Casting Through Ancient Greece

28. The First Clash

April 09, 2021 Mark Selleck Season 1 Episode 28
Casting Through Ancient Greece
28. The First Clash
Show Notes Transcript

The Hellenic league had now arrived in the foothills of the Citheron Mountains, with still more contingents continually arriving throughout the hours and days to come. Pausanias, hastily deployed what forces were currently available down in the foothills where they would be protected to some degree. His mind was focused on forming a strong defensive line, as this had been the advice revealed by the omens.

The Persians had seen an opportunity for a cavalry action with it seeming part of the Greek line was exposed. The first action in the lead up to the battle now took place with the Persian cavalry harassing part of the Greek line. The Athenians would advance to support this part of the line and in the process, they would kill the Persian commander and repulse the cavalry. 

This victory over the Persian cavalry would see the Greeks confidence grow and Pausanias now deployed the line further forward. This, though would open up more opportunities for Mardonius to exploit. Over the coming days without a general battle developing, the Greeks would lose their only feasible supply of fresh waster and to make matters worse their supply lines had been disrupted by the Persian Cavalry. 

With the Greek army now in a precarious position, Pausanias ordered for the line to retreat back to more defensible terrain. Here they would also gain access to fresh water and they would be able to secure their supply lines coming out of the Citheron Mountains. Though, when the retreat began at night things did not go as planned and would put the Greek line in a very vulnerable position as the sun rose.

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Episode 28

The First Clash

“In the event of your bringing this war to a successful conclusion, you must remember me, and do something for my freedom: for the sake of Greece I have taken a great risk, in my desire to acquaint you with what Mardonius intends, and thus to save you from a surprise attack. I am Alexander of Macedon”.[1]

 

Hello, Im Mark Selleck and welcome back to Casting Through Ancient Greece, episode 28, the first clash.

 

Introduction:

The collection of Greek city states that had come together to defend Greece from Xerxes invasion were now assembled together in the largest combine force yet known. The road to this point from the formation of the Hellenic league at Corinth some two years earlier was a rough one. The unity within the league threatened to collapse on a number of occasions due to the competing interests these fiercely independent city states had. The coalition began in the right spirit with the members taking oaths of loyalty to one another and agreeing to lay past quarrels aside. Once the Persian campaign was underway though, the threats they faced would put tremendous pressure on the loyalty they had sworn to one another. The Persian outflanking force at Thermopylae proved to break the nerve of a number of the Greeks and saw them abandon the pass, while others would stay and fight until the end. At Artemisium tensions would see a number of contingents wanting to abandon their positon before a concusses was arrived at, as well as the news of the loss of the Thermopylae position. The Greeks would withdraw together in order before any mutiny could eventuate.  Salamis would see the leagues cooperation tested even further, with the Athenians having to threaten the rest of the alliance to their fate if they would sail their fleet away to establish a new city in Italy. Even this saw the league holding together on shaky ground. Themistocles would force the Greeks to unite in an act that in any other situation would have been seen as treason. Though, after Salamis the unity of the Hellenic league looked to almost disappear altogether. Xerxes had left Greece and the force left behind fell back into Thessaly. The Peloponnesians feeling much more secure now, they reverted back to focusing on their initial defensive plan, a wall across the isthmus of Corinth. This would still leave Athens and the other city states north of Corinth vulnerable to the Persians that remained under Mardonius. Eventually, threats on behalf of Athens falling in with the Persians, or compromise on the committed forces, saw the Hellenic league unite once again in August of 479 BC. 

Contingents from Sparta, Arcadia, Corinth, Plataea and Athens, plus many more, now began to march north along the roads, with the heaviest traffic coming out of the Peloponnese. The largest body being that headed by Pausanias and his Spartans, which would continue to grow as smaller contingents fell in as the march north continued. With the news of the Greeks march, Mardonius mobilised his forces and prepared to leave Athens to friendlier territories. Thebes would be one of the largest Greek city states to have fallen in with the Persians and the territory near their Polis was ground where the Persian cavalry could operate more effectively. A Persian camp was established between Thebes and the Asopos River. The Athenian contingent had come across from Salamis and now linked up with the main force, which now made its way to the Citheron Mountains. As well as the main Greek force marching, many smaller groups were on the roads heading from various villages along with supply columns carrying the supplies essential to keeping the largest Greek force yet seen, in the field.

As the main body with the Spartans and Athenians arrived in the passes of the Citheron mountains, they would see before them a vast plain below, with some features that would provide defensive positions but smoothed out as it approached the Asopos River. They would have seen the extensive camp of the Persians across the river and their large palisade they centred on. To most it would seem clear that this would be where they would be engaging the Persian forces and for many this would be their first time in a land battle with the invaders. But what would develop initially was very similar to what the Athenians had encountered eleven years earlier at the bay of Marathon. A stand off would develop for over ten days, with neither side wanting to take the offensive. In this episode we will deal with the events surrounding this extended prelude to the battle looking at what was taking place and perhaps why. What has come down in history, mainly through Herodotus, Plutarch and Diodorus can be confusing in the timeline. We have to remember that even our earliest source, Herodotus was gathering his information a generation or two after the battle took place. The events being recounted to him from various veterans could have easily been mistakenly recalled out of place or even be contradictory for this extended period before the battle proper was joined. So, lets try and understand what was happening in the lead up to the battle now that both sides were facing one another.

Opening Cavalry action:

The Hellenic league camped in the foothills continued to be reinforced by other Greek columns arriving in the Citheron Mountains. This terrain was completely unfavourable for a Persian attack which Mardonious was well aware of. He needed to get the Greeks out in open terrain where his cavalry could rein supreme. It had become clear that the Greeks had no intentions of leaving the foothills around Erythrae, so he now devised a plan to attempt to entice the Greeks forward. Masistius, a distinguished cavalry commander was summoned by Mardonious to take the Persian cavalry and attack the Greeks in force in an attempt to draw them forward. It has been suggested by the historian Peter Green that Mardonious may have been testing the effectiveness of his cavalry in the terrain before sending them against a hoplite phalanx. Also, since it would have been assumed that Mardonious would have known the terrain the Greeks occupied was not well suited to a cavalry attack, did he have an ulterior motive for ordering the charge. Was he looking at sacrificing some of his cavalry in the hopes this would boost the Greeks confidence bringing them further out into the plains where other cavalry would be in their element. [2] This second part seems like a big gamble since the cavalry were his best arm. I’m more inclined to think he was looking to cause a crisis in the Greeks ranks, forcing the rest of the Greeks to respond and drawing them out of their defensive positions, creating an opportunity to allow the Persian army to attack in force.

Masistius, now in command of his cavalry force moved out towards the Greek lines. It is unclear the size of the force he commanded, though it must have been fairly large as we know it was made up of a number of squadrons and initially Mardonious was looking at attacking the Greek line in force.[3]

Mardonious may have had the intension of the cavalry attack going in and charging en mass, but it appears that the commander Masistius altered the attack. On the advance to the Greek lines, it may have become apparent to him that the terrain in front of the Greek positions would breakup the mass of cavalry before engaging the Greek lines. Also, it appears the Greeks were ready for them and their bronze wall of shields with spears arrayed out in front wasn’t an attractive target to clash his cavalry upon. Masitius, arranged his command to attack in squadrons, charging up testing the resolve of the defenders and releasing arrows or javelins before then pealing off, avoiding making contact with the Greek wall. Each squadron would repeat this action, hopefully wearing down the Greeks nerves.

We hear from Herodotus, Diodorus and Plutarch that the Persian cavalry had focused on the position Megara was holding. [4] Apparently their location was seen as the weakest point and most effective for the operation of cavalry, perhaps the terrain leading up to them was well suited to hit and run tactics. With Plutarch writing that they were camped in the plains, so a prime target for cavalry. The cavalry action of the Persians was beginning to have its desired effect with the Magerian’s becoming hard pressed. A message was able to be dispatched back to Pausanias who appears to have established a headquarters where the other contingent commanders were present. Herodotus reveals the contents of the message in his Histories:

“Fellow soldiers, without assistance we are unable to hold the Persian cavalry or to maintain our original position. Up to the present, in spite of servre losses, we have continued to resist with firmness and courage; but now, unless you send other troops to relieve us, we warn you that we shall have to quit our post”.[5]

Pausanias, recognising that his Spartan force would be to slow and unwieldy to provide any real assistance in the face of the Persian cavalry, is then supposed to have called for volunteers from the commanders under him. We are told that all were unwilling to risk their forces except for Aristides who committed a detachment of 300 Athenian hoplites accompanied by the arches Athens had sent along with the army.[6] There may be a little bit of Athenian propaganda at play in the accounts, showing they were willing to save the line, while the Magerian’s were threatening the Greeks positon by withdrawing. There was no love lost between Megera and Athens, who had strained relations before the Persian invasion and would continue to afterwards. In Herodotus’ account only the Athenians are ever referred to as being equipped with a contingent of archers. Surly if this were the case, Pausanias would have recognised their effectiveness against harassing cavalry if they were protected by a formation of hoplites.   

The Athenian task force now set out and joined the Magerians at their position, it seems they withdrew once the Athenians arrived as later on Herodotus talks of the Athenians facing the Persian cavalry alone.[7]  Once the Athenians were in position, the squadrons of the Persian cavalry force would have received a nasty surprise. Previously they would have been fairly unhindered as they rode up harassing the position with their missiles. Now though, they discovered that the reinforced position fired back with the archers well protected by the hoplites. This wouldn’t deter the Persians yet though, the squadrons continued to attack; it would take more to effect their moral. On one of these successive attacks the Athenian archers noticed at the head of the cavalry a striking figure dressed in gold armour riding a magnificent  horse. This was the Persian cavalry commander, Masistius, who would make an excellent target. Masistius may not have learnt yet of the Athenian archers now present at the position as he rode off leading the next squadrons attack. As the squadron harassed the Athenians and turned to ride off, the archers aimed at Masistius’ horse seeing that he was well protected himself. His horse then reared up and flung the commander to the ground, he had been left isolated and was venerable as the rest of the cavalry had not noticed his fall and he was now weighed down by his splendid armour. Once down, the Athenians raced forward to capture his horse and attempt to kill the fallen commander. Both Herodotus and Plutarch tell us this was a difficult task because of all of his armour but in the end he was run through in the eye, one of the few places he was unprotected. [8]    

Once the Persian cavalry had reformed it was discovered that their commander was not with them and they could probably see the Athenians recovering his body and horse. The cavalry now instead of attacking in squadrons charged en mass in an attempt to recover their commander’s body. The Athenians seeing what was about to transpire sent an urgent appeal for reinforcements. Initially, the Athenians had to contend with the Persian attack alone and conceded some ground, in the process giving up control of Masistius body. Though, before they could be completely overwhelmed the reinforcements they had requested began to arrive in full force. The tide of the struggle now started to turn to where the Persians were unable to hold their commanders body and suffering great losses themselves where they were now forced to retire. Not willing to continue the fight they decide to withdraw back to the main Persian line and report to Mardonius on Masistius’ death.

This action would provide a much needed boost to the Greeks moral and Herodotus gives us an account of how the commanders made sure the whole army benefited.

“ … the Greeks, having both held and repulsed the cavalry charge, were much encouraged. They put Masistius’ body on a cart and paraded it along the lines. It was certainly worth looking at, for Masistius was tall and splendidly handsome man, this is why they did it, and men broke their ranks to get a sight of Masistius”.[9] 

Greeks advance:

This opening action before the battle of Plataea would instil a confidence into the army to where they sought to advance from their protected positions in the mountains. Pausanias was not looking at going on the offensive, as the omens revealed had stressed victory lay in defence. Though, if the Greek line moved forward and centred themselves on Plataea instead of Erythrae they would have better access to drinking water. Although the army was well supplied, bringing along their wagon train, they would still need access to fresh water and a good supply of it to sustain the largest Greek army yet assembled. Seeing the Persian massed cavalry charge defeated would have encouraged this move, with the knowledge that a mixed hoplite and light infantry force was effective against the cavalry.  

It appears that on their arrival in the high ground in the Citheron foot hills, an official order of battle had not been put into effect. With Herodotus saying;

“The best thing, therefore, seemed to be to shift the camp and take up a new position, in their proper detachments, near the spring called Gargaphia in Plataean territory”.[10]

 There are hints of disputes breaking out on which contingent should take up which position. Plutarch writes;

“The Tegeatans, contesting the post of honour with the Athenians, demanded that according to custom, the Lacedaemonians being ranged on the right wing of the battle, they might have the left, alleging several matters in commendation of their ancestors”. [11] 

We also see Herodotus reporting disagreements between Athens and Tegea over the deployment of the left wing, once it had been decided to advance toward Plataea.[12] But it’s possible that this was an ongoing dispute since both the contingents’ arrival in the mountains. The issue would finally be put to rest with Pausanias giving the left wing to the Athenians. If you can remember the right wing of a hoplite line was considered the position of honour. With the Spartans in command they would take up this post, the next position of honour was the left wing.

Although there was still a trickle of Greeks arriving in the Citheron Mountains, we now get an idea from Herodotus of the positions of the various contingents and the numbers of the Hellenic army.[13] They set up their defensive line some 6 to 7 km along the foothills, the Spartans, other Lacedaemonians, Tegeans and Thespians made up the Greek right flank. Their numbers came to around thirty thousand including light troops. Next to their position at the village of Hysiae came the Corinthians, Potidaens, Arcadians and Sicyonians, made up of fifteen thousand troops. On their left was another force of fifteen thousand seeing the smaller contingents from the Peloponnese, Islands and other regions north marking up this formation. Then next to them on the left flank were thirty thousand troops coming from Megara, Plataea and Athens. All up most ancient sources place the Hellenic army’s strength at just over 100,000, while modern estimates put this number somewhere around 80,000.

With the Greeks taking up their new positions Mardonious now also responded with deploying his troops in a line of battle. Once again we get a picture of the various units in the Persian force and what part of the Greek line they opposed. Though, it is difficult to get an idea of the numbers of the units. Facing the Spartans and other Peloponnesians were what was considered the cream of the infantry, the Persian troops. Continuing along the line were the Medes, Bactrians, Indians and Sacae. Then on the far end facing the Athenians were the troops of the medizing Greeks city states. The Persian cavalry was then placed on both flanks and in the rear of the Persian line. Herodotus places the Persian army at around 350,000 strong.[14] Most modern estimates place the Persians around the 100,000 mark, give or take 20,000, finally seeing the disparity between the forces brought much closer together for the first time.     

The stand off:

Although both sides had now set their forces in motion in view of one another, neither had gone on the offensive. Both Pausanias and Mardonius were committed to taking advantage of their strengths. The Greeks occupied positions more suited to infantry combat with a strong defensive terrain behind them, while the Persians were in flat terrain ideal for cavalry and with a strong camp position to support them. If either advanced they risked giving away their advantages and playing into their enemies. Pausanias had his official diviner once again make sacrifices now that they occupied their new positions. Once again, the omens came back favourable if the Greek would fight a defensive action and not advance across the Asopus River which separated the two armies, as reported by Herodotus.[15] Perhaps Tisamenus’ reading of the omen was a handy excuse to justify to his commanders and troops why they remained inactive. Pausanias would also be wanting to stall any action for the time being as there were still contingents of Greek forces arriving through the mountains swelling the Greek ranks as each day passed.

 Mardonious was also wanting to remain on the defensive, apparently sacrifices in the Greek tradition had also taken place in his camp also promising victory on a defensive action. He would have been well aware he was commanding an army only a fraction of what Xerxes had originally brought into Greece. The reports coming back to him of Greeks continually arriving through the passes in the Cithaeron mountains would have caused some anxiety since for the first time in the war the Persians didn’t hold much of an advantage in numbers. With the stalemate in effect for a number of days now, Mardonious was looking for another way to force some sort of outcome. Finally, another cavalry action was planned, according to Herodotus, this as per a suggestion from the Thebans.[16]  Now that the Greek army had come forward from their positions in the foothills, the Persian cavalry would be able to manoeuvre behind the main line and attack and threaten the Greeks lines of supply through the pass in the mountains. Surly this would have to provoke some sort of reaction from Pausanias. 

Once the Persian Cavalry reached the pass in the Cithaeron Mountains, a baggage train made up of hundreds of mules happened to be making its way to the army with supplies from the Peloponnese. The Persian cavalry now not having to contend with the sharp spears of the Greek hoplites, fell upon the defenceless men and animals. A great slaughter took place before then rounding up the captured booty and survivors and escorting them back to Persian lines. 

With the success of this cavalry raid, Mardonious now sought to arrange another since no meaningful movement on the part of the Greeks took place. Over the past days the Persians had been harassing the Greek line attempting to entice them into action and cross the Asopus. The Persian arches had become enough of a threat to the Greeks who were collecting fresh water from the river that separated them that now the entire Greek line was using the Gargaphia spring in the rear as the main source of Fresh water. This spring would be the target of Mardonious next cavalry raid. Once again, the cavalry was able to operate between the Greek line and the Cithaeron foothills, with their manoeuvrability they succeed in fouling the spring and main source of fresh water the Greeks were relying on. With the relative ease that the Persian cavalry seems to operating behind the Greeks, it appears they had been continuing operations against the Greek supply lines. Herodotus says,

“… the servants who had been sent to bring back supplies from the Peloponnese had been stopped by parties of Persian cavalry and failed to re-join”.[17] 

During the night a rider from the Persian side of the Asopus made his way towards the Greek line where the Athenians were stationed. The rider was Alexander of Macedon who had come with new helpful to the Greeks. As we have seen throughout the last few episodes, Alexander either seems to have been playing both sides of the fence or was intent on eventually freeing his lands of the hold Xerxes now had over it. Herodotus has this visit taking place before the raid on the spring but I can’t help but wonder if it took place the night after the raid, helping lead to subsequent decisions by Pausanias we will soon get to. Alexander had requested an audience with Aristides where he then proceeded to inform him of Mardonious’ situation and intentions. He revealed that the Persians were now struggling to keep their army in the field supplied. This was now forcing him to ignore the unfavourable omens he was receiving and he now planned to attack at dawn.[18]   

The information Aristides gathered, the situation regarding the army’s supplies and their access to drinking water was now causing concern amongst the various commanders along the Greek line. All of the commanders now gathered and a council was held at Pausanias’ position on the right wing. Supposedly the information from Alexander that Aristides brought before Pausanias was for his ears only so as not to jeopardise himself and his kingdom while answerable to Persia. So weather if Alexanders visit took place when Herodotus says it did or not it still would have been in Pausanias mind when in council with the commanders.

The Greek retreat:

During the preceding days of stalemate Pausanias had made redeployments of his line in an attempt to gain an advantage and break the stalemate. Though, I find it a little hard to believe the reason for the redeployment given by Herodotus and a version found in Plutarch’s lives. He has the Spartans recognizing the Athenians ability over their own when it came to having to fight the Persians and swapped positions with them. As we have seen the Spartans were seen as the preeminent land force amongst the Greeks, admitting another polies superiority over their own just doesn’t seem likely, especially with so many of their Peloponnesian allies present. Some modern historians have proposed that Pausanias wanting to start the battle and gain some sort of tactical advantage, attempted to draw the Persians into attacking on unfavourable ground. So maybe these movements were testing how the Persians would respond to Greek movements. These redeployments only saw the opposing lines marching to counter the others movements with no change in the situation eventuating.  It’s unclear how many of these redeployments took place but ultimately all of the contingents would end up back in their original positions once the council was held.[19] 

With Pausanias being unsuccessful in breaking the stalemate, facing the issues of supply and the knowledge of an intimate Persian attack, he finally ordered that the Greek line would fall back to higher ground and to where they could protect their lines of supply, and gain a secure source of water. Though, doing this would take time to arrange with such a large army to make an orderly withdrawal. Another factor was that the Persian cavalry was roaming fairly free behind the Greek lines, so falling back during the day would leave them vulnerable to an organised cavalry attack. It was now decided that a withdrawal would take place of the entire line during the next night. Preparations would have to be taken to blunten any Persian attacks and if a general engagement didn’t develop they would fall back as planned.[20]

A plan had been made and all of the commanders would return to their contingents to full fill their part. The general idea was to fall back to Plataea, with all of the contingents converging on a feature known as the Island, just before and east of the town of Plataea. This would see the spurs and foothills once again providing protection against cavalry attacks. From this point the Greeks could then deploy their new line centring on the Island.

Mardonious may well have arranged for a general attack but upon seeing the Greek line prepared more so than the previous days for battle, a series of probes seems to have ensured. The Harassing attacks continued with more vigour than before, the centre of the Greek line being the main focus of these attacks. They appeared to have suffered the most during the day which would have an impact on their movements once the withdrawal began.  

As night came on, the Persian attacks began to subside with the cavalry returning back across the Asopus to camp. Now the Greek commanders readied their contingents to fall back as was arranged the previous night. From here the agreed plan went astray, reinforcing that notion that no plan survives contact with the enemy, which many military commanders throughout history would learn.[21] The Greek contingents who made up the centre had a tough day in the face of repeated Persian attacks. Instead of withdrawing to the island they now proceeded to make their way back until reaching the outskirts of Plataea, here they would have found a much more defensible position.  Two lines of thought can be drawn upon here, as Herodotus suggests, their retreat to Plataea was due to the fact they were attempting to put as much distance between themselves and the Persians after having suffered so much from them during the day.[22] Though, another possibility could have been the fact they were conducting manoeuvres at night with some 15,000 troops. Conducting night operations with large bodies of troops has been notoriously difficult all throughout history. The landmark of the island may have not been as obvious during the night, while Plataea stood out drawing the centre towards it.

Pausanias now aware that the centre of the line was in motion, assuming them to be falling back to the agreed rally point, began making arrangements with his subordinate commanders to pull back. It appears that most of the commanders that severed under him had not been present at the council the night before, or had even been told of the plan that resulted from the meeting. The plans he had made were now going to be disrupted on his wing also. One of his subordinates, Amompharetos now stepped forward and voiced his opposition to the order to move. He argued to fall back in the face of the enemy was a great dishonour for a Spartan, so he and his command would not obey. Pausanias delayed the movement of the rest of his wing while attempting to convince Amompharetos of his error in judgement. The exchanges between the two had become quite heated where upon a rider that had been sent from the Athenian position arrived. Things even over on the left wing were not going to plan. The Athenians are supposed to have halted in their position thinking the Spartans had changed the plan. They probably were aware that the right wing had not yet moved so had a herald sent off to find out what was happening. [23] 

So, at this stage the Greek line developed a gaping hole in the centre as those contingents fell back. Though, they would withdraw much further back than what had been originally planned. Meanwhile both the right and left wings were remaining in place, the left delaying their movement due to seeing no action on the right taking place. The Spartan right delayed as arguments amongst the commanders had broken out. If the situation in the line remained this way once dawn approached the Greek line would be in a very vulnerable position. Pausanias needed to get things sorted and the army on the move.

We must also point out here that this episode with Amompharetos is debated. It has been pointed out that what the Athenian herald had come across was a debate on who would take the honour of acting as the rear guard for the Spartan withdrawal. So, the argument perhaps was not a rejection of the order to retreat but which commander and their contingent would remain to cover the retreat. Amompharetos may have been at that time putting his case forward to obtain honour for himself and his command as the Athenian rode into the Spartan position.[24] What gives some weight to this theory is later on after the battle Herodotus describes Amompharetos as being one of the Spartans who most distinguished himself during the battle.[25] If this was the same Amompharetos then it would seem unlikely that he would be committing an act of mutiny during the battle. 

The argument or debate continued in the Spartan position to where the Athenian herald was brought up to Pausanias. He enquired what action the Athenians should take as it seemed what had been arranged was unfolding contrary to what had been decided. Pausanias, had now come to a decision on maters on his own wing. Weather that was to leave the disgruntled Amompharetos to his fate, hoping he would fall back after coming to his senses seeing the predicament of his situation. Or perhaps he had finally selected Amompharetos and his unit to take up the highly dangerous but honourable task of covering the withdrawal of the main line. But if he didn’t get on the move now the entire Greek line would be at great risk once the sun rose. With matters now sorted in Pausanias’ camp, he then instructed the rider to tell the Athenians to follow the lead of the right wing and meet at the arranged position.[26]

 

Conclusion:

Both armies had now been in the field facing one another for some ten days now without a general battle developing. As we have seen measures had been taken to try and entice each other onto the offensive. The Persians had been using their cavalry in harassing manoeuvres to attempt to draw the Greeks out of their defensive positions. They would achieve this but not intending to pay the price they did, losing a charismatic cavalry commander and the cavalry suffering heavy casualties. The Greeks had deployed further forward with their confidence up after the victory over the cavalry force. Still, attacking their positions would still prove a difficult task as the Greek line was still united. The Greeks would also attempt to force action by redeploying contingents along the front lines, though the Persians would respond by making their own deployments to match them. The Greeks having come forward opened up another opportunity for the Persians to force them to respond. The rear areas were now much more vulnerable to cavalry operation as they would be able to manoeuvre with greater ease. This would see Mardonious focus on the Greeks ability to keep their forces supplied. Their supply line going through the Cithaeron Mountains was disrupted by these cavalry operations, as well as their supply of water with the cavalry being able to foul the only feasible fresh water source this far forward. Though, the Persians were facing their own supply issues as well, the situation now seeing both sides becoming more desperate. The biggest issue we are told about that seems to have been preventing each side from taking the initiative in forcing the battle was to do with divine matters. The omens that were being revealed to both during the sacrifices told of victory while remaining on the defensive. Though, as we have seen in the current deployments of both armies, if one were to take offensive action, they would be playing into the others strengths while forfeiting their own. But, after some days in the field both commanders were well aware of their precarious positions, especially around supply. Pausanias was now about to take measures to rectify his supply issues, though doing so would involve a risky manoeuvre involving the entire Greek line.

Next episode we will see how the Greeks faired during their withdrawal and how the Persians would respond to what was unfolding before them. This will finally see the battle of Plataea develop, the largest engagement of the Greek and Persian wars and arguably one of the most decisive. Though, this won’t be the end of the Greek and Persians wars for us yet as we still have to join the Greek fleet who we left some episodes ago at the island of Delos. They too would fight their own battle, which would turn out to be a very unique naval engagement. When I had originally planned a rough sketch of the episodes I would be doing, I had not planned that Plataea would take up three episodes but there just seemed to be too much to skip over and I found the lead up to this battle very interesting. So, I hope all of the information I have presented as been just as interesting to you, the listeners out there also.  

 

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I hope you can join me next time for episode 29, The Battle of Plataea 

 

 



[1] Herodotus 9.46
[2] Peter GREEN, The Greco Persian Wars, p245
[3] Herodotus.IX.20
[4] Herodotus IX.21 / Diodorus XI.30 / Plutarch’s Lives. Aristides. P447
[5] Herodotus IX.21
[6] Plutarch’s Lives. Aristides. P445 / Herodotus IX.21
[7] Herodotus IX.23
[8] Herodotus IX.22 / Plutarch’s Lives. Aristides. P447
[9] Herodotus IX.24
[10] Herodotus IX.25
[11] Plutarch’s Lives. Aristides. P444
[12] Herodotus IX.26
[13] Herodotus IX.28-30
[14] Herodotus IX.31-32
[15] Herodotus IX.36
[16] Herodotus IX.38
[17] Herodotus.IX.50
[18] Herodotus.IX.44
[19] Herodotus.IX.46-48 / Plutarch’s Lives Aristides p446
[20] Herodotus.9.51
[21] This quote is first attributed to Helmuth Von Moltke. Though he said “No operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main body of the enemy.”
[22] Herodotus 9.52
[23] Herodotus 9. 53-54 / Plutarch’s Lives Aristides p447 - 448
[24] The Greco-Persian Wars. Peter Green p263-264 / Persian Fire. Tom Holland p349
[25] Herodotus 9.71
[26] Herodotus 9. 55-56 /