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The Second Greco-Persian War and the Survival of Western Civilization Essay

The second invasion of Greece occurred during 480-479 BC when King Xerxes I of Persia set out to conquer the Greek lands for his own. This invasion was nearly in direct response to the first invasion of Greece which occurred during 492-490 BC in which King Darius I, King Xerxes I’s father, sought to conquer the Greek lands but failed.

These wars, especially the second Greek and Persian war (Greco-Persian war), are significant and ultimately important in understanding the history of the Greek culture and its ties to Western civilization because, as most historians believe, had Greece been conquered by Xerxes or his father, Western civilization would never have been developed and allowed to flourish as it is seen today. With that said, a look will be taken into the causes of the second Greco-Persian war, why the culture and ideals of Greece are significant to Western civilization, what events led to the end of the war, and how Western civilization was saved as a result.

To begin with, the second Greco-Persian war was a direct result of the failed attempt by Darius I to conquer Greece and its peoples. Xerxes I took up his father’s mission, just ten short years later, to vanquish Greece and take the land’s plunder for the Persian country. One thing to understand is that “part of the fascination of the Greek and Persian Wars lies in the fact that they had a great influence on the history of the western world.

By preventing the Persians from conquering Greece, the Athenians, the Spartans and other Greeks made it possible for their own unique and highly influential culture to develop independently of Persian dominance . ” This culture, especially for countries like America, provided such elements as literature, art, politics, social structures, and even religion for Western civilization, which is ultimately why the domination by the Greeks over the Persians is essentially the single most consequential wars in the history of the culture of the world.

For, had the battles and wars gone the other way, the world would have been raised and flourishing under Persian cultures and ideals, with the extinction of everything known today as Greek, and Western civilization would either have been significantly different, or would not have existed at all. Indeed, “like other simpler natural manifestations, Greek architecture, while the fruit of all the civilizations which preceded the great period of Greek culture, did not live for itself alone; for it has sown the seed of European architecture, and has determined the future form and growth of most subsequent European art .

” This seed would not have flourished or allowed to exist had the Persians been successful in their attempt to vanquish the people and country of Greece, taking its plunder and riches for their own. Moreover, “equally important, however, is the fact that the events of the Persian Wars are recounted in one of the most important and influential works of Classical Greek literature, The Histories of Herodotus. Herodotus was born in the first half of the fifth century BC, in the Greek city of Halikarnassos, which was on the edge of the Persian Empire .

” Herodotus, much like the author known as Homer, is attributed to retelling history and preserving it for ages to come. However, it is because Herodotus spent the time traveling and compiling his works that demonstrates the significance of this war for the people of Greece and the future of Western civilization. With that said, a look will now be taken into the first and second Greco-Persian wars, with an emphasis on the second, to determine the background and causes for the life-changing conflict.

For his part, Herodotus’ “enquiries…into the wars between the Greeks and the Persians led him to conclude that their origins lay in the rise to power of the Persian Empire under the first of the Achaemenid kings, Kyros the Great . ” The Persian Empire wasn’t one to stand around and cultivate farms, they were a warring people with conquest on their minds—and Greece, it seemed, was their main target.

The Persian Empire struggled under the reign of Kyros the Great, and other ambitious leaders, for some a period of nearly a hundred years before the literal battles between Greece and Persia began. More, “by 518 the Persians controlled all of Asia Minor and most of the eastern Aegean islands ” which gave them ample room to not only strategize and plot against Greece, but to send scouts and monitor the lands and people as well. The deployment of King Xerxes I and his troops onto Greek soil comes down to a matter of family obligations.

For centuries the Persians felt an “intense wrath against Athens, which had become the predominant sentiment in the mind of Darius, was yet unappeased at the time of his death, and it was fortunate for the Athenians that his crown now passed to a prince less obstinately hostile as well as in every respect inferior . ” Xerxes, personally the handsomest and most stately man amid the immense crowd which he led against Greece, was in character timid and faint-hearted, over and above those defects of vanity, childish self-conceit, and blindness of appreciation, which he shared more or less with the later Persian kings .

” He was, indeed, not the warrior that his father was, and this element of his character can almost be seen as one of the Persian’s many downfalls in their second attempt to conquer Greece. The war itself saw the “end of the normal campaigning season in 479 [and saw] the withdrawal of the Persian army from European Greece after their defeat at Plataea, and, thanks to the timely secession to the Greek side of the Samians, Milesians, and other Greek subjects of Xerxes, Persian arms had suffered a reverse of equal magnitude in Asia Minor .

” This reversal was momentous for the Greeks, and served as the defining moment to drive the Persians and the vast armies from Greek soils. In his journal and chronology of the wars, Herodotus wrote that “those cities that were formerly great are now diminished, while those that are now great were once small . ” Herodotus, in his literary illusions is referring to the once vast city and empire of Persia, then crushed into defeat by the smaller, less significant Greek armies, whose cities flourished upon the Persian demise.

The battles were hard for both sides, but in the end, the Greeks prevailed, and, as a result, so too, did Western civilization as it is known today. Overall, the second invasion of Greece occurred during 480-479 BC when King Xerxes I of Persia set out to conquer the Greek lands for his own. This invasion was nearly in direct response to the first invasion of Greece which occurred during 492-490 BC in which King Darius I, King Xerxes I’s father, sought to conquer the Greek lands but failed.

Further, with an analysis of the causes of the second Greco-Persian war, the events that transpired during the war, what events led to the end of the war, and how Western civilization was saved as a result, historians can, perhaps, hold in the belief that had Greece been conquered by Xerxes or his father, Darius, Western civilization would never have been developed and allowed to flourish as it is seen today. Bibliography. Burn, Andrew Robert. Persia and the Greeks: The Defense of the West, C. 546- 478 B. C. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1962. De Souza, Philip.

The Greek and Persian Wars, 499-386 BC. New York: Routledge, 2003. Dinsmoore, William Bell. The Architecture of Ancient Greece: An Account of Its Historic Development. New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1973. Grote, George. A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B. C. , edited by J. M. Mitchell and O. B. Caspari. London: Routledge, 2001. Herodotus. On the War for Greek Freedom: Selections from the Histories, edited by James Romm, translated by Samuel Shirley. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003. Laistner, M. L. W. A History of the Greek World from 479 to 323 B. C. London: Methuen, 1947.


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