Skip to comments.What if the Persian Empire of King Xerxes had conquered Greece?
Posted on 04/07/2011 5:34:56 AM PDT by Cronos
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This would have led to a quicker show down between the two, but could have resulted in a central force to whack down Mohammed (speculation, speculation, speculation...)
There would have been no Peloponesian War.
The US would be speaking Norwegian.
And you wouldn’t be able to get a good cheese danish in Atlanta at any price.
Jesus Christ would still have been born, Christianity would still have flourished and the Vatican would be in Tehran rather than Rome.
I read a fun book that asked a bunch of questions such as this. I think this particular question was in the second volume. Real good reading if you like this sort of thing.
The author loses some credibility when s/he conflates Julius with Augustus Caesar.
More likely Persepolis. Tehran is new. I once went to Persepolis — it is still awe-inspiring.
Thank you for that link, the book looks interesting.
Oh, that's not fair.
She lost credibility with me with her early praise of “300”.
Her overall grasp of historical chronology seems rather weak.
We’d have no olympics....or Greek weddings.
I haven’t seen “300,” although my daughter said it had amusing violence. I just can’t get into the semi-animation thing. I think it looks totally fake.
We have “300 Spartans,” from the 70s, on DVD.
I know :) But it’s a lovely city. though — you can get a good idea of how grand it was if you visit the British Museum in London which has these huge gateways and cuts from the palace walls.
The Persian empire didn't care about the religion of the conquered. Cyrus the Great was the one who freed the Jews from captivity in Babylon. With a weaker Roman Empire, or at least one with serious competition, the spread of Christianity throughout Europe by preaching would have still flourished, but forcing it on the Germanic tribes by the sword probably wouldn't have happened. For all we know, some later ruler of the Persian Empire may have converted to Christianity too.
Here's the question I'd like opinions on: Would there be any Islam? IMHO, a powerful Persian Empire would have stopped the spread of Islam cold. It would be a religion few cared about except the sand rats.
True, it’s just a blog site, but I liked the topic as a discussion and what better place to get a rounded, intellectual discussion on the net than on FR?
Perhaps the writer is not a native English speaker. “Julius Caesar Augustus” isn’t found in common usage here.
We went to the Victoria and Albert instead.
By Alexander's day the Greeks had 30 million people in their own little empire, and the Persians were still down around 10 million people.
So, let's say that the Greeks totally mesed up and got conquered by Persia. With nearly 1/4 of the Persian population "Greek Speaking" already, if not entirely Greek, the addition of the far more numerous Greek Speaking Greeks and their numerous colonies, would have done little to stop ultimate Roman hegemony. Rome would have arisen anyway because of technological and agricultural advances peculiar to the Italian peninsula and adjacent areas such as Greek speaking Southern France and, of course, Scota (now known as Ireland). How quickly we forget their little tricks eh!
I can see the "industrial revolution" occuring a good 1800 years sooner under this scenario since the Latin speakers would have had better lines of communication with the Persian speaking "East" and it's trade connections to China!
Alas, this scenario also results in a the diminishment and destruction of Classical Israel even earlier ~ no Messiah, no Christianity, no West!
I’m thinking about the loss to literature. There probably would never have been the Athenian tragedians, since Persia had a particular beef with Athens. No Xenophon, because those events likely wouldn’t have happened in a less-troubled Persian empire. Could we have even lost Homer’s epics?
Probably not. Greek culture was profoundly influential in Rome, and might have been equally so if the Greeks had been defeated by Persia. Maybe we’d see many differences in the details of what we know as Mediterranean history, but not in the larger sweep.
It’s written by absolutely first-rate historians. Very good stuff.
If the Persia took over Greece, then Rome would have taken over Persia.
They would have eventually overhwlmed the Persians and could have extended their Empire to the indus
Who knows, perhaps if a Roman Empire extended to Transoxiana it could have heard of the Xiongnu migrations causing the domino effect leading to the Great Migrations
I believe Princep (actually Princeps Senatus) was not an office but rather a title. It was of ancient republican heritage and was often given to the leading senator. It meant “first among the Senate” and carried no additional powers or authority beyond other offices the Princeps might hold. It was not dissimilar to our own President pro tem of the Senate, which is also largely honorific.
In the later imperial times it became one of the emperor’s titles (like emperor/imperator for that matter) despite its republican heritage. As such it eventually turned into the title Prince or its equivalent in all other European languages.
Augustus was also a title or honor, not an office.
For most of the time he was emperor Augustus held no particular office in the rather rickety Roman system of government. Rather he held a number of powers delegated to him by the Senate, as had previously been often done for other senators.
The sum total of these powers, in particular his absolute control of the army, gave him autocratic authority but this was concealed by their diffuse nature, so that during the first century or so of the Empire (called by historians the Principate) it was still in theory a Republic, not an Empire.
But you're right that the Persians did not convert folks to Zoroastrianism.
A powerful Perso-Roman Empire would have swatted Islam.
Ah, the Vickie :-P
The key to getting past that is that what you are watching is the story being told to motivate the Spartan soldiers right before the Battle of Palatea a year later (which they won). So you're seeing it through the eyes, imagination and embellishments of the speaker, such as Leonidas defending against a giant Xerxes, not just a man. It's also a film adaptation of a graphic novel, and those tend to be a bit over-the-top.
The author doesn’t seem aware of the fact that empires, particularly pre-industrial ones, have increasing difficulty exerting power as they reach farther away from their core areas.
If Greece had been located where Babylon was, they would almost certainly have been conquered. Had Greece fallen, advancing beyond it would have been even more difficult.
I’m also unclear what her sky-god versus the Persian belief system is referring to. Zoroastrianism, at least in its later form, is just as much a monotheistic belief system as the Abrahamic religions.
I got a kick out of her deriving deep historical insights from the movie 300. Interesting movie, mostly for the images, but it has only a passing acquaintance with historical accuracy.
Because Persia was the entire stretch of ancient civilisational lands from the indus right to Ionia, it had to have been more than 10 million.
Let's assume a 13 mill Greek added to 70 mill Persian, so the Greeks would have been about 13% of the Empire -- the rest of your statement about Rome seems accurate to my mind, especially the "industrial revolution" occuring a good 1800 years sooner
Not so sure about the no Messiah bit.
you bring up a very good point. There would have been no democracy in the way we know it and probably no drama plays etc. in the way we know it. Though it would have had far more repercussions across the world, not just Mediterranean history imho
good points — I think the disguise of the Principate continued until 3rd century when an Emperor divided the Empire 4 ways (what was his name, starting with D)
On the other hand, those analyses usually discount the cleverness of the Greeks in turning from wheat to olive trees. The Athenians weren't the only folks to figure out that olives, credit unions, and trained militia were great ideas!
Greece's quite successful colonial era began way before the creation of a single polity under Philip and Alexander's crowd.
Another "plus" is the cause of so much conflict between the Greeks and Persians ~ that was the emigration of vast numbers of Greeks into Western Anatolia! In the end the Persians could do nothing about that.
And what happens to Israel and The Messiah when Greece fails to spread its culture into the Middle East proper on the current time table? Well, that gives the Italians the "edge" over the Western Greek interests around the Mediterranean ~ (France/Gaul/Sicily) ~ thereby preventing the acretion of Iberia to the Carthaginian interests (and with that, the elimination of a component of the Messianic prophecies that call for The Messiah to tend first to the lost tribes ~ they'd simply not been there in Spain where He could sail to them. The whole place would be speaking Latin with no protective Greek colonies on the Mediterranean coast.
That'd necessitated a recalibration of the Messianic schedule.
Would this have given the Druids the edge? Maybe, but most likely disruption of Greek advances to the Western Mediterranean would have also stymied Gaelic speakers from getting to the Northwest coast of Iberia, and using that place as a springboard into Scota!
There may well have not arisen the Ireland we've all known to revere ~ instead, there'd be a more impoverished place with no cultural tradition beyond chasing cows and looking for all the world like Southern Chad!
Yes, I understand there’s a reason behind the style of presentation. I just don’t like it. I don’t care for “graphic novels,” either.
Diocletian. One of the very few absolute rulers in history who genuinely abdicated and went into retirement. And survived the experiment.
Although by his time the disguise had worn extremely thin. Diocletian simply brought the form of the state somewhat into line with its reality.
BTW, I thought it was odd the author of this essay drew a line between Greek/Roman and Persian attitudes towards the whole God-King bit.
Alexander had made himself a God-King while he was still alive and his diadochi followed suit enthusiastically. The Ptolemies and Seleucids were Gods.
Even the earliest Roman emperors were worshiped as Gods outside Italy while they were alive, and all but the most unpopular were deified and worshipped after death in Rome itself. There is a great story about Vespasian, one of the more attractive of the early emperors, renowned for an iconoclastic sense of humor. His last words reportedly were, “I feel myself becoming a god.”
The later Emperors, of course, were God-Kings from their accession.
What the author omits [or doesn’t know] is troubling. Two quick examples: Carthage. He totally ignores it. Then there’s the Magyars. They don’t arrive in the Hungarian plain until much later, like 300-400 years after the Huns do -and the Huns didn’t arrive until the late 4th-early 5th century, AD. Indeed, except for the Scythians [who the Persians had been fighting since the time of Cyrus the Great [they killed him]in the southern Steppe, there weren’t a lot of people around up that way [the great migrations started later] for the Persians to fight. And not much [wealth, ports, etc] to fight over.
Still, going with the author, I propose a slightly different result. With Persia beating the Greeks, the Greek colonies in Sicily and along the Mediterranean littoral will seek alliance with Rome. Rome will occupy Sicily without the need for war with Carthage. The two may ally against Persia. Roman military reform [weapons, organization, tactics] brought about by conflict with the Gauls in the Po valley would accelerate.
If there was a confrontation,a Roman- Cathaginian Army: Roman Infantry, Libyan infantry and Numidian cavalry would clean the Persians’ clocks. And unlike Alexander, the Romans would have destroyed Persia in it’s turn [see Third Punic War].
One other note. Xerxes regretted burning down Athens as soon as he did it [as a reprisal for the Athenians torching a Persian provincial capital-kind of like the Brits and DC in the War of 1812]. He ordered it rebuilt the next day. He sought Greece’s submision, and incorporation, not its destruction.
Diocletian was quite a character, though his reforms were doomed
You are overlooking recurring famines and plagues ~ which definitely served to keep down Persian population
True, but they also did a dandy job on the Greeks. Look up the Plague of Pericles.
Here's a cite for Persia having a population in the 5th century of 50M, 44% of the entire world's population. Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria and the Indus had enormous populations for the time.
Meanwhile, the two most powerful Greek cities, Sparta and Athens, had total populations of 250k and 315k.
Population of the entire Greek world is estimated at 8M to 10M. A very large percentage of this number was on the Persian side during the wars. Ionia, Thracian and Black Sea colonies, Macedon, Thessaly, etc. A bunch of the rest were in Italy and Sicily and out of this fight.
I disagree with that -- the Persians had to initially fight off the Babylonians and the Medes and prior to that the all-powerful neo-Assyrian Empire had been defeated.
Beside the Scyths, the Persians had to contend with powerful Indian dynasties and the Egyptians
and wealth -- there was a lot of it in the fertile crescent, indus valley and Canaan.
Good point - mercy and the SPQR were opposites
I forgot to say how right SL is on the god-king bit — the Persians did not have this as they worshipped Ahura Mazda.
You’re right. But the thrust of the article, as I understand it, posits a Persian thrust to the northwest of Greece, at a time when the Babylonians, Assyrians and Medes had already been assimilated into the Persian Empire. So I wrote accordingly.
One other factor the Persians would have faced with the Romans was spectacularly deep manpower pool that was largely homogeneous and higly militarized using the same system [see Second Punic War].
Hate to disagree, but it's just not that simple. There is considerable disagreement about whether the Persians of Xerxes' time were really Zoroastrians in the later sense of the term. They seem to have had other gods and goddesses, though it's not clear whether these were part of a pantheon or were demigods or angels. Somewhat similar to medieval Christianity with all its saints. An outsider, or even many of the uneducated at the time, might have thought these were gods.
In any case, the position of the Persian shahs was very darn similar to a God-King. The Greeks certainly picked up the idea from the Persians.
It is certain that the later Parthians and others heavily influenced by the Persians had other gods such as Mithras.
Full-bore monotheistic Zoroastrianism doesn't seem to have come in till the Sassanids of 225 AD on. And this may have been largely in response to Christianity.
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