Athenian Warriors Decisively Beat The Persians At Marathon

Today on September 12, 490 BCE, Miltiades leads the Athenians to a decisive victory at the Battle of Marathon.

The Battle of Marathon became a major turning point in the First Greco-Persian Wars. The King of Persia, Darius I, had sent a massive naval force with 25,000 infantry and cavalry to capture the Greek city-states of Eretria and Athens. After successfully besieging and occupying Eretria, the Persians moved on to capture Athens. Darius’ forces landed in the nearby town of Marathon to launch their invasion of Athens. Supported by a small contingent force from Plataea, the Athenians warriors marched toward Marathon. A messenger was hastily sent to Sparta seeking additional support. The Spartans rejected the Athenian request, citing they were in the midst of an important religious holiday.

Under the command of Miltiades, the Greeks strategically positioned themselves on a battlefield surrounded by marshes and mountainous terrain. Their position effectively neutralized the Persian cavalry, preventing them from making any bold flanking maneuvers. Miltiades then lured the strongest Persian soldiers to his center where they faced the systematic slaughter of the Greek phalanx formation. Many began to panic and retreated back towards their ships. Thousands of Persian soldiers were killed during the frantic rout. This crucial battle demonstrated that the Greeks were indeed capable of beating a seemingly stronger, and numerically superior, army.

The Battle of Marathon was an important tactical win that greatly improved morale across the Greek city-states. Darius’ invasion of Greece ultimately failed with his troops fleeing back to Asia. More than ten years later, Xerxes I (the son of Darius I), launched a new expedition to conquer Athens and Sparta. Here’s an interesting fact; the modern term for a marathon originated from this historic battle. According to legend, Miltiades sent a runner named Philippides to Athens to inform the city officials of their victory. It’s said Philippides ran the entire distance without stopping. As he entered the assembly hall, he yelled “we have won”, and quickly collapsed to his death.

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