The location of Plataia

The ruins of ancient Plataia, near the modern village are quite extensive, but apart from some pieces of wallwork from different periods, there is not much to be seen. The city has long been the object of a quarrel between Athens and Thebes. The city supported the Athenians in Marathon, was destroyed by the Persians and Thebans, it has been rebuild after 479 B.C., was captured by the Spartans in 427 B.C., who massacred the entire population and destroyed the rebuilt city. Rebuilt after the peace of Antalkidas (387B.C.), Plataia was again destroyed by the Persians in 373 B.B., to be finally rebuilt by Philippos V after the Battle of Chaironeia.



The American excavations of 1899 uncovered the remains of an ancient Doric temple; the temple with presumably 6 x 18 columns was unusually long. The excavators identified the temple as the temple of Hera, which according to Herodotos was in front of the city, but according to Pausanias in the city. To reconcile the two statements, it has been assumed that the classical city (from 429 B.C.) was located on the higher parts of the hill (the walls between ΕΖΗΙΘΕ), while the later city (ΑΓΔΘΙΚΑ) from the time of Alexander the Great had also taken the lower parts. An older piece of wallwork (ΚΛΘ) probably dates from the early 5th century BC.



Above:  the classic walls of Plataia. Right: the plan of Plataia with the course of the city walls in the different periods (from Papachatzis). Bottom left: the temple of Hera (also from Papachatzis) and below: Greek hoplites.

The battle of Plataia in 479 B.C.


The battle of Plataia in august 479 B.C. finally stated the already badly progressing expedition of the Persians against the Greeks. The course of the battle is described in detail by Herodotos, who, has left many inaccuracies in his description, may have made some mistakes and in any case was strongly guided by Athenian propaganda.

The Allied Greeks lwere near the town of Erythrai with the Kithairon Mountains in the back, while on the other side of the multi-armed river Asopos was the heavily fortified Persian camp. Xerxes had left his brother-in-law Mardonios as governor of Greece with the order to break the Greeks permanently. In the first phase of the battle (which lasted 3 weeks according to Herodotos!), the Persian cavalry under Masistios attacked the Greek positions on rough terrain.


In this battle, the cavalry was defeated, and despite his almost impenetrable armor, Masistios was killed by a spear in the eye. After the flight of the Persians, the Greeks now chose better positions for Plataia. Both the Persians and the Greeks waited for days for the other to move first. The Persians, because they no longer wanted to attack dug in Greek positions with their cavalry, the Greeks, because they were still waiting for reinforcements. Meanwhile, there were quarrels in the Greek camp and the Greeks regularly changed their strategy.

In a second phase, the Greeks tried unsuccessfully to lure the Persians out for a long time, but once the Persian cavalry had taken the lower parts between Plataia and the Greek positions, Greek positions became untenable. At night, the Greeks held court-martial and decided to withdraw to new positions. This failed, due to confusion in the nightly march, the three Greek contingents separated, leaving them isolated from one another for the Persians’ final attack.


In the final attack, the Spartans managed withstand the Persian troops, while the Athenians held out against the Greek (Boiotian) allies of the Persians. The Greek center had taken up positions directly in front of Plataia and would eventually come to the aid of the Athenians and Spartans in two contingents. Mardonios died in battle with the Spartans, and the Persians lost all hope of a victory. Some of the Persian troops fled to Boiotia and another part fled into the Persian camp, where they were eventually slaughtered to the last man. From the enormous loot that the Greeks obtained, they would put up numerous gifts as thanks to the gods. However, the sword of Mardonios did not hang in a Spartan temple, but on the Acropolis of Athens.