2 - Invasion 4   1 unit = 375 HI or Sparbara, 190 LH,
  Plataea - August 479BC - Moloeis River   250 LMI or Cv, 125 LI
     
 
Defeated at Salamis, Xerxes returned to Asia, but left his general Mardonius behind in Greece, at the head of a large army still, composed of picked troops deemed best suited to take on hoplites. While the Greek colonists in Sicily had successfully turned back the Carthaginian offensive at the battle of Himera, which was arguably part of a co-ordinated offensive to conquer the entire Greek world, the Greeks on the mainland still faced grave danger. Mardonius was officially satrap of Greece and already held sway over Thessaly, Euboea and Boeotia. Attica (Athens) and the Peloponnese (Sparta) remained virtually all that stood in the way of total domination of the Greek mainland and Mardonius remained in Attica while making overtures to Athens to leave the coalition. Athens, frustrated with Sparta's reluctance to take the field against the Persians outside the Peloponnese, made these overtures known to Sparta and threatened to accept the Persian offer. Suitably convinced, Sparta at last marched to the aid of Attica, while simultaneously despatching a fleet against Ionia. If Mardonius felt compelled to go to the aid of Ionia, he might be forced into an early battle on ground favourable to the hoplites. But Mardonius retreated to the Boeotian plain where his cavalry could control a confrontation with the Greeks. He set up camp north of the River Asopus. Sparta's Pausanius, now in command of the largest Greek army ever assembled, followed him and took post to the south of the river. Pausanias with 6 500 Spartans and Tegeans held the right wing, while Mardonius had massed his immortals and sparabara from corps I & II opposite him, 23 000 infantry in all. The Greek centre was composed of approximately 11 000 allies from the Pelopponese at right-centre and 7 500 lesser-quality hoplites at left-centre. 20 000 Medes, Bactrians, Egyptian marines and various other Asians were posted to face them. The parity in numbers meant that Mardonius intended a holding action in the centre only. 7 000 Athenians held the Greek left wing, facing 9 000 Boeotians and over 2 000 Greek cavalrymen who were now allies of Persia. The Greeks had the better shock troops, but were facing odds of 2 to 1 and a strong cavalry force. A standoff quickly developed: Mardonius would not cross the river to attack the hoplites on the mountain slopes and Pausanius would not descend to fight cavalry on the open plain. Perhaps the naval offensive against Ionia proved effective, because Mardonius began acting to break the impasse and achieve a speedy victory. He launched his cavalry against the Greeks on the mountain slopes, but their efforts met with disaster. After repeated attacks against the hoplites, who were aided against the Persian horse archers by Athens's 800-strong archer contingent, their general, Masistios, second in rank and esteem only to Mardonius, was killed, and after a fierce struggle for his body, the Persians quit the field in disarray. Emboldened by this success against cavalry, the Greek army moved forward and took position on a gentle ridge just below the river and the next few days were spent trying to provoke a rash attack by the opposition. The loss of the mountain slopes, however, gave the Persian cavalry room to raid in the rear of the Greeks: a Greek supply convoy was captured, the Persian horse archers had free rein to harass the hoplites and the Gargaphia spring, the only water source for the Greeks that provided shelter from arrows, was spoilt. Pausanias' position was untennable and he decided to withdraw, back to the foothills, under cover of darkness.
 
     
 
 
Athenian archers aid hoplites against Persian horse archers.
 
 
 
Greek supply convoy destroyed by Persian cavalry
 
 
  (Illustrations from Osprey Campaign 239 - Plataea; 479BC )  
 
     
 
Whereas all Greek divisions were meant to fall straight back, delays on the left and right wings caused the centre to move to the left to Plataea itself. The Spartans bickered and delayed all night because one of their regimental commanders refused to retreat in the face of the enemy and was only persuaded to follow when the rest of the Spartan army left him behind. It was by then close to dawn. The Athenians, who had been ordered to hold on until they received instructions from the Spartans, eventually retreated into the now-vacated centre position, but a big gap lay between them and the Spartans. The surprised Persians found the Greek position deserted in the morning and could make out the last Spartan units as they retreated to the foothills in the distance. Alerted of this opportunity, Mardonius ordered the attack, horsemen in front to slow and impede the Greek retreat. He sensed this was his opportunity to knock out the Spartans and without them, the rest of the Greek army would also crumble. The battle of Plataea had begun.
 
     
 
Game notes
Should a Persian general die, he will be immediately replaced, and such at the same level of quality. Many notable personalities were present and died in the bitter fighting, among others Xerxes' brothers Habrocomes and Hyperanthes and his uncle Artanes. This game only aims to recreate the final day of the Greek stand at Thermopylae.
 
     
 
Historical result
Pausanias, despite the late start of his retreat, had managed to pull his troops back across rough terrain and to a position between a foot spur of Cithaeron Mountain and the Moloeis River. This recreated a position much like that of the Athenians at Marathon, where both flanks were secured and the hoplites could focus their strength on whomever opposed them in front. The rock-strewn bed of the Moloeis River and shrubby opposite shore could be crossed by cavalry with difficulty, but was easily defended by skirmishers. Mardonius relied on his immortals and sparabara to do the damage in front, while trying to turn the flank with his cavalry. Pausanias waited to attack until the Tegeans could wait no longer. Wild with fury from the archery they had to endure, they charged their tormentors. The Spartans then followed. The deep formations of sparabara, under the eye of their commander, fought back fiercely despite suffering heavy casualties and it was not until a Spartan by the name of Arimnestus, picked up a rock and hurled it in the face of Mardonius, visible on horseback as he led his men. His death sent a wave of panic across the Persian formations and they started fleeing towards their camp.
 
     
 
SPARTAN ARMY Classical Greek - list 60
Command: +5 Army demoralisation value: 47
  Right wing         command strength 26
CinC: Pausanias included Brilliant  +2 CP Range: 8UD      
units Troop description type Quality move strength Range M ft M mtd Abilities & notes
8 3000 Spartiates* HI spearmen Elite 2UD 5   4 5 armour
8 1000 skirmishers with javelin LI javelin ordinary 3UD 2 1UD 2 1  -1 fire; +1 javelin vs LI and LH; evade
8 1000 skirmishers with sling LI sling ordinary 3UD 2 2UD 2 1  -1 fire; evade
  Centre         command strength 12
Sub Euryanax Included Brilliant  +2 CP Range: 8UD      
units Troop description type Quality move strength Range M ft M mtd Abilities & notes
8 3000 Perioeci* HI spearmen ordinary 2UD 5   4 5 armour
4 500 skirmishers with sling LI sling ordinary 3UD 2 2UD 2 1  -1 fire; evade
  Left wing         command strength 9
Sub Tegean commander Included competent  +1 CP Range: 6UD      
units Troop description type Quality move strength Range M ft M mtd Abilities & notes
4 1500 Tegean hoplites* HI spearmen ordinary 2UD 5   4 5 armour
8 1000 skirmishers with javelin LI javelin ordinary 3UD 2 1UD 2 1  -1 fire; +1 javelin vs LI and LH; evade
 
     
 
PERSIAN ARMY Achaemenid Persian - list 64
Command: +5 Army demoralisation value: 42
  Centre         command strength 38
CinC: Mardonius included brilliant  +2 CP Range: 8UD      
units Troop description type Quality move strength Range M ft M mtd Abilities & notes
18 7000 Immortal sparabara* MI mixed Elite 2UD 4 4UD 4 4 pavise; melee as mediocre; +1 melee on contact; no armour
  Centre         command strength 19
CinC: general included competent  +1 CP Range: 6UD      
units Troop description type Quality move strength Range M ft M mtd Abilities & notes
18 7000 Persian sparabara* MI mixed ordinary 2UD 4 4UD 4 4 pavise; melee as mediocre; +1 melee on contact; no armour
  Ledt wing         command strength 23
CinC: general included competent  +1 CP Range: 6UD      
units Troop description type Quality move strength Range M ft M mtd Abilities & notes
18 7000 Persian sparabara* MI mixed ordinary 2UD 4 4UD 4 4 pavise; melee as mediocre; +1 melee on contact; no armour
4 1500 Lydian hoplites HI spearmen mediocre 2UD 5   4 5 armour
  Cavalry         command strength 10
Sub:  Persian general included competent  +1 CP Range: 6UD      
units Troop description type Quality move strength Range M ft M mtd Abilities & notes
3 800 Guard cavalry* HC bow Elite 4UD 5 2UD 3 3 armour; evade
3 800 Persian cavalry MC bow ordinary 4UD 4 2UD 3 3 no armour; evade
 
 
 
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Mardonius urges his men on.