The Persian Wars The Persian Wars really began with the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC The Persian Empire had been expanding into Asia Minor at the expense of Greek city states there. Athens sent support to the Ionian city states when they revolted against Persian rule. The revolt was suppressed and the Persian King, Darius, wanted to punish Athens for their support of the rebel cities. In 490 BC he sent an amphibious force to attack Athens. The Athenians appealed to Sparta and the other Greek states for help. The Spartans were involved in their annual religious festival and refused help at that time. Athens faced the Persians alone. At the battle of Marathon in 490 BC Athens defeated the Persian force. Persia had now become involved in Greek affairs. The defeat at Marathon would lead directly to the invasion of Greece ten years later. When Darius died his son Xerxes became King/Emperor of the Persian Empire. He immediately began plans for an invasion of Greece in revenge for his fathers defeat.
J. Kilroy ~ Greek History Xerxes invasion of Greece is chronicled by Herodotus, the first historian, in his book ‘The Histories’. Herodotus is also known as the father of lies from his habit of reporting popular rumour as fact. Xerxes assembled what was, according to Herodotus, the largest army ever assembled. It was so large it drank rivers dry. Xerses crossed the Hellespont and moved through northern Greece without meeting much resistance in Macedonia or Thessaly. The Greek city states had formed and alliance of states to meet the coming invasion. The Alliance was led by Athens and Sparta. Their initial plan has been to engage the Persians (on Land) at the Pass of Thermopylae. They would also engage the Persian fleet at Artemesium. This plan was revised when the Greek Alliance saw the size of The Persian force. It was agreed (with much opposition from Athens) to repel the invasion at the isthmus of Corinth. The Persians wiped out the 300 Spartans (and 700 Boeotians) at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC but this became a big propaganda victory for the Greeks. The Persians occupied Athens which was evacuated and the buildings on the Acropolis were burned. The Greek naval forces engaged the Persians at the Battle of Salamis – and won a famous victory. The following year the Persians were routed on land at the Battle of Plataea.
J. Kilroy ~ Greek History The 5 th Century BC Athens and Sparta emerged as the strongest powers after the Persian invasion. Athens was a maritime power while Sparta dominated the Peloponnesus and their main power was on land. The Athenians set up the Delian League after the war – this was a League of States – mostly islands and costal states – that looked to the Athenian navy for protection. The Delian League became the Athenian League and then the Athenian Empire. Athens became rich – the Acropolis was rebuilt with the Parthenon and the other temples. This was the height of the ‘Athenian democracy’ and it modeled itself as the centre of civilization. This was the period of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. As Athenian power grew it came into conflict with the other Greek superpower Sparta. Eventually war broke out between the Athenian League and the Peloponnesian League in 431 BC. The war was chronicled by the historian Thucydides in his book “The Peloponnesian War”
J. Kilroy ~ Greek History The Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC The Peloponnesian war between Athens and her allies and Sparta and her allies lasted almost 30 years and took place in three parts. The first part, known as the Archidamian war, consisted of annual land attacks by Sparta on Athens. Sparta was unable to defeat Athens and they countered with raids on the Peloponnesus from their navy. This phase of the war lasted until the Peace of Nicias in 421 BC. The second phase (417-413 BC) of the war was the Sicilian expedition. This was an army sent by Athens to Sicily to help their allies there in 415 BC. The Athenian army was wiped out. The third phase of the war, known as the Decelean (Ionian) War, lasted from 413-404 BC and resulted in the complete victory of Sparta over Athens. Sparta built a fleet, encouraged revolts from Athens allies, and secured support from Persia. The Spartan leader Lysander’s victories at Aegospotami (405 BC) was the end for Athens. Sparta emerged as the dominant Greek power. Athens declined as a power. Sparta’s next challenge came from Thebes who surprisingly defeated the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra under the command of Epaminondas. Thebes briefly became the dominant power. Philip of Macedon was a prisoner in Thebes and observed first hand the Theban tactics used at the Battle of Leuctra.
J. Kilroy ~ Greek History The Rise of Macedonia Macedonia was traditionally a weak state on the fringes of Greece. During the Persian wars the Macedonians had allowed Xerses army free passage. In the Peloponnesian war Macedonia had followed a policy of supporting which power was winning. Philip of Macedon, the third son of King Amyntas and Eurydice, was born in Pella in 382 BC. Philip was a hostage in Thebes during their victory over the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. He studied closely the military tactics used by the Thebans and the Sacred Band. Philip returned to Macedonia in 364 BC. His brothers, Alexander and Perdiccas, both Kings, were both assassinated in palace coups. Philip became King of Macedonia in 359 BC. Immediately he put his military ideas into practice. Philip introduced the phalanx (infantry) into the Macedonian army. He armed them with a 6 metre two handed pike called a sarissa. Surrounded by enemies Philip’s problems in 359 BC seemed insurmountable.
J. Kilroy ~ Greek History Philip II Philip was surrounded by enemies – the Illyrians to the west, Thessaly to the south, Thracians and Paionians to the north and east and the Athenian presence in the Chalcidice. Philip through a skilful mixture of war, marriage and diplomacy defeated all his enemies over the next few years. In 359 BC he defeated the Thracians and Paionians and an Athenian force. In 358-357 BC he led a successful campaign against the Illyrians. He married Olympias, a princess of Epirus, in 357 BC, one of his seven wives, and Alexander was born the following year. In 357-6 Philip deceived the Athenians and secured the gold and silver mines at Mount Pangioan and the city of Amphipolis. Philip took Crenides and the mines there in 356 BC and renamed it Philippi. Athenian influence was removed from the Chalcidice in 354 BC. By 353 BC Philip has made a strong, rich, powerful Macedonia master of the north. In 352 BC Philip defeated the Phocians in Thessaly. As Phocis was robbing the Delphic oracle to fund its armies Philip could pose as the champion of Greek traditions and religion. The Battle of Crocus Field (352) showed the Macedonians new power but also their great ruthlessness as up to 3,000 prisoners were later drowned.
J. Kilroy ~ Greek History Philip II becomes master of Greece From 352-346 BC Philip consolidated and secured his gains continuing his army reforms and training and defeating any local rebels and threats to the throne. The Athenians resented their earlier defeat at Philip’s hands and their orators stirred up feeling in Greece against him. Philip responded by financing anti Athenian movements in Athens colonies. In 346 BC Philip marched south into Thessaly to successfully arbitrate in the dispute between Phocis and Thebes. Philip continued his campaigns in the north with mixed success. In 338 BC the inevitable war between Athens, Thebes and their Allies against Macedonia took place at Chaeronea. It was a resounding victory for Macedonia. Philip set up the League of Corinth in 337 BC – all the Greek states (except Sparta) had to join and Philip was elected hegemon. Philip asked the League to sanction an invasion of the Persian Empire – they agreed. In 336 BC Philip made preparations to invade Persia – even sending and advance force when he was assassinated at his daughters wedding in October. As for Sparta – they refused to surrender to Philip – he sent them a ultimatum "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city." Their reply was "If". Both Philip and Alexander left the Spartans alone.