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Ancient Greeks and Persians

Sal provides an overview of the Greco-Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian War.

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Video transcript

- [Narrator] So where we left off in the last video, we have the Neo-Babylonians, the Chaldean Empire, being conquered by the Persians led by Cyrus the Great. That's in 539 that Cyrus the Great conquers Babylon. And they're able to establish a significant empire. And his successor, Cambyses II, in 525 B.C.E., is able to do something that many of the conquerors that we've talked about in the last two videos were not able to do, and conquers Egypt, and makes that part of the Persian Empire. And so the Persian Empire is this vast and significant empire that gets created in this time period. But they soon run up to a, I guess you could say a group of city-states, a civilization, that is able to fend off the Persians. And so just to be clear what we're talking about or what I just talked about, here we are in roughly 539 B.C.E., where you have Cyrus the Great is able to take over the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and in doing so, going back to references from the Old Testament, ends the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people, is able to free the Jewish people, and then his successor, Cambyses, in 525 B.C.E., is able to take over Egypt. And so you see this expansion of the Persian Empire on this timeline as well, but then they run up against the Ancient Greeks. And the Ancient Greeks were not a unified nation. They were a group of city-states. When people talk about city-states, it's cities like Athens that are associated with the Ionians, that settled several hundred years ago in that region, the Spartans, associated with the Dorians, who also moved down several hundred years before the time period we're talking about. They each had, each city was its own state, it had its own military, it had its own laws and traditions. But they also had things in common. They shared a language, they shared traditions, they shared religion. And the Persians, and I'll do many videos on this, because it is fascinating, were not able to conquer, and now this is under the successors of Cyrus the Great, or the successor of Cyrus the Great and Cambyses, we have Darius the Great, is not able, in multiple attempts, to take over the Greeks, and these are the famous Greco-Persian Wars, which occur from 499 B.C.E. to 450 B.C.E.. Greco-Persian Wars. In our map, we see it right over here. The Greco-Persian Wars, and there are some famous instances, famous events, from why we now run a marathon to the movie 300, where you have the stand that the Spartans attempted to take at Thermopoli, where the Persian army, with thousands and thousands of soldiers facing 300 Spartans and several hundred other soldiers, say "give us your arms," and once again, we don't know how much of this is legend and how much is true, but it's a good story, and the Spartans say "come and take them," and then the Persians say "we have enough arrows to blot out the sun," and the Spartans say "good, then we will fight in the shade." So the Greco-Persian Wars, they happened, and they're also the stuff of legend and some great stories and great movies even have come out of those wars. Now, even though the city-states of Greece were able to fend off the Persians in this time period, they're not able to unify, and in fact they start fighting each other. And that's when you start having the Peloponnesian Wars. So 431, from 431 B.C.E. to 404 B.C.E., you have the Peloponnesian, or I should say the Peloponnesian War, and that is between Sparta and its allies and Athens and its allies, and we'll once again do more videos on this, but Sparta is this militaristic society, Athens, famous for its culture and its learning, but they're able to give each other a good fight. Now can you imagine, while they're fighting each other, it leaves them open to be conquered by someone else. And that someone else ends up being Philip of Macedon. And the Macedonians are a related people. They share a similar language, they have similar traditions, and Philip of Macedon is able to take over most of what we now consider to be Greece. And as famous as Philip of Macedon is, his son is perhaps one of the top five most famous people in history, because in 336, Philip of Macedon dies, he's actually assassinated, and his son, Alexander the Great, takes over. And his son is only 20 years old. And he wasn't called Alexander the Great when it started, but when he was done, they called him Alexander the Great. So Alexander takes over, I'll write this down, he's 20 years old, and he quickly consolidates power, not only over Greece, but he starts establishing an empire, where he's able to take over, now the shoe's on the other foot, he's able to take over much of what was the Persian Empire. He actually is able to take his armies all the way to the borders of India, he's taking over Egypt, much of the Middle East. And so this is often referred to as the world's greatest adventure, and it's fascinating because he does this over a little bit more than a decade. He dies in 323, so 323 B.C.E., Alexander dies. So he's in his early 30s, and he managed to do this. Depending on what side of history you're on, fortunately or unfortunately, his empire isn't able to last. So you can see this on our timeline. Alexander, in that brief, you know, a little bit more than a decade, he's able to take over all of this territory. He's able to get his armies to the borders of India, but then because he dies, it's short-lived, the empire does not last. It actually gets split into multiple empires. People who are related or the generals of Alexander. We'll do many videos about that split. But maybe more interestingly, while that is happening, at the time of Alexander, another group is emerging that will eventually turn into one of the greatest empires that the world has ever seen. And that is the Romans, that we see, or they are the Romans, that we will see in the next video. You can see it on this timeline right over here.