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Assess The Contribution Of Athens To The Greek Victory In The Persian Wars

2029 words - 8 pages

Greece's conflicts with Persia in the Persian Wars lasted from around 499 BC until 448 BC and through Greece's multiple victories at Marathon, Salamis, Plataea and Mycale, eventually ended with Persia being repulsed. As one of the two super powers of ancient Greece, Athens played a considerable role in the Persian Wars. This can only be said as far as that it was in fact the genius of the Athenian leaders more then Athens as a state which contributed greatly to the Greek victory over the Persians, mainly through their tactics, unification and preparation of the Greek and Athenian forces. If we are to explore Athens contributions to victory during the war it is only fair to look at the hindrances that they too brought to the war effort in order to make an informed decision. It is also important to acknowledge that the luck of the Greeks played a particularly important role as well as the incompetence and arrogance of the Persian king Xerxes.Xerxes became king of Persia after his father Darius died and like him lead an army to conquer Greece. Through Plutarch's account of the Persian Wars, Xerxes gullibility leads him to be manipulated more then once by Themistocles to great effect. Through misinformation, Themistocles tricks Xerxes into believing that he is a traitor and warns him to attack the Greek fleet at Salamis before they can escape and consequently, Xerxes loses the sea battle at Salamis. Strangely, Plutarch notes that Xerxes is tricked a second time by Themistocles where Xerxes receives a message from Themistocles warning him to withdraw back to Persia before the bridge spanning the Hellespont is destroyed, although the Greeks had no intention of destroying the bridge at trapping the Persian Army in Greece, and Xerxes believes the word of Themistocles a second time and retreats most of his army to Persia, leaving Mardonius to be subsequently defeated by the Greeks. Herodotus too acknowledges Xerxes' folly and arrogance through the character of Artemesia who warns Xerxes of the potential danger of risking an unnecessary battle at Salamis, asking Xerxes "Have you not taken Athens, the main objective of the war? Is not the rest of Greece in your power?" Xerxes ignored Artemesia's advice believing it was impossible for the Greeks to win as they were greatly outnumbered and disbelieving the superiority of the Greek troops. Unfortunately there are several inconsistencies between Plutarch and Herodotus' accounts, where Plutarch maintains that Themistocles warning to Xerxes was a ruse, Herodotus believes that Themistocles was sincere in his letter and had Persian sympathies which may be true considering he eventually defected to the Persians. So it is now obvious that at least two of Athens plans relied heavily on the incompetence of the Persian commander and king Xerxes.Compounding Xerxes' personal flaws was the appalling luck faced by the Persians or perhaps the astounding good fortune of the Greeks. The Persians must have felt that their Gods...

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