How were the Greek armies able to defeat the much larger Persian forces in the Persian Wars?

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For one thing, the Greeks enjoyed superiority over the Persians at sea, which gave them a distinct advantage in terms of speed and maneuverability. Meanwhile, on land, the Persian army found it hard-going to traverse the unfamiliar hilly terrain of the Greek territories they invaded. The native Greek forces never had that problem, of course, and so were able to bog down the Persians in a long, drawn-out war of attrition that sapped the invaders' morale.

Moreover, the various Greek city-states—which had previously been at each other's throats—were able to combine into an unbeatable force that simply overwhelmed the Persians with their tenacity and common resolve. With the Spartans fighting the Persians on land, and the Athenians taking on the Persian fleet at sea, the Greeks had managed to assemble a skilled, well-balanced army capable of waging war whatever the terrain.

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In general, it appears that the Greeks were able to defeat the Persians because of their superior battle tactics.  Of course, we must remember that the victors write the history books and that most of what we know about the battles of the Persian Wars come from Greek sources.  What we know, though, seems to indicate that the Greeks were better led and that the Greek phalanxes were a superior way to organize for battle.

We can see the Greeks' tactical superiority in battles like that at Marathon and at Salamis.  In both of these cases, the Greeks disposed their forces better and were also able to lure the Persians into doing what they (the Greeks) wanted.  At Marathon, the Persian attack on the weakened Greek center allowed the strengthened Greek flanks to attack and essentially encircle the Persians.  At Salamis, the Greeks manipulated the Persians into attacking in narrow waters where the Greeks' heavy ships with hoplites aboard could negate the speed and manuverability advantage of the Persians.

In these ways, what we know of these long-ago battles indicates that the Greeks won through superior tactics.

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