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The Battle of Marathon

Updated on November 26, 2016

The Battle of Marathon was one of the decisive battles of the world fought by the Athenians and the Persians early in the Persian Wars.

In 490 B.C. the Persian ruler Darius I sent an army of at least 20,000 (some estimates put it as much as 100,000) to punish the Athenians for helping the Ionians rebel against Persian rule.

Led by Miltiades, the 10,000 Athenians and 1000 Plataeans decided not to fight the Persians in Athens itself but rather to battle at Marathon, about 25 miles away. There the Athenian spearmen charged through the heavy barrage of Persian arrows.

The Persians under Datis and Artaphernes were then drawn into the center of the Athenian army and were forced to engage in fierce hand-to-hand fighting for which they were ill prepared. At this point the flanks of the Athenian army surrounded the Persian forces. In this way the Athenians vanquished the Persians and drove the invaders from their shores. The Athenians lost about 190 men whereas the Persian losses numbered about 6,400.

The Persians fled to their ships, and Darius's attempts against Greece were at an end.

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