Medical Wars


It was 546 BC when Ionia, a territorial entity that was made up of Greek cities, was conquered by the Persian king Cyrus, making it part of the Persian Empire. For many years Ionian cities were greatly affected by the Persian invasion and developed a resentment that would unleash a series of warlike confrontations to obtain their freedom again. These battles are known by the name of Medical Wars and their impact and scope was marked in ancient history as one of the greatest armed conflicts between two empires; the Persian , in conquest of the Greek territory and the Hellenic empire in search of the freedom of their lands.


Data of interest

  • Dates: Between 492 BC and 490 BC. C. (First Medical War), from 480 BC to 479 BC. C. (Second Medical War) and from 479 BC to 449 BC. C. (Third Medical War)
  • Facing Groups:  Greek Peoples and the Persian Empire

What are Medical Wars?

The Medical Wars were armed confrontations between the Achaean, Ionian, Dorian and Aeolian Greek peoples against the Persian Empire in the 5th century BC The adjective “Medical” is given to these battles because the Greeks called the Persian Empire conquered by Cyrus Meda or Medo. II. The Medical Wars developed in three moments: the first occurred between 492 and 490 BC. C. The most representative battle of this war was the Battle of Marathon. The second Medical War. The second Medical War took place between the years 492-479 and its most emblematic battles are: Thermopylae, Salamis and Platea. The third and last of the Medical Wars took place between 479 and 449 BC The Battle of the River Eurimedonte and ended the conflict between the Persians and the Greeks with a peace agreement between the two sides.


Causes of Medical Wars

The cities that made up Ionia were invaded and subdued by the Persian Empire since 546 BC when they were taken by King Cyrus. Darius I son, and successor to the Throne of Cyrus, maintained the dominance of the Persian Empire in Ionia and also the discontent of the Ionians who suffered the oppression of the new Persian monarch and the invasion of the Phoenicians in their lands to take possession of their resources. economic and trade areas.


In 499 BC the Tyrant Aristagoras – placed by the Persians in the city of Miletus to subdue the Ionian cities – in his ambition for power, takes advantage of the resentment of the Ionians and asks for support from Athens to confront the Persian Empire. Athens and Eretria give their support for the combat but it is not enough to defeat the Persians. This results in the destruction of Greek cities like Miletus and the Greek army at the Battle of Lade.

Darius I is very upset by the Greek attack and decides to give a lesson to the Greeks by launching his army against the Greeks who participated in the liberation of Ionia. This marks the beginning of the first of the Medical Wars in 492 BC.

First Medical War

Date: Between 492 BC and 490 BC. C.

Facing groups: City states of Greece (Thrace, Macedonia, Cyclades, Euboea, Attica) against the Persian army of Emperor Darius I.

Most representative battle: Marathon

The Battle of Marathon

In September 490 BC the Battle of Marathon takes place. Milciades leads the Greek army in this confrontation against the Persians commanded by Datis .

This battle is won by the Greeks for their war tactics (in which it is possible to speak of the pincer tactic where the enemy is attacked from the front and both sides) and for having a command of the combat terrain, in addition to a patriotic sense of freedom that motivated the Greeks to give their all for victory.

Two years later 488 BC Milciades dies and the one who takes his place is Themistocles as general of the Greek armies.

In 481 BC Athens and Sparta along with other Greek cities signed a military pact to defend themselves from the Persian empire.

Second Medical War

Date: Between 480 BC and 479 BC. C.

Facing groups: City  states of Greece (Thrace, Thessaly, Boeotia, Attica and Ionia) against the Persian army of Xerxes I

Most representative battles: Thermopylae, Salamis and Platea

After the death of Darius I, his son Xerxes takes the reign of Persia and decides to continue with the attack on the Greeks , but before proceeding to the war, he sends his ambassadors to ask the Greeks to give him land and water, such as a sign of submission to his reign. The Athenians and Spartans responded to this request by throwing the Persian ambassadors down a well. This fact takes up once again the armed confrontations between the Persian empire and the Greeks, but this time there will be three battles that will be decisive in determining which side will win the war.

The battle of Thermopylae

King Xerxes advances to Greece with 250,000 soldiers. According to Herodotus, to cross the Hellespont, the Persian king had a bridge built with his boats but a storm destroyed it and Xerxes gave the order to give the sea a thousand lashes as a lesson to the waters that had collapsed his bridge.

The Greeks, knowing the terrain where the Persians arrived, decided to stop them at the Thermopylae gorge (name that means “hot doors”).

The commander of the Greek armies was the Spartan king Leonidas I who fought against the Persians with 300 soldiers and 1000 men who were not warriors by profession .

The Spartans knew how to fight the Persians until a traitorous Greek named Ephialtes showed King Xerxes how to attack the Greeks from the rear and win this battle.

Find here more information about the Battle of Thermopylae

The battle of Salamis

After Xerxes wins the battle against the Spartans, he advances to Athens to destroy the Acropolis with an army commanded by Mardonius.

Themistocles manages to lead an attack by sea from the vicinity of the island of Salamis and wins the fight. After successful battle, Themistocles sends one of his slaves to the Persian king to pose as a traitor and inform Xerxes that the Greeks would flee at night.

Xerxes decides to attack at night and is surprised by the attack of the Greeks, who, having a better strategy and knowing the sea better, destroy the Persian fleet and demonstrate their superiority in combat.

The Battle of Plataea

The second medical war comes to an end with another battle that was fought at Plataea on August 27, 479. The Greek peoples of Sparta, Athens and other allies, led by their protector Pausanias, managed to defeat the Persian army again and shortly afterwards destroyed another fleet of Xerxes at Mycala. This last confrontation motivated the uprising of the Ionians against the Persians, causing the troops of Jerges to leave the Hellenic world free from their attacks.

Third Medical War

Date:  Between 479 BC and 449 BC. C.

Facing groups: C city ​​states of Greece (Thrace, Thessaly, Boeotia, Attica and Ionia) against the Persian army of Artaxerxes

Most representative battle: River Eurimedonte

In this third stage of the Medical Wars, the Athenians and Spartans created the Atico-Delic League whose objective was to protect Athens and the Ionian peoples of Asia Minor. At that time, Athens became the most important town in all of Greece on a political, economic, social and military level.

Themistocles is rejected by the people of Athens and upon being exiled, he passes to the side of the Persians who are led by a new king, son of Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I. As these two characters felt a grudge towards Greece they decide to make an attack on the coasts to achieve their dominion.

General Cimon, son of Miltiades, faces Artaxerxes I in the battle of the river Eurimedonte in 467 BC and obtains the victory over the Persian army.

Cimon was succeeded in combat by Pericles who continued the war against Persia until a peace agreement was signed in 448 BC.

Consequences of the Medical Wars

In 448 BC the Greeks signed with Artaxerxes I a peace agreement called Peace of Callias where the Greeks put certain conditions on the Persians such as giving up the conquest of Greece, not sailing the Aegean Sea again and trading with the Greek colonies in Asia Less.

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