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36.2.Paga

In a curious twist of memory, the Greek victory over the Persians at Marathon in 490 is better documented in the material record than the final battle at Plataia in 479. Commemorations of the earlier battle include the Old Parthenon, the painting in the Stoa Poikile, and the Ionic tropaion at the battle site itself. In this paper, I argue that the Athenian Treasury at Delphi should be considered within this context of Marathon memorials and that, together with the other monuments in Athens, the Treasury worked to solidify the memory of a specifically Athenian victory over the Persians, while negating the collective Greek victories at Salamis and Plataia. Previous scholarship has been concerned primarily with matters of dating (e.g. Dinsmoor 1946; La Coste-Messelière 1957; Amandry 1998; Patrida 2000) and iconography (e.g. Boardman 1982; Neer 2004), rather than the Treasury’s role as a locus for memorialization and memory. As Michael Scott (2010) has recently shown, though, the Athenian Treasury at Delphi was situated within a distinct milieu of monuments increasingly dedicated to military victories. I argue that, within this rubric, the Athenian Treasury speaks not only to a specifically Athenian victory at Marathon, but to a specifically Athenian defeat of the Persians. The Treasury thus co-opts individual recollection by exclusively memorializing and monumentalizing the role of the Athenians, a physical denial of allied contributions and Hellenic unity. As one of the grandest victory monuments to the Persian Wars, the honor and prestige of triumph over the barbarians seems to belong exclusively to the Athenians: their treasury was located at a visually prominent space within the sanctuary and the dedicatory inscription boldly proclaimed their leading role in the wars.

The depiction of both Herakles and Theseus in the metopes of the Treasury likewise cements the message of a specifically Athenian victory, a sentiment that was later echoed in the Marathon painting hung in the Stoa Poikile. In both instances, the appearance of Theseus, a hero exclusive to the Athenians, emphasizes the identity of the true victors, while the use of Herakles within the specific contexts of the Treasury and Stoa Poikile painting solidified the Athenian’s claim to the Panhellenic hero. The appearance of these two heroes on the Treasury and in the Stoa is a visual reflection of Herodotos’ claim that the Athenians were aided by the two gods on the battlefield at Marathon itself. Furthermore, if Peter Krentz (2007) is correct about the “Oath of Marathon,” the Athenian Treasury at Delphi should likewise be considered a statement of the Athenians’ prowess in battle and ultimate victory, in which the majority of Hellenic visitors to the Panhellenic sanctuary did not participate and thus could not share.

All of the monuments commemorating the battle of Marathon combine in an attempt to erase or deny the individual memories of the various Greek poleis who participated in the Persian Wars and to assert a singular military victory by the newly established Athenian democracy. The collective action of the Greek states against the Persians was overshadowed by the collective action of the Athenians alone, and Marathon emerged as the only victory that mattered, the only victory that ensured Greek – that is to say, Athenian – dominance over the Medes. The multiplicity of monuments commemorating Marathon, their size, distribution, and ornamentation, overshadowed remembrances of Thermopylai, Artemision, Salamis, and Plataia. Through these monuments, and particularly the Treasury at Delphi, the overall Hellenic victory over the Persians was molded into the specific Athenian victory at Marathon.

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