The Greco-Persian Wars, also known as the Persian Wars, were fought between the Persian Achaemenid Empire and the city states of classical Greece. These wars were fought between 499 BC and 449 BC. Origin of the wars is traceable to 547 BC, when Cyrus the great of the big Persian Empire attacked and conquered Ionia. To exercise strict control over the conquered territories, dictators were appointed there by the Persian Empire. On account of their ruthless tactics, these dictators caused trouble, not only for the freedom-loving inhabitants of the conquered territories, but also for the Persian Empire too. In 498 BC, Aristagoras, with, with his military allies captured and burned the regional Capital of Sardis. King Darius of Persia was greatly annoyed and vowed to revenge on Athens and Ereteria. In 499 BC the Persian general conquered Thrace and Macedon, laying the foundation of a prolonged war, comprised of numerous battles, inflicting huge losses of life and property to both sides.
1. The Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon was fought from August to September, 490 BC, between the Persian Empire, under the command of Datis and Artaphernes and the allied forces of Athens and Plataea, under the command of Miltiades and Callimachus. The Persian side had 25,000 soldiers and 1,000 cavalry, while the opponent’s allied forces comprised of 10,000 Athenians and 1,000 Plataeans. Allied forces lost 192 Athenians and 11 Plataeans, while 6,400 Persian warriors were killed and their 7 ships were destroyed. The Greeks gained a decisive victory over the Persian forces in this battle. This battle culminated from the previous invasion by the Persian King Darius I, who intended to conquer Greece. Prior to the Battle of Marathion and during the Ionian Revolt, the Eretrians and the Athenians had captured and burned the Persian regional capitol, Sardis. Darius had vowed to avenge, but failed in spite of the numerical superiority of his forces. The Persian defeat kept the Persians calm and quiet for over 10 years.
2. The Battle of Lade
The Battle of Lade was a naval battle fought in 494 BC, between Ionia and the Persian Empire in time of Darius the Great, near the Island of Lade, off the coast of Miletus. The Ionians fought under the command of Dionysius of Phocaea, while Persians fought under the command of Haris. The Ionians had a fleet of 353 ships, while the Persian fleet comprised of 600 ships. The Ionians had fewer ships but suffered heavily and lost 246 ships while the Persians lost 57 ships of their bigger fleet. The Persians decisively emerged as the victors. Whereas the Ionians wanted to fight in Lade, the Persians were not so sure of their success there. They tried to persuade some contingents to defect, but did not succeed initially. However, when they attacked the Ionians, the Samian fleet defected and sailed away, leaving them at the hands of the Persians, who killed them mercilessly and consequently won the battle decisively.
3. The Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought on or around August 20, 480 BC, in Thermopylae, Greece. It was fought between the Persian Empire and the Greek City States. The Greeks were led by King Leonidas while the Persians were led by King Xerxes I of Persia. The estimated strength of the city states was 8,000 and that of the Persian Empire was over 100,000. This was obviously no match, and resulted in the victory of the Persians, who gained control of Boeotia. This war was fought by the Persians to avenge their defeat at the hands of the Greek in the Marathon Battle.
4. The Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek City States, in September 480 BC, in the Straits of Salamis. The Achaemenid Empire was the first Persian Empire named after king Achaemenes, who ruled Persia from 705 BC to 675 BC. The Empire was founded in the 6th century BC by Cyrus the Great. In this battle, the Persians were led by Xerxes I of Persia, while the Greek States were led by Eurybiades. The City States fleet had about 350 ships, while the Greek fleet comprised of about 800 ships. Both the sides lost about 300 ships each. The Greek gained the decisive victory, while the Persians failed to get the intended control of Peloponnese.
5. The Battle of Plataea
The Battle of Plataea was fought in August 479 BC between the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek City States. The Persians were led by Mardonius, while the Greek City states were led by Pausanias. The Greek City States were 100,000 strong while the strength of the Persian Empire was around 300, 000. The Greek City States lost 10,000 of their fighters in the battle while the Persian Empire suffered heavy losses and 100,000 of their men were killed. The Greeks gained a decisive victory and the Persian Empire lost the control of Attica and Boeotia.
6. The Battle of Mycale
The Battle of Mycale was fought on August 27, 479 BC at Mycale, Ionia. It was fought between the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek city States. The Persians were led by Artayntes and the Greek City States were led by Leotychides. The Greek City States had 40,000 men and about 150 ships, while the Persian Empire had 60,000 soldiers and 300 ships. The Greeks won the battle and the Persians lost control of the Aegean islands. Ionia began the second revolt against Persia.
7. The Battle of the Eurymedon
The Battle of the Eurymedon was fought in or around 467 BC near the Eurymedon River. It was fought between the Achaemenid Empire and the Delian League, which was an association of 150 Greek City States founded in 478 BC. Their sole objective was to continue fighting with the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea. The Persian sided was commanded by Tithrafstes, while the Delian League was commanded by Cimon. The Delian League fleet comprised of 200 ships while the Persians had 350 ships in their fleet. Losses of the Delian League are not exactly known but 200 Persian ships were destroyed in the battle. The Delian league gained decisive victory in this battle.
8. Battle of Ephesus
The Battle of Ephesus, also known as the Battle of Notium was fought in 406 BC near Ephesus and Notium. It was fought between Athens and Sparta. The Athenians were led by Alcibiades, who gave the command of the Athenian fleet blocking the Spartan fleet, to his helmsman Antiochus, who tried to engage the Spartans in the battle, in violation of the given orders. His strategy failed and caused the defeat at the hands of Spartans. The Athenian fleet had 80 ships against 90 Spartan ships. The Spartan fleet remained intact but 20 Athenian ships were destroyed. The Spartans emerged as victors in this battle.
9. The Battle of Artemisium
The naval Battle of Artemisium took place almost simultaneously with the more famous land Battle at Thermopylae. The battle was fought between the Persian Empire and the Greek City States at Artemisium, Euboea. The Persian side was led by Artemisia I and the Greek City States were led by Eurybiades. Compared with the 271 ships of the Greek City States, Persian fleet was comprised of 800 ships. The Greek City States lost 100 ships while 200 Persian ships were destroyed in the battle, which, however, was strategically won by the Persians.
10. Battle of Pedasus
Daurises defeated the Carians twice and intended to continue reducing the strength of the Carians. In response the Carians decided to fight back instead of surrendering totally to Daurises. The Carians ambushed Daurises on the road to Pedasus, situated in Caria. Some historians opine that the battle was fought immediately after the Battle of Labraunda, while others are of the opinion that it was fought a year after the battle of Labraunda. The Persians were ambushed at night and its commanders, including Daurises, were killed.
Like many other battles of historic importance, most of the Greco-Persian battles were won by the superior strategy and not by numerical superiority. Mostly the winners attacked when the enemy least expected it, and when they used their strongest troops against the weakest factions of their enemy. Fate of the battles is decided by the selection of right time and venue and above all the by the degree of awareness, of the consequences of losing. The comparative strength of will to achieve victory, also has favored the victors. Jonathon Kozol, an American educationalist said, ‘Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.’