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PLATAEA, or PLATAEAE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 789 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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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 42r were settled on the territory of Scione. Expelled by Lysander in 404 they returned to Athens, until in 387 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.
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