The Persian War

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The Persian War

By the year 800 BC the Greek city-states had too many people. Many people were out of work. The Greeks moved along the Mediterranean Sea to the east and west looking for new places to set up city-states. One place they built city-states was along the eastern side of the Aegean Sea. The Greeks living along the Aegean Sea did not like Persian rule. Persian dictators were trying to tax the city-states.

War broke out over this. The Persian’s wanted to teach the Greeks a lesson that they had to follow the rules of the Persian Kings. The first invasion took place in 490 BC. Darius I was the Persian King at this time. Darius I decided to conquer all of Greece. At first the Persians conquered everyone they met. Darius I sent advisers to Greece. Sparta and Athens refused his control and killed the Persian advisers. Darius I became very upset about this. He took his army to fight the Greeks at Marathon. Marathon was a beach 26 miles east of Athens. The Persians lost this battle. A runner was sent to Athens to tell Athenians the good news of the victory. (This is how the Marathon Race got its name.) The Persians were short on supplies so they had to return home after their defeat at Marathon.

The second invasion of Greece by the Persians happened in the year 480 BC. Xerxes was the Persian King at this time. He gathered a huge army, maybe as many as a million soldiers. They came from all over his empire. He thought his huge army would crush the Greeks, and many City-States surrendered as soon as they saw him march in to view. Soon the army had conquered all the new City-States along the coast and moved in to the main Peninsula of Greece. The Greeks knew that they could not defeat the army in an open field, there were just too many Persians. The only way was to slow them down until a large navy could be built. The Persian army attacked the Greeks at Thermopylae, a small mountain pass just north of Athens. Three hundred Spartans under the leadership of Leonidas I fought in this battle until the last Greek fell. The Persians then headed to Athens. The Athenians received news of the approaching army. The people left Athens before the Persians reached the city. The Persians sacked then burned Athens. But because the 300 Spartans slowed down the approaching army, Athens was able to save their navy and build a force large enough to defeat the Persians.

The Persians were finally defeated by the Greek navy in a bloody sea battle at a city called Salamis. This area forms a natural trap, and the faster, more skilled sailors of Athens were easily able to destroy the ships of the Persian Army. Fewer than 400 Greek ships under the Athenian general Themistocles beat 1200 Persian ships. Xerxes knew he couldn’t supply and feed his army without his ships, and he went home after the defeat. However, he left a large army in Greece. The Spartans and Athenians fought the Persian army. The combined forces were able to beat the Persians. The Persian Wars lasted for twenty years. The Persians never attacked the Greeks again. After the war was over the Greeks decided to join together so that they would be safer in the future. They all sent soldiers and money to a central army and they joined together to form the Delian League. At first the Delian League helped all Greek City-States, but soon Athens started to keep all the money for themselves. They built huge buildings, improved their city and funded great works of art and science. This time is called the “Golden Age of Athens”. The rest of the City-States did not like their money going to Athens, and soon joined together with Sparta to attack Athens. This was the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. The time of Greeks working together only lasted 60 years.


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  1. Why did many Greeks move to the east and west in 800 BC?

  1. Why didn’t the Greeks living along the Aegean Sea like the Persian rulers?

  1. When was the first Persian Invasion of Greek City-States? Who was the King of Persia?

  1. What did Athens and Sparta do to upset the king of Persia?

  1. Where did the Persian army first fight the Greek army? How far is that from Athens?

  1. Who won the war the first time the Persian’s invaded?

  1. How many years after the first invasion was the second invasion? Who was the king now?

  1. Where did he attack the Greeks at? How many Spartans fought him here? Who led the Spartans?

  1. Where did the final sea battle of the war take place? How did the Greeks win?

  1. What was the name of the group of Greek City-States who worked together after the Persian War? Why didn’t this group last? What city took control of the group? What city attacked the group? What was this war called?

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