What if the Persian Empire of King Xerxes had conquered Greece?
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!
How important were the actions of the few at Thermpylae?
How much creative liberty was taken with the film?
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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.