Ancient Greece Wars
Lancers, detail from the archers' frieze in Darius' palace, Susa. Silicious glazed bricks, c. 510 BC, Louvre

The Ionian Revolt: The start of First Persian War?

The Greco-Persian Wars are a sequence of wars fought between the great empire of Persia and the coalition of Greek city-states. It lasted for about half a decade from 499 BC to 488 BC. Even as we say Greco-Persian Wars its not always that all of Greece fought against Persian as their strength and authority was much greater.
The Ionian Revolt initiated the First Major Persian War. During 539 BC Cyrus The Great ruled Persia and most of West Asia. During his reign his first captured Lydia, which lay along the coast of Anatolia. The cities that were dependent of Lydia automatically became helpless and Cyrus next move was to capture those cities. The residents of these were then called Ionians. Ionia is today based in Modern Turkey. Cyrus was cruel ruler. He increased the taxes and appointed tyrants in these regions.
His son Cambyses supported Cyrus and he too captured Egypt and some Greek islands between Anatolia and Greece, the most important one being the island of Samos.
Later Darius, Cambyses son who became the king, attacked the Scythians, but he lost. He along with his army returned back to Persia.
Darius move proved useful to him, as the other Greek states thought that they were next in line to be attacked. Macedon sought a peace treaty with Persia in 510 BC. When Persia decided to attack Naxos, Aristagoras was appointed to lead the battle. Aristagoras was a tyrant of Miletus known to be close to King of Persia. But the Persians lost. Seeing that strong rulers like Persia could lose two consecutive times the Persian occupied Greek city-states decided to revolt. This is known as the Ionian revolt. But the Ionians were defeated in the Battle of Lade in 494 BC. The Ionian revolt lasted for about half a decade.


The First Persian War

After the Ionian revolt ended, Darius decided to expand his empire's territories. In 493 BC the Persians defeated the remains of the Ionian revolt. This was a very good chance for Darius to extend his empire and he did so by acquiring the islands of East Aegean and the Propontis. After the revolt Darius selected his son-in-law Mardonius for resettlement of the cities destroyed in the revolt. This change was shockingly civil compared to the known cruel Persian rulers....more »


The Battle of Marathon

Herodotus writes the description of the 'Battle of Marathon'.
Athens was a famous city and the Persians wanted to attack Athens. So they took help of tyrant Hippias who originally a Greek, but was banished. He took support of King Darius of Persia. Filled with anger Hippias was waiting for such a chance. The battle started around 490 BC. Along with the army, they started moving towards Greece, looting and razing islands along their way. The army consisted of about 20,000 to 60,000 men.
Athens requested help from Sparta but was not entertained because the Spartans were not allowed to leave the city because of some religious reasons. So the only coalition was with the Plataeans, who as an ally of Athens since a long time.

The Greek commander in charge for the Battle of Marathon was Miltiades. His army consisted of about 11,000 people. The battle was delayed by five days, which was an advantage to the Greek's as they had more time on their hands to arrange for provisions. Miltiades ordered his army to attack the Persians at first sight. This prevented the Persians from taking position and attacking the Greeks in a systematic manner. The Greek hoplites were far superior to Persian for a hand-to-hand fight. The Greeks maintained their formation and when the Persians counterattacked they retreated in order. They closed in on the Persians. They were able to defeat their enemies and join forces behind the Persian center, surrounding it. The Persians were frightened and Greeks and broke down on them with great force. Huge amount of army and cavalry was killed. About 6400 Persians were died compared to 192 Athenians and 11 Plataeans.
It is said that a injure messenger traveled to Athens to inform the Athenians that they were victorious in the war. As soon as he delivered the message he collapsed and died on spot. This event is an inspiration for today's marathon.

After the battle ended the Persian commanders were given a signal of a raised shield. They wanted to catch the Athenian army unguarded and then traveled to Phaleron. The Athenians stationed two groups of their army at Phaleron and went back to Athens. The Athenian army in Phaleron welcomed the Persians. The Persians had to retreat back to their Asian base.

Importance of The Battle of Marathon:

The after effects of the Battle of Marathon were immense for both the Athenians and the Persians. The Athenins had proved their strength in front of Persia who was a strong enemy.
The Greeks started believing in their fighting power and after the Battle of Marathon many Greek states gave up their support to Persia and decided to stand by Athens and Sparta.
The Battle of Marathon was a big blow to the Persians who were such a powerful rulers. While the Ionian revolt and their weakness at the sea were one of the reasons, which were a threat to their power, Battle of Marathon was an indication to weakening hold on Western part of their holdings. Reference:

The Peloponnesian War ( 431 - 404 B.C )

The War fought between the two leading city-states in ancient Greece, Athens and Sparta.


The Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) took place between the Athenian empire and Peloponnesian league lead by the Spartans. The Peloponnesian league was a coalition of the Thebes, Corinth and Sparta.
The war was divided into 3 phases: The Archidamian War, The Sicilian war and The Ionian or Decelean War: phase. The war commenced on 4 April 431 B.C. when the Thebans launched a surprise attack on Plataea, who as a partner of Athens. The war ended on 25 April 404 B.C. when Athens surrendered...more »


The Archidamian War

With the exception of Corinth, both Sparta and Athens were land-ruling powers. The war named after Sparta's king Archidamus II, started with Sparta accessing the regions surrounding Athens i.e. Attica. Athens mainly consisted of the peninsula of Attica and islands in the Aegean Sea. Athens had already removed their wealth from these islands and controlled them through navy.
Sparta thought that attacking the productive land of Attica, it would pressurize Athens to come forward to start the battle in a formal manner. Athens's army was definitely inferior to Sparta and allies. But this attack did not have much effect of Athens's because; their food supply mainly came from Egypt and Crimea.
The Spartan's attack on Athens lasted just forty days in 430 BC, because the soldiers wanted to go back home during the harvest season. Back home the Spartan control over their slaves (helots) could not be left loose.
Athens strategy was to rely was more on its fleet than on its army. Avoiding open battle with the hoplites, they went on successful victories at Naupactus. Then again in 430 BC, Athens was hit by an outbreak of Plague. Nearly 1/4th of its population died along with General Pericles (who lead the first two years of the war) and his sons. Manpower was considerably reduced and no one came forward to help fearing infection. Even the Spartan invasion was kept on hold for the same reason. After the death of Pericles started naval attacks on the coastal allies of Sparta, under the leadership of Demosthenes. Their attack on the port of Pylos helped them somewhat. This attack hit the Spartan, where it hurt the most, the helots. The helots looked after the fields while the citizens fought for Sparta. In 425 BC Athens captured 300-400 hoplites, which made Athens's position dominant.
But the Spartan's captured the colony of Amphipolis, which was used to finance the war, under the control of General Brasidas. In the consequent battles both Brasidas and Cleon (Athens's leader) died, leading to a truce.

Peace of Nicias:

The Peace of Nicias lasted for about six years. But small battles were fought around Peloponnese. When the Sparta avoided any interference in this matter a coalition of Argos, Mantinea and Elis. Argos revolted against Sparta. Spartan failed to break the coalition.
The Battle of Mantinea was the largest fought during the Peloponnesian War. It was the Lacedaemonians and the Tegeans against Argos, Athens, Mantinea, and Arcadia. Sparta won the battle, retained control over Peloponnese and reestablished their position.


The Sicilian war

Sicily was attacked by Syracuse in 416 BC. Under the able guidance of Alcibiades, they dreamt of conquering the whole of Sicily. Athens could loot Sicily, as it was a flourishing region. But then Alcibiades was held for crimes against religious statues (hermai). Alcibiades was allowed for the Sicilian expedition but on arriving called back to Athens for trial. He fled to Sparta and Nicias was the new leader. Alcibiades became a Spartan messenger.

Nicias delayed the attack and Syracuse was left with no harm. The delay helped Syracuse who raised forces with the help of Sparta and other Sicilian cities. They defeated the Athenian's and prevented them from entering Syracuse. Demosthenes from Athens joined Nicias for help to attack Sicily. But the Athenian's were defeated once again. A late withdraws due to lunar eclipse and the battle ensued in the Great Harbor of Syracuse. Nicias and Demosthenes fleet was faced a major and embarrassing defeat.


The Ionian or Decelean War

Sparta recommenced war in 414 BC. Now Sparta had a strong army and navy. Athens had lost all its best sailors and finances were wearing. The Spartan on King Agis orders occupied Decelea so that Athens could not access their silver mines. The Athenian empire started to fall apart due to attack after attack. Persia entered the war to support Sparta. The Athenian navy called back Alcibiades, who had fled to Sparta, to help them.
The food sources of Sicily and Egypt were under the control of Sparta and Egypt. Athens only support was in form of Crimea. The Athenians under Thrasybulus and Thrasylus defeated the Spartans at Cynossema. Athens also enjoyed a naval victory over Persia at Cyzicus at the Sea of Marmora.
Sparta saw a new leadership in the form of Lysander who along with Persian leader Cyrus started to builds a new armada. Alcibiades divided his forces and left one at Notium. But Lysander attacked Notium and Alcibiades could not do anything upon returning as the damage had been done. He was called back to Athens, probably for his trial, and he therefore fled to Hellespont.

Two Greek combatans separated by a herald.
Callicratidas was the next leader after Lysander left. He attacked the Athenian harbor of Mitylene. Athens sailed their fleet in the battle of Arginusae where Sparta lost. Callicratidas lost his life due to drowning. Sparta offered peace but Athens refused.

Athens sailed to Aegospotami in Hellespont. Lysander was called back and he was based at the harbor of Abydos, opposite Aegospotami. Lysander captured the entire Athenian fleet and smashed and bringing the war to an end in just one attack. Lysander blocked Athens through its naval power, while the army attacked on land. With food supply closed, Athens surrendered on Spartan terms.


After the war ended, the 'Thirty Tyrants' ruled Athens for a short period of time. Democracy was reinitiated in 403 BC. Spartan victory in the Peloponnesian War was somewhat diluted because of their defeat in Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. Later on when Philip II of Macedon conquered all of Greece, Sparta's empire and power was diminished and ultimately destroyed.


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