Ancient Greek History

How the Ancient Greeks Avoided Persian Conquest

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Since Ancient Greece wasn’t organized as a large, cohesive country by itself, it was left vulnerable to attack. Instead, Greece was made up of multiple, independently run city-states. The relationships each city-state had with one another was often difficult, and they often were at war with each other.

Historians believe that this is one of the reasons why the Persian Empire tried to conquer Ancient Greece. They possibly thought that it would be much easier to conquer since Greece was divided in this way. Not only that, but the Persians wanted to expand their empire, and Greece was strategically located.

Ultimately, this desire pushed the Greeks into a conflict known as the Persian Invasions and the Greco-Persian Wars, and it was during this time that the Persian Empire was the largest in the world. The Persians had a large army and wanted to conquer as much of the world as they could. Originally, the Persians came from an area in modern-day Iran. After they conquered Babylon, Lydia, and Ionia, they decided to do the same to Greece. We know they were unsuccessful, but how did the Greeks manage to avoid conquest? Here is some insight:

Writings of Herodotus

Herodotus was a historian in Ancient Greek who often wrote about the Greeks’ struggle against the Persians. In his masterwork, The Histories, Herodotus gave a detailed account of the Greco-Persian Wars. Historians who have found some of his account to be inaccurate have questioned his credibility. Despite that, he is considered a good primary source on the topic. It is because of his writings that we know as much as we do about the Persian Empire and the role Greece played in preventing further conquest. It is because of his work that we know so much about this.

Ionian Revolt

In The Histories, Herodotus spent some time writing about the Ionian Revolt, which is now officially considered a part of the Greco-P

ersian wars. Though Athens and Eretria helped the Ionians against Persian attack, the Spartans refused, beli

eving this would help their diplomatic relationship with Persia. Through Athens’ help, the Ionians were initially successful.

During the Ionian Revolt, several Greek city-states rebelled against Persian conquest. At the time, some of the city-states, such as Aeolis, Dorus, and Cyprus, had been taken over by the mighty empire. Rather than accept this as their fate, the people decided to rise up against Persian rule. Ultimately, this helped propel Ancient Greece into an ongoing war with Persia.

Greece Learns They Can Defeat Persia

By 492 B.C., all of Ionia had been conquered and Persia decided to attack Greece. They started with Athens and Eretria, the two city-states who had offered the Ionians aid. These attacks were seen as a form of punishment for the Greek city-states who attempted to stand in their way.

The end result of this first invasion was decided at the Battle of Marathon. Greek foot soldiers managed to defeat the Persians and because the Greeks in Marathon were able to send word to Athens that the Persians were headed their way by sea, the Athenian navy was able to crush the attempt to land on Greek soil. Ultimately, this is how our modern-day marathon race was developed, to honor the soldier who ran to warn the Athenians that the Persians were on their way. He lost his life from the exertion, but that act helped the Athenians defeat the Persians.

The City-States Work Together

The Battle of Marathon was a decisive victory for the Greeks and it showed them that Persia could be defeated, as long as they work together. There were multiple battles during the war. Some ended in tragedy, such as the battle at Thermopylae. Note that most of what we know about this battle came from Herodotus, and much of it was sensationalized. Assuming that the battle really happened the way he described, even in defeat the Greeks managed to drastically decrease the number of Persian soldiers on the battlefield as well as sap their moral.

Ultimately, it was the alliance forged between Athens and Sparta that proved the most effective against the Persian Empire. Between the Athenian navy and the Spartan army, the Greeks were able to form a strategy that would ultimately result in the Persian defeat. Yes, the Greeks lost some of the battles during the Greco-Persian Wars. However, the end result of the wars was a Greek victory.


Wikipedia – Greco-Persian Wars

Wikipedia – Ionian Revolt

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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