The Persian Wars Explained in Detail

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All Battles, Causes, and Effects

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The Persian Wars Explained in Detail

Annotations:

  • The Greek hoplites vs. the largest most sophisticated army in the world, the Persian Empire.  Multiple Greek city-states unite as allies to fight the common enemy of the vast Persian Empire.
  • The Persian Wars consited of the Battle of Marathon, the Battle of Therompylae, the Battle of Salamis, and the Battle of Plataea.  
1 The Ionian Revolt/Samos

Annotations:

  • The Greek colony of Sardis rebels against the Persian control, angering the Persians.
  • The Athenian colony of Samos is taken over by the Persians, which scares the Athenians because the Persians are conquering further and further west, and soon, the Persians will reach Athens.  The Athenians send a military force to defend Samos.  The Persians send a small force to conquer Samos because conquering a small island that the Persians assume has little defence is easy.  The Athenians defeat the Persians, and after the initial battle, the Athenians return home, spreading the word of their incredible victory.  After the Athenians leave, the Persians not only conquer Samos, but the Persians now make it their goal to destroy Athens.
2 The Battle of Marathon

Annotations:

  • The first battle of the Persian wars, takes place in 490BCE in the city-state of Marathon.
  • The Persian leader Darius sends many soldiers to Marathin to fight the Athenians and their allies.  Darius is the great great grandson of Cyrus the Great.  Darius is told by Hippias, a former tryrant who was forced to resign, to assemble his troops at Marathon to avoid fighting the powerful Athenian navy.    
  • The Greeks led by Miltiades, an Athenian army general fight the Persians using an unusual battle formation.  Normally, the Greeks fight using the hoplite formation, but Miltiades takes the gamble of fighting in a double-envelopment formation.  In this formation, the Greeks spread out to make their army look bigger and the middle portion of the army, which is weaker, drops back, and the sides, which are stronger, move up.     
  • Phidippides runs 140 miles from Athens to Sparta asking Sparta to join the Athenians in battle.  The Spartans say no because they are participating in a religious festival honoring the gods, which can not be interrupted.  The Spartans promise to come when they are finished.  The Spartans end up missing the battle, and they instead chose to scope out the Persian army, who they are amazed that their rival, Athens, was able to defeat.
  • The winner of the Battle of Marathon is the Greeks.
3 The Battle of Thermopylae

Annotations:

  • The second battle of the Persian Wars is fought in Thermopylae in 480BCE.
  • The Persian leader Xerxes, the son of Darius, seeks revenge for his father's loss at Marathon.  Xerxes sends a force of 300,000-400,000 soldiers to fight the Greeks.  Xerxes intends to burn Athens to the ground and get revenge for his father's loss.
  • The Athenians again unite with many allies to fight this battle.  The Spartan general, Leonidas is charge of the Greek's land toops and the Athenian general, Themistocles is in charge of the naval tools at the Artemisan Straight.  
  • The Battle of Thermopylae is fought in a narrow pass that is 200 yards at the widest point.  This pass causes the Persians to lose their two main advantages of numbers and calvary.
  • A Greek traitor tells King Xerxes of a narrow mountain path that Xerxes can use to get his troops around the Greeks.  Xerxes takes 10,000 men up this path, and the Greeks defending the path end up running away to defend their families, so Xerxes has a clear path to Athens.
  • Leonidas knows that it is only a matter of time now before this battle is over.  he sends most of the troops back, except for himself and a force of around 1,300, consisting of 300 Spartans.  Leondias and all of the remaining troops are killed by the Persians, but the greeks did manage to reduce the Persian forces by 20,000 soldiers.  Leonidas made a good decision to send most troops back except for a few because this gave the troops who left time to set up somewhere else and to prepare for another battle.  Also, an oracle gave the Greeks this location as a chance to die, fighting for the city-states.
  • The winner of the Battle of Thermopylae was the Persians.
4 The Battle of Salamis

Annotations:

  • The Battle of Salamis took place in 480BCE, one month after the Battle of Thermopylae.
  • The Greeks stop at the Oracle of Delphi on their way home from battle, and the oracle tells the Greeks that only the wooden walls will protect Athens.  Some interpret this to mean the wooden walls of the Acropolis or the wooden walls of the ships. 
  • Xerxes goes to Athens and burns the city to the ground.  The Greek troops, who had fled to nearby islands watch their city get destroyed.  
  • Themistocles sends a fake Greek traitor to tell Xerxes that all of the Greek troops are hiding from fear in the Straight of Salamis.  Xerxes, who wants to kill all of the Athenians, sends his troops to the straight.  When the troops arrive, the Greeks appear to be surrendering, when really they are luring the Persians further into the straight.  The Persians go so far into the straight, that they have no room to move around and the straight also takes away the Persian's number advantage yet again.  
  • The Greeks win the Battle of Salamis.
5 The Battle of Plataea

Annotations:

  • The Battle of Plataea was fought in 479BCE.
  • Xerxes attacked the Athenian ally of Plataea, hoping to anger the Athenians, causing them to come defend Plataea, and giving the Persians another chance to defeat Athens.  
  • When the Persians arrive at Plateae, the whole Spartan army, along with their leader, King Pausanias,  was their waiting for them.  The Persians had hoped to fight this battle in an open space, such as a plain or a plateau, instead, the Spartans are waiting in a narrow pass, similar to previous battles.  
  • After the battle, the Greeks have a huge victory ending the Persian Wars, and the Spartans rush home to tame a slave uprising.
  • The Greeks win the Battle of Plataea and win the Persian Wars once and for all.
6 The Golden Age of Athens

Annotations:

  • After the Persian Wars, Athens' incredible victory leads to the Golden Age of Athens from 460-429BCE.
  • Pericles, a wealthy arisctocrat, lead the movement of change for Athenian democracy.  
  • Pericles built the "Long Walls" to protect Athens from foreign invaders.  Pericles also built up the Athenian navy to be very powerful.
  • Pericles rebuilt the acropolis and a beautiful temple built on the acropolis, called the Parthenon.  
  • Pericles established payment for the juries and war service, which encouraged more people, including the poor, to participate in government.
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