Battle of Platæa - 27th of August 479 B.C.
As soon as he saw a portion of his troops in motion,
the Spartan General Pausanias
issued orders to the Lacedaemonians to strike their tents and follow
those who had been the first to depart, he was supposing that they
were on their march to the place agreed upon.
All the captains but one was willing to obey his orders;
Amompharetus, refused to move, saying "I for one will not fly
from the strangers, or will I bring disgrace upon Sparta!". It
happened that he was absent from the former conference of the captains
and so what was now taking place astonished him. Pausanias
was horrified at this turn of events, but he still refused to leave
without the captain and his men. This made the Spartan force lag behind
the rest in evacuating the position and being at the new camp by daybreak.
The Athenians on the other hand, once the troops started
to move back toward Plataea, sent a herald to the Spartans to see
what they were doing. They knew that it was the attitude of the Spartans
to say one thing and do another.
The heard on his arrival found the Spartans still in
battle formation and their leaders quarrelling with one another. Pausanias
still trying to convince him that a vote had been taken and the decision
had been agreed upon to move closer to Plataea. By this stage the
Spartan captain had picked up a rock and set it at the feet of Pausanias
saying "With this pebble I give my vote not to run away from
the strangers." Pausanias
called him a 'fool and a 'madman' then turning to the heard he told
him to tell the Athenians what was going on and that they should not
be withholding their movement according to what the Spartans were
The heard returned with the message back to the Athenian
camp. All efforts for packing up camp and marching back to the new
site were becoming fruitless. Until Pausanias
came to the decision that if they saw the rest of the Spartans marching
out, they would have no option but to move too. So after a long while
or arguing, Pausanias
gave the order for the rest of the Spartans to move out. No sooner
was the signal given than the part willing to march went on their
way (including the Teagans, who would not move without the Spartans)
while Amompharetus and his men stayed put. The Athenians likewise
set off at the same time, but as the middle part of the army was now
at their destination and they were separated from the Spartans of
some distance, they took a different route to the ones the Spartans
took. The Athenians stayed on the low country and marched though the
plain, the Spartans on the other hand took a longer route but a safer
one by heading to the hilly ground and the skirts of Mount Cithaeron.
Both of them loosing bearings of one another during the maneuver.
As for Amompharetus, at first he did not believe that
Pausanias would really
dare to leave him behind; he therefore remained firm in his resolve
to keep his men at their post; when, however, Pausanias
and his troops were now some way of, Amompharetus, thinking himself
abandoned, ordered his band to take their arms, and led them at a
walk toward the main army.
The main army was waiting for them at some distance
up ahead waiting to see if they would come to them and they could
march as one or if need be to return to their aid if they were being
pressed by the Persian horse. Finally, Amompharetus and his men joined
the main body.
The Persian cavalry had followed their usual practice
and riding up to the Greek camp as the day dawned, when they discovered that the place
where the Greeks had been posted was deserted. They then pushed forward
without stopping, and, as soon as they overtook the enemy, pressed
heavily on them. Causing the Spartan march to a crawl as they had
to protect themselves from the arrows.
when he head that the Greeks had retired under cover of the night,
and behind the place where they had been stationed, said to
the Thessaians accompanying him.
"You told me the Spartans never fled from battle!
You said they were brave and beyond all the rest of mankind. But you
yourselves saw them change their place in the line, and here, you
can see for yourselves they have run away during the night. When it
came time for them to fight the bravest warriors in all the world,
they proved no worth at all. I can excuse you, knowing nothing of
the Persians, praising these men as great warriors, but Artabazus!?
That he had given me council to remove to Thebes and be allowed to
be besieged by the Greeks; advice I shall take care to tell the King.
But for now we must not allow them to escape, but must pursue after
them till we overtake them, and then we must exact vengeance for all
the wrongs which have been suffered at their hands by the Persians."
then lead his men at full pace to run directly upon the track of the
Greeks he believed to be in actual flight. They crossed the Asopus
and led the Persians forward at a run. He could not see the Athenians;
for as they had taken the way of the plain, they were hidden from
his sight by the hills; he therefore led on his troops against the
Lacedaemonians and the Tegeans only. When the other divisions of the
barbarians saw the Persians pursuing the Greeks so hastily, they all
seized their standards, and hurried after at their best speed in great
disorder and disarray. On they went with loud shouts and in a wild
rout, thinking to swallow up the runaways.
Image used with permission from Nicholas Panos DesignWorks E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Spartans sent a heard to the Athenians for assistance,
they really needed their archers, as soon as they received the message
the Athenians proceeded to organise themselves to help. They drew
up in order and put to the march, the Greeks on the kings side however,
drew up against them. The Athenians quickly sent a herald to the opposition
to say that Greeks should not be fighting Greeks and that they should
allow them to help the Spartans. The hearld came back saying that
they would not allow this. The Athenians then sent the Spartan hearld
back with the message saying that they could not offer assistance
while they were about to do battle.
would have to make do with what he had at his disposal, 50,000 Spartan
and Helots and the 3,000 (ever reliable)
Tegeans. The Persians had made a rampart of their wicker shields,
and shot from behind them with such clouds of arrows, that the Spartans
were being sorely distressed. The Spartans, hiding behind their shields
for protection, were waiting for the order to advance. The signs from
the sacrifices were not favorable so the Spartans waited on the defensive,
while a hail of arrows rained in around them. Many fell on the Spartan
side  and still more were wounded. Still they waited
with their dogged discipline of superb soldiers for their commander
to give the signal.
Again and again the signs were not favorable, consternation
for Pausanias, with no
Athenian help to come and the signs being continually unfavorable
for an advance, he could only stand and watch as a stream of advancing
Persians were running to back up their archers raining down arrows
At the next offering a frustrated Pausanias
turned to the Plataean temple and offered a pray. Not being able to
wait any longer and continually frustrated with the Spartans lack
of a good omen, the Teagan general gave the order to attack, hoping
to stem the increasing amount of archers volleying against them. Rushing
forward they were going head long into the thick of the Persian forces.
The Spartan soothsayer then gave the augury, the omens were good,
the Gods gave their blessing on an attack. After such a long delay,
the order to attack would have come to the Spartan contingent with
a sigh of relief.
the Persians on their side were still shooting they too prepared to
meet them. At first the combat was at the wicker shields. Afterwards,
when these were swept away, a fierce contest took place by the side
of the temple of Demeter, which lasted long, and ended in a hand to
hand struggle. The barbarians many times seized hold of the Greek
spears and broke them; for in boldness, and warlike spirit the Persians
were not inferior to the Greeks; but they fought without superior
armour, fighting undisciplined and with less skill in arms. Sometimes
they would fight singly, sometimes in bodies of ten, now fewer, now
more in number, they dashed forward upon the Spartan ranks and thus
perished. The carnage continued for a long while.
had disapproved about risking a fight and had made great endeavors
in the past to avoid battle but all in vain. Now he had his 40,000
men march forward in a orderly way and did not let them brake rank
and charge the Greeks as the others had done. Marching at the same
pace toward the battle lines.
On the Athenian side, many of the Greeks that faced
them played the coward and backed off, not withstanding the Boeotians,
on the contrary had a long struggle. Those of the Thebans who were
attached to the Medes, displayed especially no little zeal; far from
playing the coward, they fought with such fury that three hundred
of the best and bravest among them were slain by the Athenians in
this passage of arms.
After all the maneuvering and planning by the opposing
generals, this was now a soldier's battle.
Looking down from his position on the ridge, Artabazus
could see the two battles taking place below him and, while no doubt
he was debating whether to cut down through the middle of them, he
would have seen the large body of Greeks from Plataea, who should
have formed the Greek centre, coming hard and fast to help their comrades.
They divided into two main columns, one going to the aid of the Athenians
and the other cutting round behind to led strength to the left wing
of the Spartans.
As the Greeks that ran to help out the Athenians were
running at full speed, they were sighted by the Theban cavalry. About
7,000 Megarians, and other small contingents both from within and
outside the Peloponnese ran across open plains to the aid of the Athenians.
Even if their discipline had been better than it probably was, their
action, thought brave, was somewhat foolhardy in open country. The
Theban horse fell upon them and cut them to pieces, killing some six
hundred and driving the rest back.
However, though in their actions they they were slaughtered,
it did allow relief to the Athenians from the horsemen. The Athenians
now could proceed with a straightforward hoplite battle against the
Boeotian infantry, whose lines were continually hemorrhaging retreating
Continually, through the fight the Persians were constantly
being reinforced by others running into the battle from the Persian
camp. The fight went most against the Greeks where Mardonius,
mounted on his white horse, and surrounded by the bravest of all the
Persians, of a thousand picked men, fought in person. So long as Mardonius
was alive, this body resisted all attacks, and, while they defended
their own lives, struck down no small number of Spartans; but after
Mardonius fell, and the
troops with him, which were the main strength of their army.
((see note #2)).
The remainder yielded to the Lacedaemonians, and took to flight. Their
light clothing, and want of armour, were of the greatest hurt to them;
for they had to continue against men heavily armed, while they themselves
were without any such defense.
Artabazus before he and his force had even entered the
battle, he could see the Persians already in flight, instead of keeping
the same order, he wheeled his troops round, and beat a retreat; nor
did he even head towards the camp, or even Thebes but headed straight
for the Hellespont with all possible speed.
The remainder of the Persian forces took flight, heading
back towards their encampment, without preserving any order, and took
refuge in their own camp within the wooden defense, which they had
raised in the Theban territory.
As for the Athenians, they too began to rout the enemy,
who without enough aid from the calvary and loss of their ranks through
abandonment, left mostly the Boeotians undermanned and skilled versus
the Athenians. They also fled away not however towards the Persian
camp, but directly to their city of Thebes.
The victors now pressed on, pursuing and slaying the
remnant of the king's army.
The Persians, and the multitude with them, who fled
to the wooden fortress, were able to ascend into the towers before
the Lacedaemonians came up. Thus placed, they proceeded to strengthen
the defenses as well as they could; and when the Lacedaemonians arrived,
a sharp fight took place at the rampart. So
long as the Athenians were away, the barbarians kept off their assailants,
and had much the best of the combat, since the Lacedaemonians were
unskilled in the attack of walled places. But on the arrival of the
Athenians, a more violent attack was made, and the walls were attacked
with fury. In the end the valor of the Athenians and their perseverance
prevailed, they gained the top of the wall, and, breaking a breach
through it, enabled the Greeks to pour in. The first to beak into
the camp were the Tegeans, and as soon as the wall was broken down,
the barbarians no longer kept together in any array, nor was there
any among them who thought of making further resistance. Most by now
were half dead with fright, thousands huddled in narrow confined spaces.
With such tameness did they submit to be slaughtered by the Greeks.
The Greek did not think of pursuing Artabazus or the
Thebans for the moment. For on this day they were content in taking
the Persian camp.
Afterwards a golden tripod was made for the victory
at Plataea, dedicated at Delphi from the one tenth of the spoils of
the battle. In the body is three bronze snakes which include engravement
of the names of the cities which took part. The memorial was moved
to Constantinople (i.e. Istanbul) where the snakes heads have long
since vanished. Only the snakes intertwining bodies still remains
to this day.