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
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.
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.
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. With
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
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.
'Histories' by Herodotus published by Wordsworth
27th of Aug 479 bc
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
* 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.'