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“It was a common effort that the foreign invasion was repelled”

The Greek’s victory over the Persians between 40 and 47 BC was not solely the result of the unity its poleis, as the Persian would still outnumber Greeks despite their unity. Thucydides’ statement on the reason of Greeks’ victory can be interpreted as unity is formed under a common goal, which was to defend their land, cultures and liberty. Yet such “common effort” could not have succeeded without the correct leaderships provided by the Athenians and Spartans, Greek’s psychological advantage over the Persians, the quality of its force and the Persians’ own foolishness. The unity of the poleis offered cooperation, effective communication and man power to among the Greek poleis, yet without the other factors mentioned above the form of unity would still not prevent the Persians from conquering Greece.

The leaderships of the Athenians and Spartans were crucial to the Greeks’ victory. The Spartans, due to their war oriented culture and their professionalism on the battle field, were given the role of command in battle. According to Herodotus’ Histories, Spartans’ contribution can be seen in Salamis where the strategy was provided by Eurybiades and most of the triremes were command by Spartans (book8, p). In Thermopylae, Spartan king Leonidas led a force of 500 consisted large of Spartans, Mantineans, Corinthians and Thebans, and was able to stop the Persians invasion for three days. In addition the final battle in Plataea was commanded by Pausanias, who was also a Spartan. The display of political leadership can be seen in the actions of Themistocles. Themistocles, who had also anticipated the possibility of Persian’s return, persuaded the Athenians to construct more than a hundred triremes, which were later used in the battle of Salamis. Themistocles saw the unity of the Hellene alliance was crucial to any chance of victory against the Persians, as small city states cannot defeat Xerxes’ army alone. When disagreement occurred as the Athenians refuse to follow foreign leadership, mainly the Spartans, who were supported by the rest of the alliance. Themistocle settled such dispute by resigning his own command position to the Spartans and promised the Athenians that their leadership would be recognise in the future if they fought well.

Throughout the war, the Greek forces had always sustained the psychological advantage over the Persians. The Greeks were more motivated, courageous and resourceful than its enemy. The main trigger was due to the mountainous topography of Greece prosperous farmlands are hard to find, and the Greeks were mainly consisted of farmers and tradesmen whose livings were depended these lands. This resulted the Greeks to be more motivated in battles, opposing to the Persians, who were mainly slaves and were often forced to fight.

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The Greeks were able to use their geographical knowledge to disallow the Persians to use their possession of a large army as an advantage. Evidence can be seem in Thermopylae, where Leondias was enable to use the narrow path to protect his troops from becoming overwhelmed by the Persians. Similar pattern is also seen in Salamis, where Eurybiades had found several locations to hide a large number the Greek navy from the Persians’ view.

Persian’s failure of capturing Greece was not mainly due to the contribution made by the Athenians and the Spartans, but partially of their own doings. Having possessing such massive army had triggered the foolishness of underestimating the capability of the small Hellene force. Examples of such mistake are shown in Marathon and especially in Salamis where Xerxes I was foolishness enough to believe Themistocles’ message and sail its navy into an ambush.

…once the shades of night set in, the Hellenes would not stay, but leap on board, and by whatever secret route offered escape, row for their lives.

(Aeschylus, the Persians)

The another main factor to the Persian’s defeat was the battle gears wore by their soldiers, as according various visual records of the Persian soldiers on Greek potteries. The Persian “immortals” were unmatched against the Greek hoplites due to their inferior shield and lack of helmet (most wore headdress to protect them from the desert wind, which does not exist in Greek) or leg protection, and a determined spear thrust would easily penetrate their armours. Whereas the Hellenes, especially the Spartans, whose bronze breastplate had proven to be more difficult. The Persian force in general used bows and javelins, which were ineffectual against the heavily armed hoplites. The Persians were unable to adapt to the new environment and the new enemy, as they kept their old ways of warfare resulted their troops been disadvantaged against the Greeks, causing the massive loss of lives in Marathon and Thermopylae.

The unity does not dominate the cause of Greeks’ victory, yet it does play a large part. The unity of the poleis has allowed direct and effective communication to pass among the alliance. For example, it is possible that Leondias and his Spartans had no knowledge of the geography of Thermopylae, as it is far from Sparta, and Spartans being Spartans, who dislike exposing themselves to other cultures and therefore disliking travelling outside of Sparta. However, through the geographical information provided by its allies, Leondias was able to make the correct decision of where to set the defence.

The foreign invasion that Thucydides stated was repelled due to the combination of poleis’ unity, Athens and Sparta’s leadership, Greeks’ psychological superiority and their knowledge in geography, and the Persians’ false judgement.

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