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Ancient Battles

Plataea- The great battle between Greece And Persia

A great influence for the cultural flourishing of Greece in the in the 5th century B.C. was the battle Plataea with Persia. This battle was fought between the united city state of ancient Greece and Persian Empire. If Greece had lost this battle the Greece would become merely one more province in Persian Empire.

Background to Plataea 

There were 4 battles that fought between Persia and Greece within 1 years. They are Thermopylae, Marathon, Salamis and Plataea .In Thermopylae Greeks lost, but other three they won. Greek victories were only temporary setbacks to for Persia. Because of that Persians tried to fight again and again. Plataea, however, was decisive. It effectively ended the war and ensured Greek independence and freedom, thus making possible the Greek golden age.

At that time Persia was a culturally sophisticated, ethnically diverse and economically prosperous Empire that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to borders of modern India. They had a good knowledge on war and were very aggressive at war. Greece was a group of small, separate political entities on the main land of Greece and the island of Aegean Sea. All those entities shared a common language and culture. There were two large entities that were very famous. One was Athens, known for its democratic ruling system. Other one was Sparta, inward looking, suspicious and possessed of a small but terrifyingly efficient and fanatical army.


Persian Army
The Greek army and its technology.

Greeks had a great style of fighting in which heavily armed and armored foot soldiers fought in an organized formation, carrying a heavy, circular, concave shield three feet in diameter and shaped so the hoplites could nestle their shoulders and torsos within the curve. The other main weapon was a long stabbing spear equipped with a bronze spearhead and a smaller bronze butt-spike. The smaller could function as an alternate spear point if the main one broke off and for downward thrusts.

The hoplite was a formidable opponent, protected from the front from head to toe in solid armor. Yet the weight of his shield and armor made him cumbersome, and he was vulnerable to attack from the sides and behind. The solution to this vulnerability was the phalanx: long rows, several men deep, with their shields close to one another or at times even overlapping. Fighting as a phalanx, each man in essence protected his neighbor, and as long as the phalanx kept its cohesion and no one allowed a gap to open, it was highly effective.

Spartan formation in war
Persian army and its technology

The Persian army included a wide range of troop types, weapons, and armor. The bulk of the army comprised temporary conscripts, but it also included a number of more professional contingents. The Persians also employed mercenaries in their army, including large contingents of Greek hoplites. The cleverest soldiers of Persian army were Immortals. They were a well-trained group of 10000 elite infantry. Their shields were often made of wicker or animal hides. Their body armor was light weight so that they could fight actively in war. 

The best unit of the Persian army were cavalry. Persian horsemen Wielded light spheres, axes, and sword, but their armor was relatively light. The principal army of the Persian army was bow. It was used by both foot and mounted archers. At that time the commander of Persian army was an experienced military commander named Mardonius.

Persian sword
The battle

Mardonius chose the 10,000 Immortals, as well as large infantry and cavalry contingents, as his army. This army was still much large than any army that Greeks could collectively muster. Mardonius waited for winter and made several attempts to break up the Greek alliance but Greeks united and marched north against him. Mardonius took up a position along the Asopos River, near Thebes, which had thrown in its lot with the Persians out of jealousy of Athens. The best modern guess is that probably 80,000 to100, 000 Greeks squared off against about 100,000 to 150,000 Persians, Thebans, and other pro-Persian Greeks.

Mardonius sent some elements of his cavalry forces to harass the Greeks and search for a week point. During this clash a leader of cavalry troop named Masistos was killed. This was a great failure for Persians. After a weak Mardonius closed all the food and water supplies of Greeks. Running short on food and water, the Greek commanders decided to pull back during the night to a well-watered and more defensible area called “the island.”

But Greek soldiers refused to leave back and they moved forward for the war. Mardonius considered this as a good opportunity for victory and sent his all the forces to fight. The battle came down to a savage close-quarters shoving match in which desperate Persians grabbed and broke the Greeks’ spears. In this melee, the heavier armor of the Greeks gave them an advantage. Mardonius and his bodyguard were killed, along with many of the best of the Persian troops. The battle turned into a rout, with the triumphant Greeks chasing and slaughtering the defeated Persians. Finally Greeks won their freedom and Persians never came to fight with Greece.

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