When Mardonius learned that the enemy's
army was advancing in the direction of Boeotia
marched forth from Thebes
, and when he arrived at
the Asopus River he pitched a camp, which he strengthened by means of a deep ditch and
surrounded with a wooden palisade. The total number of the Greeks approached one hundred
thousand men, that of the barbarians some five hundred thousand.1
The first to open the battle were the barbarians, who poured
out upon the Greeks by night and charged with all their cavalry upon the camp. The Athenians
observed them in time and with their army in battle formation boldly advanced to meet them, and
a mighty battle ensued.
In the end all the rest of the Greeks
put to flight the barbarians who were arrayed against them; but the Megarians alone, who faced
the commander of the cavalry and the best horsemen the Persians had, being hard pressed in the
fighting, though they did not leave their position, sent some of their men as messengers to the
Athenians and Lacedaemonians asking them to come to their aid with all speed.
Aristeides quickly dispatched the picked Athenians who constituted his
body-guard, and these, forming themselves into a compact body and falling on the barbarians,
rescued the Megarians from the perils which threatened them, slew of the Persians both the
commander of the cavalry and many others, and put the remainder to flight.
The Greeks, now that they had shown their superiority so brilliantly in a
kind of dress rehearsal, were encouraged to hope for a decisive victory; and after this
encounter they moved their camp from the foot-hills to a place which was better suited to a
For on the right was a high hill, on the
left the Asopus River, and the space between was held by the camp, which was fortified by the
natural impregnability of the general terrain.
Thus for the
Greeks, who had laid their plans wisely, the limited space was a great aid to their victory,
since the Persian battle-line could not be extended to a great length, and the result was, as
the event was to show, that no use could be made of the many myriads of the barbarians.
Consequently Pausanias and Aristeides, placing their confidence in the position they held, led
the army out to battle, and when they had taken positions in a manner suitable to the terrain
they advanced against the enemy.