To what extent should Athens be remembered as a great city- state?

11.persian wars

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To what extent should Athens be remembered

as a great city-state?

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The Persian Wars

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Empires in Western Asia, c. 600 BCE

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Cyrus the Great

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The Cyrus Cylindar: First Charter of Human Rights?

“…Ex[alted Marduk, Enlil-of-the-Go]ds, relented. He changed his mind about all the settlements whose sanctuaries were in ruins…and took pity on them. He inspected and checked all the countries, seeking for the upright king of his choice. He took the hand of Cyrus, king of the city of Anshan, and called him by his name, proclaiming him aloud for the kingship over all of everything….All the people of Tintir, of all Sumer and Akkad, nobles and governors, bowed down before him and kissed his feet, rejoicing over his kingship and their faces shone.

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The Cyrus Cylindar: First Charter of Human Rights?

I am Cyrus, king of the universe, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world…My vast troops were marching peaceably in Babylon, and the whole of [Sumer] and Akkad had nothing to fear. I sought the safety of the city of Babylon and all its sanctuaries….I collected together all of their people and returned them to their settlements, and the gods of the land…at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I returned them unharmed to their cells, in the sanctuaries that make them happy…

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The Persian Empire under Darius

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Clay Tablet with Foundation Inscription of Darius I

• The founding of Persepolis:

• 'The goldsmiths who wrought the gold, those were Medes and Egyptians. The men who wrought the wood, those were Sardians and Egyptians. The men who wrought the baked brick, those were Babylonians. The men who adorned the wall, those were Medes and Egyptians.'

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Local Coinage is Introduced

Gold “Daric” Silver “shekel”

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c. 500 BCE

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499-493 BCE: Ionian Revolt

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Darius’ Invasion: 490 BCE


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Xerxes: Herodotus, Histories, 7.8

Xerxes, being about to take in hand the expedition against Athens, called together an assembly of the noblest Persians to learn their opinions, and to lay before them his own designs. So, when the men were met, the king spoke thus to them:

'Persians, I shall not be the first to bring in among you a new custom -- I shall but follow one which has come down to us from our forefathers…Now in all this Ahuramazda guides us; and we, obeying his guidance, prosper greatly. What need have I to tell you of the deeds of Cyrus and Cambyses, and my own father Darius, how many nations they conquered, and added to our dominions? Ye know right well what great things they achieved.

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Xerxes: Herodotus, Histories, 7.8

But for myself, I will say that, from the day on which I mounted the throne, I have not ceased to consider by what means I may rival those who have preceded me in this post of honor, and increase the power of Persia as much as any of them. And truly I have pondered upon this, until at last I have found out a way whereby we may at once win glory, and likewise get possession of a land which is as large and as rich as our own nay, which is even more varied in the fruits it bears- while at the same time we obtain satisfaction and revenge. For this cause I have now called you together, that I may make known to you what I design to do.

My intent is to throw a bridge over the Hellespont and march an army through Europe against Greece, that thereby I may obtain vengeance from the Athenians for the wrongs committed by them against the Persians and against my father.'

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Xerxes Inscription at Persepolis

When my father Darius went away from the throne, I became king on his throne by the grace of Ahuramazda. After I became king, I finished what had been done by my father, and I added other works.

A great God is Ahuramazda, who created this earth, who created yonder sky, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Xerxes king, one king of many, one lord of many.

I am Xerxes, the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing many kinds (of men), King in this great earth far and wide, son of King Darius, an Achaemenian

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Xerxes’ Invasion: 480 BCE

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Building a Bridge over the Hellespont

“Of all the armaments whereof any mention has reached us, this was by far the greatest; so much so that no other expedition compared to this seems of any account, neither that which Darius undertook against the Scythians, nor the expedition of the Scythians…nor, again, that of the sons of Atreus against Troy, of which we hear in story; nor that of the Mysians and Teucrians…All of these expeditions, and others, if such there were, are as nothing compared with this. For was there a nation in all of Asia which Xerxes did not bring with him against Greece? Or was there a river, except those of unusual size, which sufficed for his troops to drink?”

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Athenian Response: Themistocles

Why sit you, doomed ones? Fly to the         world’s end, leavingHome and the heights your city circles like         a wheel.The head shall not remain in its place, nor         the body,Nor the feet beneath, nor the hands, nor         the parts between;But all is ruined, for fire and the headlong         god of warSpeeding in a Syrian chariot shall bring you         low.Many a tower shall he destroy, not yours         alone,And give pitiless fire many shrines of gods,Which even now stand sweating, with fear         quivering,While over the rooftops black blood runs         streamingIn prophecy of woe that needs must come.         But rise,Haste from the sanctuary and bow your         hearts to grief.

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Athenian Response: Themistocles

Not wholly can Pallas win the heart of         Olympian Zeus,Though she prays him with many prayers         and all her subtlety;Yet will I speak to you this other word, as         firm as adamant:Though all else shall be taken within the         bound of CecropsAnd the fastness of the holy mountain of         Cithaeron,Yet Zeus the all-seeing grants to Athene’s         prayerThat the wooden wall only shall not fall, but         help you and your children.But await not the host of horse and foot         coming from Asia,Nor be still, but turn your back and         withdraw from the foe.Truly a day will come when you will meet         him face to face.Divine Salamis, you will bring death to         women’s sonsWhen the corn is scattered, or the harvest         gathered in.

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Athenian Trireme

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Demaratus, a Spartan traitor

Want has at all times been a fellow-dweller with us in our land, while valor is an ally we have gained through wisdom and strict laws. Her aid enables us to drive out want and escape slavery. Brave are all the Greeks…but what I am about to say does not concern all, but only the Spartans. First then, come what may, they will never accept your terms, which would reduce Greece to slavery; and further, they are sure to join battle with you, though all the rest of the Greeks should submit to your will…

When the Spartans fight as a group, they are the bravest of all. For although they are free men, they are not in all respects free; law is the master whom they obey, and this master they fear more than your subjects fear you, King Xerxes. Whatever their law commands, they do; and its commandment is always the same: it forbids them to flee in battle, whatever the number of their foes, and requires them to stand firm, and either to conquer or to die.

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Xerxes Awaits Battle

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A Traitor Leads to Massacre

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Inscriptions at ThermopylaeHerodotus 7.228

Here did four thousand men from Pelops’ landAgainst three hundred myriads bravely stand.

This was in honor of all. Another was for the Spartans alone:

Go, stranger, and tell the LacedaemoniansThat here, obeying their commands, we fell.

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Athens is Abandoned

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How Should We Remember the Persian Wars?

• Herodotus’ memory• Athenian role vs. Spartan role

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How Should We Remember the Persian Wars?

• Herodotus’ memory• Athenian role vs. Spartan role

And here I feel constrained to deliver an opinion, which most men, I know, will dislike, but which, as it seems to me to be true, I am determined not to withhold. Had the Athenians, from fear of the approaching danger, quitted their country, or had they without quitting it submitted to the power of Xerxes, there would certainly have been no attempt to resist the Persians by sea; in which case the course of events by land would have been the following…the Spartans would at last have stood alone, and, standing alone, would have displayed prodigies of valor and died nobly….Greece would have been brought under Persia….If then a man should now say that the Athenians were the saviors of Greece, he would not exceed the truth. For they truly held the scales; and whichever side they espoused must have carried the day. They too it was who, when they had determined to maintain the freedom of Greece, roused up that portion of the Greek nation which had not gone over to the Medes; and so, next to the gods, they repulsed the invader. Even the terrible oracles which reached them from Delphi, and struck fear into their hearts, failed to persuade them to fly from Greece. They had the courage to remain faithful to their land, and await the coming of the foe.

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How Should We Remember the Persian Wars?

• Diodorus’ memory• Persian memory?• The movie 300

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The New 300