The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome



The Battle of Plataea—The Greeks Victorious

Early in the spring of 479 B. C., Mardonius sent an embassy to Athens to offer friendship, and request them to enter into league with the Persians, which failed, of course. Then he “led his army with all speed against Athens; forcing the several nations through whose land he passed to furnish him with additional troops.” The people of Athens again withdrew from the city, “Some to their ships, but the greater part to Salamis, and he gained possession of only a deserted town. It was ten months after taking of the city by the king that Mardonius came against it for the second time.” GEP 121.1

2. Again Mardonius sent an envoy to the Athenians who were at Salamis, with the same proposals as formerly. The envoy was spared, and was allowed to depart unharmed; but when one of the Athenian counselors, named Lycidas, spoke in favor of laying before the assembly of the people the proposals of Mardonius, both the council and bystanders “were full of wrath, and forthwith surrounded Lycidas, and stoned him to death.” And when the Athenian women learned what had happened, “each exhorted her fellow, and one brought another to take part in the deed; and they all flocked of their own accord to the house of Lycidas, and stoned to death his wife and his children.” GEP 121.2

3. Mardonius, learning that the Greeks were assembling at the Isthmus, burnt Athens the second time, and withdrew into the territory of the Thebans (not far from the city of Thebes), who were friendly to the Persians, and had even espoused their cause. There he fixed his camp. “His army at this time lay on the Asopus, and stretched from Erythrae, along by Hysiae, to the territory of the Plataeans.” 1 GEP 121.3

4. The Greeks, advancing from the Isthmus, “learnt that the barbarians were encamped upon the Asopus, wherefore they themselves, after considering how they should act, disposed their forces opposite to the enemy upon the slopes of Mount Cithaeron. Mardonius, when he saw that the Greeks would not come down into the plain, sent all his cavalry, under Masistius (or Macistius, as the Greeks call him), to attack them where they were. Now Masistius was a man of much repute among the Persians, and rode a Nisaean charger, with a golden bit, and otherwise magnificently caparisoned. So the horse advanced against the Greeks, and made attacks upon them in divisions, doing them great damage at each charge, and insulting them by calling them women.” The result was, however, that Masistius was slain, and the Persians were defeated, leaving the dead body of their commander in the hands of the Greeks. GEP 122.1

5. “After this the Greeks determined to quit the high ground and go nearer Plataea, as the land there seemed far more suitable for an encampment than the country about Erythrae, particularly because it was better supplied with water.... So they took their arms, and proceeded along the slopes of Cithaeron, past Hysiae, to the territory of the Plataeans; and here they drew themselves up, nation by nation, close by the fountain Gargaphia, and the sacred precinct of the Hero Androcrates, partly along some hillocks of no great height, and partly upon the level of the plain.” And here, on the Plataean Plain, was fought the last battle of the Persians in Greece, September, 479 B. C. GEP 122.2

6. The Persian forces, with their Greek allies, numbered 350,000; the Greek army, 110,000. The two armies waited for ten days after taking position, before the battle was finally joined. “On the eleventh day from the time when the two hosts first took station, one over against the other, near Plataea,” the Greeks decided that if the Persians did not attack them that day, they would move their camp to “a tract of ground which lies in front of Plataea, at the distance of ten furlongs from the Asopus and fount Gargaphia, where the army was encamped at that time.” GEP 122.3

7. They intended to make this movement in the night. A part of the army moved, according to this arrangement; but instead of going to the appointed place, “they fled straight to Plataea, where they took post at the temple of Juno, which lies outside the city, at the distance of about twenty furlongs from Gargaphia, and here they pitched their camp in front of the sacred building.” The leaders of the rest of the army quarreled with one another, and, “extended the dispute till morning began to dawn upon them.” “Then Pausanius, who as yet had not moved, gave the signal for retreat.” At day break the Persian horsemen rode up to reconnoiter “the Greek camp, when they discovered that the place where the Greeks had been posted hitherto was deserted. Hereupon they pushed forward without stopping, and as soon as they overtook the enemy, pressed heavily on them.” GEP 122.4

8. When this was reported to Mardonius, “he crossed the Asopus, and led the Persians forward at a run directly upon the track of the Greeks, whom he believed to be in actual flight. 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 commanders of the other divisions of the barbarians saw the Persians pursuing the Greeks so hastily, they all forthwith seized their standards, and hurried after at their best speed, in great disorder and disarray. On they went with loud shouts and in wild riot, thinking to swallow up the runaways.” GEP 123.1

9. Pausanius sent a horseman to the Athenians to call them to his aid; but they were so harassed by the attacks of the Persian forces that they could not respond. “Accordingly, the Lacedaemonians and the Tegeans—whom nothing could induce to quit their side—were left alone to resist the Persians. Including the light armed, the number of the former was 50,000; while that of the Tegeans was 3,000.” This little band, not willing to stand any longer on the defensive, “advanced to the attack; while the Persians, on their side, left shooting, and prepared to meet them. And first the combat was at the [rampart of] wicker shields. Afterward, when these were swept down, a fierce contest took place by the side of the temple of Ceres, which lasted long, and ended in a hand-to-hand struggle. The barbarians many times seized hold of the Greek spears and brake them; for in boldness and warlike spirit the Persians were not a whit inferior to the Greeks; but they were without bucklers, untrained, and far below the enemy in respect of skill in arms. Sometimes singly, sometimes in bodies of ten, now fewer and now more in number, they dashed forward upon the Spartan ranks, and so perished. GEP 123.2

10. “The fight went most against the Greeks, where Mardonius, mounted upon a white horse, and surrounded by the bravest of all the Persians, the 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 the army, perished, the remainder yielded to the Lacedaemonians, and took to flight. Their light clothing, and want of bucklers, were of the greatest hurt to them; for they had to contend against men heavily armed, while they themselves were without any such defense. The Persians, as soon as they were put to flight by the Lacedaemonians, ran hastily away, without preserving any order, and took refuge in their own camp, within the wooden defense which they had raised in the Theban territory. GEP 124.1

11. “The Persians, and the multitude with them, who fled to the wooden fortress, were able to ascend into the towers before the Lacedaemonians camp 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 assault was made, and the wall was for a long time 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. GEP 124.2

12. “The first to enter here were the Tegeans, and they it was who plundered the tent of Mardonius; where among other booty they found the manger from which his horses ate, all made of solid brass, and well worth looking at. This manger was given by the Tegeans to the temple of Minerva Alea, while the remainder of their booty was brought into the common stock of the Greeks. As soon as the wall was broken down, the barbarians no longer kept together in any array, nor was there one among them who thought of making further resistance—in good truth they were all half dead with fright, handled as so many thousands were into so narrow and confined a space. With such tameness did they submit to be slaughtered by the Greeks, that of the three hundred thousand men who composed the army—omitting the forty thousand by whom Artabazus was accompanied in his flight—no more than three thousand outlived the battle. Of the Lacedaemonians from Sparta there perished a this combat ninety-one; of the Tegeans, sixteen; of the Athenians fifty-two.” 2 GEP 124.3

13. Thus, “the vengeance which was due to the Spartans for the slaughter of Leonidas, was paid them by Mardonius, then, too, del Pausanius, the son of Cleombrotus, and grandson of Anaxandrides (I omit to recount his other ancestors, since they are the same with Leonidas), win a victory exceeding in glory all those to which our knowledge extends.” On the same day as the battle of Plataea, the Greek fleet annihilated the Persian fleet and army at Mycale, on the coast of Asia, near Miletus. And so ended the feat of Xerxes in “stirring up all against the realm of Grecia.” GEP 125.1

14. In his seventh year, 480-79 B. C., Xerxes reached once more his own capital of Susa, and having divorced Vashti at the time of the grand banquet before the expedition against Greece, he issued his decree for the gathering together of maidens from the different parts of the empire, from whom he might choose a wife. Among these was Esther, who was chosen to be queen. “So Esther was taken unto King Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.” 3 GEP 125.2

15. In 470 Athens sent out a fleet of two hundred ships, under the command of Cimon, to invade the coasts of Asia. He was joined by a hundred ships of the Asiatic Greeks, and with this combined fleet “he took in all the maritime parts of Caria and Lydia, driving all the Persians out of all the cities they were possessed of in those parts; and then, hearing that they had a great fleet on the coasts of Pamphylia, and were also drawing down thither as great an army by land for some expedition, he hastened thither with two hundred and fifty of his best ships in quest of them; and finding their fleet, consisting of three hundred and fifty sail, at anchor in the mouth of the river Eurymedon, and their land army encamped on the shore near by, he first assaulted their fleet, which, being soon put to the rout, and having no other way to fly except up the river, was all taken, every ship of them, and twenty thousand men in them, the rest having either escaped to land or been slain in the fight. After this, while his forces were thus flushed with success, he put them ashore and fell upon the land army, and overthrew them also with a great slaughter; whereby he got two great victories in the same day, of which one was equal to that of Salamis, and the other to that of Plataea.” GEP 126.1

16. “The next year [469] Cimon sailed to the Hellespont; and falling on the Persians who had taken possession of the Thracian Chersonesus, drove them out thence, and subjected their country again to the Athenians ... After this he subdued the Thasians, ... and then, landing his army on the opposite shore of Thrace, he seized all the gold mines on those coasts, and brought under him all that country as far as Macedon.”—Prideaux. 4 GEP 126.2

17. “From this time no more of Xerxes’s ships were seen in the AEgean Sea, nor any of his forces on the coast adjoining it, all the remainder of his reign,” which, however, continued but four years longer. In 465, about the time of his twentieth year, Xerxes was murdered as the result of a conspiracy led by Artabanus, chief of the guard. GEP 126.3