Most of the Persian army left Athens after their naval defeat at Salamis. The military commander, Mardonius, was left in control of the remaining, still sizeable, army of occupation. Mardonius put the city of Athens to the torch and deployed his army on the mountain plains of Plataea. Here he was prepared to negotiate a truce with the Greek allies; if they refused he was determined to fight them. The Greeks, led by the Spartans, were unprepared to negotiate and created two defensive positions, upper and lower, against the Persian infantry position. The battle became chaotic, with much hand-to-hand combat and periods of stalemate. The Spartans eventually rounded on Mardonius and, despite the fact that he was protected by 1,000 bodyguards, killed him with a large rock. The Persians had nearly broken the Greek defensive positions, the ultimately they were were defeated; the Spartan leader, Pausanias, impaled Mardonius’ head on a pole.
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