The Roles of Greek Heroism and the Gods in the Persian Wars Essay

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The Roles of Greek Heroism and the Gods in the Persian Wars

The Persian Wars (499-479 BC) put the Greeks in the difficult position of having to defend their country against a vast empire with an army that greatly outnumbered their own. Many city-states united in battle, although others found ways to avoid participation in the wars. The Greeks also relied on the words of Apollo to guide them, but the oracle did not always act encouragingly. The Greeks defeated the Persians in the Persian Wars due to heroic actions performed by Athens and Sparta and occasional assistance from the gods, but cowardice shown by other poleis nearly ended the Greeks’ chances of success.

Unity between the Greek poleis could be seen
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The Athenians’ superior attitude would continue throughout the wars against Persia.

The Greeks showed more unity during the Second Persian War. Xerxes assembled a Persian army including soldiers from all parts of the Eastern world in order to retaliate against the Greeks for their victory at Marathon, and this caused the Greeks to worry. Thirty-one Greek poleis met at Corinth to discuss the situation, and appointed Sparta to the position of commanding polis due to its vast hoplite army. Greeks “who were loyal to the Greek cause… reconcile[d] enmities and put a stop to existing wars between each other” (Hdt. VII.145.1) in order to fight against Persia. However, only one Peloponnesian state (Sparta) offered help throughout the wars.
Argos received an excuse from the Delphic oracle to keep it from battle (Hdt. VII.148-152), and Messene was “so corrupted that [it] even tried to prevent Sparta’s attempts to come to Greece’s aid” (Plato, 692d). Other city-states avoided participation in the wars as well. The oracle also excused Crete from fighting (Hdt. VII.169), and the tyrant Gelon of Syracuse refused to let his state help Greece’s cause (Brunt 158-162). If these poleis had chosen to fight, the Persians may have been intimidated by the large Greek forces and avoided war. The Greeks instead presented an image of a nation torn by cowardice, thereby making the Persians more confident in attacking Greece. This lack of unity among the city-states created some
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