King of Kings and King of the Universe: The World after Xerxes

This is the display of the inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, so that the things done by man not be forgotten in time, and that great and marvelous deeds, some displayed by the Hellenes, some by the barbarians, not lose their glory, including among others what was the cause of their waging war on each other.


The Achaemenid Persian Empire on the eve of Xerxes' invasion of Greece

Prologue: Marathon to Tegea
Chapter 1: Wrapping Up
Chapter 2: Capitals and Tribute
Chapter 3: Taking Stock
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Prologue: Marathon to Tegea
Prologue: From Marathon to Tegea

In the Greek reckoning, the war had begun with the Ionian Revolt. At the beginning of the 5th Century, the tyrant Aristagoras of Miletus had led a revolt against the Persian Empire of Darius I. As part of this revolt, he had sought the assistance of the Greeks of the mainland but was only granted the help of the Athenians and Eretrians. In the end, when the revolt was put down, Darius set about on a campaign of punishment against the Greeks, seeking to destroy those who had aided his enemies. In a campaign that swept through the Aegean, his forces were finally driven back in a massive victory for the fledgling democracy of Athens. 10 years later, Xerxes came seeking revenge for the defeat at Marathon, leading a host numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

In the Persian reckoning, as recorded in the extant Vergina inscription, Darius and Xerxes were merely responding to the cries for help of the impoverished peoples of Greece and the many enslaved peoples of the mainland, specifically including the 'broken and wearied Argives, the Messenians whose impositions by the Spartans have utterly ruined a once-proud state'. In this version, Darius and Xerxes were nothing short of would-be liberators of Greece, seeking to bring justice and peace to a war-torn country.

The truth is rather more simple. The Battle of Marathon, for all it was hyped in Greek memory, was actually little more than a glorified raid; Darius' campaign in the Aegean Sea was never actually intended to conquer Athens at all, not unless it was effectively handed to them. Instead, it is a good deal more likely that he had set out simply to secure the islands of the Aegean, something he actually achieved regardless of what happened at Marathon. When Xerxes invaded 10 years later, in 480, it was not as a campaign of revenge, nor was it as a liberator. His invasion of Greece was aimed solely at conquest, as Darius had done before him in Cyrenaica, Thrace, and India, and Cambyses before him, in Phoenicia and Egypt. Persia was a conquering empire, it pushed the boundaries of its territory time and again. Xerxes was simply continuing this policy.

In many ways, the war was never in doubt. A lot has been written about the comparative military forces of the Greeks and Persians, especially since many of our sources for the war are in fact Greeks (we don't see a 'historical tradition' in the same way for Persia until later and a lot of the sources that still survive over from the royal archives are administrative in nature). However, the fact of the matter is that the Persians led a highly organised, intricately structured army supported by the largest fleet of its day against a form of warfare that was superbly amateurish in a variety of ways. Greek infantry has often been hyped up, especially that of the Spartans, but the reality is that it was nothing special for its day; the 'hoplite' existed in a whole slew of societies, including in Persia, and most Greek soldiers were entirely untrained, rejecting the idea that training was something required by a soldier entirely. In fact, despite myths of Spartan excellence (largely through post-war mythmaking glorifying the defeat of the Spartans at Thermopylae), the only thing we can ascertain to have been different between Spartan and other Greek warfare was a basic sense of drill training and some degree of physical fitness.

The biggest advantage the Greeks had was their country. Greece is rocky and arid with few major rivers and a lot of mountainous areas, regions in which the Persian army was often unable to use its characteristic manoeuvrability as was the case at Thermopylae. While the Persians were only held for a few days, the Battle of Thermopylae had shown that the Persians often needed to fight in open areas to make the best use of their soldiers. Luckily for the Persians, the threat of another Thermopylae situation was rather far from being a reality for the next year or so. Once past Thermopylae, the Persian army swept down on Athens and sacked the city, only to find that the Athenian citizens had already fled to the nearby island of Salamis.

It was here that the problems really started for the Greeks. A disagreement over the disposition of the fleet broke out, the Athenian politician Themistocles arguing that the fleet needed to stay united and hold out in the Gulf of Salamis, learning from the naval battle at Artemision that the Persian ships were at their weakest in tight areas. On the other hand was the threat of the Isthmus of Corinth being turned; the Persian fleet offered Xerxes an opportunity to take the Isthmus and enter the Peloponnese, turning aside whichever army stood in his way. Famously, the disagreement went too far and several Peloponnesian contingents broke rank and began making their way for the Isthmus. Upon hearing this, the Persians made their move. A chunk of the fleet was sent to blockade the strait of Salamis, holding the ships there so as to prevent them from reinforcing the Peloponnesians while a larger group, some 400 ships, was sent to catch up to the Peloponnesian navy.

Sure enough, in the open seas off the coast of the Peloponnese, the Greek ships were utterly annihilated in a major battle. Unable to reinforce, the rest of the Greek navy was left fully isolated. Of course, Themistocles' fleet was still a major threat; the Athenians alone fielded as many as 200 ships, the majority of the Greek navy in operation at the time. But what the previous battle had shown was that the Persians, one way or another, now held effective control of the sea. Instead of risking battle, Xerxes settled in for a blockade, leaving some 3-400 ships to keep the remaining 2-250 ships trapped at Salamis while he and the rest of his navy made a beeline for the Isthmus of Corinth. Here, the Greeks began to retreat; without control of the seas, the Isthmus was rendered indefensible and the Greek armies began to fall apart, each moving to defend their own city and hoping to wait out the Persian assault until they were forced to winter.

The problem was that that risked isolating them. Corinth lay right on the other side of the Isthmus, one of the biggest cities still left standing in the Hellenic League and at risk of being captured before winter came. If the Greeks didn't offer a pitched battle at Corinth, then they simply risked the city falling and leaving the door to the Peloponnese wide open. Once again, the war councils fell into debate; should they risk an open battle with the Persians on the fields of Corinth, or should they retreat and try to hold the mountainous passes of the inner Peloponnese? It wouldn't have mattered, really, anyway. While the Corinthian army did take the field, it was quickly annihilated by the Persians and within weeks the city had surrendered to Xerxes, opening the gates and being spared the same sack that had awaited Athens.

However, time was wearing on and once winter came it would be a lot harder to sustain the Persian army in the field. Taking stock at Corinth, Xerxes resolved to return with the larger part of his army to the Persian Empire, leaving Mardonius to finish up his conquests in the region. Before he did so, however, Xerxes set about tying up a few loose ends. The first of these was the coalition of ships still trapped in the straits of Salamis. Simply put, neither he nor the Athenians could really risk a long winter blockade; their ships would rot and be utterly useless for the next season to come. He wouldn't even have an advantage; the Athenians were in the sheltered strait, his ships would be vulnerable to storms that could carry off thousands of men. On the other hand, he also couldn't leave the Athenians just sitting on Salamis ready to harass the coastline. They either had to be conquered, or brought into the fold via diplomacy.

Leaving Mardonius to wrap up in Corinth, Xerxes marched back to Attica and took up camp in the ruins of Athens, inviting the leaders of the Athenian demos to a conference. Here they were offered the chance to return to Attica, to rebuild Athens however they wanted and to retain their democracy on the condition that the Greek fleet at Salamis be turned over and submission given. As proof of his generosity, he brought statues that had been left on the Parthenon when it was sacked, restoring them to the Athenians. Also present at the conference were several other Greek envoys, those who had already sided with the Persians; Thebans, Thessalians, Macedonians and, more recently, Argives.

Back in the Peloponnese, Mardonius was conducting his own propaganda campaign. As mentioned, Argos had been quick to side with the Persians once Corinth fell and, in the weeks that followed were able to turn over most of the Argolid to Persian rule. Shortly after Xerxes left, Mardonius moved to consolidate Argolis, touring the countryside and bringing gifts to the Argives to welcome them into the empire. At the same time, several envoys were sent into Achaea, attempting to win over the local cities with mixed success. Still, the whole thing was enough to be considered something of a victory; the Argives were long-term enemies of the Spartans and a major city in the Eastern Peloponnese. What's more, the capture of both Corinth and Argos left Mardonius able to possibly take winter quarters here in the Peloponnese without needing to return to either Attica or even Boeotia.

With news of the defection of Argos, the ships that had been supporting Mardonius now returned to Salamis, putting further pressure on Themistocles' forces. After weeks of deliberation, the Athenians finally agreed to surrender in late 480, their ships being led to Attica and disarmed by Xerxes and his men. There, the king personally received Themistocles and made a very public display of returning a statue of Athena to the Acropolis before finally leaving for Persia. Much of the fleet was either brought back to Persia with him or else was beached in Macedonia for repairs. Meanwhile, Mardonius settled in for winter in the Peloponnese continuing to shore up his control of the region as he did so.

The result was that, come Spring, the Persians could move quickly. In March, Mardonius' army took to the field again and swept down on Mantinea, taking the city quickly and opening the route down to Tegea, another major city still in the Hellenic League and one currently under Spartan influence. Importantly, Tegea lay upon a road leading into Laconia, should the city fall then there seemed to be little that the Spartans or their allies could do to keep the Persians out. At the same time, however, Mardonius had already begun to capitalise on the biggest instability of the Spartan political system... the Helots. Agents, most likely loyal Greeks, had been sent into Messenia over the winter and there had begun to foment revolt amongst Sparta's slave population.

This all came together when, in late March or early April, the Spartans mobilised everything they could against the Persians. We are told of at least 10-15,000 hoplites, and likely a good deal more in the way of light infantry, slaves, and other hanger-ons attached to the army. In addition, there were at least 4000 Tegean hoplites and perhaps another 1000 light infantry from the city. It wasn't much, it wasn't even nearly enough but it was all that was left after a winter of defections and sieges had sapped Greek fighting strength. Against them, the Persians fielded a freshly rejuvenated army, bolstered with new contingents from Argos and Corinth.

The battle of Tegea was hard-fought, famously so. It just wasn't enough. Outside Tegea, the Persian army utterly routed their Greek counterparts and took the city in a rapid assault. From there, it was just a case of marching South to Sparta. As he went, Mardonius received envoys from dozens of Greek cities across the Peloponnese, including from the Messenians to whom he sent a delegation of Persian soldiers to officially declare their freedom from the Spartans. By the end of April, Mardonius had entered Sparta and received the official surrender of their kings. Traditionally, this is where the Second Greco-Persian War is said to have ended, with the surrender of Sparta and the declaration of Messenian freedom. This is where the story, for us, begins. With Mardonius' victory at Tegea, the Greeks had been utterly defeated and the route was open for the Persians to set about securing their dominion in Greece.
Knowing the Authors other work were in for something great guys. This here is probably going to be turtledove award material.
Chapter 1: Wrapping Up
Chapter 1: Wrapping Up

Conquering Greece wasn't nearly enough. In April 479 BCE, Mardonius entered Sparta at the head of some 20,000 soldiers, there to receive the surrender of the Spartan kings, Leotychides II and Pleistoanax. The problem was that defeating the Spartans didn't exactly guarantee that the rest of Greece would just fall in line. Not all of the Peloponnese alone had been conquered, never mind the entire Greek mainland. In addition, there was always the risk that the current state of Greek submission would turn rather quickly to dissent as soon as it became clear just how long the Persians actually intended to stay for. It helped, then, that Mardonius was exactly the right man for the job. In 492, Mardonius had taken part in cleaning up in Ionia after the defeat of the Ionian revolt. These were the merits upon which Mardonius had been chosen to take part in the conquest, and these were the skills he planned to put to use in securing their gains.

The first problem was the risk of another Spartan hegemony in the Peloponnese. Less than a century earlier, the Persian king Cyrus had found himself threatened by the naval power of Polycrates of Samos, only a decade earlier the Ionian tyrant Histiaeus had been brought to Pasargadae having become too powerful to leave in charge in Miletus. Indeed, the war of 480-79 alone had shown the potential for the Greek cities to raise more soldiers (and ships) than the Persians were exactly comfortable with when pushed. To that end, the possibility that Sparta might restore its grip on the Peloponnese was one that couldn't be allowed to turn into a reality.

Freeing the Messenians helped; upon his arrival in Sparta, Mardonius restated his goal of ensuring the stated 'freedom of all Greek peoples', a statement that was followed by the very clear demand for any Messenian helots to be freed immediately, a demand that was then supervised by Mardonius and his soldiers. The second step was the systematic dismantling of the Spartan hegemony; in May, the official 'Lacedaemonian Treaty' was signed by the Spartans on one side and the Persians on the other. Under the terms of the treaty, the Spartans were obliged to settle any disputes with other Greek cities amicably and forbidden from sending soldiers outside of Laconia proper. In particular, this included the provision that the cities of Messenia to the West and Kynouria to the East were to be 'forever independent and utterly autonomous from other Greeks'. In practice, this translated only to independence from Sparta; by the end of the 470s, the Thyrean plain which had been under Spartan influence since the 540s, had fallen back under Argive control.


Southern Greece before the Persian invasion of Greece
In addition, the island of Kythera and Cape Maleas was permanently detached from any area of Spartan influence with the establishment, sometime between 479 and 476, of a fort on the island, most likely to help the Persians control the important sea traffic that moved between the island and Cape Maleas. This wasn't the only garrison established in this period either; with the rebuilding of Messenia beginning in 479, a Persian garrison is attested as late as the 440s in the city itself. In July, Mardonius finally left Sparta to its own devices, its power now cut back rather significantly, and began a tour into Messenia, visiting community after community to proclaim their freedom from Spartan domination before finishing his tour at the site of old Messenia itself.

Here, too, he began to receive envoys from Western Arcadia and Southern Elis, accepting several official surrenders and offers of tribute to the Persian empire now that many of the largest cities of Greece had already surrendered. Secure in the knowledge that, at least for the time being, the position in the South and West of the Peloponnese was safe, Mardonius began a return to the North. Travelling back through Arcadia, he spent a week in the Argolis and time in Corinth before making his way back through the Isthmus into Attica.

The message was that everything was to be business as usual; the Persians, Mardonius said, was not here to destroy Greek culture, not here to burn cities or sack holds, he came only to bring peace and justice and prosperity to Greece. So long as everyone paid their tribute, everything would be good. This was the message had spread everywhere it went. Don't misunderstand, it was propaganda; Persia did not just leave everyone to continue as they always had, there was a long history of the Persians interfering in local affairs where it suited their needs, nor was Persia some great liberator; Mardonius had come as a conqueror and was not about to stand for any insurrection. For the time being, though, there was neither the room nor the inclination to start stirring up trouble.

Nevertheless, this was the message that Mardonius was eager to spread on his return to Attica. One way or another, Athens was key to control over Attica and, with it, the valuable silver mines of Laurion in the South. Not just that, there was the very real risk of Athens becoming another centre of resistance to Persian rule, especially given their previous history of opposition to the Persians and their victory, already famous in Greece, at the Battle of Marathon. It was also currently in ruins.

If it was possible, Mardonius' entrance to Athens was even more muted and hostile than what he had received in many of the cities of the Peloponnese. The summer of 479 had seen the Athenian people set about rebuilding their city, but much of it was still ruined from the Persian sack the previous year. The lesson had been well learned, but so too had the spirit of hatred and hostility towards the invaders. Upon his arrival at the city, Mardonius was warned by Greek advisors not to attempt to enter or, if he were to insist upon it, not to try and do so without a bodyguard ready to protect him. As the story goes, Mardonius ignored the advice and went to stand before the Athenian assembly alone and undefended, hoping to appeal to the demos, not as a conqueror but as a liberator.

The story, even if not true, is certainly believable. Mardonius, upon his appointment to Ionia in 492, had set about trying to maintain peace in the region by allowing several cities to maintain the democracies they had established immediately before the revolt. It was also well within the bounds of Persian propaganda to try and present the empire as being entirely willing to respect Athens' political system. Most likely, Mardonius hoped to try and strengthen whatever pro-Persian faction might have existed within the city, fearing that if Athens revolted then it would inspire other Greek cities to follow suit. However, as he entered the city, he was attacked. The actual story seems to vary; Herodotus gives two accounts, one in which Mardonius is able to escape back to Persian lines, the other in which he is saved by a particularly philanthropic Athenian who manages to convince the attackers to disband.

What's more, the Athenians who had attacked Mardonius had invoked the names of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the famed tyrannicides of Athenian history. The message was clear; the Athenians considered Mardonius and his patron, Xerxes, tyrants and had no intention of letting him stand before the Assembly. Mardonius had other ideas. If the Athenians were not prepared to let him enter by choice, then he would do so by force. This time, when Mardonius came, he came with his bodyguard. In an emergency meeting on the Pnyx, the meeting place of the Athenian Assembly, Mardonius and his soldiers made their statement. Firstly, he came with demands; the attackers were to be rounded up and handed over to the Persians, if the Athenians refused, there would be dire consequences. But he also came with promises, promises of the wealth that he would bestow on the city of Athens if they remained faithful to the Persian king. As a sign of goodwill, he said, the Persians would provide funds for the rebuilding of the Athenian Acropolis.

Again, this was Persian propaganda at its finest. As early as Cyrus the Great, the Persians had, time and again, justified their conquests through the guise of returning gods to their rightful sanctuaries. This was what Cyrus had done at Babylon, taking idols that had been brought to the city and returning them to cities across Mesopotamia. Other kings, most famously Croesus of Lydia, had made dedications at Greek sanctuaries in the past as well in an attempt to curry favour with the Greek city-states, especially those under their control. What Mardonius was doing, therefore, was well within the scope of Persian and imperial propaganda for decades at this point.

We are told that the debate was fierce; Themistocles especially ferociously debated with both Mardonius and the pro-Persian faction of the city. In the end, however, Mardonius' threats carried the day; Athens simply lacked any actual army with which to seriously resist the soldiers under Mardonius' command. If the Persians stormed the city, then there was every risk that the result would be a massacre. Eventually, several Athenians were brought to Mardonius... and executed. It was a statement that the Athenians wouldn't forget. It was also one that many of them would never forgive.

Glory be the gods! Glory be Shahansha! A victory achieved, an empire strengthened -however temporarily, because such might does not last. Not in this era, not for many eras to come.
Always glad to see a Persia TL, specially the effects they'll have on Greece and on their empire itself, watching this with glee.
Very, very good! Watched.

My favorite part of this TL so far is how the Greeks, who are, in a way, almost described as "supermen" in some works, along with people like the Romans, for obvious and understandable reasons, are shown as just yet another people to fall before the Achaemenid steamroller ITTL.
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Very, very good! Watched.

My favorite part of this TL so far is how the Greeks, who are, in a way, almost described as "supermen" in some works, along with people like the Romans, for obvious and understandable reasons, are shown as just yet another people to fall before the Achaemenid steamroller ITTL.

Honestly it’s what inspired me to write this timeline; a lot of people still, unknowingly, fall for the same myths about Persia and Greece. The military is one of these things.

Greek warfare, at the time of the Persian wars, was not the hoplite phalanx contrary to popular opinion. There were infantrymen for sure, but the ‘phalanx’ of this period was a mixed formation, less tightly packed and filled with light infantry. Very few people would have worn a full panoply either.

Not only that, but the majority of Greeks refused to train. Actually almost all of them did. Until about Philip II, there seems to have been an active rejection of the idea that you should prepare for warfare in any meaningful way. Honestly all that seems to be different about Sparta compared to the others was basic drill training (and I mean VERY basic), but it was enough to give them a bit of an edge over other Greeks (not much though, they still lost plenty).

In fact, contrary to every myth; the Persians seem to have been better trained, better equipped and just… better at fighting. Their heavy infantry was capable of complex tactics and frequently beat Greek infantry in the field when fighting on even terms. That’s without even accounting for their cavalry superiority.

Then there’s all the myth making about battles such as Thermopylae and Marathon. Really, the Greeks weren’t that impressive.
Chapter 2: Capitals and Tribute
Chapter 2: Capitals and Tribute

So Greece had been conquered, now the job was to actually extort money from it. Persian policy had also typically involved land grants to professional soldiers in the employ of the king and it is likely that at least some of these were expected to come from the newly conquered territories of Greece. The problem with this was actually finding land to give out, not just to soldiers but to Persian elites looking to build estates. Greece was a highly urbanised society with over 1000 city states ranging in size from minute to rather large cities such as Athens or Sparta.

The advantage to settling Persians there in Greece was obvious; if need be, Mardonius would not be only relying upon Greek soldiers and mercenaries to fight rebellions and wars in the region. What should be noted early is the relatively limited scope of Mardonius' actual influence. Despite his interventions in the Peloponnese in 479, the Persians seem to have done little to organise the Peloponnese into a satrapy throughout the early period Persian rule. Instead, Mardonius only really acted as satrap of the region running from Thessaly to Attica.

As mentioned, there were exceptions. By the mid-470s, there were Persian forts in the Peloponnese, especially at Kythera and around Cape Maleas in the South. At the same time, Mardonius kept active diplomatic relations and influence in the region, often using diplomacy to keep the Peloponnese divided. Certainly, from 478, we know that Messene and Argos both paid tribute to the Persians. All this is to say that, while by all accounts the Peloponnese itself remained outside the Persian empire, it was far from independent.

That said, Mardonius' focus was on securing the regions in Northern and Central Greece. To this end, forts were established all across the area in the early 470s. Evidence from elsewhere in the empire, especially Judaea, has told us a lot about how this system actually worked. Some fortifications certainly acted in the way we might expect as state-run military centres dedicated to the protection and security of certain regions. Most likely, the fort established at Megara was amongst these and intended to give the Persians control over the Megaris in general. Indeed, by the 460s we know of a Persian naval arsenal at Megara as well, providing the empire with a local naval base to assert control of the islands from.

However, many other 'forts' were a lot more complex. These often took the form of one of two things; either the centre of an estate given out to people associated with the king, or as small communities of settlers intended to provide a source of military support. In either case, the centres of these communities or estates were often fortified and those settlers or owners were expected to provide for the defence and security of the region.

In Greece, this was slightly different. We do know of some estate or community forts, mostly in Boeotia on the sites of Plataea and Thespiai (though some ae attested in Thessaly and even a small community near Sounion in Attica). However, the majority took the form of what was termed by the Greeks as cleruchies. Simply put, there wasn't all that much land to go around; there were so many city states that most had already parcelled up a lot of the land between them. It wasn't really practical to go around wholesale moving communities, but it was possible to attach new communities to them.

Don't misunderstand, this was not an attempt to be fair or egalitarian towards the Greeks; these were an imposition and a harsh one at that. By 475, we know of some 400 settlers at Thebes for whom the Thebans were expected to provide farmable lands and who were often protected by the Persians. In turn, these settlers provided local allies and a valuable source of friendly manpower in an otherwise hostile environment.

By the end of the 450s, we know of similar communities at dozens of cities across Greece (not in Macedonia, where Alexander I of Macedon still ruled the kingdom as a subject) including, most famously, at Athens itself. In 478, Mardonius made his first trip to Delphi to visit the oracle, officially on behalf of the king. The result, which he published extensively, was nothing short of a declaration that Persian rule was divinely ordained claiming that:

"All Greece will celebrate endless peace and justice [thanks] to the King".

It wasn't the first time the Persians had legitimised conquest through divine favour and it wouldn't be the last. For the Greeks, it was certainly the most important. It comes as no surprise, then, to find that within months, Mardonius had set up the satrapal residence just outside the temenos (boundary wall) of the sanctuary at Delphi. The position isn't at first obvious; while Delphi was an important Panhellenic sanctuary, it was also relatively isolated from the coast and rather distant from the Aegean where the main contacts back to Persia lay.

However, Delphi was also already central to the Greeks; not just culturally but physically. City states already brought huge amounts of wealth to the sanctuary and by placing the satrapal residence there, Mardonius could centre his administration in the region and provide a handy place to collect taxes and tributes from across mainland Greece. Despite being in the mountains, Delphi was far from isolated and was closely connected with the port at Kirra with roads leading through the mountains back to Boeotia. On top of this, any location on the east coast would have required travelling around Euboea which, as of 478, was still something of an unknown.

Of course, basing himself in Delphi required the Persians to take certain steps to ensure the protection of their position. Persian communities appeared in Phokis and Lokris from an early date in cities across the Amphictyony including Amphissa, Kirra and Amphikleia to provide local military support. In turn, heavy policing of the Isthmus was also required, partly through the fort at Megara but also through a smaller fort at the Isthmus itself as well as Persian agents to police it. In the same year, Mardonius also renegotiated his relationship with Corinth, securing local support for the protection of Persian movements along the Isthmus.

In turn, the Saronic Gulf became a crucial point of Persian control as well; a naval arsenal was established at Megara by 460, acting as a base of operations for naval patrols in the gulf. In addition, diplomatic contacts with Aigina were especially strengthened, guaranteeing their continued independence from their long time enemies in Athens and securing their official submission to Persia. Sure enough, the empire was soon able to count as many as 30 ships from Aegina amongst its fleet in the Saronic Gulf.

On the other side, Mardonius kept a smaller fleet of perhaps 30-40 ships on hand at Kirra to protect Persian interests in the Gulf of Corinth and, especially, to protect the transport of tribute. The result was that, over the next year or so, Mardonius constructed a network of Persian control stretching out from Delphi to encompass the Northern Peloponnese, Boeotia and Megaris.

It's unlikely that tribute gathered in Thessaly followed the same route; in 477, some 2000 settlers founded a city named Pagasaea at the head of the eponymous Pagasaean Gulf., Here, excavations located a large, fortified compound at the centre which has been tentatively identified as Mardonius' residence in Thessaly. Not only was Pagasaea directly connected to the Aegean, it was also in an ideal place for the control of the Thessalian plains, providing Mardonius with a position from which to keep an eye on the movement between Macedonia and Central Greece and at which to rally Thessalian levies when needed.

It seems likely that Mardonius travelled between the two, holding residence at Delphi in the summer months and Pagasaea in the winter so as to cover as much of his satrapy as possible. This, of course, is only a vague estimate; he also travelled extensively beyond these two locations, spending a good deal of time in Boeotia and Attica.

In May 478, Mardonius also sent delegations west into Aetolia and Akarnania. What they looked for was twofold. First there was mercenaries. The Aetolians and Akarnanians were famed for their peltasts, especially useful in the mountainous areas of Greece and a vital resource for helping to protect Phokis and Lokris, two areas he wasn't entirely sure of his secure control over. Secondly was the goal of protecting Persian shipping. Aetolian pirates were infamous in the seas of the Adriatic and Corinthian Gulf and no threat could be allowed to the safe transport of Persian tribute. The result was mixed; the relationship between Persia and the Aetolians was far from friendly, but these interactions were to set an important precedent for long lasting and frequently difficult relations in Central Greece.
One thing I noticed is that the last two chapters weren't threadmarked. Is that on purpose?

In regards to the TL, I'm really curious to see how Greek culture will be affected by Persian domination.
Chapter 3: Taking Stock

Xerxes left Greece, following the surrender of Athens, in late Autumn or early winter 480. His army was simply too large to support over the winter and, either way, his empire couldn't be left alone for too long. Only a few decades earlier, in 522, Cambyses II had died out on campaign, the result of which was the coup of Darius (Xerxes' father) and the assassination of Cambyses' brother, Bardiya (of course, by Darius' reckoning, Bardiya had been an impostor who he had had to overthrow for the good of the empire). Either way, the gist was the same; for the king of Persia, being in Greece for an extended period was dangerous. Anyway, by the time he left, it seemed rather likely that Mardonius had everything in hand.


Administrative regions of the Persian Empire before the conquest of Greece (credit: Ian Mladjov)

Back home, Xerxes now turned his attention towards the second part of his role as king of Persia; the so-called 'builder king'. This was a somewhat traditional part of Persian royal ideology; the Cyrus cylinder had used the idea that Cyrus built up Babylon as part of its glorification of the king. Darius I had begun the construction of Persepolis, had built the Bisitun inscription and, at least, reorganised the Royal Road from Susa to Sardis (along with other highways; the famous road to Sardis was not the only one). Now it was Xerxes' turn; buoyed by the success in Greece, the Persian king now had to actually advertise his success; and what better way than through a monumental building programme.

Part of this involved the completion of much of what Darius had begun; the Tachara, or Palace of Darius, was completed alongside the Apadana, a massive hypostyle hall filled with reliefs showing tribute being brought to Persia by the 23 (though by some accounts, Xerxes added a 24th for the conquest of Greece) nations of Persia, and the Royal Treasury. In addition to this, however, was the construction of the 'Gate of All Nations' at Persepolis as well as another monumental gate along the Royal Road at Susa. Associated with the same building programme at Susa, he added a new royal palace in the city.


Major routes across the Achaemenid Empire (Credit: Henkelman and Jacobs, 2021; drawing by J. V. Munoz)
Sometime, likely around 476, he also began work on the 'Xerxes Inscription' (more famously known in some circles as the Aigai/Vergina inscription), a declaration of the many successes of Xerxes' reign in imitation of that set up by his father. The first, and largest, copy of this was built at Persepolis itself but, over the next few years, he set up dozens of copies across the rest of the empire. Certainly, by the end of the decade, a copy had been set up at Aigai, the capital of Macedonia. Where possible, the inscriptions were cut into solid rock but when this wasn't, large stone slabs were built. At Aigai, the stone slab was found within the archaeological remains of the royal palace there, built within the central banqueting hall of the palace there. The audience, it seems, was both the king and high nobility of Macedonia as a reminder of the power of the king and their obligations to Persia.

It makes sense; Macedon was a possibly vital part of Persia's line of connection to Greece and one that was vital to be kept in line if Persian power in central Greece was to be kept secure. Indeed, it is also likely that similar points of interest were behind the infrastructure projects that Xerxes began in Macedonia and Greece. Sometime in the 460s, a road was cut between the Persian royal fortress at Doriskos and the city of Aigai, likely with the intention of being able to move soldiers quickly should they need to. In 477, it was Xerxes that gave assent for Persian settlers to be sent to Pagasaea and, in the years between its foundation and 460, Xerxes put a lot of money into developing the port there. At least a few of the existing roads in Thessaly were also expanded under Xerxes, though it is unlikely that this was to the extent of, say, the Royal Road. In addition, the naval arsenal at Megara has already been mentioned. Pagasaea, incidentally, was also the site of another of Xerxes' inscriptions.


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