Battle of Marathon


July 5, 2022

The Battle of Marathon (ancient Greek: ἡ ἐν Μαραθῶνι μάχη, hē en Marathôni máchē) was fought in August or September 490 BC. in the context of the First Persian War and saw the forces of the Athens polis, supported by those of Platea and commanded by the polemarch Callimaco, opposed to those of the Persian Empire, commanded by the generals Dati and Artaferne. The origin of the clash is to be found in the military support that the Greek poleis of Athens and Eretria had provided to the Hellenic colonies of Ionia when they had rebelled against the empire. Determined to punish them severely, King Darius I of Persia organized a military expedition which was undertaken in 490 BC: the Cyclades islands subdued and the two Persian generals Data and Artaferne landed a contingent that besieged and reached the island of Euboea by sea. destroyed the city of Eretria; the fleet continued towards Attica, landing on a coastal plain near the city of Marathon. Heard of the landing, the Athenian forces together with a handful of hoplites from Plataea hurried towards the plain with the intent of blocking the advance of the larger Persian army. Once they decided to do battle, the Athenians managed to encircle the enemy who, panicked, fled to the ships in disorder, thus decreeing their own defeat. Having re-embarked, the Persians circumnavigated Cape Sounion planning to bring the attack directly to the unguarded Athens, but the Athenian army led by the stratego Miltiades, rushing towards the city in forced marches, was able to foil the Persian landing on the coast near Piraeus. When the surprise failed, the attackers returned to Asia Minor with the prisoners captured in Eretria. The battle of Marathon is also famous for the legend of the Fidippide emerodrome which, according to Luciano di Samosata, would have run continuously from Maratona to Athens to announce the victory and, once there, would have died from the effort. Although it is a mixture of several ancient stories, the story of this enterprise has endured over the centuries to inspire the conception of the marathon running race, which in 1896 was introduced in the official program of the first edition of the modern Olympic Games held in Athens.

Historical context

The first attempted invasion of Greece by the Persians has its origins in the uprisings of the Greek colonies of Ionia against the central Achaemenid power. Events of this kind, which were also repeated in Egypt and which usually ended with the armed intervention of the imperial army, were not rare: around 500 BC. the Achaemenid Empire, implementing a strong expansionist policy, was still relatively young and therefore a potential easy victim of the conflicts between the subjugated populations. Before the revolt of the cities of Ionia, King Darius I of Persia had begun a colonization program against the peoples of the Balkan peninsula, subduing Thrace and forcing the Kingdom of Macedonia to become its ally; such an aggressive policy could not be tolerated by the Greek poleis who thus supported the revolt of their colonies in Asia Minor, threatening the integrity of the Persian Empire. Supporting the insurrection thus turned out to be an ideal casus belli for politically annihilating the opponent and punishing him for his intervention.The Ionian revolt (499-493 BC) was unleashed after the failed attack on the island of Naxos by the coalition forces of Lydia and the city of Miletus, commanded by the satrap Artaferne and the tyrant Aristagora. As a consequence of the defeat, the latter, having understood that the satrap would have relieved him from office, decided to abdicate and proclaim democracy. This example was followed by the citizens of the other Greek colonies of Ionia who deposed their tyrants and proclaimed the democratic regime, taking as a model what happened in Athens co