The First Persian Invasion of Greece
The Athenians were right to worry. Darius invaded with a large army, one that had conquered the Medes and
the Lydians, both of whom had bested the Greeks. Darius was the man who had quelled the Ionian Revolt.
The Greeks would have to summon all their strength to stop the Persian juggernaut.

Mardonius, Darius' brother-in-law, invaded  Thrace in 492. Athens could see war coming and tried to gain
allies, but no one dared openly to oppose Persia. Sparta was supportive, but not active.

Darius finally invaded in person in 490, moving down the Greek eastern coast. One of the Greek strong
points,  Eretria, fell after a six day siege. The city was sacked and the entire population taken captive. This was
a clear indication to the Athenians that theirs would be the same fate.
The Battle of Marathon -Preparations
Persian army then landed at Marathon. Sparta was still unwilling to fight beyond the borders of the
Pelopennese, and Athens stood alone. Present at the battle were the Medes, and their conquerors the
Persians. No one has been able to stand against them, even at favorable odds, and the odds are not at all
favorable.

Athenian army took its position in the Valley of Vrana, outnumbered three to one. The army was joined at the
last minute by about a thousand  Plataeans, but that's the only ally that stood with Athens.

The battle lines were about one mile apart. The Athenians had not enough men to cover the entire valley, so
Miltiades set a weak center and strengthened the wings.
click for Map of Battle
Miltiades attacked at dawn. The Athenians charged at a run. The Persians waited, not really believing anyone
could run that far and still fight well. The Persians were not yet fully organized because it was so early in the
morning.

Still, they routed the Greek center and charged up the valley. The Greeks retreated, pulling the Persians
forward and extending their lines. Then the Greek wings fell upon the Persian flanks while the center
suddenly stood firm.The Persians broke ranks and began to retreat. As the Greeks pressed, the retreat
became a rout. Greeks harried them all the way to the beach and followed them into the water, swimming out
after the boats and capturing seven Persian ships.
Miltiades attacked at dawn. The Athenians charged at a run. The Persians waited, not really believing anyone
could run that far and still fight well. The Persians were not yet fully organized because it was so early in the
morning.Still, they routed the Greek center and charged up the valley. The Greeks retreated, pulling the
Persians forward and extending their lines. Then the Greek wings fell upon the Persian flanks while the
center suddenly stood firm.

The Persians broke ranks and began to retreat. As the Greeks pressed, the retreat became a rout. Greeks
harried them all the way to the beach and followed them into the water, swimming out after the boats and
capturing seven Persian ships.
Results. . .
The casualties give an indication as to the nature of the victory: 6,400 Persians died at Marathon, and only 192
Athenians. The Greek dead were buried on the Plain of Marathon, where the mound is still pointed out to
tourists, nearly three thousand years later.

Athens gained tremendous prestige from this victory, not least because she fought almost alone. The myth of
Persian invincibility was broken. But both sides knew that the issue was not yet settled.

Miltiades, the hero of Marathon, lead an expedition that failed the next year (489), trying to drive the Persians
out of Thrace. He died of wounds, in disgrace for having lost. This was typical of Athens--very fickle in regard
to their leaders.

After a few years, leadership of the war party was taken over by Themistocles, who had a different military
vision. Instead of the army, Themistocles urged that Athens place her faith in the navy. This was a fateful
change of policy, for it lead Athens to becoming a great sea power.
Aftermath . . .
The Athenians had won at Marathon, but they certainly had not destroyed the Persian army, and they knew it.
Well before the battle, they had made provision for whatever might happen at Marathon.

Should the Athenians lose, then word must get back quickly to the city and the citizens would abandon Athens,
retreating to the Peloponnesus. Should the Greeks win, then word must likewise get back quickly, for the
Persian navy was sure to sail around Attica and attempt to take the city while it was undefended. In the case of
victory, the citizens were to man the walls and make it appear that Athens was strongly defended.

So Miltiades sent his best runner,  Phaedippas, to take word back to Athens. He ran the entire distance. When
he arrived, he gasped out a single word, "victory!" and died.
Nike (pronounced "nee-kay") is the Greek word for
victory.
And yes, that is why the shoe company chose that name for their product, to recall the original Marathon
runner.
History of Western Civilization
E.L. Skip Knox
Boise State University
booklist  |  alternative media  |  animations  |  about us  |  disclaimer  |  links

©BODAZEY.COM 2003-2008 and its trademarks are copyrighted. All rights reserved