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  #121  
Old 09-09-2016, 05:59 PM
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Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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Originally Posted by Kimon View Post
I'm not sure what caused your misunderstanding of the 1st Persian War, but clearly you misunderstand both what happened, and why.

Yes the Persians were expansionists, and yes prior to the Ionian Revolt they had conquered Thrace and made Macedon a client. But, again, Thrace is not at all Greek, the latter is only partially Greek - which is to say the aristocracy was considered Greek, but the population was not recognized as Greek. Concerning Naxos, a Greek island in the Aegean, yes they tried, unsuccessfully to conquer it prior to the Ionian Revolt. This obviously failed, but the target of the mass invasion, the 1st Persian War, was not Naxos, but Athens. Naxos is involved both in events that preceded and followed the Ionian Revolt. The Persians failed to conquer it prior to the revolt, but Naxos, along with Lindos, were two Greek islands conquered in 492 BC as staging grounds during the naval invasion that was specifically directed at Athens. Directed specifically at Athens because they alone of the Greeks outside Persian hegemony had sent aid to the Ionian Greeks during their failed insurrection, the Ionian Revolt of 499-493 BC, most notable for its sacking of Sardis. This is what inspired the desire to punish Athens. This invasion, the First Persian War (i.e. Marathon) happened as a direct reaction to the Ionian Revolt. You seem to be arguing that they would have eventually turned their eyes on central Greece eventually even without the Ionian Revolt, but you cannot ignore the immediacy of the invasion following the revolt, or the targeting of Athens and its clear connection to that revolt. Or likewise, why they again were fixated upon Athens in the 2nd invasion, and hence why they sacked and burned the city when they captured it, as revenge for both Sardis and Marathon.
I am not disputing any of this. Of course the Persians were looking to teach the Athenians a lesson. I'm just pointing out that they had other aims, as well. And in those other aims, the Persians enjoyed a great deal of success. You keep referencing both Persian campaigns as humiliations; while there is some truth to that, it reflects a particularly Athenian point of view. If you were Athenian, you absolutely humiliated the Persians. If you were a Persian, it was a minor defeat at the end of a long and successful campaign. I'm just trying to make a wider point about the way in which we look at and remember all events. I was taught about Marathon and Thermopylae and (sort of) Plataea as a kid and a high schooler and all that. I only learned the opposite side of the ledger in later studies which 99.99999% of the population doesn't undertake. 2,500 years of Western historiography have beaten the tropes into our heads to an extent that its difficult to escape the usual narratives; all I ask across this entire discussion is that we attempt to look at events from the opposite lens. Which, I admit, can be difficult due to the dearth of extant sources.

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The numbers are obviously somewhat suspect, but typically modern scholars scale back Herodotus' numbers to around 300,000-500,000 for the invading force, which includes approximately 4000 ships, around 1200 of which were triremes, the rest transport. The Greeks had no where near that, with even the highest estimates placing the number at around 400 triremes, and around 125,000 total for land forces at Plataea. That Xerxes fled after Salamis and left Mardonius to deal with Plataea is inconsequential.
Even those numbers are probably insanely high. I would be truly shocked if any army at that time was greater than even a small fraction of that. Even later Republican Roman armies only ever got up to 80,000 or so, and that was a shorter distance and greater populations were likely involved. But that is unimportant; obviously the Greeks were heavily outnumbered to begin with. What I care more about is that last sentence.

First, this is the point I was making above. You are assuming that Xerxes "fled". Because typifying his departure in that way makes sense, given our cultural heritage. A much more logical and persuasive argument is that he was returning home to suppress a rebellion, which is hardly fleeing. It also underlines the relative importance of Greece, which was not worth spending further time to bring to heel, because events were afoot in more important parts of the empire.

Again, and you do it in the part I didn't quote, you are completely ignoring that events might have been occurring outside of "Greece" proper that might have influenced events. Xerxes didn't "flee" because he feared for his life; he returned home with most of his army because he had a much bigger issue to deal with. Exactly like how Darius didn't bother to finish Athens with another campaign because he wanted to deal with Egypt, a FAR more important part of the Persian Empire.

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Is the problem that you are more familiar with Ctesias' account rather than Herodotus'? Ctesias' is useless. He thinks that Plataea happened before Salamis. Whatever the issue is, you have a very odd, and incorrect, impression of these wars.
No, I have a broader impression of these wars. You are a specialist in Classical history (or you are relative to me, at least). You may have read every primary account we have. But you're only reading the Greek sources! That is why I am trying to get across here. For the Greek authors, Greece was the epicenter of the world. Ignore the fact that ancient authors always minimize their own force, and exaggerate that of their enemy, and all those normal biases. There is a more insidious bias, which is that no Greek author has a Persian perspective. Egypt was the wealthiest region of the Ancient Near East, and Babylon the greatest and likely largest city in the world. But you hear barely a murmur about internal strife in Persia from the Greek authors when they discuss Marathon or Salamis and the respective campaigns. And that is despite the fact that major military operations were needed in those regions that were much more important that the Persian emperors attend to.
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  #122  
Old 09-09-2016, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Ozymandias View Post
No, I have a broader impression of these wars. You are a specialist in Classical history (or you are relative to me, at least). You may have read every primary account we have. But you're only reading the Greek sources!
With good reason. The only Persian sources we have are Ctesias (proven unreliable for reasons mentioned above) and Dio Chyrsotom. Dio is very late (he died in 115 CE), but may be the source of your confusion. He mentions the Persian propaganda story about Naxos as the target of the First Invasion and that the Persian official records downplayed the disaster at Marathon. He notes the same propaganda in their records for the Second Invasion, and that Xerxes tried to use his victory at Thermopylae to cloud the disasters of Salamis and Plataea. But we don't even have those records that he saw, and correctly knew made no sense in comparison to the true versions recorded by Herodotus, Thucydides, and the various Greek inscriptions. Nothing else is extant in terms of a narrative account, and what little we do have, like the Bisitun Inscription on the rise of Darius, and scant royal inscriptions on the province lists also have been shown unreliable even for tracing the growth and decline of the Persian Empire.

What we have are the accounts of the side that clearly won the war, Ozy. Not sure why you keep trying to argue that theirs was somehow the unreliable version, and that Ctesias' useless propaganda version that simply tried to paint the humiliated and defeated Persians in a better light for home consumption somehow was anything but official lies. The Greek version is accepted for good reason. They may (and often did) exaggerate the numbers, but they clearly accurately recorded the causes, events, and outcomes.
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