The Second Persian Invasion of Greece (480 B.C.E.-479 B.C.E)

    The Second Persian Invasion of Greece took place about 10 years after the first invasion where the Persian Kin Darius suffered from an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Athenians (Greeks from the city of Athens). By the time of the Second Invasion King Darius had died and the throne was given to his son Xerxes who became known as “The King of Kings”. After 10 years of preparation the Persian army and navy departed for Greece. Within these 10 years the Athenians were able to build a large navy of their own due to the recent opening of a silver mine. Once word reached the Greeks that Xerxes was bringing an army so large that it “drank rivers dry as it passed”. Modern estimates place the Persian army at about 500,000 men (the Persians claimed to have over 5 million) and the navy at 1,207 ships. Many of the Greek city-states submitted to Xerxes by giving gifts of water and earth, however, the two most powerful city-states, Athens and Sparta, refused to surrender and lead the defenses. The Spartan King Leonidas led his 300 elite Spartan  Bodyguards and roughly 6,000 other Greeks to defend Thermopylae, the only point on land that the Persians had to cross in order to reach Athens. Meanwhile, Themistocles led the Athenian navy to hold Artemisium, the easiest point for the Persian navy to cross. This dual strategy of holding the navy and army at bay could only work if both points were successfully held and both the Persian army and navy were defeated. This was not the case, King Leonidas and his soldiers were able to repel the Persian army for several days with few casualties to the Greeks and large casualties to the Persians, but a Greek traitor named Ephialtes was able to lead the Persian forces around the Greeks and flank them. Upon realizing this most of the Greeks retreated with the exception of Leonidas and his Spartans who were all slain in battle. The Athenian navy was forced to retreat after learning of this defeat but were able to to send falsified information to King Xerxes regarding their tactics and successfully split his army. Once the Persian navy reached Athens, it found itself completely surrounded by Greek ships and due to the size of the Persian fleet they were unable to maneuver to avoid damage. Xerxes retreated and left 300,000 soldiers and his best general to continue the fight but this army was defeated by an alliance of Athenian and Spartan soldiers at Plataea. This and another great victory against the Persian navy in the same month ultimately won the war for Greece and Persia never retaliated.



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