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Thread: How important was Thermopylae?

  1. #1

    Default How important was Thermopylae?

    For starters, no Thermopylae did not change the world, the Greeks did not win, freedom and democracy were not preserved, and the Persian invasion was not significantly halted. In truth, Athens still burned and the Spartans did not die alone.

    Now that these popular myths are out of the way, how important was Thermopylae?



    Militarily, Thermopylae was a well-planned battle that maximized the advantages of holding narrow terrain. A narrow pass meant that Xerxes could not deploy his entire army around the Greek phalanx. Thermopylae’s location also helped force the naval battle at Artemisium, which for obvious reasons, threaten the resupply and longevity of Xerxes army in the field if successful.

    In short, Thermopylae did make sense as a holding action if the intent was to win the navy battle at Artemisium. As a delaying action, general engagement, or even a last stand (as popular histories go) not so much. In fact, given the performance of the Phocians at guarding the pass around Thermopylae, the battle could even be described as a blunder. No one should have been surprised -least of all Leonidas- that the Persians would try to find a way around Thermopylae after having failed with frontal assaults. Not appointing quality sentries to guard such a critical juncture then is hard to excuse.

    Having said that, Thermopylae arguably did provide some shock value. The greatest land army ever seen -in the presence of Xerxes himself- was stopped for three days. However, its not clear exactly -as its been argued intelligently on these forums before- how many Persians died at Thermopylae (only Herodotus says 20,000). No matter the blow to Persian morale (or loss of troops), it was not enough to dent the Persian advance, and probably still not as significant as the death of a spartan king or the sack of Athens.

    In short conclusion, I’d argue Thermopylae was mostly insignificant. The entire war was still left to be determined. And more than decisiveness, the battle of Thermopylae should be defined more by mistakes and opportunities lost then any kind of earth-shattering turning point for either side.

    Go tell the Spartans, oh stranger passing by, that Thermopylae, more or less, was something just to pass by.
    Last edited by Dick Cheney.; July 24, 2019 at 08:22 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Indeed the discussion has gone around these boards a few times.

    One could argue that Plataea was insignificant too. Hellas produced shining jewels of culture under monarchies absolute and traditional, under the yoke of Romans and Persians. Athens became a locus of philosophy art and literature, but there were other loci including Alexandria (incidentally founded by Makedon, a state with a history of submitting to Persia).

    If the satrap was installed in Thebes to rule Yunan he'd probably become a semi-hereditary semi-autonomous despot like the Asian satraps who collabprated with Phillip II and Alexander III in toppling Darius III.

    Persian rule might have prevented or mitigated the worst excesses of the fratricidal Peloponessian wars, and Hellas might have enjoyed a true Golden Age.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Indeed, Thermopylae was the most sensible choice, after the option of the Vale of Tempe had been rejected. However, the Spara-led coalition faced a similar problem, which ultimately resulted into a strategic defeat. The loyalty of its weaker allies was not guaranteed, since many tribes and cities had only joined the coalition out of fear. This is why the Phocians fled so easily and then, together with the Thebans, casually collaborated with the invading Persians. Moreover, the decision of Leonidas not to retreat was definitely a mistake, as it sealed the fate of hundreds of elite Spartan warriors, although it succeeding in providing Sparta a very prestigious award, whose propaganda value matched that of the Athenians concerning the battle of Marathon. Regarding the size of Xerxes' army and its casualties, extreme caution is recommended. Logistically speaking, anything more than ~80.000 is essentially impossible, while the number of 20.000 has also been grossly exaggerated. After all, the Greeks stayed on the defensive and never pursued their enemy, which means that even if the Persians charged against the Greek spears naked, unarmed and with suicidal thoughts, a killing spree of that magnitude would still have been completely incredible.

    What truly mattered in the campaign of Xerxes was firstly the battle of Salamis, which undermined the Persian supply routes, effectively dooming the operation, and, secondarily, the battle of Platea, which ensured that even Darius' conquests in Macedon and Thrace would break away from the Achaemenid Empire. The principal value of Thermopylae was moral, offering us with an illustrious example of self-sacrifice, which continues to be evoked even nowadays, from Greek Neo-Nazis to Hollywood blockbusters.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    If the satrap was installed in Thebes to rule Yunan he'd probably become a semi-hereditary semi-autonomous despot like the Asian satraps who collabprated with Phillip II and Alexander III in toppling Darius III.
    The characteristics of a hypothetical Achaemenid satrapy in Europe could generate some interesting discussion. It would probably be called Skudra, as the central part of the Balkan peninsula was the first to be subjugated to the Persians. As for the capital, the Persians had already established two military bases, in obvious resemblance to the system chosen for Dascylium, Eion and Doriscus, located in the delta of the rivers Struma and Maritsa respectively. Both Eion and Doriscus had the advantage of being positioned in a fertile area, easily accessible through the Aegean Sea and two large rivers, while also commanding a central place in the European dominions of the Achaemenid state. Finally, although the loyalty of Achaemenid governors was always suspect, there never was a massive cooperation with either Philip II or Alexander III.

    In what concerns the former, I can only think of Artabazus, the satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, who fled after his revolt collapsed, but who also eventually conciliated with Artaxerxes III. Regarding Alexander, desertions only occurred after the battle of Gaugamela and especially following the dramatic overthrowment and assassination of Darius III. Before that, Mazaces surrendered Egypt and then disappeared from the historical record, while only Mithrenes actively allied with Alexander, but he was simply the commander of the Sardis citadel, not the satrap of Lydia.

  4. #4

    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    I think you are ignoring the longer term consequences of the battle too much.

    There's an old miitary maxim. One does not need to destroy his enemy, only his willingness to engage. Sun Tzu, I think, but I might be mistaken. By the time of Thermopylae, some Greek cities joined the Persians (e.g. Argos), and others, like Thebes, stayed neutral or sought separate peace settlement. Without the morale effect that the Thermopylae had, it's quite possible that the Greek alliance would fragment further during the winter.

    It's quite likely that the battle had shaken Xerxes and contributed to his decision to leave Greece with portion of his army and leave the rest of the conquest in hands of Mardonius, whose blunder at Plataea effectively ended the invasion. After all, Xerxes lost two brothers at Thermopylae, and if the accounts are to be believed, his reaction in the wake of battle revealed how much it shook him.

    While we'll most likely never know how much did Thermopylae truly contribute to those decisions, and admittedly, how would Xerxes affect Plataea is pure speculation, but I think that the morale effect of Thermopylae should not be discarded so easily.

    And don't forget, Thermopylae wasn't meant to be a single, decisive battle of whole invasion. The Greeks had only one option how to win the war, by attrition. At Thermopylae, Greeks destroyed 5-10% of total enemy strength at very favorable casualties ratio. For a single engagement in a war of attrition, it's not a bad outcome.

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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Go tell the Spartans, oh stranger passing by, that Thermopylae, more or less, was something just to pass by.
    I going to say you are underestimating it. First critically even if only 300 Spartans there did march over the Isthmus and spend blood. Had they not its hard not to think the Athenians would have done what Themistocles threatened - leave. After all They surly remembered the Spartan no show at Marathon. Also obviously Artemisium was the main event. Victory or if not simply a place of potential maximum attrition because the Persian navy was strung out on poor anchorages (exposed to the weather) and had a hard time engaging in one block - but instead tended to straggle in as small squadrons and thus the Greeks could win and run.

    I assume Leonidas probably though he would be getting reinforcements - but in that Spartan conservatism let him down. More critically he did blunder in putting the Phocians alone as a block as the only flank guard. Separate from the main body he needed some steady troops and a spartan harmost to stiffen them. The Theban dead enders (*) or the hoplites of Tegea come to mind a down hill attack on the flaking force could well have scattered them.

    *Plutarch is right in "on the malice of Herodotus" The Thebans did not surrender they were the exiles who had resisted siding with Persia.

    -----------

    @Abdülmecid I

    Give the scale and time of preparation I dunno I willing to go top end ~100,000

    There is alternative tradition that Leonidas deployed some of troops in trying break into the Persian camp and amid to kill the king. Failed and thus the spartan s fell back to the hill after.You get the sacrifice benefit anyway, but the attempt to sell their lives actively not just buying time.
    Last edited by conon394; July 16, 2019 at 10:14 PM.
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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    I...
    *Plutarch is right in "on the malice of Herodotus" The Thebans did not surrender they were the exiles who had resisted siding with Persia....
    ...and to be fair to Herodotus, he sometimes reports his sources uncritically; I suspect this is an example of that rather than malice.

    The only real evidence of Herodotus being malicious in my view is when he promises to explain some thing AND NEVER GETS BACK TO US. I still want to know why Athenades killed Ephialtes. What was his editor thinking?

    In the end Ephialtes' true punishment came at the hands of the Miller of Olney.
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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Well you could always read the Pericles Commission

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...t_bibl_vppi_i0
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

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    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Dick Cheney, I always enjoy reading your threads here. You put a lot of effort here. And by the time I read it, whatever I would've had to add, is usually already there because of Abdülmecid. As in this case.

    The one thing I might say is that Thermopylae is the epitome of a symbolic victory in every way. Because that's the same with many other battles of the same kind that were later glorified by the defenders.

    And I would go further than that and maybe add that the battle of Salamis didn't win the war that much either. Sure, Xerxes withdrew then fearing supply problems. But the army he left was still very capable.
    Huge armies come at the cost of effectiveness. The bigger the army, the smaller the percentage of it that actually ends up fighting at all.
    Such an army also becomes a logistical burden and much less mobile than a smaller one.

    This fact has stayed true throughout time. Quantity becomes much less an advantage when offensive actions are concerned, rather than defensive ones. E.g. compare the effectiveness of Rommels africa corps with the Italian defeat at Sidi Barrani.

    Getting back to the Persian invasion, the point I'm making is that the smaller army left behind by the Persians after Salamis was most likely not reduced in actual strength and effectiveness to a commensurate degree.

    The battle of Plataea is definitely the most underrated battle of that war, alongside the battle of Mycale, which ended the threat of the Persian navy with similar losses for them as at Salamis.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    No one cares what Derc has to say.

  9. #9

    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Tactical defeat, overrated strategic value, humongous morale value. People often underestimate the psychological impact of events and/or leaders. Create something that people can believe in, rally behind and die for and that's as good as having additional 20k men. Greeks were excellent at giving themselves something to fight for and that's why Thermopylae is relevant.

    Throughout the Persian wars a constant was that Persian armies can't beat a hoplite formation in a pitched battle, despite numerical superiority. Under that aspect, the Thermopylae add nothing to the overall course of events. This is confirmed by the evolution of the hoplite formation into phalanx and Alexander ventures Eastward. It's also why Salamis is significantly more relevant under military terms because it's where Persians lose any kind of possibility of military victory. Can't win by land, can't win by sea, the path forward is diplomacy.

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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Indeed, and for a century and a half after Mykale the Persians neutralised Hellas with diplomacy.
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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    The battle of Plataea is definitely the most underrated battle of that war, alongside the battle of Mycale, which ended the threat of the Persian navy with similar losses for them as at Salamis.
    I'm not sure that Plataea is underrated. If you look at the immediate potential consequences of a significant defeat at Plataea vs Salamis and Artemisium the negatives are not close. In the former: first I not sure I can figure a way that a substantial amount of Greek troops don't make back to the Isthmus and safety. Remember they would be able to retreat through not cavalry territory; second I can't see Mycale going any other way than it did. That means the Persian force is basically on its own and the Greeks still control the sea [although whoever ordered the Persian ships burned at Mycale was a fool that was a lot wasted capital I can imagine a Spartan order with a lot officers from Athens, Aigina and Corinth going umm no maybe wait on that err we will take care of them....) On the latter (two): either could have seen an epic fail by the Greek fleet and opening up to Persia all the strategic movement in needed. Land in Argos, land in Messenia, Siege the Isthmus... Greece is doomed.


    ------------------

    Indeed, and for a century and a half after Mykale the Persians neutralised Hellas with diplomacy.
    That's a bit incorrect not until the late stages of the Pericles' war (so really about what 60/65 years after Mycale that Persia manged that policy and it also required Eurymedon river to cement that)
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

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    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Totally agree the land war was secondary to the sea war in Hellas. The Athenian fleet in particular was a locus of political activity (possibly even more than the hoplite phalanx) as well the critical strategic force. Thrash the Athenians fleet and you win he war, as was proved at Goat River.

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    ...Greece is doomed


    ------------------
    Agreed athough its worth distinguishing kinds of doom. Even a doomed Greece has a semi autonomous Argos or Thebes ready to play Athens II Elektra's Boogaloo (haha see what I did there), "friendly" Makedon still on track to wipe the Aechemenids, essentially Skudra (thx Abdul, I had thought Yunan was the word) is a hotbed of Hellenic culture under the yoke. Rome's silver Age takes place under a Monarchy, why not Hellas? History might continue along recognisable tracks, with artists fleeing to wealthy cities ready for their own cultural flowering. Aside from Thebes and Argos Syracuse is an obvious candidate.

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    That's a bit incorrect not until the late stages of the Pericles' war (so really about what 60/65 years after Mycale that Persia manged that policy and it also required Eurymedon river to cement that)
    I didn't think Persia moved against Hellas again after Mykale? Happy as always to be corrected. The Hellenes make a couple of stabs, the Athenians into Egypt via Kypros and the Spartans into Asia Minor, but these were foiled with coin and talk.
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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    but these were foiled with coin and talk.
    Only really the latter. Egypt was simply Athenian mission creep deep in Persian territory, with too limited resources and not really able to face a full Persian land based counter blow.

    The "First 'Pelopennesian' war was not influenced by Persia - although they were lucky it happened. Sparta crated the problem quite by itself (and probably did not perceive what a bitter pill Athens swallowed to exile Themistocles on their charges (*)). One assumes Persia did learn by observing that military invasion was likely to spark unity but sans The King at the gates that unity frayed. Even after Egypt and a second front the Athens and company easily retained control of the sea about Cyprus. Had Cimon lived its likely they could have reduced the island. But w/o an Evagoras of salamis like pro Greek figure to hand over the island to I 'm not sure the Athenian had an end game that would keep Persia out. The Athenians were not Romans or Persian - that is sort set on gobbling up the map. You note after the Peace with Persia they pretty much let a lot of non Greek places they added to the league during war fall away with out much argument over it with Persia. Even in Lydia and Caria they were content with kind of gray area of buffers of the non Greek cities (even in Hellenizing) as long as Persia kinda stayed away as well (a few remained in the league technically but the Athenians hardly ever came knocking. That's why I really don't like seeing the Arche translated as Empire.

    * on the speculation side it would interesting to consider if Sparta does not insult Athens. Without the distraction of the war in Greece. Athens likely remains focused on just Persia and the Allies are likely happier more stuff raided from Persia [it notable there is some evidence the Athenians and allies were plundering up and the Levant and may have briefly stormed and occupied Dor in Phoenicia]. Egypt might well have been successfully defended and separated from Persia. The next problem is however the temptation to go further in Asia Minor like Sparta or in Phoenicia like Evagoras, the problem is Persia always (until Alex) had land to trad for time and sooner later you too far from the sea.

    Agreed athough its worth distinguishing kinds of doom. Even a doomed Greece has a semi autonomous Argos or Thebes ready to play Athens II Elektra's Boogaloo (haha see what I did there), "friendly" Makedon still on track to wipe the Aechemenids, essentially Skudra (thx Abdul, I had thought Yunan was the word) is a hotbed of Hellenic culture under the yoke. Rome's silver Age takes place under a Monarchy, why not Hellas? History might continue along recognisable tracks, with artists fleeing to wealthy cities ready for their own cultural flowering. Aside from Thebes and Argos Syracuse is an obvious candidate.
    I did not mean to go into long term culture treads. I was thinking more of just the military results in the short term perhaps doomed was a bit dramatic?
    Last edited by conon394; July 24, 2019 at 10:38 AM.
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    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    ...mission creep...
    That's a very good insight. By mission creep were empires built.

    This is relevant in the "strategy vs tactics" thread: I think strategy is as much about limiting mission creep as anything, whereas tactical considerations often lead to mission creep "if we could just bomb their supply lines in Laos then we'd deny them resupply in this battle..."

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    ...I did not mean to go into long term culture treads. I was thinking more of just the military results in the short term perhaps doomed was a bit dramatic?...
    I think you're right, if the Persians won the naval battle then Athens was definitely doomed, probably Sparta too. The Persian Kings were known for their spectacular individual punishments like "the boats" (definitely NSFW). Occasionally (and despite their fairly earned reputation for tolerance) they went Assyrian on their subject peoples too (I think rebellious Sidon was torched, there were a few others).

    I think Marathon (the battle where hoplite superiority to bow and horse was established) was a sting the Great Kings could not forgive, and they had to double and triple down on punishments: Given Sparta's political identity was its army (even more so than Athens' navy or army was Athens) I think Sparta would have been exterminated, and Athens reduced to a modest aristocratic statelet at best.

    Longer term there's idiotic clickbait about how "Thermopylae/[insert other battle here] saved civilisation", of course you weren't pedalling that guff but its worth addressing.
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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    This is relevant in the "strategy vs tactics" thread: I think strategy is as much about limiting mission creep as anything, whereas tactical considerations often lead to mission creep "if we could just bomb their supply lines in Laos then we'd deny them resupply in this battle..."
    Mission creep but also I think strategy creep in this case I think the Athenians ended up embracing the creep. At the beginning the League was founded to sure liberate the Greeks of Ionia and the islands etc, but after it was to everyone more of retribution. Sure stop any new Persian attempts to attack but after that more or less just plunder. I think this one reason why some allies started to bail to coin over ships they had not really signed for vast multi year deployments, nor the apparently harsh discipline and tempo of operation the Athenian were pushing. After Eurymedon The King seemed far away why worry and you are getting second thought about the whole joining for ever thing. The Athenians were not aiming for empire but I think they started to see the benefit of breaking off bits of Persia not to rule but to just not be the King's toys. This clearly meant things like fighting for more than a season which probably helped with discontent
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

  16. #16

    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    Only really the latter. Egypt was simply Athenian mission creep deep in Persian territory, with too limited resources and not really able to face a full Persian land based counter blow.

    The "First 'Pelopennesian' war was not influenced by Persia - although they were lucky it happened. Sparta crated the problem quite by itself (and probably did not perceive what a bitter pill Athens swallowed to exile Themistocles on their charges (*)). One assumes Persia did learn by observing that military invasion was likely to spark unity but sans The King at the gates that unity frayed. Even after Egypt and a second front the Athens and company easily retained control of the sea about Cyprus. Had Cimon lived its likely they could have reduced the island. But w/o an Evagoras of salamis like pro Greek figure to hand over the island to I 'm not sure the Athenian had an end game that would keep Persia out. The Athenians were not Romans or Persian - that is sort set on gobbling up the map. You note after the Peace with Persia they pretty much let a lot of non Greek places they added to the league during war fall away with out much argument over it with Persia. Even in Lydia and Caria they were content with kind of gray area of buffers of the non Greek cities (even in Hellenizing) as long as Persia kinda stayed away as well (a few remained in the league technically but the Athenians hardly ever came knocking. That's why I really don't like seeing the Arche translated as Empire.

    * on the speculation side it would interesting to consider if Sparta does not insult Athens. Without the distraction of the war in Greece. Athens likely remains focused on just Persia and the Allies are likely happier more stuff raided from Persia [it notable there is some evidence the Athenians and allies were plundering up and the Levant and may have briefly stormed and occupied Dor in Phoenicia]. Egypt might well have been successfully defended and separated from Persia. The next problem is however the temptation to go further in Asia Minor like Sparta or in Phoenicia like Evagoras, the problem is Persia always (until Alex) had land to trad for time and sooner later you too far from the sea.
    Athenians contributed just as much to the Pelopennesian War as anyone. The Athenians might not have gobbled up territory quite the same as the Romans or Persian, but they were exerting their power and force over other Greek cities as if they were subordinate vassals, turning the Delian League Treasury into Athens private piggy bank. Athens lorded over the other cities of the Delian League, and what started off as an alliance to promote mutual protection wound up as an instrument to promote Athenian power. Much of Sparta's actions were in reaction to Athens' growing expansionism.

  17. #17

    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    Mission creep but also I think strategy creep in this case I think the Athenians ended up embracing the creep. At the beginning the League was founded to sure liberate the Greeks of Ionia and the islands etc, but after it was to everyone more of retribution. Sure stop any new Persian attempts to attack but after that more or less just plunder. I think this one reason why some allies started to bail to coin over ships they had not really signed for vast multi year deployments, nor the apparently harsh discipline and tempo of operation the Athenian were pushing. After Eurymedon The King seemed far away why worry and you are getting second thought about the whole joining for ever thing. The Athenians were not aiming for empire but I think they started to see the benefit of breaking off bits of Persia not to rule but to just not be the King's toys. This clearly meant things like fighting for more than a season which probably helped with discontent

    It wasn't just the case of mission creep, is that the Athenians found they liked being in charge and calling the shots, what started off as defensive actions became something the Athenians used to provide more Athenian interests and power. The mission was no longer about defending against the Persians it was about promoting the wealth and power of Athens, the originals nap mission pretty much ignore of being a defense against Persia ignored. Defending against Persia was only important as it promoted Athenian power.

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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    It wasn't just the case of mission creep, is that the Athenians found they liked being in charge and calling the shots, what started off as defensive actions became something the Athenians used to provide more Athenian interests and power. The mission was no longer about defending against the Persians it was about promoting the wealth and power of Athens, the originals nap mission pretty much ignore of being a defense against Persia ignored. Defending against Persia was only important as it promoted Athenian power.
    I would disagree how do you defend against the Persian? You do have to convince the King not to keep trying getting back what he sees as his. Sitting on you hands in the Aegean is not going to that. That gives him all the time and space in the world and you almost none to respond.

    "Calling the shots" - well seeing as they were doing the majority of the bleeding...

    The mission was as Thucydides note at 1.97 offense to raid and pillage the lands of the King to get back what was lost... not just a passive defense pact. In fact defense pact is deeply incorrect to quote P J Rhodes "The Delian League was without president in the Greek world as an alliance founded with a view to ongoing warfare...” It included the more typical same friends and enemies and also explicitly recognized Athens as the leader and the one who collected money and lead in war. Note also that same friends and enemies implied the right of Athens to prevent wars within the league. Unlike Sparta which was content say to allow Corinth to bully Megara Athens chose to interpret that fairly thus large and powerful Samos was not allowed to bully Miletus and even if Mytilene did not look to Sparta its war on Methymna its actions would have been sufficient reason for Athens to take action.


    " Defending against Persia was only important as it promoted Athenian power" Funny than the way that remained until the league was broke.

    Of course I do like a line from Aeschylus from the rial of Orestes "better than worse in the eyes of fair judge". On balance the Athenian Arche was better than worse compared to the Imperial rule that preceded it or followed in terms of the peace, security and fairness with which the islands and Ionians were administered because if one thing is clear they were always going to be somebodies subjects. or just annoyed in the mean time at not having petty empire of their own what was the Revolt of Mytilene but the whims of a tight oligarchy ruling over disarmed citizens to have empire in Lesbos (at the point of sword and with mercenaries) and seemingly maybe Tenedos (very small and quite in a hurry to tell Athens I wounder why?).

    1. RHODES, P. J. "THE ORGANIZATION OF ATHENIAN PUBLIC FINANCE." Greece & Rome, Second Series, 60, no. 2 (2013): 203-31. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43297472. (pg 201)
    Last edited by conon394; July 25, 2019 at 11:44 AM.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

  19. #19
    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Athenians contributed just as much to the Pelopennesian War as anyone.
    More than most really.

    The Athenians might not have gobbled up territory quite the same as the Romans or Persian
    Actually they sort also un gobble territory as well, and they were fairly light handed at it compared to the two you mention.

    but they were exerting their power and force over other Greek cities as if they were subordinate vassals
    Sort of the nature of the day really. There past experience with Sparta made it clear Sparta would do so to them when it had the opportunity.

    turning the Delian League Treasury into Athens private piggy bank.
    Not particularity, but again since most states opted to pay and not soldier... But by in large a clear reading that does not start with bias shows the treasury of the Hellenotamiai largely stayed separate from the treasury of Athena or the Treasuries of the Other gods (but for the aparche). I grant the declaration of total war by Sparta did almost certainty end the separate accounting. Also relevant is I don't buy the Peace of Callias as real (see the lack of charge of such by the Mytileneans in their speech to the Spartans (Thuy 3.10 4)) and alos the obvious Persian involvement in the revolt of Samos. A Modus Vivendi perhaps but nothing more till one side made a mistake [In reality obviously when Athens blew the attack on Syracuse, but had the Peloponnesian war been avoided (no alliance with the Corcyraens) another revolt by Egypt would almost certainly found Athenian backing or a civil war such as the one Cyrus the younger led]

    Athens lorded over the other cities of the Delian League, and what started off as an alliance to promote mutual protection
    But it was not set up to have a rotating Hegamon or some such and most states were kinda happy to pay and not fight. Also you it was a good deal with fairly steady inflation most were gradually paying less in real terms by 430 than 50 years earlier. Again mutual protection was only a small part of its aims at inception.

    wound up as an instrument to promote Athenian power.
    An no other Greek state did that cough Sparta...

    Much of Sparta's actions were in reaction to Athens' growing expansionism.
    Really decent little Sparta just stopping big nasty Athens - right. Care to cite an example of how that worked.

    ---


    I'm not denying Athens got stronger and used it power in imperialistic ways, but so did Sparta and Syracuse and smaller polis all the way down to the small. There is a the reason there are normally only 5 polis on Lesbos mentioned because ~600 BC Methynmna conquered Arisbe, destroyed and enslaved all it people. 6->5. I am saying it was the best option most of the polis in its Arche got in the classical period.
    Last edited by conon394; July 25, 2019 at 06:49 PM.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

  20. #20

    Default Re: How important was Thermopylae?

    Served as a force multiplier for the following battles to come, one could argue (via moral boost and self sacrifice example even from the top of the pyramid). Also bought time for the remaining cities to evacuate if needed and armies to re-organize.
    And served as a de-moralizing force for the Persians, and two of Xerxes brothers were KIA, so possibly served as a de-moralizing effort to Xerxes himself aswell.

    Plus there is the more prophetic/supersticious element, the Delphic Oracle prophetized that Sparta would either lose itself or its King. King Leonidas choose the second.
    Last edited by fkizz; July 29, 2019 at 06:32 AM.
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