This resulted in the founding of an Arcadian League under the leadership of the new found city of Megalopolis. Most important however was that Thebes refounded Messenia as an independent state in 369 after many years of helotage. Sparta sank to second-class among the Greek Poleis, and this allowed Thebes and Athens to pursue their rivalry in the vacuum created by the sudden disappearance of Sparta. After the battle they sent heralds to Athens proclaiming their victory over the Spartans, but Athenians were not satisfied with the turn of events. Now they had a new superpower a few miles from Athens.
Thermopylae was a passage through a large Greek mountain area. The Greeks chose to try to defend their land here once they found out the large Persian army would have to go through this small mountain pass in order to capture the Greek land they wanted (Herodotus, 1972). The Spartans led the Greek forces in the unsuccessful defense of this land and every Spartan warrior was killed. Some scholars say the Spartans realized they would be killed before they went into battle but they still chose to fight and defend their land (Bradford, 2004). The Persians were led by Xerxes and with this victory, he led the Persian troops from Thermopylae through Locris and Phocis into Boeotia without resistance.
However, his dream of burning Athens to the ground would not be realized, and this lust for revenge would be passed down to his son Xerxes. In 480BC, Xerxes assembled the largest army the ancient world has ever seen. With around 300,000 men, he marched towards Greece with a navy following closely behind. As Xerxes marched toward Athens, they were met with a combined Greek force of 300 Spartans and 4000 free Greeks defending a narrow pass, nullifying the numerically superior Persian force. At the same time, the Persian navy attempted to sail behind the Greek forces and box them in.
The Athenian statesman Pericles was the very model of a politician. Under his leadership, the people of Athens embarked on one of the most brilliant eras in all human history. It was the heart of the Athenian Golden Age, a time known as the Age of Pericles, when philosophy and the arts flourished as never before. Likewise, democracy, (government by the people) experienced one of its proudest moments; but Pericles won his triumphs in part through foreign conquest and empire-building. In the end, like a hero from a Greek tragedy, his own mistakes would bring about his downfall.
In the summer of 480 B.C a battle took place that would forever change the history of the Greeks and that would eventually influence the way in which the Western world looked at war. The Spartans took their stand against the massive army of Persians in a three day battle which resulted in the Persians taking the win but may have very well led to the Greeks winning the Greco-Persian War. A culmination of strong tactical skill and bravery contributed to the Spartans making a stand much longer and stronger than anybody could have ever predicted. The Persian king Xerxes led his massive army through the narrow mountain pass known as Thermopylae expecting no considerable fight on the part of the Spartans. The Persians bid to conquer Greece was significantly
How did the experience of the Ionian Revolt and the Battle of Marathon affect the Greek defense against the Persian invasion of 480 BC? The Ionian Revolt and the Battle of Marathon provided the Greeks with a vast experience of Persian tactics and the opportunity to review their own performance in warring with this power. Through the victory achieved at Marathon and the loss in Ionia the Greeks were able to use their knowledge of Persia to decide on who would lead their force, gave them the motivation to form alliances, enabled them to devise effective strategies for fighting the large Persian army and motivated far reaching naval reforms. The reactions of the Persians to the Greeks as a result of these two battles also prompted the Greeks into action, as they were more aware of this threatening foe. The involvement of Athens and Eretria in the Ionian revolt according to Ehrenberg “put Athens into the center of the unfolding story of the Persian wars”.
However, the Persian were not finished. In 481 BC, Darius I's son, Xerxes, gathered together an army of some one hundred fifty thousand men and a navy of six hundred ships. He was determined that the whole of Greece would be conquered by Persia. A Sad Sequel The Battle of Marathon immortalized the name of Miltiades; but in a few years' time he fell from his high estate, for he failed in an expedition against the island of Pa'ros. The Greeks had no pity for failure.
Faced with overwhelming odds, they retreated to a hilltop and planned to make a final stand but they were no match. Leonidas had learned about this and convened a council of war with his surviving generals ordering them to retreat. Most of the Greeks then retreated with only a mixed unit of around 1400 men stayed with the 300 Spartans to defend the pass against Xerxes. As daylight came, Xerxes paused allowing time for the immortals to advance towards the rear of the Greek forces. He then ordered a fresh wave of ten thousand infantry to advance against the Greeks.
- from The Persians, by Aeschylus. The Battle of Marathon was the Darius I's first chief attempt to overcome Greece. In comparison to the great battles which would succeed it, it was, in terms of men involved, a war of smaller size although its significance in uniting the Greek city-states against Persia cannot be underestimated. According to Aechylus, this battle of Marathon happened to be one of the most important battles in world history. In 490BC, two armies faced each other across the plain of Marathon, 26 miles from Athens.