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The Persian Wars And Their Effect On Western History

1053 words - 4 pages

The two Persian Wars, the first lead by the Persian Emperor King Darius in 490 B.C. and then the second by his son Xerxes from 480 -479 B.C. are often considered to be a crucial turning point in western history. The empire once known as Persia is now made up of the modern day countries of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan all eventually following the Islamic religion. Most of their neighbors in the region are also Islamic states, compared to our Christianity based systems. With what we now know of history, we can look at this time and see that the Greek victories over Persia were very important to Greece, their beliefs, the eastern Mediterranean and eventually western civilization as a whole.The wars between Persia and Greece started over Greek settlements in Ionia. The Greeks living there were so overtaxed that they eventually rebelled against the local tyrants appointed by Darius. The rebels sought and received a promise from Athens for help and received twenty warships to aid with their cause.1 Darius then decided to invade Greece because Athens aided the Ionians in their revolt and therefore Greece needed to be subdued to guarantee Persian security. After some initial gains against Athens the Persian army landed at Marathon which was just outside of Athens itself. The Athenians, with very few allies, faced the much larger Persian army. During the battle the outnumbered Athenian hoplites roundly defeated the Persians. This victory meant a lot to the Athenians; it gave them confidence in their ability as a military and paved the way for further democratic developments. As a punishment for Athens part in the Ionian revolt, had Persia defeated them, Darius was going to install Hippias as a tyrant over them.1Mortimer Chambers and others, The Western Experience. 9 ed. Volume 1:To the Eighteenth Century, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007), 56.This is very important in that any gains that Athens had made as a democracy would have been potentially wiped away since Hippias would have allied Athens to Persia for the foreseeable future.2 This would of made Athens, and Greece itself, part of the Persian Empire answering to Darius himself. Instead, the victory established Athens as a democratic power in Greece.After Xerxes gained power from his deceased father Darius, he wanted to exact revenge on Athens. This time; however, Athens wasn't alone. Sparta and King Leonidas I came to the aid of Athens as a united Greece. Xerxes, with his large army and navy, had the upper hand and had entered and sacked Athens. Even though a lot of Greeks wanted to surrender, as it was a foregone conclusion that they would lose, the Greek General Themistocles attacked and defeated the Persian navy.3 This naval battle was the turning point of the war. Xerxes was left without supplies and a means to reinforce his army so he returned back to Persia for fear of another Ionian revolt once word of the loss reached other Greek cities. He left his remaining army in Greece as an...

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