Lesson 3: What brought Sparta and Athens together?


Lesson Objectives:

  • Students will be able to describe the ways that Greeks developed the ideas of citizenship and democracy
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast the city-states of Athens and Sparta
  • Students will be able to describe the role of Greek men and women

Key Terms to Know

Directions: Look up each term in your textbook (pages 131-137) and define each term in your social studies notebook

  • Persia
  • Cyrus the Great
  • Darius
  • Xerxes

The Persian Empire

The Persians were a group of nomadic warriors. They were once dominated by others until Cyrus the Great united them into a powerful empire.

  • He invaded Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Phoenicia, and Egypt
  • He treated his subjects well
  • He built an empire about the size of the United States
  • He built roads to connect Persian territories

The Persian Wars

The Greeks continued to set up colonies throughout the region. They often had conflicts with the Persians. Persians had taken over Greek territories in Asia Minor. Athenian armies helped the Greeks rebel against the Persians. The Persian King, Darius, saw Greeks from the mainland (the largest Greek island) as a threat to his empire. Darius decided to stop the Greeks from interfering.

Battle of Marathon

  • 20,000 Persian soldiers arrive at Marathon, near Athens
  • Athenian army's 10,000 soldiers waited on a hilltop, knowing they were outnumbered
  • Persians grew tired of waiting for the Athenians to attack and decide to sail around to attack the city of Athens
  • As Persian troops boarded their ships, the Athenian army attacked and defeat the Persians

Click the link below to watch a video of the Battle of Marathon

Battle of Marathon

Xerxes, son of Darius, vowed revenge against Athenians for the Battle of Marathon. He begins a new invasion of Greece with 180,000 soldiers, thousands of warships, and supply ships. The Greeks decide to join forces to fight the Persian threat. Sparta sends the most soldiers led by King Leonidas. Athens provides the navy. Athenian General Themistocles comes up with a plan to attack Persian ships and cut of the massive army's supplies.

King Leonidas

Battle of Thermopylae

  • The Greeks needed to slow down the Persian army before it reached Athens
  • They chose a narrow mountain passage in Thermopylae
  • 7,000 Greek soldiers held the Persians back for 2 days
  • When a traitor revealed a way around the Greek forces, King Leonidas sent most of the troops away and remained with a few hundred Spartans to continue to hold off the Persians
  • The Spartans were defeated but their fight gave the Athenian army time to assemble 200 ships
  • The Greek fleet attacked at Salamis and defeated the Persians

Click the link below to watch a video on the Battle of Thermopylae

Battle of Thermopylae

The Battle of Plataea in 479 BC united the Greek armies and ended the Persian invasions of Greece. The unification of the city-states of Greece did not last long.

Ask Yourself

  • Why do you think the unity in Greece did not continue long after the Persian Wars?
  • What kind of relationship do Sparta and Athens have?
  • How do you think the Persian Wars affected the relationship between Sparta, Athens, and other city-states?


  • Imagine you are an advisor to Xerxes and you are worried about his plan for revenge
  • Write a letter to Xerxes detailing reasons why he should not carry out his plan
  • Use information you have learned about the Greek armies
  • Use knowledge of the geography of the region
  • Use what you know about the history of the Persian Empire

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It's All Greek To Me!