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What Advantages Did Xerxes Enjoy When He Invaded Greece In 480 Bc And Why Did He Not Gain Victory Over The Greeks?

2698 words - 11 pages

CLASS 2035: Glory of Athens & Shadow of SpartaClassics Major EssayWhat advantages did Xerxes enjoy when he invaded Greece in 480 BC and why did he not gain victory over the Greeks?Cormac Griffin (A1177407)IntroductionThe victory of the Greeks over the Persians in the Second Persian War is, to this day, one of the peaks of Hellenic history. Arguably, this is because the result was so unforeseen. The disjointed and fragmented Greeks, divided by rivalry and infighting, took on the might of the Persian Empire, the greatest Empire the world had yet seen. Further, Xerxes, the Persian ruler, had recognised and learned from the mistakes of his father's earlier incursion into Greece and had prepared a massive army for the arduous campaign. Surely only one outcome was possible: the total subjugation of Greece. This essay explores the advantages Xerxes enjoyed when he invaded Greece, particularly his preparations and his armies' military prowess, and then analyses why he lost the war. Some unusual explanations for this loss are not explored - for example, historians of the time argued that the doom of Xerxes and his armies was willed by the gods: "Xerxes' egotism is not so much a sin as an indication of celestial disfavour." Other possible explanations, such as excessive Persian hubris and tyrannical behaviour contrasting with Greek freedom, also seem implausible explanations. Of much more illuminating power are the views of the analytical Thucydides who observed that the Persians were beaten mainly by their alacrity and errors in judgement. Ultimately, superior military tactics and intelligence, particularly in naval engagements, the strain of maintaining a vast and overextended Empire, key Persian mistakes and the very prosaic issue of poor supply lines all combined to bring the Emperor's armies to a crushing defeat.AdvantagesThe two inter-related vital advantages enjoyed by Xerxes prior to the Second Persian War were the Persian system of governance and the capacity of its armies. The Persians had an immensely proficient bureaucracy which allowed them to govern a major empire. Its centralised focus was complemented by an integrated army command structure, where everyone was accountable to the central authority, the Emperor. Additionally, the Persian military elite had extensive knowledge of warfare over the preceding century in which the Persian Empire had been founded. Furthermore, the Persians shined in the utilisation of intelligence and bribery in warfare, as illustrated by their endeavours to divide Greece. In short, the Persian Empire was able to direct a unified approach to preparing for the invasion of Greece. Certainly the expedition was preceded by extensive and careful preparation, and was planned on a gargantuan scale. For Xerxes, unlike his father Darius' fruitless crusades in the west, this time there were to be no errors.Dissimilarly, the Greeks were disorganized, with but 30 city-states assertively oppsoing the purported Persian...

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