Plataea is one of the many forgotten battles of the ancient world. A grand coalition of Greek city-states came together in a massive show of strength to oppose the Persian Empire. Nonetheless, the odds were still against the Greeks–as they had been at Marathon–at Thermopylae– at Salamis, and now, at Plataea. The Persians under King Xerxes had retreated with a significant part of their massive army, returning to their central power base in Sardis. Mardonius, as a general, is still quite capable of finishing the job his King had started a year before. Northern and Central Greece was still firmly under Persia’s control and wouldn’t break away as long as the Persians maintained a military presence in the region. Only through one last great united effort would the rivals of Athens and Sparta triumph at last over the vast numbers of Persia.
Leonidas and his allied coalition fought valiantly against the Persians and their massive army. The very fate of Greece hung in the balance while Xerxes tried to batter away at this seemingly impregnable defensive position. Xerxes ended up losing thousands of men against such a small number of men. Ultimately the losses by themselves were merely a drop in the bucket of such a vast host. The ideal of courage and heroism set by the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae conveyed a message of hope and pride to their fellow Greeks. A monument to their sacrifice stands at Thermopylae today with an epitaph penned by the poet Simonides to commemorate the last stand of the Spartans: “Go tell the Spartans, passerby, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”
I just wished to give my thanks to the growing numbers of listeners out there in this vast world by talking about a runner whose act has gone down in legend. This young man known as Pheidippides should’ve been the inspiration for the awesome meme hold my beer since if running the entire distance from Athens to Sparta wasn’t enough. What about running the roughly 150 miles back to Athens as well. That means he ran almost to a little over 300 miles. Then, Pheidippides proceeded to run all the way to where the Athenian army was encamped at Marathon and still had breath to give his report on whether or not Sparta would fight against the Persians.
A battle will now be fought on the beaches of Marathon. Only 25 miles away is the city state of Athens who awaits the results with baited breath. If the citizen army of this nascent democracy is destroyed then nothing would be able to stop the vengeance of Persia. Miltiades must hold and defeat the seemingly invincible forces of Datis and Artaphernes or his beloved Athens will burn.
I will now tell you a story where few stood against many. The Persian Empire of Darius stretches from Asia Minor to the borders of India. The empire encompasses all of what the Greeks would understand as the ‘known world.’ This backwater known as Ancient Greece to Persian eyes would come to have the eye of Darius be laid upon this den of rebellion. Athens will be punished for the help this nascent democracy gave to their fellow Ionian Greeks and nothing will stop the armies of the Great King.