After Thermopylae: The Oath of Plataea and the End of the Graeco-Persian Wars (Emblems of Antiquity)
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The Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE is one of world history's unjustly neglected events. It decisively ended the threat of a Persian conquest of Greece. It involved tens of thousands of combatants, including the largest number of Greeks ever brought together in a common cause. For the Spartans, the driving force behind the Greek victory, the battle was sweet vengeance for their defeat at Thermopylae the year before. Why has this pivotal battle been so overlooked?
In After Thermopylae, Paul Cartledge masterfully reopens one of the great puzzles of ancient Greece to discover, as much as possible, what happened on the field of battle and, just as important, what happened to its memory. Part of the answer to these questions, Cartledge argues, can be found in a little-known oath reputedly sworn by the leaders of Athens, Sparta, and several other Greek city-states prior to the battle-the Oath of Plataea. Through an analysis of this oath, Cartledge provides a wealth of insight into ancient Greek culture. He shows, for example, that when the Athenians and Spartans were not fighting the Persians they were fighting themselves, including a propaganda war for control of the memory of Greece's defeat of the Persians. This helps explain why today we readily remember the Athenian-led victories at Marathon and Salamis but not Sparta's victory at Plataea. Indeed, the Oath illuminates Greek anxieties over historical memory and over the Athens-Sparta rivalry, which would erupt fifty years after Plataea in the Peloponnesian War. In addition, because the Oath was ultimately a religious document, Cartledge also uses it to highlight the profound role of religion and myth in ancient Greek life. With compelling and eye-opening detective work, After Thermopylae provides a long-overdue history of the Battle of Plataea and a rich portrait of the Greek ethos during one of the most critical periods in ancient history.
well as infantrymen. Moreover, the maneuvers antecedent to the actual engagement, or rather engagements, can sometimes seem as interesting as the battle—or sequence of engagements— itself. But let it be said again loud and clear: we shall never be able with total conﬁdence to recapture “what actually happened” in the critical months of August–September 479, culminating in the Battle (or battles . . .) of Plataea. Mardonius it has been argued should not have retired from Attica for the winter of
480/79—though, if he had not, he surely would soon have encountered severe supply problems. As it was, he did withdraw, northward, to the comparative safety and security of Thessaly, one of mainland Greece’s breadbaskets. From there he was extremely active on the diplomatic front, in ways that showed he was being well advised on the state of Greek customs and sensitivities as well as on the eternally fragile nature of Greek interstate relations. A telling moment came when allegedly on the orders
Greeks ﬁghting with and for Persia the most signiﬁcant contribution by far was that made by the hoplites and cavalrymen of Boeotian Thebes; their “medism” was seemingly unforced and remained saliently controversial for 150 years and more thereafter. But though extreme, their decision AFTER THER MOPYLAE 107 Figure 5.2. The “Immortals,” as the Greeks knew a Persian King’s elite guard on campaign, depicted on glazed bricks from the Palace of Susa, Iran. Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY. actively
Pausanias and his Spartiates and other Laconians took on Mardonius and his elite Persian infantry, who had in the event unwisely launched the last assault and so commenced what the Greek novelist Nicholas Snow (Professor Nikolaos Kyriazis) AFTER THER MOPYLAE 115 nicely calls the “dance of death.” But Pausanias responded only after what—to an outside observer at least—looks like playing politics with the usual and required pre-battle sacriﬁces. Claiming that the omens were not yet favorable, he
Plataea and the end of the Graeco-Persian Wars / Paul Cartledge. pages cm.—(Emblems of antiquity) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-19-974732-0 1. Plataea, Battle of, Plataiai, Greece, 479 b.c. I. Title. DF225.7.C37 2013 938c.03—dc23 2013010296 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper To the memory of John David Lewis (1955–2012) This page intentionally left blank Contents List of Maps and Illustrations ix Preface and