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The First Assault on Greece: Battle of Marathon 490BC

Refer: Herodotus Bk VI.94-140 Pamela Bradley P124-130 Between Athens & Plataea and Persian Empire At Marathon, Greece; plain outside Athens Summary Their victory over the Persian invaders gave the fledgling Greek city states confidence in their ability to defend themselves and belief in their continued existence. The battle is therefore considered a defining moment in the development of European culture. In September of 490 BC a Persian armada of 600 ships disgorged an invasion force of approximately 20,000 infantry and cavalry on Greek soil just north of Athens. Their mission was to crush the Greek states in retaliation for their support of their Ionian cousins who had revolted against Persian rule. Undaunted by the numerical superiority of the invaders, Athens mobilized 10,000 hoplite warriors to defend their territory. The two armies met on the Plain of Marathon twenty-six miles north of Athens. The flat battlefield surrounded by hills and sea was ideal for the Persian cavalry. Surveying the advantage that the terrain and size of their force gave to the Persians, the Greek generals hesitated. One of the Greek generals - Miltiades - made a passionate plea for boldness and convinced his fellow generals to attack the Persians. Miltiades ordered the Greek hoplites to form a line equal in length to that of the Persians. Then - in an act that his enemy believed to be complete madness - he ordered his Greek warriors to attack the Persian line at a dead run. In the ensuing melee, the middle of the Greek line weakened and gave way, but the flanks were able to engulf and slaughter the trapped Persians. An estimated 6,400 Persians were slaughtered while only 192 Greeks were killed. The remaining Persians escaped on their ships and made an attempt to attack what they thought was an undefended Athens. However, the Greek warriors made a forced march back to Athens and arrived in time to thwart the Persians. What happened before the battle? - Ionian Revolt 499-493BC - Ionian islands rebel against Persian control - Persians managed to put the revolt down - Darius sent 600 warships and an army to Greece under the leadership of Datis and Araphernes - They landed on the plains of Marathon where the army have an opportunity to use their cavalry Why did the battle occur? - Darius wanted to seek revenge against Athens and Eretria for helping the Ionian islands rebel against the Persian Empires control - Hippias led the army because he wanted to regain power in Athens again What happened in the battle? - Athenians gained advantage by setting themselves up on the hills to gain a defensive position - Athenians knew they were outnumbered by the Persians and thus sent for help from Sparta. - Spartans said they will only come after the feast of Apollo which was a weeks time. - Athenian general Miltiades took up a position in the foothills thus forcing the Persians to approach from the sea over marshy ground which proved problematic for their cavalry - The Persians delayed their attack to wait for the best conditions for their army and also to stall so that the group of cavalry which they sent to the undefended city of Athens - Miltiades seized this chance and attacked them first. - The Athenian army drove the Persians back to their ships and crushed them - Herodotus states Athenians only lost 192 men and Plataeans 11 while the Persians 6400.

What was the aftermath? - The Greeks won the battle - Eretrian soldiers were imprisoned by the Persians - Persians thus sailed down to Athens hoping to siege Athens as it was undefended. - Athenian generals realised the danger of this and left Aristides and his regiment at Marathon to guard prisoners and spoils - Citizens manned the walls making the Persians hesitant to siege. - The army finally arrives and Persians had no choice but leave for Asia Minor as they could not land safely - Spartans arrived soon after with 2000 men. Even though the battle had ended, their desire to see the site of battle, armour and weapons of the Persian headed to Marathon. - The Spartans congratulated the Athenians on the victory and returned home - Fallen Greeks were cremated and ashes were buried under a mound originally 12 metres high. Why did the Athenians and Plataeans win? - Leadership and strategy - Leadership of Callimachus and Miltiades - Site of Marathon advantageous to Athenians - Miltiades took the opportunity when the Persian cavalry was not present - Miltiades had first-hand knowledge and experience of Persian methods of fighting and arms - Persians had difficulty in escape as they were confined between sea and hill - Skill, discipline and arms of the Athenian and Plataen hoplites - The hoplites were far more disciplined compared to the Persians as well as better protected - Greeks defence of their freedom - The Greeks did not want to be ruled under a barbarian tyrant - They valued their freedom - Fear of Spartas arrival - The Spartans were renowned for their military strength - The Persians (as well as Hippias and his friends) would know this and they would had tried to hurry the operations so that they have a chance of victory

What was the importance? - For the Persians - Indicator of Persian possibility of western expansion - Battle was only setback, they did not deter from making another attempt - Darius determined even more to get revenge on Athens - Persians learnt of Greek tactics and realised mistake in their strategy - Indicated that careful preparations and far greater forces were needed to go against the Greeks - For the Athenians - Morale was far greater for the Athenians of this victory than any other military victory. They believed that the gods had been with them and would continue to thus building up their confidence; prestiege. - Greeks no longer believed that the Persians were undefeatable and other Greek states would be more inclined to join the cause if the Persians decided to attack again. - Spartans were able to learn of the conditions that the Persians can be defeated in. - Marathon was seen as a victory for democracy. The strategoi thus began to be elected by the whole people and archons were selected by lot. Therefore the strategoi increased in importance. - Marathon almost immediately acquired a mystique and image of the men of Marathon took on heroic proportions. Evidence from primary sources Histories Herodotus - Indecisions before battle - "The Athenians...charged the barbarians at a run. Now the distance between the two armies was little short of eight furlongs [approximately a mile] The Persians, therefore, when they saw the Greeks coming on at speed, made ready to receive them, although it seemed to them that the Athenians were bereft of their senses, and bent upon their own destruction; for they saw a mere handful of men coming on at a run without either horsemen or archers. Such was the opinion of the barbarians; but the Athenians in close array fell upon them, and fought in a manner worthy of being recorded. They were the first of the Greeks, so far as I know, who introduced the custom of charging the enemy at a run, and they were likewise the first who dared to look upon the Persian garb, and to face men clad in that fashion. Until this time the very name of the Persians had been a terror to the Greeks to hear. The two armies fought together on the plain of Marathon for a length of time; and in the mid-battle the barbarians were victorious, and broke and pursued the Greeks into the inner country; but on the two wings the Athenians and the Plataeans defeated the enemy. Having so done, they suffered the routed barbarians to fly at their ease, and joining the two wings in one, fell upon those who had broken their own center, and fought and conquered them. These likewise fled, and now the Athenians hung upon the runaways and cut them down, chasing them all the way to the shore, on reaching which they laid hold of the ships and called aloud for fire." - Miltiades arranges the Greek line of battle so that it stretches the length of the opposing, and far superior, Persian army. Then, much to the surprise of the Persians, he orders the Greek warriors to charge headlong into the enemy line. - "The Athenians...charged the barbarians at a run. Now the distance between the two armies was little short of eight furlongs [approximately a mile] The Persians, therefore, when they saw the Greeks coming on at speed, made ready to receive them, although it seemed to them that the Athenians were bereft of their senses, and bent upon their own destruction; for they saw a mere handful of men coming on at a run without either horsemen or archers. Such was the opinion of the barbarians; but the Athenians in close array fell upon them, and fought in a manner worthy of being recorded. They were the first of the Greeks, so far as I know, who introduced the custom of charging the enemy at a run, and they were likewise the first who dared to look upon the Persian garb, and to face men clad in that fashion. Until this time the very name of the Persians had been a terror to the Greeks to hear. The two armies fought together on the plain of Marathon for a length of time; and in the mid-battle the barbarians were victorious, and broke and pursued the Greeks into the inner country; but on the two wings the Athenians and the Plataeans defeated the enemy. Having so done, they suffered the routed barbarians to fly at their ease, and joining the two wings in one, fell upon those who had broken their

own center, and fought and conquered them. These likewise fled, and now the Athenians hung upon the runaways and cut them down, chasing them all the way to the shore, on reaching which they laid hold of the ships and called aloud for fire." Miltiades arranges the Greek line of battle so that it stretches the length of the opposing, and far superior, Persian army. Then, much to the surprise of the Persians, he orders the Greek warriors to charge headlong into the enemy line. - "...the Athenians secured in this way seven of the vessels; while with the remainder the barbarians pushed off, and taking aboard their Eretrian prisoners from the island where they had left them, doubled Cape Sunium, hoping to reach Athens before the return of the Athenians. The Persians accordingly sailed round Sunium. But the Athenians with all possible speed marched away to the defense of their city, and succeeded in reaching Athens before the appearance of the barbarians...The barbarian fleet arrived, and lay to off Phalerum, which was at that time the haven of Athens; but after resting awhile upon their oars, they departed and sailed away to Asia." Miltiades was influential in the decisions made by the Athenians at Marathon - The Athenian troops were commanded by ten generals of whom the tenth was Miltiades Before they left the city, the Athenian generals sent off a message to Sparta. The messenger was an Athenian named Pheidippides he reached Sparta and delivered his message to the Spartan government It was the ninth day of the month, and they could not take the field until the moon was full. So they waited for the full moon, and meanwhile Hippias, son of Pisistratus, guided the Persians to Marathon.

Evidence from secondary sources Ancient Greece Pamela Bradley Wasps Aristophanes - Old men recall the days when men were men; The Men of Marathon - Allow me, then, to mention that I feel a certain pride In the hand little weapon that protrudes from my backside; For the warriors who possess it are of native Attic birth, As stubborn and as brave a breed as ever trod the earth. Twas we who served the City best when those barbarians came And tried to smoke us from our nests, and filled the streets with flame, Tight-lipped with rage, we ran straight out with warlike spear and shield; Our hearts were set on battle and we faced them on the field All day we went on fighting, but Athenas owl had flown Across our ranks that morning, and we knew werent alone: So thick with arrows was the air, we couldnt see the sun, But when shades of evening fell we had them on the run. We stung them in the eyebrows and we stung them on the cheeks; We jabbed them in the buttocks through their baggy Persian breeks; And among barbarian nations were respected to thus day There is nothing so ferocious as an Attic wasp, they say. Tragic poet Aeschylus recorded on his tombstone only that he fought at Marathon The city of Athena: a companion for classical studies students - Raewyn Gilmour - Athenian troops were drawn up ready for battle and were joined by a small contingent from the city of Plataea as a show of gratitude for Athenian support to them in the past - Battle of Marathon was certainly a turning point for Athens - The Greek forces were much smaller than those of Persia but they held a position on the slopes which gave them some advantage. The Persians marched along the bay and drew up their lines facing the Greeks where they all remained for several days the Athenians were hoping for further support from Sparta. - They [Persians] boarded the boats at night and Miltiades realised that unless they attacked the Persians immediately they would have no chance of success at all. The Greek hoplites advanced at a quick step down the hill towards the Persians and a full scale battle ensued. Miltiades risked weakening his centre and gave full strength to the wings and achieved a victory through hand-to-hand fighting. Several thousand of the enemy were killed but the rest managed to board the ships.