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Greek and Persian Wars

The Persians had come to power under King Cyrus the Great, and they had conquered many kingdoms, empires, and city-states. The reach of the Persian Empire spread far and wide across the ancient world. They conquered territories in the east as far as India and conquered lands in the west that stretched all the way to Egypt. In the time of their conquest and expansion the Persians wanted to conquer the Greeks. The wars eventually ended in 450 BC. They appear on the World History Timeline between 500 BC and 450 BC

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Greek hoplite and Persian warrior fighting each other

Many historical records that outline this war has been recorded by the Greeks and by a first class historian named Herodotus. The Persians didn’t leave much information about their war with the Greeks even though evidence of their wars with the Greeks could be found in other historical sources.

The war was initially started when Cyrus the Great attacked Lydia after he successfully rebelled against the Medians. During his conquest of Lydia, he had asked the Ionians (early Greeks) to fight against this empire. The kingdom of Lydia ruled over the Ionians at the time, but the Greeks didn’t want to join the Persians in a battle against them in case they lost the war.

After the Persians had conquered Lydia, the Greeks decided to submit to Persian rule but Cyrus the Great refused this offer he sent his armies against the various Greek city-states to punish them for their rebellion. Eventually, the Persians conquered the Ionian city states but the conquered Greeks were not easily controlled. Cyrus had set up tyrants to rule the Greek city-states, but the Greeks didn’t approve of them at all. Over time the Greeks rebelled and by 493 B.C. the Persian province of Greece had experienced major rebellions and social disorder. By this time, another Persian ruler named Darius the Great was on the throne and the Greeks had decided to remove completely themselves from the bonds of the Persian yoke.

Darius the Great realized that Greek rebellion would ultimately pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Empire. So he decided to put down the Greek rebellions for once and all by sending a sizeable force into the region. The Persian forces managed to destroy many Greek cities that they encountered, and as they made their way toward the middle part of the Greek territory, the Ionians began to fight back against them. This proved to be futile because Persia defeated the Greeks with ease. Many of the Greek states had decided to accept King Darius’ terms of peace, but Athens and Sparta refused to submit to the power of the Persians. After they had killed the ambassadors that were sent by Persia to these two city-states, the Persians began their assault on Greece.

In 490 B.C., the Persian invasion of Greece was already in full swing, and many of the Greeks along the coastal areas were defeated and enslaved by the Persian Empire. The first real test for the Persians happened in at the Battle of Marathon where Athenian forces managed to halt the Persian advance. The Greeks routed the mighty Persian army and sent them fleeing home.
The Persians were not going to let go of Greece so easily, so they regrouped and attacked Greece once again in 480 B.C. The Persians were primarily crossing overland this time, and they would have to pass through an area of Greece known as Thermopylae to reach the Athens and Persians. The 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas I was allied with the Athenians and a few other city-states to make a stand against Persia. The Spartans went ahead of their allies and took on the large Persian army at a narrow pass in the Thermopylae Mountains. This was probably the most famous battle of the Greco-Persian war. They managed to slow down the Persians and inflict heavy casualties before they were defeated.

Persia was being ruled by a king named Xerxes in 480 B.C. King Xerxes continued his push deeper into Greece after he had defeated the Allies at Thermopylae. For the next few years, the Persians kept advancing against the Greeks until they were routed by the Athenian, Spartans, and their allies in the battles of Plataea and Mycale. When the allied Greek forces won this battle, it was the turning point of the whole Greco-Persian conflict. After that battle had taken place many Greek city states that had willfully submitted to Persian dominance rebelled. The Greek Allies then went on the offensive and through a series of battles they managed to defeat and drive the Persian armies out of their territory. By 477 B.C. mainland, Greece was free from Persian rule.

The Greeks had managed to decimate pretty much any remaining Persian forces in Greece by 460 B.C., and the Persians had grown tired of the Greeks. Eventually, the Greeks realized that they no longer wanted to stay in a continual state of warfare with the Persians and by 450 B.C. both sides had agreed to peace, and this ended the Greco-Persian War. The Battle of Salamis-in-Cyprus was the last battle that was fought between these two opposing forces. Once Greece gained its independence, they were never conquered by the Persians again.