Presentation on theme: "SS.6.W.3.4. The Persians started out as a small tribe in present-day Iran. They built a large empire by conquering their neighbors. At its height,"— Presentation transcript:
The Persians started out as a small tribe in present-day Iran. They built a large empire by conquering their neighbors. At its height, the Persian Empire was the largest empire the world had ever known. King Darius reigned during this period.
In 546 B.C.E. the Persians had conquered the wealthy Greek settlements in Ionia. The Ionians knew they could not defeat the Persians alone, so they asked mainland Greece for help. Athens sent soldiers and a small fleet of ships. Unfortunately, the Athenians went home after their initial success, and the Ionian army lost control of the region.
Angered by the aid Greece offered during the Ionian revolt, King Darius decided to conquer mainland Greece as well. He demanded the Greeks obey him and pay tribute, but they refused. In 490 B.C.E., Darius, furious at the Greeks for their refusal to pay, sent a large army across the Aegean Sea to Greece. They assembled on the plain of Marathon.
A brilliant general named Miltiades convinced the other Greek commanders to fight the Persians at Marathon…except the Spartans who were celebrating a religious festival and refused to come. Although Miltiades was left with far fewer men than the Persians, he decided to attack.
At Marathon, Miltiades ordered the center portion of his army to advance. When the Persians also came forward, he ordered the left and right sides of his army to sweep down and attack the Persians from the sides as well. The Greeks won a stunning victory, but their fight with the Persians had just begun.
After King Darius died, his son, Xerxes, organized another attack on Greece. He put together a huge army of more than 180,000 soldiers. To get his army to Greece, Xerxes chose to cross the Hellespont, a narrow sea channel between Europe and Asia. There he made 2 bridges by roping hundreds of boats together with wooden boards across their bows. Then he walked his army across the channel into Europe.
Several Greek city-states were overwhelmed, so Athens and Sparta decided they had to come together to fight their enemy. The Athenian navy would try to stop the Persian navy, and the Spartan army, led by King Leonidas, would try to stop the Persian army. The Spartans chose to make their stand at a place called Thermopylae, where the Persian army would have to go through a narrow pass between the mountains and the sea.
Leonidas has only 6,000- 7,000 Greek troops under his command to stop 180,000 Persians. They were able to hold off the Persians for awhile, but then a Greek traitor led the Persians through a mountain path that would allow them to attack the Greeks from more than one angle.
Surrounded, Leonidas knew that he could only delay the Persian advance. To keep his army from being destroyed, he ordered most of his troops to escape. With a much smaller army, including 300 Spartans, he prepared to fight. Although they fought bravely, all 300 were killed.
When the news of the slaughter at Thermopylae reached Athens, most people panicked and fled. Themistocles, an Athenian navy leader, decided to try to fight the Persian navy in the narrow channels between the islands and the mainland. The Athenians knew those waterways well, and the Persians would find it hard to maneuver their ships around the Greek navy.
Themistocles set a trap for the Persian navy near a place called Salamis. He sent a loyal slave to Xerxes’ camp with a message that Themistocles wanted to change sides and join the Persians. If Xerxes attacked now, he said, half the Greek sailors would surrender.
Xerxes fell for the trick and ordered his ships to enter the narrow waterway. As the Persians approached, the Greek ships seemed to retreat in order to throw them off. Really, they were just trying to lure them deeper into the channel. Soon, the Persian ships were surrounded, and the Greeks sank 300 Persian ships. The Greeks only lost 40 ships!
After the defeat at Salamis, Xerxes left the rest of his army in Greece with orders to attack again in the spring of 479 B.C.E. When spring arrived, the Persians approached Athens once more, and a decisive battle took place near the town of Plataea. Led by the Spartans, a force of 80,000 Greek troops destroyed the Persian army, and the threat from the Persian Empire was over. This important victory preserved the Greeks’ independence.