Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome

By Victor Davis Hanson | Go to book overview

1.
From Persia with Love:
Propaganda and Imperial Overreach
in the Greco-Persian Wars

TOM HOLLAND

THE INVASION OF IRAQ, when it finally came, was merely the climax of an ongoing period of crisis and upheaval in the international order. The stand-off between the two sides had been a geopolitical fixture for years. Both had surely long suspected that open conflict was inevitable. As the invaders crossed into Iraqi territory, they would have known that they faced a regime that was hardly unprepared for war. It had been assiduous in stockpiling reserves of weaponry and provisions; its troops, massed along the border, blocked all the roads that led to the capital; the capital itself, an intimidating blend of grandiose prestige projects and warren-like slums, was darkly rumored to be capable of swallowing up a whole army. Yet all the regime's defenses, in the final reckoning, might as well have been made of sand. What it confronted in its adversary was nothing less than a superpower, the most formidable on the planet. The task force brought to bear by the invaders was a quite devastating display of shock and awe. Those of the defenders who were not left corpses by the first deadly impact of the enemy onslaught simply melted away. Even in the capital itself, the population proved signally unwilling to die for the sake of their beleaguered leader. A bare few weeks after hostilities had begun, the war was effectively over. So it was, on October 12, 539 BC, that the gates of Babylon were flung open “without a battle,”1 and the greatest city in the world fell into the hands of Cyrus, the king of Persia.

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