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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

037 - Molon Labe


In this episode, we discuss the death of Darius and the ascension of Xerxes to the Persian throne; Xerxes' preparations for a much larger, second Persian invasion of Greece (in 480 BC); the formation of the Hellenic League and their own preparations and tactical maneuverings in order to defend Greek liberty against Persia; and the simultaneous multi-day land and naval battles at Thermopylae and Artemision in central Greece


486 BC - Egypt revolts from the Persian Empire; as he prepares to put it down, Darius dies from some illness (after 36-year reign) and is succeeded by his son, Xerxes

485 BC - Xerxes suppresses the Egyptian revolt in person, removes Egypt’s special privileges, and reduces it to satrapy status; the Aleuadai of Thessaly send envoys to Susa urging Xerxes to invade Greece and finish what his father started

484-481 BC - Xerxes begins to prepare for a full-scale invasion of Greece, by mustering an enormous army and navy from all provinces of his empire; he also undertakes a three-year project to dig a canal through the isthmus of the Mount Athos promontory, puts a bridge over the Strymon River and food deposits for the route through Thrace, and another bridge across the Hellespont from Abydos on Asiatic coast to Sestos on the European side

484 BC - Babylon revolts from the Persian Empire but is quickly subdued; the Babylonians are given leniency due to Xerxes' fondness for them

482 BC - Babylon revolts for a second time; it is quelled by Megabyzos and this time there is no leniency, as Babylon is forced to merge with Assyria into one satrapy

Spring 481 BC - Xerxes assembles his army in Cappadocia and proceeds to Sardis, and sends heralds to all Greek poleis, except Athens and Sparta, requesting for "earth and water"

Fall 481 BC - The Greeks hold a conference at Corinth; 31 Greek states agree to end their quarrels (i.e. the war between Athens and Aegina ceases at this time) and to fight to the death to preserve Greek liberty; they create the Hellenic League, the first union of Greek states since the mythical times of the Trojan war; Sparta presides over meetings and has supreme command over both land and sea forces;  they send spies to investigate the Persian army at Sardis and envoys to Argos, Corcyra, Crete, and Syracuse; Argos and Crete opt to remain neutral as Delphi advises, Corcyra agrees to join, and Syracuse refuses alliance

Winter 481/0 BC - Xerxes' massive army gathers and winters at Sardis

Spring/Early Summer 480 BC - Xerxes crosses Asia into Europe and joins with fleet at mouth of Hebros River; they begin to make their west through Thrace; 2nd meeting of Hellenic League at Corinth to determine where to meet Persians in the field; they decide to send a force of hoplites, under the Spartan Euainetos and aided by the Athenian Themistocles, to guard the pass of Tempe in Thessaly; but the Hellenic League abandons Tempe when they are informed by Alexander of Macedon that their position could be turned by the Persians; as a result, when Xerxes' army and fleet enters Macedon, the Thessalians medize

Late Summer 480 BC - In need of a new plan after their withdrawal from Tempe, the Hellenic League decides to hold the narrow land pass at Thermopylae in Malis with a small advance force under the Spartan king Leonidas, while the fleet, under the Spartan Eurybiades and Athenian Themistocles, was to defend their approach via the sea at Artemesion, in hope that these land and naval forces can cooperate in stopping the joint advance of Xerxes, whose strategy depended on close communication between his own land and naval forces; after much difficulty, brought on by stiff Greek resistance, thunderstorms, and perhaps treachery, the Persians win the simultaneous land and naval battles at Thermopylae and Artemision; King Leonidas and his army are annihilated (“Go, stranger, and to Lacedaimon tell that here, obeying her behests, we fell), and the Greek fleet withdraws south back to Athens



Primary Sources:





Supplementary Resources (Videos, Photos, Other Podcasts)



Photo/Relief of Xerxes on his Tomb at Persepolis






***Deep into History - The Gates of Hell
***History in the Making - Shattered Timbers, Shattered Spears

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