Iran Zamin 2

This weblog contains personal views on the history of Iran in comparison with other ancient countries and information on Iran for those interested to learn about our heritage. (this is part 2 of Iran Zamin)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

King Xerxes I ( khashayar shah)

Xerxes I (modern Persian spelling خشایارشاه), was a Persian Empire (reigned 485 - 465 BC) of the Achaemenid dynasty. "Xerxes" is the Greek transliteration of the Persian throne name Khshayarsha or Khsha-yar-shah, meaning "ruler of heroes". In the Book of Ezra and in Book of Esther, the Persian king Axašweroš (אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ) probably corresponds to Xerxes I.Xerxes became king of Persia at the death of his father Darius the Great in 485, at a time when his father was preparing a new expedition against Greece and had to face an uprising in Egypt (Herodotus' Histories, VII, 1-4). According to Herodotus, the transition was peaceful this time. Because he was about to leave for Egypt, Darius, following the law of his country had been requested to name his successor and to choose between the elder of his sons, born from a first wife before he was in power, and the first of his sons born after he became king, from a second wife, Atossa, Cyrus' daughter, who had earlier been successively wed to her brothers Cambyses and Smerdis, and which he had married soon after reaching power in order to confirm his legitimacy. Atossa was said to have much power on Darius and he chosed her son Xerxes for successor.
Our knowledge about Xerxes, his life and his wars mostly comes from the Greek historian Herodotus and hence, is not to be trusted. Sadly the image Herodotus created of Xerxes as well as many other Persian rulers is the one that most frequently lingers in the mind of the western people. But keep in mind that Herodotus was writing about a king ( Xerxes) who invaded his country. No doubt he wasn’t going to write anything favourable on his behalf.
After quelling the revolt of Egypt, and appointing his brother Achaemenes as governor or satrap of Egypt, Xerxes finally decided to pursue the project of his father to punish the Athenians for their interference in the Ionian rebellion and their victory of Marathon. In most of the known accounts it is frequently noted that the Persians wanted to “punish” the Athenians for helping the Ionian revolt and destroying one Sardis, the former capital of the kingdom of Lydia, which was then the capital of the most important Persian satrapy in Asia Minor. However, they never speak of why the Athenians cooperation with the Ionians was such a big deal to the Persians. In reality the Persians felt insulted and betrayed by the Athenians since the tyrant of Athens, Hippias, had a treaty with the Persians. Athenians were always threatened by the ever growing powers of the Spartans. To be able to survive Hippias asked the Persians to protect the Athenians against any threat by the Spartans and the Athenians will always be loyal to the Persians. Hence, when Hippias decided to send a force of 200 triremes with a body of embarked infantry to help the Ionian revolt the Persians became furious with rage and decided to take revenge!
From 483 Xerxes prepared his expedition with great care: the Xerxes channel was dug; provisions were stored in the stations on the road through Thrace; two bridges were thrown across the Hellespont. Xerxes concluded an alliance with Carthage, and thus deprived Greece of the support of the powerful monarchs of Syracuse and Agrigentum. Many smaller Greek states, moreover, took the side of the Persians, especially Thessaly, Thebes and Argos. Herodotus claims that a large fleet and a numerous army, about 2,000,000, were gathered to bestow punishment on the unfaithful Athenians. But in reality the true number was probably far closer to 250,000 at most. Logistically, an army of two million would be almost impossible to muster, even with the vast wealth under Xerxes control.
In the spring of 480 Xerxes set out from Sardis. At first Xerxes was victorious everywhere he went. The Greek fleet was beaten at Artemisium, Thermopylae stormed, Athens conquered, the Athenians with Sparta driven back to their last line of defence at the Isthmus of Corinth and in the Saronic Gulf. But Xerxes was induced by the astute message of Themistocles (against the advice of Artemisia of Halicarnassus) to attack the Greek fleet under unfavourable conditions, instead of sending a part of his ships to the Peloponnesus and awaiting the dissolution of the Greek armament. The Battle of Salamis (September 28, 480) was won by the Athenians, but the war as whole was Xerxes victory. From this point on opinions diverge about what happened. Some believe that having lost his communication by sea with Asia, Xerxes was forced to retire to Sardis and other believe that Babylonian’s revolt was the real reason for his return to Sardis so that from there he could have his eyes on Babylon. In any other event the army which he left in Greece under Mardonius was in 479 beaten at Plataea. The defeat of the Persians at Mycale roused the Greek cities of Asia.
The Battle at Athens which Xerxes commanded, is usually mistaken as a battle between Greeks and Persians, rather the truth is that Xerxes went to punish the Athenians for the looting and destruction of Greek cities in Anatolia, which was under Persian control. He had the help of other Greek cities and Macedonia in his campaign. Xerxes took Athens, and after a short period of time left, as it was not in his interest to take the city, but to punish the officials for previous war against other Greek cities in Persian territory. The important thing to remember in history is that the Persians never fought with Greece, but with individual, and often allied Greek states (cities) as Greece was never a united country but divided in bickering provinces (cities) which on occasions united to fight the Persians. The Persians themselves had Greek cities as allies, for instance the ones in the Anatolian region which the Athenians warred with and led to the subsequent punishment by Xerxes.
Old Age:
Of the later years of Xerxes little is known. He sent out Satapes to attempt the circumnavigation of Africa, but the victory of the Greeks threw the empire into a state of slow apathy, from which it could not rise again. He left inscriptions at Persepolis, where he added a new palace to that of Darius, at Van in Armenia, and on Mount Elvend near Ecbatana. In these texts he merely copies the words of his father. In 465 he was murdered by his vizier Artabanus who raised Artaxerxes I to the throne.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sizdah Bedar ( 13 Bedar)

The tradition of leaving the house on the thirteenth (Sizdah) day of Farvardin, the last day of the Norooz period, and spending that day outside with joy, laughter and pleasure has been in practice since ancient times in Iran. This is the last phase of the celebrations of the New Year ( Norouz). This joyous celebration has its roots in the Zoroastrian belief that laughter and joy symbolize the throwing away of bad thoughts. According to Zoroastrianism, bad thoughts are the gift of Ahreeman (the devil) and his offspring and the festival of the New Year will cleanse all bad thoughts. The celebrations defeat the enemies and plant shoots of comradeship and peace. The custom of kissing each other on the cheeks also comes from a belief that it cleanses the individual.

On the last day of the New Year celebrations, the 13th of the first month Farvardin, it is the custom of Iranians to pass as many hours as possible outdoors. All people leave their homes to go to the parks or local plains for a very festive picnic. It is a must to spend this day in nature and the occasion is called Sizdah-Bedar. It is generally believed that if people stay home something bad can happen.

This day was not celebrated in this manner before Islam and might be several rituals in one. It is possible that this day was devoted to the deity Tishtrya (Tir), protector of rain. In the Zoroastrian calendar each day is named after a deity and this particular day in the month of Farvardin is named after Tishtrya. In the past there were outdoor festivities to pray to this Eyzad in hope of rain that was essential for agriculture. The act of throwing away the Sabzeh from Haft Seen into rivers and running waters on this day also indicates veneration for a water deity. The act symbolically represents an offering made to such a deity.

However, Anahita was the goddess protector of running waters and not Tishtrya. It appears that at least part of the celebration is to pay respect to some water deity. Tishtrya/rain or Anahita/water are likely mixed together to preserve veneration for water deities in general. In ancient mythology the deity Vata the rain-bringer was associated with Harahvati Aredvi Sura, which means possessing waters (Anahita is a later assimilation of this deity). She personified a mythical river and all rivers flow out of this one. Clouds also took up rain from the same mythical river every year. Tishtrya goes to the river once per year in the shape of a white stallion to fight the Demon of Dearth appearing in the shape of a black stallion. After Tishtrya’s victory he rushes into the sea and water is hurried all over, and Vata snatches some for the clouds. The rest of the water is mixed with seeds of plants, which sprout as the rain falls. Ancient Iranian rituals quite often enacted their mythologies, waters were respected and many rites existed with respect to waters. It is very likely that several of these were combined to preserve some aspect of the ancient celebrations venerating waters. Till the 19th century there was horse racing on this day, which very likely represented the fight between the two stallions.

Another account of Zorastrian folk stories mentiones that twelve devilish spirits sent by Ahreeman are eating away at the 12 pillars of the world all year around, and at the end of the year when the pillars are on the verge of collapse, the evil spirits come to earth to celebrate. While they are dancing with joy, during the first 12 days of Norooz, the pillars are restored to their original state due to the people's joy, celebrations and goodwill. The bad spirits will again start eating away at the pillars on the thirteenth day of the year hoping to topple the world once again. The first twelve days of the year were therefore considered particularly significant and had the important duty of safekeeping the world and the lives of people on earth. The thirteenth day of the year was considered the beginning of the normal period of the year.

In Iranian stories it is stated that the world’s length of life is 12 thousand years and the number 12 is taken from the 12 months of the year. On expiry of the 12000 years, the world’s lifespan is over and the world’s population has the prime duty of fighting against Ahreeman. On the expiry of 12000 years, according to Zoroastrian folklore, the people will completely defeat the Ahreeman and with the appearance of Shoosaianet, the last face of Ahreeman will be destroyed and the war of Ahooramazda against Ahreeman will result in Ahooramazda's absolute victory. From then onward there will not exist a materialistic earth and the people will return to their permanent place in the heavenly body 'Minoo' enjoying universal happiness, peace and tranquility.

Iranians today regard this day as a bad omen and believe that by going into the fields and parks they avoid the misfortunes that could befall them. This notion is contrary to the Zoroastrian doctrine where all days were regarded as sacred and were named after venerated deities. According to Muslim’s popular belief, the 13th day of the month is a day with unfortunate consequences (nahs in Islamic terminology); therefore Iranians could have combined the two. By going outdoors into the fields, the ancient festivities were observed while the Islamic ideas are also incorporated into the occasion. Muslims today still have a prayer for rain called ‘namaz e baran’, which is used at times of prolonged drought.

All kinds of food and delicacies are prepared with tea, local drinks, fruits, bread, cheese and fresh herbs, noodle soup called ‘ash-e reshteh’ and herbed rice with lamb (baqali polo and bareh) are favorites. The wealthy Iranians will spend the day in their country homes and estates, while the entire day will be spent in their gardens. The occasion is a communal one and all close relatives and friends will participate. Wheat or barley shoots (sabzeh) that are grown especially for New Year and are kept throughout the festivities are discarded in nature mainly in running waters and small rivers at the end of the day. Another tradition on the 13th, is the knotting of blades of grass by unmarried girls in the hope of finding a husband. The knotting of the grass represents the bondage of a man and a woman. The picnic ends with the setting of the sun. The occasion has no religious significance and is celebrated by all.
Also see Norooz festival, Mehregan Festival and the Tirgan Celebration.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

One of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World was the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. It was a massive tomb, built in the city of Halicarnassus, in Asia Minor by a Persian Satrap named Mausolus. During his reign he succeeded to conquer vast territories; at the height of his powers, Mausolus and his queen, Artemisia, controlled most of southwest Asia Minor.
Most of the accounts about Mausolus and his queen has come from ancient Greek writers, such as Pilny, hence open to speculations. Some especially insist that Mausolus did nothing remarkable during his life and taxed the people heavily in order to build himself beautiful palaces. Those who believe he was a knowledgeable, powerful leader tend to maintain that his province was so far from the Persian capital that it was practically autonomous as a result condemn any credit associated with the achievement of the Persians, in another word they believe that he was successful because he was deeply influence by the Greeks. The truth is that he was a man who embraced many cultures, ( he was at egypt and the model of his tomb was partly influenced by the Pyramids of Egypt), and that is precisely why he succeded in building one of the most extra ordinary monuments in the world.
When the Persians expanded their ancient kingdom to include Mesopotamia, Northern India, Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor, the king could not control his vast empire without the help of local governors or rulers—the satraps. Mausolus was such a satrap; from 377 to 353 BC, king Mausollos of Caria with his queen Artemisia reigned the Asia Minor.
Mausolus decided to build a new capital, a city as hard to capture as it was magnificent to look at. He chose the town Halicarnassus. If Mausolus' ships blocked a small channel, they could keep all enemy warships out.
Mausolus started making Halicarnassus a fit capital for a warrior prince. His workmen deepened the city's harbour and used the dredged up sand to make protecting arms in front of the channel. On land, they laid out paved squares, streets, and houses for ordinary citizens, and on one side of the harbour they built a massive fortress-palace for Mausolus, positioned so that there were clear views out to sea and inland to the hills--the places that enemies might attack. In the centre of the city Mausolus planned to spot a resting place for his body after he was dead. It would be a tomb that would forever show how glamorous he and his queen were.
Then in 353 B.C. Mausolus died, leaving his queen and sister Artemisia broken-hearted. (It was the custom in Caria for rulers to marry their own sisters. One reason for these marriages might have been that it kept the power and wealth in the family.)
Openions divert with respect to time of the construction of Mausolus’ tomb. Some believe that he started building the tomb when he was alive and his wife continued on with he project after his death. Other’s believe that Artemisia decided to build the most splendid tomb in the known world as a tribute to Mausolus and hence the construction of the tomb started after his death. Soon after the death of Mausolus, Artemisia found herself in a crisis. Rhodes, an island in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Asia Minor, had been conquered by Mausolus. When the Rhodians heard of his death they rebelled and sent a fleet of ships to capture the city of Halicarnassus. Knowing that the Rhodian fleet was on the way, Artemisa hid her own ships at a secret location at the east end of the city's harbour. After troops from the Rhodian fleet disembarked to attack, Artemisia's fleet made a surprise raid, captured the Rhodian fleet, and towed it out to sea. Artemisa put her own soldiers on the invading ships and sailed them back to Rhodes. Fooled into thinking that the returning ships were their own victorious navy, the Rhodians failed to put up a defence and the city was easily captured quelling the rebellion.
Artemisa lived for only two years after the death of her husband. The urns with their ashes were placed in the yet unfinished tomb. As a form of ritual sacrifice the bodies of a large number of dead animals were placed on the stairs leading to the tomb, then the stairs were filled with stone and rubble, sealing off the access. According to the historian Pliny, the craftsmen decided to stay and finish the work after their patron died "considering that it was at once a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor's art."
The beauty of the Mausoleum is not only in the structure itself, but in the decorations and statues that adorned the outside at different levels on the podium and the roof. These were tens of life-size as well as under and over life-size free-standing statues of people, lions, horses, and other animals.
Vitruvius records that the architect responsible for the Mausoleum was Pytheos, the designer of the Athena temple at Priene and that the reliefs which the memorial was embellished were the works of the greatest sculptors of the time such as: Bryaxis, Leochares, Scopas, and Timotheus, each was responsible for one side of the mausoleum. The Mausoleum also holds a special place in history as it was not dedicated to the gods of Ancient Greece.The last written document of a visitor is the one of Bishop Eustathius, he observes in his commentary on Homer, in the twelfth century, that the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is a marvel.
It was untouched when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and still undamaged after attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 B.C. It stood above the city ruins for some 17 centuries. Then a series of earthquakes shattered the columns and sent the stone chariot crashing to the ground ( This was the first time that a heavy stone structure had been placed on top of the roof of a monument and hence the practice of this form of architecture was born at this point). By 1404 A.D. only the very base of the Mausoleum was still recognizable. Crusaders, who had occupied the city from the thirteen century onward, recycled the broken stone into their own buildings. In 1522 rumours of a Turkish invasion caused Crusaders to strengthen the castle at Halicarnassus (which was by then known as Bodrum) and much of the remaining portions of the tomb was broken up and used within the castle walls. Indeed sections of polished marble from the tomb can still be seen there today. Some of the sculptures survived and are today on display at the British Museum in London.
Also see The Hanging Gardens of Babylon another one of the 7 wonders of the world!

Friday, March 03, 2006

General Mardonius

Mardonius (d. 479 BC) was a Persian commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the 5th century BC. He was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne. Darius, Gobryas and five others had killed the Magian who had usurped the throne, Gaumâta, on September 29, 522 BCE. As usual, the alliance between the new king and his friend was cemented by diplomatic marriages: Darius married Gobryas' daughter, and Gobryas married Darius' sister. That Mardonius was the last-mentioned couple's firstborn son is very likely, because he has the same name as Gobryas' father (which is known from the Behistun inscription).
Stories about Mardonius usually divert at this point. There are two acounts usually used as the source of information for his life. One is the not so accurate Herodotus who sees him as the army general of his enemy and the other are the information writen here and there on tablets and walls which attempt to demonstrate the Persian's account of his life.
From a cuneiform tablet known as Persepolis Fortification tablet 684, we know that Mardonius was married to a woman named Ardušnamuya. This text was written in March 495, which offers a terminus ante quem for the wedding ceremony. This contradicts the words of the Greek researcher Herodotus, who states that Mardonius was still 'being a young man and recently married to Artozostre, a daughter of king Darius' in 492 (Histories 6.43). On the other hand, there is no reason to doubt Herodotus' words that Artozostre/Ardušnamuya was the daughter of Darius and his beloved wife Artystone.
As special representative of king Darius the Great, Mardonius was sent to Lydia (western Turkey) after the revolt of the Ionian Greeks (499-494). He had to reorganize the region, and did so in a very moderate way.
Mardonius sailed along the coast of Asia and came to Ionia. I shall now relate a thing that will be a great marvel to the Greeks: Mardonius deposed all the sole rulers of the Ionians and established democracies in the cities.
[Herodotus, Histories 6.43]
His fleet and army then passed across the Hellespont. Here, Herodotus writes that the fleet was destroyed in a storm off of Mount Athos; and the Persians lost 300 ships and 20 000 men. Mardonius himself was commanding the army at the time, which was fighting a battle in Thrace. Mardonius was wounded, but was victorious. The navy and the army continued to Macedonia, which was added to Darius' kingdom as well. After his enormous victories and partly as a result of the loss of his fleet in the strom he retreated back into Asia Minor. Mardonius had been very successful. There are indications that his army reached the Danube, because an Old Persian inscription was discovered near Kölmer in Rumania. (The possibility that the inscription was brought to Rumania from its original site, however, can not be ruled out.) The conquest of Macedonia was important, as it was a fine base for further conquests in Europe and posessed gold mines. Darius was fully entitled to claim in his inscription at Naqš-i Rustam that he had conquered the Yaunâ takabarâ, the 'Greeks with sun hats', a reference to the Macedonian headwear.
In 490, the Persians conquered the islands in the Aegean Sea, but Mardonius, who had already lost a fleet, was not in charge of this expedition. The 600 ships were commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. Herodotus again presents the expedition as a punitive action against Eretria and Athens, who had supported the Ionian revolt. But he is almost certainly wrong, because the army was too small to attack Athens. In reality, the aims of the expedition of Datis and Artaphernes were to add the Aegean island Naxos to the empire, and, in doing so, to create a buffer zone between Ionia and the Greek mainland. They also had to conquer Euboea (with its capital Eretria) and bring back the former ruler of Athens, the pro-Persian tyrant Hippias. The expedition succeeded brilliantly. Except for their last objective, everything went according to plan.
Having conquered Macedonia and the Aegean islands, Darius could attack the Greek mainland whenever he desired. This would be a difficult expedition because the Greek soldiers were better equipped than the Persians and their subjects. Therefore, the Persians had to muster a very large army, but king Darius the Great died shortly before it was to set out (November 486). He was succeeded by his son Xerxes, Mardonius' cousin and brother-in-law.
Mardonius came back into favour under Xerxes I. Xerxes was at first not interested in renewing the war with Greece, but Mardonius repeatedly tried to convince him that he must avenge Darius' defeat, in opposition to another advisor, Artabanus, who urged more caution in the matter. Herodotus, who portrays Mardonius as somewhat of an evil advisor (as opposed to a number of other good advisors whose arguments are never followed), says that Mardonius simply wanted to become the governor of Greece.
Right before the expedition to Greece however, a rebellion in Egypt started, postponing the newly formed expedition plans. Immediately after this revolt, Xerxes, Mardonius, Megabyzus and four other commanders could go to the west, where a large army was gathering in Sardis.
The first year of the expedition was a big success. The Persians were not in a hurry, because they had an enormous army (about 600,000 men) and had to wait for the harvest in Thrace and Macedonia. In July and August, they stayed at Therma (Thessaloniki), and then moved south to Greece. Thessaly was conquered without much troubles, and on 17, 18 and 19 September (or one day later) a double battle took place. The Persian navy was able to drive the Greek navy away from its positions at Artemisium, and the army destroyed the Greek garrison at Thermopylae.
Boeotia was added to the Achaemenid empire, and on September 27, Athens was captured; next day, the acropolis fell and the Persian navy ocuupied the Athenian harbor. Persian cavalry destroyed the sanctuary of Poseidon near Corinth and fired burning arrows at one of the Corinthian harbors.
Xerxes' victory was almost complete. The Greek navy had fled to Salamis, an island opposite the harbor of Athens, separated from the mainland by a narrow strait. Unfortunately, when a part of the Persian navy tried to attack the Greek positions on Salamis, they suffered heavy losses. This was a minor setback. At this point, Herodotus writes that after the loss at Salamis, Mardonius attempted to convince Xerxes to stay and fight yet another battle. This time he could not persuade Xerxes, but when Xerxes left he did become governor of the parts of Greece that had been conquered. In the Persian accounts, Xerxes motive for retreating from the war was unsettelments at Babylonia. There were disturbing rumors, and Xerxes decided that it was better that he went back to Sardes, where he could keep an eye on both Greece and Babylonia. It was a wise decision. In the summer of 479, the Babylonians revolted again (this time, their leader was Šamaš-eriba) and Xerxes had to suppress their rebellion.
Meanwhile, Mardonius was left in charge of the Persian army in Greece. His army was comparatively small, probably 150,000 men. After all, the main army was needed at the main battle ground, Babylonia. To feed his men, he had to retire to Thessaly, from where he opened negotiations with Athens. He offered the town a beautiful position in the Achaemenid empire if only they recognized the overlordship of king Xerxes. It was a brilliant move, because if the Athenians accepted this offer, there was no navy to protect southern Greece anymore. The Athenians had much to gain from the deal, because they would become the most important city state in Greece. However, they stubbornly refused.
In the spring, Mardonius marched to the south again, reoccupying Boeotia and moving to Athens. He hoped that the Athenians would be more forthcoming, but he was wrong. Having received a new refusal to surrender, Mardonius plundered Athens. (Archaeologists digging in Persepolis have discovered a statue of Penelope that was probably taken away from Athens.)
It seemed that Mardonius was master of the situation. The Spartans, who had the best infantry of Greece, refused to assist the Athenians. It was only after an ultimatum by the Athenians that if they did not come to their help, they would be forced to surrender and give their navy to Mardonius, that Sparta acted. It sent an army to the north and invited all Greeks to join in the struggle for the liberation of Greece.
The Greeks gathered in the south of Boeotia, on the foothills of the Kithaeron mountain range. Their counted some 100,000 soldiers; almost every Greek able to carry weapons had come Boeotia. For example, the Athenians had manned only a few galleys; all rowers and marines were now on Mount Kithaeron. This Greek army was unable to move into the plain, because they could not afford to go far beyond the sources at the foothills. After all, August can be very hot in Greece. Since no side dared to advance, a war of nerves started.
Herodotus, who is our main source for the battle of Plataea, describes several engagements that take place on several days. A Persian cavalry squadron tried to provoke the Greek contingent from Megara, but was defeated. After this success, the Greeks decided to leave the mountains and to descend into the plain between the river Asopus and a small town called Plataea, where a large source in the middle of the plain (near the hill in the middle of the map) would refresh them. All this time, the two armies refrained from real attacks, because they received the same omens: they would only be victorious when the other side attacked first (and moved away from its water supply).
Mardonius however, was in a hurry. His supplies were running out, he could see the Greek army growing every day and one of his advisors has already suggested to return to Thessaly and use gold and silver to bribe the Greek leaders. Mardonius would have none of it: he still hoped to settle the matter with honorable, military means.
To stop the growth of the other army, he unexpectedly and successfully attacked a large supply train in the Kithaeron. Short cavalry charges, meant to provoke his enemies into battle, were executed, but the Greeks wisely resisted the temptation.
Herodotus tells that one night, a Persian ally, the Macedonian king Alexander, came to visit the Athenians, telling them that the Persians would attack at dawn. Immediately, the Athenian officers informed the supreme commander of the Greeks, the Spartan prince Pausanias. He understood that if the Persians attacked, it would be saver to have the well trained Spartans on the defensive left wing to counter the Persian main force, and to post the experienced Athenians -already victorious at Marathon- on the offensive right wing. At dawn, the two contingents changed positions. After reports of a Persian counter-manoeuvre, the two Greek contingents return to their original positions.
He seems to have misunderstood the incident. It is implausible that Alexander of Macedonia could leave the Persian camp without being seen. It is likelier that Mardonius sent the Macedonian king on his mission. It was a brilliant trick to create panic among the Greeks, who started all kinds of exhausting movements.
In this way, the day passed without fighting, and Mardonius became even more anxious to attack. During the night, his mounted archers attacked the source between Plataea and the Asopus, hoping to force the Greek troops to go back to the south, to the sources on the slopes of the Kithaeron mountains. They stood their ground during the day -being continually harassed by the Persian archers- but after sunset, they retreated as Mardonius had planned.
At dawn, Mardonius learned that his opponents had fled, and thinking he had already won the battle, ordered the pursuit of the Greeks. He first attacked the Spartans, who were forced back. Pausanias even had to sent a messenger to ask the Athenians for help, but they were unable to offer assistance, because they were intercepted by Mardonius' Greek allies. One of the Persian contingents even broke through the Greek battle array and reached the foothills of the Kithaeron.
At this moment, while he was pursuing the retiring Spartans, Mardonius was killed. It is not known how this happened, but we can be sure that Mardonius, who knew that his army had been victorious, died as a happy man.
This incident changed the battle, because the Persians lost courage, which gave the Spartans a brief pause. They were able to regroup and attack the Persian contingent in front of them. The struggle did not last long: the demoralized Persians took their heels. The Persian camp was captured by the Athenians, and that meant the end of the war. One of Mardonius subordinates, Artabazus, was able to lead a large Persian contingent back to Asia, for which he was rewarded by Xerxes, who offered him the satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia, i.e., the northwest of what is now Turkey.
Herodotus has a very strange story to tell about an event that took place after the battle.
The body of Mardonius however had disappeared on the day after the battle [...] I have heard the names of many men of various cities who are said to have buried Mardonius, and I know that many received gifts from Artontes, the son of Mardonius, for having done this.
To the Greek audience of Herodotus, this made perfect sense, but a Persian would be shocked to hear this. It was not their custom to bury the dead. Zoroastrianists preferred to have their bodies exposed to the vultures.