Battle of Platæa- 479 B.C.


The battle of Platæa (from here in named Plataea, for seaching reasons) was unpreceded to any other battle of the time. This land battle would be a (mostly) united Greek force against a 46 nation jugganaught lead by the all conquering Persians, fought in the aftermath of the stand at Thermopylae and subsequent loss by the Persian fleet at Salamis. The future after this battle is unquestionable, either the Greek city states kept their freedom, or the whole of Greece would fall under the yoke of the Persian expansion, and with the firm Europian foothold accomplished, Persia also being undisputed rulers of the sea, the rest of Europe would soon fall. Sparta and Athens being the premier military armies of Europe of that time, neither Rome, Gaul, nor Germatic tribes had the military might or technology that would be needed to withstand a empire spanning from Eygpt to Greece encompassing all nations in-between.

The battle took place over 13 days, each side standing on ground that they wished to battle on, the barbarians on the fertile plains to best use their cavalry, the Greeks on the foothills of Mt Cithaeron, eager to battle on a mountain slope to take advantage of higher ground while also nullifiing a cavalry attack, hills protecting their sides.



General Mardonius, when he saw that the Greeks would not come down into the plain, sent his cavalry, under Masistius to attack them where they were. General map of combatants at Plataea

Spartans at PlataeaMasistius, opted to aim his forces against the Megarians in the middle of the Greek forces, as they were the ones most open to attack, as the ground offered the best approach to the cavalry. The Megarians finding themselves hard pressed by the Persian horse, sent hearlds to the allies to come to their aid. 300 Athenian hoplites rushed to their aid to reinforce the position taking with them their whole body of archers.

A struggle ensured, the horse charging in divisions and the hoplites offering resistance as best they could with their archers firing to keep the calvary at bay.

Masistius, standing out by what he wore had his horse hit by an arrow, the pain causing him to throw his rider. Immediately the hoplites rushed towards him, caught his horse and began to slay him. At first however, his armour hindered them, he wore a breastplate made of golden scales, all the blows had no effect, till one of the soldiers, perceiving the reason, drove his weapon into his eye and so slew him. All this taking place without the horsemen seeing it, they had not observed their leader fall from his horse or seen him slain. When they haltered and so realised what had happend, with loud cheers charged the enemy in one mass, hoping to recover the dead body.

The Athenians now seeing the entire cavalry bare down upon them, called out for reinforcements. Athenian hoplites prepares for battleWith a thunder of hoofs the cavalry crashed into the hoplite lines a great fight taking place for the body. The Athenians coming out the worse of the encounter and abandoning the body. But before it could be carryed away the reinforcements arrived. The Persian horse unable to hold their ground fled, empty handed. Retiring to consider what to do next, being without a leader, it seemed to them the fittest course to return to Mardonius.

When they reached their fort, the Persian army publically mourned their generals loss. Shaving off their hair, and cutting the mane off their horses and venting their grief in loud cries for all of the Greek army to hear. Because they had lost the man, next to Mardonius, who the Persian King and Persians generally, held in the greatest esteem.

The Greeks on the other hand, now showing much courage than before the skirmish, seeing not only that they stood their ground against the attack of the horse, but had even made them retreat. They paraded the dead body to the ranks of the army for all to see.

The Persians now in mourning and the Greeks oozing in confindence. The Greeks decided to move from where they were to a place with more water, to the spring of Garaphia.




NEXT PAGE>>>Battle of Plataea; phase II



'Histories' by Herodotus published by Wordsworth 1996





Battle of Platæa
Conflict: Persian Wars
Date: 27th of Aug 479 bc
Defenders Aggressors
Greek City-States Persian Force
110,000 300,000
Pausanias Mardonius


Herodotus states that the Athenians declared, before the battle of Plataea, that they would not go over to Mardonius, because in the first place, they were bound to avenge the burning of the Acropolis; and, secondly, they would not betray their fellow Greesk, to whom they were bound by:

* A common language (the use of one of the dialects of the Greek language)
* Common blood (descent from Hellen, son of Deucalion)
* Common shrines, statues and sacrifices (practice of the ancient Greek religion) and
* Common habits and customs.

This notion that the Greeks had a common descent was then comparatively recent. As Thucydides observes, the name of Hellas spread from a valley in Thessaly to the Greek-speaking peoples after the formation of the text of Homer (the Panellenes of Il. 2.530 are the troops of Thessaly, contrasting with the Achaeans), not long before his own time. This places the idea in the Archaic period, when Greek-speakers discovered that the world was wider, wealthier, and more cultured than they had hitherto imagined. The Carians are the only people Homer considers barbarophonoi.

The myth of Hellen combined into one group the smaller tribes that participated in the Delphic Amphictyon, such as the Aeolians, the Achaeans, and the Dorians. Traces of the older distinctions remained; Dorians were forbidden in the Parthenon; although the Spartan King Kleomenes I claimed this did not apply to him — as a descendant of Heracles, he was an Achaean. (As in this example, the Greeks almost always reckoned descent only through the male line.)

So the exact nature of Greek identity has been an open question since ancient times. It has not become clearer with time: descent is at best a matter of tradition, and the Greeks have altered their language, religion, and customs since Herodotus. Nevertheless, there has been, in practice, a continuous Greek identity since ancient times, containing at least those who chose to be Greek and who had citizenship in a Greek city, or membership of a Greek community.

As early as the 5th century BC, Isocrates, after speaking of common origin and worship, says: "the name Hellenes suggests no longer a race but an intelligence, and... the title Hellenes is applied rather to those who share our culture than to those who share a common blood".

Go to, 'Estimated population size of Athens and Sparta at this time.'


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