The period of high classics (V century BC). The Greco-Persian wars.
Causes and prerequisites of the Greco-Persian wars.
The largest event of the 5th century BC was the Greco-Persian wars, described in the famous "History" of the first Greek historian Herodotus.
Since the middle of the VI century BC, under King Cyrus, the founder of the Achaemenid dynasty, a powerful Persian power has emerged in the East. Its borders in the north reached the Caucasus, in the east - India, in the northeast - Central Asia, and in the west - Asia Minor and Egypt - in fact, the entire Front Asia and North Africa were subordinated to the Persian state, which reached its highest rise under Darius I (522-486), who carried out a number of reforms. In order to maintain the unity of the disparate regions of this ethnically diverse power, Darius needed to strengthen its military power through expansion into other countries, and the economically developed Mediterranean coast represented the most attractive territories.
The war was preceded by several important events. In 546, even under Cyrus, the Persians defeated the Lydian Kingdom (Lydia is one of the regions of Asia Minor), which formally subordinated the Greek cities of Asia Minor and the coastal islands. The Greeks put up with the loss of political independence, since the Lydian rulers did not interfere in their internal affairs. The last Lydian king was the legendary Croesus, who became famous for his proverbial wealth. With the arrival of Darius, the situation changed for the worse: the Greeks were obliged to pay tribute, supply soldiers and workers to Persia; self-government was abolished, and Persian henchmen were appointed to the cities.
In 525 BC, the Persians captured Egypt and the Greek colony of Cyrene, which led to the loss of the economic influence of the Greeks in North Africa. The import of Egyptian bread to Greece has stopped.
In 514, Darius undertook a campaign against the Scythians, which ended in failure: The Persians, having passed along the western shore of the Black Sea and reached the Istrian River (modern Danube), turned back. Despite the setback, Darius occupied Thrace and the Hellespont Strait, which led to a reduction in Greek trade in the Aegean Sea. The trade initiative passed from the hands of the Greek cities of Asia Minor to the Phoenicians, who were patronized by the Persian king.
The Ionian Revolt (500-494).The expansion of the Persians infringed, first of all, the interests of the Greeks who lived on the western coast of Asia Minor. Here the first stage of the wars began - the Ionian Uprising (500-494). Before Darius, the satraps treated the Greek cities on the Asia Minor coast relatively gently and did not interfere in internal affairs. After the new king came to power, additional taxes and duties were introduced, and Persian officials were appointed, more rigidly minded than their predecessors. The first to rise were the inhabitants of Miletus, who expelled the Persian garrison from the city. Milet was supported by other cities.
In the absence of a clear organization, the uprising was initially doomed. The leaders tried to coordinate the general actions of the rebels, and the Greeks took Sardis (498), the capital of the Asia Minor satrapy, but the full unification could not be carried out, because Darius, having transferred new troops, lavished promises and money generously, separated the cities. Balkan Greece provided almost no assistance to the rebels: only Athens and Eretria (a polis on the island of Euboea) sent a small military contingent. In 495 The Phoenician-Persian fleet defeated the Greeks of Asia Minor near the island of Lada, Miletus was besieged and taken a year later (494), and the inhabitants were killed or hijacked to Persia. The playwright Frinich wrote the tragedy "The Taking of Miletus", after its premiere in Athens, the author was fined because he made the audience cry.
The first campaign of Mardonius (492-490).
Marathon battle. The second military campaign lasted from 492 to 490 and was already connected with the invasion of the Persians into the territory of Balkan Greece. The pretext for Darius was the intervention of the Greeks in the Ionian uprising. In 492, the son-in-law of Darius, the military commander Mardonius in Asia Minor, equipped a huge army that began advancing to the west. The land army moved through the Hellespont along the South Thracian coast, along which a squadron sailed by sea, caught in a terrible sea storm at Cape Athos and lost half of the ships. Mardonius was forced to return, but despite the failure, virtually the entire northern part of the Aegeida turned out to be in the hands of the Persians.In 490, the new Persian commanders-in-chief Datis and Darius' nephew Artaphernes, in order to reach Attica by a direct route, decided on a major naval expedition across the Aegean Sea. They sent ambassadors to Greece demanding "land and water", that is, voluntary submission. The Greeks reacted in different ways: in Sparta, the ambassadors were offered to take the land and water themselves by dumping them into a well, in Athens they did the same by throwing the ambassadors off a cliff, but some cities recognized the primacy of Persia, war with which, nevertheless, became inevitable.
The Persian army crossed the Aegis, defeating Eretria, which was helping the Ionians, along the way, and landed about forty kilometers north of Athens, near Marathon. In Athens in 490, Miltiades was the strategist, who, without waiting for the arrival of the enemy, moved the Athenian militia to Marathon, where the famous battle took place (490). After the battle, a runner was sent to Athens, who, barely reaching the city, shouted: "Rejoice, Athenians, we have won!" and fell lifeless. Since then, marathon running has appeared at the Olympic Games.
The Marathon battle had a huge moral significance: it caused a patriotic upsurge and became the national pride of the Athenians, which was emphasized by ancient historians, who believed that about 10 thousand soldiers fought on the side of the Greeks, and about 100 on the side of the Persians. These figures are doubtful, but the fact that the Greeks, thanks to patriotism and courage, managed to win with forces smaller than the enemy's, is quite reliable.
The expedition of Datis and Artaphernes (480-479).
The Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis. The third military campaign dates back to 480-479 . It became a turning point in the Greco-Persian wars.
After the death of Darius (486), his son Xerxes turned out to be at the head of the Persian state, who conducted diplomatic preparations for the war, achieving the neutralization or transfer of a number of Greek cities (in particular, Argos) to his side and concluding an agreement with the Carthaginian troops so that they would begin hostilities in "Great Greece" (part of southern Italy and Sicily), in order to divert the forces of the Greek allies.
In response, the Greeks tried to consolidate. In 481, a congress was held in Corinth, at which the creation of a military alliance led by Spartan military leaders was proclaimed. Athens has already emerged as a leader among other cities, although one of the major cities of Sicily, Syracuse, could claim dominance in the Mediterranean, and did not play the role of a "third force". Syracuse in the fifth century was a fairly strong state. The Athenian and Spartan ambassadors appealed for help to the ruler of the city Gelon, who promised to provide a large army and food for the Hoplites in Balkan Greece, but on condition that he himself would become the head of the Greek land and sea troops. Gelon was refused, but his ambitions testified to the existence of grounds for that. Athens stood out as a result of further events.Thanks to Archon Themistocles, the Athenians built a fleet that they had not had before. Themistocles cunningly explained the words of an oracle that predicted salvation for the Greeks from the Persians only if they hid behind wooden walls. The archon interpreted the "wooden walls" as the sides of ships and ordered to build a fleet.
Xerxes began the campaign in 480. During the crossing of the Hellespont, the raging sea swept away the bridge built for the army. Enraged, Xerxes ordered the sea to be flogged and shackled, throwing them into the water, which was done. The Persian squadron sailed along the Thracian coast, along which the ground forces were moving, which, without encountering serious resistance, reached Balkan Greece and stopped at the town of Thermopylae - the only mountain passage from Northern Greece to Central Greece. An advanced detachment of Greeks who were not preparing for a major battle was sent here. 300 Spartans were assigned to guard the passage with an auxiliary detachment of allies - they went down in history as the brave defenders of Greece, who held Thermopylae for several days (480). The traitor led the Persians around Thermopylae by detours, surrounding a small Greek detachment. The Persians exterminated the Spartans completely, but were amazed by their courage. Subsequently, at the place where they fell, a monument was erected - a stone lion in memory of Tsar Leonid ("Lion Cub"), who led the defenders of Thermopylae. Verses were inscribed on the pedestal:
Wanderer, take the message to all the citizens of Lacedaemon,Having honestly fulfilled the law, here we are in the grave.
In 480, a naval battle takes place at Cape Artemisius. It was not successful for either side, and both troops retreated, so a major battle took place in the same year, but later, at the island of Salamis. Themistocles used a clever trick: the Greeks were going to retreat, because the Persians had passed through Central Greece and occupied Attica, and the Greek troops retreated to the island of Salamis. The warriors wanted to leave it and sail on to the Peloponnese. Themistocles understood that the narrow strait between the island and the mainland was the only place where the light ships of the Greeks could defeat the hulking ships of the Persians. He sent a spy to the Persian camp, through whom he conveyed that the Greeks were going to leave and they should be detained. Then the Persians blocked the passage in the gulf and did what Themistocles wanted: they gave battle to the Greeks and suffered a crushing defeat. On this occasion, Aeschylus created the tragedy "The Persians" - the only one among his works written on a historical plot.
In 479, the Greeks won a second victory on land at Plataea in Boeotia. The Persian troops were commanded by the ill-fated Mardonius, from whom luck turned away. The Greeks pretended to retreat, he rushed to catch up with them, but found himself in front of a phalanx lined up, ready for battle. In this battle, Mardonius died.
In 478 or early 477, the Greek Union Delos Symmachia was created under the auspices of Athens (the union treasury was located on the island of Delos), focused on the active deployment of foreign policy and the consolidation of Greek cities. Initially, the coastal and island cities of the Eastern Mediterranean were drawn together into an alliance, for a long time led by the Athenian commander Kimon, as they were liberated from the rule of the Persians. For this reason, Sparta was not included in the symmachia. In addition, the Spartans were not satisfied with the leadership of Athens. Lacedaemon was an oligarchic closed society, not inclined to expand external relations, whereas the Athenian union included cities with a democratic structure. Athens could occupy leading positions in the union, relying on naval forces: no one in Hellas had such a large fleet. Thus, out of 300 Greek ships that participated in the Battle of Salamis against 1000 Persian, 200 were put up by the Athenians, and in such conditions Sparta could not compete with Athens at sea.
Military campaign of 478-459 BC
The next military campaign from 478 to 459 was characterized by the strengthening of the Greeks. The most important battle took place at the mouth of the Eurymedon River (465)1 in Asia Minor (Pamphylia). The Greeks, under the leadership of Cimon, the son of Miltiades, won a triple victory: over the Persian fleet, the land forces that approached him hand in hand and the Phoenician squadron. The victory had great moral significance for the Greeks. At the same time, the gradual transformation of the equal Greek union into the dictate of Athens, into an Athenian power, began.
The Egyptian Expedition and the end of the Greco-Persian Wars (459-449).
459-449 BC - the final period of the wars. In Egypt, in the Delta region, there was an uprising against Persian rule. The Greeks decided to help the Egyptians and sent a fleet there (459) - the squadron entered the Nile Delta and won the first battle of Memphis from the Persians, but after they transferred new troops to Egypt, the Greeks could no longer resist and died in the Delta swamps. The remnants of the Greek troops were forced to withdraw from Egypt, as well as leave the commercially important island of Cyprus.
The Athenians were afraid of unrest among the allies and in 454 they moved the treasury from Delos to Athens - this is how the Athenian power (arche) finally took shape. In 449, peace was concluded, rather, a truce with the Persians, called the Kallian Peace. Perhaps the truce did not play a special role for the Greeks and it did not exist as an official document. Herodotus does not write anything about him, because the agreement was reached in a shameful way for the Greeks: Callius, who represented Athens, received a large bribe from the Persians in exchange for favorable conditions.
Persia recognized the autonomy of the Asia Minor cities that were gaining independence. The Persians undertook not to enter the fleet into the Aegean Sea and occupy the straits, they liberated the coastal strip of Asia Minor as wide as a day's horse run.
The wars proved the viability and superiority of the military organization of the polis system over the eastern one, but the result was only a temporary balance of power: the conflict was not resolved and potentially persisted, since neither Persia nor Greece could take a dominant position in the Mediterranean. Both sides were weakened due to the approximate equality of forces. Contradictions were also exacerbated within Greek society: the dualism of the oligarchic and democratic systems inevitably escalated into their confrontation, which soon resulted in a civil war. The conflict was also brewing within the Athenian symmachia, which turned into a power: Athens carried out a dictate towards the allies and harshly suppressed their discontent. As a result, with the end of the wars, socio-political problems were not only not resolved, but on the contrary, they created a new tangle of contradictions. The temporary national unity of the Greeks, due to external danger, turned out to be very fragile and later disintegrated.