ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Battle of Marathon - Part One of Two

Updated on October 13, 2020
Nick Burchett profile image

Nick is a US Army veteran, husband and father of three, and has a BA in History. He is a Civil War aficionado and also enjoys genealogy.

Battle of Marathon, 490 BC - Initial situation
Battle of Marathon, 490 BC - Initial situation | Source

Between 490 BC and 479 BC, the Persians were the super-power of the ancient world. The two Persian kings during this period, Darius and Xerxes, would amass an army the size of which the ancient world had never witnessed. Their insatiable quest for power, glory, and revenge would begin during the Ionian revolt, and would ultimately lead them to the plains of Marathon where they would meet their first defeat at the hands of the Athenians. This defeat, along with later actions at Thermopylae, Artemision, Salamis, Plataea and Mycale, would produce a short-lived unity among the Greeks. The Battle of Marathon was the catalyst of this unity and the stepping-stone for Greek civilization to flourish as a free democracy, which would be the foundations of Western Civilization.

Greece at this point in history was not a unified country. It was broken into various “city-states” that had their own set of laws, their own culture and own language. In 491 BC the Persian king, Darius, would send envoys to the mainland of Greece to require these city-states to succumb to his rule and to offer symbolic gifts of “earth and water” to the Great King. While many in the northern regions of Greece did indeed give into Darius’ demands, the city-states of Athens and Sparta, the two largest, refused. The envoys to Athens were tossed into a pit reserved for criminals. While the requirement of submission was of great concern, equally the Athenians were concerned that the exiled tyrant, Hippias, had aligned himself with the Persians and served as an adviser and guide to the Persians with the intent of regaining his rule over Athens. Hippias, who assumed the leadership role upon the death of his father, Peisistratus, was initially a fair ruler. However, upon the murder of his brother Hipparchus, he turned cruel, violent and oppressive. The Athenians would bribe the priestess of the oracle at Delphi to enlist the help of the Spartans to depose Hippias. They were successful and exiled Hippias to Sigeum, a town near the Hellespont. As the guide for the Persians, Hippias suggested that they land the Persian army at the Bay of Marathon along the eastern coast of Attika. Hippias believed he would receive a warm welcome from the people of this section of Attika, as they were supportive of his father’s rule. Since the exile of Hippias, democracy in Athens had grown under the leadership of a well-respected aristocrat named Pisistratus, and the Athenians had no desire to see tyrannical rule once again regain control over Athens. While Darius’ call for submission would be a major concern for the Athenians, but the potential of Hippias’ return to oppressive power as a puppet leader of Persia would be the deciding factor in prompting the Athenians to fight.

The Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon

The Athenians would field an army of about 9,000 hoplites, heavily armed citizen-soldiers of Greece, along with another 600 men from nearby Plataea, but were significantly outnumbered by the Persian army. This would, according to Herodotus, create an equal divide among the Athenian generals, some choosing to fight at once, the others concerned about fighting while being so heavily outnumbered. Herodotus also states that one of the generals, Miltiades, would persuade Callimachus, who held the position of polemarchon, or “commander-in-chief”, to vote for in favor of immediate attack on the grounds that waiting longer would ensure a Persian victory and Greek enslavement. Miltiades also believed that further delay would cause dissention among the Athenian troops and with the presence of Hippias among the Persian ranks, the real potential for defection was present. Callimachus’ vote would break the disunity of the Athenian generals.

The Athenians also knew prior to leaving Athens for Marathon that they were outnumbered significantly and with that knowledge they had sent a herald, Phidippides, to run to Sparta to enlist the assistance of the Spartans. Upon his arrival, Phidippides delivered the message calling for aid and was sent back with the message that the Spartans would indeed render assistance, but only after the next full moon, which was in accordance with Spartan religious belief, which was still six days away. The Spartans would hold true to their word and would march with such haste that they would arrive just three days after their departure. Unfortunately, they would not arrive at Marathon until after the battle had already ended.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)