“Bandit-Kings”, destroyed in 612 BC

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  • First major aggressive power in this part of the world
  • Would terrorize villages to get food and money and then would leave
    • Never took control of an area
  • If they were obeyed, it was fine, but if a village disobeyed, they were very ferocious
  • Final China, Egypt, Babylon and Persia came together and destroyed the Assyrians

Rise of the Persians (559-522)

  • Began as a relatively minor race, living in a poor and tough area of the world
  • Powerful race who pushed around neighbors

Cyrus (550-530) and King of Media

  • “Tough land, makes tough people”
  • Established Persia after the Assyrians were destroyed


  • Monotheism
  • Believed in the force of light and the force of darkness

Darius (521-486)

  • Decided to create an empire
    • Largest on this western side of China
  • Decided that if an area was conquered, the people and area became Persian
  • Divided up the empire into provinces, appointed generals, create roads, collected taxes
  • Was generous to the conquered people
  • Some Greek cities welcomed the Persians and were absorbed by the Empire
    • Most Greeks really resented the Persians because the polis was supposed to stand alone, no Greek should have to bow to a king

The Ionian Revolt (499-494)

  • A Greek governor appointed by the Persian king, borrowed some money from the Persian king and then lost it all
  • Knowing he was going to be punished, he started a revolt and convinced other polis to kick out their governors and even went to mainland Greece for support
    • Spartans had nothing to do with it
    • Athenians did send 20 ships
  • Had initial success, attacked a Persian city and ransacked and burned it
  • Persian king sent troops to do combat them, Ionia lost
  • Darius executed the ring leaders of the revolt and killed their families but was generous to the rest
  • Because of this revolt, Darius took notice of Greece and decided to absorb it

1st Persian Invasion (490)

  • Darius sent ambassadors to Athens and Sparta asking for submission
    • Some earth and water
  • Both Sparta and Athens refuse so Darius sends a military expedition to deal with it
    • Sends troops to an area called Marathon in the polis Athens
  • Athenians asked Sparta for help but Sparta couldn’t because of religious festival
  • 25000 Persians to 10000 Athenians
  • Athenian general came up with a strategic plan
    • Plan was to have a weak middle and strong weeks so that when Persians broke through the middle the Greeks could surround them
    • Plan worked with Persian losses of 6000 and Athenians under 200
  • Persians fled to their ships and decided to sail to Athens and attack the city since nobody was there
    • Raise between Athens on the ground and Persians on the sea
  • Some Athenians wanted the Persian rule
  • Marathon represents the freedom of Greece – small band of men fought the tyranny


  • Discovered a large deposit of silver in the nearby mountains
  • Themistocles convinced the citizens to build a large fleet of ships and harbor
    • Because of the continuing threat of Persia

Great Persian Invasion: 480

  • 10 years later, the next Persian king Xerxes sent another expedition to Greece; 500,000 men & 1,000 ships (?)
  • Mind boggling numbers
  • Deliberately chose soldiers from all over the empire
    • Supposed to be a multi-cultural attack that would wipe out the Greek blob

Dissension among the poleis

  • Did not know what to do
  • Some Greek poleis decided to go over to the Persians
  • But a significant number decided to resist


  • Sparta wanted all Greeks to come to the south end but Athenians refused and told Spartans to face the Persians to the north
  • In the end the Greeks decided to make a stand at Thermopylae because the mountains go right up to the sea
    • Only a narrow path to pass for the Persians to pass through so their large numbers did not work
    • Might have worked but the Greek fleet was defeated so there was large numbers of men stranded on land
    • 300 Spartans stayed to hold the pass while the rest of the Greeks retreated
    • The small force lasted for days resisting the Persians
    • Somebody betrayed the Spartans and told them of pass to get behind and eventually overwhelmed the small force
  • Persia marched on and burned Athens to the ground as the Athenians watched

Battle of Salamis

  • Themistocles convince the Greeks to fight a naval war
  • Pretended to betray Greece and told Persians to come and trap the Athenian fleet
  • This battle was the turning point of the war
  • Athenian fleet had triple the amount of rowers, triple the power
    • Had large amount of practice in the boats
    • Would charge into the Persian fleets, turn sharply and drive into the boats

Plataea and Mycale, 479 BC

  • The Persian king thought they still had enough ground forces to keep attacking
  • It was Spartans turn to show their might and crumple the Persian ground force

Hoplite & Phalanx

  • Phalanx is the style of how the Spartans assembled
    • Large shields lined up in the front and worked as a bulldozer type
  • Soldiers were heavily armored in the front
  • At this point in Greek history the classical era begins
    • This victory triggers a huge confidence in the people

Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "The Persian Wars (490, 480-478 BC)," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,
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