The Persian Wars – Overview

The Persian Wars started in 499BC and lasted till 449BC which were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and the city states of the Hellenic world. The Persians appointed tyrants to rule the independent minded cities of Ionia and this would prove to be the source of trouble for both of the Greeks and Persians.

The then tyrant of Milent embarked on an expedition to conquer the island of Naxos in 499BC. The expedition was a catastrophe Aristagoras encouraged the whole of Hellenic Asia minor into a revolt against the Persians. This was called the Ionian Revolt which lasted until 493BC, this would draw more regions of Asia Minor into conflict.

Military support was secured from Athens and Eretria and these forces helped to take capture and burn the Persian regional capital of Sardis in 498BC. Darius the Great, the Persian King vowed his revenge on Athens and Eretria for this act. The Persians regrouped and ambushed the epicentre of the revolt in Miletus in 494BC. At the Battle of Lade, the Ionians experienced a defeat, and the rebellion collapsed.

Darius embarked on scheme to conquer Greece and to punish Athens and Eretria for the burning of Sardis. In 492BC the first Persian invasion of Greece occurred, with Mardonius the Persian general overpowering Thrace and Macedon before several misfortunes forced an early end to the campaign. A second force was sent to Greece across the Aegean Sea in 490BC under the instruction of Datis and Artaphernes. This expedition overpowered the Cyclades before surrounding, capturing and razing Eretria.

The Persian force was defeated by the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon, ending the Persian advances for the time being. Darius began a plan to complete the conquest of Greece but died in 486BC and his son Xerxes took on the responsibility of the conquest. Xerxes led the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480BC , which was accompanied by one of the largest armies ever congregated. There was a victory over the ‘Allied’ Greek states at Battle of Thermopylae which allowed the Persians to defeat most of Greece.

The Persians, however suffered a harsh defeat at the Battle of Salamis while seeking to destroy the allied fleet. The Allies then went on to defeat the Persian army at the Battle of Plateau, thereby ending the invasion of Greece. At the Battle of Mycale, the Allies followed up their success by destroying the rest of the Persian fleet, before removing Persian garrisons from Sestos in 479BC and Byzantium in 478BC.

The actions of the general Pausanias at the siege of Byzantium estranged many of the Greek states from the Spartans. The anti-Persian alliance was reconstituted around the Athenian leadership as the Delian League. Over the next three decades the the Delian League continued to campaign against Persia, which began with the expulsion of the remaining Persian garrisons from Europe.

In 466BC at the Battle of the Eurymedon the League won a double victory that finally secured freedom for the cities of Ionia. The involvement of the League in Egyptian revolt however resulted in a disastrous defeat and any future campaigning was suspended. In 451BC, a fleet was sent to Cyprus, but little was achieved and when the fleet withdrew, the Greco Persian Wars came to an end. It has been suggested by some historical references that the end of the aggression was marked by a peace treaty between Persia and Athens which was called the Peace of Callias.

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