What if the Persians had won the Persian War?

Overview of the second Persian invasion of Greece

The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by Sparta, and the Persian Empire of king Xerxes, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The battle took place at the pass of Thermopylae. King Xerxes had brought his huge army and navy in order to conquer Greece. According to the ancient source, millions of Persian army arrived at the pass of Thermopylae in late August or early September of 480 BC; however, approximately 7,000 Greek men marched to the pass of Thermopylae. Despite of the fact that the Greeks were vastly outnumbered, they managed to block and hold Persian army from passing the pass of Thermopylae for seven days until the real-guard was totaled in one of history’s most famous last stand. During the two days of the battle, aware that his force was being destroyed, King Leonidas of Sparta dismissed the vast majority of Greek army, and 300 Spartans and few hundreds of army from other Greek city-states remained to guard the rear path.

Persians continued to win the battles against Greeks. They have won the battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium, and have conquered Greek city-state of Boeotia, Thessaly, and Attica; however, Greek navy attacked and decisively defeated the Persian army at the Battle of Salamis in late 480 BC and was able to prevent Persians from conquering an another Greek city-state; Peloponnesus. King Xerxes then retreated with most of his army back to Asia fearing to be trapped in Europe. King Xerxes left Mardonius to complete the unfinished conquest of Greece; however, in the following year, Greeks defeat the Persian army at the Battle of Plataea, ending the Persian invasion.

What if version of history

What if the Persians had won the Greco-Persian War and achieved their goal to conquer Greece? What if Spartans decided not to come to the pass of Thermopylae? What if Greek city-states did not put their differences aside and coordinate? How would the world look like now?

Ancient Greeks had developed the basics of western cultures. Their works of philosophy, government, literature, art, and architecture are the ancestors of modern western culture.  If the Persian army had won the war against the Greek army, it is highly likely the Persian army would have marched onto the city-states and Athens would have been destroyed and burnt down. As a result, Greek’s enormous works of philosophy, government, literature, art, and architecture would be completely effaced from Greek history and they would not have been able to pass down to next generations. We may not have heard of the greatness of Julius Caesar and the great Roman Empire. Alexander the Great would not have been able to defeat the heirs to king Xerxes and reintroduce a Hellenistic culture up to the borders of Middle East. Instead of learning about the greatness of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great in our history class, we would be learning about the greatness of king Xerxes. Our founding fathers have built the United States based on the ideology of democracy and the rights of citizenship that the ancient Greeks have created and practiced long times ago. We can assume that with the absence of ancient Greek’s invention of democracy and freedom, the United States we now live in would not had been created. By closely observing the conditions of current Middle East countries, we can assume that we would be living in undeveloped world following the principles of anti-modernity. Freedom or a sense of being free would not exist, thus we would be living under the oppression and also there would be excessive sex discrimination exists. Spread of religion throughout the world would be in very different shape from now. Christianity may not have existed as we know it. Because of the absence of Roman Empire, it is highly likely that there would not be a creation of Roman Catholicism. Instead, it is highly likely that a religion based on the Persian belief structure would have been spread throughout the Europe. Even in the case of existence of other religion, we would be restricted to believe in only one god. Many famous architectural designs and arts that have been developed from ancient Greece to Roman Empire and then passed down to present would not have exist, instead, there would be Persian architectural designs and arts remaining in the present.

Some people may think it is crazy to connect the result of Persian war to the creation of the United States and some people may think it is silly to even think of what if version of the history. After writing this essay, I feel that we still have to credit and honor Greek city-states for standing up to the millions of Persian army to fight for their freedom and for what they believed in.


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