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For the geometer moth genus, see Plataea (moth).

Plataea or Plataeae (Ancient Greek: Πλάταια or Πλαταιαί) was an ancient city, located in Greece in southeastern Boeotia, south of Thebes.[1] It was the location of the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, in which an alliance of Greek city-states defeated the Persians. Plataea was destroyed in the Peloponnesian War by Thebes and Sparta in 427 BC and rebuilt in 386 BC.


Alliance with Athens and presence at Marathon

Herodotus tells that in order to avoid coming under Theban hegemony Plataea offered to "put themselves into Spartan hands". However, the Spartans refused this offer and, wishing to cause mischief between the Boeotians and Athens, recommended that the Plataeans ally themselves with Athens instead. This advice was accepted and a delegation sent to Athens, where the Athenians were agreeable to such a proposal. On learning that Athens had accepted the alliance, the Thebans sent an army against Plataea, but were met by an Athenian one. Corinth attempted to mediate the dispute, and achieved an agreement that set the borders between Thebes and Plataea. In addition to this, Thebes made a commitment not to interfere with cities that did not want to be a part of a Boeotian state. However, after the Corinthians had left and Athenians were starting their journey home, they were set upon by the Boeotians. In the subsequent battle, the Athenians prevailed and set the river Asopus as the border between Thebes and Plataea.

With Athens as their allies, the Plataeans were able to avoid subjugation by their neighbours and maintain their freedom. In honour of this debt, at the Battle of Marathon, Plataea alone would fight at the Athenians' side. Sending "every available man" in support, when it was Athens's time to face invasion and conquest. In acknowledgement and gratitude of her ally's fidelity, the Athenians gave the Plataeans the honour of the left flank during the battle. After the battle the Plataeans were allowed to share Athenian memorials and in the (normally exclusively Athenian) religious rites, sacrifices and games asking for the blessing of Athens's patron gods.

Battle of Plataea

In 479 BC Plataea was the site of the final battle that repelled the second Persian invasion of Greece. According to Herodotus, the Spartan general Pausanias led an allied Greek defense against Mardonius' Persian forces. Although they were vastly outnumbered, the Greeks were able to kill Mardonius; his death precipitated the Persian rout that followed. Accounts vary, but there is general agreement that the battle resulted in a significant number of Persian dead, with many more put to flight. This battle would mark the last time a Persian army invaded mainland Greece. The Greek victory at Plataea is commemorated by the so-called Serpent Column erected at Delphi.

Peloponnesian War and Plataea

Thucydides tells that in April 431 BC, a fifth column of 300 Thebans infiltrated Plataea with the aid of local traitors: pro-Spartan aristocrats and wealthy oligarchs. They attempted to persuade the citizens of Plataea to join with Thebes' allies, the Spartans, to allow Thebes to move on its enemy, Athens, unhindered. The plot was uncovered and the Plataeans captured the infiltrators before the main body of the Theban force could arrive.

Seeing that the plan was foiled, the Theban army formed a plan to capture any Plataen citizen they could find outside the city gates in order to have leverage for an exchange of prisoners. The Plataeans, however, being wise to the Theban plan sent a herald to Thebes denouncing them for their unprovoked attack and threatening to kill the prisoners unless they withdrew their troops.

Thebes complied, yet the Plataeans "hastily got in whatever they had in the country and immediately put the men to death". The number of the slain was 180, and Thucydides tells us that Eurymachus the traitor was among them. The Plataeans immediately sent to Athens for assistance in the siege that was certain to come, and Athens brought them provisions and soldiers, even though they disagreed with the Plataean's decision to execute the Theban prisoners.

Thucydides tells us that "the treaty had now been broken by an overt act after the affair at Plataea" and that "Athens and Lacedaemon now resolved to send embassies to the King and to such other of the barbarian powers as either party could look to for assistance." Up to this point hopes could still be entertained of salvaging the peace, but now "so general was the indignation felt against Athens" that war was inevitable.

During the summer two years after these events occurred Archidamus II finally led the Peloponnesian force against Plataea and began to raze their crops. The Plataeans, in response, dispatched a herald reminding the Spartans of the glorious deeds the Plataeans performed during the Greco-Persian War and of the oath the Spartans swore to protect them and keep them independent - in 479 BC Pausanias, the Spartan general had decreed that Plataea was on holy ground, and it should never be attacked.[2] The Spartans responded by demanding Plataean neutrality in return for their protection. After consulting Athens, Plataea rejected the Spartan proposals and began in earnest to prepare a defence. The Spartans then quickly invested the city, and employed several innovative, yet unsuccessful tactics to bypass the Plataean defenses. Failing in these undertakings the Spartans built a wall of circumvallation, left enough troops to guard the walls, then retired.


Siege Break

The winter of the next year found the Plataeans in a desperate situation. They were besieged by the Spartans and Boeotians with Athenian help doubtful in arriving. Their stores were running dangerously low, and only a brilliant stroke of luck could salvage their position. The Plataeans therefore devised a plan to break past the Spartan defenses and escape; originally all the men were to join the attempt, but the danger being great, only 220 ultimately agreed to go. They accordingly waited for a dark, stormy night, and implemented the plan. Catching the guards by surprise, 212 men managed to evade capture, yet Thucydides writes, "it was mainly the violence of the storm that enabled them to effect their escape at all."


The remaining Plataeans finally surrendered to the Spartans the summer of the next year, as all supplies they had were exhausted, and no hope of help remained. They had trusted the Spartans to a fair trial, as the Lacedaemonians (Spartans) had promised to "judge them all fairly", and that "only the guilty should be punished" if they yielded.

Yet, when the Plataean prisoners were brought before the judges, no trial was held; no chance for apology was offered. The Spartans simply asked each of the prisoners if they had done the Lacedaemonians and allies any service in the war, to which the prisoners, after a heated debate, ultimately had to answer "no."

Thus the Spartans killed over 200 of the Plataean defenders "among which were 25 Athenians" according to Thucydides. The Thebans ultimately razed the entire town, and

built on to the precinct of Hera an inn two hundred feet square, with rooms all round above and below, making use for this purpose of the roofs and doors of the Plataeans: of the rest of the materials in the wall, the brass and the iron, they made couches which they dedicated to Hera, for whom they also built a stone chapel of a hundred feet square.

See also



  1. ^ Mish, Frederick C., Editor in Chief. “Plataea.” Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. 9th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1985. ISBN 0-87779-508-8, ISBN 0-87779-509-6 (indexed), and ISBN 0-87779-510-X (deluxe).
  2. ^ Thukydides: Der Peloponnesische Krieg, II, 71 (2), translated and edited by Helmut Vretska and Werner Rinner. Reclam, Stuttgart, Germany, 2002. ISBN 9783150018088

External links

Coordinates: 38°12′56″N 23°16′01″E / 38.21556°N 23.26694°E / 38.21556; 23.26694

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PLATAEA, or Plataeae, an ancient Greek city of Boeotia, situated close under Mt Cithaeron, near the passes leading from Peloponnesus and Attica to Thebes, and separated from the latter city's territory by the river. Asopus. Though one of the smallest Boeotian towns, it stubbornly resisted the centralizing policy of Thebes. In 519 B.C. it invoked Sparta's help against its powerful neighbour, but was referred by king Cleomenes to Athens (for the date, see Grote's History of Greece, ed. 1907, p. 82, note 4). The Athenians secured Plataea's independence, and thus secured its enduring friendship. In 490 the Plataeans sent their full levy to the assistance of the Athenians at Marathon, and during the invasion of Xerxes they joined eagerly in the national defence. At Artemisium they volunteered to man several Athenian ships, and subsequently abandoned their town to be burnt by Xerxes. In 479 they fought against the Persians under Mardonius in the decisive battle which bears the name of the city. In this campaign the Persian commander, retiring from Attica before the combined Peloponnesian and Athenian levy, had encamped in the Asopus plain in order to give battle on ground suited to his numerous cavalry. The Greeks under the Spartan regent Pausanias at first did not venture beyond the spurs of Cithaeron, but, encouraged by successful skirmishing, advanced towards the river and attempted a flanking movement so as to cut Mardonius off from his base at Thebes. The operation miscarried, and in their exposed condition the Greeks were severely harassed by the enemy's horse, which also blocked the Cithaeron passes against their supply columns. Pausanias thereupon ordered a night retreat to the hilly ground near Plataea, but the movement was badly executed; for whereas the Peloponnesians in the centre retired beyond their proper station, the Spartans and Athenians on the wings were still in the plain at daybreak. The Persians immediately fell upon these isolated contingents, but the Spartan infantry bore the brunt of the attack with admirable steadiness, and both wings ultimately rolled back their opponents upon the camp. When this was stormed the enemy's resistance collapsed, and Mardonius's army was almost annihilated. This great victory was celebrated by annual sacrifices and a Festival of Liberation (Eleutheria) in every fourth year at Plataea, whose territory moreover was declared inviolate.

In spite of this guarantee Plataea was attacked by Thebes at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (431) and formally besieged by the Peloponnesians (429-27). The garrison after capitulating was put to death, and the city razed by the Thebans. The remaining Plataeans received a qualified franchise in Athens, and in 421 were settled on the territory of Scione. Expelled by Lysander in 404 they returned to Athens, until in 3 87 Sparta restored them in their native town as a check upon Thebes. The city was again destroyed by Thebes in 373, and the inhabitants once more became citizens of Athens. Plataea was rebuilt by Philip and Alexander of Macedon, and during the rest of antiquity enjoyed a safe but obscure existence. It continued to flourish in Byzantine and Frankish times. The walls of the town, which at various periods occupied different portions of the triangular ledge on which it stood, remain partly visible. Recent excavations have discovered the Heraeum; but the temple of Athena the Warlike, built from the Persian spoils and adorned by the most famous artists, has not been identified.


Strabo p. 411; Pausanias ix. 1-4; Herodotus vi. 108, viii. I, ix. 25-85; Plutarch, Aristides, .11-21;; Thucydides ii. 1-16, 71-78, iii. 20-24, 52-68; Isocrates, Plataicus; G. B. Grundy, The Topography of the Battle of Plataea (London, 1894) and Great Persian War (London, 1901), ch. xi.; W. Woodhouse in Journal of Hellenic Studies (1898), pp. 33-59; H. B. Wright, The Campaign of Plataea (New Haven, 1904); R. W. Macan, Herodotus, vii.-ix. (London, 1908), appendix; W. M. Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, ch. xvi., pp. 323-367 (London, 1835); Amer. Journ. of Archaeology, 1890, pp. 445-475; 1891, PP. 390-405; B. V. Head, Historia numorum, p. 294 (Oxford, 1887). (M. O. B. C.)

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