The Surprise of Plataea

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Greek HelmetsWar had been only threatened, not declared; and peaceful intercourse, though not wholly free from distrust, was still kept up between the subjects of the two confederacies.  But early in the following spring, [431 B.C.], in the fifteenth year of the Thirty Years’ Truce, an event took place which closed all prospects of peace, precipitated the commencement of war, embittered the animosity of the contending parties, and prepared some of the most tragical scenes of the ensuing history.  In the dead of night the city of Plataea was surprised by a body of three hundred Thebans, commanded by two of the great officers called Boeotarchs.  They had been invited by a Plataean named Nauclides, and others of the same party, who hoped with the aid of the Thebans to rid themselves of their political opponents, and to break off the relation in which their city was standing to Athens, and transfer its alliance to Thebes.  The Thebans, foreseeing that a general war was fast approaching, felt the less scruple in strengthening themselves by this acquisition, while it might be made with little cost and risk.  The gates were unguarded, as in time of peace, and one of them was secretly opened to the invaders, who advanced without interruption into the marketplace. Their Plataean friends wished to lead them at once to the houses of their adversaries, and to glut their hatred by a massacre.  But the Thebans were more anxious to secure the possession of the city, and feared to provoke resistance by an act of violence.  Having therefore halted in the marketplace, they made a proclamation inviting all who were willing that Plataea should become again, as it had been in former times, a member of the Boeotian body, to join them.

Excerpt from The Historians’ History of the World Volume 3 by Henry Smith Williams – 1907


Further Reading and External Links

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

The Peloponnesian War on Wikipedia