2,500th Anniversary of the Battle of Plataea
As the sun rose over the Parnitha mountains in August 479 b.c., the Persian commander Mardonius surveyed the valley beneath the fortified Persian camp. The morning light started to shimmer off the Asorus River and slowly began to illuminate the side of Mount Cithaeron, where the Greek hoplites had stood for several days. But the Greeks were gone.
The increasing light revealed the new Greek positions. The Greek commander Pausanias, cousin of the famous King Leonidas, had planned a night march to secure their supply lines. The Greeks had run into delays and now were disorganized and on ground more favorable to the Persian cavalry. Mardonius immediately decided for an all-out attack on the vulnerable Greeks. This was his best chance to win a decisive victory and salvage the Persian dream of ruling over their greatest rival.
This month marks the 2,500-year anniversary of the Battle of Plataea during the Greco-Persian Wars. It was the last major land battle in the 50-year conflict of Persia’s ambition to conquer the fractured Greek city-states.
This battle, and the incredible history of how a divided Greece defeated the mighty Persian Empire, is an astounding example of how world events fulfilled Bible prophecy.
But the most astonishing fact is that this 2,500-year-old history is actually linked to what the Bible says will happen today!
The Prophesied War
King Darius i, or Darius the Great, was the first Persian king to set ambitions on expanding the empire past Asia Minor and into Greece. The war began when the Persians, supporting proxies within the Greek city-states, began to draw more city-states into the Persian orbit through influence or conquest. This led to the Ionian Revolt from 499 b.c. to 493 b.c., which involved the Miletus dictator, Aristagoras, originally allied with Persia, stirring rebellion in Asia Minor against Persia. The Ionian Revolt eventually drew in many Greek city-states, including Athens.
Darius was incensed at this revolt and planned to punish Athens and Greece for their rebellion. He launched a probing attack on Athens in 490 b.c. Around 30,000 Persian troops landed on the plain of Marathon and were confronted by less than 10,000 Athenians and allies. The outnumbered Greeks, commanded by Miltiades, against all odds, won the battle and forced the Persians to retreat.
Darius died before he was able to avenge his defeat, but his son Xerxes i would continue his father’s ambition. The Greco-Persian Wars reached its climax under Xerxes, who would mount what is called the Second Invasion of Greece in 480 b.c.
Remarkably, the Prophet Daniel prophesied 56 years before that this would happen. Found in Daniel 11:2, this prophecy would have been revealed around 536 b.c. Herbert W. Armstrong explained in The Proof of the Bible that this verse is part of the single longest prophecy in the Bible. It prophesies in great detail the major events surrounding world empires from the ancient world to our modern day. (Please order a free copy of his booklet to see for yourself how this prophecy was fulfilled in every detail.)
Mr. Armstrong explained:
The first verse of the 11th chapter is a continuation from the last verse of the 10th chapter. The angel says to Daniel, “… Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia. And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will” (Daniel 11:2-3).
Actually, there were 12 more kings in the Persian Empire, but only the first four, following Cyrus, were of importance for the purpose of this prophecy. They were Cambyses, pseudo-Smerdis, Darius and Xerxes. It was the last, Xerxes, who was the richest of all and stirred up war with Greece.
History confirms that this fourth king following Cyrus the Great made the most serious effort to conquer “the realm of Grecia.”
Xerxes would amass the largest invasion force seen in Europe until the D-Day invasion in June 1944. Although the numbers documented by Herodotus are disputed, the Persian infantry force was anywhere from 250,000 to 1 million men, with 20,000 to 40,000 cavalry. Xerxes even built floating bridges across the Hellespont to allow his massive force to march through Greece. Historian Victor Davis Hanson wrote in “No Glory That Was Greece”: “After four years of preparation, Xerxes had his troops mobilized in 480. He bridged the Hellespont into Europe and descended through northern Greece, absorbing all the city-states in his wake, unfortunate Hellenic communities that had little choice other than destruction or surrender.”
How could the fragmented, warring city-states of Greece hope to withstand this mighty host? This question has fascinated historians for millenniums.
Prophesied to Defeat
When Mardonius ordered the attack on the Greeks at Plataea, the tide of the war had changed to favor the Greeks. After initial victories at Thermopylae and Artemesium, the Greeks won a miraculous naval victory at Salamis, which neutralized the Persian fleet. This defeat prompted Xerxes to retreat with most of his best troops. (As an interesting side note, Xerxes would marry Esther shortly after his return to Persia.) Mardonius was left with an army of 300,000 Persians and Greek allies to salvage the war.
The Greek force was 108,200-strong (according to Herodotus, whose numbers are disputed by modern historians) and was an assembly of units from the different Greek city-states. They had been at a stalemate for weeks: the Greeks refusing to move from their hillside position, which suited the phalanx style of combat; the Persians attempting to lure the Greeks onto the plain where their archers and cavalry would prove decisive. But Mardonius took the initiative when the Greeks were in a vulnerable position.
The ensuing battle featured hand-to-hand combat between the heavily armored Greeks and the more maneuverable Persians. Despite early Persian success on the left flank, the well-disciplined Spartan and Athenian hoplites were able to counterattack and kill Mardonius, which disheartened the Persians. As the Persian army began to disintegrate, the Athenians and Spartans stormed the Persian camp. This brought on the rout of the Persians, with Herodotus recording only 43,000 surviving.
This battle ended the threat of the Persian Empire. Afterward the Greeks would begin going on the offensive. The consequences of this conflict would have long-term effects on Western civilization. Hanson wrote:
First, we should remember that the decade-long Persian Wars—comprising the battles of Marathon (490), Thermopylae and Artemisium (480), Salamis (480), Plataea (479) and Mycale (479)—offered the East the last real chance to check Western culture in its embryonic state, before the Greeks’ radically dynamic menu of constitutional government, private property, broad-based militias, civilian control of military forces, free scientific inquiry, rationalism, and separation between political and religious authority would spread to Italy, and thus via the Roman Empire to most of northern Europe and the western Mediterranean.
This is par for the course for historians: Persia was defeated, and then enlightened Greece would spread Western civilization to the Middle East and eventually the world via the Roman Empire. However, the Prophet Daniel knew Greece would win this war before the Persian Empire even existed!
When the Prophet Daniel was a teenager, he was taken captive by the Babylonians in 605 b.c. Around 603 b.c., God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a dream that troubled him. God revealed the interpretation of this dream to Daniel. In that dream, God was explaining what would happen in the world from Daniel’s day to our time right now (Daniel 2).
Mr. Armstrong explained this account in Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast?, writing:
Plainly, here in Daniel 2 are described the same four universal world-ruling Gentile powers that are described by Daniel’s four beasts. And this dream-image identifies who they are. The first was Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, the Chaldean Empire, called “Babylon” after the name of its capital city, 625–539 b.c.
The second kingdom, which followed, then, we know from history, was the Persian Empire, 558–330 b.c., often called Medo-Persia, composed of Medes and Persians.
All ancient-history students know the third world kingdom was Greece, or Macedonia under Alexander the Great, who conquered the great Persian Empire 333–330 b.c. But Alexander lived only a short year after his swift conquest, and his four generals divided his vast empire into four regions: Macedonia and Greece, Thrace and Western Asia, Syria and territory east to the Indus River, and Egypt. So these were the four heads of the third beast of Daniel 7.
In 553 b.c., God gave Daniel a night vision of several strange beasts emerging from the sea, each more terrible than the last (Daniel 7). In 550 b.c., another vision was given to Daniel (Daniel 8). All of these visions describe four world-ruling empires and add different details to the picture. God inspired Mr. Armstrong to correlate prophetic visual aids to give us a clear picture of these prophecies. (Please read Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? to have all of these details explained to you.)
The Greco-Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great was the third world-ruling empire out of the four prophesied to occur. The Bible prophesied that Greece would succeed Persia as the next world-ruling empire. In order for this prophecy to come to pass, Xerxes’s attempt to overthrow Greece would have to fail. Daniel knew in 550 b.c. that Persia’s defeat was prophesied.
Historians marvel at the many miraculous victories Greece had, and how Western civilization was almost snuffed out. But the Bible mapped out in astounding detail how events would unfold and how each world-ruling empire would succeed another.
The Battle of Plataea is proof that Bible prophecy was fulfilled!
Maybe you don’t believe the Prophet Daniel can be trusted, or that these Bible scriptures were written before the events took place. If you are skeptical, please read Watch Jerusalem’s article “Can We Trust the Book of Daniel?” It will prove the authenticity of the book.
Why did God reveal all of these visions to Daniel, or even to the Gentile King Nebuchadnezzar? Why record all these details of how events would unfold? God did this all for your benefit. Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry explains in Daniel Unlocks Revelation:
The Daniel 2 image didn’t just evolve! How did these great world-ruling kingdoms from the time of Nebuchadnezzar down to the time we now live in take shape like that image? The only way that is possible is if God shaped and molded it—to prove that He rules in the kingdom of men!
That image teaches the greatest lesson mankind could possibly learn.
God has given man 6,000 years to rule his own way, but He still makes certain that all events are shaped by His master plan. He forces events to shape the Daniel 2 image and work out His plan—He rules in the kingdom of men today.
God is teaching men even as they rebel. They are learning that man cannot rule himself—only God can bring men peace, prosperity, happiness and joy.
All of these prophecies, and the proof of fulfilled prophecy, teaches us that God rules in the kingdom of men. Just like God ensured Greece defeated Persia, God is in full control of world events, who leads each nation, which nations are powerful, and which nations are weak.
However, the prophecies of Daniel 2, 7 and 8 are not complete yet. Some of these prophecies are being fulfilled right now.
Daniel 2 Not Finished
The fourth kingdom prophesied is still extant on the Earth today. Even historians like Victor Davis Hanson can see that the Roman Empire succeeded Greece as the next world empire. Mr. Armstrong wrote:
And the fourth kingdom, which, developing from Rome, spread out and gradually absorbed one after another of these four divisions—“dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly,” was the Roman Empire (31 b.c. to a.d. 476).
It had absorbed all the others, occupied all their territory, was greater and stronger than all. … And thus, this fourth beast was unlike any wild beast of the Earth. It was stronger, greater, more terrible, than any.
The Roman Empire is described as a “dreadful and terrible” beast. History shows it has been the most violent and effective military force ever. As Mr. Armstrong explained, Rome was conquered in a.d. 476 by the Germanic King Theodoric. But Rome did not die! It morphed into a new system, taking new life through various European kingdoms and the Roman Catholic Church. This is the Holy Roman Empire! This is more deeply explained in the book of Revelation. (Please read Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? and The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy for a full explanation.)
The final resurrection of this empire is coming to power in Europe right now!
When God revealed the mind-shattering vision of the Daniel 2 image, there was actually a fifth world-ruling empire to follow the Roman Empire. Daniel saw a stone come from heaven and smash this image into dust (Daniel 2:34-35). The stone then became a mountain and filled the whole Earth! Mr. Flurry writes in Daniel Unlocks Revelation:
The days of the kings of this world are almost over. The God of heaven is about to set up His Kingdom! It’s getting so close! Get this vivid picture of prophecy into your mind. It is more real than anything out there in the world! It is certain—it is sure—every word will be fulfilled! The 10 toes are almost here! The Daniel 2 image shows us where we are in prophecy. A new and wonderful civilization is about to burst upon the world scene. The time for God to return and begin to rid the world of suffering is here.
There are five world-ruling kingdoms. The fifth one will be ruled by God. …
After the 10 toes, then comes “everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24). If we have understood all of the image which preceded the 10 toes, then we know that Christ’s Second Coming is almost here! That is universe-shaking news! And the best news we could hear. This is where our hearts and excitement must be. Either we get wrapped up in this or we fail. There is no hope any place else.
All of these prophecies end with the fifth kingdom, the Kingdom of God! This is the ending we can have real hope in, even when the horizon is clouded with the violent storms of mankind’s last days. The Battle of Plataea, an event that occurred 2,500 years ago, actually is connected with your life today. It is more proof that Bible prophecy has been fulfilled! If that prophecy was fulfilled, then what about the rest of Daniel 2?