the plan  battleMarathon Battlefield & the Battle of Marathon Page 1

This most famous of Greek military battles, which occurred in 490BC, involved the defeat of an invading Persian army of almost 25,000 infantry and cavalry by a Greek force of 10,000, made up of Athenians and Plataians. The Persians destroyed Euboean Eretria easily, and moved on to the Attic plain. The Persian general, Datis' decision to land at the Bay of Marathon, was influenced by Hippias, whose father had landed there successfully fifty years earlier. The Athenians, in the meantime, dispatched their herald, Pheidippides to bring Spartan aid, marched to Marathon, and set up camp in the Sanctuary of Iraklis (Heraklis or Hercules), which was a strong position on the mountain road from Athens. The Athenians were given unexpected aid from nearby Plataia, which sent its entire force of around one thousand men to join the 8000 or 9000 Athenians. The commander was Kallimachos (whose name aptly enough translates to 'good battler'), whose staff of ten generals included Miltiadies, to whom the victory is usually attributed, and perhaps Themistoklis and Aristidhis.

During a period of four days, the Persians held back from attacking the strong position of the Athenians, while the Athenians were reluctant to leave it without the awaited Spartan reinforcements. Finally, Datis decided to attack from the sea and sent a land force forward to cover the operation. Just after dawn on 12 September, Miltiadhes, seeing the Persians within striking distance, gave the word for action. His strategy was to leave his center weak and to strengthen his flanks. The right flank was led by Kallimachos, while the Platians held the left. The Greek hoplites (heavily armed foot soldiers) advanced rapidly across the mile of No Man's Land before the Persians could get their archers ready, being taken off guard by the move. It has been suggested that trees gave the Athenian force cover as they advanced. The weak Athenian center was penetrated by the Persians but the flanks closed in on them in turn and those still alive fled to their ships, many of them caught in the Great Marsh. The Persian fleet, having lost only seven ships, tried to launch a surprise attack on Athens from the sea, but Miltiadhes, in a very rapid march, reached Athens first, and the Persians went back to Asia. The Spartan army arrived, rather late, on the following day, to view the battlefield. The Persians had lost 6400 men, while the Athenian dead numbered only 192, including Kallimachos.

Contrary to the usual custom of sending the bodies back to their families, the fallen Athenians were honored with cremation and burial on the battlefield. Excavations undertaken in 1890, confirmed the ancient tradition associated with the Soros (a heap, or mound) with ashes and calcined bones found there, as well as small black-figured lekythoi of the early 5th century BC were discovered.

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