Literature Study GuidesHistoriesBook 9 The Battle Of Plataea Summary

Histories | Study Guide


Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Histories Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 Feb. 2019. Web. 14 June 2021. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2019, February 7). Histories Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "Histories Study Guide." February 7, 2019. Accessed June 14, 2021.


Course Hero, "Histories Study Guide," February 7, 2019, accessed June 14, 2021,

Histories | Book 9, The Battle of Plataea | Summary



Mardonius mobilizes his army for a new campaign when the Athenians refuse to make peace. He advances swiftly on Athens, which has once more been abandoned by its citizens. The Athenians, camped at Salamis, ask the Spartans for aid. The Spartans are reluctant at first, but they eventually resolve to send out an army after reasoning that a refusal would make it more likely for Athens to join with Persia against them. The Spartan army is led by Pausanias. Mardonius, learning of Pausanias's advance, burns Athens once more.

An army of Greeks from many cities assembles and moves to join up at Plataea where they will fight the Persians. Herodotus records a series of small battles waged between the Greeks and Persians, and he provides an account of the contingents that made up the Greek army. He counts their strength at around 110,000. The Persians, by Herodotus's reckoning, have about three times that number.

For 10 days the two armies face one another. Mardonius is advised to retreat to Thebes, where the Persians have good provisions and can hold out for a better opportunity. Mardonius dismisses this advice and decides to attack the next day. At night, Alexander of Macedon betrays the Persians and tells the Greeks that Mardonius will attack at dawn. Armed with this knowledge, the Greeks place the Athenian troops, who have experience beating the Persians, on the vital right flank of their army. Unfortunately, the Persians get wind of the Greek maneuvers and swap their own flanks, thus forcing the Greeks to swap back. Another day passes without fighting, during which both armies are running low on supplies.

After a long wait, the battle finally begins. The Greeks, who have had enough of the constant harassment by Persian cavalry, retreat during the night. The next morning, Mardonius orders a pursuit, and a desperate struggle ensues. The tipping point comes when Mardonius is killed, granting the Spartans vengeance for the fallen Leonidas. With their general dead, the Persians flee. The Persian camp is looted and the triumphant Greeks press on to attack Thebes, the city that had supported the Persians. The Thebans hand over their rulers, who are executed.


The Athenians stick to a successful strategy and once more abandon their city to be burned by Mardonius. The Athenian ability to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and sacrifice in the cause of Greek freedom, is a testament to their civic spirit and bravery.

Plataea is the most decisive battle of the Greco-Persian Wars. The Persians had been forced to make new plans after Salamis, but after Plataea they are ejected from Greece entirely. The Greeks have assembled a massive army, composed of contingents from around Greece. Even though this is the largest Greek army yet assembled, it is still dwarfed by the Persian forces.

Herodotus's account of the battle resembles a staring contest. Both armies are following the words of their oracles, who suggest that the army that "blinks" first and attacks will lose. The tension of the situation is undercut by Herodotus's anecdotal accounts of the armies' antics as they try to gain the advantage‚ÄĒspending entire days switching the wings of their armies back and forth, and so on.

The hand of fate is present once again. One stroke of fate gives the Greeks victory at Plataea with the death of Mardonius. But he is not struck down by the gods: the Spartans, hard-pressed, target him and bring him down. Generals in ancient armies were very important, and they tended to be visible figures on the battlefield, acting as a rallying point and source of inspiration for their soldiers. It is easy to believe that the sight of Mardonius's death would cause the Persians to panic.

After Plataea, the Greeks go on the offensive for the first time. They target Thebes, in southeastern Greece, to punish the city for submitting to Xerxes and betraying Greek solidarity. However, it is not clear whether the Thebans were aware there was such a thing as Greek solidarity before the wars.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Histories? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!