The Most Important Battles Of Ancient Greece: Battle of Marathon, 490 BC
The Battle of Marathon took place during the first Persian invasion of Greece, fought between the combined forces of Athens and Plataea against King Darius’ Persian army. Darius’ attempted to invade Greece as he was angered after the Athenians had sent aid to Ionia in a revolt against the Persians.
Once the Persian armies had defeated the Ionian revolt, they turned their attention on Greece, first capturing Eretria (who had helped the Athenian and Ionian forces) and finally sailing into Marathon for vengeance. Though heavily outnumbered, the Greek forces managed to defeat the lightly armed Persian army after five days of stalemate, expelling Darius and his army.
Though Darius worked on rebuilding his army for another invasion, the second invasion didn’t occur until his death and was led by his son, Xerxes. The Battle of Marathon was significant in showing the world that the Persians could be defeated. It also led to the eventual Greek triumph in the subsequent Persian wars. More interestingly, the battle also created marathon running, which was inspired by an inaccurate story about a Greek messenger running to Athens from Marathon with news of victory, and was subsequently introduced in the 1896 Athens Olympics.
Battle of Salamis, 480 BC
Fought in September 480 BC, the Battle of Salamis was one of the most significant naval battles in ancient Greece, between the Greek city-states and their perpetual enemy, Persia. The battle took place in the strait between Piraeus and Salamis Island, near Athens. Although heavily outnumbered, and having lost previous two battles, the Greek Allied navy was urged by the Athenian general, Themistocles, to engage the Persian fleet into battle again. The Persian navy, led by Xerxes, sailed into the strait in an attempt to block both entrances.
However, the cramped conditions made it hard to maneuver and forced the large Persian fleet to become disorganized. The Greek navy used this to their advantage, forming a line and sinking or capturing most of the Persian fleet. The defeat at Salamis shifted the war in Greece’s favor, and led to Persia’s ultimate demise. Historians tend to agree that the Battle of Salamis was the single most important battle of ancient Greece and potentially of all human history. They assert that the win influenced the growth and preservation of Athenian democracy and influenced Western civilization’s core ideas of freedom and individual rights