As per the coverage in our course, in the Persian War, a Greek force from Athens set out to meet the invading Persian army at Marathon, and set them running. They were outnumbered by the Persians two to one, and the Persian army had been the biggest force the Greeks had ever seen. The majority of the killing took place while the Persians were hastily retreating to their ships. With only 192 dead, the Greeks reduced the Persian force by 7,000 men; however, the remaining 13,000 soldiers were still a sizable threat if they should sail down and enter Athens proper, and so the Greek army hastily moved back to their city.
The question of how they did this feat might be explained by the Greek theme that any Greek warrior could take on ten barbarians, but for our purposes the interesting question is why their involvement with what they were fighting for was able to give them the push to oust the invading empire. I surmise that the involvement in the state militarily and thus politically for the Athenians, which amounted to the beginning of democracy as we know it. As it is suggested by the book title, The Roots of the Western Tradition dig deep down into the ancient civilizations. Greece is a unique, important and telling civilization to study for it reveals the beginning of systems in which we live that are still evolving.
These Greeks had all voted together in assembly, and although assured by Persia that they could not meet the threat, they did not submit to a takeover. All the men who voted for war against Persia, an empire which frightened most other Greek Polis', including Sparta, from sending military aid to Athens, were the very men who would don their Hoplite armor, clash together shield to shield to form phalanxes, and defeat the Persians at Marathon. These men were motivated by their own interests and what they had to protect: their prospering Polis of Athens, and their financial and political gains that came from fighting for it. The Greeks enjoyed a sharing of power, which in their view, was the antithesis of the monarch style powers held by the Absolute Leaders of the Great Empires developing in the Near East. The Persian King was seen as being an ultimate master, and it was perceived that all of his subjects were essentially slave. This may not have been true to that extent, but certainly many men in the 20,000 force beaten at Marathon were not ethnically Persian peoples, and in many cases were people already conquered by the expanding empire. There is a clear difference between the motivations and wills of the soldiers that faced each other at Marathon.
Until their great clashes with Persia, Greece had not fought with another great empire. Greece was just enough distance from the Ancient Empires arising in the Nile area and the Near East to have a very unique relationship with these monumental civilizations: they remained out of conflict with them, while engaging in the trade of goods, and just as importantly, engaging in cultural trade, whereby the Greeks were able to modify and use the developments of other ancient societies to their own advantage. Before these cultural links fostered the growth of civilization in Greece, the Greek language and identity had first come via the original Mycenaean Greeks, who had sacked Minoan culture, centered on Crete, and " learned much from the Minoans; their culture differed from that of Crete chiefly in its emphasis on fortifications They adapted the Minoan script (Linear A) to their own very different language. The result was Linear B, which used a Minoan syllabary to express Greek words." (Hollister, 74)
The arts learned in Mycenaean Greece from surrounding empires and cultures continued, though mostly not through violent conflict, as was the case with the Mycenaean devastation of Minoan...