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LadyOfAvalon 
Posted: 03-Feb-2009, 09:28 PM
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Camac
Posted: 08-Feb-2009, 11:14 AM
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With the defeat at Marathon and the aborted landing at Athens the Persian Fleet struck oars and headed back to the Asian side of the Aegean. This defeat was the first major defeat of Persian Infantry in two generations and Darius vowed revenge. He ordered that troops and supplies be gathered from all corners of the Empire and preperations made for another invasion of Greece. In 486 BCE four years after Marathon, rebellion erupted in Egypt and Darius was sidetracked into quelling it. In 485 BCE, Darius after a reign of 36 years died further delaying the invasion of Greece. His son Xerxes I , finished the re-subjugation of Egypt only to have rebellion breakout in Babylon which he also put down. Finally in 480 BCE all was ready for the Invasion of Greece and Xerxes would avenge his father and settle once and for all with these insolent Greeks.
Before continuing some qualifications have to be made. The main source of Historical facts on the Persian War comes from Herodotus a Ionian Greek from the city state of Halicanarsus in modern day Turkey, and was written perhaps 40 years after the event. Herodotus was an exile from his home and spent a great deal of time in Athens. He was also a member of the Hoplite Class. This was the upper class of Greek Society as only the more wealthy could afford to purchase the armour of a Hoplite which consisted of a Corinthian Style Helmet, Breast and Back Plate,Greaves, Shield (Hoplon), Doru (spear), and Xiphos (short sword). Being a member of the so called elite his History is somewhat biased in its outlook.
As with all histories from the time it contains many exaggerations and propognda making the winners look good. (Much the same as to-day). We do know that the size of the Persian Army, which depending on the account ranged from 500,000 to 1,500,000,000 was definitely an over estimation and the size was more than likely closer to 100,000 to 200,000 all branches. The route that the Persians followed through Greece has been carefully surveyed by modern military experts and seeing that the armies of the day relied heavily on "Living off the Land" it is highly unlikely that a million or more men plus animals could be sustained. In one statement Herodotus says that the Persians drank a river dry. Quite the accomplishment. The composition of the Persian army is known and they relied heavily on cavalry , archers and light infantry. To the Greeks Calvary was used primarily for scouting and harassment and archery was considered unworthy of a true warrior.The Greeks relied on their Heavy Infantry in Phalanx, the finest Heavy Infantry of the times. Perhaps this stage of the Persian Wars is the best known for it is in this invasion that the "Battle of Thermopylae" (Hot Gates) and the 300 Spartans gained immortality even though it was a defeat for the Greeks.
Next chapter the preparations on both sides for the War.
               
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Camac
Posted: 15-Feb-2009, 11:54 AM
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In the early months of 480 BCE Xerxes had crossed his army from Asia to Europe at the Helespont in what is modern day Turkey. This was accomplished by the Persians building two pontoon bridges spaning roughly 1500 feet of fast moving water. The engineering was superb for the day as the Helespont connects the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and there is a 5 to 6 knot current running. The first attempt by the Persians to bridge this point ended in disaster and a second attempt was immediately made the met with total success. It has been estimated that 2,500,000 Persians crossed this bridge but it seems that 250,000 at a maximun crossed. The newest figures put the size of the Persian Army between 100,000 to 250,000 men. Even at these lower estimates it was quite an accomplishment and the Persians far outnumbered the Greeks. Xerxes seemed in no hurry in his conquest as he moved his army at a leisurely pace through Thrace and Macedonia heading south along the Aegean Coast of Greece. Just off shore the Persian Fleet kept pace with the Army providing flank protection.
The Greeks also were preparing for this invasion they knew was coming. From 484 till 480 Athens had been building ships, Triremes, the fastest and perhaps the greatest fighting vessel of the ancient world. Athens would rely on her Navy. The oracle at Delphi has said that Athens would be victorious behind her Wooden Wall, Many thought this to mean the old wooden fortifications around the Acropolis, but Themistocles the Athenian leader had conviced the Athenians to build ships, lots of ships, 180 plus.This Themistocles argued was Athens Wooden Wall. The rest of Greece made preparations but they were mainly reliying on Sparta to head the land forces as it was the preminent military force amongst them. City States like Corinth and Argos wanted to build a wall across the Corinthian Pennisula to defend the Peloponese and leave the rest of Greece to its fate. Wiser heads prevailed and
troops were sent. When the contingent from the Peloponese set out they were 4,500 strong and led by Leonidias with 300 Spartans. The rest was made up of Meagarans, Argives, and Corithians and as they marched north to there rendevous with destiny another roughly 2,500 joined, Thespians, Thebans, Boetians, Athenians
and Plateans.Two armies converging on a spot on the map of Greece called Thermopylae, (The Hot Gates). The Greeks also had a fleet following offshore and during the coming battle would play an important part that is largely overlooked due to the famous land battle that was about to take place.
Next week THERMOPYLAE.
               
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LadyOfAvalon 
Posted: 18-Feb-2009, 07:25 PM
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That is unfortunate that Herotodus didn't write adequately in describing what really took place then...as one read all of this and what really has taken place one wonders if it was all just fiction that they wrote to look victorious through out history...as it was the fashion then for many rulers...whereas the pharoahs of Egypt who did the same by depicting themselves as one man against a whole army.

So, what really went on then...god only knows...as there is not much physical evidence left to really know for sure...things and/or artifacts that could tell the scientist by carbondating what is discovered...

Like you said many times...sometimes in books things can indeed be enhanced to even make the loosers look good.

Though I know a little about the Thermopylae I can't wait to read about it.

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Camac
Posted: 22-Feb-2009, 12:40 PM
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THERMOPYLAE:
Much has been made of the 300 Spartans under Leonidas and their stand at Thermopylae and rightly it should, but little is said of the others who stood with them and fell to the last man.
Of all the Greek City States, Sparta was the most conservative and religious and when approached by Athens and other Cities to lead the Greeks, Sparta answered that she could not engage in a military campaign at that time as it was the Festival of Carneia and all military operations were forbidden. In order to get around this restriction, Leonidas said it was a good time to go wandering and check out the situation. Choosing a personal bodyguard of 300 he set out on what our Australian Cousins would call a "Walk About" that just happened to end at Thermopylae. Knowing full well that this was a "Forlone Hope' (suicide) Leonidas had chosen his bodyguard from amongst those Spartans that had sons to carry on the blood line of their families and so with his 300 Spartiate (full citizens) 700 other Lacedaemonians and 900 Helots (slaves) set out. As this group moved through the Pelopenese they were joined by others, Mantineans,Tegeans, Arcadians, Corinthians, Philians, and Myceneans, swelling the ranks to 4,000. When the group moved on through Attica and Boeotia others joined, the Thespians, Melians, Thebeans, Phocians, and Locrians adding another 3,400 making the total that arrived at Thermopylae 7,400. ( there were no Athenians at Thermopylae as they were occupied elsewhere)

Arriving well ahead of the Persians, the Greeks set about making preperations to defend the "Middle Gate", the narrowest part of the pass that Xerxes would have to channel his army. Here at the "Middle Gate" the Phocians had erected a defensive wall sometime before and the Greeks set about repairing and re-enforcing it. It was during the rebuilding of the wall that news arrived from the city of Trachis telling Leonidas about the path through the mountains that could be used to out flank the pass. Leonidas dispatched the 1000 Phocians to guard this route and hold off the Persians should they discover it. In mid August the Persian Army was seen approaching the pass and a council of war was called by the Greeks. At this council some of the Pelopenesians advocated withdrawing to the Isthmus of Corinth and prepare defences there. The Phocians and Locrians became upset with this and protested that the defence should be here as it was their Cities and lands that wold first feel the "Wrath of the Persians". As the original strategy called for the defence of both Thermopylae and the defence of Artemisium by the Greek fleet Leonidas agreed that the defence would be here at Thermopylae. With this decission the fate of the defenders was sealed, they would prevail or fall here in the narrow pass between the sheer cliff face of Mt. Anopaea on the left flank and the sea on the right.

Shortly after the council Xerxes sent an envoy to negotiate with the Greeks for their submission when this was refused the envoy demanded that the Greeks surrender their spears to which it is reported Leonidas answered "Come and take them". For four days Xerxes held off his attack waiting for the Greeks to come to their senses and disperse for he could not believe that they would fight. Finally on the fifth day Xerxes ordered the Medes to attack. and to bring any Greek prisoners before him. The Medes soon found themselve in a head on frontal assault against the lines of heavily armed and armoured Greeks. Although the Persians greatly outnumbered the Greeks they were forced to attack an a very narrow front with no possibility of outflanking the defenders. Here also the differences in arms and armour of the two played a major role. The Persians were armed and equiped for open country warfare where cavalry and light infantry played major roles. Archery was also prevalent with the Persians and they relied heavily on it. Here at Thermopylae lightly armoured archers standing behind a wicker sheild wall could play no part at first. The Medes who were the first to attack were armend with light javelins, wicker sheilds, and short daggers. The Greeks on the other hand had honed the use of heavy infantry to an art. Armed with 8 foot long steel bladed spears, 3 foot circular wood and bronze sheilds, the Xiphos short thrusting sword, wearing Corinthian style Helmets, chest and back armour, and greaves, they were far less vulnerable than the Persians. The Greeks had also invented the Phalanx, a close knit formation of spearmen each carrying a Doru (spear) and Hoplon (shield) locked together covering the right side of the man to the left . This shield wall provided an almost impenetrable line of protection and allowed each man to thrust with his spear in an overhand downward motion. Wave after wave of Medes were slaughtered trying to break the Greek formation. After three attemps Xerxes withdrew the Medes and sent in his "Immortal" his elite warriors, 10,000 strong, only to witness them suffer the same destruction as the Medes. It is said that Xerxes "despaired of this Army," no one had stood before his might and now these 7,000 Greeks defied him. So ended day one of the Battle.

Next week day two and three.
               
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Camac
Posted: 01-Mar-2009, 11:36 AM
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On the second day of battle it is reported that Xerxes sent another 50,000 against the Greeks, (the difference being that with this attack the Persians had to be lashed into moving) only to see them routed as on the day before. Perplexed Xerxes retired to his tent and it was while he was contemplating what next to do that word reached him the Greek traitor, Ephialtes, sought an audience to inform the "Great King"of a path leading over the mountains which would bring his Army out behind the Greeks. (Ephialtes would go down as the greatest traitor in Greek history and his name would become synonomous with "NIGHTMARE".) Seizing the opportunity, Xerxes dispatched his Immortals under the command of Hydarnes and led by Ephialtes at night to secure the route. The Greeks had learned about the path when they first arrived at Thermopylae and had sent the Phocians, 1000 strong, to guard it. As dawn broke on the third day the Phocians became aware of the Persians by the sound of rustling underbrush and hastly donning arms and armour prepared to meet the Persians. So rapid was the response that Hydarnes thought he had run into the Spartans and had to be reassured by Ephialtes that it was the Phocians not the Spartans that he faced. Hydarnes ordered his Archers forward and "showered them with arrows" forcing the Phocians to withdraw higher up the mountain to make their stand. The Persians bypassed them taking the left branch of the path that led to Alpenus and behind the main Greek force.

Upon recieving word that the Phocians had failed to stop the Persians, Leonidas called a council of war at which it was decided to abandon Thermopylae, that is with the exception of the Spartans who had taken an oath to defend the pass to the last man. Leonidas also ordered that the Thebans remain behind as he did not trust them as their city, Thebes, was on the verge of submitting to the Persians. At the same meeting the leader of the 700 Thespians, Demophilus, stepped forward and stated that he and his men would stand with the Spartans. The rest of the Greeks set about making preparations to withdraw and set about an arguement that has lasted down to modern times. Was this an orderly withdrawal or were the other Greeks running away while they had the chance. It is argued that Leonidas saw the wisdom of a rearguard force to slow the Persians down as he knew that once they were through the pass and into open ground the Persian cavalry would have open reign to ride the Greeks down and slaughter them. By staying behind he preserved the lives of 3000 men to fight another day. So on the morning of the third day 1400 Greek Hoplites (and 900 Helots [Slaves}) made ready for battle and to meet their death as they knew there would be no survivors. When all preparations for battle were complete the Greeks moved forward away from the protective wall to a wider section of the pass to meet the Persians. Here they stood waiting for the full onslaught of Persian force and here they began to die.

Xerxes took his time in his preparations for battle as he knew that victory was within his grasp. Delaying in his libations to the Gods until he knew that the Immortals were advancing behind the Greeks he finally gave the order and the Persians moved forward. Because the Greeks had moved away from the wall and the country was now more opened Xerxes deployed his archers and their arrows "blocked out the sun" (on the first day of battle when told this a Spartan had answered "good then we shall fight in the shade"). When the Immortals appeared the Thebans did as Leonidas had suspected and deserted to the Persians. The remaining Spartans and Thespians withdrew to an area where a tree stood and here made their last stand. They fought till their spears broke, drew their xiphos, hacking and stabbing till they also in turn broke. Shields were used as battering rams till they also shattered, rocks were hurled and the severed limbs of the enemy were used as clubs. Hands feet and teeth became deadly weapons as Persians throats were ripped out or bitten throught to the jugular vein. Leonidas fell and his body was fought over three times with the Greeks finally recovering it. As the Greek numbers dwindled they moved into the shade of the tree and Xerxes ordered the assault halted and gave the honour of finishing the Greeks to his Archers. It is said that 20,000 Persians died at Thermopylae no one knows for sure as Xerxes ordered that most of his dead be burned as to hide the numbers from the rest of his army. He ordered that the body of Leonidas be found and brought to him where upon he ordered it beheaded and the torso cruxified. After the Persians moved on in pursuit of their conquest the local people buried the Greek bodies that had been left for the scavanger and erected a tripod over their grave. On it it was inscribed 'GO TELL THE SPARTANS, THOU WHO PASSES BY, THAT HERE OBEDIENT
TO THEIR LAWS WE LIE' beside this was also a tripod to the 700 Thespians who had fallen with their Spartan brothers. The Battle of Thermopylae was a defeat for the Greeks but it bought time for the rest of Boeotia, Attica, and the Peloponese to prepare, for Xerxes would have his revenge.

Nopte: I have decided that this will be the last posting of Ancient Greek History as I do not think there is really much interest. To me it is a fascinating subject because it is the basis for the modern world and civilization. If not for these Ancient People we might still be running around in animal skins. They gave us so much whichout with our civilization would never have evolved.


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