After Thermopylae

After Thermopylae

The Oath of Plataea and the End of the Graeco-Persian Wars

Book - 2013
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The Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE is one of world history's unjustly neglected events. It decisively ended the threat of a Persian conquest of Greece. It involved tens of thousands of combatants, including the largest number of Greeks ever brought together in a common cause. For the Spartans, the driving force behind the Greek victory, the battle was sweet vengeance for their defeat at Thermopylae the year before.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2013]
ISBN: 9780199747320
0199747326
Branch Call Number: 938.03 CARTLED
Characteristics: xxx, 203 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm

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DWIGHT A GREEN
Mar 11, 2016

This book is part of Oxford University Press’ "Emblems of Antiquity" series. The emblem, in this case, is the Oath of Plataea, inscribed on a marble stele found in the early 1930s in the Athenian countryside. The monument itself is considered genuine but the authenticity of the Oath of Plataea is debated—Cartledge believes it to be inauthentic.

So why choose something of dubious validity for the center of a study? Cartledge uses the oath, inscribed between 350 and 325 B.C. describing an event taking place in 479 B.C., as a starting point to look at events, culture, and religion of both time periods while delving into the broader context of the fight for historical memory. The authenticity of the inscribed oath is almost beside the point.

Cartledge includes various means of competition for the way the Persian wars were to be remembered in several areas: monuments, commemorations, histories, myths, epigrams, and others. It’s a very entertaining book, geared toward the general reader. Cartledge foregoes footnotes but provides a “Further Reading” section highlighting sources and helpful details. While I think some knowledge of ancient Greek history is helpful, it isn’t necessary to enjoy the book. It’s a fun approach, using the oath as a means to explore what had changed in Athens and Greece during the 150 years between the Battle of Plataea and the date of the monument as well as unveiling some of the means the Greeks used to shape how history would be remembered.

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