Greco-Persian Wars | Definition, Battles, Summary, Facts

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From 492 BC until 449 BC, the Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between the Persians and the Greeks.

The Persians were who?

At the period of the Persian Wars, the Persian Empire was the biggest and most powerful empire in the world. They had dominion over a large area of country that extended from India to Egypt.

The Greeks were who?

A multitude of city-states, including Sparta and Athens, made comprised the Greeks. These city-states usually engaged in conflict with one another, but they banded together to oppose the Persians.


Greeks called the Ionians lived along Turkey’s shore. The Persians took control of them. The Ionians approached Athens and other Greek cities for assistance after they made the decision to revolt. Ships and armaments were dispatched by the other Greek cities, but they were promptly defeated. This angered the Persians, who made the decision to annex the remaining Greek cities in order to maintain their rule.

First Greek invasion

In 490 BC, Darius I, King of Persia, made the decision that he would subjugate the Greeks. He amassed a formidable army that was larger than any force the Greeks could muster. The Persian fleet picked them up, and they set sail for Greece.

Marathon Battle

About 25 miles from the city of Athens, the Persian navy made landfall at the Bay of Marathon. Even though the Persians had a much larger army, they misjudged the Greeks’ fighting prowess. The Persian army was routed by the army of Athens, which only lost 192 Greek soldiers while killing almost 6,000 Persians.

In order to stop the Persians from attacking the city, the Attic army fled the battlefield and rushed the 25 kilometers back to Athens. The marathon running competition has its roots in this.

Second Greek invasion

King Xerxes, the son of Darius I, determined to exact revenge on the Greeks ten years later, in 480 BC. More than 200,000 men and 1,000 warships made up his enormous force.

Combat at Thermopylae

The Spartan King Leonidas I and 300 Spartans led the tiny Greek force that was assembled. They made the decision to meet the Persians at Thermopylae, a treacherous mountain route. Until the Persians discovered a route around the mountains and caught up to the Greeks, the Greeks successfully repelled the Persians, killing thousands of them. King Leonidas ordered the majority of his soldiers to depart, but he left behind a small detachment, which included 300 Spartans, to allow the remainder of the Greek army to flee. To the bitter end, the Spartans slaughtered as many Persians as they could.

The Salamis War

The Persian army kept moving toward Greece. Athens was deserted when they arrived, they discovered. The inhabitants of Athens had left. But the Athenian navy was already waiting off the Salamis coast.

The smaller Athenian ships were attacked by the considerably bigger Persian force. They knew they would win. However, the trireme-class Athenian ships were swift and nimble. They sank the big Persian ships by ramming against their sides. The Persians were soundly crushed, forcing Xerxes to flee back to Persia.

Facts about the Persian Wars that are Interesting:

The Athenians amassed a sizable trireme-class fleet of ships following the initial assault.

Alexander the Great would lead the Greeks as they eventually overthrew the Persian Empire.

The Spartans who battled at Thermopylae are the subject of the film 300.

Steven Pressfield wrote a well-known novel about the Battle of Thermopylae called The Gates of Fire.

The golden throne of Persia’s King Xerxes was transported so he could watch his army vanquish the Greeks from a nearby slope. He must have felt quite let down!

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