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After Thermopylae: The Oath of Plataea and the End of the Graeco-Persian Wars (Emblems of Antiquity) [Hardcover]

Paul Cartledge
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Sep 2013 Emblems of Antiquity
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. Why has this pivotal battle been so overlooked? In After Thermopylae, Paul Cartledge masterfully reopens one of the great puzzles of ancient Greece to discover, as much as possible, what happened on the field of battle and, just as important, what happened to its memory. Part of the answer to these questions, Cartledge argues, can be found in a little-known oath reputedly sworn by the leaders of Athens, Sparta, and several other Greek city-states prior to the battle-the Oath of Plataea. Through an analysis of this oath, Cartledge provides a wealth of insight into ancient Greek culture. He shows, for example, that when the Athenians and Spartans were not fighting the Persians they were fighting themselves, including a propaganda war for control of the memory of Greece's defeat of the Persians. This helps explain why today we readily remember the Athenian-led victories at Marathon and Salamis but not Sparta's victory at Plataea. Indeed, the Oath illuminates Greek anxieties over historical memory and over the Athens-Sparta rivalry, which would erupt fifty years after Plataea in the Peloponnesian War. In addition, because the Oath was ultimately a religious document, Cartledge also uses it to highlight the profound role of religion and myth in ancient Greek life. With compelling and eye-opening detective work, After Thermopylae provides a long-overdue history of the Battle of Plataea and a rich portrait of the Greek ethos during one of the most critical periods in ancient history.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; Reprint edition (26 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199747326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199747320
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 216,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

The book seeks to reach a broad general readership, and is written in lucid and lively prose. Nick Romeo, Times Literary Supplement This book is a thoughtful and engaging starting-point for anyone interested not only in the Graeco-Persian Wars, but also in the way future generations use the memory of war. Bijan Omrani, Military History Monthly

About the Author

Paul Cartledge is the inaugural A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture in the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge, and recently the Hellenic Parliament Global Distinguished Professor in the History and Theory of Democracy at New York University. His previous books include Ancient Greece: A Very Short Introduction, Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World, and The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece. He is an honorary citizen of modern Sparta and holds the Gold Cross of the Order of Honor awarded by the President of Greece.

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Customer Reviews

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
In his latest book, Paul Cartledge turns to an epigraphic `document', the Oath of Plataea, inscribed sometime between 350-325 BCE on a stele in Attica. Written for a non-specialist audience (though I think it takes quite a lot of knowledge for granted), this allows Cartledge to problematise ideas of the `Persian' wars, epigraphy, and the very concept of historical and literary documents.

As the introduction lays out, the battles of Marathon (490 BCE) and Salamis (480 BCE) have overshadowed Plataea, an essentially Spartan victory. This epigraph, Cartledge shows, written almost 150 years after the Persian wars, is evidence for Athenian `propaganda' from the 4th century BCE, showing us what the Athenians believed - or wanted readers in the future to believe - about the history of the wars and the Athenians' role in them.

This is an excellent book for classicists and non-specialist readers with a fairly good knowledge about classical Greece and historiography. Concerned with methodological issues as much as with the interpretation of historical sources, this is nuanced and subtle - and opens out current scholarly approaches to a public audience.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By James Miller TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I greatly enjoyed this book and found the way it took its point of departure not from what happened at Plataea, but from why Plataea looms so much less in the Western imagination than its siblings at Thermopylae and Salamis. I found the way it regularly adduces analogs for events to show their significance very helpfukl in opening up new avenues for thought: for instance in discussing ara or miasma (religious pollution) the discussion of burial and the Aigintans was fascinating (and I have pinched a chunk to discus with my class studying the Antigone).

I would have liked more direct reference to texts and to authors: there is a brief discussion of various themes at the end with references to the key secondary texts, but I have always preferred seeing these in the context of a book's argument (perhaps as footnotes); I can accept that this can be off putting to a the wider readership these texts are looking for.

On the whole I thought this was a splendid book with insights for all including specialists(Cartledge draws attention to areas where what he is saying goes beyond the standard academic knowledge and references alternatives or prior thoughts - he notes his focus on religion is much more intense than Rhodes and Osborne's).
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Re-writing history 10 Nov 2013
By Jane-Anne Shaw, MA VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
'Division within a kindred people is as much worse than a united war against an external enemy as war is worse than peace.' - Herodotus, 'Histories,' 8.3.1., (p. 53)

Paul Cartledge's style of writing is easy to read, fluid and lucid; this is a volume for the general reader as well as the student, although I would emphasise 'After Thermopylae' does require a certain degree of familiarity with ancient Greek history and / or Classical studies.
To take Cartledge's final chapter first, 'The Greeks invent the Persian Wars,' which deals with the mythology and commemoration of Plataea, he addresses the Greek art of memory. As he has stated elsewhere, 'The past is neither dead nor certain,' to remind us the ancient Greek word for 'truth,' mnemosynē, meant, literally, 'not-forgetting.'** He also quotes Peter Green's translation of a little-known ode by Simonides (p.141) - lines which Binyon's echo on our Remembrance Day -and unjustly neglected in favour of the Thermopylae two-liner epigram.
This little book goes a long way to redress the role of an important conflict which may well have saved the West. On the other hand, it does require quite a lot of background knowledge: about the history of Greece, its literatures, politics and very different 'take' on religion.
Good follow-up notes, nearly 12 pages of suggested further reading, and an excellent bibliography and index. The only disappointments were the maps and illustrations - but they serve.

In 1932, in the area of ancient Acharnae, an Athenian farmer discovered a large piece of marble in his fields. The artefact was an inscribed pedimental stele (pillar, with a decorated triangular-shaped gable top).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After Thermopylae: The Oath of Plataea 27 Dec 2013
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
In 480 BC, after the disaster at Thermopylae the Greek states were for a time in danger of being overwhelmed by the sheer rolling war machine that were the Persian-led forces. But in 479 BC all that changed, with the Battle of Plataea. The Persians were so decisively beaten by a combined Greek and Spartan army that they retreated out of the peninsula altogether.

What happened, why and how? And why is it that Thermopylae, Marathon and Salamis are so well remembered today, but Plataea is not so well known to the general interested public? The author, who has written extensively on ancient Greece and Sparta has, in this book dissected Thermopylae and its aftermath to give an indepth discussion on these matters and more. Because the book is part of the `Emblems' series, the discussion centres firstly around the `emblematic' aspect of Plataea - the stele erected at ancient Acharnae with texts of the Oath of the Ephebes and the Oath of Plataea.

This book is aimed first and foremost at nonspecialist readers with a keen interest in the ancient Greek world and its legacy. It does not have pages cluttered with obscure footnotes or references, but does, for the reader eager to find out more, have a very comprehensive section of further reading suggestions under the following headings:
1. Primary sources
2. Secondary sources
3. The battle itself
4. Religion, Greek and Athenian
5. Commemorations
6. Clash of Civilisations?
There is also a very comprehensive bibliography with further material.
There are also very clear maps of the larger, and more defined areas of interest from the narrative at the front of the book for those not familiar with the territory, and some wonderful black and white photos throughout the book.
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