Greek Public Monuments of the Persian Wars

V. Panhellenic Monuments of Plataea

30. Ruins of sanctuaries as a memorial of Persian impiety, either not rebuilt atall or rebuilt after a long delay, because of the Oath of Plataea.

Stele from Acharnae (see below); Lycurgus, Contra Leocratem 80-81; Diodorus 11.29; Theopompus, Philippica 25, fr. 153 (Jacoby1923-1930: 2B1, 569; Cicero, De re publica 3.9.15; Pausanias 10.35.2-3.

Stele from Acharnae. Robert 1938: 302-316; Klaffnbach 1939: 505; Prakken 1940; Daux 1941 and 1953; Tod 1945-1948,1: 204; SEG 16.140.

Oath of Plataea: Rehdantz 1876: 171-174; Köpp 1890: 271-277; Holleaux 1895; Hitzig and Blümner 1896,3: 822-823; Busolt1893-1904,2: 654 n. 3 and 3: 358 n. 3; Meyer 1892-1899,2: 97, n.1; Bates 1901; Frazer 1913,5: 449; Kolbe 1936: 27-28; Meyer 1954: 350, n.1; Wade-Gery 1940: 125 n. 1; Dinsmor 1941 : 158-159; Dinsmoor 1942: 214; Parke 1948; Kirsten 1950: 2287; Dinsmoor 1950: 150-151; Meritt, Wade-Gery and McGregor 1939-1953,3: 104-105; Brunt 1953-1954; Wüst 1954-1955: 143-149; Sordi 1957: 46-48; Raubitschek 1960; Sealey 1960: 194; Guarducci 1961: 63-64; Habicht 1961: 19; Chambers 1962-1962: 313-314; Hignett 1962?: 460-461; Burn 1962: 512-515; Bengtson 1962,2: 130.

Stele from Acharnae (The text is that of Daux 1953,2: 777-778. Only ll. 21-51, giving the oath of the Athenians before Plataea are quoted.)

21“The oath which the Athenians swore when they were about

To fight against the barbarians.

I will fight as long as I live, and I will not consider of more importance

living or being free, and

I will not abandon the platoon commander nor

the enomotarch either living or dead,

and I will not go away unless the leaders

order retreat, and I will do what the generals

command, and I will bury those of my allies who have died

and I will leave none unburied. If victorious,

in fighting the barbarians, I will tithe

the city of Thebes, and I will not cause revolution in

Athens, nor Sparta, nor Plataea,

nor any of the other allied ciies,

nor will I overlook famine in the workers,

nor keep from water in the streams, among

those who are friends and not enemies.

And if I violate any of the terms written in the oath,

my city may drive me out, or, if not, kill me.

And it may carry me, and if not, let it be unburdened.

And may women bear children like their parents,

or, if not, may they bear monsters; and let my cattle

bear offsprings like their parents, and, if not, monsters.

Swearing these things, and covering the sacrificial entrails with shields,

they made the oath beneath the sound of the trumpet,

that if they should violate anything of the things sworn,

and not fulfill them, what is written in the oath,

there should be a curse on those who have sworn.”

Lycurgus, Against Leocrates 80-81:

“Wherefore, men of the jury, all the Greeks made an oath for themselves in Plataea, when they were about to form up and fight against the power of Xerxes, not finding it among themselves, but imitating the oath which is customary with you. Which it is proper for you to hear. For, of the many things that have been done in past times, it is nevertheless sufficient to see the valor in written words, So read it for me.

Oath. I shall not consider anything of more importance than the life of freedom and I will not abandon my leaders either living or dead, but I will bury all of my allies who have died in battle. And if victorious over the barbarians in war, I will not cause revolution in any of the cities of the Greeks who have fought, and everything which is taken from the barbarians I will tithe. I will not rebuild any of the sanctuaries burned or destroyed by the barbarians but will leave them in ruins as a remembrance to future generations of the impiety of the barbarians.”

Diodorus 11.29.2-3:

“When the Greeks had gathered at the Isthmus, they resolved to swear an oath concerning the war, cherishing the concord among themselves, and compelling them to endure dangers nobly. The oath is as follows. I shall not make anything of more importance than the life of freedom, nor shall I ever abandon my leaders, either living or dead, but I will bury all of the allies who have died in battle. And if I am victorious over the barbarians, I will not cause revolution in any of the contesting cities. I will not rebuild any of the sanctuaries which have been burned or destroyed, but I will leave them in ruins as a remembrance for future generations of the impiety of the barbarians.”

Theopompus, Philippica 25, fr. 153 (Jacoby 1923-1930: 2B1,569):

“The Hellenic oath is false, which the Athenians say that the Greeks swore before the battle of Plataea.”

Cicero, De re publica 3.9.12:

“But afterwards (i. e., after the Persian Wars of the fifth century) Philip, who thought about it, and Alexander , who did it, introduced a cause of war with the Persians, because he wished to avenge the Greek shrines; which the Greeks indeed thought should not be rebuilt, so that there might be before the face of future generations an eternal document of Persian crime.”

Pausanias 10.35.2-3 (referring to the temple of Apollo at Abae in Boeotia):

“The Romans did not assign honors to the god in Abae in the way that the Persians did. The Romans allowed those in Abae to be autonomous and treated Apollo with righteousness, but the army of Xerxes burned the temple in Abae. The Greeks who opposed the barbarian resolved not to rebuild it but to leave it for all time in ruins as a remembrance of hostility; and on account of this the temples in Haliartus and of Hera in Athens which is on the road to Phaleron and that of Demeter which is in Phaleron remain even in my time half in ruins. I think that such a view was the same of the sanctuary in Abae, to which those violated in the Phocian war had fled as suppliants to Abae, the Thebans cast into fire, they being the second after the Medes. It stands even in my time as the weakest of the buildings which the flames have besmirched, when in the Medic war it had been burned by fire and again by the Boeotians.”

There was in antiquity a tradition that the Greeks swore an oath before the battle of Plataea in which they affirmed their resolve to meet the Persians with courage and steadfastness. They agreed to leave in ruins sanctuaries which the Persians destroyed, as a memorialof their impiety. When the army of Xerxes attacked destruction was greatest in Boeotia and Attica, especially on the Athenian Acropolis. The Acropolis was indeed rebuilt and bautified under Pericles, more than a generation after the battle of Plataea, but smaller, less important sanctuaries were apparently still left in ruins. Pausanias (10.35.1-2) describes some of these ruins in Abae and Haliartus in Boeotia and in the lower city of Athens. These ruined sanctuaries are monuments of the invasion of Xerxes and testify to the genuineness of the Oath of Plataea.

The versions of the text of the oath may now be examined more closely. The Acharnar stele had been set up by a certain Dion, a priest of Ares and Athena Areia. Its complete text may be divided into three sections, only the last of which is relevant: the dedication of the stele (ll. 1-4); the ephebic oath (ll. 5-20); and the oath of Plataea (ll. 21-51).

Although it claims to be the text of the Oath of Plataea, the stone’s version is actually a synthesis of three distinct oaths. Ll. 23-36 give the oath of Plataea; ll. 36-39 seems to be derived from an earlier oath of the Amphiktyonic states quoted by Aeschines (2.115) and ll. 39-46 are apparently derived from the curse which followed the oath (Aeschines 2.116 and 3.110).

There are essentially three provisions in the oath of Plataea as reported in the different versions:

As discussed above the oath of Plataea did contain a provision calling for the tithing of cities that deserted the Greek cause. There are, however, fundamental objections to identifying it with the Herodotean oath. The oath of Plataea was presumably sworn before the battle of Plataea, after the army of Xerxes had wrought great destruction in Boeotia and Attica. The Herodotean oath is apparently sworn before the battle of Thermopylae, in the face of imminent danger while Xerxes is encamped at Tempe. Total destruction is vowed against possible traitors as a deterrent to treachery (cf. Polybius 3.39.5; Xenophon, Hellen. 6.3.20 and 6.5.35, for references to threatened destrction of Thebes). The Herodotean oath is general and implies that total destruction vowed against traitors is customary (How and Wells 1912,2: 178). It would not be strange to find a similar provision in the oath of Plataea, although the presence of this provision in both of the oaths is hardly grounds for identifying them. The Herodotean oath merely proves that destruction vowed against traitors is a possible threat in the early ffth century.

Finally the resolution not to rebuild the ruined sanctuaries may be examined in more detail. Some scholars claimed that the prohibition against rebuilding sanctuaries was contradicted by Plutarch’s statement (Pericles 17) that Pericles called a conference of Greek cities to consider rebuilding. Furthermore, Isocrates (4.156) made reference to a similar oath sworn, he claimed, only by the Ionians (no. 2). However, Isocrates was apparently unaware of an oath sworn by all the Greeks. Scholars argued that, had there been one, he would surely have mentioned it.

31. Provisions of the Covenant of Plataea.

Thucydides 2.71.2 and 3.58.4; Plutarch, Aristides 21.1-2; Diodorus 11.29.1; Strabo 9.2.31.

Busolt 1893-1904,2: 740, n. 5 and 741, n. 2; Larsen 1933: 262-264 and 1940: 179, n. 2; Jacoby 1923-1930: 3B, Kommentar 338, F7; Meritt, Wade-Gery and McGregor 1939-1953,3: 101-105; Brunt 1953-1954: 153; Larsen 1955: 48-50, 208-210; Gomme 1945-1956,2: 205, 344; Bengtson 1960: 174; Habicht 1961: 34; Hignett 1962[?]: 460-461; Raubitschek 1960; Burn 1962: 544-545; Frost 1961; Limentani 1964: xxxi-xxxii, 88-90.

Thucydides 2.71.2 (The Plataeans plead that the Spartans not destroy them):

“For Pausanias son of Kleombrotus of Lacedaemon, having freed Greece from the Medes, together with the Greeks who wished to engage in the dangers of battle, which occurred then for us, having made sacrifices in the market place of Plataea to Zeus of Freedom and calling together all of the allies, handed over the land to the Plataeans and the city for them to dwell in it autonomous, and for no one ever to march against them unjustly or to enslave them. If not, the present allies are to defend for them according to their power.”

Thucydides 3.58.4 (The Plataeans appeal to the Spartans, who are about to let them be destroyed by the Thebans):

“For look at the graves of your fathers, whom we honor every year in public with garments and other customary things, as many beautiful things has our land has provided, as those who died by the Medes and were buried in our land, bringing first fruits for all, being well-disposed becaause of friendship for the land, ever being allies to those of equal armor.”

Plutarch, Aristides 21.1-2:

“When a common assembly of the Greeks resulted from this, Aristides proposed a decree that ambassadors from Greece and delegates come together every year at Plataea, hold a five-yearly festival, the Eleutheria, and that there be a Greek assessment of 10,000 shields, 1000 horses, and 100 ships, to continue war against the barbarians, to leave the Plataeans holy and inviolate for the god in behalf of Greece. When these provisions had been agreed to, the Plataeans promised to make sacrifices every year to those who had fallen and were buried in their land.”

Diodorus 11.29.1:

“When Mardonius retreated to Thebes with his force, it was resolved by the Council of the Greeks to receive the Athenians and when they had come in full force to Plataea to contest with them for freedom, and to pray to the gods that, if they should be victorious, the Greeks in common would bring tokens of freedom according to this day and hold a festival, the Eleutheria, in Plataea.”

As represented by Plutarch the covenant contained four clauses:When oaths to this effect had been taken, the Plataeans promised to make yearly funeral offerings to the warriors buried in their land. These rites, continued even to the time of Plutarch, are described in Aristides 21.3-6.

As to clause (1) a yearly festival is attested by Thucydides (3.58.4), which would require the presence of theoroi; if it had been intended that Plataea act as a military headquarters, the probouloi would be needed. This in fact never happened, since as soon as the Delian League was formed in 478 it became clear to the allies that Athens rather than Sparta was the leader for prosecuting the war, and the meetings at Plataea were replaced by the Delian synods (Thuc. 1.96.2).

Clause (2) is the least likely of the four. The Eleutheria was an actual festival of Hellenistic and Roman times but there is no contemporary or even fourth century reference to these games. The most damaging argument against it is the silence of Thucydides: the Plataeans mention a yearly festival (3.58.4) but they do not refer also to a penteteric festival. Yet if this festival were being held regularly every four years, in their desperate situation they would surely have mentioned it. Nevertheless a cult of Zeus Eleutherios was definitely established at this time (See no. 33). And the subsequent celebration of the Eleutheria in Hellenistic and Roman times may have been responsible for the insertion of the festival in the tradition.

In clause (3) the figures seem schematic and unrealistic and if the probouloi of clause (1) were agreed upon, there is no indication that such a force did meet. In the very next year, 478, the Delian League was founded with the intention of prosecuting the war and the provisions of the covenant might therefore have been abandoned.

Plutarch clearly states (Aristides 21.2) that Aristides “moved the decree” (egrapse psephisma) and thereby may refer to the inscribed text of a decree. It is by no means certain and even unlikely that the covenant was formally inscribed. Had it been the Plataeans would surely have pointed it out (Thuc. 3.58.4) when they appealed to Sparta for mercy. This certainly speaks against the reliability of Plutarch in reporting the covenant.

Nevertheless clauses (1) and (4) do seem to reflect a genunie agreement made in behalf of Plataea. The covenant itself is not a monument of the battle of Plataea but a document, whatever its wording or precise terms, attesting items of commemorative significance. In summary these items are the yearly festival with sacrifices to the dead (Thuc. 3.58.4; cf. clause 1) and the intended inviolability of Plataea (Thuc. 2.71.2; cf. clause 4).

32. Trophy fifteen stades from Plataea.

Pausanias 9.2.6 (cf. nos. 41 and 58).

Hunt 1890: 467-469; Hitzig and Blümner 1896,3: 396; Grundy 1901: 496; Frazer 1913,5: 17; Mitsos 1940: 51, n. 2; Kirsten 1950: 2272; Pritchett 1957: 27-28; Limentani 1964: 85-86.

Pausanias 9.2.6:

“The Greeks set up a trophy of the battle of Plataea, and it stands fiften stades away from the city.”

The trophy probably stood on the battlefield at the spot where the battle was turned and according to Herodotus (9.62,65) the battle was fought near the temple of Eleusinian Demeter. Hence the location of this landmark, coupled with Pausanias’ notice that the trophy was fifteen stades from the city, should be a certain point of reference for the spot where the trophy was erected.

The site of the temple has been variously identified; near the foundation of a large Byzantine church about six miles walk east of the spring Vergutiani, southeast of Plataea (Hunt 1890: 467-469); the site of the modern church of Agios Demetrios (Grundy 1901: 496); near the town Kriekouki (Pritchett 1961:27-28). Pritchett’s investigation of the battlefield was based on the finding of classical sherds which in various places were turned up by the Greek peasants who cultivated the region during the last half-century. (He asked peasants where there were sherds and then went around collecting some himself from the surface.) When Grundy made his topographical studies in the last decade of the nineteenth century, very little of the area was under cultivation; hence the evidence of potsherds was unnoticed. Nevertheless the trophy which Pausanias saw was doubtless replacement in stone of the original, which probably consisted of perishable items, such as arms and armor.

Plutarch (Aristides 20.3; see nos. 41 and 58) says that the Spartans and Athenians erected separate trophies for the victory. Usually only the leading city would erect a trophy for the entire force (cf. Mitsos 1940: 51, n.2) but the Spartans and Athenians fought at different places on the field of battle (Hdt. 9.28,46,60-61) and each may have felt that it had the right to set up a trophy. Since Plataea is in Boeotia, Plutarch may have seen separate Spartan and Athenian trophies, if they were rebuilt in stone, but it is also possible that the trophy which Pausanias saw was a stone replacement for both the original trophies. For the erection of two trophies in a single battle see Thucydides 7.45.1.

33. Altar of Zeus Eleutherios at Plataea.

Thucydides 2.71,2; Pausanias 9.2.5-6; Plutarch, Aristides 19.7 and De Herodoti malignitate 42.

Bergk, Poetae Lyricae Graecae(, 4th ed.: Simonides 140; Hauvette 1894: 64; Perrin 1901: 313; Rouse 1907: 125; Frazer 1913,5: 16-17; Hitzig and Blümner 1896,3: 396; Robert 1929; Diehl, Simonides 107; Kirsten 1950: 2326-2328; Gomme 1945-1956,2: 204-205; Limentani 1964: 81-82.

Thucydides 2.71.2:

“Pausanias , , , having sacrificed to Zeus of Freedom in the market place of the Plataeans . . . handed over to the Plataeans their land and city, to dwell in it autonomous . . ..”

Pausanias 9.2.5-6 (The graves of the Greeks on the battlefield have just been described; cf. no. 34.):

“Not far from the common grave of the Greeks is an altar of Zeus of Freedom . . . (lacunam ind. Palmer). This is of bronze, but the altar and the statue is made of white stone. Even now they hold the Eleutheria every five years, in which great prizes are given for running. They run in armor in front of the altar.”

Plutarch, Aristides 19.7:

“For the multitude of the fallen and the monuments witness that the success was a common one, and the altar as well, which they would not have inscribed thus, if only three cities had fought, while the rest sat apart in fear:

The Greeks, having conquered in force, by deed of Ares, this

(Line 2 is omitted in the mss. See below).

Having driven out the Persians for free Greece in common

established an altar to Zeus of Freedom.”

Plutarch, De Herodoti malignitate 42:

“The Athenians and Lacedaemonians, having suffered something straightway at that time, requested a little for them to come to them for the erection of the trophy. The Greeks who dallied and ran away they did not expel from the ceremony of valor but they inscribed on the trophy those who had shared the spoils. Finally, writing ths epigram for the altar, they inscribed it as follows: This once the Greeks by force of Nike,work of Ares, obedient to the daring reputation of their spirit, having driven out the Persians, for free Greece in common, established an altar of Zeus of Freedom.”

The epigram is also quoted in Anth. Pal. 6,50, where the version is identical with that of Plutarch, De Herodoti malignitate 42, except for rhomei cheiros in line 1 and eleutheron Helladi kosmon in line three.

The altar of Zeus the Deliverer (Eleutherios) at Plataea is probably connected with the special arrangements for Plataea made after the battle (See no. 31). The Covenant of Plataea did not provide specifically for the establishment of a cult of Zeus, but its final clause, if genuine, does bid the Plataeans “make sacrifices to the god on behalf of Greece,” and it seems reasonable to associate the altar with this clause. The Spartan Pausanias made a sacrifice to Zeus Eleutherios in the market place of Plataea before he left the city (Thuc. 2.71.2), doubtless initiating the cult practices for which an altar was shortly built. On the Eleutheria mentioned by Plutarch see no. 31; it is not likely that the festival was instituted in Classical times but the foundation of the cult and the altar need not be doubted.

The epigram is reported twice by Plutarch, with textual variants, and is contained in the Palatine Anthology. It is probably a genuine fifth century epigram (Hauvette 1894: 64); it uses the correct terminology for the establishment of a cult (hidrusanto Dios bomon Eleutheriou).

34. Graves of the Greeks on the battlefield at Plataea.

Herodotus 9.85; Pausanias 9.2.5.

Hitzig and Blümner 1896,3: 395-396; Frazer 1913,5: 15-16; Macan 1907,1: 769-772; How and Wells 1912,2: 325-326; Jacoby 1944: 40, n. 11, 45 and 1945: 157, n.2, 159, n. 11.

Herodotus 9.85 (In the preceding section the burial of Mardonius had been related.):

“The Greeks, as they divided the booty, buried their dead, each burying their own separately, The Lacedaemonians set out three coffins. In one they buried the irens; of these there were Poseidonius, Amompharetos, Philokuon, and Kallikrates. In one of the graves, then, were the irens, in another the other Spartiates, and in a third the helots. These cities buried their dead thus: The Tegeans buried theirs together apart, the Athenians their own in common, the Megarians and Phliasians those who had been killed in the cavalry. All of these were full graves. Of the others, as many as appear in Plataea, each city which was ashamed at not being there has heaped up empty mounds, for the sake of future generations of men, since what is called the grave of the Aigenetans, as I hear, was heaped up, when the Aigenetans requested it, by Kleadas of Plataea, who was their proxenos [i. e., representative].”

These were actual graves but others were later erected as cenotaphs by cities which were, as he says, ashamed at not being able to display a tomb. Some of these graves were undoubtedly false, set up by cities which did not take part in the battle but wanted a share in its glory. In this category Herodotus mentions specifically the tomb of the Aigenetans, erected as much as ten years after the battle. The Aigenetans, however, did fight at Plataea (Hdt. 9.28.6); hence their grave was a cenotaph but some of the graves were false outright.

Pausanias merely says that the tombs of those who fought the Persians could be seen along the road to Plataea. He says that the Spartans and the Athenians had separate graves and the rest of the Greeks a common tomb. It is evident from Herodotus that legend had begun to grow about these graves even in the fifth century; Pausanias may well have been misniformed or he may merely be imprecise in his language.


[ back ] 1. Köpp 1890: 271-277; M eyer 1892-1899,2: 97, n.1; Busolt 1893-1904,2: 654, n. 3 and 3: 358, n. 3; Meyer 1954,4: 350, n.1; Meritt, Wade-Gery and McGregor 1939-1953,3: 104-105.

[ back ] 2. Sworn by every Athenian youth at eighteen and generally accepted as genuine. It is quoted by Stobaeus (Flor. 43.48) and Pollux (6.105ff.) and is briefly summarized by Lycurgus (Contra Leocratem 76). Cf. Cicero, De re publica 3.9.15 and Plutarch, Alcibiades 15.7-8.

[ back ] 4. Daux(1941) points out that it was probably not the priest’s intention to indicate that only the Athenians swore the oath. Presumably he had the oath inscribed for the power of example of what earlier Athenians had done. The fact that other Greek cities also took the oath is for the priest irrelevant.

[ back ] 5. See also Stein’s commentary on Herodotus ad loc. and How and Wells 1912.

[ back ] 6. Bates (1901); Dinsmoor 1941: 158-159 and 1950: 150-151; Raubitschek 1960; Burn 1962: 512-515.

[ back ] 7. On the re-edition of archival material see Wilhelm 1909: 227; Klaffenbach 1957: 51-52 and 1960. A. G. Woodhead is studying the fifth century archives; in connection with the famous Themistocles decree he suggests (quoted in Burn 1962: 16) the possibility that after the Metroon was founded for the keeping of archives an attempt was made to “restore” renowned texts and historic decrees, such as may often have been cited in the oratory of the fifth century from memory, if no written records existed. The same reasoning might apply to the Oath of Plataea. For reference to Woodhead’s study see Dow 1962: 108.

[ back ] 8. Thuc. 2.71.2 and 3.58.4 (oaths made in behalf of Plataea, whichj apparently had granted them some sort of immunity); Diod. 11.29.1 (vow, before the battle, to celebrate the Eleutheria if victorious); Strabo 9.2.31 (temple of Zeus Eleutherios, institution of the Eleutheria, tombs of those who fell in battle). Cf. Syll.3 1064, l. 10 Iinscription of Roman date recording a victor at the Eleutheria) and Posidippus, fr. 29 Kock (reference to the Eleutheria).

[ back ] 9. In favor of authenticity see Larsen 1933: 262-264 and 1940: 179, n. 2; and Raubitschek 1960; contra, Meritt, Wade-Gery and McGregor 1939-1953,3: 101-105; Brunt 1953-1954: 153; Bengtson 1960: 174; Habicht 1961: 34; Burn 1962: 544-545; Frost 1961.

[ back ] 10. Meritt, Wade-Gery and McGregor (1939-1953,3) claim that it was the oath cited by Herodotus (7.132.2; see no. 30); but that oath was probably sworn before Thermopylae, not Plataea.

[ back ] 11. Jacoby 1944: 40, n. 11. The only widespread exception to burial on the battlefield was made by the Athenians, somewhat later in the fifth century, when they founded the public cemetery. See Ziolkowski 1963.