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Subject: 10,000 Greeks win against 700,000 Persians?
chicom_guy    6/25/2004 1:02:44 AM
I finished reading a translation of the Anabasis, it described a force of 10,000 Greek mercenaries defeating a Persian army of about 700,000 conscript soldiers.....did it really happen, or is it just ancient propaganda?
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Roffkaiser    RE:10,000 Greeks win against 700,000 Persians?   6/25/2004 3:44:00 AM
I don't know anything about that battle, but the Spartans fought worse odds than that, but they lose, after 3 days i think. 300 on about the same number of persians as your battle i think.
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ilpars    Greek-Persian wars   6/25/2004 4:28:43 AM
In ancient times even to move more than 100,000 soldiers from a location to another was logistically impossible. I suggest for reading "Logistics of Macedonian Army" or any other book about ancient logistics. At the battle of Maraton, Perians had only 1 hazarabam with attached troops. That is at most 15,000 soldiers. At that battle Athenians had 10,000 city militia. The important part of this battle was not the numerical disparisity. Persians were professional soldiers but Athenians defeated them by Militia forces. They were the first Greeks who had defeated Persians. At the campaign of Xerxes, most probably there were not more than 70,000 Persians. But Macedonia, Thessaly and Thebes were allied to them. So total strength in the Greece are was probably 100,000. Not all of them were in the same location. Many needed for protecting supply-comminication line. At Thermophaela battle initaially there were at least 20000 Greeks and they were guarding a narrow pass. But Persians had outflaked to pass with probably 10000 soldiers from an unknown goat track shown by a peasant. Spartan King stayed behind with 300 Spartans and 2000 allied Greeks (most of them were Thebanians) to buy time for the rest of the army. Spartans died to a man, Thebanians surrendered. Thebai as a city changed side to Persian side after the battle. When Greeks defeated Persians at the naval battle of Salamis. Persians lost the ability to supply their huge army from Sea. Xerxes left Greece with the half of the army. Probably left half of them 35,000 soldiers with his general Mardonious (as much as he can feed on forage). Mardonius army was at Boeotia but he needed to also garnison the key cities in his back such as Thermophalea pass to keep an eye to his allies and also keep comminication lies open to Empire. So he needed at least 5000 soldiers there. Macedonians and most of the Thessalians also had returned to their countries. So Mardonious approx had 40000 soldiers including the allies (Thebai, Boeotia and small Thessaly contingent) in his command. On the other hand all the Greece south of Boeotia has been united under the leadership of Sparta. IMO, they could have fielded 25000 soldiers. Greek supply system was much worse, they had few cavalry. So the numbers they can feed was less. At the battle of Plataea, these 2 armies faced each other one of the greatest battles of ancient history. Greeks won the battle and the war.
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jofredes    RE:10,000 Greeks win against 700,000 Persians?   6/25/2004 7:47:42 AM
Personally I would say the numbers in both cases are extremely exagerated.
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Horsesoldier    RE:10,000 Greeks win against 700,000 Persians?   6/25/2004 9:24:08 AM
Propaganda with a kernel of truth.
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Roffkaiser    RE:Greek-Persian wars   6/25/2004 2:45:08 PM
i have never heard of them finding a non-spartan greek body at Thermophaela, but they did find 300 Spartans surrounded by several hundred persians. Propaganda may have something to do with it but i don't think it was THAT exaggerated. I mean you have 300 men, that have been trained since birth to be soldiers, wearing metal armor. Versus so many persians probably with no training, wearing nothing but their clothes. It would seem to me to be truthful, until the Persians used arrows...then the Spartans would be decimated.
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chicom_guy    RE:ancient logistics   6/25/2004 7:51:09 PM
Why was it not possible to field an army of 100,000 in those times? There were detailed records of Roman and Chinese battles with forces numbering over 100,000 people just 3-4 hundred years after the Greek-Persian wars.
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Roffkaiser    RE:ancient logistics   6/26/2004 3:31:10 AM
well i can think of one rations, like napoleon said, "An army marches on it's stomach." and everything the army eats would either be salted meat, or would have to be foraged or hunted for. 100.000 people is ALOT of people to provide for, granted a good general always told the army that there was a ton of food in the next village.
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Warhammer    RE:10,000 Greeks win against 700,000 Persians?   6/26/2004 3:33:06 AM
"Xerxes I, king of Persia, had been preparing for years to continue the war against the Greeks started by his father Darius. In 484 BC Xerxes' army and navy arrived in Asia Minor, building a bridge of ships across the Hellespont at Abydos to march his troops across. According to Herodotus Xerxes had over five million men, while the poet Simonides estimated three million; Herodotus also wrote that the army drank entire rivers and ate the food supplies of entire cities. These are of course exaggerations, but it is clear that the Greeks were vastly outnumbered. The major Greek city-states formed an alliance, led by Sparta under king Leonidas, and prepared to block the Persian advance at the narrow pass of Thermopylae in northern Greece. Originally engaging the enemy in August of 480 with a force of some 7000 men, Leonidas aimed to hold the pass as long as possible so that the rest of Greece could rally their troops and navy. Xerxes did not believe such a small force would oppose him, and gave the Greeks five days to retreat. When they did not, he sent his into the pass, but each successive wave of troops was eventually defeated. The Persians, with arrows and short spears, could not break through the long spears of the Greek hoplites, although it was said that the Persian arrows blotted out the sun. The 6000 Greeks defending the pass defeated the Persians in a similar manner on the second day of battle. After the second day a Greek named Ephialtes defected to the Persians and informed Xerxes of a separate path through Thermopylae. The pass was defended by the other 1000 Greeks, from Phocis, who had been placed there when the Greeks learned of the alternate route just before the battle, but they were not expecting to engage the Persians. The Phocians offered a brief resistance before fleeing, and the Persians advanced unopposed. Leonidas then realized that further fighting would be futile. On August 11 he dismissed all but 300 Spartans. A contingent of Thespians (the Thespians led by Demophilus) stayed as well in a suicidal effort to delay the advance. Leonidas also had a force of Thebans, but they quickly defected to the Persians. Although the Greeks killed many Persians, including two of Xerxes' brothers, Leonidas was killed, along with all 300 of his men. The last Spartans were killed trying to recover their king's body, after having been driven back into the narrowest part of the pass, Onto a small hill in the pass." According to historians today, the last battle involved the 300 Greeks, and Xerxes supposedly had at least 1 million Persians at the battle. Of course the Greeks didn't stand a chance, but they put up one hell of a fight. Though, it obviously wasn't a million man charge. The persians probably sent in small waves of a few thousand that to the chagrin of Xerxes, were being defeated soundly. Eventually the Spartans were overcame. I seriously doubt there were 1 million troops there, but I wouldn't go so far as to say logistically impossible. Quite probably, it wouldn't be 1 million in the battle, but perhaps 1 million in the campaign.(ie. holding supply lines, holding conquered cities, building fortifications, or they may even have counted(though I am not sure count is the right term, perhaps guestimate is better) the camp followers into the troop count. Ancient armies always had more support people than they had foot soldiers. Mostly women who would cook, whore, etc.
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ilpars    Exaggrated ancient numbers: Hans Delbruck   6/26/2004 4:49:45 AM
For exaggrated ancient numbers I suggest reading Hans Delbruck. He very clearly explains why fileding more than 100000 soldiers was imossible for an army. The biggest number Rome ever fielded in battle was at Cannae. They were 8 double legions there. If all of the legions were at maximum strength, you will have 80000 soldiers. But 4 of the legions were campaigning against Hannibal in the previous war, so they could not be at maximum strength. 60000 soldiers is more likely.
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Ehran    RE:Exaggrated ancient numbers: Hans Delbruck   6/26/2004 3:27:11 PM
The chinese fielded some rather huge armies even earlier than this. the encyclopedia of war lists the first recorded battle in history as being chinese and the losing side brought several hundred thousand to the field.
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