Breakdown of the Persian Wars Persia Persia had an enormous empire that stretched from what is now India in the east to Egypt in the west. It also had gained control over the Greek cities along the coast of Asia Minor. Rebellion 499 B.C. – Greek city-states in Asia Minor rebelled against Persia. They burned Sardis, the western capital of the Persian Empire. Athens sent a small fleet of ships to help the rebelling Greeks; the Persians crushed this. Darius I This angered the Persian leader, Darius I. He sent a huge army across land and sea to conquer the Greeks. Forces were stopped short when a storm wrecked the Persian fleet. Battle of Marathon 2 years later, Darius attacked again, just outside Marathon, 26 miles north of Athens. He outnumbered the Greeks 2 to 1, and the worried Athenians sent word to Sparta for help. Fearing the Spartans would arrive too late, the Athenian general took a chance. He ordered the hoplites to line up facing the invaders as usual, but he packed the wings, or the far end of the line, tightly with soldiers. When the Persians attacked the middle of the line and pushed forward, the Greek wings moved in to surround the Persians. The much smaller Greek force trapped the mighty Persians and defeated them. Greek Legend A Greek legend tells about a messenger running all the way from Marathon to Athens to report the Greek victory over the Persians. After completing the 26 mile-run to Athens, the messenger died while proclaiming victory. In his honor, the Greeks added a 26-mile race called a marathon to the Olympic Games. Battle of Thermopylae Xerxes was Darius’s son. 480 B.C. – he led an expedition of about 200,000 soldiers and more than 600 ships to conquer Greek territory. The Greeks prepared with 200 ships in Athens’s navy, and Sparta and the Peloponnesian League on land. Small Greek force fought Xerxes’ army at a mountain pass called Thermopylae. Greeks defended this until the last soldier fell; Persians broke through, captured Athens, and set the city on fire. Battle of Salamis Meanwhile the Athenian navy withdrew to a narrow straight between the Greek coastline and the island of Salamis. The Persian ships far outnumbered the Greeks, but their ships were too large to turn quickly in the narrow straight. The lighter, faster Greek ships rammed into the Persian ships and sank them. The Greeks destroyed about 200 ships, and Xerxes returned to Asia Minor. Battle of Plataea On land, the Spartans led the Greek army to victory in the Battle of Plataea. Although an official peace agreement would not be made for another 30 years, the Persian threat to mainland Greece had been quieted. Delian League After the Persian Wars began, Athens and about 150 city-states formed an alliance called the Delian League. They vowed to fight the Persians and free the Greek lands still under Persian rule. The members also agreed to pay tribute to Athens in the form of money or ships. In return, Athens promised to protect the city-states with its powerful navy. 467 B.C. – The Battle of Eurymedon River: the league freed several Greek city-states, pushing the Persians away from the Aegean. Together, Athens and Sparta had played their roles to win the Persian War, but the victory set the stage for conflict between the two city-states.