships and weapons to help the Ionians. King Darius I of Persia did not like this, even though the Persians still quickly defeated the Ionians.

King Darius I decided to conquer Athens and the rest of Greece. He sent envoys (messengers) to Greece to ask the Greeks to submit to Persian rule.

The Greeks responded to this request by executing the envoys. Athens and Sparta promised to form an alliance to defend Ancient Greece.

King Darius did not like this either. He launched 600 ships and 25,000 men to attack Greece. The Persian army was much bigger than any army the Greeks could round up.

Battle of Marathon

In 490 BC, a Persian army of 90,000 men met a Greek army of 10,000-20,000 men at Marathon. The Persians fired many arrows, but the arrows did not do much damage against the bronze armor of the Greeks.

The Greeks had heavier swords and better spears and armor. They also had a very disciplined phalanx formation. In the end, the Greeks only suffered 192 casualties. The Persian army lost 6,400 men.

The Battle of Marathon quickly became legendary. The Persians fled home, but they would be back.

Battle of Thermopylae

King Xerxes was now the ruler of the Persian Empire. Around 480 BC, he gathered a huge invasion force to attack Greece. Xerxes had more than 200,000 soldiers and 1,000 warships.

The Persian army decided to attack Greece at the pass at Thermopylae on the East Coast. They were met by a small army of 300 men, led by the Spartan king Leonidas.

All 300 men from the much smaller Spartan army were killed, but they managed to hold off the massive Persian army for three full days. (This battle was the inspiration for the movie 300.)

King Leonidas in the movie 300

Meanwhile, the Greek fleet held off the Persians at the naval battle of Artemision. By now, Persia had gained control of some of Greece, but the Greeks were a tougher enemy than they had expected.

These battles weren’t exactly victories. But they did buy the Greek army time and allow them to prepare for the battles to come.

Battle of Salamis

After the first Persian invasion, Athens built a mighty fleet of ships called triremes. In September 480 BC at Salamis in the Saronic Gulf, a Greek fleet of 300 ships faced about 500 Persian ships.

Once again, the Greeks were outnumbered. But they had the brilliant Athenian general Themistocles on their side.

Themistocles lured the Persian fleet into the narrow straits of Salamis, then hit the Persian fleet so hard that they had no way to escape. The fast, maneuverable Athenian ships slammed into the sides of the Persian ships and sank them.

The remaining Persian ships retreated.

Map of the battle of Salamis

The Last Battle: Battle of Plataea

After the terrible defeat at Salamis, King Xerxes returned to his palace. He left his general Mardonius in charge of the Greek invasion.

The Greeks and Persians tried to negotiate an agreement, but they could not find a compromise. The two armies met again at Plataea in 479 BC.

This time, the Greeks had gathered the largest hoplite (Greek soldiers) army ever seen. A total of 110,000 soldiers came from 30 of the city-states.

The Persians had about the same number of soldiers, or perhaps slightly more.

The Greek phalanx once again proved that it was superior. They defeated the Persian army and ended Xerxes’ hopes of conquering Ancient Greece.

Around this time, the Ionian states were sworn back into the Hellenic Alliance of Greece. The Delian League was established to fight off any future attacks from the Persian Empire.

Over the next 30 years, Persia remained somewhat of a threat. There were occasional battles and skirmishes (smaller unplanned battles) across the Aegean over the next 30 years.

However, mainland Greece had survived the greatest danger. Peace was officially declared in 449 BC with the Peace of Callias.

The Persian Empire had failed to conquer Greece, but they continued to thrive for 100 years.

Under the leadership of Alexander the Great, Greece eventually ended the Persian Empire in 331 BC, defeating King Darius III.