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The Destruction of Athens occurred from 480 BC to 479 BC during the Greco-Persian Wars. Following the Battle of Thermopylae, King Xerxes I of Persia and his 300,000-strong army looted and burned much of central Greece before invading Attica, the home of Athens. The people of Athens were evacuated to the island of Salamis in preparation for the Persian attack, as there was no hope to defeat the numerically superior Persians. In September 480 BC, Xerxes' forces defeated a small force of Athenians who were attempting to defend the Acropolis Sanctuary, and he then ordered Athens to be torched. The Acropolis, the Old Temple of Athena, and the Older Parthenon were destroyed, and Xerxes took away some of the statuary. After the Battle of Salamis, the bulk of the Persians under Xerxes withdrew from Europe, and Mardonius and a smaller army wintered in Thessaly. In 479 BC, Mardonius and his army of Immortals, Medes, Scythians, Bactrians, and Indians returned to Athens and brought even more thorough destruction to the city, utterly overthrowing or demolishing whatever wall, house, or temple was left, and he truly razed the city.

After the defeat of the Persians at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC and the final retreat of the Persians, the Athenian statesman Themistocles oversaw the re-fortification of Athens. The city's reconstruction ushered in the "Golden Age of Athens", and future statesman Pericles oversaw the building of great monuments and buildings such as the Statue of Athena and the Parthenon.

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