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The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle of the Greco-Persian Wars, fought between a coalition of Greek armies under the Spartan general Pausanias and a larger Persian army under Mardonius. The Greek victory on land at Plataea and at sea at the Battle of Mycale destroyed Xerxes I's invasion forces, ending the second and last Persian invasion of Greece.

Background

After the defeat at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, the Persian king Xerxes I retreated to Asia with much of his 300,000-strong army, fearing that the Greeks would attempt to cut him off from Asia by blockading the Hellespont. He left his general Mardonius to finish off the Greeks the following year, and Mardonius and his 120,000 troops encamped in Thessaly for the winter.

Battle

In the summer of 479 BC, the Greeks assembled a huge army of 80,000 troops in the Peloponnese, and the Spartan general Pausanias was given command of the army. The Persians retreated to Boeotia and built a fortified camp near Plataea, but the Greeks refused to be drawn into prime cavalry terrain, leading to 11 days of stalemate. The Greeks attempted a retreat after their supply lines were disrupted, but Mardonius mistook this for a full-scale retreat and ordered his forces to pursue them. The Spartans, Tegeans, and Athenians halted the retreat and gave battle, and the Greek phalanxes, equipped with bronze shields and long spears, outmatched the light Persian sparabara formation, which was equipped with large wicker shields and short spears. When the Persians attempted to reach for the Greek spears to break them, the Greeks switched to swords, and Mardonius was encircled and killed in the ensuing melee. The Persians' Greek allies, including those from Thebes, deliberately fought poorly in order to have an excuse to withdraw, and they fled in a different direction from the Persians. It was estimated that only 30,000 of the 120,000 Persians survived the battle. That same day, the Persian fleet's remnants were defeated at the Battle of Mycale, decisively ending the Persian invasion.

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