The Persian King Darius, wanted to punish the Athenians for their role in the Ionian revolt, and expand his empire. Miltiades, the Athenian General, marched his army to Marathon to set up camp. Miltiades hoped to delay the battle and wait for Sparta, he sent a professional runner, Pheidippides, to seek help. The Spartans said they wouldn't come until the next full moon.
The Persians heavily outnumbered the Athenians. Since the Persians placed their best troops in the centre of the formation, the Athenians countered by placing theirs on the ends. The Athenians won by using the pincer move, and closed in on them. Athenian troops drove them back to their ships. The remaining Persian ships sailed to Athens but the Athenian army got there at the same time, forcing the Persian to abandon their plan.
The Athenians under Themistocles, took defensive precautions and built 200 ships. In 481 BCE, all Greek states held a congress at the Isthmus of Corinth. Sparta and Athens shared the leadership role. Xerxes, the son of Darius, set out from Sardis in May of 480 BCE. His army more than 18 000, with 1200 ships.
The Battle of Thermopylae
The Greeks chose a defensive position at Thermopylae, a narrow pass the Persians had to pass. The Greeks had about 7000 troops, commanded by the Spartan king Leonidas, who brought 300 Spartan soldiers. Another battle was happening north of the island of Euboea. A Greek traitor led the Persian force to a secret passage, the Greeks were then defeated.
The defeat left Athens vulnerable. The city had to be evacuated, most people escaped to Salamis, a large island of the coast of Athens. Themistocles dispatched a messenger to Xerxes with false information. The messenger told Xerxes that the Greeks fleet was about to sail away.
The Battle of Salamis
Xerxes moved his fleet into the narrow gulf. The Greeks were outnumbered, but still they attacked the advancing Persian boats. The ships fought in the narrow confines of the strait, but while Persians lost 200 ships, the Greeks only lost 40. The Persian army watched from the shore, as they witnessed a crushing defeat.