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What if the Persian Empire of King Xerxes had conquered Greece?

Updated on November 19, 2013

The sacrifice of the Spartan's

I recently re-watched the fantastic film the "300", I have to admit it is one of the better films I have watched in a longtime. In fact it is a film I can genuinely watch over and over again and notice something new in it every time. Prior to the release of the film I had always had a fascination for the events of Thermopylae in 480 BC, I would say the actions of the 300 Spartans along with their allies are a true benchmark for backs to the wall heroism, even to these times the spirit and sacrifice has to be admired.

The thousands of free Greeks gave down their lives to protect a Country that became modern Greece and an ideology that became our modern democracy. Ironic that the slaughtered Spartans lived in and by a draconian and strict eugenic society, ultimately died for our own democracy. This got me thinking, had the combined Greek force not stood at the Hot Gates to draw a line in the sand. What would have happened? would all we know and take for granted be completely different in the altered history?

Imagine that the Spartan's decided not to come to the Hot Gates, That the Spartan King Leonidas did not sacrifice himself for what he believed in, Or the two main Greek City States Lacedaemon and Athens did not put their differences aside and co-ordinate on land and sea. What if the Democratic Athenians were not so anti-Persian and accepted King Xerxes gold coins to extinguish the fires of the fledgling democracy. I suppose some could argue that the Athenian belief in democracy was a bigger threat to Xerxes Persian monarchy than the spears, shields and swords of the Spartans. Athenians democracy made no allowances for the Persians God-King belief structure so Athenians like us now, would never buy into the Ahura Mazda (Lord of life, Wisdom and Light ) mythology.

The Hellenic resistance by the Greek city states not willing to accept the Persian gold or servitude stopped King Xerxes empire from spreading deep into Continental Europe. The combined Greek alliance at land and sea showed that the God king Xerxes was not in control of the world and this allowed rivals to grow confident and the suppressed tribes within the Persian empire to rebel.

Maybe King Xerxes needed to be constantly on a war footing to maintain his Empire and if he was victorious his rivals could not erode his position. I think King Xerxes position is mirrored by what was to happen to the Roman empire some 800 years later. Eventually you become to large that you cannot control all you possess and your enemies want what you have more!

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Smashing the Greek resistance

If no Greek force was there to meet the invasion force of the Persians, It is highly likely the Persian army would have marched on the city states not aligned to Xerxes and slaughtered the males and sent the females back to the heart of the Empire to become slaves among the Persian elite. It is likely that Athens would have been burnt to the ground and its population massacred. Its likely its art, history and works of philosophy would be erased from Greek history. The Greek States which took the Persian coin would be made stronger and would be vassals to the Persian Empire, would states like Athens be happy to be beaten like Egypt? The more subservient Greek leaders would have their own Satraps like those which occupy the lands of modern day Turkey. The Spartans would more than likely meet the invasion force with what would remain of it's Peloponnesian allies before the Persians entered Spartan soil. I would estimate that the Spartans would send about 30,000 men to fight over 150,000 Persians, at those odds and the fact the Spartans would have seen Athens decimated, it is likely the Spartan council would strike a deal with the Persians.

With Greece a Persian province what would have happened next? Forward into the Balkans and be met by Eastern Europe's barbaric tribes. It is likely on the evidence of the Romans occupation of that area that the Persians would struggle so far away from their own lands to subdue the Balkan and Italian areas even with the support of its Macedonian allies. But their incursion into this area of Europe would have stopped the formation of the Roman Empire as we know it, The Germanic tribes may have spread further and the migration of the peoples of the Steppes( Maygars etc) would have ended up displaced from the true history.

If the Persians had won we may never have heard or felt the greatness of Julius Augustus Caesar, the shape of Western Europe would be very different and Christianity may not have existed as we know it. Would all of Europe be living a religion still worshiping a sky God or would it be a religion based on the Persian belief structure. Would Judaism have been able to survive with the inevitable tightening of religious expression? and would Islam have flourished in the turmoil of the new millennium?

Had Persian taken Eastern Europe by 300BC it is likely it would have removed its main opponent from existence. Alexander III of Macedon( Alexander the Great ) was responsible for reintroducing a Hellenic culture up to the gates of the middle east. Alexander defeated the heirs to King Xerxes and dismantled the armies and dogma of the age of Persian tyranny and set into motion the hierarchies and mechanisms still seen today in the Middle East.

In conclusion I would say, if the few had decided not to answer the call of their own destinies in the battle of Salamis, Thermoplyae and at Platea. Then the world we live in now would feel the touch of the Persian king Xerxes a lot more, he would be thought of in the same way as a Caesar. And I think his reputation would be similar to a Napoleon or Alexander the Great. The Persian Empire like all Empires would eventually crumble beneath the weight of its own bureaucracy or the needs and desires of its own multicultural citizens. To the Greeks who stood,fought and fell I thank you and salute your memory.


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 2 years ago

      It is interesting to speculate. I believe Judaism would have survived. The history since then indicates Judaism would have survived. Had Judaism not survived then there would have been no Christianity or Islam. In any case the world would be different today and the historical names would be different but it's impossible to guess how. Though such speculation makes for great alternate history.

    • Hunter Groves profile image

      Hunter Groves 3 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Good article, well written. I have a similar hub outlining the possible implications had the Greeks lost the Battle of Salamis. If I were you, I would make sure my grammar/conventions are correct before publishing, I noticed several mistakes. Despite that, you raise a valid (and very interesting) point that the Greco-Persian wars were a critical turning point in history. I would be cautious to "thank and salute" the Greeks who died during this war. Keep up the good work and forget all the people who troll on you without giving you valuable feedback. Just make sure you account for all historical perspectives (Persian and Greek) before publishing. Nice job!

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 5 years ago from England

      Thanks for the feedback, I will get around to reading more on Cyrus the Great time permitting. I may also get around to writing an article on the merits of his rule, he was a great King of an ancient "Superpower".

      The article is not out to decry the achievements of previous Persian monarchs. I make no reference to former Kings of the region, as the Hub is about would the Western world be a different place had the Greek forces not stood and turned back the ancient Superpower.

      I do mention in the Hub that Athens is democratic and that the Spartan's lived in a "draconian and strict eugenic society".

    • profile image

      Arteen 5 years ago

      I guess u better read the history and read about cyrus the great and. Also i think u should better search about why persia attacked greece. I dont think greek was that demotratic as u say. I actuaaly think in that time there wasn't that much democracy except maybe a short amount of time

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      duane wirdel 5 years ago

      Hey ANON...Listen, we all should be able to express ourselves freely, but DON'T PUT WORDS IN MY MOUTH. I NEVER said Persia was evil and I am just as critical of American foreign policy as you. I feel you owe me an apology for insinuating that I said things which I did I'll be waiting to see if you have enough guts to do so, or whether you're a weakling and can't. BY THE WAY...Sparta had a democratic portion in it's Constitution long before Athens. Spartan citizens ELECTED their government. That's documented.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 5 years ago from England

      Awful lot of comments using the same ip address recently? :)

    • profile image

      :( 5 years ago

      Sigh another kid brainwashed by Hollywood. :(

    • profile image

      ANON 5 years ago

      duane wirdel 6 weeks ago

      The Persian War was not about Sardis. That was "smoke." It was about economics and the Persian's getting their hands on the lucrative Med. s trade routes. Economics and greed raised their ugly heads again.

      So Persia must be evil because they did the exact same things the Americans are doing in this day and age? & btw, only Athens were democratic, the other city states were just as barbaric as the huns. lol

    • profile image

      my2cents 5 years ago

      If Persia had won: Muhammad wouldn't be Muslim + Imperialistic European powers would not have forced it's stupid Greek "ideals" down everyone's throat through colonialism = World would have been a better place. :P

    • profile image

      duane wirdel 5 years ago

      The Persian War was not about Sardis. That was "smoke." It was about economics and the Persian's getting their hands on the lucrative Med. s trade routes. Economics and greed raised their ugly heads again.

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      Rome 5 years ago

      I would argue that Rome was far more important to Western History and development than Greece ever was, I know Greece influenced Rome, but much of that influence didn't extend any farther than sculptures. That being said Greece is obviously very important. Let me make one more point clear in defense of the author to all you revisionist historians. Freedom and Democracy are not inseparable. One only has to look at Continental Europe today to see that this is true. I being American of course view their so called "positive" freedoms as slavery rather than freedom. If Persia was more free than Greece is not the question, the development of Democracy is extremely unlikely without Greece, Persia is as you say a monarchy. I would argue that the Greeks were a far superior civilization to Persia despite their so called freedoms. The Greeks laid a foundation from which Rome and thereby Western society was formed, and I hardly think it unreasonable to say that if one truly desires freedom then they are best served by heading west. The true birthplace of Freedom and Republican values lies in Europe, it is from here that these values grew to the point where it is unthinkable to most Westerners to live without. In conclusion, Rome greater than Greece, which is greater than Persia. Do not use today's morals to judge the past, remember as Westerners many of our morals come from Christianity. It is not right to judge the Pre-Christian world with these principles. Good post if lacking on depth.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 6 years ago from England

      Hello "The Truth" ignoring the last couple of paragraphs where i am pretty sure the hubpage sarcasm meter blow up, i read with interest your reply. Yes i mentioned Ahura Mazda, and Xerxes believed himself to be the physical embodiment of the god( I checked in a couple of books rather than waiting for my educational holywood films to appear. Xerxes never took innocent lives? that is a very silly thing to say, As Xerxes wanted to invade the Greek states for retribution as you write, do you think maybe a couple of innocent citizens may have been killed. War is suffering and pain, innocence dies a bloodier death than that of the soldiers.

      Back in the time of Xerxes, the world was a very different place.The ruling elite of the Persian Empire were top of the food chain, those recently conquered where a lesser status let us not kid ourselves. KIng Xerxes wanted more power and prestige, he was egotistical and a poor military planner. This is why he lost pivotal battles such as Platea.

      I am also curious to the phrase millions killed in Sardis, could this figure be slightly swelled to reality?

      Again it seems i have to point out this is a hypothetical article based slightly around the 300 film. I had to reference it as it was my muse to write this. The question "THETRUTH" is did the fledgling Democratic Greeks set aside their petty differences to draw a line in the sand against an invading force. Which in term enabled the growth of the kind of Democracy most people want to live under compared to worshipping a sun-king made flesh?

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      Thefacts 6 years ago

      I read your entire article, but I can't say whether you are joking or just plain stupid. In that movie 300, they switched the cultures, gave the good things to the greeks and the bad to the persians.

      The Persian empire was the only one in the world that didn't enslave its people, greeks on the other hand did. And Xerxes never said he was a God, he worshipped Ahura Mazda.

      Go read some history, the reason Xerxes attacked Greece was only to punish Athens for their terrorist acts on Sardis (where they killed millions of people). It wasn't even to enslave Greece as this movie portrayed so.

      In fact, Xerxes did defeat the spartans and once he entered Athens, all of the citizens fled their homes. But Xerxes never took any innocent lifes (unlike Athens) and on top of that he sent a message to the Athenian citizens and told them that they could return to their homes, which they did.

      All in all, Xerxes didn't attack the west to enslave them and never did even after being victorious in the battle. The movie 300 never portrayed this and seeing how you get all emotional and lay truth to hollywood movies, I really doubt your intelligence. Do you thank Batman at night too for saving Gotham?

      Persians had equality between men and women. Their Kings could be sued by their own citizens for any wrongdoing, they freed the slaves and never imposed their religion on its people as everyone was free to worship their own gods.

      Yet I can't say that about the spartans. But if you prefer to choose hollywood movies as the truth, then I can't stop you. But while you are at it, please double thank the Smurfs for me, as their courageous stand against Gargamel should not go unnoticed.

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      HiAye 7 years ago

      I find it amusing when people believe that somehow Persia is the villainised good guy. Perhaps a little reading up is in order for those who have somehow equated the Persians with the Muslims, and the Greeks with the West.

      Finally, comparing Cyrus the Great with Xerxes would be similar to comparing Julius Caesar with Nero. Cyrus was, at least according to our sources, a king of kings who inspired loyalty and refrained from extreme brutality except in cases of treachery, for example in the case of the Lycians (correct me if I'm wrong on this one. Lydians, perhaps? The ones who backstabbed him anyway.)

      Xerxes on the other hand wanted nothing more than to get a new satrap in the west, and to suppress the independent Greek states which influenced first Rome and then the wider Western world. Like it or not, the Persians were a far more despotic state than any Greek polis.

      I did enjoy most of the article by the way, despite some comments evidently influenced by youtube's wondrous commenting heritage.

    • profile image

      king and country 7 years ago


    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 7 years ago from England

      Thank you for your opinion on the hub Saied. The hub is " Hypothetical " What if the Persian Empire of King Xerxes had conquered Greece?" and is not a hub aiming to be inflamitory or anti-Persian. The Film is an American blockbuster and my article is written from the standpoint of watching the "300" movie. If you hate the film fair enough, i happen to like the film despite its obvious Historical inaccuraces. The fact that the Spartans brought loads of underclass helots to the battle is never mentioned. I believe the spartan stand was heroic and thats my opinion. Please don't make assumptions about my religion for the record i do not follow the jewish or christian faith. I have no hatred or grudge of the Persian Empire, i believe King Xerxes started a chain of events that resulted in the Persian Empire collapsing. If i was writing solely on the Persian civilization some of your comments could be called valid, i think you may need to read the article again and match it to the title it was given. It seems some people are unable to read an opinion or article without reading or seeing something that isn't there.

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      saied siavoshi 7 years ago

      this was the most absurd article that i`ve ever heard.why don`t you instead of writing these stuped things have a little reserch about history so you dont have to fool yourself.greco persian war wasn't about democrasy golf war wasn't about democrasy first and second world war wasn't about justify a barbaric action of alexander that burnt the civilised persia act of democrasy.let me explain something to you,acording to your bible,king cyrus king daryus and king xerexes were always discribe west as librator civilised nation and rest of the world barbaric uncivilised nations.but isn`t the time that you realised all these things were part of history and it`s only few men to blame for the life of million innocent people.if you are so proud of that false movie that discribes great persian king a gay looser and persian army beast and creepy then i have to say you have long grudge and hatred against persians and you`re thinking and acting this way nobody in nonwestern world would even think nevermind accepting your iranian devotee.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 7 years ago from England

      Your so right Rob, the what-if part of history really makes you think how different history could have turned out.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 7 years ago from England

      Your so right Rob, the what-if part of history really makes you think how different history could have turned out.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 7 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      History is full of interesting 'What-if' scenarios. Would there have been an America if the British hadn't raised our taxes too high? Would there have been a French Revolution without Robespierre? Would there have been a world war one if not for the assassination of arch-Duke Ferdinand? Its always interesting to speculate.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 7 years ago from England

      Hi there again, thank you for returning with some more input. I do love a good discussion, again you have some interesting view points. Yes i am a westerner as you are, so we are going to have different views on the topic. I do not claim to speak for the Western world and never would do. Please note i have a poll and a comment box for anyone with a counter argument.

      I do find it interesting that you would believe that Persian states such as "Egypt, Babylon, Judea, Syria" would be happy living in a Persian Empire. They were no longer free! and there were rebellions in the Persian Empire of King Xerxes.

      Athens was an Embryonic democracy which was only a few generations old by the time of Xerxes assault on Greece.

      Again the Persians tried gaining favour by supporting dissident factions. They even took in the deposed Spartan king to gather intelligence. Persia looked on Greece as its possession already and could not help itself interfering in a foreign states politics.

      And in no part of my article did i compare either side to the terrorist acts of Muslim extremists or the global power of the United States. In my first reply i said its hard to compare modern day accepted levels of behaviour to those times.

      Again the article is the events from the death of Leonidas onwards and it speculates what could have happened.

    • profile image

      Continued 7 years ago

      How funny, I am a westerner as well, yet our beliefs do not match. This is not western beliefs, but yours.

      If you even read Cyrus' Bill of Rights, you'd see that he allowed the conquered people to continue believing in their God and follow their religion and continue their same way of life. The only difference would be the head of state. Therefore, they can be a "defeated people" but they did not become slaves. They continued life as always.

      When did I say that Persia was more democratic? I stated that Persia was a monarchic state. I said there were more freedoms in Persia, than there were in Greece.

      Really? What war crimes did Persia do before Athens and the other Greek-city states began committing war crimes.

      There is no proof that Persia "bought" the favor or bribed anyone. The only proof that historians have is that Persia sent emissaries and messengers to every Greek city state asking for earth and water, a submission to Xerxes. In return, Xerxes would not fight them and spare their population. In short, you don't fight me, I don't fight you. Seems more than fair.

      You don't feel comfortable calling Spartans terrorists who murdered and massacred several cities. The most notable is the burning of Sardis, where millions of Persians were burned to death inside their own buildings or outside. (The same way, the people in 911 died).

      You feel comfortable calling Osama Bin Laden a terrorist for killing a few thousand people, but are uncomfortable calling a group of people who killed millions of people in the same way.

      You find it comfortable that the US began the War on Terrorism for a small number of deaths, but when Persia begins a war for a much, much larger number of deaths, Greece is the hero?

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 7 years ago from England

      Thank you for reading my small hub, it seems my hub has annoyed you. Thank you for making your points i can tell it is of great interest to you. I will now make a few counter points to your original comments and i am not trying to provoke or inflame a response.

      *My first section i refer to the Spartans as living in a " Draconian and strict eugenic society" so yes i am aware of the rape, supression and brutalization of the helot class.

      *The hub was not an attack on the Persian Empire but more on King Xerxes for his desires to be a "King of Kings" He listened too much to his cousin Maradonis. And i believe when Xerxes was in Egypt he desired Athens total destruction.

      *There is a bill of rights from King Cyrus's reign which gives the people a bill of rights i agree, i believe there is a copy in a London. There is scarce evidence to support a view of slavery in Xerxes reign, i agree but if you are living in the lands of your forefathers and a foreign King invades and executes your chieftan you are a defeated people. You become a Slave to the ruling classes desires.

      *If Persia was more Democratic how often did King Xerxes stand for re-election?

      *The hatred between the Greek states and Persia was constant, and never peaceful and in context of ancient civilizations both sides will commit war crimes. There were Greek settlements and colonies throughout the Aegean area which were crushed by the Persian Satraps.

      *Giving financial support to your enemies opponents is still a form of bribery now as much as it was back then. You can dress that up whichever way you want, it is buying favour not buying peace.

      *My hub was designed to gauge an opinion on whether or not the Greeks stopped an Empire from spreading- there is a poll for people to vote and comment box to argue for or against.

      *My Hub was created on the back of watching the 300, and no i do not take what happened as historically accurate. But the hub was generated off the back of it.

      *Spartans Greek Jihadists?? I will have to disagree with you on that. They were a warlike people from 2000+ years ago and i would not feel comfortable putting a modern label on their behaviour.

      * "Cheering for Spartans" yes i am guilty of cheering for the Spartans but the Spartans on the field of Battle did not commit the same kind of "Terrorist" acts as the 9/11 actions.

      I am a Westerner and i write from the standpoint of my beliefs if you disagree then that is your opinion. I find it interesting during the Spartan-Athenian conflict that both sides looked to the Persian Empire for assistance and aid

    • profile image

      What a fail article 7 years ago

      You're joking right? Greeks, liberators?

      Before 1850, however, the West had a very favorable impression of the Persian Empire. That's because the West's main source for Persian history was the Bible and the 'Cyropaedia,' written by another Greek author named Xenophon.

      But the Cyropaedia glorified the monarchy of Cyrus The Great, and in the wake of two bloody revolutions fought by America and France to liberate themselves from their own monarchies, a major campaign began, around the mid 19th century, to promote democracy throughout the rest of Europe, and Herodotus was the perfect propaganda tool.

      Herodotus was a democratic groupie and was quickly ushered in as the "Father Of History." Around 1850, his 'Battle Of Thermopylae' came to symbolize the West's struggle for democracy against the powerful forces of Persia's monarchy.

      What stretches the limits of hypocrisy is that there isn't a single shred of archeological evidence that the Persians ever owned slaves. Yet we know that slavery was an integral cornerstone of Greek society. Aristotle's manifesto even sanctions it. Persia, which was once a haven for runaway slaves from Egypt, Greece, and later Rome, is today branded as a slave-hungry empire by cultures which were built on slavery!

      In monarchic Persia, however, women enjoyed a level of gender equality unmatched even to this day, and slavery was not practiced. The fact is, Persia's monarchy was more free than Athens' democracy, all because of Persia's Bill Of Rights.

      No one exemplifies Persia's freedom better than Herodotus himself. He describes Athens as the bastion of freedom, yet he chose to live in Persia. Xenophon, on the other hand, who actually lived in Athens, reminisces enviously about the monarchy of Cyrus The Great.

      Herodotus claims Persia had enslaved most of the known world, yet we know Herodotus was not a slave. He traveled freely throughout the empire, openly criticizing it.

      Why did Herodotus not live in Greece? Because Persia - the empire he is so quick to demonize - afforded him the very freedom to publish his scathing report of it. People want to live where their god-given rights are protected, regardless of whether its democratic or monarchic.

      These god-given rights were first drafted into law by the founder of the Persian empire, Cyrus The Great. In fact, ancient Persia may well have served as the blueprint for America's Bill Of Rights. Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the architects of America's Constitution, were great admirers and owned several copies of Xenophon's Cyropaedia.

      Today, no other country resembles ancient Persia as closely as does the United States. If any country should sympathize with, rather than celebrate, Persia's quagmire in Greece, it is the United States. Few events in history mirror America's war on terror as closely as Persia's war on Greece.

      The Greeks had been carrying out terrorist attacks on Persian holdings for years. They had attacked Persian cities, set fire to Persian temples, disrupted key trade routes, and pirated merchant ships crossing the Bosphorus. They incited rebellions inside Persian provinces, but perhaps most abhorrent to the Persians was the ease by which the Greeks broke their treaties and betrayed Persia's trust.

      Rather than resort to violence, however, Persia tried to keep the Greeks in check by financially supporting Greek politicians who were "pro-Persian," much the same way America fights its proxy wars. But what finally triggered Persia's wrath was an act rarely mentioned in the West, though well documented, even by Herodotus (7:11).

      In 498 BCE, Athens carried out a terrorist attack on Sardis, a major Persian city, which made 9/11 seem like child's play. Aristagoras, an Athenian, set fire to the "outlying parts" of Sardis trapping most of its population "in a ring of fire." (Herodotus 5:101)

      More innocent civilians died at the hands of Aristagoras than Osama bin Laden could ever hope to kill. And just as most of the world supported America's retaliation against Al Qaeda, so did it rally in support of Persia's attack on Athens.

      The Spartans were not even targets of Persia's attack, until they violated a universal protocol by killing a Persian messenger who Herodotus claims was asking for Sparta's submission but in reality was probably sent by Persia's king, Xerxes to convey the same message America sent to the entire world after 9/11: "you're either with us, or against us."

      The Spartans were Greek Jihadists who lived only to die. They were by all accounts ruthless savages who murdered Greek slaves known as "Helots" just for sport, cultivated a culture of thievery and rape, and practiced infanticide, as the movie '300' rightly points out in its opening scenes. Sparta was not even democratic. It was an oligarchy at best. Despite knowing all this, the West continues to hail the Spartans as the saviors of Western democracy.

      Yes, the Spartans died fighting a foreign invader. But so do countless terrorists. Yet few would consider them "good guys." Those who do are then not much different from Westerners who cheer for the Spartans.

      Persia was drawn into a protracted war against terror, much the same way the U.S. was. Cheering for the Spartans merely because they were underdogs, is like cheering for Osama bin Laden today.