What was the battle of Marathon?

The Battle of Marathon was a warlike confrontation that took place on August 12, 490 BC. C. in the beaches and plain of Marathon , region of Ática, present territory of the Hellenic Republic of Greece.

This battle was the first of the medical wars , during which the following sides fought:

  • Persian Army: composed of 25,000 men sent by the Achaemenid Emperor Darius I.
  • Greek Army: made up of 10,000 Athenians and 1,000 hoplites from the city of Plataea. Its leader was the Athenian strategist Miltiades the Younger.

The victory of both this battle and the war was obtained by the Greeks , who managed to make the Persians withdraw from Europe and return defeated to Asia.

Sculptures of Greek hoplite and Persian warrior.

Development of the Marathon battle

At the beginning of 490 a. C., the Persian emperor Darius I gathered a fleet of 800 ships and an army of 25,000 men on the coasts of Asia Minor. The invasion of Hellas began with an attack led by Darius’s nephew, Artaphernes, in the Cyclades archipelago. From there the invading force attacked the city of Eretria on the island of Euboea, which was stormed and sacked.

Finally, Artaphernes went towards Athens and disembarked his troops in the bay of Marathon , to the north of the city. Despite the fact that the Persians doubled in number the Athenians and the Platenses, they were defeated by the Greeks , who, led by the strategist Miltiades the Younger, launched themselves into the race on the invaders.

After the defeat, the Persians embarked on the ships that were waiting in the waters of the Aegean . Artaphernes then ordered to bend Cape Sounion to try to land in the port of Falero and attack Athens from there. Warned of the maneuver, the Athenians undertook a desperate race to reach the vicinity of the port before the Persians. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, that march lasted between six and seven hours, and the Greeks arrived just in time. Having lost the surprise factor and fearing another defeat, the Persians decided to retreat and return to the shores of Asia Minor.

Causes and consequences of the Battle of Marathon


The causes of the Battle of Marathon were the following:

  • The rebellion of the Ionian cities of the coasts of Asia Minor, which were of Greek origin. Cyrus the Great had incorporated them into the Persian Empire in 546 BC. But, in 499 a. C., the Ionic Greeks led by Aristagoras de Mileto rebelled against the Persian domination and burned the city of Sardes, where the governor resided. After six years of fighting, Persian troops sent by Darius I crushed the rebellion and the rebellious cities rejoined their empire.
  • The aid provided by AthensEretria and other Greek polis to the Ionian cities of Asia Minor, by sending troops, ships and weapons .
  • Darius’s desire for revengeagainst the Greeks, as he considered that aid to the Ionian cities was an interference in their internal affairs. To this circumstance was added his desire to conquer: Darío wanted to expand the borders of Persia to build a universal empire . The Persian Empire had been founded by Cyrus the Great and expanded by his son Cambyses. It stretched from Asia Minor in the west to the Indus River in the east, and from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean in the south.
  • The ambitions of Hipias, an Athenian tyrant overthrown in 510 BC. C., who wanted to regain lost power . Hippias had taken refuge in the court of Darius and there he incited the Persian emperor to attack Athens. He participated in the expedition and advised the Persians to land at Marathon.


The consequences of the Battle of Marathon were as follows:

  • The victory won by the Greeks decided the fate of the first medical war. The Persians were defeated and had to retreat, leaving some 5,000 dead on the battlefield. The Greeks, on the other hand, only lost about 200 hoplites.
  • The defeat of the Persians put a brake on the expansionist projects of Darío.
  • It allowed the Athenians to retain their freedomand prevented Hellas from falling into the hands of the invaders.
  • The prestige and influence of Athens increasedthroughout the Aegean basin. From then on the Athenians reinforced their fleet, their walls and their armies to prepare for a new Persian invasion. At the same time, Athenian leaders began to meddle in the internal affairs of other polis.
  • Athens and Spartasigned an agreement in which they established a military alliance against any new Persian attack.

Marathon Battle and the Olympics

In Ancient Greece , the Olympic Games were a series of athletic competitions held every four years in the city of Olympia . These were held in honor of Zeus and representatives of all the Greek polis could participate in them. The first Olympic Games of Antiquity were held in 776 BC. C., and the last ones, in 393 d. C.

In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games were organized in Athens, during which a marathon, that is, a 42-kilometer race , was run .

It is often said that by incorporating this competition, the organizers of the 1896 Games wanted to pay tribute to Philipides , a soldier who would have traveled 40 kilometers to warn the Athenians of the victory of Marathon . However, Filipides did not run from Marathon to Athens, but from Athens to Sparta to ask the Spartans for help.

The 1896 tribute was actually collective, since it was intended to immortalize the seven-hour race carried out by the victors of the Battle of Marathon to prevent the Persians from landing at Falero and attacking Athens .


by Abdullah Sam
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