Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Remember When . . . Winning Wasn't Everything?

We've all heard that saying, right? "Winning isn't everything." All well and good when you're talking about a contest or a game of kickball, but . . . in war? Um, I kinda thought it was. So Xerxes, what were you thinking?

Here's the setup. Ol' Kingy burned Athens to the ground--easy to do since no one was left in the city to defend it--after finally winning at Thermopylae. Sent word of victory home to Susa, where everyone was so excited they strew myrtle in the streets and declared a holiday. This was the set-out goal of the war, you see. Burn Athens.

Check.

Then some brilliant adviser said, "Let's pursue these cowards to their hiding place. Look, we've got it on good authority they're in a weakly held spot. If we go over here like our informant said . . ."

Um, their "informant" was actually one of the leading voices of Athens. A very tricky one apparently, whose "intel" was followed by the Persians. Yeah. Brilliant. Xerxes and his army headed to the island of Salamas, where all the Greeks had fled. Put it under siege. Had a battle.

Lost.

Now. Everyone, the Greeks included thought, "Aw, crap, there's his fleet, finally showing up--he's going to take a few days, regroup, and give us a pounding like we've never had before."

Instead, Xerxes says, "Yeah, I'm going home. Cousin, keep some men here and keep fighting, but I'm out of here."

There was some logic behind this. Winter was coming, and Xerxes didn't want his army stuck in Europe for it--they'd likely have starved. Moreover, those wily Greeks may have snuck around and destroyed the bridge he'd used to get into Europe to begin with, and if the army was stuck there, they could be routed and defeated. So yeah, retreat may have been the logistically sound option, and since he'd done what he came to do with Athens . . .

Of course, I have my own theories about what really propelled him home, but you'll just have to read Jewel of Persia to get them. ;-)

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