O great god-king Xerxes, I have heard that you are planning to launch a full-scale invasion of the Greek nations following on the steps of your father, Darius. I come here before you to attempt to dissuade you of your plans for Greece. As I am once a prominent citizen of one of the many city-states in the nation, it would do you well to listen to my advice as it contains extensive knowledge of what you are about to face if you push through with your plans.
O King, barely ten years ago, your father Darius launched a similar invasion against the Greek city-states in retaliation to the Athenians’ aiding the Ionians in their revolt against his rule. Although it had been initially successful, the invasion was ultimately put to an end by his defeat during the Battle of Marathon. It could be worth noting that, despite the battle being a victory, it was a desperate attack by the Athenian army that caused the defeat of your father’s armed forces.
Sparta, perhaps the state with the most powerful military in all of Greece, was absent from the battle and even then the Greeks scored a victory. Each city-state in Greece acts independently from each other. They are each governed by their respective rulers and are not influenced by the affairs of the other city-states. However, it is not impossible for each of them to call for aid to one another as evidenced by the Ionian call for aid during the previous war.
Sartus was taken thanks to the aid provided by Athens, who had the major contribution in the allied army, and by Eretria. Sparta had chosen delay sending military aid as it had decided a full moon needed to pass before they do anything and were thus absent from the Battle of Marathon, where your father’s army was defeated utterly. Had Sparta’s forces been present, its superior military might compared to Athens would likely contribute to utter decimation of the Persian forces under your father’s command.
However, even then, your father’s soldiers lost under the Greeks. If you attack now, O King, you risk provoking an even greater alliance that can now include Sparta, which is your most formidable enemy on the plains of Greece. The Spartans are a race that places utmost emphasis on military training and raising superior soldiers that have been tested in war. Furthermore, the Spartans will never participate and are not interested in any alliance that will not mean leadership to them. They can be a vain and arrogant nation but with the strength to back their vanity up.
If you threaten the entire Greek country now, your Majesty, the major powers of the nation will definitely ally themselves with Sparta at the helm. With Spartan tactics and warriors at the vanguard, your army – no matter how great – will run into serious opposition which can result into an even greater demise than what has happened to your father’s forces in Marathon. As could be expected from any nation, the Greeks have devised battle tactics that are best suited to their terrain. They know their land; you can expect them to take advantage of that and lure your forces into a disadvantage in battle.
With a possible alliance under Spartan leadership, the Greek can have a tactical and strategic advantage even if your army is greater in number. O Wise King, great wisdom it would be not to rely on the greater numbers of your armed host. The Greeks, especially the Spartans, will not be easily daunted. They have tactics that can be quite effective when employed in terrain which they know well. For example, your father Darius in Marathon faced a tactic called the phalanx. By definition, a Greek battle line deployed in a phalanx means there is equal strength in all sides of the battle formation.
However, in Marathon, the Greek commander faced superior numbers but was able to modify the phalanx into an effective variant: he strengthened the wings of his battle formation while weakening the center. At first you would think that the Greeks were committing suicide and, indeed, the Greeks seemed to be at the point of desperation. However, stronger wings meant that the Greeks managed to hold off the wings of your father’s formations, holding them back and disabling them from reinforcing the center of King Darius’ battle lines.
Thus, it was then that the Persian armies were surrounded and routed by the Greek army in Marathon. The results of the battle were horrific. Your father lost a sizable portion of his soldiers, sixty times more than what the Greeks lost in that same battle. A second Marathon is not the only thing that you should worry about in the conduct of battle in this planned invasion. A worse battle awaits your forces if you push through. In Greece, there is a place which we call the “Hot Gates” or Thermopylae. This place is a narrow pass bordered by a sheer cliff wall on one side, and the sea on the other side.
This is a battleground ideal for the phalanx. In such a narrow pass, the phalanx will serve as a wedge that will drive through your attacking forces. The Greeks need only to strengthen their front lines with the rear guard merely pushing the front soldiers forward. In here, the superior numbers of your great army will definitely count for nothing. The Greeks, especially the Spartans and the Athenians, are aware of this pass; they will definitely use this to their advantage to hold off your army while a greater force amasses for retaliation.
A Spartan-led phalanx could be as devastating as any phalanx, which had been proven by the Athenian tactics in Marathon. As you could see, Great King Xerxes, the sheer size of your army is both your strength and your liability. To support such a large host, you need a sizable navy to carry supplies back and forth. Your navy will be stretched thin supporting your great army; it will also have to endure against whatever naval counterattacks and offensives that the Greeks may launch against you. You could face a naval situation similar to Thermopylae in Salamis.
It is a narrow channel, one which can reduce your navy into a bottleneck and reduce their effectiveness. The Greeks can pick your ships off one by one even if they may be smaller in size. Consider my wisdom in this matter, King Xerxes. I daresay that, even if you hold the greater number of forces, you would find it hard to manage them effectively at smaller levels. The Greeks, my former countrymen, are geniuses both in scholarship and in battle; your father Darius learnt that the hard way in the fields of Marathon under the Athenians alone.
With a possible pan-Greek alliance – with the mighty Spartans leading – your forces face yet another humiliating defeat similar to Marathon, only this time you will be facing the combined might of all the city-states of Greece. Abandon this plan now, before this results to destruction of your mighty host. Sources: Wheeler, Kevin. (2001). “Ancient Greek Battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Artemisium and Salamis. ” Retrieved November 30, 2008, from Ancient World Battles website: http://www. geocities. com/caesarkevin/battles/Greekbattles1. html Lendering, Jona. (2005). “Phalanx and Hoplites. ” Retrieved November 30, 2008 from Livius.
org website: http://www. livius. org/pha-phd/phalanx/phalanx. html Lopez, Vincent. (2008) “Shock Tactics on the Ancient Battlefield. ” Retrieved November 30, 2008 from Armchair General website: http://www. armchairgeneral. com/shock-tactics-on-the-ancient-battlefield. htm/5 Stewart, Michael. “People, Places & Things: Xerxes I”, Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant. Retrieved November 30, 2008 from Messagenet website: http://messagenet. com/myths/ppt/Xerxes_I_1. html Freedom44. (2004). “The First Persian War – Greek Wars. ” Retrieved from Free Republic website: http://freerepublic. com/focus/f-news/1196577/posts