Battle of Plataea

The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and many other Greek city-states against the Persian Empire of Xerxes I.

This Battle was a decisive Greek victory. The Persians after this battle lost control of Attica and Boeotia.

The numbers for this battle are unknown because they are different.

Greeks vs. Persians: Pausanias vs. Mardonius

110,000 – 300,000

The battle lasted for almost 2 weeks.

In this battle the Persians wanted to get the Greeks to come down from the mountain slope which is where they were located and to use their cavalry against the Greek phalanx. The Greeks however wanted the Persians to come up the mountain and to leave their cavalry down on the field. For this battle, the first army to attack would lose this battle.

General Mardonius noticed the Greeks were forming up in their battle line and attacked the Megarians, who later called for aid to the Spartans and the Athenians. The Athenians came and helped out their allies and killed the Persian Cavalry commander Masistius and sent his cavalry back to Mardonius in defeat.

After this skirmish between the Persians and the coalition of Greek city-states, the Greeks withdrew to the Spring of Garaphia. From here there was a dispute over who would hold the left flank, and this came down between the Athenians and the Tegeans. The Athenians won out, by retelling their victory at Marathon and their leading naval role at Salamis. The Spartans held the prestigious right flank, the Athenians the left flank, and the rest of the Greeks in the center. The Greeks shifted westward and the Persians followed suit as well. Over the next couple of days both sides made sacrifices to the gods, the omens interpreted, and both armies being cautious. With both sides not attacking each other, the Greek numbers increased.

The following day, Mardonius grew frustrated with the Greeks not wanting to come down from the mountains ordered a portion of his cavalry to bypass the Greek army and attack the supply lines. That nightfall hundreds of wagons had been destroyed or captured by the Persians.

MapPlataea2

 

The Greeks deprived of their supplies, still clung to the ridge and the superior defensive positions. Mardonius unleashed his entire cavalry units upon the Greeks day after day, by unleashing the their missiles on the Greek front line. Each day the Greeks endured these attacks and stood fast upon the high ground.

Mardonius knew each day that passed the Greeks would increase in numbers. The cavalry raids did have an impact on the supply lines, but reinforcements still came to the Greek side. Later on the battle lines were switched with the Athenians facing off against the Persians, while the Spartans would face off against the Medizing Greeks. Mardonius continued the cavalry raids with the purpose of spoiling the Greeks’ main water supply at the Spring of Gargaphia, which the Persians succeeded at. That nightfall Pausanias moved his army back toward Plataea with the intention of obtaining water and securing his supply lines again.

The 13th day of the battle, Persian picket guards saw that the ridge line where the Greek army was deserted. Mardonius ordered his entire army to cross over the river and launch a full attack on the Greeks. The Greeks however, were scattered and would not be able to cover each other should they be attacked or give assistance. The Spartans formed up and waited for the  Persians to come to them so they could become a dense and immobile target.  The Athenians were overtaken by the Theban army, which resulted in a hoplite battle. The Greek center fell back to the town of Plataea.

The contest between the Persians and the Spartans continued to go back and forward. The Persian mounted troops  under the personal command of Mardonius, began to push the Spartans back. However a turn of events happened thanks to a Spartan soldier with a strong arm, struck Mardonius and killed him. The Persians formation began to crumble and the Spartans heaved forward. The Greek troops who made the center formation began to advance on the fleeing Persians. The remaining troops that made up the Persian army fell back toward their camp.

47948_PlateaBattleL

 

The Greeks moved north after the fleeing Persians and came upon them in their camp. The Greeks trapped the remaining Persians in the camp and slaughtered them where they stood. By the time the battle ended less than 3000 of Mardonius troops remained. The Greek dead stood at: 91 Spartans, 16 Tegeans, 52 Athenians, 600 Megarians, and the Corinthians and Phliasians were combined after the battle was done.

Following the ending of the battle, the loot of the dead was collected, trophies erected and funeral rites performed for the dead. Thebes, who aided with the Persians held out against the Greeks for several more weeks before they finally surrendered. At the same time as this battle was going on, the allied Greek fleet had defeated a Persian naval contingent had landed at Mykale. These victories secured the Greek mainland from Persian invasion, however the war against Xerxes and his empire would go on for years.

One such monument that was erected after the battle was the Serpents Column. The Serpent’s Column was made from Persian weapons from the Persian Camp.

istanbul_hippodrome_spina_serpents_column3

 

The significance of this battle along with the Battle of Mykale, ended the 2nd Persian Invasion of Greece

 

Sources:

“Battle of Plataea (479 BCE).” Battle of Plataea (479 BCE). N.p.,n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <http://www.livius.org/pipm/plataea/battle.html&gt;

“Battle of Plataea.” Battle of Plataea 1 of 3. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013 <http://www.ancientgreekbattles.net/Pages/47950_Plataea_I.htm&gt;


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