Monday, November 07, 2005

Blog Number 56 - Dark Horse Comics - History of the Greek-Persian Wars - Part II of III - Frank Miller's '300'

There was a synopsis of the the second invasion of the Greek-Persian Wars which appeared in 1998 on the Dark Horse Comics website. Interspersed within was a Frank Miller interview which was conducted to publicize the release of the '300' comic book series. Due to the length of the article, I took the liberty of breaking it down into three segments.

Below is Part II of III:

An early history of the rise of Persia and its great King Xerxes reveals a relatively rapid growth of the Persian empire. The empire was founded around 550 B.C. by Cyrus the Elder, who in a very short time managed to incorporate Babylon, Syria, Phoenicia, and every other land adjacent to Persia into the growing nation. Within twenty years, Cambyses, who succeeded Cyrus in Persia's rule, incorporated Egypt into the empire, and with another twenty years, then-Persian leader Darius established a firm bridge-head into Greece by conquering and claiming both Scythia and Thrace. By the time the great Xerxes took reign of Persia, some sixty-five years after its founding by Cyrus, Greece had already defeated the expanding empire during one attempted invasion, and was steeling itself against any further attacks. And further attacks were a guaranteed prospect, given the Persian army's unprecedented numbers.

Despite the strength of the individual Greek societies at this time, there was not yet any notion of there being a Greek nation. Athens was inarguably the most sophisticated of the city-states, but Sparta, with its almost primal customs and infused warrior mentality acted as a great potential threat against the advancing Persians. In the face of the imminent Persian invasion, a makeshift alliance grew between the Greek states, loosely uniting the strong Athenian navy, the vicious Spartans, who knew the intimidating Greek terrain better than anyone else, and various factions from smaller cities.

Still, problems arose between the more academic and civilized Athenians and their Spartan counterparts. Since Athens had by far contributed the most troops to the confrontation, Athenians understandably wanted their leader Themosticles named commander-in-chief. Sparta, on the other hand, claimed superior knowledge of battle and warfare, therefore its preferred leader was the Spartan Eurybiades. An informal resolution named Eurybiades admiral, despite the widely recognized fact that Themosticles made most of the pertinent decisions.

When Xerxes initiated the Persian offense from Susa in 481 (BC), he sent forth messengers with demands for submission from all the Greek states, including Sparta, and his messengers were met with resounding refusals to comply. By the spring of 480, smallish advance forces were being deployed by numerous Greek states, including Sparta, in efforts to thwart the imminent invasion of the Persian army.

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