The persian wars. Who should have won?

#1
The Persian wars, as fought between the city states of Greece and the Persian empire, is sometimes framed as a critical moment for western civilization. The thought is that the totalitarian Persia threatened to strangle democracy in its cradle.

But is this really such a milestone in western history and would a Persian victory really have altered history that much? After all I believe the empire was relatively leniant with it's subjects could not greek art and philosophy have flourished under Persian rule perhaps without some of it's backsides such as slavery?

The Persian empire was a pretty decent place to live I believe (unlike much of greece by this time) but it did lack the greek ideals of individualism, empirism and democracy. Maybe its down to personal preference as to what is more important and wether or not the right side won.
Anyway: Do you think the Persian wars are overrated or did western civilization just barely survive its infancy?
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
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#2
I like the way it turned out. And, I have my doubts that western civilization would have been extinguished had the Greeks lost. I'm pretty sure greek culture, philosophy and values, had already spread throughout the Mediterranean. So, I don't think a Persian victory would change things in that regard. Also, wasn't Rome already a Republic by this time?
 
Jun 2013
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#4
I'm pretty sure Greek culture would have flourished under Persian rule as much as Mesopotamian, Phoenician, Egyptian, and Asian Greek cultures did.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2014
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#5
Didn't the Persians blame democracy for the rebelliousness of the Ionian Greeks? And therefore would have stamped out democracy if they had won. I know that the first Persian invasion included a former tyrant of Athens that was trying to get his job back.
Also, wasn't Rome already a Republic by this time?
Yes, but the crumbling Diadochi made Roman expansion much easier in the East. If the Persian empire was still intact in the second century BC, Rome would have had a much harder time advancing into the Eastern Mediterranean. Also, it's very possible that the Persians would have done something either concurrent with the Punic wars or before them that would destroy Rome or prevent it from becoming a great empire.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,240
here
#6
Didn't the Persians blame democracy for the rebelliousness of the Ionian Greeks? And therefore would have stamped out democracy if they had won. I know that the first Persian invasion included a former tyrant of Athens that was trying to get his job back.

Yes, but the crumbling Diadochi made Roman expansion much easier in the East. If the Persian empire was still intact in the second century BC, Rome would have had a much harder time advancing into the Eastern Mediterranean. Also, it's very possible that the Persians would have done something either concurrent with the Punic wars or before them that would destroy Rome or prevent it from becoming a great empire.
My reason for asking about Rome, was to point out that democracy and similar ideas didn't reside exclusively in Greece proper.
 

Psellos

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
2,666
the Polis
#8
Much revisionism here...and of course Greeks are first in the list of revisionism...

Since the time of Persian conquest of Ionia and the rest Greek areas in Asia, we clear see a decline of culture and important personalities...I'm sure the same would occur if the proper Greece had the same fate if the outcome of the wars were different.

Econony was a crucial factor for the Athenean phainomenon which managed to bring to another level not only the local Attic achievements but the whole Greek little miracles from Magna Grecia, Cyrenaica, Greeks of Thrace and Greeks of Minor Asia. If you think that Aristophanes could have his comedies playing below Parthenon in Dionysos theater, Socrates and Plato to chat calmy in Athens while a satrap and a Median guard were watching is out of reality even to speculate it.

Romans some centuries later, being deeply influenced by Greek culture didnt even think to put an obstacle in theGreek cultural development, in contrary they were mostly patrons of Greek artist and writers. I'm pretty sure Persians could not even understand what people they tried to conquer...obvioudly not used to live under a foreign yoke, even if that foreigner was the town five miles away from theirs, and of course being under a Bactrian satrap would be the definition of set back. Not because Persians were barbarian in objective terms but obviously they couldn't be as positive as the common freedom of each polis.


Magna Graecia and Cyrenaica could have took the lead though if we had a different winner, as Alexandria and Antioch did some centuries later, but stil it is a speculation since they were strongly attached to their mother poleis and they could have exprienced a great shock and a big economic and psycological negative impact.

To end, Parthians later claimed "philhellenism" even in their official royal titles but I'm mot aware of serious development under the Parthians in these places where Greek poleis exsted under them. Persians didn't have a tradition in literature and I'm not sure If they would help the creation and spread of Greek literature...
 

Psellos

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
2,666
the Polis
#9
And Athens became the model of democratic practices, with a very known gradual development. Greek poleis around the Mediterranean adopted these practices whichb were invented and developed step by step in Athens...Rome happened to get a strong infuence from nearby Greek cities and hence the supposed date of the beginning of the repubic there...
 

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