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The Platean hoplites shield devices

28/04/2017

ruins of Platea

Modern view of the Ancient Platea ruins. Courtesy: D. Loykissas-Perseas

Plataia is an ancient town in Beotea mostly known for the battle that took place in its vicinity, during the 5th century BC. Around 510 BC the Plateans, hard-pressed by the Thebans, allied themselves to the Athenians. At 490 BC they aided their allies during the battle of Marathon where they distinguished themselves. They also continued to fight against the Persians until their homeland was liberated after the battle that occurred on their land in 479 BC.

 

According to Pausanins and Strabo in the area of Alkalomenai, near Platea, existed a large forest with huge oak trees. There, the Plateans sacrificed a bull and a cow in honor of Zeus and Hera. Then they hung the pieces of roasted meat on the branches and left, after posting sentries to observe the crows that lived in the woods. If a bird managed to grab a piece of meat, the sentries would observe in which tree it would sit to eat. From this oak tree they built a wooden statue (Daedalon) of Hera and adorned it like a bride. Then they placed it on a carriage, and next to it sat as a bridesmaid, a woman chosen by lot among the inhabitants of Beotea:

The carriage with the sacred Daedalon was led to the top of Kithairon mount, followed by a crowd of Plateans, and stopped at the place that was called Sphragidion. At this place the Plateans built a high, square wooden altar for the goddess, with oak branches. Then they filled it with meat and offered it as a burned offering. It was forbidden this meat to be consumed by humans. Attic pottery is filled with depictions of soldiers who either carry on their shields a raven or a square frame representing the altars of Kithairon.

oenochoe Agora Museum

Detail from an oenochoe that depicts a hoplite that carries the square altar of the Kitheron mountain rituals on its shield. Dated at the end of the 6th century BC, it may be related to the conclusion of the alliance between the Athenians and the Plataeans. Athens Agora Museum. S. Skarmintzos Archive

 

hoplite dancing pyrichius Cleveland Museum

Red Figure Attic Cylix of the 5th century BC, crafted by Psyax with a depiction of hoplites. The hoplite right carries the emblem of the crow that according to Strabo and Pausanias played an important role at Daedala oracle rituals that were held in Plataea. Cleveland Museum

 

Platean shiled device reconstruction

Modern reconstruction of a shield from the re-enacting group “Taxis Plateae” sporting the image of the raven. S. Skarmintzos archive

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