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.
relief sculpture. It is generally believed today that the religious procession that is the main subject of the frieze somehow AFTER THER MOPYLAE 49 alludes to—rather than directly depicts—the procession of the Great or City Panathenaea mentioned just above. Again, Phidias was given a major role to play, fashioning the massive chryselephantine (gold and ivory on a wooden core) cultstatue of the Virgin—diﬀerent in every possible way from the basic statue of the Polias. For the same Panathenaic
therefore, Darius was by no means unwilling to ﬁnd an AFTER THER MOPYLAE 71 excuse or reason to return to this far western theater, and in the 490s those same Asiatic Greeks provided him with a pretext that was more than just an excuse. To the Persians, as to the Assyrians before them and the Hebrews after them, all Greeks were “Ionians,” because that was the branch of the Greek people whom they ﬁrst encountered, settled as they had been for hundreds of years along the Aegean coast of Asia.
their morale, second, holding up their advance southward in order to gain extra time for the PAU L CARTLEDGE 96 Athenians and others to muster their naval forces, and, third and most important of all perhaps, maintaining connection with a ﬂeet that, thanks in part to some timely gales, did far better than expected against the mainly Phoenician ships of the Persians. Artemisium, the ﬂeet’s base, wasn’t a city or even a town; the name refers to a sanctuary devoted to Artemis located at the
Speech, invented probably in the mid-460s. Absolutely standard and required, at least so far as the few extant real and ﬁctitious examples of the genre attest, was a central and favorable mention of the Marathon victory and/or AFTER THER MOPYLAE 125 of the men of Marathon, the heroized Marathonomachae (“Marathon-ﬁghters”). Here it is, for example, in the version of the Epitaphios Thucydides attributed to Pericles—delivered in winter 431/430: always they bury the war dead in the People’s
metaphorically dedicating an appropriate portion of the sum raised by selling booty extracted from a city that had first been utterly destroyed. An early example of this uncomfortable Greek practice of cityannihilation is aﬀorded by the fate of the—presumably small—city of Arisba on the island of Lesbos. Once there had been six independent cities on that eastern Aegean island, but by Herodotus’ day there were only ﬁve, and Arisba was no more, having been eliminated by the other ﬁve. As it turned