Ancient warfare, Athenian, Athens, Battle of Plataea, helmet, Hoplite, Medes, Military history, Persian wars, Persians, Shield, Sparta, Sword
By Periklis Deligiannis
Read Part I: THE BATTLE OF PLATAEA, 479 BC (Part I)
NEW MANEUVERS AND TACTICAL PLANS
The Greek combatants were exhausted because of the continuous ‘hammering’ of the Iranian cavalry, and this situation resulted on a disruption in their units. They finally relocated again to new (third) positions but without organization and order. This confusion led to the dispersal of the forces of the Alliance and the occupation of positions that were not those which were decided in the last military council (see part I). The units of the center of the battle order (Megarians, Corinthians, Fliasians and others) were the ones who suffered most from the attacks of the Persian cavalry. Their men wandered and eventually took positions on the Heraion, near the walls of Plataea. The Athenians began to move to the north, opposite to the direction which the Lacedaemonians followed. Herodotus says that the former were annoyed by the latter because “the Spartans were talking differently from the thinks that they were thinking.”
I believe that this behavior of the latter had nothing to do with any lack of confidence or estimation of them for the Athenians: it had to do with the standard Lacedaemonian policy of secrecy and concealment of as much as possible information about the tactics that they followed, even if the ones that were annoyed by this secrecy were their Greek comrades. It was a standard policy of the Spartan army in order not to demonstrate its superior strategy and tactics to the other city-states. It was a protective measure for the Lacedaemonian hegemony in Greece.
The Athenians, feeling sick and tired of the general lack of strategic coordination, took the brave and dangerous decision to move towards Asopos River, in the lowlands of Parasopia. It seems that they wanted to fight the enemy only by themselves (an enemy that they knew well from their victory at Marathon) and thereby gain a new triumph that would give them the opportunity to question the Spartan hegemony.
The Lacedaemonians were rather wiser following the opposite course to the South, eventually establishing themselves at the foot of Cithaeron. Thus they were protected from the Iranian cavalry. Herodotus quotes that Amompharetos, the commander of the Spartan battalion of Pitane (Pitanatos lochos) initially refused to give ground to the enemy but when the rest of the Lacedaemonian army departed, he had to follow with his company to the new protected location. The “Amompharetos’ incident”, despite the fact that the Spartan senior commanders tended to undertake independent initiatives different from the decisions of the Commander in Chief, does not seem to have happened in reality. It has been hypothesized that it was rather a story made to explain the late retreat of the Pitanatos company (rather a battalion according to the modern standards).
The Pitanatos battalion was probably a rearguard which covered the Spartan relocation to the new positions. Furthermore, Amompharetos’ battalion seems to hold an even more important and risky mission: to lure Mardonios in an attack against the Spartans. The Persian commander, watching a battalion being cut off from the rest of the Spartan army, would believe that the latter was generally in a state of confusion and disorder. Additionally if he decided to attack the Pitanatos battalion, he would have the opportunity to easily destroy a part of the formidable Lacedaemonian army. It is characteristic that the Spartans used similar tactics at the Battle of Thermopylae, when they pretended retreat in front of the Asiatic warriors so that the latter would be lured in a disorderly attack. When this did happen, Leonidas’ men stopped abruptly their retreat, regrouped on the spot and attacked the unorganized Asiatics winning the day.
Ancient warfare, Athenian, Athens, Battle of Plataea, helmet, Hoplite, Medes, Military history, Military topics, Persian wars, Persians, Shield, Sparta, Sword
A bell-shaped hoplite thorax of the archaic period with an extended bell-type projection in the waist, for the repulse of the enemy arrows, javelins, stones etc.
By Periklis Deligiannis
[Actually, this paper is a subchapter of my published book: The Spartan army, Athens 2007].
In the Greco-Persian Wars (490-479 BC) between the Achaemenid Persian Empire and the defensive Alliance of the city-states of South Greece, the victory of the latter at the sea Battle of Salamis (480 BC) on Xerxes’ fleet, secured the control of the sea for them. The Asiatic fleet (mainly East Phoenician) was neutralized and fell back to the eastern Aegean. However, the Persian army remained almost untouched. King Xerxes, fearing the possibility being trapped in Greece and eventually captured or killed after a possible defeat on land, withdrew “discreetly” in Asia officially considering that the objectives of his campaign had been achieved. Before he withdraws, he left his cousin Mardonios (Mardonius in the Western historiography) as head of the army in order to continue the military operations. Mardonios was a stubborn and brave man (his name means the “gallant” in ancient Iranian, originating from the word “mard” for the man or the warrior). On the other hand, in the winter of 479 BC a change occurred in the Spartan military leadership, which proved to be very important for the Greek defense against the invasion. Shortly after Salamis, the Spartan royal commissioner (regent) Kleombrotos died. His office was occupied by his son, Pausanias.
Mardonios initially tried to gain over the Athenians. But the victors of the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) would not be subdued to the losing side in that battle, and twice rejected the tempting terms that he offered them, assuring at the same time the Spartan envoys who were at Salamis Island (the military base of the Athenian army and fleet) that they would never betray their Greek compatriots. Till that moment, the Spartans were avoiding the confrontation with Mardonios’ army. But at that time, they were pressed even more intensely by their Athenian, Megarian, Plataean and Aeginetan allies whose countries were either occupied by the Persians or directly threatened by them. The Spartans had to satisfy the demand of their allies and finally sent their army led by the regent Pausanias, to face the invaders who had already occupied Attica (the territory of Athens) for the second time during the Second Persian campaign (480-479 BC). The women and children of the Athenians had long ago found refuge in Peloponnese and the small islands of the Saronic Gulf. The Athenian resistance was concentrated in the Island of Salamis, where they had defeated the enemy fleet almost a year ago.
Argos, Athenian, Athens, Boeotia, Boeotians, Greece, Greek, Greek-Persian Wars, Herodotus, Persians, Plataea, Sparta, Spartans, Thebes
By Periklis Deligiannis
Ancient Boeotia and its city-states.
Many modern scholars and historians (with prominent the Canadian historian Back) believe that the pro-Persian policy (calling “medizing” in ancient Greece) of Thebes and most cities of the rest of Boeotia during the 2nd Persian war (480-479 BC), was not as extensive as the ancient historian Herodotus (the main source for the Greek-Persian wars) tried to indicate. It is evident from the writings of Herodotus, that he discriminated in favor of Athens and Sparta (and against their rival city-states of Thebes, Argos etc.). It is recognized that the pro-Persian policy of Macedonia, Thessaly and Argos (other Greek states also “blamed” for “medizing” at the same time) was not really extensive. The Boeotian city-states (mainly Thebes) bear the “burden” of the blame of “medizing” , because of Herodotus. The ancient historian probably distorted the historical truth by noting inordinately their pro-Persian policy, which was not more intense than that of the aforementioned states. It is true that the Thebans and the Boeotians desired a Persian victory, only because of their hostility to their neighboring Athenians. So they possibly did not join the Greek Alliance, because its leaders were the city-states of Athens and Sparta. Argos did the same because of its hostility to Sparta.
A beautiful original Boeotian helmet. This type was originally used by the Boeotian infantry and cavalry, but later it became popular to all the Greek cavalrymen ( comitatus.net).
Athenian, Athens, Attic, Attic helmet, Byzantine Empire, Carthage, Etruscan, Etruscans, Euboea, Military history, Roman, Sparta
By Periklis Deligiannis
The standard type of Attic/Athenian helmet of the Roman officers.
The Attic or Athenian helmet was an invention of the ancient Athenians, derived from a transformation of the older Chalkidean casque (or Chalkidian). The History of the Attic helmet spans to more than a thousand years and belongs paradoxically, more to the Italian-Roman rather than the Greek arsenal.
The ancestral Chalkidean helmet (6th century BC) was a “lighter” type of the even older and famous Corinthian or Dorian helmet (the typical helmet of the Classical Spartans). The Chalkidean helmet came from the attempt of the Chalkideans to solve the problem of the limited vision and hearing of the hoplite, because of his Corinthian helmet. The Chalkideans were the people of the city-state Chalkis in the island Euboea, famous for its weaponry during the Archaic Era (7th cent. – 479 BC). It seems that the Chalkidean helmet was popular in Athens and Attica, as we can see in the Athenian vase-paintings. This preference might be due partly to the Ionic ethnological affinities of the Athenians and Euboeans.