When the Persian king, Xerxes I, invaded Greece in 480 BCE he was at the head of a vast Persian force of close to 300,000. Xerxes’ juggernaut army struck fear and terror in the Greek city-states. After the Spartan defeat at Thermopylae, Xerxes’ land route to Athens was undefended. It was only a matter of time before he lay siege to Attica and its capital city, Athens. Attica was seized by panic and it was decided to take guidance from the Oracle of Delphi whose prophecy was apocalyptic: ‘Why sit you doomed one? Fly to the ends of the earth. All is ruin…’ Many Atticans fled from the region, leaving behind the old and infirm. Xerxes’ army swept through Attica, burning and sacking cities as they advanced towards Athens. The border fortifications at Gyphotokastro, Kavasala and Phyle had only small garrisons and were ineffectual in blocking the Persian advance.
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