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The Persian Wars
Athens and Sparta Unite
499 – 479 B.C.E.
• The Persian Empire largest and most
powerful empire
• The Persians ruled Africa, the Middle East,
and Asia
• 499 B.C.E., Persians attack mainland
• Compared to Persia, in terms of land and
soldiers, Greece was very small
The Ionian Revolt:
The Persian Wars Begin
The Ionian Revolt
The Ionian Revolt
• Persian ruler, King Darius, divided empire
into 20 provinces
• Provinces made up of Persian leaders, but
kept local customs
• 546 B.C.E., Persians conquered Greek
settlements in Ionia. Ionians lost farmland
and harbors, forced to pay taxes, and serve
in Persian army
Ionian Revolt
• 499 B.C.E., Ionians asked mainland Greece for
Athens sent soldiers and a small fleet of ships
Athens support did not last long, Athenians
returned to Greece in 493 B.C.E.
Ionians defeated, city of Miletus destroyed, many
people sold into slavery as punishment
Darius set his sights on conquering Athens for
helping Ionians
Scoreboard: Greece: 0 Persia: 1
The Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon
• Darius decided to invade mainland Greece
• Darius sent messengers to Greece to ask for
presents of earth and water (a sign of Greek
acceptance of Persian rule)
• Legend: Greeks threw messengers into pits and
wells, “If you want Greek earth and water, help
• 490 B.C.E. Persia sent large army of foot soldiers
and cavalry across Aegean Sea to plain of
Marathon on mainland Greece
The Battle of Marathon
• Greeks led by Miltades, sent Athenian runner on
two day run to Sparta for help
Sparta unable to help due to religious festival
Miltades stretched men across narrow valley, with
men in side hills
When Persians attacked in valley, men from hills
came down and swarmed Persians; Persians
retreated to ships
Why was this important to Greece? Confidence
Scoreboard: Greece: 1 Persia: 1
The Battle of Thermopylae: 300
The Battle of Thermopylae: 300
• Darius died, son Xerxes built huge army (180,000)
to attack Greece
• Xerxes crossed small channel to Greece by roping
boats together
• 480 B.C.E. moved south, Athens and Sparta
• Athens set out to defeat Persian navy; Sparta set
out to fight the army (led my Leonidas)
The Battle of Thermopylae: 300
• Spartans made stand at Thermopylae due to
narrow pass through mountains
Spartans: 7,000 soldiers; Persians: 180,000
Spartans successful until Spartan traitor shared
secret passage through mountains, Persians able to
attack from front and rear
Most Spartans retreated, Leonidas stayed to fight
with 300 soldiers; brave fight but all killed
Athenians panicked and fled city to islands,
Athens burned to the ground
Scoreboard: Greece: 1 Persia: 2
The Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis
• Athenian naval leader, Themistocles had plan of
• Trick Persians into entering narrow sea channel
where they would be unable to turn ships
• Themistocles sent slave to Xerxes with message
that Themistocles wanted to change sides; if
Xerxes attacked at channel in Salamis, Greece
would surrender
The Battle of Salamis
• Xerxes sent ships to channel, Greek ships
retreated to draw Persians in
• Greek ships quickly surrounded Persian
ships and used wooden rams on front of
ships to sink over 300 Persian ships (the
Greeks lost 40)
• Scoreboard: Greece: 2 Persia: 2
The Battle of Plataea
The Battle of Plataea
• Xerxes retreated to water bridge (boats tied
together); bridges destroyed by storms
• Xerxes fled channel, but left Persian forces behind
on mainland Greece to attack Athens in the spring
• Athens and Sparta joined once more; with an army
of 80,000 troops, the Greeks defeated the Persians
one last time at Plataea
• Final score: Greece: 3 Persia: 2
Why were the Greeks able to win?
National Pride: Sparta and Athens were able to
put aside differences and unite in common goal
Geography: Greeks were able to use geography
to their advantage
Comparison to today?
American Revolution; others?
Final results: Athens rebuilt, “Golden Age of