The effects of the Persian war were different for Greeks and Persians and they shaped the fate of both nations for years to come. The series of conflicts occurred between the Achaemenid Empire and Greek city-states from 499 BC to 449 B.C. These conflicts immersed the region in turmoil for many years.

Keep reading to find out all the outcomes of the Persian war in detail.

What Were the Consequences of the Persian War?

After early war successes, the Persians were eventually defeated, on land and also at sea. However, due to Greece’s final victory, a great portion of the Persian fleet was destroyed, and all Persian strongholds were expelled from Europe. This marked an end to Persia’s incursions westward into the Greek continent. In alignment with these, the cities of Ionia were also freed from Persian tyranny.

Despite their victory, it was far from sweet. The wars with the Persians had a great effect on the Greeks as well. The war weakened all Greek city-states due to the many casualties and the farms which were destroyed. The war also made it difficult for the Greeks to trust each other and the mistrust soon escalated to even more wars among themselves.

How Did the Effects of The Persian War Occur?

The causes and effects of the Persian war culminated in a series of events. First, the Persians embarked on the expansion of their empire, subsequently conquering the Ionian islands and installing a tyrant to rule there. Dissatisfied by the tyranny, the Ionians revolted and attacked Sardis, a Persian capital.

King Darius was infuriated and attacked the Ionian islands to suppress them again. After the Ionian revolt was crushed, the Persians turned to Athens and Eritrea, who were supporters of the Ionian revolt.

This is regarded as the immediate cause of the Persian wars as Darius sought to subjugate the apparent threat of Greece. This attempt led to various invasions of Greece, and hence, the Persian wars.

The Persian War: An Overview

The First Invasion of Greece (492–490 BC)

The Persian Wars started with Mardonius’ campaign; Mardonius was Darius’ son-in-law. The campaign was initially successful as Mardonius was able to subdue Thrace and Macedonia. Next, Darius sent envoys to all other Greek cities, but Athens and Sparta remained defiant.

The campaigns continued, with even more Persian victories, such as the rout of Eritrea. The battles, however, ended with a decisive Athenian victory at the battle of Marathon. This marked the end of Persian campaigns for a while.

After the initial invasion failed, Darius commenced raising a new massive army with which he planned to conquer Greece completely. However, in 486 BC, the Egyptians who hadn’t taken part in any wars for a while, revolted against Persia.

The revolt forced an indefinite delay of the expedition to Greece. Darius later died while preparing to march against Egypt, and then Xerxes I, his son, ascended the throne of Persia.

The Retaliation of Xerxes

Xerxes crushed the Egyptian rebellion and very swiftly continued preparations for the assault on Greece. He decided to bridge the Hellespont to allow his army’s landing in Europe and made plans to dig a canal across the isthmus of Mount Athos.

Both of these were feats of excellent ambition that exceeded the capabilities of any other state at the time. However, the campaign was postponed again by one year because of another Egyptian uprising and another one in Babylonia.

In 481 BC, after over three years of preparation, Xerxes began to marshal his armies to invade Greece. The Persian troops gathered in Asia Minor by the summer and autumn of 481 BC. Then the army assembled under Xerxes marched into Europe, crossing the Hellespont on two buoy bridges.

Second Invasion of Greece (480 – 479 BC)

In the same year, Xerxes dispatched his ambassadors to cities across Greece, asking for Earth and water as tokens of their submission to his empire. However, the ambassadors consciously evaded Athens and Sparta, hoping that both of these states would not learn of their plans.

The city-states that were hostile to Persian incursions thus began to combine efforts around Athens and Sparta. Finally, an assembly of the city-states met in Corinth during the late autumn of 481 BC, and they created a formal Greek alliance.

The Persians faced their first obstacle at Thermopylae, a narrow pass that stretched between the mountains and the sea. The Greeks had blocked the path on land, and hence, a brutal clash ensued.

This particular battle later garnered fame because a small Greek army of 300 men led by King Leonidas of Sparta initially defended this narrow path against the Persians. Unfortunately, the Spartans were later encircled due to a betrayal and almost all Greeks present died in their subsequent defeat.

The decisive battle took place at sea in the straits between Athens and the island of Salamis. As the leader of the Athenian fleet, Themistocles, had foreseen, the big Persian ships weren’t able to move due to the narrowness of the straits.

Therefore, they were beaten by the more maneuverable Greek fleet. Once defeated, Xerxes fled in great haste but left a portion of his army behind.

The Aftermath of The Persian Wars

In the Greek victory that ensued, the Persian fleets were dispersed, and their armies were defeated. This was one of the most prominent results of the Persian wars. The advance on the continent, as a whole, was finally halted. The Ionian cities were also freed from the Persian empire.

Notwithstanding their massive victory, the spoils of war were a cause of greater strife amongst the Hellenic states. What’s more, the malicious actions committed by Pausanias, the Spartan leader, at the siege of Byzantium led to the hatred of many against Sparta. This led to a change in the military power of the Delian League from Sparta to Athens and naturally, Sparta subsequently departed from the Delian League.

The Delian League

After both invasions of Greece and during the Greek counterattacks that occurred after the Battles of Plataea and Mycale, Athens cojoined all Greek islands and some inland states into an alliance. This alliance was known as the Delian League, whose purpose was to face the conflict with Persia, prepare for imminent invasions, and establish a way of sharing the spoils of war.

Sparta, who already partook in the war, withdrew from the Delian League immediately afterward, believing that the war’s primary purpose had been met with the liberation of Greece as a whole. However, historians have speculated that Sparta exited the League for rational motives: they were in doubt about the prospect of a long-term security cover for Greeks existing within Asia Minor, and they became uneasy with the concentration of power in Athenian hands.

Effects of The Persian War on Greece

Coming together to fight Persia gave the Greek people a sense of national and ethnic unity, and they began thinking in Pan-Hellenic terms. The rise of Athens as a naval power made it unrivaled in might, and that’s why it became dominant in the league. The anti-Persian and ProHellenic alliance, which was formed over time, morphed into a de facto Athenian empire.

Once Sparta exited the Delian League after the Persian Wars, it reestablished the Peloponnesian League, originally formed in the 6th century and was the organizational blueprint for the Delian League. The Spartan withdrawal from the League gave room for Athens to establish unopposed naval and economic power, unparalleled throughout the Greek continent.

Shortly after the formation of the Delian League, Athens began to use the League’s navy for its own benefits. Unfortunately, this led to regular conflicts with less influential League members.

The anti-Persian alliances polarized Greece into two sides that eventually led to the Peloponnesian War. Sparta and Athens were entangled in conflicts over various interests for many decades to come. The result of such disputes was the weakening of Greece as a whole. Hence, historians regard this as perhaps the worst outcome of the Persian wars.

Effects of The Persian War on the Persian Empire

After their defeat by the Greeks and overwhelmed by internal rebellions that hindered their ability to deal with foreign enemies, the Persian Empire implemented a divide-and-rule strategy. From 449 BC, the Persians endeavored to intensify the budding tensions between Athens and Sparta and bribed Greek politicians to attain their goals.

The purpose of this strategy was to distract the Greeks with in-fighting to avoid counter attacks on territories of the Persian Empire. The approach was successful indeed, and as a result, the Greeks and Persia did not clash in open conflict until 396 BC, when King Agesilaus of Sparta briefly struck Persian territories.

Key Takeaways

In this article, we discussed the effects of the Persian war to a great deal.

Here are the leading causes and consequences of the series of conflicts:

  • The Persian Empire was set against Greece due to the Ionian revolts
  • Darius I saw the Greeks as a threat and invaded Greece but lost at Marathon
  • A second invasion was launched, by Xerxes this time
  • The Persians were once again beaten and retreated from Greece
  • Athens increased in power and clashed with Sparta for years to come, as a result of the Persian war
  • The Persian rulers bribed Greek politicians to keep the internal conflicts going in Greece, so they wouldn’t focus on and attack Persia

Darius I was infuriated by the Ionian revolt and sought to subjugate Greece as a whole, even though both such invasions failed, and the Persians were eventually defeated. Athens got more powerful after the Persian wars and got embroiled in power tussles for years to come.


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