The Persian Wars and the Punic Wars : The History of the Ancient Greek and Roman Victories That Preserved Western Civilization
Overview - *Includes pictures *Includes ancient accounts of the fighting *Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading The Ancient Greeks have long been considered the forefathers of modern Western civilization, but the Golden Age of Athens and the spread of Greek influence across much of the known world only occurred due to one of the most crucial battles of antiquity: the Battle of Marathon. Read more...
More About The Persian Wars and the Punic Wars by Charles River Editors
*Includes pictures *Includes ancient accounts of the fighting *Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading The Ancient Greeks have long been considered the forefathers of modern Western civilization, but the Golden Age of Athens and the spread of Greek influence across much of the known world only occurred due to one of the most crucial battles of antiquity: the Battle of Marathon. In 491 B.C., following a successful invasion of Thrace over the Hellespont, the Persian emperor Darius sent envoys to the main Greek city-states, including Sparta and Athens, demanding tokens of earth and water as symbols of submission, but Darius didn't exactly get the reply he sought. According to Herodotus in his famous Histories, "Xerxes however had not sent to Athens or to Sparta heralds to demand the gift of earth, and for this reason, namely because at the former time when Dareios had sent for this very purpose, the one people threw the men who made the demand into the pit and the others into a well, and bade them take from thence earth and water and bear them to the king." Somewhat ironically, the Battle of Marathon has been best commemorated by the race that bears its name, a tradition that started based on a legend that a Greek man named Pheidippides ran the 26.2 miles back to Athens in order to announce the Greek victory and subsequently collapsed and died as soon as he had done so. However, the importance of the battle itself cannot be overstated. The Battle of Marathon proved to be one of the biggest sources of enmity between the Greeks and Persians, and Darius's son Xerxes would seek to undo the results with his own invasion just years later. There are few battles in history in which the vanquished are better remembered and celebrated than the victors, and even fewer where a defeat is considered a victory. But that has become the enduring legacy of the Battle of Thermopylae, a battle as unique as it is famous. The story of the battle and the willing sacrifice of the Greek defenders to buy the rest of the retreating Greeks time is well known across the world and still resonates with audiences to this day. Last stands are the stuff of martial legends, and Thermopylae is the greatest of them all. In the wake of Thermopylae, the Athenians watched in horror as Xerxes' troops plundered the defenseless city, set it aflame, and razed the Acropolis. However, the Athenians remained belligerent, in part because according to the oracle at Delphi, "only the wooden wall shall save you." Indeed, this would prove true when Themistocles managed to lure the Persian fleet into the straits of Salamis. There, on a warm day in September 480 BCE, hundreds of Greek and Persian ships faced each other in a narrow strait between the Attic peninsula of Greece and the island of Salamis. Certain foreign policy decisions led to continuing enmity between Carthage and the burgeoning power of Rome, and what followed was a series of wars which turned from a battle for Mediterranean hegemony into an all-out struggle for survival. Although the Romans gained the upper hand in the wake of the First Punic War, Hannibal brought the Romans to their knees for over a decade during the Second Punic War. While military historians are still amazed that he was able to maintain his army in Italy near Rome for nearly 15 years, scholars are still puzzled over some of his decisions, including why he never attempted to march on Rome in the first place. After the serious threat Hannibal posed during the Second Punic War, the Romans didn't wait much longer to take the fight to the Carthaginians in the Third Punic War, which ended with Roman legions smashing Carthage to rubble. As legend has it, the Romans literally salted the ground upon which Carthage stood to ensure its destruction once and for all.
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