By Susan Sorek
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Additional info for Ancient Historians: A Student Handbook
So while Persia delayed through the 480s, Athens began building its own war fleet and by 481 bce Athens had a navy of 200 ships. The first sea battle with the Persian fleet took place at Artemisium but the outcome was inconclusive. On land the Greeks were undecided on the best way to fight the Persians. Their first defence at Tempe was abandoned and the plan was to fall back as far as the Peloponnese and make their stand there. The Spartan king Leonidas was dispatched with 300 men to delay the Persians at the narrow pass at Thermopylae, where they held out for three days before finally being betrayed and slaughtered.
The Battle of Plataea (Book IX) is one such occasion when Herodotus preserves all the old animosities against Athens’ and Sparta’s allies (who later nearly all became Athens’ enemies). In particular his reporting of the allies’ actions at the Temple of Hera, where he states that the Corinthians missed the battle, seemingly on purpose. He also says that the cenotaphs erected to their dead were nothing but a sham. These incidents show that Herodotus could be severely misled by his sources, but to his credit he did visit the battlefield and identify the landmarks; it would appear to be a case of naivety rather than malice, for had he been more aware of military tactics he may have questioned his sources’ reliability.
The chief spokesman of this Pan-Hellenic crusade was a man called Isocrates (Panegyric). He endeavoured to demonstrate that Persia was weak and no match for Greek valour. This was a creed shared by Xenophon and Agesilaus, his hero, and this doctrine is exemplified in the speech made by Xenophon to the assembly of Greek soldiers on an October morning in 401 bce. ). On the death of Cyrus in the autumn of 401 bce, 10,000 Greek soldiers were faced with the prospect of submitting to the King Xenophon 39 of Persia or marching home.