Misunderstood Moments in History – Why the Persians Failed to Conquer Greece

Why the Persians failed to conquer Greece. ​Start learning a new language today with Babbel! Signup for a three-month subscription and get an additional three months for free! ​ https://go.babbel.com/6m3-youtube-invicta-dec-2019/default

In this documentary episode we explore the Greco-Persian wars to understand why the Persians failed to conquer Greece. The video begins with a historical overview of the Achaemenid Persian Empire and then an analysis of the Ionian Revolt which led to war. We then look at what the Persian army of Darius and Xerxes wished to achieve and see to what extent these objectives were met. This includes looking at the Battle of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, Mykale, and more which featured Greek armies of Athens, Sparta and more. You can learn more about the battle of Marathon in this video by the Armchair Historian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cubGxusJhw

We conclude with a discussion of why the Persians ultimately failed. This analysis corrects traditional narratives which portray the factors incorrectly.

‘Neither the Less Valorous Nor the Weaker’: Persian Military Might and the Battle of Plataia by Roel Konijnendijk
H. van Wees, ‘Herodotus and the past’, in E. Bakker/I. de Jong/H. van Wees (eds), Brill’s Companion to Herodotus (2002), 321-349
Thuc. 1.69.5, 6.33.5.
G. Cawkwell, The Greek Wars: The Failure of Persia (2005)



  1. Correction: At 24:44 the graphics state the Greeks were “Untrained levies”. This is incorrect. It should instead say “non-professional” or “militia” to be more aligned with the script which states the Greeks were “levies who mustered in times of war without regular training”. This is in the context of an argument for a smaller quality gap between the armies than is typically depicted as opposed to an argument for a non-existent gap which we did not intend to make.

  2. Why did the Persians lose?

    Economics and politics, of course. They had a whole empire to run – it’s hard to fight a war and keep the peace everywhere else.

  3. I feel like it’s the same with Carrhae. I see a lot of people giving all the credit to horse archers being superior over heavy infantry, but many other Roman vs Parthian encounters show that is not the case. I think the biggest blow would be seeing your son return as a head on a pike. You can’t expect a man to be composed and logical in that situation.

  4. Iranian* the concept of persia/persian/Persians is European ,the letter p doesn’t even exist in farsi

  5. Wow! This is excellent. Yes, the Persian empire often is maligned in contemporary popular interpretations. The Persian empire was vast yet ruled on a more or less egalitarian basis. It also it made some amazing, advanced accomplishments. Great work, I will rewatch this…

  6. Good summary. Chance. The difference between victor and defeat, the difference between success and failure, the difference between a “successful entrepreneur” and a hobo living in a cardboard box. A simple concept that most of humanity for some reason has great difficulty getting their heads around.

  7. guys can you give me a textbook regarding this matter I would really love to read some of that thanks

  8. Dan Carlin: Over 12 hours of podcast discussing Persia

    Invicta: Lemme bash Dan and claim to do a better job in under 30 minutes

  9. An army of free men cares more about every single aspect of protecting themselves and making the most of any single individual. That’s why we see the Greek choosing the battlefield and the hoplite phalanx so accentuated. Imagine being a conscript of the Persian empire invading Greece vs being a Greek citizen defending it. Might sound a bit cheesy, but the level of care is usually reflected in statistics of any dangerous activity.

  10. Children think they’re historians now pfft really? Go somewhere better for your information folks

  11. The man that fight for his nation, his children, his family and the promise of slavery and death raise motral men to legends and myths. War is horrible but, in some way also mysterious and beatifull with the chance to become a legend. For my glory and your name in the history books is worth more then a thousand live times in modern times. The way of the warrior is to accept your already dead.

  12. It’s also important to note that the Greek really did have bigger muscle. Their prowess in combat is impressive, and explainable. The Greeks have been fighting among themselves since antiquity. Of course they would possessed tougher infantry, they are more warlike than the Persian. The Persian strength was always in their resourcefulness, coming from governance system rather than having superior fighting force. They can mobilise their army quicker, field more troops but that diversity also disallowed the Persian from developing a unified combat doctrine. This reminds me of the Roman later with their Germans trouble. The Roman moved from relying on their superior military force to superior logistic worked for a while until the weight of their empire prevent them from mobilise their logistic and losing to the Germans. The continental, internal friction can do wonders. The European states went from being pushed around by the Ottoman to dominate the world because while the Ottoman is napping, Europe is savagely tearing each other apart. Those fights for survival shaped them up to become the dominant force of the world. Almost all of the great inventions before the age of exploration is made in Asia: compass, paper, printing, dye, silk, ceramic, gunpowder, yet it is the European whom elevate those inventions into weapons to subjugate Asia.

  13. Let me ask you something why the Great Alexander won the Persians in all the battles against them

  14. Τhemistocles threatened the Spartans if they did not agree for the naval battle in Salamis ,he took all the athenians citizens and transported them in Magna Grecia for a new beginning there .

  15. Great channel, very informative and well narrated and explained. Been binge-watching your channel hard today. Great work!

  16. It’s easy to examine, send 300 Greek to Middle East with sword and let them to fight some middle eastern with no weapon, very nice video by the way

  17. Persian soldiers lacked 6 pacs like sparta. They were traveling on slow elephants and kept losing more soldiers in battles.

  18. I suggest you should all watch the documentary about Tomris Hatun, She was a Turkic lady who cut the head of Persian King, not many people know this but Turks ruled over Iranian people between 1040 – 1923 starting with Ghaznavids who were Turkish people they conquered Iran in 1040, and then the Seljuk which was also Turk, and then Khwarazmian dynasty another Turkic people, 14 Century Timur Conquered Iran he was also Ozbek Turk, following that the Safavid dynasty was created 1501 by Sah Ismail he was also a Turkish living in Anatolia who migrated to Iran, after the Safavids another Turkic Tribe took control of Iran which was the Avsar and Kacak Turks remained in power until 1923, the first non Turkish leader in Iran was Riza Sah Pehlevî, he started ruling iran in 1925, he was the first Iranian to rule Iran for the past 1000 years

  19. “Absord Greece”? Spells check must be antiquated in the update as Ancient Greece 🇬🇷 ruins have not been updated.

  20. These wars are only based on Herodetus lies. Persians have no documents about this wars. No other nations have mentioned this wars either. These could be just emajinery wars made up by Herodetus.

  21. What made the Spartans inferior, presuming you implied that, to professional solider by your metrics? Also, what category would the Spartans fall into? Many professional armies, even today, try to replicate parts of Spartan philosophy and training.

  22. You cannot have a large empire without showing some leniency to the culture of various regions or they will never submit

  23. So , the conclusion of this video is that the main factor of Greeks’ win was the Persians’ bad lack? Not the quality neither the quantity of their army? Have you ever heard about Kiros Anabasis , the great work of militarian , politician , and philosopher Xenophon? Well , check it out and then tell us how in the world an army of 10.000 Greek mercenaries , managed to cross the half of Persian empire and return to Greece , surrounded by enemies in hostile territories. Obviously according to your theory this was able thanks to their good lack not because of their superiority in armour and training. Also if you could explain to us how Alexander the Great conquered in just 8 years the whole Persian Empire , winning the Persians in their own soil not one but three times (Granicus river , Issus , Gaugamela) despite the fact that he was outnumbered with ratio 1:2 or 1:3 ? Alexander’s expedition was a big gambling? Gimmie a break. I am a Greek but I want to be objective. Regarding the Greek coalition’s win in Persian Wars , the main factors were the geography of the landscape and the composition of the two opponent armies. The Greek peninsula is full of hills , mountains , canyons , and rough terrains in general. This type of landscape was a major drawback for the Persian army , which Its’ primary force were the thousands of cavalry , heavy chariots , and the light infantry armed with bowes and arrows (essentially bowmen ) . The immortals was the elite unit and propably the only really heavy infantry unit but they were taking part in battles to shift balance in favor of the Persians rather than fighting from the beggining of the conflict. The Persian army could not use its’ full power into these battles as the form of the battlefields didn’t allow them to use cavalry and charriots. The Persian army was made for battles in the vast plains and deserts of central and middle Asia , where cavalry and charriots were providing mobility and the advantage of the quick encirclement of the opponent. On the other hand , Greek army’s spine was the hoplite phalanx , a solid group of heavy armoured infantry men accompanied by lighter infantry called “psiloi”. This type of army was capable of adapting in any circumstances during the battle and exploiting the narrow battlefields against its’ opponent. Furthermore , the composition of the two armies was completely different. Greek army was copmposed basically by free citizens fighting shoulder to shoulder with his father , brother , cousin etc. and most of all with a very homogenous nature despite their differences and rivalries (see the common customs , religious beliefs , athletic games etc.) . On the contrary , Persian army was a sum of different people under the rule of a foreign emperor , with few or no similarities between them. They were basically slaves and in fact some of them completely untrusted (for instance on the battle of Salamis the crews of some Persians vessels were sailors from the Greek cities of Asia Minor). In addition , Greeks were fighting not only for their freedom and independence but also for the protection of their people , their relatives , childrens, wifes and their properties. The Persians were fighting for loot and profit. Thus , the Greeks were in a high moral because of the fear of extinction while Persians were fighting driven by the fear of their master’s lash . But , as history has proven , high moral and a good purpose are not enough to win. You need the technology , the logistics and the knowledge to use them for being a winner. And Greeks had them all during the Persian Wars and this is the reason why the Persians failed to conquer them.

  24. According to Greek historians, everything was divided into black and white but in some instances even the Greeks couldn’t hide the truth. For example according to the Greeks themselves, the persian army was never lacking in courage and martial prowess nor in battle tactics and strategy. However, Thanks to stupid Hollywood productions and mindless pop culture, the actual history is being twisted again into ugly black and white. By the way, according to contemporary historians, the number of the Persian forces in Greeco-Persian wars with no doubt is greatly exaggerated.

  25. Spartans were not professionals of course,because they weren’t paid to go to war they were bred for it.Spartan army at its peak years (right up until battle of Mantineia against Thebes) and afterwards was the closest thing in structure,nature and spirit to a professional army given the circumstances that military professionalism in the modern concept or even the ancient Rome one was not even conceived yet in the years that Sparta saw its peak.They were super-soldiers not because they had superpowers but rather their lifetime experience in warfare that gave the edge in battle and made them look like supermen when facing levies or simply trained militia.

    Even the Athenians had a hard time when they trained for combat,of course not even close to the life long training of the Spartans but still the training of the archaic and classical antiquity hoplite was harsh and demanding,beating the unbeaten until that time Persian army was not random chance.
    You give the Greek hoplites too little credit.

  26. Man, find some serious records on how Greek were trained and you will see that Greek “irregular training” “not in way of moder elite soldiers” is far beyond your nowadays bodily capabilities and enormously far away from Persian standards. Thus you should not claim that Greeks were not so professional as people often think. Well… trust me, they were more than anyone could ask for in the east. Also stating that they had acces to greek styled infantry is also quite faulty. Do not forget that they conquered those areas shortly prior to these events, you cant expect serious draft. Such units would barely make significant auxilliary units. When it comes to the armoured units, yes they had. But just like in case of Crusaders vs. Saracens, those armoured troops were in fact even less numerous than in case of western Greek/Crusader army and formed very very small core. Even among the cavalry, consider writings of Usama Ibn Munkiz. He described that he him self, and few other of his troops used 2 layers of frankish mail to create armour, thus beeing more armoured than any crusader in theory would be, however his forces did not used padded cloth under it and wore armour on silk or rougher wool tunics, where as crusaders, by combinaton of 2 different layers created much more effective armor for larger scalle of units that in fact in total, worked far better than any Saracen army could ever hoped for. As you could be sure that in case of Knight you would always find some solid basis of long mail armour with leg, arm, hand and whole body protection (after 1150 the hand protection was basicaly common) and deason, yet simple and utilitaristic helmet, quite often with face protection. Those things play huge role in battle endurance, as decorated oriental nasal helm is nice and looks cool, but when you get your nose flattened, its really not so important that your helmet is nice. And you could never be sure if Arabian heavy raider will be in some very rare ocation more layered and armoured by short mail and scalle, thus opticaly beeing more armoured thatn crusader, or whether he will be only with simple short mail, lamellar or scalle shirt. So in general each knight was far much armoured than any heavy Aarabic horseman, and even though the extremely heavy cavalry forces were known to the east, they did not used some serious advances the western cavalry used. Like underlayer of armour, or specialized assauld tactic, as even east heavy cavalry fought in very loose way in antic fashion, where as crusader cavalry used tightly packed, knee to knee formation and charge, with folded spears under shoulder (and even Munkiz describes why they never adopted that style of riding, as it was so contradictive to their customs, that even if the Arabs were capable of it, they wouldnt do it). And thats the same in case of Greeks vs. Persians. Their linothorax in gerneral was easily accesible to large fractions of whole society, as linothorax on its own is very idiot proof and simple design with maximal effectivity. Elite greeks allways prefered scalle or full cuirass of mettal. They also used different “heavier” approach for tactics in combat, hence the packed formation of phalanx, overlaping shields, chinguards, type of movement, that is something, that even heavier persian forces were probably not using in any significant cohesion. After all, majority of Persian elite armoured forces were nobles, who fought as individuals rather than in unison. So be carefull with those formulations you use. I see your point, but you your self sometimes overstepp possition to try and prove what you wish to point out. It is always about the “genius of average” and average Greek half-proffesional Hoplite was superiorly geared and trained to average Persian cannon fodder. The elits on their own, never won anything without very significant support. Nor Greeks, Romans and Persian ether. And the reason why rebellious Anatolian Greek states had fallen is quite at hand… they behaved like rebells, and were not coordinated in unison the later Greek aliance had shown. So I really would use that as a basis for the argument that the sides were simillarly equal in quality. And just to set things out, I am no Greek. I am north-Bohemian from central Europe and my people fought in very different way than Greeks and Persians 😀 . And you can also add another point to why the Persia failed, it goes allong with the large ammount of unrest in the Empire, as multy ethnicity allways is not a good thing for stability, especialy in combination with nobles that form the backbone of your system. Im pretty sure that you would find many cases in which opposition bantered about Imperial decision to invade Greece and saw it as not reasonable, and then, after series of defeats and missfortune, you can imagine that it has been used widely against the Emperor him self. As allways, to defeat great enemies, you need to destroy the support of their invasion in their own country. Does it ring a bell? Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq….

  27. lol. we are taught these things in school in greece both in primary secondary and high school in more depth every time

  28. I do believe the greeks had better armor, It has been recorded persian arrows BOUNCED off the Spartan Armor because the armor was bronze and the arrows wicker wood

  29. Spartan 1: “This is Sparta!” throughs envoy down the well
    Spartan 2: “Hey, dumbass, who will deliver now our response to the Persians?”
    Spartan 1: “Uh, well, I didn’t…”
    Spartan 2: “Congratulations, you just volunteered to do it. Gee, I wonder how the Persians will react when you tell them what happened to their envoy? You never kill the messengers. This goes for the rest of you idiots.”

  30. to this dude, everything is nuance. sorry, but i saw way too many inaccuracies to agree to his conclusions. not the least of which is to assume that there were no actual professional soldiers among the Greeks. while it is true Sparta’s reputation as a society of professional soldiers denies the fact they were a whole society which included farmers, tradesmen and craftsmen, the fact is they had a large swath of professional soldiers, on top of every male citizen being expected to know and be proficient in warfare. the Spartans were famous for it even among the other greek cities. Athenians in particular found their warlike neighbor to be distasteful. this was just one of the problems i spotted. my point in all of this is many newer “historians” are fans of revisionist history for several reasons, not the least of which is to stand out. this certainly seems to have elements of that unfortunate modern trend.

  31. You also neglected to mention that the “Persian troops” which supposedly “held their own” against the Greeks were actually Theban hoplites that were allied to Persia. The facts remain the same. Greek heavy infantry were just plain better than Persian troops.

  32. This video is a joke. I just wasted 30 minutes of my life for you to say that the Greeks got lucky at the event of the video. Ridiculous.

  33. Greeks outnumbered Persians at Platea? What a joke. How did you come to that conclusion? You’d have to completely throw out all the sources we have and suspend logic and reason to argue that.

  34. I believe also that the uniformity of the Greek army is vastly underestimated.
    Everyone and anyone knew exactly what to do and when to do it.
    Having a huge amounts of mixed units together is not a good thing when deployed all at once.
    In my mind, Hellines have played well to their maximum in their own terrain and had a good spy network at their disposal to keep them inform and give misinformation to the enemy.
    Chance you say may have play a role, but overall the Hellenic states were play total war at their own backyard and they were the masters there.

  35. So, the Spartans were NOT professional soldiers, right? People who had devoted their entire adult lives to training for and conducting warfare were NOT professionals?? Who the HECK is professional in your eyes then??
    Yes, the Athenians and the rest of the city-states had what many here called citizen-militia (citizens who had other occupations but trained for war at regular intervals, like a couple of weeks each year, or so) who, while not professional were surely not untrained. The darned Spartans had no other occupation, by LAW! From the time they hit their 20s and until their 50s (!!) all they did, if physically fit, was to be soldiers, ready for war at a moments notice – literally!! They had to, in Sparta the subjugated Helots (the slaves, mainly from neighbouring Messenia, who were POWs along with their families) outnumbered adult males by up to 7 to 1! In the span of 100 years Spartans fought 3 wars with others (either Persians or other city-states, NOT Athens, that came later on) and 4 or 5 Helot rebellions. It is obvious, to many, that they needed a trained and ready to fight army at ALL times!

    But no, the “master” says they were not professional!

  36. Did you have to use Rome 2 music in the background….id rather not be reminded of that waste of space…

  37. In short, the only truly known fact is that Greece has the perfect terrain to defend on. Has saved our ass plenty of times.

  38. I loved this video. It was certainly very impressive. Great job to whoever made this video. And I like to think that The Persians got unlucky when trying to conquer Greece. As successful as it was the Persian Empire couldn’t conquer everything in sight. The war against Greece sure proved that. Well that’s what I think anyway. Bye.

  39. it was just a matter of culture greece spent 100’s if not 1000’s of years fighting each other while persia was still fairly new to war even if persia could match themn with equipment and troops they still wernt ready for the stubborness that the greeks had so they simply gave up on trying to conquer them

  40. I think it was more a hassle attempting to occupy Greece than it was impossible. I’m sure they could have been easily occupied. But they just chose not to for a number of reasons unknown to me. They probably didn’t see it as worth the manpower or money to continue. Sometimes all you need is to be a little pest.

  41. I love your videos and hardwork but understanding old names is very difficult can you put subtitles for special names for generals and commanders please?

  42. Lol. The Greeks only stood a chance because of socialist ideals and policies. 🙃Like watching that shit family guy rip off cartoon

  43. 1:30 portuguese with the brasilian flag… lol . what?! a litlle research, maybe? I mean it’s not wrong but definitely its not right. they speak portuguese but so does angola… portuguese = portugal! does it ring any bell? for spanish you’re not using the argentina flag, are you?! is it the american flag there for english? how dumb can this be?! really?! the brasilian flag for portuguese? really really? uau! you do like history right????? I mean your videos… aaaaaaaahhhhhhh! this is the internet, where they’re it’s not the same as their or there and you’d be crucified for it because… english! and you put the brasilian flag for portuguese? this is hilarious. it is. I saw the whole video by the way….

  44. Natural disasters are unpredicted and “random” but when it comes to war and strategy its all about decisioning

  45. It is correct that we have only Greek sources for what happened! And they have been corroborated on quite a lot of minor points by Archaeology! Now these ‘scholars’ of Invicta will tell us what is wrong with the victor’s version! Based on what? New sources? Some New Persian Papyrus found in the nonexisting Archives? They do not tell us! Money can buy you a new Future and for some a NEW PAST!
    Falsifying HISTORY! Shamelessly! Archaelogical evidence has proven that Cyprus was Greek since 2000 BC.
    And yet the map that shows the Greek World does not include Cyprus. How come?
    No doubt this is a clumsy effort to falsify HISTORY.

  46. Its werid you visit Greece. The Greeks are olive skinned and speak a strange language. I always thought they were pale and spoke with British and Scottish accents?

  47. the multicultural aspect of Persian army, as of any empire, was weakness in front of the cultural unity of Greece. diversity is division. cultural homogeneity is UNITY and a strength in itself.

  48. in Iran, Greece is known as Yunan. which comes from the word Ionia or maybe Ionian. “an” makes plural form in persian like s in english which here it means Ionians.

  49. Persian infantry was absolute TRASH. That’s why they failed to conquer Greece. Like who goes to war in their pajamas?

  50. You forgot the language barrier!
    The Persian armies were from all over the empire (well, within reason), and that means a lot of different languages, and command structures. So if a high enough commander dies that could mean a full collapse on the field easily (like at Platea). With this in mind it is quite impressive how they organised large scale and complicated plans.

  51. Greeks proved yet again that fighting for your country is the strongest quality….plus Greeks are better generally 😉… sorry bro

  52. Great video, I think that the Italian attitude was the deciding factor. Britain had the same attitude to its empire, combined with good luck that can really mean a lot.

  53. Greek soldiers were hugely superior to Persian soldiers.
    The disunity amongst the Greek City States was by far their biggest problem.
    They were far more interested in their own interests and fighting against one another than any concept of an united Greece. This was on show throughout the campaign. The squabbling in the leadup to the Battle of Plataea almost led to disaster.
    Thereafter the Persians certainly appreciated the superiority of Greek soldiers. They never again dared to invade Greece, instead choosing to hire them as mercenaries which the Greeks were only too happy to do, even during Alexander’s campaign.
    Alexander and his Macedonian army got no help from the likes of Athens and Sparta, instead they tried to stab him in the back. But he was still able to smash the Persian Empire with ridiculous ease. Maybe at Gaugamela he lost more horses than men, such was the superiority of his forces. Compare Alexander’s contribution on the battlefield to that of Darius 3. What a joke!

  54. The reason is most likely logistics and internal conflict (in other parts of the empire) on the Persian side.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.