End of the Greek Wars (pp 42-43)

Battle of Plataea

Herodotus' account is very confusing - not really worth getting drawn into. The aftermath is much more important! But note it was a Spartan victory, not Athenian like Marathon and Salamis. See web page http://www.the-persians.co.uk/xerxes5.htm


The Spartans defeat the Persian land forces the following spring (479 BC) at the battle of Plataea, but allow them to retreat back to Asia. The Delian league is formed to free the cities of Ionia that are still under Persian control. The Spartans did not wish to lead it, and so leadership fell to Athens. Large cities contributed ships, smaller ones cash – and the policy of the league was vigorously pursued. All the Greek cities were freed, but soon Athens began treating them as her subjects – the Delian League had become the Athenian empire.
Though weaker, the Persian empire was still the regional super-power. Persia’s influence in the outcome of the 30 years war between Athens and Sparta (The Peloponnesian War) was ultimately decisive. After the death of the Persian king Darius II, Cyrus, his younger son, attempted to claim the throne, relying on a force of Greek mercenaries (the 10,000). When Cyrus was killed, the Greeks fought their way north from Babylon to the Black Sea, led by Xenophon, an Athenian aristocrat who wrote an account of the expedition (The Anabasis – usually called “The march of the 10,000 in English).  The basic weakness of the Persian empire was now obvious.


Avoid a history lesson, if possible, and focus on the politics, and the actual workings of the Athenian empire, and what it might have meant for the allies/subjects. 1/60th of every talent collected was taken to Athens, as an offering for Athena. This money was available to the Athenians to finance their own ambitions – and eventually the war with Sparta. It's this proportion which is recorded on the Athenian Tribute lists (see Chapter 2). Xenophon's story is an exciting adventure – it inspired the cult 1978 film 'The Warriors', set in New York (see its web site http://www.warriorsmovie.co.uk/ )


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Increasingly brutal means If there’s time, tell them about the small island of Melos. (Thucydides 5.84) It had never actually been a member of the league, but the Athenians claimed it had enjoyed their protection and demanded tribute. What the Melians could not or would not pay, the Athenians killed all the men and sold all the women and children into slavery. Their justification was that throughout history, the strong had forced their will upon the weak. Compare Darius's tomb .

A leading Athenian … The irony of the organisation formed to fight the Persian empire now supporting an Athenian empire will not be lost. The 'leading Athenian' was Cleon, as reported by Thucydides, in a debate about what do do with a rebellious 'ally' (Mitylene)

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He pretended for the time being … compare the Spartan king's reaction to Aristagoras (page 164)
Xenophon  who also wrote about Socrates, a friend of his – see Chapter 2

No one could catch an ostrich … The Greek word for ostrich is megas strouthos, big sparrow: the Greeks were not ornithologists!




1. Imagine you were a Greek mercenary soldier – one of the 10,000. What's the story you tell your children when you get back to Greece?

2. Write a speech by an an Athenian general sent to collect tribute from a reluctant ally, explaining why they should pay up. (Then perhaps compare their arguments with those used in Melian dialogue)

3. Devise some words or phrases for unusual animals, on the lines of 'big sparrow' for ostrich!