Greek Public Monuments of the Persian Wars

VI. Spartan Monuments of the Persian Wars in General

35. Persian Stoa in the Agora in Sparta.

Vitruvius 1.1.6; Pausanias 3.11.3.

Hitzig and Blümner 1896,1: 768-769; Rouse 1907: 124; Frazer 1913,3: 328; Hobein 1931: 15-16.

Vitruvius 1.1.6 [Loeb translation by Granger 1931]:

“Not less the Spartans under the command of Pausanias, son of Agesilaus, having conquered an infinitely large army of the Persians, gloriously celebrated a triumph with spoils and plunder, and, from booty, built the Persian Colonnade to signify the merit and courage of the citizens and to be a trophy of victory to the descendants. There they placed statues of their captives in barbaric dress – punishing their pride with deserved insults – to support the roof, that their enemies might quake, fearing the workings of such bravery, and their fellow citizens looking upon a pattern of manhood might by such glory be roused and prepared for the defence of freedom. Therefrom many have set up Persian statues to support architraves and their ornaments. This motive has supplied for their works some striking variations.”

Pausanias 3.11.3 (describing the Agora in Sparta):

“The most prominent building in the market place is the Persian Stoa, so called because it was built from the spoils of the Medes. In time they embellished it to the size and ornamentation which It now has. The columns are Persians of white stone, Mardonius son of Gobryas and others. Artemisia, daughter of Lygdamis, has been made there, too, queen of Halikarnassos. They say that she willingly fought against Greece for Xerxes and accomplished deeds in the naval battle at Salamis.”

According to both Pausanias and Vitruvius a stoa was built in the Agora in Sparta from spoils of the Persian wars which was called the Persian Stoa. Vitruvius, Pausanias, and Dio Chrysostom (47.17) refer to it by this name. The spoils of the battle of Plataea were quite rich and were distributed among the allies (Hdt. 9.80,81). Sparta receiving a large part, as she was the leader of the force. It is likey that the stoa was built from the sale of this booty but the building was probably meant to commemorate the Persian Wars in general rather than specifically the battle of Plataea.

Pausanias says that in his time the stoa had been decorated with statues of Persians and of Mardonius and Artemisia in particular. Some of the statues were Caryatids, used as columns. From Pausanias’ language it is probable that this decoration was done gradually, possibly even much later than the fifth century. For other stoas associated with monuments of the PersianWars see nos. 14, 43, and 45.

36. Funerary monuments at Sparta:

a. Tombs of Pausanias and Leonidas.

b. Nerby stele with the names of those who fought at Thermopylae.

Pausanias 3.14.1.

Hitzig and Blümner 1896,1: 783-784; Macan 1907,1: 351-352; Frazer 1913,3: 334; How and Wells 1912,2: 230; Gomme 1945-1956,1: 437.

Pausanias 3.14.1 (describing the area in Sparta near the theater):

“Opposite the theater is a monument . . . of Pausanias and another of Leonidas – and in every year they make speeches over them and hold a contest, in which it is not possible for anyone to contend except the Spartiates. – and the bones of Leonidas were recovered after forty years from Thermopylae by Pausanias. A stele is there with the names and patronymics of those who engaged in the struggle against the Medes in Thermopylae.”

Pausanias was buried near the shrine of the goddess of the Brazen House in Sparta, at the entrance of her precinct; two bronze statues of Pausanias were dedicated to the goddess (Thuc. 1.134.4). Close to his tomb, according to Pausanias the periegete, was the tomb of Leonidas, whose remains were brought from Thermopylae and reburied at Sparta some forty years after the battle. There are some difficulties with this notice. The body of Leonidas was mutilated by Xerxes (Hdt. 7.238) but the Greeks did recover the body (7.224) and presumably buried it on the battlefield (See no. 79). He says that Pausanias brought the remains of Leonidas to Sparta some forty years after the battle (440 B. C.). He must mean Pausanias the son of Pleistoanax and nephew of the commander at Plataea, who was the Spartan king from 408 to 394 (cf. H. Schaefer, s. v. Pausanias, RE 18: 2578), but even he was quite young in 440 B. C. To be sure, since Pleistoanax was banned from the kingship from 445 to 426 because of an unsuccessful Attic campaign (Thuc. 2.21 and 5.16), he held the kingly power during those years. Nevertheless he was still a minor in 427, as Cleomenes, the brother of Pleistoanax, led the Spartan forces as regent during the campaign of that year (Thuc. 3.26). Macan (1907,1: 352) suggests that the figure forty should be emended to four, which would make the recovery in 476; but perhaps, if the remains were recovered in 440 or thereabouts, the fact that this took place during Pausanias’ interim kingship may account for the peregete’s notice.

As for the stele with the names of the three hundred, Herodotus may actually have seen it at Sparta, for he says that he knew their names (7.224). Yet he must have been in Sparta before the founding of Thurii (444 B. C.; cf. Jacoby 1913: 274). Herodotus does not mention the tomb of Leonidas and therefore it may not have been there until ca. 440, as Pausanias says.

These tombs, combining memorials of Thermopylae and Plataea, may be considered monuments of the Spartan achievement in the Persian Wars. Pausanias also states that there were annual orations over them and a festival (agon) in which only Spartiates were allowed to participate. A festival known as the Leonideia, with athletic contests, is attested by a fragmentary inscription of the late first century A. D. (IG 5.658, l. 12). The orations were probably funeral orations of encomiastic nature, instituted later than the fifth or even the fourth century B. C. On funeral orations for individuals, see Ziolkowski 1963: 12-18.