Xerxes, King of Persia Term Paper

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¶ … Xerxes, king of Persia, one of the most notable figures of the Great Persian Empire. Xerxes is best known through history because of his implications as a military leader and strategist that lead the Median Wars and the Persian invasions of Greece with great cleverness and order.

However, in order to understand the life and deeds of Xerxes, we must first state the circumstances in which he raised to power and that influenced his later preoccupations. The research must involve the Persian Empire and the problems that led to their conflict with the Greek city-states that were involved in the Median Wars during the V century B.C.

First we will refer briefly to the Persian Empire, its raise and evolution, and its relation to the Greek world to understand where the Median Wars originated and how they evolved until Xerxes's times. It is necessary to establish the circumstances that provoked those wars and the situation present at the time when Xerxes became king. This was not a new situation that he came to face, but the continuation of a long conflict that had started before he reached the throne, and that he found his duty to continue and solve to the end.

The Median Wars were the confrontations between the Persian Empire and some of the Greek city-states during the V century B.C.

The term "Median" comes from the Greeks use of the Medes to refer to Persians, although the Medes were a different people from the Persians, subject to their empire.

The great Persian Empire was built from two groups: the Medes and Persians. Those were nomad communities coming fro the Persian Gulf and the Assyrian Empire.

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At around the year of 550 B.C., the Persians defeated the Medes that had oppressed them for almost a century, and took rule over the Empire. Under the rule of Cyrus II they took over Babylon achieving more political power.

The conflict that led to the Median Wars started long before Xerxes became king, due to different political and economical interests between the two countries. Ancient Greece was not a warrior society, but was oppressed by situations that required their action.

Term Paper on Xerxes, King of Persia, One of the Assignment

For many centuries the Greek cities of Asia Minor had little difficulties with the Eastern states. Babylonian and Assyrian power never reached so far to the West to cause trouble for those cities. However, during the first half of the VII century B.C. The Lydian king attacked the Greek cities trying to extend his empire towards the sea. By the VII century B.C., those cities were under Lydian control, although they counted with certain sovereignty, in exchange of a tax. When the Lydian king was defeated by Cyrus, his kingdom and cities became a part of the Persian Empire.

The next Persian king, Darius the Great, reached the throne after a series of intrigues that supposedly include the murder of the legitimate heir. Under his rule many Greek cities of Asia Minor rebelled and had to be controlled by the Persian army, initiating the Great Median Wars that would bring several confrontations between the Greeks and the Persian, during and after his reign.

Darius I, successor of Cyrus ruled those Greek cities with an easy hand and great tolerance. but, as many of his antecessors had done, he followed the strategy of dividing to conquer. He supported the commercial development of the Phoenicians that were part of his empire from before, and were rivals of the Greeks.

The Greeks also suffered a few problems, such as the conquest of Naucratis in Egypt, the conquest of Brisance, their key to the sea and one of their main commercial sites.

The Persian kings preferred the closed and separated economical circuits, instead of favoring new markets, from the contact between different populations. The control over peripheral areas that would bring riches to the center of the Empire was hard to achieve.

Some Greeks with notable professions worked for the Persians. There is a certain Greek influence in Persian architecture and sculpture. But the Persian Empire could not offer great economical importance to the Eastern Greek cities.

From those actions there was a growing aversion against the Persian invaders. Some Greek leaders took advantage of their people discontent to raise the Ionic cities against the Persian Empire and in the year 499 B.C. They asked for the help of the Polis, but only Athens responded and sent ships to the battle.

Darius sent an army that destroyed the Greek forces and their fleet of ships. After breaking the rebellion, the Persians conquered one by one the cities that had tried to escape their domain. Most of the population died during the siege, and the survivors where made slaves or deported to Mesopotamia. After the strike they had received from the Ionian cities, Darius decided to punish those that had helped the revolt. In Athens some men had already foreseen the coming danger. Themistocles believed that Greece would not survive a Persian attack, unless they developed a powerful marine support.

Darius the Great would give his power to his son, Xerxes, who was born in the province of Persis at around the year 520 B.C. Although he was not the oldest son of Darius the Great, he was his first born with his wife Atossa.

Xerxes was assigned the successor of Darius, over all of his step brothers, older than he. Darius died during his second campaign against Greece. His son Xerxes continued to prepare the campaign against Greece, taking four years to get his army ready for the attack.

After his coronation on October 485 B.C., Xerxes successfully fought the rebellion of Egypt that began on 486 B.C., leaving his brother Achaemenes as ruler of this province, over which he applied a harsh control.

Xerxes broke the tradition of ruling foreign provinces gently and respecting their own traditions and customs. He established a more severe command over those nations and imposed his forms of rule.

Xerxes's predecessors, especially his father, were not successful in their attempts to conciliate ancient civilizations submitted under the Persian government. This was probably the reason why Xerxes decided to definitively abolish the kingdom of Babylon on 484 B.C. And took the golden statue of Bel (Marduk or Merodach, whose hands were to hold the legitimate king of Babylon on the first day of each year) killing the priests that tried to stop him.

For that reason Xerxes does not appear wearing the title of King of Babylon on Babylonian texts that date from his reign, but he appears as king of Persia and Media, or simply King of Nations (equivalent to king of the world).

This procedure unchained two revolts, on 484 B.C. And 479 B.C., which were forcefully stifled.

Once the revolts under control he intended to avenge his father defeat in the battle of Marathon, during the first Median War, on 490 B.C. Darius had not managed to punish the Athenians for their intrusion in the Ionic revolt on Asia Minor, so Xerxes planned the operation very carefully beginning around 483 B.C.

Xerxes prepared a vast army of warriors, summoning people from all parts of the Empire and other nations subjects to Persia. He took soldiers from every nation in Asia to lead them against Greece (Herodotus).

He ordered to excavate a channel through the isthmus that communicated the peninsula of Mount Athos with the European continent. Provisions were stocked on heaps along the route that ran through Thrace and two bridges were built crossing the Hellespont.

Xerxes concluded an alliance with Carthage, which deprived Hellenic Greeks from the support of Sicilian Greeks such as Agrigentum and Syracuse. At the same time he managed to win for the Persian cause various Greek states, such as Thessaly, Macedonia, Thebes y Argos.

The Persians managed to gather for the occasion a large fleet (most of the navies coming from their Phoenician and Cypriot vassals) and a powerful army (classic sources, such as Herodotus estimate it on about 2 million warriors, although this number might have been greatly exaggerated).

On spring 480 B.C. Xerxes abandoned Sardis leading the army and unchained the second Median War against the Greek alliance of Athens and Sparta.

The congress of Greek cities, presided by Sparta decided to face the Persians sending their fleet to Artemisio on the Northwestern coast of the island of Eubea, and the army, commanded by Leonidas, to the Thermopiles. The Persian army defeated the Greek that did not count with enough forces to defeat them.

The war was very unequal, the Greek having only a group of states of the mainland, to face the entire might of the Persian Empire.

The Greek army was based on heavy infantry, soldiers with a great shield, a long spear, and armor for protection. They formed in line, presenting a great brass wall to stop the enemy from advancing, and force them to fight hand to hand.

The Persian techniques were based on light infantry, with no armors and counting with weapons they… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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