Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Battle of Marathon

The first of the Greco-Persian Wars, the Battle of Marathon, was fought approximately 490 BCE  on a plain in Marathon, Greece. The Greeks (Athenians and Plataeans) were led by the general Miltiades, and the Persians were led by Datis and Artaphernes. At dawn, Miltiades and his men, the hoplites, ran two kilometers to meet their enemy.

The Persian Empire was the most impressive empire at the time. It spanned the area between Egypt and India and had a population of approximately 35-50 million people, all ruled by a secluded monarch. To gain authority, the empire respected non-Persian traditions; the leaders knew that forcing assimilation to Persian culture would incite revolution in the people. Therefore, the empire consisted of many different languages and cultures. Herodotus said, “There is no nation which so readily adopts foreign customs. They have taken the dress of the Medes and in war they wear the Egyptian breastplate. As soon as they hear of any luxury, they instantly make it their own.”

The Classical Greeks were the antithesis of the Persian Empire. Because of the mountainous terrain, populations were sporadic and separate. These groups formed fiercely independent and politically active city-states which frequently engaged in combat with their neighbors. The Greeks did have some unifying factors: language, gods of worship, and the Olympic Games every four years, but these were not enough to quell the political rivalries between the larger city-states. These Hellenes were expansive people due to their nature and growing populations, yet they didn’t conquer other lands; they settled in them.

The Greek army consisted of Athenians and Plataeans. The Athenians had assisted Ionia in its rebellion against the Persian empire which sparked the Greco-Persian Wars. The Plataeans came to the Athenians’ aid because they were subjects of Athens and felt loyalty to its citizens. The Athenians had “often in the past spared no effort on Plataea’s behalf” (Herodotus).

The Greeks won this battle as well as the others because of the strategy implemented and the superiority of their armor. They fought in a phalanx, parallel lines of soldiers (hoplites) closely packed together. The soldiers wore breastplates, tunics, and greaves (metal shin guards), and carried a hoplon (a large round shield). These shields covered the carrier’s left side and the right side of the person next to him. In their right hands, the hoplites carried long spears (in the first stage of battle) and swords (in the second stage).

In this particular battle, Miltiades reinforced the sides of his phalanx and left the middle weak. This allowed the phalanx to fold in on the Persian army and encompass them. The Persians suffered heavy losses, while the Greeks had a minor number of casualties.Ancient_Greece_hoplite_with_his_hoplon_and_dory

Greek Hoplite

Works Cited

Herodotus. The Histories. Trans. Robin Waterfield. Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

Lendering, Jona. “Marathon (490 BCE).”, 15 Aug. 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2016. (

—. “Phalanx and Hoplites.”, 27 July 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2016. (

Nelson, Eric W., and Robert W. Strayer. Ways of the World: A Global History with Sources. New York: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2016. Print.

Shumate, Johnny. Greek Hoplite. (

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The Battle for Salamis

The Battle for Salamis

HNRS 2210: Blog Post 1


Josiah Oldham, Preston Hodson, Troy Esquibel and Nathan Blue


Introduction [Josiah Oldham]


As the first rays of sunlight crept over the horizon, the gulf seemed almost too peaceful. Each trireme rocked gently in the water, creaking as the waves lapped across their bows. Soldiers shifted in their armor as they adjusted their helmets or polished their weapons. The tiers of oarsmen below-decks waited nervously, prepared to row with all their strength at the first command. Commanders and subordinates alike, they all waited for the first sign of their mortal enemies.

At last, a call echoed throughout the Greek fleet as the first of the Persian ships appeared on its path towards the fleet. Followed by another, and another, yet another, they funneled past the island on both sides, each minute increasing their numbers, yet not their advantage. The lack of room to maneuver, the constricted waters, would be their downfall. A lone Greek ship sped forward, taking advantage of the confusion and ramming the closest enemy. The day-long conflict had begun.

This is the battle of Salamis, a great Greek naval victory, and the major turning point in the second Persian invasion of Greece.


Main Combatants [Preston Hodson]

The Battle of Salamis was one of the most important and decisive military victories for the Greek army during the Greek and Persian War. Themistokles, who had previously convinced the Athenians to invest a large amount of silver to improve their navy, was a key leader and strategist for the Greeks in this battle. After Themistokles had convinced Eurybiades, the Spartan leader of the allied forces and his soldiers to stand their ground and fight at Salamis, the Greeks were prepared to take on a far greater Persian fleet using an advanced strategy which involved luring the Persians into the strait where their larger, slower boats would not be able to maneuver rapidly which would leave them vulnerable to an attack from the smaller, swifter Greek fleet which was composed of triremes such as those illustrated in the following image. (Herodotus, 622-625)

The Persians, led by Xerxes I, on the other hand were more than confident in their ability to easily defeat the Greek feet and continue on to capture the Isthmus of Corinth. Xerxes himself was so confident that he set up a throne on the shore to be able to have an advantageous viewpoint of the battle. Artemisia of Halicarnassus, one of the fiercest war generals for the Persian side, and trusted adviser of King Xerxes, actually went against the common Persian opinion and counseled him to hold his position and not attack, stating that they had already accomplished what the y set out to do, and that they could claim victory much more efficiently by closing in on Peloponnese instead of engaging in direct naval combat with the Greeks. Unfortunately for the Persians, Xerxes decided not to heed the warnings of his adviser as Eurybiades had done, and this fatal mistake eventually led to a brutal loss for the Persians. (Herodotus, 627-629)


Other Combatants [Josiah Oldham]

In addition to the primary forces from Athens, Corinth and Aegina, the Greek allied forces consisted of small groups of ships from several city-states, including many of the Peloponnesian ones. Between the writings of Herodotus, Aeschylus and Thucydides, we infer and estimate forces from the following places: Megara, Sparta, Sicydon, Epidaurus, Eretria, Ambracia, Troezen, Naxos, Hermione, Leucas, Styra, Ceos and Cynthos.

The Persian fleet was nearly as diverse, containing triremes from several locations other than Phoenicia and Egypt. In addition to hundreds of home-built and allied vessels, the Persians utilized captured triremes from conquered cities as well as ships from sympathizers. These locations are Cyprus, Cicily, Ionia, Hellespontine, Cria, Aolia, Lycia, Pamphylia, Doria and Cyclades.

Now, while we are aware of the sources of the Greek and Persian armadas, scholars remain partially unsure of their numbers. Herodotus claims that the battle pitted 380 Greek ships against 1,207 Persian ships. This would place 200 ships each under the command of 6 Persian admirals- 1200 ships- plus one ship for each of those commanders- 6 ships-  and one last ship from which Xerxes would watch the battle, for a total of 1,207. However, this is somewhat uncertain based on what we know about Persian activity and losses prior to the battle at Salamis. Scholarly evidence and research ranges from 500 ships, to 800 ships, to the 1,207 reported by Herodotus, Darius, Lysias and others. Overall, despite the wide range of possibilities for the size of the Persian navy, the Greek forces were severely outnumbered, making their tactical victory all the more impressive.


Casus Belli [Troy Esquibel]

The reasons and motives that existed prior to the battle of Salamis, are long and complex, so I will try to explain the situation as concisely and with as much brevity as possible. The tension first arose with the Athenian support of the Ionian Rebellion against Darius the 1st in 499 B.C. and was further exasperated by the execution of Persian ambassadors by Athens and Sparta in 491 B.C. After the death of King Darius, his successor, Xerxes, continued the battle against the Hellenes and rampaged his way from Thrace (modern-day Northeastern Greece), all the way through the Greek mainland and eventually into Athens. The reasons and motives for the Greek speaking world were clear; their language, culture, and political way of life were at risk of extinction by the encroaching Persian empire. The motives for the Greeks was not only personal survival, but cultural survival.


Location [Nathan Blue]

The battle of Salamis took place in the inside and around the Strait of Salamis outside of Athens. The straight is 1.73 miles long, and 1 mile across. While the Greek Allies had maneuverability with a small fleet, the larger numbers of the Persian fleet prevented them from navigating the waters during the battle as smoothly. Roughly only 600 ships total could get through the natural bottle neck, they had to come into the battle moving west. The Greek ships could be stationed facing the north along the coast, giving them the advantage hitting many ships from the side. The rising sun would have not been problematic for either fleet other than general low visibility at dawn, and with the battle ending at night, once again no issues for either side in particular. The battle would have to be fairly closely packed with the shores of either side of the straight being risky to row nearby.



The battle outside of Salamis might have been a different story. The Persians had a ground advantage should they have chosen to march on foot, and outside of the straight the Persians had at least the open ocean to take advantage of.


Strategy and Tactics [Troy Esquibel]

One of the most brilliant examples of pre-emptive strategy was the foresight of Themistocles to build a new naval fleet. Newfound silver mines in Attica presented a surplus of resources in Athens, and Themistocles persuade the citizenry that it would be in their best interest to build 200 triremes to better defend themselves against the imminent Persian retaliation.  As the Athenians evacuated the city, and watched the Persians raze the city, the naval fleet held in wat, protected by the thin Isthmus of Salamis, waiting for the Persians to commit to a naval battle in the thin confines of the strait. “if you do as I advise, you will find many advantages: first, if we engage the enemy in a narrow strait with our few ships against their many, then, …we shall achieve a great victory; for fighting in a narrow strait is best for us, while fighting on the open sea is best for them” (Histories p.624). This proved fruitful, as the long, slender, battering ram style ships proved invaluable in their ability to outmaneuver and outperform the over encumbered Persian fleet in the strait of Salamis.

From the Persian perspective, they had already rampaged their way across the majority of the Greek world. Victory was at hand, and persuaded by his main advisor, Mardonios, Xerxes pressed for an unnecessary risk at Salamis rather than heading for the Peloponnese as suggested by his other advisor, Artemisia. “’My lord, it is right and just that I express my opinion, and what I think is best regarding your interests. Here is what I think you should do: spare your fleet; do not wage a battle at sea. For their men surpass yours in strength at sea” (Histories p.628). This could be the turning point in Western civilization. Had Xerxes pursued battle at the Peloponnese and came back to defeat the Greek naval forces at open sea, the course of world history could be entirely different.


Works Cited

Strauss, Barry S. The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter That Saved Greece – and Western Civilization. Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Valin. “On this Day In History, The Battle of Salamis, 480 B.C.” Accessed 24 September 2016.

Lazenby, JF. (1993). The Defence of Greece 490–479 BC. Aris & Phillips Ltd. (ISBN 0-85668-591-7).

Herodotus. The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories. Translated by Andrea L. Purvis, Anchor Books. 2009.

Lendering, Jona. “Salamis.” Accessed September 20, 2016.

Google Earth Version 6.2. (4/12/2016) The Strait of Salamis. Lat 34.94N Lon 23.57E, 43539 ft. Places Layers. Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO (Accessed September 20, 2016)

Cartwright, Mark. “Salamis.” Accessed September 22, 2016.

CAIS (The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies). “The Size of Persian Fleet.” Accessed September 22, 2016.





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Xenophon & the 10,000 Mercenaries

220px-xenophon    The Greek Historian, Xenophon of Athens (Wikipedia, 2016)



Cyrus the Younger was the second son of Darius II of Persia, behind his older brother, Artaxerxes II.  Upon the death of Darius in April 404, Artaxeres was proclaimed King, leaving Cyrus commander of the maritime provinces (Wikipedia, 2016).  Due to Cyrus’ belief that he was the rightful king, he plotted to kill his brother and ascend the throne (Waterfield, 2006).  After multiple attempts to assassinate his brother, Cyrus began to recruit an army who were told they were attacking the “Pisidians, a mountain tribe in southern Turkey” (Livius, 2001).  In 401, Cyrus had unified an army that included the “10,000 Greek mercenaries”, where the Athenian Xenophon, had a minor leadership position.  At “some 60 kilometers north of Babylon”, Cyrus’ army met Artaxerxes’ soldiers at the Battle of Cunaxa (Livius, 2001).  Cyrus tried to again kill his brother, but was killed in the attempt.  Although Cyrus’ army was successful against the King’s army, the defeat was useless with the death of Cyrus, leaving the army leaderless.


With the death of Cyrus, Clearchus became the Spartan General with Meno, Proxenus, Agias, and Socrates as the other leaders (Waterfield, 2006).  However, being a mercenary army with no payments, they were left without food or supplies.  Tissaphernes, the Persian general, agreed to supply Clearchus and his army with food and supplies if they would leave Persia.  Having alternative motives to get rid of the Greeks, Tissaphernes invited Clearchus and the other Greek leaders to a feast where they were then captured and decapitated (Wikipedia, 2016).  It is at this point that Xenophon took charge of the mercenary army.  Xenophon states “Socrates said that it was not those who held the sceptre who were kings and rulers… but those who knew how to rule (Waterfield, 2006).  

Xenophon lead the march of the 10,000 mercenaries across Persia towards the Black Sea.  Without food or supplies, this entailed marching across the “deserts and snow-filled mountain passes” (Waterfield, 2005).  Xenophon managed to lead this army through northern Mesopotamia with supplies that they could only obtain by diplomacy or force.  On the fifth day of a four day march through Scythenian territory, Xenophon writes they had

“reach[ed] the mountain, which was called Theches.  When the first men got there, a huge cry went up.  This made Xenophon and the rearguard think that the van too was under attack from another enemy force…But the cry kept getting louder and nearer…it was apparent to Xenophon that something of special significance was happening.  He mounted a horse…and rode up to lend assistance; and before long they could make out that the soldiers were shouting ‘The sea! The sea!’…When everyone reached the top of the mountain, they immediately fell into one another’s arms, even the generals and the company commanders, with tears in their eyes” (Waterfield, 2005).

This famous cry of “thalatta, thalatta”, “the sea, the sea!” has become infused with religion and nostalgia into historical literature (Waterfield, 2006).  Although they still had far to travel, after marching across the harsh environments of Mesopotamia, reaching the shores of the Black Sea at Trabzon, they had finally reached Greek cities.  


Parker Langeveld

The Greeks, which participated with Xenophon in the Battle of Cunaxa, lived in a time when the most common Greek warrior was a hoplite. A hoplite uses a helmet called The Corinthian. However, it is likely that Xenophon’s men used a helmet called Boeotian Helmet, because it did not impede vision and was much lighter than the standard helmet of the time. Xenophon recommended this helmet for it’s purposes, specifically for cavalry soldiers.



The Ten Thousand were composed of many different groups of people. These groups include “4,000 hoplites under Xenias the Arcadian (until he left the army in Syria),  1,500 hoplites and 500 light infantry under Proxenus of Boeotia, 1,000 hoplites under Sophaenetus the Stymphalian, 500 hoplites under Socrates the Achaean, 300 hoplites and 300 peltasts under Pasion the Megaran (until he left the army in Syria), 1000 hoplites, 800 Thracian peltasts, and 200 Cretan archers (and more than 2,000 men who came from Xenias and Pasion when they deserted) under Clearchus of Sparta, 3,000 hoplites under Sosis the Syracusan, 1,000 hoplites under Sophaenetus the Arcadian, 700 hoplites under Chirisophus the Spartan, 1,000 hoplites and 500 Thessalian peltasts under Menon, and 400 Greek deserters from Artaxerxes’ army” (Wikipedia, 2015).

The Ten Thousand were also “backed up by a fleet of 35 triremes under Pythagoras the Spartan and 25 triremes under Tamos the Egyptian, as well as 100,000 Persian troops under Ariaeus the Persian”  (Wikipedia, 2015).



Cyrus the Younger wanted to take the Persian throne from his older brother, Arsaces. (Wikipedia, 2016). This is how the battle of Cunaxa began (Wikipedia, 2016). Cyrus believed he was the rightful heir to the kingdom because he was born when his father was king. Arsaces was born earlier than Cyrus, when their father was not king (Waterfireld, 2006).  Arsaces inherited the Persian throne as Artaxerxex II during the year 404 BC (Wikipedia, 2016). Cyrus the Younger and Artaxerxex II fought against each other in the Battle of Cunaxa. Artaxerxes II was fighting to defend his throne (Wikipedia, 2016).


Parker Langeveld

-Department of History, United States Military Academy, Xenophons Retreat, accessed via




Their route is found in what is now modern day Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and those middle eastern countries. Towards the more northern part of their travel route, There is more shrubbery and life, without an excessive amount of desert and rock, However, As their route progresses down towards Cumaxa, it becomes increasingly desert and rocky, with almost no foliage and life. As they loop back up towards the mouth of the black sea, it continues in rocky, dry terrain until they edge near the waters, at which point foliage returns with life in the area. The biggest problem with this march would more than likely have been the scorching heat and the lack of water in such an expansible desert. Also, the terrain is full of hills that could easily wear out the men.




Following the death of Cyrus at the battle of Cunaxa, the Ten Thousand were leaderless in unknown territory. They offered command to Ariaeus, the uncle of Cyrus, who refused because of his lackluster claim to the throne. They also offered Artaxerxes their services as mercenaries, as a military force in Egypt. Artaxerxes, however, refused, leaving them in stalemate. After some time and talks, Clearchus, the Spartan General and now de facto commander of the Ten Thousand, came to a tenuous truce with Tissaphernes: food and guidance back to the sea in exchange for relative peace and money. However, Tissaphernes was constantly plotting to betray them. After attempting and failing to turn Ariaeus against the Ten Thousand, Tissaphernes finally convinced Clearchus and most of his generals, as well as twenty company commanders to come to a feast for added talks. At the feast, the company commanders were killed, and the generals were taken captive and marched into Babylon where they were killed. Then, Xenophon made a successful bid for generalship, and the Ten Thousand were openly at war with the Persians. They shed their equipment and moved quickly to the sea, trading skirmishes and losing men doing it. Xenophon ordered the creation of a small cavalry unit, about 50 horsemen for defense against the Persian cavalry.

The Ten Thousand then continued to make their way out of enemy territory, but the Persian army continued to harass and box them in. Xenophon and his men have to travel north into the mountains, escaping Tissaphernes and his army, but bringing them into the Carduchian territory. The Carduchians were vicious enough fighters that none of the other armies dared to face them — their prowess in battle and record of fierce wins frightened off opponents, and even the Persians failed to conquer them. After three days in Carduchian territory, Xenophon ordered that several captured Carduchians be interrogated, and Xenophon’s group learned about a second route to escape the Carduchian forces. Xenophon’s band used this second road to escape, but lost as many men in Carduchian territory as they did to the Persians. From the mountains, Xenophon crossed into Armenia, crossing several rivers and bluffing attacks to survive. After surviving so many fierce enemies, Xenophon’s group went into the desert and was betrayed by Tiribuzus, an enemy satrap, but survived the betrayal by preemptively attacking Titibuzus and went on to make it through another battle, this time by strategy. Xenophon’s group presented “easy targets” to the enemy, encouraging them to waste ammunition on decoys while he and his real force were in hiding. And then they found the sea.  (Waterfield, 2006)



Battle of Cunaxa. (2016). Retrieved September 22, 2016 from the Wikipedia Wiki:

Cyrus the Younger. (2001). Retrieved September 19, 2016 from Livius:


Cyrus the Younger. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2016 from the Wikipedia Wiki:

Ten Thousand (Greek mercenaries). (2015). Retrieved September 22, 2016 from the Wikipedia Wiki:

Tissaphernes. (n.d.). Retrieved September, 22, 2016 from the Wikipedia Wiki:

Waterfield. R. (2005). The Expedition of Cyrus. (Xenophon, Translation). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. (Original work written 370).

Waterfield, R. (2006). Xenophon’s Retreat: Greece, Persia, and the End of the Golden Age. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Xenophon. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2016 from the Wikipedia Wiki:




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The Battle of Thermopylae

Background – chaoticblackcat

Persian Emperor Xerxes spent four years preparing the Persian army for the invasion of Greece (Herodotus 415). His preparations included the promised bridge across the Hellespont and a canal through Athos (Cartledge 95-96). Herodotus asserts that “Xerxes ordered the digging of the canal out of a sense of grandiosity and arrogance” (417). However, news of Xerxes’ mobilization reached the Greek mainland, and it became fairly obvious that some form of a unified defense might be necessary (Cartledge 97). A delegation of Greek cities met to consider a “united resistance” and the resulting leaders were the Spartans, primarily due to their military skill and the fact that “they already headed the only non-religious, non-ethnic multistate Greek military alliance then in existence, the Peloponnesian League” (Cartledge 99, 105). However, many Greeks were not part of the resistance and ultimately cooperated with the Persians as Herodotus notes that many “gave the King earth and water” and details how, at the Battle of Thermopylae, a “Malian called Ephialtes” sold info to Xerxes, telling the Persian king “about the mountain path to Thermopylae” (448, 479).  Herodotus also writes that “anyone who claims that the Athenians proved themselves to be the saviours of Greece would be perfectly correct… Once they had decided that their preference was for Greece to remain free, it was they who aroused the whole of Greece (except those places which were already collaborating with the Persians)” (451). However, the Athenians were not present at the Battle of Thermopylae and likely escaped any potential consequences of being associated with its defeat.

Though it was the first major land battle of the Persians’ second invasion of Greece, the dating of Thermopylae has, like most ancient dates, undergone some severe speculation. Dr. Kenneth Sacks, a Professor at Brown University who received a Ph.D. in Ancient History from the University of California, Berkeley, summarizes the arguments in his article “Herodotus and the Dating of the Battle of Thermopylae.” He emphasizes that Herodotus uses “summer as a climatic description only” and not as the specific season we would be familiar with today (238). While it is generally accepted that the battle took place around the same time as the Olympic Games, there is dispute as to the actual dating of the festival partly because of the shortage of available evidence (234).

According to Sacks, the key pieces of evidence that are available limit the Olympic festival to the range of “late July to late September” (235). Sacks writes that the majority of historians would date the Battle of Thermopylae “about ten days after an Olympic festival culminating on the full moon on 19 August” (240). Cartledge is one of the supporters of this theory, believing that the Battle of Thermopylae took place in late August (1). However, Sacks writes that dating the battle in August contradicts the few dating clues that Herodotus does give in his account, such as his hint that “the Persian navy, having sailed into Phalerum nine days after the battle, engaged the Greek fleet at Salamis on the next day” (242). Sacks asserts that those historians who choose to try and maintain Herodotus’s account would likely place the Battle of Thermopylae sometime in September (241).

While the date of the battle might be debated, its location is not, though it must be kept in mind that the topography definitely has changed since the days of ancient Greece. Cartledge emphasizes that despite its modern appearance today, at the time Thermopylae was a narrow pass between mountain and sea (141). Named after the location where it was fought, Greek historian Herodotus asserts that the battleground of the pass of Thermopylae was chosen primarily because “it looked narrower than the pass into Thessaly” which they had previously abandoned (467). Herodotus asserts that the Greek allies judged it to be a good place to make their first stand against the Persians (468).

Present at the battle of Thermopylae and leading the famous elite Spartan force of three hundred was the Spartan King Leonidas who, according to Herodotus, was supposedly a descendent of Heracles (476). He would die on the battlefield (Herodotus 483). He was not the only one. Other Lacedaemonians (the region of which Sparta is capital) who gained fame through their bravery in combat and would die at Thermopylae were Dianeces, Alpheus, and Maron (Herodotus 484). Though they often do not get as much focus as the Spartans, the following were other commanders present at the battle’s final stand: Demophilus, the commander of the Thespians, and Leontiadas, the commander of the Thebans (Herodotus 482, 476). According to Herodotus, the most distinguished Thespian warrior to die in the battle was Dithyrambus (484). The Greek historian also notes that the Persian King Xerxes observed the battle and lived, but he wrote that two of Xerxes’ brothers, Abrocomes and Hyperanthes, did not survive (483-484). Those, however, are just some of the more memorable members of the wide range of combatants present at Thermopylae.

Main Combatants & Casus Belli – (honorstudent2016)

The Greeks’ Armor and Weapons

greeksPictured to the left is an illustration of a Greek hoplite (May et. al). Pictured to the right is an illustration of a phalanx formation (“Battle of Thermopylae”).


Greek soldiers, hoplites, were trained in the spear and infantry, specifically phalanx formation. Hoplites also used swords, termed xiphos, when their spears were of no use anymore in battle.  Characteristic of the hoplite image is the shield–it is circular in shape, made of wood, over 3 feet in diameter, and was coated in bronze and very heavy. These shields were crucial in the formation of the phalanx (“Ancient Greek Warfare”).



Persian (right) and Median (left) soldiers. (Happolati).

The Persians

The Persians had a large army, much larger than the Greek armies. Their weapons included bow and arrow, swords, knives, wicker shields, and short spears. Their armor consisted of scale coats underneath their robes. Persian soldiers also wore what is called “Persian tiaras.” However, it could have simply been a hood or hat pulled over the face to protect against wind, sand, and dust. Herodotus claims they “glittered with gold.” One infamous aspect of the Persian army is the elite group known as “The Immortals.” These soldiers were regarded as the best of the Persian army and were highly skilled and decorated in battle (Herodotus 7:83-84).



Casus Belli: Why the Greeks and Persians were Fighting


A Persian soldier (left) battling a Greek hoplite (right). (Άγνωστος)


To know why Greece was fighting with Persia, one must understand the initial offense. The beginning of Greek distaste for Persia involves the Ionian Revolt in 499 to 494 BCE. The Ionian people had been conquered in 560 BCE by Alyattes II, a Lydian king. He and his successor, Croesus, allowed Ionia to have independent rule of its own people with one exception: to obey Lydia in foreign matters. However, the Ionian people were not going to live in peace for long. Persia, under the rule of Cyrus, took over the Median Empire by utilizing Median rebels. Cyrus then set his eyes on Lydia and tried to inspire the Ionians to rebel, but the Ionians refused. Nonetheless, the Persians conquered Lydia in 546 BCE. Cyrus was not as gracious as Alyattes and Croesus to the Ionians; he held a grudge for them not rebelling against the Lydians. Ironically, Athens encouraged the Ionians to rebel, and the Ionian people listened and began to rebel against the Persian Empire in 499 BCE. Persia, under the rule of Darius I, punished Athens for encouraging the rebellion of the Ionians by invading and attacking Athens (“Greco-Persian Wars”).
Fearing the might and breadth of the Persian army, the Greek-city states decided to team-up to fight Persia, since individually they’d have no hope. In 480 BCE, the Greek city-states were already allied together in an effort to block the invasion of the Persians, now being led by their general and king Xerxes, who succeeded Darius I in 486 BCE (Cartledge 59). Themistocles, the Athenian general at the time, had a strategy to block the Persians army at Thermopylae and the Straits of Artemisium. The Spartan Leader, Leonidas brought his best soldiers and tried to inspire the other fighting Greeks. The Greeks quantified by Herodotus who were involved in this battle included: 300 Spartans, 500 Tegeans, 500 Mantineans, 120 Orchomenians from Arcadia, 1000 Arcadians, 400 Corinthians, 200 Phelioans, 80 Mycenaens, 700 Thespians, 400 Thebens, and 1000 Phocians and Locrians. Herodotus declares there were 2.6 million Persians (7:185, 202, 204) but modern scholars say between 100,000 to 150,000 Persians and 7,000 Greeks (Cassin-Scott).

Other Combatants & Casus Belli – chaoticblackcat

The Other Combatants

Due to its diverse empire, the Persian army varied in its makeup. According to Herodotus, who described the Persian army in great detail, it consisted of Persians, Medians, Cissians, Hyroanians, Assyrians, Bactrians, Sacians, Indians, Arians, Parthians, Chorasmins, Gandarians, Nadicaes, Casians, Sarangaes, Pactyes, Utians, Mycians, Parccanians, Arabians, Ethopians (specifically from the South of Egypt), Libyans, Paphlagonians, Matienans, Armenians, Phrygians, Lydians, Mysians, Thracians, Milyans, Moschians, Tibarenians, Macrones, Mossynoecians, Mares, Colchians, Alarodians, Sasperians, and islanders hailing from islands in the Red Sea (429-433). Herodotus specifically identifies the Median and Cissian contingents and the Persian Immortals as combatants that clashed with the Greeks in the Battle of Thermopylae (478). However, it must be noted that Cartledge makes the claim that most historians today would not believe “the accuracy of Herodotus’s reported figures of 1,700,000 Persian land troops and over 1,200 warships” (109). He speculates that the number was actually close to 80,000 troops and 600 warships and that the maximum description of the Persian army was done for maximum effect (110).

Herodotus describes the Greek army present at Thermopylae to be made up of an elite force of three hundred from Sparta, five hundred from Tegea, five hundred from Mantinea, one hundred and twenty from Orchomenus, and one thousand from other areas of Arcadia (475). There were also four hundred from Corinth, two hundred from Phleious, eighty from Mycenae, seven hundred from Thespiae, four hundred from Thebes, a thousand from Phocis, and every available man from Opuntian Locris (Herodotus 475). However, much like Cartledge’s earlier claim that Herodotus’s count of the Persian army was questionable, Michael A. Flower, a Classics Professor at Princeton University, has a similar question about Herodotus’ description of the Greek army.

In his article “Simonides, Ephorus, and Herodotus on the Battle of Thermopylae,” Flower analyzes the Greek sources referenced on the Battle of Thermopylae, such as Ephorus, Diodorus, Simonides, and Plutarch. He writes “that there are at least two features of Diodorus’ account which some modern scholars have accepted over Herodotus,” and one of them relates to the number of Lacedaemonians who fought at Thermopylae. (367). He writes that in one area of the text Herodotus mentions the famous 300 Spartans and “a total of 3,100 Peloponnesian hoplites,” but Herodotus later contradicts himself by quoting an epitaph which has a record of 4,000 men (367). He says that, based on what Diodorus wrote, it is likely that Herodotus forgot to include “700 Lacedaemonians because they did not stay to perish” in the final stand (368).

Now, in regards to the contingents and the notable roles they played in the Battle of Thermopylae, Herodotus describes a few specific contingents as having played specific roles in the battle. The Thebans and the Thespians are noted for staying behind with the Spartans in the final stand (Herodotus 482). Herodotus also explicitly gives the Phocians credit for guarding the “pass across the mountain” where Xerxes would ultimately break through (480). These groups are often overlooked during discussions of the Battle of Thermopylae, thrown into obscurity by the famed Spartan resistance. In some cases, they might be unfairly maligned.

Herodotus makes a point of noting that the Spartan leader Leonidas recruited the Thebans, led by their Theban commander Leontiadas, because “they were strongly suspected of collaborating with the enemy,” and the Spartan Leonidas was testing whether or not they would commit to the fight against the Persians (475-476). Herodotus claims that the Thebans “did send troops, but in fact their sympathies lay elsewhere” (476).  He also claims that they stayed primarily because they were essentially Leonidas’s captives and surrendered to Xerxes the first chance they got (482, 485).

This claim that the Thebans fighting at Thermopylae were unwilling combatants who had Persian loyalties is disputed by a few modern day scholars. In his article, Flower emphasizes that this is another place where modern scholars prefer the Greek historian Diodorus’ account over Herodotus’ version of events (367). Herodotus states that the Thebans were forced to fight by Leonidas whereas Diodorus indicates that the city of Thebes was overall undecided on where to stand, and the Thebans who fought at Thermopylae were amongst those who were against any alliance with the Persian Empire (Flower 371).

This theory is supported by a professor emeritus from the University of British Columbia’s Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies named J.A.S. Evans who writes that “for the Thespians and the Theban contingent, which belonged to the anti-Persian faction in Thebes, there was no future if the Persians forced the pass; they preferred to stay and fight” (236-237). This theory is supported by a map, acquired from Wikipedia’s article titled “The Battle of Thermopylae,” which shows the Xerxes invasion in red lines. Taking into account the position of the Battle of Thermopylae, one can see that Xerxes did indeed pass through the city of Thebes. For the Thebans fighting, it was the last stand between their city and the Persians.


(Image from Wikipedia’s Article “Battle of Thermopylae”)

The same was likely true for the Thespians, for their city Thespiae was located near Thebes and Plataea (which, according to the map, was the location for another land-based battle a year later). Both the Thespians and Thebans likely stayed behind at Thermopylae because they believed that defeat for them meant the potential loss of their respective cities to the Persian invaders.

Casus Belli

The ancient world’s attitude toward war was very different from what it is today. While now it is considered to be something negative, there was once a time where it was considered noble. Such was the mentality of the ancient Greeks. Paul Cartledge, the professor of Greek history at the University of Cambridge, asserts that war was ingrained into their culture, and military experience was even considered a requirement for Spartan and Athenian citizenship (2-3). However, Cartledge urges that it is important to remember that this attitude was not unique solely to the Greek of the ancient world. To try and capture the ancients’ mentality, Cartledge uses the description provided by Thucydides, a man he names  “Herodotus’s greatest successor as a historian” (90). Thucydides wrote “that there are three factors in ‘all interstate relations’  which contributed to the wars fought during that time” (Cartledge 90). These factors are “strategic concern for a state’s collective security; ideological-psychological concern for its status, reputation and honour; and the desire for economic advantage or profit” (Cartledge 90). The first two factors played a part in producing the war which the Battle of Thermopylae was a part of.

The ancient Greek and Persian spheres came into contact when a few Greek cities on the “Mediterranean margins of the Persian Empire” were conquered by Persia in 540 BCE (Cartledge 17). The Greek of 500 BCE (twenty years prior to the Battle of Thermopylae) were defined by independent “mutually hostile political” cities; the Persian Empire, by contrast, was “the fastest-growing empire in the entire history of the ancient East” (Cartledge 16-17). The conquered cities later revolted against Persia in 499 BCE with the help of the Greek city Athens  (Cartledge 17). This revolt threatened the Persian state’s “ideological-psychological concern for its status, reputation and honour” leading to their first attempt at invading Greece (Cartledge 90). This invasion prompted the Greek’s “strategic concern for a state’s collective security,” and this first attempt to invade Greece ended rather poorly with the Persian defeat at the Battle of Marathon (Cartledge 90, 6).

However, these sentiments remained strong and eventually led to the second Persian invasion of Greece, which the Battle of Thermopylae was a part of. When the Persian King died, the famed Greek historian Herodotus records that he was succeeded by his son Xerxes (405). According to Herodotus, a primary force behind the instigation of war was this new Persian Emperor who, egged on by his cousin Mardonius, called together a meeting of Persia’s leaders and supposedly gave the following speech:

“I intend to bridge the Hellespont and march an army through Europe and against Greece, so that I can make the Athenians pay for all that they have done to Persia and to my father…So on his behalf, and on the behalf of all Persians, I will not rest until I have captured Athens and put it to the touch…If we conquer them and their neighbors—the inhabitants of the land of Pelops of Phrygia—we will make Persian territory end only at the sky,…With your help I will sweep through the whole of Europe and make all lands into a single land” (406-407).

Tactics & Topography – berossusofbabylon

The topography of the Battle of Thermopylae is inextricably tied to the Lacedaemonian’s tactics and, therefore, will be discussed together. When the Greek cities of the greater Peloponnese caught wind of the Persian forces—which, according to Herodotus, numbered in the millions— marching across Europe, they elected to hold their enemy at a pass known to the locals as the “Hot Gates” (Herodotus 467, 470). Local lore held that the sulfurous springs near the pass marked the entrance into the underworld, hence the name, and as if to foreshadow the display of Greek heroism that was to transpire there, an alter dedicated to Heracles had already been erected at the pass (467). As the Greek infantry headed to Thermopylae, “…the fleet was to sail to Artemisium in Histiaeotis, so that each of the two forces would be close enough to learn of the other’s situation” (467).

Meanwhile, to the southeast, Xerxes commanded his vast army across Asia Minor to the eastern reaches of the Aegean, moving northward from Sardis to Ilium (famed city of Homer’s Hector and Priam), where he bridged the Hellespont to the north with nearly 650 penteconters and triremes—large maritime vessels rowed by vertical tiers of between 100-200 oarsmen apiece (419-421). These ships were lashed together and packed with dirt, creating a colossal, floating bridge by which Persian forces could cross the straight, along with their baggage trains, camp followers, yoke-animals, cavalry, and chariots (420-421). From there, Xerxes marched his armies across Thrace, heading west into Macedonia before turning south along the western edge of the Aegean into Thessaly, gathering forces along the way (see figure below). The mountainous terrain allowed for only one viable route for such a vast host: the coastal path leading through the pass of Thermopylae.


Xerxes route out of Ionia, circumnavigating the Aegean (“Battle of Thermopylae”).


The pass itself is situated between a sheer, inaccessible cliff face to the west and an inlet of the Aegean to the east. Between this narrow pass, the Lacedaemonian-led Greek forces bottlenecked the Persian contingents sent against them, blocking Xerxes’ warpath to Athens. Though the Persians outnumbered the Greeks by orders of magnitude, the Greek’s spears—especially those of the Spartans’—were longer (478), and the Lacedaemonians in particular were trained to fight from childhood, having been sent to the Agoge (antiquity’s answer to West Point) at around the age of seven. According to Herodotus, wave after wave of Persian soldiers failed to break the relatively small assemblage of Greek contingents. Herodotus recounts that “The Lacedaemonians fought a memorable battle; they made it quite clear that they were the experts, and that they were fighting against amateurs” (478). Many of the Persians who weren’t impaled at the end of a Spartan lance slipped off the path, falling into the sea to drown, making the topography as much of a weapon for the Greeks as their swords and spears. Another unique tactic employed by the Greeks was to feign retreat further into the pass, restricting the Persians’ maneuverability even further so as to more easily dispatch them before returning to the mouth of the pass.


David, Jacques-Louis. Leonidas at Thermopylae. Oil on canvas. Musee du Louvre, Paris.

However, despite the more advantageous position, better training, and more effective weaponry, the Greek forces failed to foresee the Persians discovering a relatively little-known path used by the region’s goatherds—a trail leading behind the Greeks’ position: The Anopaea (480). Of the possible accounts of how Xerxes discovered the trail, Herodotus favors that featuring the traitor Ephialtes of Trachis, who informs Xerxes of the mountain path. On the third day of the battle, Xerxes deployed his commander Hydarnes to lead Persian contingents along The Anopaea, ultimately flanking the Greek forces on all sides.

By this point, all but the Spartan, Thespian, and Thessalian-captive forces remained because, according to Herodotus’ preferred account, Leonidas ordered the other contingents to return home but refused to leave himself because a Delphic oracle had foreseen that either Lacedaemon would be obliterated by the Persians or that its king would die in battle; Leonidas favored the latter as it would preserve Sparta and win him renown in the process (481). Herodotus illustrates the end of the battle with the Lacedaemonians fighting with their swords when their spears had broken, with their knives when they had lost their swords, and with their hands and teeth when they had lost their knives (483). With Persians on all sides, however, valiant as the Spartans’ efforts may have been, they were inevitably overwhelmed.

Herodotus concludes his account of the Battle of Thermopylae with a story of Demaratus, former Lacedaemonian king exiled to Persia turned advisor to Xerxes, and the secret message he delivered to Sparta—inciting the meeting that led the Greeks to Thermopylae in the first place. The legend has it that Demaratus wrote Xerxes’ decision to invade Greece on the wooden base of a writing tablet, hid it behind wax onto which a decoy message was written, and sent the message back to Lacedaemon (488). According to Herodotus, it was Gorgo, Leonidas’ wife, who suspected there was a secret message behind the decoy, and after deciphering the warning, she passed it along to the other Greek cities, so they might prepare for the advancing sea of Persian soldiers.


  1. “Ancient Greek Warfare.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 8 July 2016. Web. Accessed: 22 Sept. 2016.
  2. Άγνωστος – National Museums Scotland. “Second Persian Invasion of Greece.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 21 Sept. 2016. Image from web. Accessed: 21 Sept. 2016.
  3. “Battle of Thermopylae.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 21 Aug. 2007. Image from web. Accessed: 22 Sept. 2016.
  4. Cartledge, Paul. Thermopylae: The Battle that Changed the World. Print, p. 405-485, Overlook Press, Woodstock & New York.
  5. Cassin-Scott, Jack. The Greek and Persian Wars 500-323 B.C. Osprey, 1977.
  6. Evans, J.A.S. “The ‘Final Problem’ at Thermopylae”. Greek, Roman, & Byzantine Studies vol. 5, no. 4 (Dec. 1967): 231-236. Stewart Library OneSearch. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.
  7. Flower, Michael A. “Simonides, Ephorus, and Herodotus on the Battle of Thermopylae”. The Classical Quarterly vol. 48, no. 2 (1998): 365-379. JSTOR. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
  8. “Greco-Persian Wars.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 21 Sept. 2016. Web. Accessed: 22 Sept. 2016.
  9. Happolati. “Immortals (Persian Empire).” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 6 Sept. 2016. Photograph from web. Accessed: 21 Sept. 2016.
  10. Herodotus.  The HistoriesTranslated by: Waterfield, Robin. Oxford University Press Inc. 1998: New York, NY.
  11. May, Elmer; Stadler, Gerald; Votaw, John; Griess, Thomas. “Classical Warfare: The Age of the Greek Hoplite.” Ancient and Medieval Warfare: The History of the Strategies, Tactics, and Leadership of Classical Warfare. 1984. New Jersey: Avery Publishing Group. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
  12. Sacks, Kenneth. “Herodotus and the Dating of the Battle of Thermopylae.” The Classical Quarterly vol. 26, no. 2 (1976): 232-248. JSTOR. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.

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The Battle of Salamis


Honors 2110B

Blog 1

September 22, 2016


Main Combatants in the Battle of Salamis 


The Battle of Salamis was one of the most important and decisive military victories for the Greek army during the Greek and Persian War. Themistokles, who had previously convinced the Athenians to invest a large amount of silver to improve their navy,  was a key leader and strategist for the Greeks in this battle. After Themistokles had convinced Eurybiades, the Spartan leader of the allied forces and his soldiers to stand their ground and fight at Salamis, the Greeks were prepared to take on a far greater Persian fleet using an advanced strategy which involved luring the Persians into the strait where their larger, slower boats would not be able to maneuver rapidly which would leave them vulnerable to an attack from the smaller, swifter Greek fleet which was composed of triremes such as those illustrated in the following image. (Herodotus, 622-625)


Image result for greek trireme battle of salamis



The Persians, led by Xerxes I, on the other hand were more than confident in their ability to easily defeat the Greek feet and continue on to capture the Isthmus of Corinth. Xerxes himself was so confident that he set up a throne on the shore to be able to have an advantageous viewpoint of the battle. Artemisia of Halicarnassus, one of the fiercest war generals for the Persian side, and trusted adviser of King Xerxes, actually went against the common Persian opinion and counseled him to hold his position and not attack, stating that they had already accomplished what the y set out to do, and that they could claim victory much more efficiently by closing in on Peloponnese instead of engaging in direct naval combat with the Greeks. Unfortunately for the Persians, Xerxes decided not to heed the warnings of his adviser as Eurybiades had done, and this fatal mistake eventually led to a brutal loss for the Persians. (Herodotus, 627-629)


Works Cited

Herodotus. The Landmark Herodotus:The Histories. Translated by Andrea L. Purvis, Anchor Books. 2009.


Strauss, Barry S. The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter That Saved Greece – and Western Civilization. Simon & Schuster, 2004.


Lendering, Jona. “Salamis.” Accessed  23 July 2016.


Valin. “On this Day In History, The Battle of Salamis, 480 B.C.” Accessed 24 September 2016.

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Due date change

Because there’s some confusion, your assignment is now due Thursday, 9/22 by midnight, MDT.



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Testing Post

Can you see me?

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Battle of Marathon


Honors 2110B

Blog 1

September 20, 2016


Location of the Battle of Marathon

The Battle took place near the shore near modern day Marathon, Greece.  About 42km from Athens.  The location of the battle was chosen by the Persians because they landed their ships there because it was a best place for them to be able to use their cavalry effectively.

As you can see in the upper right-hand image, there were two marshes on either side of where the battle took place.  This turned out to be an important detail as the battle went on.


(Lendering, 2015)


Strategy and Tactics
pic-2 (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License)

(The Battle of Marathon, n.d.)


The battle consisted of 10,000 Athenians against 25,000 Persians.  So in order for the Athenians to have a chance at winning they needed a good strategy.  What they did was have a thinner battle line in the middle and put more men on the flanks as they ran into battle.  The Athenians charged the Persians at full sprint and the battle commenced.  As the battle went on the outer edged of the Athenian army began to push back the Persians while the Persians pushed the Athenians back in the middle.  At that point the Athenian flanks turned inward on the Persians and surrounded them.  The Athenians completely surrounded the Persians and began to close in on them quickly.  The Persians began to drop quickly and began to retreat back to their ships and run along the shore.  The two big marshes made it so they couldn’t get very far and many drowned in the marshes and were killed trying to run away.  In the end it is said that 6,400 Persians died and only 194 Athenians died in battle.

Works Cited

Lendering, J. (2015, August 15). Marathon (490 BCE). Retrieved from Livius:

The Battle of Marathon. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:



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Testing, 1 2 3

Did it work? 😀 Am I finally a blogger like I always dreamed of?

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test post

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