This caused Darius to send an army against Athens, starting the first Persian/Greek war in 490 BCE.
The Persian plan was to sail an army to Greece, land near Athens, and then crush the smaller Greek armies. They chose a landing site at the coastal town of Marathon.
However, the Athenian army was dug in and waiting for them, realizing that the best way to stop the Persians was to fight them as close to the shore at possible.
The Athenian general Miltiades surprised the Persians by keeping his men on the sides rather than the center- which allowed them to surround and rout the Persian army.
According to legend, a messenger was sent to run the 26 miles to Athens to tell them about this victory and warn them about the possible attack of the Persian navy.
This messenger, Phidippides, had supposedly already run 140 miles in the past week bringing messages to other Greek city states.
According to legend, Phidippides had just enough strength to run the 26 miles to Athens, and utter the word “Victory” before he died of exhaustion.
Today, the marathon is a 26 mile endurance race, in part a memorial to Phidippides’ legendary run.
The Persian Navy, seeing their army defeated on shore, turned around and sailed home. The First Greek-Persian war was over.
Greek Wars: Episode II: - The Persian Empire Strikes Back
Xerxes, the son of Darius, promised his father that he would someday revenge the defeat at Marathon.
In 480 BCE, he created a new army and came up with a two part plan to destroy Greece.
His army would march overland from Anatolia into southern Greece, while the navy would sail separately and link up near Athens.
Meanwhile, the Greek city-states struggled to form an alliance to meet the Persians, particularly between Athens and Sparta.
An allied army was formed and marched to block the Persians at a mountain pass in central Greece- Thermopylae, or “Hot Gates.”
The huge Persian army was forced to stop, until a Greek shepherd switched sides and showed them another way around the pass.
The Spartan general Leonidas told the other Greek soldiers to get away while they still could- and that he and his small band of Spartans would hold Thermopylae while the rest escaped to fight another day.
Heavily outnumbered and surrounded, Leonidas and his tiny band of 300 Spartans fought down to the last man and last weapon, until they were destroyed- but not after thousands of Persians had also been killed.
The Greeks continued to retreat and Athens fell to the Persian army, who burned most of it.
However, the Greek navy, made of smaller and faster ships, had a surprise waiting for the Persian navy at Salamis.
The Greek ships attacked the larger and slower Persian ships near the island of Salamis, inflicting a tremendous defeat on their navy.
Without naval support the Persians could not resupply their army, and were finally defeated at Platea in 479 BCE.
The defeated Persians again went back home in failure, and Greece had survived, due in part to the heroic sacrifice of the Spartans at Thermopylae.
After the victory in the second Persian War, the Greek city-states began to fight amongst themselves.
The Spartans ended up defeating Athens in the Pelopennesian War, but the war left all Greek city-states in a weakened condition.
Gradually, the northern state of Macedonia became the most powerful.
Its leader, King Philip, admired the culture of Athens even though he was disliked by that city’s leaders.
Phillip decided to give his son, Alexander, born in 356 BCE, a classical Greek education, in order for him to become a true king.
Alexander was tutored by the great Greek philosopher Aristotle.
After the mysterious murder of his father, Alexander became king of Macedonia. He formed a large army of Greeks and decided to march on the rest of the world.
Alexander had been touched by both greatness- and madness. He believed in creating a “United Nations” of all men- but also believed himself to be the son of Zeus.
Alexander showed a remarkable ability to adapt to different situations. At Tyre, he built ramps on the sand dunes to overcome the city walls of its seaside fortress.
He met the Persian army at Granicus in 334 BCE. Bravely leading his troops at the front, and wearing his tradition red plumed helmet, he broke the Persian line and routed their army.
His armies hunted down Darius, who was killed by one of his own generals.
Alexander and his men entered Babylon in triumph.
As his armies traveled across Asia, he would recruit local soldiers into his united army.
However, his peaceful intentions went along with a campaign of mass killing and destruction in other places. Conservative estimate of a quarter million urban residents massacred, 334-324 BCE, incl: Thebes: 6,000 Around Sindimana: 80,000 Sangala: 17,000 Tyre: 7-8,000 in streets + 2,000 crucified Gaza: 10,000
Alexander and his armies reached the borders of India, and then his campaign came to an end.
After returning to Babylon, he fell ill and died at the age of 33 in 323 BCE.
After his death, his empire fell apart because he had left no successor.
Still, the impact of his beliefs and campaigns are felt to this day. The victory of the Greeks against the Persians was a turning point in history for the development of western- and eastern – civilizations.