Plataea - the Athenian Boeotians: expression of community and world-building in the fifth century B.C.
The Greek polis (or ‘city-state’) is integral to our modern understanding of ancient Greek history because by the fifth century B.C. it was a major characteristic of and platform for the Greek human experience and communal belonging. How, then, may an individual polis community express its own unique identity as it exercises continuous dialogue with its surrounding environment, particularly other poleis (‘city-states’)? This research question investigates Plataea’s own Boeotian sense of communal identity in the face of fluctuating political climates and military conflicts during the middle-fifth century B.C. The Plataeans enter the historical record as a Boeotian community on the border of Boeotian territory who famously (or infamously) allied themselves with Athens as a means to protect themselves from Theban influence. After the repulsion of the Persian invasion in 479 B.C., Plataea is immortalised as the land “where the Greeks won their freedom”. By 427 B.C., half a century later, Plataea is tragically destroyed by Sparta – a rather grim casualty early in the Atheno-Peloponnesian War.
The aim of this research project is to establish a sense of Plataea’s communal expression within the fifth century B.C. prior to the destruction. With a Boeotian identity established through inscriptional evidence and poetic performances of the late-sixth and early fifth-centuries, Plataea’s own communal identity is explored in the same way through evidence such as the Delphic Tripod dedication, and their representation in Thucydides’ speeches at 3.53-59.
I revisit these pieces of evidence through a sociological lens of human world-building and maintenance, as well as community identity through symbolism. From this analysis, a new consideration may be achieved regarding the complexities and significance of Greek polis culture both as a product of, and a habitant within, the intricacies of polis politics.