In the 5th century BC the vast Persian Empire attempted to conquer Greece. If the Persians had succeeded, they would have set up local tyrants, called satraps, to rule Greece and would have crushed the first stirrings of democracy in Europe.
The survival of Greek culture and political ideals depended on the ability of the small, disunited Greek city-states to band together and defend themselves against Persia's overwhelming strength. The struggle, known in Western history
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rowed out from a circular formation and rammed their prows into the clumsy enemy vessels. Two hundred Persian ships were sunk, others were captured, and the rest fled. Xerxes and his forces hastened back to Persia.
Soon after, the rest of the Persian army was scattered at Plataea (479 BC). In the same year Xerxes' fleet was defeated at Mycale. Although a treaty was not signed until 30 years later, the threat of Persian domination was ended.