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CLA230H1 Lecture Notes - Mardonius, Serpent Column, Thespiae

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Dimitri Nakassis

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Darius and Xerxes
Egypt revolts in 486 BC
Darius dies in late 486 BC/485 BC
Xerxes assumes throne, subdues Egypt
Mardonius: cousin of Xerxes, son of Darius’ sister
Xerxes’ army
o 1,700,000 Asian infantry
o 80,000 Asian horse cavalry
o 20,000 camel and charioteers
o 1,207 triremes, 3,000 other ships
516,610 men in the navy
o 120 Greek triremes
24,000 men
o 300,000 European infantry
o TOTAL: 2,641,610 men
In the meantime
Athens struck silver in Laurion (483/2 BC)
o Aristides wanted to distribute 10 drachmas to each citizen
o Themistocles (archon 493/2) convinced the assembly to spend the money building ships
for the war against Aegina
The build‐up to Thermopylae
An alliance is begun in 481 against the Persians (“Hellenic league”)
o Sparta, Athens and Plataea, Thespiae, Corinth
o 19 of 31 cities consist of Sparta and her allies
o Oaths: no war (Athens v. Aegina, since 507)
o Sparta provides generals for army and navy
o Scouts to Asia
o Envoys to Argos, Gelon (Syracuse), Corcyra, Crete
Thessaly and Thebes surrender
Thessalians and Phocians
Herodotus: “if the Thessalians had supported the Greek cause, the Phocians would, I am sure,
have collaborated with the Persians
Thermopylae: Leonidas
Leonidassent to Thermopylae with 7000 hoplites
Fleet (324 triremes, 180 from Athens) sent to Artemision
300 Spartiates, 500 from Tegea, 500 from Mantinea, 1,120 from Arcadia, 400 from Corinth
200 from Phlius, 80 from Mycenae, 700 from Thespiae, 400 from Thebes
PLUS: 1000 Phocians and more Opuntian Locrians
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Persian foot‐soldiers
“instead of the ordinary shields they had shields of wicker‐work, under which hung quivers; and
they had short spears and large bows and arrows of reed, and moreover daggers hanging by the
right thigh…”
Battle of Artemision
333 v. 500 ships
3 days in August 480 BC
Persians try to encircle Greek fleet
Xerxes’ fleet “because of its size and numbers, was its own destroyer, for the ships fell foul of
one another and became entangled.”
Draw, retreat to Salamis
Half of Athens’ ships disabled
Salamis: result
200 Persian ships are sunk
Herodotus: Persians couldn’t swim and drowned
Xerxes leaves with the fleet
Mardonius stays behind with an army of 300,000
o winters in Thessaly
Greek generals decide not to pursue the Persian fleet
Xerxes offers terms to the Athenians
Mardonius sacks Athens in summer 479
Battle of Plataea (479 BC)
The forces at Plataea
Sparta sends 45,000 men with Pausanias:
o 5000 Spartiates
o 5000 perioikoi
o 35,000 helots
8000 Athenians, 3000 Megarians, 5000 Corinthians, 1500 Tegeans, and so on
38,700 hoplites and 71,300 light troops vs. 300,000 Persian troops + 50,000 Greek allies
Persians retreat to their camp, where they are besieged and slaughtered
Herodotus says that only 43,000 (of 300,000) Persians survived the battle
o Most killed at the Strymon by the Macedonians
159 Greek casualties (Spartans, Tegeans, Athenians)
o Plutarch: 1,360 Greek casualties
o Aristodemus the Coward
Allied forces march on Thebes
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