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The Persian Wars, or GrecoPersian Wars 490479 BC


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Title: The Persian Wars, or GrecoPersian Wars 490479 BC

The Persian Wars, or Greco-Persian Wars 490-479 BC
Map of Greece and Colonies
  • Greece to the west (left). Notice location of
    Attica (Athens, Marathon, Thermopylae) and the
    Peloponnesus (Sparta). Asia Minor (Part of
    Persian empire) to the east (right). Notice
    Lydia (Asia Minor) and the city states along the

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Greece and Asia Minor Locate the Persian Empire,
Greece (Attica and Peloponnesus)
Persian Empire
Events Leading to Outbreak of War Between Greece
and Persia
  • In the middle of the sixth century BC (the
    500s), the Greek city-states () along the
    coast of Asia Minor came under the control of the
    Lydians and their king, Croesus (560-546 BC).
    However, when the Persians conquered the Lydians
    in 546 BC, all the states subject to the Lydians
    became subject to the Persians.
  • The Persians controlled their new subject-states
    very closely they appointed individuals to rule
    the states as tyrants. () They also required
    citizens to serve in the Persian army and to pay
    fairly steep taxes. Now, is that a good deal?
    Goodbye liberty and independence.
  • http//
  • City-state. An independent political unit
    consisting of a city and surrounding territory.
    Called Polis. ?????.
  • Tyrant. t??a???? tyrannos. A person who came
    to power (usually in times of social stress)
    through illegitimate means (not by vote) e.g.,
    support from a certain faction of the polis
    (e.g., social class). Tyrants were not
    necessarily bad rulers.

  • Smarting under these new burdens and anxious for
    independence, the tyrant () of Miletus,
    Aristagoras, began a democratic rebellion in 499
    BC….(H)e fomented a popular rebellion against the
    Persians and went to the Greek mainland (Attica
    and the Peloponnesus) for support.
  • He went first to the Spartans (in the
    Peloponnesus), since they were the most powerful
    state in Greece, but the Spartans refused. When
    he approached the Athenians (in Attica), they
    promised him twenty ships.
  • In 498 BC, the Athenians conquered and burned
    Sardis, which was the capital of Lydia, and all
    the Greek cities in Asia Minor joined the revolt.
    The Athenians, however, lost interest and went
    home by 495 BC, the Persians, under king Darius
    I (521-486 BC), had restored control over the
    rebellious Greek cities.
  • http//
  • Tyrant. t??a???? tyrannos. A person who came
    to power (usually in times of social stress)
    through illegitimate means (not by vote) e.g.,
    support from a certain faction of the polis
    (e.g., social class). Tyrants were not
    necessarily bad rulers.
  • Polis. ?????. A city-state and its citizens.

  • Battles
  • Marathon. 490 BC
  • Thermopylae. 480 BC
  • Salamis. 480 BC
  • Plataea. 479 BC

  • To punish the Greeks for interfering with his
    control over Asia Minor, the Persian King Darius
    I, in 490 BC, launched his first invasion of the
    Greek mainland.

Darius I and his subjects
The Persian king (Who?...) lived pretty well.
  • The Persian and Greek armies met at the field of
    Marathon, a flat battlefield twenty-six miles
    north of Athens.
  • Persians had 600 ships and 20,000 foot soldiers
    and cavalry.
  • Greeks had 10,000 soldiers, called hoplites.
  • The Greek force was mostly Athenians, but some
    Plataeans. The Spartans were busy with a
    religious festival and couldnt make the fight.
    After the battle, a few Spartans showed up to see
    how things had turned out.
  • Hoplite. ?p??t?? hoplites. Greek
    citizen-soldiers named for their shield (hoplon.
    ?p???), who fought in the phalanx (defined
  • Lets see how the Greeks

  • Panoply (Armor and Weapons) of the Greek Hoplite

Corslet, or Cuirass
Corslet, Rear
Muscled Cuirass
Corinthian Helmet With Plume
Corinthian Helmet
Bell Cuirass and Helmet
Hoplon. Hoplite Shield
Hoplon Inside
Hoplon With Aegis of Athena Head of Gorgon
Hoplon. Front and Back
Spear Heads
  • The hoplites spear was 9-12 feet long, and had
    a metal point on each end.

Stone Relief of Hoplites
Spartan Hoplite Identify each item in
the panoply.
Athenian Hoplite
Persian Immortal Fight with wicker and cloth.
Good idea!
Persian Soldiers
Persians at Marathon. Note Weaker Armor and
  • Compare and contrast the panoply of Greeks and
  • How much protection?
  • How lethal?
  • Note that some Persians were archers. How useful
    would arrows be against the Greek hoplon (metal)?

  • Hoplite Warfare. Shock Combat in Phalanx

The Phalanx First Rank
  • The Greek phalanx was nearly unstoppable in its
    intended mode of combat head-on, on straight,
    level ground, with adequate protection on the
    flanks. Hoplite battles frequently took place in
    long, straight valleys--so common in the Greek
    mainland--where the phalanx could occupy the
    entire width of the valley and thus protect its
    flanks and its rear. A single site would
    frequently be the location of battle after battle
    through the ages, its desirability as a
    battlefield undiminished.
  • Hoplite combat was centered around a single idea
    that battle should be bloody, horrible, and
    decisive. This fit the needs of an agrarian
    society that could not spare its men to a
    professional army, but needed them back in time
    for harvest.
  • Battles were short, and casualties were
    surprisingly low (proportionally to the
    combatants) in comparison with modern combat.
    Through most of their history, the ancient Greeks
    meant to keep wars short--even just a single
    battle--so that people could get back to their
    lives. If they frequently judged war to be
    necessary, it was still just a necessary evil.
  • Victor David Hanson, The Western Way of War
    Infantry Battle in Classical Greece. University
    of California Press, 1989.

  • Since the late 19th century ad, historians have
    debated how the Greek armies actually joined
    battle. The old school of thought advocated an
    orderly advance into battle in which front rank
    fought front rank, with soldiers in the second
    rank waiting to fill the places of the fallen or
  • But a new generation of classicists, led by
    Victor Davis Hanson of the University of
    California at Santa Cruz, has taken another look
    at the primary sources and has come to a
    different conclusion. The new interpretation
    describes phalanx battle as the collision of two
    battle squares in which, as the 4th-century bc
    Spartan soldier and historian Xenophon described
    it, crashing their shields together, they
    shoved, fought, slew and died.
  • The typical Greek phalanx formation deployed in a
    closely packed rank and file, usually but not
    always eight ranks deep. The organization of the
    phalanx was based more on files than on
    ranks ----
  • ----,
  • with the hoplite belonging to his file rather
    than his rank. The basic idea was to maintain a
    solid front after the opposing sides collided, to
    deny the enemy gaps to penetrate.
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Phalanx Ranks and Files
What the enemy saw.
  • The key to the Greek phalanxs success was in
    its innovative organization and technologies. The
    phalangeal formation consisted of heavy
    infantrymen or hoplites, so named because of the
    ingenious shield or hoplon each carried into
    battle. The hoplon itself was a round, convex
    shield nearly 3 feet in diameter and weighing
    more than 15 pounds. The essential difference
    between the hoplon and the older shield was that
    the latter could hang by its strap from time to
    time, allowing a soldier to rest his arm, and was
    used in combat by holding a grip behind the
    central boss. The newer hoplon remained locked
    onto the forearm, with its weight borne by the
    left shoulder, resulting in more effective and
    prolonged use. The disadvantage was that since
    the hoplon was now gripped with the left hand
    near its rim, half the shield projected to the
    infantrymans left, effectively protecting only
    the left side of his body. To compensate for that
    deficiency, Greek soldiers began to stand side by
    side, employing the overlap of the shield to
    protect the right side of their bodies. Thus
    Thucydides explains the tendency of hoplites to
    edge to their right as the result of each man,
    in his anxiety, getting his unprotected side as
    close as possible to the shield of the man
    standing on his right, and thinking that the more
    closely the shields were locked, the better the
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  • Another consequence of this new defensive
    formation was the abandonment of the Bronze Age,
    Homeric-style throwing spear for a thrusting
    spear, necessarily creating a tactical system
    that relied exclusively on shock. So important
    had the thrusting spear become that the sword was
    only utilized in emergencies.
  • Scholars are not certain whether the use of this
    new equipment spawned a radical change in
    battlefield tactics or vice versa. It is
    believed, though, that the adoption of the hoplon
    and the abandonment of the throwing spear
    reinforced the hoplites dependence on collective
    warfare. Unlike the rectangular shield or scutum
    of the later Roman legionary or the lighter round
    shield of the early medieval warrior, the hoplon
    afforded the Greek heavy infantryman little
    protection from an attack on his side and rear.
    In fact, the entire hoplite panoply evolved to
    satisfy the offensive and defensive role of the
    collective frontal attack. Perhaps even more
    important and more fateful this newfound
    dependence on mutual support necessitated
    innovation in the size and shape of the phalanx.
  • http//

Phalanx Tactics Crash, Stab, Push
Greek Hoplite Vs. Persian
Spear, Sword, and Full Panoply
Hoplite Phalanx
Hoplite Phalanx
First Invasion by Darius I, Persian King.
  • To punish the Greeks, the Persians, in 490 BC,
    launched an expedition against Athens. They were
    met, however, by one of their former soldiers,
    Miltiades…. Unlike other Athenians, he knew the
    Persian army and he knew its tactics.

Route of Darius
Marathon and Thermopylae
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Battle at Marathon
  • The two armies, with the Athenians led by
    Miltiades, met at Marathon in Attica and the
    Athenians roundly defeated the invading army.
    This battle, the battle of Marathon (490 BC), is
    perhaps the single most important battle in Greek
  • http//

From Herodotus. The Persian Wars. 440 BC
  • 6.108 The Athenians were drawn up in order of
    battle in a sacred close belonging to Hercules,
    when they were joined by the Plataeans, who came
    in full force to their aid.
  • 6.109 The Athenian generals were divided in
    their opinions and some advised not to risk a
    battle, because they were too few to engage such
    a host as that of the Medes, while others were
    for fighting at once and among these last was
    Miltiades. He therefore, seeing that opinions
    were thus divided, and that the less worthy
    counsel appeared likely to prevail, resolved to
    go to the Polemarch, and have a conference with
    him. For the man on whom the lot fell to be
    Polemarch at Athens was entitled to give his
    vote with the ten generals, since anciently the
    Athenians allowed him an equal right of voting
    with them. The Polemarch at this juncture was
    Callimachus of Aphidnae to him therefore
    Miltiades went, and said-
  • Polemarch. A polemarch (from Ancient Greek
    p???µa????, polemarchos) was a senior military
    title in various ancient Greek city states
    (poleis). The title is composed out of the
    polemos (war) and archon (ruler/leader) and
    translates as "warleader" or "warlord".
  • http//

  • "With thee it rests, Callimachus, either to
    bring Athens to slavery, or, by securing her
    freedom, to leave behind thee to all future
    generations a memory beyond even Harmodius and
    Aristogeiton. For never since the time that the
    Athenians became a people were they in so great a
    danger as now. If they bow their necks beneath
    the yoke of the Medes , the woes which they
    will have to suffer when given into the power of
    Hippias are already determined on if, on the
    other hand, they fight and overcome, Athens may
    rise to be the very first city in Greece. How it
    comes to pass that these things are likely to
    happen, and how the determining of them in some
    sort rests with thee, I will now proceed to make
    clear. We generals are ten in number, and our
    votes are divided half of us wish to engage,
    half to avoid a combat. Now, if we do not fight,
    I look to see a great disturbance at Athens which
    will shake men's resolutions, and then I fear
    they will submit themselves but if we fight the
    battle before any unsoundness show itself among
    our citizens, let the gods but give us fair play,
    and we are well able to overcome the enemy. On
    thee therefore we depend in this matter, which
    lies wholly in thine own power. Thou hast only to
    add thy vote to my side and thy country will be
    free, and not free only, but the first state in
    Greece. Or, if thou preferrest to give thy vote
    to them who would decline the combat, then the
    reverse will follow.
  • Medes. Ancient people from Media (Greek
    word), in northwest region of Persian empire.
    Eventually part of Persian Empire. Another name
    for Persians.

  • 6.110 Miltiades by these words gained
    Callimachus and the addition of the Polemarch's
    vote caused the decision to be in favour of
  • 6.111 Then at length, when his own turn was
    come, the Athenian battle was set in array, and
    this was the order of it. Callimachus the
    Polemarch led the right wing for it was at that
    time a rule with the Athenians to give the right
    wing to the Polemarch. After this followed the
    tribes, according as they were numbered, in an
    unbroken line while last of all came the
    Plataeans, forming the left wing. And ever since
    that day it has been a custom with the Athenians,
    in the sacrifices and assemblies held each fifth
    year at Athens, for the Athenian herald to
    implore the blessing of the gods on the Plataeans
    conjointly with the Athenians. Now, as they
    marshalled the host upon the field of Marathon,
    in order that the Athenian front might he of
    equal length with the Median, the ranks of the
    centre were diminished, and it became the weakest
    part of the line, while the wings were both made
    strong with a depth of many ranks.

  • 6.112 So when the battle was set in array, and
    the victims of anmial sacrifices to foretell
    future showed themselves favourable, instantly
    the Athenians, so soon as they were let go,
    charged the barbarians at a run. Now the distance
    between the two armies was little short of eight
    furlongs. Furlong 201 meters. The Persians,
    therefore, when they saw the Greeks coming on at
    speed, made ready to receive them, although it
    seemed to them that the Athenians were bereft of
    their senses, and bent upon their own
    destruction for they saw a mere handful of men
    coming on at a run without either horsemen or
    archers. Such was the opinion of the barbarians
    but the Athenians in close array fell upon them,
    and fought in a manner worthy of being recorded.
    They were the first of the Greeks, so far as I
    know, who introduced the custom of charging the
    enemy at a run, and they were likewise the first
    who dared to look upon the Median garb, and to
    face men clad in that fashion. Until this time
    the very name of the Medes had been a terror to
    the Greeks to hear.

Pincer Movement
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  • 6.113 The two armies fought together on the
    plain of Marathon for a length of time and in
    the mid battle, where the Persians themselves and
    the Sacae had their place, the barbarians were
    victorious, and broke and pursued the Greeks into
    the inner country but on the two wings the
    Athenians and the Plataeans defeated the enemy.
    A pincer movement. Let the enemy break through
    the front ranks, then close the two sides. Enemy
    is now trapped within the phalanx. Having so
    done, they suffered the routed barbarians to fly
    at their ease, and joining the two wings in one,
    fell upon those who had broken their own centre,
    and fought and conquered them. These likewise
    fled, and now the Athenians hung upon the
    runaways and cut them down, chasing them all the
    way to the shore, on reaching which they laid
    hold of the ships and called aloud for fire.
  • 6.114 It was in the struggle here that
    Callimachus the Polemarch, after greatly
    distinguishing himself, lost his life Stesilaus
    too, the son of Thrasilaus, one of the generals,
    was slain and Cynaegirus, the son of Euphorion,
    having seized on a vessel of the enemy's by the
    ornament at the stern, had his hand cut off by
    the blow of an axe, and so perished as likewise
    did many other Athenians of note and name.

  • 6.116 The Persians accordingly sailed round
    Sunium. Heading to Athens to attack the city.
    But the Athenians with all possible speed marched
    away to the defence of their city, and succeeded
    in reaching Athens before the appearance of the
    barbarians and as their camp at Marathon had
    been pitched in a precinct of Hercules, so now
    they encamped in another precinct of the same god
    at Cynosarges. The barbarian fleet arrived, and
    lay to off Phalerum, which was at that time the
    haven of Athens but after resting awhile upon
    their oars, they departed and sailed away to
    Asia. The Persiqans realized that it was over.
  • 6.117 There fell in this battle of Marathon, on
    the side of the barbarians, about six thousand
    and four hundred men on that of the Athenians,
    one hundred and ninety-two. Such was the number
    of the slain on the one side and the other. A
    strange prodigy likewise happened at this fight.
    Epizelus, the son of Cuphagoras, an Athenian, was
    in the thick of the fray, and behaving himself as
    a brave man should, when suddenly he was stricken
    with blindness, without blow of sword or dart
    and this blindness continued thenceforth during
    the whole of his after life. The following is the
    account which he himself, as I have heard, gave
    of the matter he said that a gigantic warrior,
    with a huge beard, which shaded all his shield,
    stood over against him but the ghostly semblance
    passed him by, and slew the man at his side.
    Such, as I understand, was the tale which
    Epizelus told.

  • Had the Athenians lost at Marathon, Greece would
    have come under the control of the Persians.
    Therefore, the political, cultural (arts,
    philosophy, architecture), and scientific
    accomplishments of the Greeks would probably not
    have happened. Rome would not have had Greek
    culture on which to build. Christianity probably
    would not have developed. Europe would be vastly
    different. You would not be here. The theory of
    republican government would not have been
    developed for export here, as the foundation of
    our political system.
  • Next time you have the chance, thank the Greeks.

Burial Mound at Marathon
Special Burial Mound for Plataeans
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Battle at Thermopylae
  • Ten years after Marathon, in 480 BC, Xerxes, son
    of Darius invaded mainland Greece. To finish what
    his father had started.
  • Xerxes I of Persia was a King of Persia (reigned
    485465 BC) of the Achaemenid dynasty. Xérxes
    (??????) is the Greek form of the Old

Heres the route they took.
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  • The Battle of Thermopylae th?r mópp?lee
    (Greek Te?µ?p??a?), detailed primarily by
    Herodotus, was fought in August 480 BC1,
    between an alliance of Greek city-states and the
    invading Persian Empire of Xerxes I, at the pass
    of Thermopylae in central Greece.
  • Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held up the
    Persians advance for six days, before the
    rear-guard was annihilated in one of history's
    most famous last stands.
  • During two full days of battle, the small force
    led by King Leonidas I of Sparta blocked the only
    road through which the massive Persian army could
    pass. After the second day of battle, a local
    resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by
    revealing a mountain path that led behind the
    Greek lines. Aware that they were being
    outflanked, Leonidas dismissed the bulk of the
    Greeks, remaining to guard the pass with 300
    Spartans, 700 Thespian, 400 Thebans and perhaps a
    few hundred others. http//

What dId Xerxes bring to Thermopylae?
  • A lot! Heres what
    Herodotus says.
  • First there was the ancient complement of the
    twelve hundred and seven vessels which came with
    the king from Asia - the contingents of the
    nations severally - amounting, if we allow to
    each ship a crew of two hundred men, to 241,400 -
    Each of these vessels had on board, besides
    native soldiers, thirty fighting men, who were
    either Persians, Medes, or Sacans which gives an
    addition of 36,210. To these two numbers I shall
    further add the crews of the penteconters which
    may be reckoned, one with another, at fourscore
    men each. Of such vessels there were (as I said
    before) three thousand and the men on board them
    accordingly would be 240,000. This was the sea
    force brought by the king from Asia and it
    amounted in all to 517,610 men. The number of the
    foot soldiers was 1,700,000 that of the horsemen
    80,000 to which must be added the Arabs who rode
    on camels, and the Libyans who fought in
    chariots, whom I reckon at 20,000. The whole
    number, therefore, of the land and sea forces
    added together amounts to 2,317,610 men. Such was
    the force brought from Asia, without including
    the camp followers, or taking any account of the
    provision- ships and the men whom they had on

  • 7.185 To the amount thus reached we have still
    to add the forces gathered in Europe, concerning
    which I can only speak from conjecture. The
    Greeks dwelling in Thrace, and in the islands off
    the coast of Thrace, furnished to the fleet one
    hundred and twenty ships the crews of which
    would amount to 24,000 men. Besides these,
    footmen were furnished by the Thracians, the
    Paeonians, the Eordians, the Bottiaeans, by the
    Chalcidean tribes, by the Brygians, the Pierians,
    the Macedonians, the Perrhaebians the Enianians,
    the Dolopians, the Magnesians, the Achaeans and
    by all the dwellers upon the Thracian sea-board
    and the forces of these nations amounted, I
    believe, to three hundred thousand men. These
    numbers, added to those of the force which came
    out of Asia, make the sum of the fighting men

  • 7.201 King Xerxes pitched his camp in the
    region of Malis called Trachinia, while on their
    side the Greeks occupied the straits.
  • These straits the Greeks in general call
    Thermopylae (the Hot Gates) but the natives, and
    those who dwell in the neighbourhood, call them
    Pylae (the Gates). Here then the two armies took
    their stand…

What did the Greeks Bring?
  • 7.202 The Greeks who at this spot awaited the
    coming of Xerxes were the following- From
    Sparta, three hundred men-at-arms from Arcadia,
    a thousand Tegeans and Mantineans, five hundred
    of each people a hundred and twenty
    Orchomenians, from the Arcadian Orchomenus and a
    thousand from other cities from Corinth, four
    hundred men from Phlius, two hundred and from
    Mycenae eighty. Such was the number from the
    Peloponnese. There were also present, from
    Boeotia, seven hundred Thespians and four hundred
  • 7.203 Besides these troops, the Locrians of
    Opus and the Phocians had obeyed the call of
    their countrymen, and sent, the former all the
    force they had, the latter a thousand men.
  • How many Persians?
  • How many Greeks?
  • Straits. A strait is a narrow, navigable
    channel of water that connects two larger
    navigable bodies of water. It most commonly
    refers to a channel of water that lies between
    two land masses. http//

How were the forces arranged?
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Leonidas of Sparta Led
  • 7.204 The various nations had each captains of
    their own under whom they served but the one to
    whom all especially looked up, and who had the
    command of the entire force, was the
    Lacedaemonian, Spartan Leonidas.

Leonidas. Spartan Strategos at Thermopylae The
Persian Great King, Xerxes, Sent a Message to
Leonidas. Give Us Your Weapons, and Live.
Leonidas Sent a Return Message Molon Labe
Come Get Them
Statue of Leonidas
One Reason for Spartan Leadership
  • 7.206 The force with Leonidas was sent forward
    by the Spartans in advance of their main body,
    that the sight of them might encourage the allies
    to fight, and hinder them from going over to the
    Medes, as it was likely they might have done had
    they seen that Sparta was backward. That is,
    may have seemed as if they didnt want to fight.

The Greeks Decide to Fight
  • 7.207 The Greek forces at Thermopylae, when the
    Persian army drew near to the entrance of the
    pass, were seized with fear and a council was
    held to consider about a retreat. It was the wish
    of the Peloponnesians generally that the army
    should fall back upon the Peloponnese, and there
    guard the Isthmus. But Leonidas, who saw with
    what indignation the Phocians and Locrians heard
    of this plan, gave his voice for remaining where
    they were, while they sent envoys to the several
    cities to ask for help, since they were too few
    to make a stand against an army like that of the

The Persian Kings View of the Greeks. From
  • 7.208 … Xerxes sent a mounted spy to observe
    the Greeks, and note how many they were, and see
    what they were doing. He had heard, before he
    came out of Thessaly, that a few men were
    assembled at this place, and that at their head
    were certain Lacedaemonians, under Leonidas, a
    descendant of Hercules. …
  • (H)e observed those on the outside, who were
    encamped in front of the rampart. It chanced that
    at this time the Lacedaemonians held the outer
    guard, and were seen by the spy, some of them
    engaged in gymnastic exercises, others combing
    their long hair. At this the spy greatly
    marvelled, but he counted their number, and when
    he had taken accurate note of everything, he rode
    back quietly for no one pursued after him, nor
    paid any heed to his visit. So he returned, and
    told Xerxes all that he had seen.

  • 7.209 Upon this, Xerxes, who had no means of
    surmising the truth - namely, that the Spartans
    were preparing to do or die manfully - but
    thought it laughable that they should be engaged
    in such employments, sent and called to his
    presence Demaratus the son of Ariston, who still
    remained with the army. When he appeared, Xerxes
    told him all that he had heard, and questioned
    him concerning the news, since he was anxious to
    understand the meaning of such behaviour on the
    part of the Spartans. Then Demaratus said -
  • … These men have come to dispute the pass with
    us and it is for this that they are now making
    ready. 'Tis their custom, when they are about to
    hazard their lives, to adorn their heads with
    care. Be assured, however, that if thou canst
    subdue the men who are here and the
    Lacedaemonians who remain in Sparta, there is no
    other nation in all the world which will venture
    to lift a hand in their defence. Because other
    nations would fear reprisals from the Persians.
    Thou hast now to deal with the first kingdom and
    town in Greece, and with the bravest men."

The Battle Starts. Xerxes Attacks with the Medes
  • Four whole days he Xerxes suffered to go by,
    expecting that the Greeks would run away. When,
    however, he found on the fifth that they were not
    gone, thinking that their firm stand was mere
    impudence and recklessness, he grew wroth, and
    sent against them the Medes and Cissians, with
    orders to take them alive and bring them into his
    presence. Then the Medes rushed forward and
    charged the Greeks, but fell in vast numbers
    others however took the places of the slain, and
    would not be beaten off, though they suffered
    terrible losses. In this way it became clear to
    all, and especially to the king, that though he
    had plenty of combatants, he had but very few
    warriors. He realized that his soldiers were no
    match for the Greeks. WHY were they not? The
    struggle, however, continued during the whole day.

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Then Xerxes sends in his best soldiers, the
  • 7.211 Then the Medes, having met so rough a
    reception, withdrew from the fight and their
    place was taken by the band of Persians…whom the
    king called his "Immortals" they, it was
    thought, would soon finish the business. But when
    they joined battle with the Greeks, 'twas with no
    better success than the Median detachment -
    things went much as before - the two armies
    fighting in a narrow space, and the barbarians
    using shorter spears than the Greeks, and having
    no advantage from their numbers. The
    Lacedaemonians fought in a way worthy of note,
    and showed themselves far more skilful in fight
    than their adversaries, often turning their
    backs, and making as though they were all flying
    away, Taunting the Persians. on which the
    barbarians would rush after them with much noise
    and shouting, when the Spartans at their approach
    would wheel round and face their pursuers, in
    this way destroying vast numbers of the enemy.
    Some Spartans likewise fell in these encounters,
    but only a very few. At last the Persians,
    finding that all their efforts to gain the pass
    availed nothing, and that, whether they attacked
    by divisions or in any other way, it was to no
    purpose, withdrew to their own quarters.

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  • 7.212 During these assaults, it is said that
    Xerxes, who was watching the battle, thrice
    leaped from the throne on which he sate, in
    terror for his army.

  • Next day the combat was renewed, but with no
    better success on the part of the barbarians. The
    Greeks were so few that the barbarians hoped to
    find them disabled, by reason of their wounds,
    from offering any further resistance and so they
    once more attacked them. But the Greeks were
    drawn up in detachments according to their
    cities, and bore the brunt of the battle in turns
    - all except the Phocians, who had been stationed
    on the mountain to guard the pathway. So, when
    the Persians found no difference between that day
    and the preceding, they again retired to their

  • A Greek peasant, Ephialtes, who lived in the
    hills near Thermopylae, visited Xerxes and
    offered to tell Xerxes how to go around the
    Greeks via a secret mountain path. He did this
    for money, it seems.
  • Xerxes must have realized by now that this was
    the only way to defeat the Greeks.

  • 7.215 Great was the joy of Xerxes on this
    occasion and as he approved highly of the
    enterprise which Ephialtes undertook to
    accomplish, he forthwith sent upon the errand
    Hydarnes, and the Persians under him. The troops
    left the camp about the time of the lighting of
    the lamps. Herodotus.
  • The Persians followed the mountain path leading
    around the Greeks, to their back. Eventually
    they came upon the Greek Phocians who were
    guarding the mountain. The Persians attacked the
    Phocians with arrows. The Phocians retreated to
    the mountain top for what they thought would be a
    battle with the Persians.
  • But the Persians simply kept on the path, and
    wound their way down the mountain until they were
    behind the Greekswho were now surrounded.

Leonidas decides to make a last stand with the
300 Spartans, to save Greece
  • 7.219 The Greeks at Thermopylae received the
    first warning of the destruction which the dawn
    would bring on them from the seer Megistias, who
    read their fate in the victims as he was
    sacrificing. After this deserters Persians came
    in, and brought the news that the Persians were
    marching round by the hills it was still night
    when these men arrived. Last of all, the scouts
    came running down from the heights, and brought
    in the same accounts, when the day was just
    beginning to break.
  • Then the Greeks held a council to consider what
    they should do, and here opinions were divided
    some were strong against quitting their post,
    while others contended to the contrary. So when
    the council had broken up, part of the troops
    departed and went their ways homeward to their
    several states part however resolved to remain,
    and to stand by Leonidas to the last.

  • 7.220 It is said that Leonidas himself sent
    away the troops who departed, because he tendered
    their safety, but thought it unseemly that either
    he or his Spartans should quit the post which
    they had been especially sent to guard. … He
    therefore commanded them to retreat, but said
    that he himself could not draw back with honour
    knowing that, if he stayed, glory awaited him,
    and that Sparta in that case would not lose her
    prosperity. For when the Spartans, at the very
    beginning of the war, sent to consult the oracle
    concerning it, the answer which they received
    from the Pythoness was "that either Sparta
    must be overthrown by the barbarians, or one of
    her kings must perish.
  • Pythoness. Priestess oracle as Delphi, about
    75 miles north of Athens. Give her money and she
    foretells the future.

Pythoness at Delphi
  • 222 The allies then who were dismissed departed
    and went away, obeying the word of Leonidas, and
    only the Thespians and the Thebans remained
    behind with the Spartans.
  • By holding off the Persians and sending away
    most of the army, Leonidas enabled the rest of
    Greece to prepare for battles to come, when the
    Persians finally went through the pass at
    Thermopylae and headed south into Greece.
  • Self-sacrifice for the good of the whole.

Heres what the Greeks valued.
  • Simoneses of Creos
  • On those Who Died at Thermopylae
  • Of those who perished at the Hot Gates,
  • all glorious is the fortune, fair the doom
  • Their grave's an altar, ceaseless memory's theirs
  • instead of lamentation, and their fate
  • Is chant of praise. Such winding sheet as this
  • no mould nor all-consuming time shall waste.
  • This sepulchre of valiant men has taken
  • the fair renown of Hellas for its inmate.
  • And witness is Leonidas, once king
  • of Sparta, who hath left behind a crown
  • Of valour mighty and undying fame.
  • On the Spartans Fallen at Plataea
  • These men left an altar of glory on their land,
  • shining in all weather,
  • When they were enveloped by the black mists of
  • death.

  • Courage. Tyrtaeus ofr Sparta
  • For no man ever proves himself a good man in war
  • unless he can endure to face the blood and the
  • go close against the enemy and fight with his
  • Here is courage, mankind's finest possession,
    here is
  • the noblest prize that a young man can endeavor
    to win,
  • and it is a good thing his city and all the
    people share with him
  • when a man plants his feet and stands in the
    foremost spears
  • relentlessly, all thought of foul flight
    completely forgotten,
  • and has well trained his heart to be steadfast
    and to endure,
  • and with words encourages the man who is
    stationed beside him.
  • Here is a man who proves himself to be valiant in
  • With a sudden rush he turns to flight the rugged
  • of the enemy, and sustains the beating waves of
  • And he who so falls among the champions and loses
    his sweet life,
  • so blessing with honor his city, his father, and
    all his people,
  • with wounds in his chest, where the spear that he
    was facing has transfixed

  • why, such a man is lamented alike by the young
    and the elders,
  • and all his city goes into mourning and grieves
    for his loss.
  • His tomb is pointed to with pride, and so are his
  • and his children's children, and afterward all
    the race that is his.
  • His shining glory is never forgotten, his name is
  • and he becomes an immortal, though he lies under
    the ground,
  • when one who was a brave man has been killed by
    the furious War God
  • standing his ground and fighting hard for his
    children and land.
  • But if he escapes the doom of death, the
    destroyer of bodies,
  • and wins his battle, and bright renown for the
    work of his spear,
  • all men give place to him like, the youth and the
  • and much joy comes his way before he goes down to
    the dead.

Alcaeus of Mytilene
  • Things of War
  • The great house glitters with bronze. War has
  • the roof with shining helmets,
  • their horsehair plumes waving in the wind,
  • of fighting men. And pegs
  • are concealed under bright greaves of brass which
  • block the iron-tipped arrows. Many
  • fresh-linen corselets are hanging and hollow
  • are heaped about the floor,
  • and standing in rows are swords of Chalcidian
  • belt-knives and warriors' kilts.
  • We cannot forget our arms and armor when soon
  • our dreadful duties begin.

The Spartans loved life.
  • Ibycus of Samos
  • Spartan girls
  • are naked-thighed and man-crazy
  • Alcman of Sparta
  • Aphrodite commands and love rains
  • upon my body and melts my heart
  • for Megalostrata, to whom the sweet Muse
  • gave the gift of poetry.
  • O happy girl of the goldenrod hair!

  • Aristophanes
  • Leave darling Taygetus,
  • Spartan Muse! Come to us
  • once more, flying
  • and glorifying
  • Spartan themes
  • the god at Amyclae,
  • bronze-house Athena,
  • Tyndarus twins,
  • the valiant ones,
  • playing still by Eurotas streams.
  • Up! Advance!
  • Leap to the dance!

  • Help us hymn Sparta,
  • lover of dancing,
  • lover of footfalls,
  • where girls go prancing
  • like fillies along Eurotas banks,
  • whirling the dust, twinkling their shanks,
  • shaking their hair
  • like Maenads playing
  • and juggling the thyrsis,
  • in frenzy obeying
  • Ledas daughter, the fair, the pure
  • Helen, the mistress of the choir.
  • Here, Muse, here!
  • Bind up your hair!
  • Sing the greatest,
  • sing the mightiest,
  • sing the conqueror,

The Final Attack
  • The Persians have the Spartans surrounded.
    Archers shower them with arrows. The Spartans
    fight to the last man.

  • From Herodotus. The Peraian Wars.
  • 223 The barbarians with Xerxes were
    accordingly advancing to the attack and the
    Greeks with Leonidas, feeling that they were
    going forth to death, now advanced out much
    further than at first into the broader part of
    the defile … but now they engaged with them
    outside the narrows, and very many of the
    barbarians fell for behind them the leaders of
    the divisions with scourges in their hands were
    striking each man, ever urging them on to the
    front. The Persians had to be beaten to make
    them fight. WHY?
  • Many of them Spartans then were driven into
    the sea and perished, and many more still were
    trodden down while yet alive by one another, and
    there was no reckoning of the number that
    perished for knowing the death which was about
    to come upon them by reason of those who were
    going round the mountain, they displayed upon the
    barbarians all the strength which they had, to
    its greatest extent, disregarding danger and
    acting as if possessed by a spirit of

  • 224 Now by this time the spears of the greater
    number of them Spartans were broken, so it
    chanced, in this combat, and they were slaying
    the Persians with their swords and in this
    fighting fell Leonidas, having proved himself a
    very good man, and others also of the Spartans
    with him, men of note, of whose names I was
    informed as of men who had proved themselves
    worthy, and indeed I was told also the names of
    all the three hundred.

  • This conflict continued until those who had gone
    with Ephialtes came up and when the Greeks
    learnt that these had come, from that moment the
    nature of the combat was changed for they
    retired backwards to the narrow part of the way,
    and having passed by the wall they went and
    placed themselves upon the hillock, all in a body
    together except only the Thebans now this
    hillock is in the entrance, where now the stone
    lion is placed for Leonidas.

  • On this spot while defending themselves with
    daggers, that is those who still had them left,
    and also with hands and with teeth, they were
    overwhelmed by the missiles arrows of the
    barbarians, some of these having followed
    directly after them and destroyed the fence of
    the wall, while others had come round and stood
    about them on all sides.

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  • 228 The men were buried were they fell and for
    these, as well as for those who were slain before
    being sent away by Leonidas, there is an
    inscription which runs thus
  • "Here once, facing in fight three hundred myriads
    of foemen,
  • Thousands four did contend, men of the
  • This is the inscription for the whole body and
    for the Spartans separately there is this
  • "Stranger, report this word, we pray, to the
    Spartans, that lying
  • Here in this spot we remain, faithfully keeping
    their laws."

Monument at Thermoplyae. Stranger Passing By,
Tell the Spartans That Here We Lie, In Obedience
to Their Laws.
  • The Persians succeeded in taking the pass but
    sustained losses disproportionate to those of the
    Greeks. Nevertheless, in doing so, they conquered
    Boeotia and Attica, burning Athens in the
    process. However, the fierce resistance of the
    Spartan-led army had given the Allies valuable
    time to prepare the defense of the Peloponnesus,
    and later that year the Athenian-led navy was
    able to win a decisive naval battle that would do
    much to determine the outcome of the war.6 The
    Greek victory at the Battle of Salamis prevented
    a naval invasion of the Peloponnesus, and
    therefore prevented the completion of the Persian
    conquest. Demoralised, Xerxes retreated to Asia,
    leaving a force in Greece under Mardonius to
    complete the subjugation of the Greeks. The
    following year, however, a full-strength Allied
    army defeated the Persian force at the Battle of
    Plataea, ending the expansion of the Persian
    Empire into Europe.7 http//

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Persian Envoy Leaves
Thermopylae. Persians Foreground
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Themistocles. Athenian Commander Who Destroyed
Persian Fleet at Salamis
Battle at Salamis
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Greek Trireme Light, Fast, Maneuverable
Greek Trireme
Pausanias. Spartan Strategos of Allied Greeks at
Who Did What at Plataea?
Plataea. 479. Greeks South.
Plataea Now
Mourning Greek Warrior
Marines. Modern Hoplites
  • Saepius Exertus Often Tested
  • Semper Fidelis Always Faithful
  • Frater Infinitas Brothers Forever

Panoply of American Hoplites
Body Armor
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Full Panoply
Temple at Delphi
Favorite Gods
Apollo. Far Shooter. Sun god. God of Musicians
and Poets. The Ideal of Manly Beauty.
Athena From Aegina
Athena Defeats the Giant
Athena Promachus
Mourning Athena
Apollo. His Arrows Bring Messages From the
Other Side