Miltiades Warned Us

Those Pesky Persians Are At It Again

It is safe to say that, throughout written human history, the Persian Empire, and/or its precursors, have been continually attacking to their West. With a track record of more than 3,500 years, I think it is safe to say that whatever their malfunction is, it is in their DNA.

Let us quickly review. Even though the Sanai was a protective barrier for ancient Egypt, the Egyptian Empire decided to defend far out in the baileys (the concept of defending as far away as possible from your actual heartland).

Thus, as the precursor Persian empire attacked into what is now Israel and Jordan, Thutmoses III mounted a stabilizing projection of power to Megiddo in 1479 BC. Ramses III had to do it again at Kadesh in 1215 BC.

Eventually, the City States of ancient Greece became the target of Persian wrath. With the establishment of Mycenae (in roughly 1100 BC) Greek culture consolidated and expanded outward into Asia Minor (what is now Turkey). This started a series of struggles wherein Persia continually attacked.

In 490 BC the Persians mounted the invasion to destroy Greece, once and for all. As the Persians assembled their land and sea invasion force, word got to the Greeks. Athens was the most powerful city-state. They had a great army and a great navy. The only problem, it was the same men. If they called out their army, they could not launch their navy; and vice versa. Athens sent emissaries to the other city-states and they all decided to sit it out; Sparta claiming they had a religious festival but would send troops in a month.

Athens decided to call out the army. They would let the Persian fleet land the Persian army, but would then fight on the beaches. The Athenian army encamped near the best landing beaches close by to Athens, at a place named Marathon. They were taking an extreme risk. All the men were there; only women, children and the disabled elderly were left in Athens. Should the upcoming battle be lost, the remnants could not defend the walls of Athens. Their only hope of survival would be to burn Athens and to launch the navy ships and flee.

The Athenian general, a man named Miltiades, organized his army to fight, we now think much like Hannibal did at Cannae, 250 years later. Miltiades let the Persians come ashore and then attacked on 3 sides, destroying the Persian army. The Persian navy could do nothing and sailed away. Miltiades sent a runner to notify Athens of the victory. That runner, Pheidippides, covered the 26 miles plus and notified Athens as he collapsed and died.

Despite the great victory scored by Athens, the Persian threat was not over. The Persian Emperor raised another army and launched a new invasion of Greece in 481 BC. This time the army marched the whole way, with the navy sailing alongside. The armies of many Greek city-states, this time including Sparta, decided to fight at a place named Thermopylae. The Persian navy sprinted ahead to attack Athens. The Persian army was delayed at Thermopylae (read elsewhere about King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans). This gave Athens time to man their navy and destroy the Persian fleet at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. The Persian army now marched up and down Greece, laying waste to the land. They were finally confronted and destroyed by a combined Greek army at Plataea in 479 BC.

The Greco-Persian struggle continued unabated until 334 BC when a fellow named Alexander embarked on a campaign to destroy Persia (another essay herein on Alexander). He succeeded.

The Roman Empire came along soon thereafter. The struggles to secure the eastern border of the Eastern Roman Empire, would continue through the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 AD and finally end with the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD. Though the driving force of these struggles was the religion of Islam, Persia provided much of the manpower.

Fast forward from 1453 AD into the 1940’s and Persia, now named Iran, kept pushing west. Only from the 1940’s to 1979, when Persia was the Empire of Iran, with the pro-Western Shah in power, did Persia refrain from attacking to their west.

After the fall of the Shah in 1979 (read also about the US Embassy hostage crisis) Persia again started to attack to their west. This led to a series of Iraqi-Iranian wars. Now (thanks to whatever idiot American President you want to blame) Iran basically controls Iraq, is consolidating in Syria, and is threatening the rest of the Middle East (see essay herein, A Modest Proposal).

Some things just never change. Those pesky Persians are at it again.