The Greco-Persian Wars were a series of wars between the Persian Empire and the city-states of Greece. The conflict began when Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered the greek city-states of Ionia (on the east side of the Aegean Sea).
In 499 BC the cities of Ionia rebel against the Persian empire. Athens supported the rebellion and sent supplies to the Greeks of Ionia. That angered the Persian King who swore to attack Athens as soon as possible.
The most famous battles against the Persians were: Marathon, Thermopylae and Salamis.
MARATHON: In 490 BC a Persian navy crossed the Aegean Sea. The destination was Marathon, a place located north of Athens with a large bay to disembark the army and a large plain with enough space to maneuver the Persian cavalry. The Athenians made the decision to send an army to confront the Persians instead of concentrating in defending the city. At Marathon 10.000 greek hoplites fought against 25.000 persians. That's was a great victory for Greece and for Athens but nobody had doubts that the Persians would be back again. Three years after the victory in Marathon the Athenians discovered a new mine of silver and the city decided to spend the revenues to build a strong navy to fight the persians.
THERMOPYLAE: in 481 BC, ten years after the first war between persians and greeks, an army led by the Persian King Xerxes crossed the Hellespont (located north of Greece, far away from the Greek navy). The question for the Greeks was where to stand against the Persians. As Persian army had thousand and thousand of warriors the Spartan King Leonidas chose the Thermopylae, a narrow pass in the north of Athens. There 300 Spartans and 700 Greeks were fighting for three days against the Persians.
SALAMIS: While Spartans were fighting the Persians, the Athenian navy evacuated Athens and stationed on the island of Salamis, south of Athens. After defeating the 300 Spartans, the Persians reached an evacuated Athens and demolished and set fire the city. The Persians navy then approached the city of Athens and fell into a trap: in that narrow space the Greek navy collided against persian navy and began a fight between Greek infantry and persians. Persian King was so confident of his victory that he sat on a golden throne on a hill near the battle to watch the fight. The small greek ships could maneuver better than Persians and Greek infantry was quite better too. When Persian King realised that the greeks had won the battle, he ran away and left his army behind.
The Greek defeated the Persians but Greek city-states in Asia remained under Persian control and Persian Empire was powerful enough to attack Greece again. For this reason the Greeks created the Delian League, a treasury that would allow them to quickly prepare for war.
Persian Empire at it's largest expansion.
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