Commemorating Classical Battles: A Landscape Biography Approach to Marathon, Leuktra, and Chaironeia
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Commemorating Classical Battles: A Landscape Biography Approach to Marathon, Leuktra, and Chaironeia


This project is a study of the commemoration of Classical Greek battles from a landscape biography perspective, approaching monuments and other practices as vital elements in the creation and curation of memories. It analyzes the diachronic development of battlefield, sanctuary, and city spaces, as evidenced by archaeological remains, ancient literary sources, and inscriptions. In addition, it explores the experience of the commemorative spaces through the application of theories of space, phenomenology, and social memory. Following a biographical approach, the commemoration of each battle is separated into stages of initial commemoration, official monumentalization, memory curation, memory lapse, and recovery and reception. The battles fought at Marathon, Leuktra, and Chaironeia are chosen as case studies for three reasons. First, Marathon (490 BCE) and Chaironeia (338 BCE) effectively span the period of Classical Greece. Secondly, these battles have different participants: Athenians over Persians at Marathon, Thebans over Spartans at Leuktra, and Macedonians over Thebans at Chaironeia. By focusing on these battles, this project looks at a diverse range of participants, both victorious and defeated. Lastly, these were battles that had lasting impacts in the material and literary record. Archaeologically, there are numerous monuments on each battlefield, as well as many that were dedicated in sanctuaries and in individual cities. Literary records indicate the Athenians repeatedly celebrated their victory at Marathon, whether to bolster their esteem among Greek states or to encourage their own citizenry in their undertaking of empire in the subsequent centuries. Similarly, the victory at Leuktra inspired the Thebans while simultaneously provoking the Spartans and other Greek cities. The project has several conclusions. The commemoration of each battle can be divided into stages, but that the stages are not always discrete. There is variation in the types of commemorations within the stages, dependent on both time and surrounding space. Single commemorations can resonate differently with multiple audiences. The processes within the stage of memory curation lead to the subsequent lapse. The final stage of commemoration for each battle begins with the rediscovery of ancient monuments and continues to this day.

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