Greek Public Monuments of the Persian Wars

I. Monuments of the Ionian Revolt

1. Naxos: Stater, with wreathed cahtharus, commemorating a victory over the Persians in 500 B. C. at the beginning of the Ionian Revolt.

Holloway 1962.

The archaic staters of Naxos, issued during the sixth century and the first decade of the fifth, bear on the obverse side a cantharus with ivy leaf and a bunch of grapes. On the reverse is a plain incuse square cut into four square sections. The ivy wreath surrounding the cantharus was not on the coins originally but was added late in the series, probably early in the fifth century. It is natural to suppose that the addition of the ivy wreath to the cantharus was meant to commemorate some significant event, and R. Holloway has suggested the initial success of the Naxians in 500 B. C. (Hdt. 5.30-36). He notes that these staters are the earliest known example of the use of coins to commemorate an event. Athens seems to have followed this precedent in its issue of the didrachm and dekadrachm after Marathon (nos. 10 and 11).

2. Ionia: Ruins of sanctuaries as a memorial to Persian impiety, not rebuilt because of an oath to leave them in ruins.

Isocrates 4.155-156 (referring to the natural hostility the Greeks ought to feel toward the Persians):

“Why are our things not hostile to them, who have dared in the previous war to plunder and burn the seats of the gods and their temples? Wherefore the Ionians are worthy of praise because when their sanctuaries were burned they bestirred themselves if some might move them or restore them again to their former state, not being at a loss whence they might repair them but that [i. e., left in ruins] they might be a memorial to those in the future of the impiety of the barbarians, and so that no one might trust those who dared to sin against the seats of the gods, but would guard and fear, seeing that they made war not only against our bodies but also against our dedications.”

Dionysius of Byzantium, Anaplus Bospori 14 (describing the region around Byzantium):

“Two temples are at the exit of the sea, of Hera and Pluto; nothing is left of them, except their names. For those who went with Darius on his expedition against the Scythians burned one, avenging for the king for the things of which he accused the city, and Philip the Macedonian destroyed that of Pluto, when he besieged the city, because of his need of wood. Memory asserts its name for the inhabitants of the city. For the one is said to be the height of Pluto, the other that of Hera.”

During the suppression of the Ionian Revolt the Persians wrought great destruction among the Greek coastal cities. Apparently the religious sanctuaries of Ionia were not rebuilt, as Isocrates, in his Panegyrikos 155-156, claims that the Ionians had sworn an oath not to rebuild their sanctuaries but to leave them in ruins as a perpetual reminder of the impiety of those who had destroyed them. Isocrates is the only authority for an oath of the Ionians but several authors, from the fourth century B. C. to the second century A. D., knew of an oath sworn by the Greeks before the battle of Plataea in which a similar resolve was made not to rebuild ruined sanctuaries. This oath, quoted by Lycurgus and Diodorus and mentioned by Cicero and Pausanias, although denounced as spurious by Theopompus, is treated at greater length as no. 30. The case for its authenticity is based on the literary evidence that ruined sanctuaries are described by both Herodotus (8.33,36-39; 9,65) and Pausanias (10.35.2-3) and the archaeological evidence that extensive building on the Athenian Acropolis, which had suffered the greatest destruction, was not undertaken until more than forty years after the battle of Plataea.

The possibility must therefore be entertained that the oath of the Ionians mentioned only by Isocrates is an authentic oath, distinct from the later oath of Plataea which it foreshadowed. There is, however, good reason that Isocrates did not even know of an oath of Plataea, as the Akropolis at Athens had been splendidly rebuilt and beautified under the Periclean program. This building program had abrogated the terms of the oath and almost undermined any tradition concerning it in the minds of the Athenians, to the extent that in the very next century Theopompus pronounced the oath a patent forgery. In the eyes of Isocrates only the Ionian sanctuaries had not been rebuilt and the Ionians deserved recognition for their resolution to keep them in ruins.

3. Athens: Old temple of Poseidon at Sunium.

Hitzig and Blümner 1896,1: 116; Frazer 1913,2:1-4; Robertson1943: 327; Dinsmoor 1942: 192-193; Dinsmoor 1950: 107, 169; Lawrence1957: 143; Berve and Gruben 1961: 60, 191-192.

The marble temple of Poseidon at Sunium was built under Pericles, probably about 440 B. C., and designed by the architect of the Hephaesteum. It was, however, preceded by an earlier, slightly smaller temple of poros limestone on the same site upon whose foundations it lies. Judging from the foundations and scattered fragments of columns and entablature which have survived elsewhere, one can readily see that the older structure was a Doric temple which revealed striking new principles in its design (Dinsmoor 1950:107). A date in the early fifth century is likely and the fact that the temple was of limestone points to the first decade, before marble became available from the quarries in Attica.

Dinsmoor (1942:192-193) has suggested that the temple was built for Poseidon in 498 B. C., in recognition of his aid to the Athenian fleet which sailed to help the Ionian Revolt (Hdt. 5.55,65,97,100-103). He claims that, if one assumes that the temple axis was laid out in the direction of sunrise on the morning of the annual temple festival, the date 498 B. C. agrees perfectly with the date of astronomy. Later Poseidon’s aid at Salamis was recognized by the dedication of triremes to him, both at Sunium and at the Isthmus (no. 28; Hdt. 8.121.1), and his aid in the Persian Wars in general cited by the dedication of a hugh bronze statue of him at the Isthmus (no. 27; Hdt. 9.81). For other temples erected for deities in behalf of their aid in the Persian Wars, see nos. 15,20,23, and 24.


[ back ] 1. E.g. Rehdantz 1876:171-174; Hitzig and Blümner 1896.3:822-823; Dinsmoor 1941:158-159.