Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Origins of the Persians and the Battle of Marathon Against Ancient Greece

My other blogs are:
The Origins of the Persians
and the Battle of Marathon
Against Ancient Greece
The Persians. Not the scariest name you've ever heard, especially since they were the first "terrorists" to use intimidation and fear as weapons to gain true power... and yet, you should be afraid, because in their time, they did not fight when they conquered all of the Iranian plateau. Their dominion eventually consisted of Mesopotamia all the way to the entire Syrian coast as well as parts of Anatolia, and they never even fought! That is, until they reached Greece. But how? How could they conquer nearly 4000 miles-worth of cultures and not fight? Well, they had an army over ten to twenty times the size of the largest Bronze Age city. Some say their army was nearly a million people, but most scholars say it was about 100,000 to 200,000 depending on the scholar and the rest were just the Persians' tribes traveling along with them. If they only had 100,000 soldiers, even by today's standard that's a force to be acknowledged.
The Persian tactic was simple: they migrated from the Mesopotamian areas over to the Syrian coastal towns, all their soldiers intimidated the cities they migrated to along the way, and the tribes they took along with them stayed behind to form small Persian capitols in or nearby the intimidated cities. This allowed the Persians to keep migrating, and to keep intimidating, and all they did was drop a few people along their journey. These people who were left behind were like governors and their families, except when they imposed taxes and laws....they were brutal by any standard, and used threats and fear to control their cities. This was how the Persian empire in the 500s B.C. was formed. And believe me, there are worse people to be conquered by, the taxes levied were really the only downside, since the Persians allowed women to be free to live good lives, and also had a "eat, drink, be merry" mentality that even the Bible recognizes. All-in-all, the Persians were not terrible but definitely used taxes to keep their pockets full. The closes comparison I can make to the ancient Persians is that they were most like Americans, that is, if Americans were overpowered and Godless...oh wait....
The Persians have an early history that scholars say stems from the Indo-European family, believed due to their linguistic commonalities, but are also the first and original Iranians, known as Indo-Iranians. These are the people who develop into the modern Iranians in Iran. Wow, so that is one ancient and long standing culture, no wonder people in the Middle East think Americans are just a fad, what's 300 years compared to 4000? A drop in a water bucket, that's what. Yes, you heard right! These Indo-Europeans arrived on the Bronze Age scene on the eastern Iranian Plateau around 2000 B.C. and many of the Persian tribes continued to drift until 1500 B.C. This is around the same time as many other cultures began drifting in, like the Hurrians arriving around 2000 and the Hittites around 1800. Although I doubt they traveled together or gave each other hugs!
Important to note about the Persians are that they are an Iranian nomadic tribe that shares ethnic roots with the Medes, the Parthians, the Bactrians, the notoriously infamous Scythians, and the Avesta. This is commonly believed by historians because all of these tribes used the name Arya, which means "Iranian," but it's a collective name denoting anyone of the same tribal roots, which includes ethnic, linguistic, and religious inferences (Ahura Mazda). To put things more into perspective about just how spread out the Persians were, their tribe called the Scythians were the "Amazons" of legend, literally. Their queen was Hippolyta and no one could conquer them. The Parthians, another Persian tribe, were famous during the early Roman days for chopping off heads and pouring molten gold into them, symbolic of the Parthian hatred for greed. The Medes joined in with the Persians in the Assyrian genocide in 586 B.C. and conquered the terrible empire. In 70 B.C., Marcus Licinius Crassus, the most powerful man in Rome as well as Rome's first real 'billionaire," learned this method of execution firsthand when he attempted to conquer them! And so on! So that's how they arrived and from the sentences about you can see they always managed to stick their noses in the juicy affairs of history! What makes them interesting is when they begin flooding into parts of the Mesopotamian areas westward of the Assyrians. Massive numbers too. The Persians were probably an entire civilization scattered around the upper continent due to their nomadic ways, but even though they had only loose ties with their neighboring tribes, they still seemed to all migrate as one giant tribe.
Dude *ran* almost 200
miles when he couldda just texted...
that's what he gets for using Sprint!!
Wow that joke was awful!
THE BATTLE OF MARATHON: beginning in 490 BC. with about 9000 Athenians, and aided by approximately 1000 Plataeans, they had to stand against the Persian hordes of upwards of 100,000. As I said before and will say again, it is supremely unlikely that the Persians had a million soldiers. There simply wasn't that many people in the whole world at that point! Chances are the men, women, teens, and children all wandered with the Persian soldiers to increase their intimidation factor, but then again, 100,000 warriors probably would have been enough in and of itself.
The story goes, that under King Darius I, he and his people wandered from the Iranian areas in the early 530s B.C. and had so many people, (some say a million) that when they approached all the small settlements along the Syrian and Canaanite coasts to the Mediterranean, all the settlements and cities just immediately surrendered. What the worst, they all thought? Well, the Persians simply levy harsh taxes...that's preferable to death! This was the common sentiment that ancient historians scribe. However, they note one civilization who did not follow suit. When Darius' swollen horde reached Greece, he had to do a hell of a lot more than simple intimidation. The Greeks were probably not sure why they were fighting because they enjoyed living, but never realized just how much they valued independence. The Greeks were an emotional people at this time. They had a young civilization and were very ideological, they are where we get out philosophies today! So you can see that they really didn't understand why it was so important to be autonomous, and no matter how much they were crapping their pants, and they were filling their pants, but their desire for autonomy and freedom slightly outweighed their fear....and...pants crapping.
These are not Spartans... this is Hollywood
garbage. The way Hollywood glorifies
their muscles is practically homosexual since
no women would watch this movie, as it caters
to men only. Ew.
This first of the Persian invasion came as retaliation to the Ionian revolt to the Persian rule that was set up. There were two other Greeks' involvement, the Athenians and Eretrians, and they had sent military support to Ionia in hopes to fulfill their desire to fully overthrow the Persians. With their aid, these Greek's all worked together and torched Sardis, a Persian satrap. Unfortunately, the Greeks suffered too many casualties to keep going, forcing their own retreat. Ironically, it was only in response that Darius swore to burn down Athens and Eretria for their retaliation in Ionia and Sardis, thus, the Battle of Marathon took place shortly thereafter in 490 B.C. At the time of the battle, Sparta and Athens were the two largest city states in Greece, but Sparta did not help in any way. Typical Spartans, they were secluded and cared little for the world around them. This seems to be a Greek trait, where no Greek city cares about the other cities unless it involves them somehow. The Greek man Pheidippides, who was sent to Sparta for help, had run a legendary total of 150 miles in two days to and from Sparta. This doesn't seem possible, but the stories are validated by many scholars. He then ran another 25 miles from the battlefield near the beaches and countryside of Marathon, saw the defeat of the Persians in that legendary battle, and then ran back to Athens, announcing Persian defeat to the city. From exhaustion, it is said that he immediately died once his mission was completed. It was after this that a marathon came to be coined as running long distances, since at the Battle of Marathon he ran an almost unbelievable distance without stopping to rest.
And thus ends the first chapter of the history of the Persians and begins the rise of the Greeks as superpowers! See my other articles on Greece called "Of Minoans and Mycenaeans: The Rise and Fall of Proto-Greeks and End of the Bronze Age" about the arrival of the first Greeks in the Bronze Age and for the Iron Age (classical) Greeks, read "The Greek Golden Age and the Great Peloponnesian War" for more on Spartans and Athenians fighting.

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.