The Greek World

Table of Contents

The Persian Wars

  • Persia (more correctly, the Persian Achaemenid dynasty) was an empire located in modern day Iran, founded between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

  • It was founded by King Cyrus the Great in 539BCE, conquering Lydia and most of the surrounding lands.

  • This empire was largely expansionist, especially during the rule of Darius I, resulting in the 513BCE campaign in Thrace, as well as invasions to the borders of Egypt and Anatolia.

  • The Persian ruling class had an interest in conquering land in Italy and Europe, and so conquering Greece was essential to maintaining the security of the empire.

  • Information on the Persian Wars are primarily sourced from the works of Herodotus, who has a distinctly Athenian and Greek bias to his view on the wars.

  • The modern media portrayal of the Persian empire (think 300) is primarily influenced by Herodotus’ work.

  • Herodotus believed that the conflict between the Greek and Persian civilisations was a result of ideological incompatibility a monarchist empire against a decentralised, democratic civilisation.

This take is completely destroyed by the Athenian conquest that occurred immediately after the end of this war.

The Ionian Revolt

  • Ionia, now known as western Anatolia (part of modern-day Turkey), was a region near Lydia with a mostly Ionian Greek population.
  • During this period, this region was under the control of the Persian empire, paying taxes to the Achaemenid dynasty.
  • As the Greek perception of the Persians was as Strange and Othertm, they were fundamentally opposed to the idea of being ruled by them.
  • Additionally, each Ionian city was ruled by a Tyrant (tyrant being a title like Duke or Earl) assigned by the Empire. As such, laws were made in the interest of what would benefit the ruling class, rather than what would benefit that specific city.
  • In 498BCE, Athenian and Ionian forces invaded the city of Sardis, burning temples. In response, the Persian army retaliated and defeated them at the Battle of Ephesus.
  • From 497BCE to 495BCE, the largest components of the Persian military was occupied by the revolt, which had spread to Caria. As such, this period maintained a stalemate between Greek and Persian forces.
  • In 494, the Persian army and navy besieged and captured the city of Miletus, which was the center of the revolt. By 493, the rebellion had been completely eliminated.
  • A peace accord was established by the Persians, granting Ionian cities the ability to elect a democratic government, rather than have a tyrant.
  • The Ionian Revolt is considered the first of the Greco-Persian Wars, as a consequence of Athenian and Eretrian involvement, which King Darius percieved as a threat to the stability of his empire. This resulted in the first Persian Invasion in 492BCE.

Battle of Mardonius

  • Darius sent his son-in-law Mardonius to restore order in Thrace; however his main objective was to attack Athens and Eretria because they had helped in the Ionian revolt.
  • Mardonius managed to take the island of Thasos and restored order in Thrace but his fleet was destroyed by a windstorm off Mt. Athos in 492 BC.
  • Mardonius then retreated back to Persia.

Significance of the Ionian Revolt

Asia MinorMainland Greece
Miletus (a Greek leader state) was totally destroyed, its temples burned and its inhabitants killed or taken in captivity to Susa, the Persian capital, as a lesson to other Greek states of Asia Minor. Greek cities were treated fairly by Persians. Tyrannies were replaced by democracies, fair land tax implemented and future conflicts were to be settled by arbitration. Still under Persian control until 479 BC.Miltiades, the former tyrant, fled for his life to Athens. He brought a vast knowledge of Persian customs and military tactics, which was of great benefit to Athens in first major conflict with Persia. Darius, who wanted revenge for the burning of Sardis, set in motion his first expedition against mainland Greece. Mardonius (son-in-law) was given instructions to destroy Athens and Eretria and as many towns as he could on the way.

The Ionian Revolt was the first round in the struggle between Greece and Persia. Athens involvement in the revolt contributed significantly to the start of the Persian Wars.

Battle of Marathon

Casus Belli

  • To punish Athenians for breaking their alliance with Persia by supporting the Ionian revolt in 499 BC.

  • The episode in which Darius sent envoys to Greece to secure the traditional tokens of submission – earth and water.

  • Darius sent a fleet across the Aegean. Islands on route were forced to submit to Persian authority, and the city-states of Thessaly and Boeotia also submitted.

  • However, the envoys sent to Athens and Sparta were put to death by the Greeks – a serious breach of diplomatic protocol and a defiant gesture to Persia.

  • To secure west flank of Aegean Sea for Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC).

  • To secure south flank for attack on Scythians.

  • To build the Persian Empire (imperialism).


  • It is worthwhile to note that an attack on Athens would probably have been made by Darius sooner rather than later as part of his westward expansion.

  • Having dealt with Eretria, the Persian forces crossed from Euboea to the region of Attica on the Greek mainland. Well aware of the attack to come, the Athenians raised a force of 9000 in 490 BC. When they sought the assistance of other Greek states it was only the Boeotian town of Plataea that obliged, sending a force of 1000 hoplites.

  • Athenian forces were placed under the command of the Polemarch Archon Callimachus whose Council of War contained the ten generals (strategoi). The leading strategoi was Miltiades.

  • The Persians then beached their ships in the Bay of Marathon, set up camp in the plain of Marathon between the Great Marsh and the banks of the river Charadnos. The Athenians set up camp in the foothills of Mt. Agriliki.

  • Sources vary, but it would seem that Athenians were outnumbered by 10000 to 25000.


  • The Athenians were drawn up in formation on the left wing were the Plateans and on the right was under Callimachus’ command, whilst Miltiades took control of the “thinner lines” of the centre.

  • The Athenians charged. Their weaker centre was pushed back but the wings held firm.

  • As the Persians pushed deeper into the Athenian centre, they became surrounded and trapped by the Athenians wings. The Persian forces were routed.

  • The Persian wings fled to their ships while the rest of the army was destroyed. The Athenians chased after them and managed to capture seven ships.

  • The Persian fleet sailed south to Athens and anchored off Phaleron. The Athenians quickly marched south and took up a position on Mt. Lycabettus. After a short time, the Persians returned home.

The Cavalry
  • Debate exists on the issue of the Persian cavalry – or lack thereof – at Marathon. Strangely, though the Persians had disembarked their cavalry, they took no part in battle.

  • Victor Ehrenberg suggested the following:

“…part of the Persian fleet with the cavalry onboard… was sailing south to round Attica and enter the Saronic gulf…”

From Solon to Socrates – Ehrenberg

The Decision to Fight
  • The Athenian generals were divided, and could decide whether to attack or to wait.
  • Miltiades urged action but with the strategoi evenly divided, he needed Callimachus’ support.
  • Miltiades’ argument won the day; using Callimachus’ vote to support Miltiades’ plan.
  • The initial impact of the phalanx; the Persian recovery. The Persian centre pushes the weaker Athenian centre back. The Persian wings rammed back by the Greeks and Plataean wings. The Persian wings flee.

  • The Persian centre breaks through the Athenian centre, but the Athenian and Plataean wings swing inwards to take the Persian centre in both flanks.

  • The attempted Persian escape to their ships the final Greek onslaught with hectic fighting in the shallows as they attempted to stop the Persians getting on board; the seizure of seven ships.

The Battle of Marathon

Aims and overall strategyTheir aim was to stop the Persian advancement to Athens. To do this they sent an army to watch and attack the Persians if they could. They also planned to wait for the Spartans to arrive.Their aim was to advance on Athens or lure the Athenian’s army to the north where they could be easily attacked.
Logistics – preparations and resourcesThey positioned themselves on a hill and in a forest to counter the Persian cavalry. They had 10000 men and allies (around 1000 Plataeans).They had 20000 – 25000 men, 800 cavalry and ships. They landed in a place that had a fat plain so that they could use their cavalry.
Specific tactics and weapons usedThey had a heavily armed phalanx – shields, grieves, spears and swords all made of metal. Since Miltiades was familiar with the Persian style of fighting he suggested their Phalanx was set up so that the wings were deeper than the centre – this would counter the cavalry if they were there but it also allowed the Greeks to defeat the Persians. When advancing on the Persians, the Greeks ran to avoid being hit by the Persian archers.They had wicker shields, slashing curved blades, light clothing, archers and cavalry.
AdvantagesThey knew the terrain and so were better prepared and better able to use the area that surrounded to their advantage.There was a flat plain for the cavalry, a harbour to protect the ships from the weather and it was close enough to Athens to possibly lure the Athenians out of Athens.
DisadvantagesThey were totally outnumbered. Cavalry would be able to inflict much damage to the Greek phalanx.They were in a corner with no way to retreat (sea, swamp).
LeadershipThey were led by Miltiades, Callimachus and a board of 10 leaders.Datis and Artaphernes and Hippias.
CasualtiesThey lost 192 Greeks.They lost 6400 Persians (according to Herodotus).
Outcomes – short term and long termThey won the battle driving the Persians back. They also gained confidence and respect from other Greek states (e.g. Sparta). The Greeks believed the gods were on their side. Athens gained in prestige; it was the beginning of her emergence as the leading state in Greece. Monument erected to fallen Athenian heroes.They lost the battle and were driven back. They had to prepare for a second invasion. Their need to revenge deepened. This did not prevent another attack from Darius. Persians learnt from their mistakes with regard to strategy – naval invasion on its own would be successful. A combined military and naval invasion was required.

Reasons for Athenian success in the Battle of Marathon

  • The skilled leadership of Miltiades.

    • The time he had spent in the Chersonese gave him knowledge about potential Persian tactics and how to deal with them.

    • His ability to convince Callimachus and then to devise an appropriate strategy.

  • The Athenian and Plataean hoplites were better armed than the Persians.

    • Athenians wore greaves that protected legs, a cuirass which protected their upper bodies and carried a shield.

    • The Persians wore little armour and had only wicker shields. This was a grave disadvantage in close man-on-man fighting.

  • The Athenians made good use of the terrain.

    • Fighting at Marathon neutralized the strongest part of the Persian forces – the cavalry.

    • Miltiades’ tactic of rushing the Persian centre prevented them from taking advantage of superior numbers.

  • The issue of morale.

    • The Athenians (and Plataeans) were fighting for their homeland; defeat meant slavery or worse.

    • The Persian force was a multi-national outfit, less drilled in cooperative combat than the Greeks and likely to be far less motivated.


The results of the battle would affect relations with other Greek states, naval policy and internal politics. Another greater attack from the east was highly likely as Darius, and his successor Xerxes, would never leave matters as they were settled after Marathon.

Marathon arguably has a great significance, as mainland Greece and Athens could’ve come under Persian control. Would a Persian-controlled 5th century Athens have produced the ideas on law, government, science and philosophy, the literature and architecture that would permeate the western world for centuries to come?

Miltiades’ role at Marathon

  • Acclaimed as the “Hero of Marathon” according to Herodotus.

  • Convinced the Athenian council to meet the Persians at Marathon rather than wait for the Persians to come to Athens.

  • Advised Callimachus and the other strategoi to attack the Persians (clearly recognised as the most able strategoi Callimachus’ willingness to accept his advice).

  • Devised the tactic that helped the Greeks win the battle, advanced at a run-reducing impact of archers.

  • Rushed the Athenian hoplites back to Athens in case the Persian might land a force near Athens.

  • Probably commanded the central body of the Athenian forces at Marathon.


“To complete the enslavement of Eretria and Athens.”


“The part of Attic territory nearest Eretria – and also the best ground for cavalry to manoeuvre in – was at Marathon.”


“The Spartans wished to help the Athenians, but were unable.”


“So eager had they been to arrive in time, that they took but three days to reach Attica from Sparta.”


“The generals held the presiding position in succession, each for a day; and those of them who had voted with Miltiades offered, when their turn for duty came, to surrender it to him. Miltiades accepted the offer, but would not fight until the day came when he would in any case have presided.”


“His (Darius) anger against Athens, already great enough on account of the assault on Sardis, was greater and he was more than ever determined to make war on Greece.”


“They fought a long time at Marathon. In the centre of the line the foreigners prevailed, where the Persians and Sacae were arrayed. The foreigners prevailed there and broke through in pursuit inland, but on each wing the Athenians and Plataeans prevailed. In victory they let the routed foreigners flee, and brought the wings together to fight those who had broken through the centre. The Athenians prevailed, then followed the fleeing Persians and struck them down. When they reached the sea they demanded fire and laid hold of the Persian ships.”


The Athens-Aegina war

  • Aegina was the strongest naval power in the Aegean at this time, and relations between Athens and Aegina had been poor for some time.

  • Athens feared that Aegina would side with the Persians at the time of Marathon.

  • To counter this threat Athens sought Spartan help, pointing out its medism Aegina was betraying Greece.

  • Cleomenes, the Spartan King took 10 hostages from Aegina and gave them to Athens. This was enough to prevent Aegina openly siding with the Persians.

  • The death of Cleomenes in 489 BC changed things, however.

  • Aeginetans now demanded that Sparta use their influence to return hostages that were held in Athens but Athens refused the request of the Spartan King Leotychides.

  • War erupted as a result.

  • 700 democrats in Aegina were executed.

  • Athens won naval victory but siege of the town failed when Aegina gained the support of 1000 volunteers from Argos.

  • Tit for tat reprisals continued for some years.

“…reducing Aegina to subjection or insignificance, sensibly accelerated the conversion of Athens into a naval power.”

John Bagnell Bury


  • After being faced by Aegina’s navy, Athens realised that they needed to have their own navy, and so they developed one that would help them in the war against Persia.

  • Themistocles also played a large role in encouraging the building of a strong naval force.

  • Athenian political developments and the rise of Themistocles (480s-BC)

  • Increasing use of ostracism (Xanthippus ostracised in 484 BC for accusing Miltiades of defrauding the public and Aristides in 482 BC for opposing political differences).

  • The leading political figures inside Athens at the time were Xanthippus, Aristides and Themistocles, none feared as potential tyrants (main reason for ostracism).

  • However ostracism would be used against them or by them to promote political power.

  • The lessening importance of the position of archon.

  • The growing importance in the position of strategoi. Any politician would seek election as a strategoi if he was to have any hope of making a mark in Athenian political life.

  • Strategoi was becoming an increasingly important position within Greek politics.

Ostracism was a system where citizens could vote for a person to be ostracised (exiled) by placing the name of that person on an ostrakon and placing it in a urn. For the vote to be valid, at least 6000 votes had to be cast. The man with the most ostrakon against him would be forced to leave Athens within ten days and was not allowed to return for ten years. Ostracism was used by politicians to get rid of political opponents.

The Greeks Prepare for Invasion

In 481 BC, Xerxes sent heralds to all Greek states – except Athens and Sparta demanding tokens of submission of earth and water. It was clear that Athens and Sparta were beyond the scope of any possible Persian mercy.

Greek PreparationsEvidence
Themistocles uses the money from silver mines to build ships using the war against the Aegina as an excuse for this action.“He was the only man who had the courage to… propose that they revenue from the silver mine at Laurium… should be set aside and the money used to build triremes for the war with Aegina.” Life of Themistocles – Plutarch
Congress at the Isthmus of Corinth is a meeting in which all cities of Greece met so that they could discuss what is to happen. Presided over by Sparta. Hellenic League was set up. Any Greek state that ‘medized’ (sided with Persians) would be ‘tithed’ (wealth confiscated and 10% given to god at Delphi. 31 Greek states. Inter-state feuds put aside = unity with Aegina and Athens, now 2 largest navies would be fighting together. Spartan leadership was automatic. Argos remained neutral, Crete & Corcyra did not get involved, Tyrant of Syracuse (Gelon) supported the Greek case but could not help from a possible attack from Carthage.“In 481 invitations were sent out to meet patriotic Greek states to attend a conference at the Isthmus of Corinth.” John Bagnell Bury
The Greek strategy was prepared – they looked at the pass at Tempe and at Thermopylae to determine what to do. Some have also suggested that they planned to hold at Thermopylae but defeat the Persians at the Isthmus.“But when they arrived at the other passes from Macedonia into Thessaly, by which the Persians would be more likely to come.” John Bagnell Bury
Consultation of The Delphic Oracle – The Delphic Oracle told them not to go to war with the Persians but Themistocles interpreted this in a different way. Mention of a wall led some older men to believe it was referring to the ancient fence around the Acropolis. Themistocles argued it referred to Athens’ fleet, his view won the day as he was able to persuade the people to abandon Athens and fight at sea.“The Delphic priests had been completely convinced of the Persians’ invincibility; their minds were dominated by the thought that against the myriads of the Persians land army and the far superior Persian fleet, all resistance was hopeless.” Hermann Bengtson “why sit you doomed ones? Fly to the world’s end leaving home.” Herodotus “There the wooden wall only shall not fall but help you and your children…divine Salamis you will never bring death to women’s sons.” Herodotus
Decree of Themistocles – Greece planned to have Athens evacuate from their city (not as Herodotus says it happened in “haste”).“The Athenians… shall place (their children and their women) in Troezen.” The Decree of Themistocles
In 480 BC a second meeting of Greek states was held – Spartan King, Leonidas was appointed to command the army while the Spartan military commander, Eurybiades was made commander of the fleet.
Themistocles realised that if any form of unity were to be maintained, Athens must accept Spartan leadership. Athens buried its earlier internal political differences and recalled Aristides and Xanthippus from exile.

Persian developments and preparations

  • 486 BC, Darius faced a major revolt in Egypt.

  • 485 BC, Darius died, successor was Xerxes, son of Darius and Atossa.

“…Death, however, cut him off before his preparations were complete… and so (Darius) was robbed of his chance to punish either Egypt or Athenians.”Herodotus

  • 484 BC, Egyptian revolt was subdued.

  • 482 BC, Babylonian revolt, the revolt was crushed ruthlessly and the rebels treated harshly as their land was confiscated and Babylonia was incorporated into the satrapy of Assyria.

  • 481 BC, Xerxes was ready however faced division over the issue of invasion at the court in Susa – Mardonius who emphasised Persia’s superiority and Artabanus who was reluctant on the arrogance of invading Greece (angered rejection of Artabanus).

Persian PreparationsEvidence
Demartus arrived and became advisor to Xerxes, and said that he should be king after Darius because he is the first born and thus had divide, godly powers.“Demartus… arrived in Susa, after being deposed as king of Sparta… about the dispute between Darius’ son, he went to Xerxes and advised him.” Herodotus
The Persians had the “Egyptian Rebellion” (Herodotus) to deal with.“Revolt broke out in… Egypt which demanded immediate attention.” John Bagnell Bury
Demanding submission from the Greek cities.“Xerxes first act was to send representatives to every place in Greece except Athens and Sparta with the demand for earth and water. And a further order to prepare entertainment for him against his coming.” Herodotus
There was a debate (Mardonius and Artabanus) about whether King Xerxes should attack Greece. He was not interested with Greece but was influenced by Mardonius and angrily rejected Aratabanus.“Xerxes was at first not at all interested in invading Greece… Mardonius… had more influence with Xerxes than anyone else in the country, used to talk constantly to him on the subject.” Herodotus
An army had to be recruited by Xerxes and he used the armies from all of his allies.“…Xerxes in the process of assembling an army had every corner of the continent ransacked.” Thucydides
The canal war cut. To avoid the error of 492 BC when the fleet was wrecked off Mt. Athos, Xerxes had thousands working for 3 years to build a canal across the Mt. Athos Peninsula.“A canal was cut across the neck of land connecting Mt. Athos to Chalcidice which the Persian fleet is to sail through to avoid suffering the fate of Mardonius’ fleet in the storms off Mt. Athos.” John Bagnell Bury
Supply deposits were placed along the hostile areas so that the army could be fed and could be drawn on as the army moves further and further into hostile land.“Depots for storing supplies of food and equipment were set up along the coast of Thrace and in Macedon.” Raphael Sealey
The bridge of boats at Hellespont constructed across River Strymon in Thrace for army to cross.“They built a bridge across the Hellespont from Abydos to Sestos; it was supported on anchored boats and when a storm destroyed the first bridge, a second was built.” Raphael Sealey

Reasons for Xerxes invading Greece

  • Desire for revenge

  • Desire for imperial expansion

  • Mardonius’ ambitions

  • Economics

  • Hubris (arrogance and desire)

Examples of ostracism
  • Two suspected tyrants, Hipparchus and Megacles were ostracised by democratic politicians in Athens because they posed a threat to their power.

  • Xanthippus, one of the leading politicians in Athens after Marathon, felt threatened by the popularity of Miltiades.

“…Miltiades on his return to Athens, became talk of the town; many were loud in their censure of him, and especially Xanthippus who brought him before the people to be tried for his life on the charge of defrauding the public.”


Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC)

The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece.

Aims and overall strategyA hold tactic or to defeat the Persians.To punish the Athenians and control Greece.
Logistics – preparations and resourcesThe Greek cities gave armies for the battle (except Athens) as was decided upon at the Congress of Isthmus. They also consulted at the Delphic Oracle. At Thermopylae they rebuilt the Phocian wall. Greek force comprised of 300 Spartans, as well as Phocians, Arcadians, Thebans and Thespians.The built an army for all their allies. They had to get the Egyptian rebellion under control. The Persians had large military armies, cavalry, many ships and a band of warriors called the Immortals . Over 200,000 men.
Specific tactics and weapons usedThe Greeks used a narrow pass so that they could counter the numbers and the cavalry. They also had iron or bronze weapons.They had wicker armour and weapons but had archers and large numbers. They were also able to use a traitor (Ephilates) to find a secret pass.
AdvantagesThey had superior weapons, the advantage of a narrow place, trained warriors such as the Spartans. The corridor between the mountains and sea was about 1.5km long and just the width of a single cart-tract. Midway along the pass was an ancient wall which would provide protection when repaired. Southern end was a village that Greeks could use as supply base (Alpenoi).They had the advantage of numbers, ‘fear’ factor. They also had trained warriors called the Immortals.
DisadvantagesThe Greeks didn’t have the numbers.They had the wrong weapons, too many men for the narrow pass, no cavalry use.
LeadershipLeonidas.Xerxes and the Immortals.
Outcomes – short term and long termLed to the submission of most Boeotia, able to set up the pass at Isthmus, Athens able to evacuate, ad moral boost for Greece (“underdog” factor).This battle simply led to the next battle. It also had a shattering effect on the moral of the Persian army.


StartingThe Greek placed approximately 7000 hoplites commanded by Leonidas. They rebuilt the wall to protect their camp and they used the nearby village of Alpeni as a supply base. Despite being told there were no detours, he was informed of a mountain path, and 1000 Phoenicians volunteered to defend as they knew the country well. Xerxes waited at the other end of the pass while the remained of his food soldiers and cavalry arrived, meanwhile he sent a scout to gauge the size of the Greece and see what they were doing. Herodotus records Xerxes’ disbelief when he heard the small number of Greeks outside the wall stripped for exercise and combing their hair. He sent for Demaratus (ex-king of Sparta) who then answered his confusion.
FailureThe Persians waited 4 days before attacking (until the rest of their army arrived) and then attacked the Greeks for 2 unsuccessful days, using an all-out frontal attack. The Spartans used a strategy where they would pretend to retreat, then wheel around and charge causing the Persians to loose many men. Xerxes was also unable to use his cavalry due to the rocky terrain.
TraitorEphialtes, a native of the region, told Xerxes of the mountain path that would bypass the Greek position, hoping for a rich award. He guided the Hydranes (the immortals) over it during the night. The Phocians were prepared to fight but the Persians moved quickly one. Leonidas was informed by Persian deserters, while it was still dark the Persians were attempting to encircle him, which outlooks in daybreak also confirmed.
BattleLeonidas sent most of the troops away as the position at Thermopylae was irretrievably turned against them, leaving on 300 Spartans, the Thebans (kept as hostages) and the Thespians. According to Herodotus, the Persians had to be urged on with whips. They went out into a larger part of the pass to being to fight. Losses great on both sides, however Leonidas was killed and battle ensured over the possession of his body. Basically the Greeks were losing.
EndEphialtes and the immortals arrive surrounding all the remaining Greeks on a mount. All the Spartans and Thespians died fighting but the Thebans surrendered. Xerxes committed several barbarities including mutilating Leonidas’ body.

“They (The Persians) were outfought by the longer spear and heavier armour of the Greek hoplites and particularly by the Spartans, who retreated, charged with well drilled precision. Xerxes could not bring his cavalry into action at all, but he hoped by the continued pressure of his infantry to wear down the defence.”

Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond

“The Persian army could not be defeated in such a position, but its advance could be held up indefinitely, causing severe problems for Xerxes and his need to feed his large army.”

Terry Buckley

“Defensive action on land coupled with offensive at sea this was the basic Greek plan.”

Hermann Bengtson

“Guard the pass of Thermopylae on the grounds that it was narrower than the pass into Thessaly.”


“On the Spartan side it was a memorable fight; they were men who understood war pitted against an inexperienced enemy.”


“I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it.”



  • If the Persians were victorious it is quite possible that the battle could mean the end of democracy.

  • Developed a sense of nationalism and a united Greece.

  • Spartans sacrificing themselves for their brothers, began to break the will of the Persians.

Battle of Artemisium (480 BC)

The Battle of Artemisium was an inconclusive naval battle that was fought on the same three days as the Battle of Thermopylae, and that ended when the Greek fleet retreated after learning of the Persian victory at Thermopylae.

Aims and overall strategyDefend Athens and Peloponnes and to force the Persians into the narrow spaces.To get Athens by using its superior number to force the Greek fleet away.
Logistics – preparations and resourcesCorinth and Athens ships being about 270 ships (about 147 being Athens ships).Ships from Ionia and Persia.
Specific tactics and weapons usedThe use of small spaces to counter Persia’s large numbers. The Greeks also used small ships called triremes. The Greeks used a tactic where by their ships attacked using a flower pattern.The Persian’s attempted to use their large numbers.
AdvantagesThe Greeks knew the land and the sea. It was also storm season which ultimately destroyed many of the Persian fleet who were in the open sea area.The Persian’s had large numbers which totally outnumber the Greeks.
DisadvantagesThey had a small fleet which was outnumbered by the Persians.They had no knowledge of the land/ports and the sea conditions. They also had no knowledge on this being the storm season and so got caught in the open sea off the coast of Euboea. Persians kept fouling each other as they tried to manoeuvre.
LeadershipEurybiades, Themistocles and Adeimantus.Xerxes.
Casualties40 tiremes.200 tiremes.
Outcomes – short term and long termAccording to Herodotus Athens was evacuated because of the Greeks defeat at Artemisium and Thermopylae. This also led to the Battle of Salamis.There was a loss of much of the Persian feet but they were able to push on and support the army that was victorious at Thermopylae.
  • The Persians waited off the Magnesian coast, near Cape Sepias, for the army to reach Thessaly. There were too many ships to beach, so they anchored eight lines deep. A storm raged for three days, hitting the exposed fleet. Persian losses were great.

  • The Greeks rode out the storm at Euboea, but left lookouts on the headlands to watch the Persians and after the storm they returned to Artemisium.

  • Greeks launched their first attack, the first day Xerxes sent his army against Leonidas.

  • The Athenians made two raids on the enemy, inflicting heavy losses. On the first day, Athenians captured 30 ships and on the second day they almost destroyed the Cilician squadron.

  • Two hundred Persian vessels were sent around Euboea to attack the Greek fleet from the rear but were destroyed by another storm.

  • The Persian fleet received a message from Xerxes to break through, as they were held up and running out of food. As Leonidas’ body was being mutilated by Xerxes at Thermo; The Persian fleet set out at noon to attack. The Persians took up battle position in the straits, and the two great fleets met face to face.

  • The battle was indecisive but the Greeks suffered severely and the decision was taken to withdraw under cover at night to Salamis.


With the Persian victory at Thermopylae, all that stood to save Greece, short of a great land battle, was the Greek navy. It should be known that the battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium are well connected. The idea was that the Greek army would stall for time while the navy could damage the Persian navy. Without the large Persian navy, the oversized Persian army could not be supplied.

It was this Abronychus who now arrived with news of what had befallen Leonidas and those who were with him. When the Greeks heard the news they no longer delayed to retreat, but withdrew in the order wherein they had been stationed, the Corinthians leading, and the Athenians sailing last of all. Now land and sea north of Peloponnese was lost to the Persians. But Xerxes paid for this. He lost 20,000 men at Thermopylae and half his ships were gone. His army now completely depended on his naval success.

Trozen inscription (The Decree of Themistocles)

Herodotus indicated that the Athenian evacuation was a mass emergency evacuation after the fall at Thermopylae. He suggests that it was an unorganised improvisation by particular members of the Athenian authorities. The Decree of Themistocles challenges this idea by presenting a planned evacuation of Athens dating back to before the battle of Thermopylae.

The Trozen inscription is an inscription on a marble slab found in the 1930s came to the prominence in 1959 through the word of Professor M. Jameson. The inscription itself was dated to the third century BC and was meant to be a copy of the decree by Themistocles in the 5th century BC. The inscription clearly shows the evacuation as a plan however, its reliability has been questioned.

Battle of Salamis (480 BC)

Aims and overall strategyDefeat the Persian fleet so that they could not supply their army with men. Gain control of the sea so that the Persian could not get around the Pass at Isthmus.Defeat the Greek fleet. Gain control of the sea so that they could go around the pass at Isthmus.
Logistics – preparation and resourcesThe use of a small passage (again). The suggestion of the possible planned trickery of Xerxes. The Greeks small ships. They had 371 triremes and pentekonters (smaller fifty-oared ships).The use of ‘traitors’ to gain information about the enemy. The large Persian ships and numbers. Consisted of 1207 ships, although their original invasion force consisted of many more ships that had since been lost due to storms in the Aegean Sea and at Artemisium.
Specific tactics and weapons usedThey used small passage to counter numbers of the Persians, they/Themistocles tricked Xerxes, the placement of Corinthian against Egyptian Squadron.Attack with numbers and while they are retreating and thus not prepared.
AdvantagesThey had the appropriate ships and they knew the seas. They had the advantage of smaller spaces. Themistocles made sure that the Greeks only attacked when the winds were in favour of them.They had larger numbers.
DisadvantagesThey appeared not to be working in unity (questionable). The had smaller numbersThey had little to no knowledge if the seas and they had large numbers for a small space. They didn’t have the appropriate types of ships.
LeadershipEurybiades (however was assisted by Themistocles and Artistides).Xerxes (and Artesmesia was a commander of a small fleet).
Casualties40 tiremes200 tiremes
Outcomes – short term and long termThis was a victory for the Greeks producing a positive moral boost. It also puts Athens in a good light to the Greeks. It was a turning point for the Greeks in Salamis.Ultimately this is considered the point in which the Persians had lost the Persian War.


  • The Persians, led by Xerxes I, decided to meet the Athenian fleet off the coast of Salamis Island. They were so confident that Xerxes set up throne on the slopes of Mount Aegaleus, to watch the battle and record the names of commanders who performed so well.

  • Themistocles sent an informer, a slave named Sicinnus, to Xerxes to make him believe that the Greeks had not been able to agree on a location for battle, and would be stealthily retreating during the night. Xerxes believed Sicinnus and had his fleet blockade the western outlet of the straits, which also served to block any Greek ships that might plan to escape. This took all night.

  • During the night Aristides, a former political opponent of Themistocles, arrived to report that Themistocles’ plan worked. Then allied with the Athenian commander to strengthen the Greek force.

  • The Persians were exhausted from searching for the Greeks all night, but they sailed in to the straits anyway to attack the Greek fleet.

  • The large Persian fleet could not manoeuvre in the gulf, and a smaller contingent of Athenian and Aeginan triremes flanked the Persian navy. The Persians tried to turn back, but they were trapped; those that could turn around were also trapped by the rest of their Persian fleet which jammed the strait. The Greek and Persian ships rammed each other and something similar to a land battle ensued. Both sides had marines on their ships (Greeks with fully armed hoplites), and arrows and javelins also flew across the narrow strait. The chief Persian admiral Ariamenes rammed Themistocles’ ship, but in the hand-to-hand combat that followed Ariamenes was killed by a Greek foot soldier.

  • At least 200 Persian ships sunk, including one by Artemisia, who apparently switched sides mid-battle to avoid being captured and ransomed by the Athenians. Aristides also took another small contingent of ships and recaptured Psyttaleia, a nearby island that the Persians had occupied a few days earlier.

  • According to Herodotus, the Persians had many more casualties because the Persians didn’t know how to swim; one of which was a brother to Xerxes. Those Persians who survived and ended up on shore were killed by the Greeks who found them.

  • The victory of the Greeks marked the turning point in the Persian Wars. Xerxes and most of his army retreated to the Hellespont, where Xerxes wanted to march back over the bridge of ships he made, before the Greeks arrived to destroy it (although they had in fact decided not to do this). Xerxes returned to Persia, leaving Mardonius and a small force to attempt to control the conquered areas of Greece.

  • Mardonius recaptured Athens, but the Greek city-states joined together once more to fight him at the simultaneous battles of Plataea and Mycale in 479 BC. Because the Battle of Salamis saved Greece from being absorbed into the Persian Empire, it essentially ensured the emergence of Western civilisation as a major force in the world. Many historians have therefore ranked the Battle of Salamis as one of the most decisive military engagements of all time.


“(Themistocles) also threatened Eurybiades that, if the decision went against fighting at Salamis, the Athenians would leave Greece for good and settle in Siris in Italy.”

Terry Buckley

“Hurried on board and began hoisting sail for immediate flight. Some, however, stayed.”


“The Greek commanders at Salamis were still at loggerheads.”


“The Corinthians do not admit the truth of it; on the contrary, they believe that their ships played a most distinguished part in the battle – and the rest of Greece gives evidence in their favour.”


Battle of Plataea (479 BC)

Diplomatic Mardonius

After wintering in Thessaly, Mardonius returned to Greece for the campaigning season. He firstly sent a messenger to Athens to offer an amnesty for past events, assistance to restore burnt temples, a guarantee of self-government and even an increase in territory if Athens would come to terms with Persia.

Athenian threat

The Greeks failed to aid Athens, the Spartans persisted with their defence of the Isthmus and it was not until Athens threatened to become allies of Persia that Sparta changed strategy. Sparta realised that without the Athenian fleet defence of the Isthmus would be ineffective. They sent some Peloponnesian hoplites to join the Athenians in their stand against Mardonius. Pausanius was keen to move against the Persians, he was the nephew of King Leonidas (served as regend for Leonidas’ son who wasn’t old enough to be king).


  • Pausanias headed north with a force of 5000 Spartiates, 5000 Períoikoi and 35000 helots.

  • According to Herodotus there was 300000 Persian troops, it is thought that it was probably closer to 35000 infantry and 12000 cavalry.

  • The Greeks and Persians met at Plataea in the territory of Thebes.

  • Mardonius gained a 900-acre stockade built with an open road to his ally, Thebes, whereas the Greeks were forced into the hills near Plataea.

  • At first, Mardonius harassed Greek forces with his cavalry hoping to lure them onto the open plain.

  • The Greeks moved westwards toward Plataea near the Asopus Ridge which gave them more room, adequate water and safety of unloading food supplies.

  • Mardonius used cavalry to prevent Greeks from retrieving water.

  • Persian forces then tried to waylay Greek food supplies by slaughtering 500 animals and their escorts, poisoning the Gargapina spring; and this led to Pausanias decision to withdraw to the foothills closer to Plataea where water was.

  • Spartan commander Pausanias and the Greek generals decided to move during the night, where then three divisions were separated. Mardonius saw this as a retreat and harassed the Spartan division.

  • With the Spartans and Athenians in trouble, the centre divided and the Megarians and the non-Peloponnesians went to the aid of Athenians. The Peloponnesians led by Corinth attempted to aid Spartans.

  • Boetians & Thebans vs. Athenians on the left wing. Persian infantry vs. Spartans & Tegeans. Battle raged long and hard.

  • After a downpour of arrows, Pausanias gave order to charge and the fighting was furious.

  • Once Mardonius and his bodyguard had been killed, Artabazus the other Persians commander, who had not really taken an active part in the battle took the 40000 men under his command and fled to Persia.

  • At the fort the Persians just had enough time to organise a defence before the Spartans, Athenians and other Greeks breached the fences and poured inside. The Greeks took no prisoners, they slaughtered all.

Results and Significance

  • Greek losses were very light compared to the Persians, bar from the ones that left with Artabazus only 3000 Persians survived.

  • Greeks besieged Thebes and took leaders back to the isthmus where they were put to death for medizing.

  • Greeks dedicated Serpent Column at Delphi, the inscription have been used as clues to the membership and relationships of cities within the Hellenic League of 481 BC.

  • A 5m statue of Zeus was set up at Olympia where listed 31 loyal states.

  • Plataea put an end to the invasion of mainland Greece and from this point, the Greeks took the offensive.

  • Showed unity 100000+ men from 25 Greek States defended Hellas.

  • Inspired many of the Ionian Greeks to revolt from Persia, however many did stay.


“Pausanias faced in holding together for weeks an army consisting over 100000 men from some 24 cities plagued by dissention, insubordination and lack of food and water.”

John Van Antwerp Fine Jr.

“…But a great part of his army perished upon the road – many being cut to pieces by the Thracians and others dying from hunger and excess of toil. From Byzantium Artabazus set sail, and cross the strait; returning into Asia.”


Battle of Mycale (479 BC)


  • Greek fleet of 250 tiremes set sail under the command of the Spartan king Leotychidas, making their way initially to Samos, expecting to find the Persian fleet.

  • The reasons for the expedition above were to liberate the Ionian Greeks of Asian Minor, to incite a revolt among the Ionian cities, to prevent Persian troops from joining Mardonius, and to ensure no further Persian invasion occurred.

  • Greek spies from Samos (the headquarters of the Persian fleet) reported to the Greek high command that the Persian ships were in poor condition.

  • Under the command of Leotychidas (Spartan), the fleet sailed to Samos but found that Persians had left and beached their fleet near the Mycale promontory opposition Samos.

  • Leotychidas sailed close to Mycale and then landed his troops south of the Persian base. The Athenians attacked the Persians and broke through their stockade. The Spartans who had gone inland to attack the Persians made it to the battle in time to finish off the attack.

  • The Greek troops (about 6000) landed and while the Athenians advanced along the beach the Spartans marched over the more rugged terrain to come down behind the Persians.

  • Persians faced Athenians, standing firm behind their wall of shields until according Herodotus the Athenians doubled their efforts.

  • The Persian line broke and the troops fled to the stockade, which was not difficult for the Greeks to break through, subsequently the Spartans arrived in time to participate.

  • Ionian troops amongst the Persians quickly switched sides and slaughtered the Persians who tried to escape.

Result and Significance

  • The Greeks retired to Samos to decide the future of Ionia, where it was decided to enrol Ionians in the Hellenic League.

  • Greek fleet, alongside Ionian reinforcements sailed to the Hellespont to destroy Xerxes’ bridge which was already gone.

  • Athenians stayed in area until all the Persians in Sestos were killed, captured or ransomed.

  • First Greek offensive battle in Persian territory.

  • Ended Persian threat to Greek mainland and freed the Greeks of Ionia, although Greeks vs. Persians up until 448 BC.

  • Opened up trade routes through the Hellespont to the Black Sea to Greek trade.

  • Supremacy of Athens, became leading city in Hellas.

  • United Greek states formed a maritime confederation called the Delian League.

  • Rapid development of democracy.


“The Greeks burnt the Persian ships and the fort.”


“The Persians… had decided… they were no match for the Greek fleet, they had better not risk an engagement.”


“Accordingly, they sailed to Mycale on the mainland, where they could have the protection of their own troops which, at Xerxes’ orders had been detached from the main army to guard Ionia. This force was 60,000 strong.”


“The victories at Plataea & Mycale marked the liberation of Greece and the end of the defensive war.”

Terry Buckley

“The decisive victory (at Mycale) gave the Greeks a clear supremacy in the Aegean sea.”

Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond



  • Responsible for persuading the Athenians to pursue naval power which was to be critical in the war.

  • Convinced the Athenians to spend silver found at Laurion on ships not gifts for the people.

  • Incidental in creating and maintaining the Hellenic League.

  • Was crucial in convincing the people that the “wooden walls” were in fact Athens’ ships, in the Delphic Oracle.

  • Promoted the land/sea strategy in 480 BC.

  • Through Eurbiades was officially the fleet commander, it was Themistocles who was the tactical master.

  • His secret message to Xerxes which made Salamis possible as it deceived Xerxes to remain at Salamis to fight the Greek fleet.

  • Decisive decision to fight Salamis rather than the fortified Isthmus.

  • Convincing the people to evacuate Athens, a very crucial role if the Troezen Inscription is to be accepted.


“A man who showed an unmistakable natural genius… and deserves our admiration.”


“His resourcefulness and his quickness were unrivalled in the sphere of strategy, tactics and politics.”

Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond

“It may be said that he contributed more than any other single man to the making of Athens into a great state.”

John Bagnell Bury



Leonidas was the leader of the land army during the battle of Thermopylae. He led his army of 300 Spartans which are suggested to be the king’s royal body guard.

  • Although lead a loss it was by virtue of courage and indomitable spirit that gave his reputation glory.

  • He realised that the pass at Tempe was indefensible and moved his forces back to the pass at Thermopylae.

  • The stand at Thermopylae held the Persians at bay for several crucial days and allowed other Greeks time to organise.

  • Inspired other Greek states to fight on against the invader.


“Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”




He is the Spartan General responsible for the victory over Mardonius and the Persians at the Battle of Plataea. After the war, Sparta made him the leader of the Hellenic League created to resist Persian aggression when it became clear that Athens could dominate the league in Sparta’s absence.

  • Commanded a force of more than 100000 from 24 separate states which were fiercely independent whilst maintaining unity.

  • Faced major logistical problems supplying his troops with food and drinkable water.

  • Had to fight in a location which gave the advantage to the Persians.

  • Overcame the ever present threat of Persian cavalry.

  • Despite difficulties led his troops to a famous victory.


“Exceeding in glory all those to which our knowledge extends.”


“Pausanias faced in holding together for weeks an army plagued by dissention, and lack of food and water.”

John Van Antwerp Fine Jr.



Eurybiades was the Spartan commander in charge of the Greek navy during the Persian war who was assisted by Themistocles as Greek city-states did not want to serve under an Athenian. He sailed the fleet to Euboea to meet Persians but Persians were already there and so he ordered a retreat. Themistocles was bribed by the Euboeans to keep the fleet there and Themistocles bribed Eurybiades. This subsequent led to the Battle of Artemisium and the removal of the Greek fleet to Salamis. Eurybiades did not want to fight at Salamis but was convinced by Themistocles who threatened to withdraw the Athenian fleet (largest contingent of the fleet) if he didn’t fight. The battle was a decisive victory for the Greeks.

  • He argued against the destroying of the bridges over the Hellespont because it would force Xerxes to stay in Greece, who would fight within and dominate.

  • The annual harvests would allow Xerxes’ army to live off the country.

Reasons for Greek victory

  • Better infantry – trained, armour, weapons

  • Better tactics/strategy

  • Motivation – had more to lose

  • Knew the land (terrain)

  • Role of individuals

  • Unity of Greek states

  • Common language

  • Better supplies

Reasons for Persian defeat

  • Infantry was poorly trained, were mostly conscripts, relied on its numbers, and had poor armour and weapons

  • Different tactics between subject nations

  • Relied on cavalry

  • Did not know the land (terrain)

  • Lacked motivation

  • Problem with communication

  • Effectiveness of commanders Xerxes, Mardonius

  • Underestimated the Greeks

Development of Athens and the Athenian Empire


  • Delian League lasted, 477 – 468 BC.

  • Also known as the Confederacy of Delos.

  • The original alliance included the Ionian Aeolian cities of Asia Minor and the adjacent islands, many towns of the Propontis, Cyclades and Euboea.

  • Came into existence when Spartan leadership failed, and Spartans were faced with their own domestic issues.

  • The Spartans gave up leadership because they believed the Persians were not a threat to them.

  • The helots were a great threat to Sparta.

  • Education of a Spartan leader made hum narrow and unimaginative.

  • Spartan abroad were prone to corruption.

  • Protection of the Aegean required a naval power.

  • Thucydides tells us that “Sparta, being traditionally slow to go to war, unless they were compelled.”

  • The Athenians were held in high esteem after Salamis.


  • Protect Greece from further Persian invasions.

  • Deal with piracy in the Aegean.

  • Maintain freedom of the Greeks.



  • Each ally had to contribute money or ships for the common cause.

  • In 478 BC, Aristides was chosen to assess the contribution of the allies. He decided that each member was to contribute 460 talents per annum.

  • The money was deposited by Hellenic Treasurers (Hellenotamiai) in the temple of Apollo at Delos.

  • The phoros (money contribution) was collected by ten Athenians called Stewards of the Greeks (Hellenotamiae).

  • The ships were contributed to the League fleet by larger members such as the islands of Thasos, Naxos, Chios, Lesbos and Samos, and were expected to serve for only part of the year.

  • Aristides “fixed their contributions according to each member’s worth and ability to pay” according to Plutarch.

Delos as treasury
  • Centre of the Aegean

  • Good harbour

  • Important cult centre for Apollo

  • Too small and politically insignificant

  • It was the original site of the treasury

Autonomy of allies

  • Athens guaranteed the sovereign independence of each state, including the right to determine its own constitutions and foreign politics.

Council (Synod) of the League

  • An annual congress of allied deputies, in which each state had an equal vote.

  • The congress was held under Athenian leadership.

The Oath

  • Each state took an oath which as accompanied by a ceremony of casting iron bars into the sea.

  • No state might withdraw from the league without the consent of all.

  • According to John Bagnell Bury, “the alliance was to be permanent.”

Athen’s Position

  • Leader

  • Had executive powers

  • Controlled contributions

  • Cimon was the leader of the fleet

  • Presided over the council

  • Influenced policy and strategy

  • Contributed the largest number of ship and men

Benefits for Athens
  • Athens had access and control of a large and powerful alliance of wealthy states.

  • They received half of the booty collected from campaigns against Persians.

  • The sale of slaves gave added revenue.

  • The Piraeus became the main port of the Aegean.

  • The coinage decree forced allies to trade with Athens.

  • Excess tribute paid for new docks, storehouses, harbour facilities and buildings.

  • Naval initiatives stimulates employment for rowers, shipbuilders, dock workers and builders.

Benefits for members
  • Trade in safe Aegean waters.

  • The Delian fleet protected them.

  • Encouraged democracies.

  • Allies had access to Athenian law courts.

  • Initially, allies received booty from attacks on Persian territory.

Disadvantages of members
  • Loss of autonomy

  • Allies were unwilling to travel long distances to Athenian law courts.

  • Coinage decree took away allies’ right to mint own coins.

  • Allies resented Cleruchies.

Activities to the Battle of the Eurymedon River

  • Capture of Byzantium 478 – 477 BC

    • Captured from the Persians.
    • Greeks gained access to the valuable trade of the Black Sea.
  • Siege and capture of Eion 476 – 475 BC

    • Captured Eion, a mining and trading centre.

    • Eion had been a supply depot for the Persians.

    • It had been the strongest garrison west of the Hellespont.

    • Became a direct subject rather than an ally.

  • Conquest of Scyrus 474 – 473 BC

    • Capture and enslavement of pirates.

    • Settled it with a cleruchy.

    • Solved Attica’s land problem.

    • Became a direct subject rather than an ally.

  • Coercion of Carystus 472 BC

    • Carystus dominated the waterway between Andros and Euboea.

    • Forced Carystus to join due to its unreliable neutrality.

    • This was the first example of Athens (Cimon) working alone to direct Delian League policy.

  • Revolt and subjugation of Naxos 469 BC

    • Naxos was one of the largest ship contributing members of the League.

    • Wanted to secede.

    • Revolted.

    • Rebellion put down.

    • Lost its autonomy.

    • Became a tribute paying subject.

    • “This was the first case when the original constitution of the League was broken and an allied city lost its independence”, according to Thucydides.

  • Battle of the Eurymedon River 468 BC

    • Cimon fought a combined sea and land battle.

    • Cimon destroyed every Persian within Asia Minor.

    • The city of Phaselis became a subject state.

    • Defeated Phoenician fleet and Persian army.

    • It justified the League’s existence.

    • A large booty captured went to Athens.

    • This victory made the Athenians and allied fleet the greatest power in the Aegean.

Role and contribution of Cimon

  • Oligarch.

  • Opposed the advance of democracy.

  • Favoured friendly relations with Sparta.

  • Conservative.

  • Attractive with the masses because of his attractive personal qualities, democratic bearing and lavish expenditures.

  • Became leader of the fleet after the death of Aristides.

  • His policy was to maintain friendly and respectful relations with Sparta while vigorously pursuing war against the Persians.

  • Helped ostracise Themistocles.

  • Leader of the League forces until 461 BC.

  • Naval commander in nearly all the League operations from 476 – 463 BC.

  • Expelled the Persians from their strongholds in the northern Aegean.

  • Expelled Pausanias from Byzantium.

  • Captured Eion.

  • Conquered and colonised Scyrus, clearing it of pirates.

  • Forced Carystus into the league.

  • Sailed with a fleet of 200 ships along the coast of Asia Minor, freeing Greek and foreign cities and the islands and bringing them into the confederacy.

  • In 468 BC he won a decisive double victory against the Phoenician fleet and the Persian land force at the Battle of the Eurymedon River.

  • The booty captured later financed the fortification of the Athenian Acropolis and was also the source of Cimon’s great private fortune.

  • Conquered Thasos.

  • Persuaded the Athenians to allow him to assist Sparta in a war against the helots.

  • Ostracised in 461 BC.

  • Recalled after 5 years.

  • Negotiated a 5 year peace treaty with Sparta.

  • Commanded a final expedition against the Persians to recapture Cyprus.

Role and contribution of Aristides the Just

  • Strategos at the Battle of Marathon.

  • Military leader at the Battle of Salamis and Plataea.

  • In 478 BC he was chosen to assess the contribution of the allies because of his reputation to be just.

  • He worked out that each member was to contribute 460 talents per annum.

  • Conservative.

  • In 468 BC he was honoured with public funeral.

  • “The only statesman in Athenian history who was both famous and honest” according to Plutarch.

  • “As the organiser of the Confederacy he was merely carrying out the dream of Themistocles for Athenian naval supremacy” according to Plutarch.

Foundations of the Athenian Empire

Thasos 465 BC

  • Thracians and Athenians were involved in a private quarrel over resources.

  • Thasos seeded from the League, but the League fleet laid siege to it for three years.

  • The Spartans secretly offered help but were held up by the earthquake and the helot revolt.

  • Thasos surrendered, lost its independence and became a subject state.

  • Thasos gave up its ships, trading and mining rights and paid tribute.

  • The Persians had been expelled from Greece and the purpose of the Delian League had been fulfilled.

  • However, Athens still forced the members to stay.

  • “The very terms of the alliance and the situation itself rendered practically inevitable the development of the free confederacy into an Athenian Empire” according to Thucydides.

  • “The Delian League had long possessed the trappings of an empire” according to Christian Meier.

  • Athens’ power took over the confederacy.

  • The other member were scattered and could not combine against Athens.

  • No state could withdraw without the consent of all other states.

  • The political and economic greatness of Athens demanded that the Confederacy go on at all costs.

  • Athens had to keep control of the Aegean and of the route to the Euxine (Black Sea) because Athens depended on foreign grain.

  • Most of the allies contributed money rather ship or troops. This weakened their self-defence and strengthened Athens’ power.

  • The League’s fleet soon became the Athenian navy.

  • The treasury was moved to Athens on excuse of a possible Phoenician raid into the Aegean.

  • The funds were used to cover the costs of further military and naval expansion, glorify and beautify Athens and take the final steps to full democracy.

  • The Athenian Empire consisted of three types of states free naval allies, nominally free but tribute paying states and subject states.


Pericles played a major role in transforming the League into the Athenian Empire.

  • He took steps to make the League more manageable.

  • Democratic governments were set up.

  • Garrisons (body of troops) were established in allied cities.

  • More court cases involving allied states were now heard in Athens.

  • Oaths were taken and treaties signed with individual League members.

  • Treaties and alliances signed with the cities of Sicily extended Athenian influence to those areas not within the borders of her empire.

  • He fostered a new wave of colonisation in the form of cleruchs.

  • Approximately 6000 cleruchs secured the waterways and ensured Athenian grain supplies and raw materials.

  • Colonists were sent out to Thurii in southern Italy and Amphipolis in the northern Aegean.

Nature of Athenian imperialism

Athenian imperialism

  • Previously, Cimon’s pro-Spartan influence led to friendly relations with Sparta.

  • At the time of the earthquake and the helot revolt, Cimon convinced the Athenians to send help.

  • Ephialtes and Pericles were gaining power and popularity and believed that Sparta was Athens’ natural enemy.

  • Sparta was becoming suspicious of the political changes occurring in Athens and refused to accept the aid of Cimon and the Athenian troops.

  • This humiliation, according to Thucydides, led to the first open quarrel between Athens and Sparta.

  • The subjection of Naxos 468 BC and of Thasos 465 BC by Athens when they revolted began the transformation of the league into an empire

Changing relations with Athenian allies

  • 461 BC Athens broke

  • 460 BC Megara joined the Delian League after a quarrel with Corinth.

  • 458 – 457 BC Athens engaged in its first conflict with Corinth, Epidaurus and Aegina.

  • 455 BC Transfer of the Treasury to Athens.

  • Only Chios, Lesbos and Samos were left independent.

  • 440 BC Samos revolted and was subjected.

  • 428 BC Lesbo revolt

  • 416 BC Chios revolt

  • The council no longer met.

  • Athens insisted upon a democratic constitution for all states and demanded that the officials take oath that they would not revolt against the Athenians or their allies.

Influence of Thetes

Thetes were free men, but without land or other resources. They were a class of farmers that emerged in areas where the status of individual property was in effect. To make a living they subjected themselves to the owners of holdings, selling them their services.

Influence of the thetes

  • Free

  • Landless

  • Labouring class

  • No political rights

  • Served as light-armed troops and rowers

  • Originally, many of the thetes were employed on the Athenian ships

  • The Athenian navy was very powerful and relied on the rowers

  • The thetes were given new land during the Athenian imperialism in the form of cleruchs

  • Cleruchs were settled on land confiscated from people who had once been independent members of the League

  • The cleruchs were used as watchdogs for the Athenians and caused great resentment


  • Every year an ostracism was held.

  • At least 6000 citizens had to be presents for it to take place.

  • Each citizen was given an ostraka and asked to write the name of a person they considered to be very dangerous to the democracy.

  • If a majority of citizens have the same name, that person was ostracised from Athens for 10 years.

  • Sometimes those who were exiled could be brought back under certain circumstances. For example, Xanithippus and Aristides.

  • Aristotle attributed the introduction of ostracism to Cleisthenes.

  • There is no evidence of its use before 487 BC.

  • It weakened the Areopagus.

  • It was intended to prevent internal strife (stasis).

Citizenship law

  • Pericles introduced this decree between 451 – 450 BC

  • It was passed by the ecclesia

  • It revised the citizenship roles

  • Restricted the admission of new citizens depending upon their parentage

  • To become an Athenian citizen, both of your parents had to already be Athenian citizens and they had to be legally married

  • This limited the number of people would could benefit from the wealth of the city and its empire

  • This limited the number of people who could wed

Athens and Sparta

Impact of Persian Wars

  • Created a stronger sense of Greek unity

  • Allowed for the development of the Athenian navy

  • Led to the Delian League and then the Athenian Empire

  • Freed the Greeks from Persian control

  • However, many of the Greeks were now under Athenian control

Spartan responses to Athenian imperialism


  • Protect Sparta against Argos

  • Opposed tyranny

  • Protect Sparta in times of war or helot revolt

  • Gave security for other members

  • Guaranteed aid to members in the event of attack from outside the Peloponnese


  • By the end of the 6th Century BC, every state in the Peloponnese except Argos and Achaea was a member

  • Permanent

  • Non-secession (non-withdrawal)

  • Tolerated members’ wars with each other

  • The members were bound to Sparta but not each other

  • Bi-cameral allies had one vote and Sparta had the other – both had to agree for the law to be passed

  • No tribute was levied except in times of war


  • A Council/Congress of Allies met when question of war arose

  • Only Sparta could call a meeting

  • The council consisted of two equal and independent bodies the assembly of Spartiates and the Congress of Allies

  • Sparta usually only summoned the League when it was fairly sure that the other states would follow her advice

  • A Spartan general always led the troops, they could easily refuse to lead the troops and supply a force, this would stop the planned attack.

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