Category Archive 'Delphi'

11 May 2011

The Plataean Tripod

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Two imagined versions of the complete Plataean Tripod

The nearly 2500 year old Platean Column at the site of the former Hippodrome of Constantinople is the surviving remnant of a victory monument erected to commemorate the defeat of the Second Persian Invasion by the Greek city-states at the Battle of Plataea in August, 479 B.C.

Originally erected as an offering to Apollo at Delphi, the Platean Tripod is the best-documented surviving artifact from Antiquity, having been written of, and described by, Herodotus, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Diodorus Siculus, Pausanias, Cornelius Nepos, and Plutarch.

It was moved to Byzantium, rebuilt and renamed by the Emperor Constantine, around 330 A.D.

The Tripod was damaged when the city fell to the Turks in 1453, as
Charles W.C. Oman
describes in his The Byzantine Empire (1892):

Riding through the hippodrome towards St. Sophia, Mohammed noted the Delphic tripod with its three snakes (…) Either because the menacing heads of the serpents provoked him, or merely because he wished to try the strength of his arm, the Sultan rose in his stirrups and smote away the jaws of the nearest snake with one blow of his mace. There was something typical in the deed though Mohammed knew it not. He had defaced the monument of the first great victory of the West over the East. He, the successor in spirit not only of Xerxes but of Chosroes and Moslemah and many another Oriental potentate, who had failed where he succeeded, could not better signalise the end of Greek freedom than by dealing a scornful blow at that ancient memorial, erected in the first days of Grecian greatness, to celebrate the turning back of the Persians on the field of Plataea.

The column alone still stands today. Though most of the head of one serpent survives in the collection of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

Remains of the Platean Tripod Column in Istanbul.

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