Marathon

I have always been obsessed with ancient battles and I admire the strategies used in many battles. I always thought it was really cool how these men were able to plunge into forces of bloodthirsty men and be able to pull victory out of it. The battle of Marathon is one of the many Greek battles fought that have sparked a particular interest to me. Marathon is a large plain on the top of a hill overlooking a beach with marshes to both sides, and with a small river cutting through it: the Charadra. The perfect holding point for any defense. Marathon is situated about 25 miles away from Athens, Greece. The belligerents that fought on this battlefield was the 10,000 strong Athenian army on the defense, led by Callimachus, aided by 1,000 Plataeans led by Miltiades. The ones who chose to face such an army was the mighty Persian army of 25,000 infantry and around 1,000 cavalry led by Datis, a Persian general. He split his forces, one was to sail to Athens, the other was to land on Marathon, subdue the Greeks, then support his other half in destroying Athens.

First, Datis landed on Marathon’s shores and disembarked with around 15,000 infantry and about 1,000 cavalry. Soon after, the Athenian army marched and took up positions on the hill overlooking the Persians. Both armies were at a cold stalemate, neither willing to strike first. If the Athenians attacked first, the cavalry would sweep through their ranks, if the Persians attacked first, the Athenians would be on high ground. For 8 days the stalemate continued until the ninth. The Persian cavalry had gone to the marshes a mile away to find alternate routes, on the other side of the Charadra. The Athenians quickly took this as an opportunity to finish off Datis’s main assault force. They reorganized the army by strengthening the flanks, but leaving the center weak. The Greeks fought in phalanx formation and usually had eight rows in a phalanx, but the center only had four. The entire Greek front was almost a mile wide, and 12 rows deep in the flanks! The plan was that the Athenians would start of marching down the hill and once in range of the Persians deadly archers, the would charge. The Athenians enacted the plan and once they were about 200 yards away from the Persians, the Persians were ready to let loose their quivers, the Athenians charged straight into the Persian army who were still sea weary. By design, the Greek flanks reached the Persians first, and the Persians took advantage of the weak center and hit hard into the Greeks. The center began to falter and they withdrew to the top of the hill, all while the flanks held out. The center line reached the top, became moralized, regrouped, and they counterattacked. They struck hard, and they chased their pursuers back to the confused and dazed Persian army which was being crushed, and this second Greek charge hit home for the Greeks. The Persians began to flee, but the Greeks had little time to collect the spoils of war.

The Greeks had only lost 192 men to the Persians staggering 6,400 dead. The Greeks had to march home through the night to meet the second assault force which Datis had sent ahead. The Greeks marched long through the night, and had only thoughts of getting home and saving what might be left. They arrived in Athens the next morning, and at that same moment, the second assault force had arrived and after seeing the boosted Greeks, they turned and retreated back to Persia.

This victory had many effects on history afterwards.The Greeks were now recognized as a force to stay clear of, and the Greeks now had more experience to face more adversaries. The Greeks now could hold their own against other empires, thus allowing them to create the foundations of the modern world. It is also said that the term marathon today, recognized as foot races, came from a courier who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the outcomes, the same courier that also covered 150 miles in 2 days to request Spartan aid to a disappointment.The Greeks also stopped the Persian expansion, and the emperor Darius died without expanding into anymore land. The next emperor Xerxes, would soon rise to rival and challenge Greek authority. The Athenians had saved Greece, but they don’t know that they have woken up an empire seeking redemption, and these two cultures would clash again at Salamis.

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