Having been elected general with sole powers in view of the expected battle, he came to Plataea1
at the head of eight thousand Athenian hoplites. There Pausanias also, the commander in chief of the whole Hellenic army, joined him with his Spartans, and the forces of the rest of the Hellenes kept streaming up.
Now, generally speaking, there was no limit to the encampment of the Barbarians as it lay stretched out along the river Asopus, so vast was it; but round their baggage trains and chief headquarters they built a quadrangular wall, whereof each side was ten stadia in length.
To Pausanias and all the Hellenes under him Tisamenus the Eleian made prophecy, and foretold victory for them if they acted on the defensive and did not advance to the attack.
But Aristides sent to Delphi and received from the god response that the Athenians would be superior to their foes if they made vows to Zeus, Cithaeronian Hera, Pan, and the Sphragitic nymphs; paid sacrifices to the heroes Androcrates, Leucon, Pisandrus, Damocrates, Hypsion, Actaeon, and Polyidus; and if they sustained the peril of battle on their own soil, in the plain of Eleusinian Demeter and Cora.
When this oracle was reported to Aristides, it perplexed him greatly. The heroes to whom he was to sacrifice were, it was true, ancient dignitaries of the Plataeans; and the cave of the Sphragitic nymphs was on one of the peaks of Cithaeron, facing the summer sunsets; and in it there was also an oracle in former days, as they say, and many of the natives were possessed of the oracular power, and these were called nympholepti, or
But the plain of Eleusinian Demeter, and the promise of victory to the Athenians if they fought the battle in their own territory, called them back, as it were, to Attica, and changed the seat of war.
At this time the general of the Plataeans, Arimnestus, had a dream in which he thought he was accosted by Zeus the Saviour and asked what the Hellenes had decided to do, and replied:
‘On the morrow, my Lord, we are going to lead our army back to Eleusis, and fight out our issue with the Barbarians there, in accordance with the Pythian oracle.’
Then the god said they were entirely in error, for the Pythian oracle's places were there in the neighborhood of Plataea, and if they sought them they would surely find them. All this was made so vivid to Arimnestus that as soon as he awoke he summoned the oldest and most experienced of his fellow-citizens. By conference and investigation with these he discovered that near Hysiae, at the foot of mount Cithaeron, there was a very ancient temple bearing the names of Eleusinian Demeter and Cora.
Straightway then he took Aristides and led him to the spot. They found that it was naturally very well suited to the array of infantry against a force that was superior in cavalry, since the spurs of Cithaeron made the edges of the plain adjoining the temple unfit for horsemen. There, too, was the shrine of the hero Androcrates hard by, enveloped in a grove of dense and shady trees.
And besides, that the oracle might leave no rift in the hope of victory, the Plataeans voted, on motion of Arimnestus, to remove the boundaries of Plataea on the side toward Attica, and to give this territory to the Athenians, that so they might contend in defence of Hellas on their own soil, in accordance with the oracle.
This munificence of the Plataeans became so celebrated that Alexander, many years afterwards, when he was now King of Asia,2
built the walls of Plataea, and had proclamation made by herald at the Olympic games that the King bestowed this grace upon the Plataeans in return for their bravery and magnanimity in freely bestowing their territory upon the Hellenes in the Median war, and so showing themselves most zealous of all.