Centre for Continuing Education

Ancient Greece Course III: The Persian Invasions of Greece

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The Persian Empire extended from the borders of India to the Mediterranean. In the late 6th Century BC, the Persian Empire under Cyrus and Darius I made their first contacts with the Greek world. Athenian involvement in a revolt against Persian control in Anatolia saw the Persians invade the Greek world. Defeat of Darius' army at Marathon inspired his successor King Xerxes to invade again. The Battles of Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea would decide the future of Europe – the victorious Greeks would lay the foundations of Western Civilisation. This course examines the ‘Persian Wars’ and their aftermath.


At the completion of this history course participants will have:

  1. Described the causes for the Persian Wars
  2. Understood why the Greeks succeeded against their Persian foes
  3. Explored the physical evidence for the Persian Wars


The ionian revolt: prelude to war

The Persian Empire had incorporated all the Greek cities along the Aegean coast of Anatolia since the mid 6th Century. A revolt by the city of Miletus in 499 BC drew the Athenians and other Greeks into an attempt to throw off Persian authority. King Darius vowed revenge when the provincial capital, Sardis, was destroyed.

Marathon: The defeat of Darius

Persian King Darius undertook an invasion of Greece in 490 BC. Attacking the island of Eretria, the Persian forces landed at Marathon with a view of attacking Athens. The Greek forces were able to defeat the invaders, halting Persian aggression for the time being.

Thermopylae: The Defence of the Hot Gates

Darius died in 486 BC and his son Xerxes personally led the second invasion of Greece in 480 BC. The massive Persian army advanced into northern Greece and encountered fierce resistance from 300 Spartans at the narrow pass at Thermopylae.

Salamis: Victory over Xerxes

The Persian forces advanced into Greece and went on to sack the city of Athens. The people had withdrawn but the city suffered major devastation. The Athenian commander Themistocles was able to trick the Persians into a naval battle near the island of Salamis, resulting in a decisive victory for the Greeks and the loss of 300 Persian ships.

Plataea: The Persians are repulsed

The Persian King Xerxes withdrew after the defeat at Salamis, leaving the Persian forces in the command of the General Mardonius. In 479 BC the Persians were drawn into a campaign near the city of Plataea and were heavily defeated, decisively ending the invasion. The simultaneous destruction of the Persian fleet at the Battle of Mycale ended threats to the Greek world and ushered in the classical age.

Intended Audience

This history course is suitable for personal interest adult learners, university students and active retirees who have an interest in history, ancient Greek history or Persian history.

Delivery Style

This history course in Sydney will be delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussions will be encouraged.

Recommended Reading

Philip de Souza, The Greek and Persian Wars 499-386 BC, Oxford, 2003


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion