11 Interesting Battle Of Marathon Facts That You Won't Believe | Kidadl


11 Interesting Battle Of Marathon Facts That You Won't Believe

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The Battle of Marathon was the first attempt by the Persian army to invade and subjugate Greece.

Fought in 490 BC, the battle lasted for almost two months. It was fought between the Athenian army, supported by Plataea, and a Persian force led by Datis and Artaphernes.

This was the first time Persia had attempted to invade and defeat Greece under King Darius I. This invasion was mostly a response by the Persian empire to Athenian involvement in the Ionian revolt, where the Greek cities of Athens and Eretria sent a force to support the cities of Ionia in their revolt against the Persian rule, also attempting to overthrow the ruler. Even though the force initially succeeded in capturing Sardis, it was forced to retreat with heavy damages and casualties.

It was after this incident King Darius I vowed to destroy the cities of Athens and Eretria and, according to Herodotus, even shot an arrow towards the sky, aiming for the heavens and asking Zeus for permission to march into Athens and burn the city to ashes. During that time, Athens was one of the two largest city-states in Greece, the other being Sparta. They had a large army and a considerable amount of resources to spare. However, the Persian force outnumbered them by a huge margin. As soon as Persian forces won the Battle of Lade in 494 BC, by suppressing the Ionian revolt, the Persian empire started making plans and building strategies to decimate Greece. In 490 BC, the Persian invasion finally began when King Darius sent a naval task force across the Aegean sea, led by Datis and Artaphernes, to first attack and destroy the Cyclades and then start their campaign against Athens and Eretria. One more interesting fact to note here is that during the Battle of Marathon, as soon as the Persian fleet arrived at the bay, the Athenian army sent a messenger to Sparta, the second of the two biggest city-states in Greece asking for their help. The Spartans, who were considered brave-hearts and the mightiest of warriors in the world back in 5th century BC, declined to offer their help because they were involved in a religious festivity.

If you found this article interesting, try reading our other articles about the battle of Gallipoli and the battle of France here on Kidadl.

Who won the Battle of Marathon?

After the arrival of Persian forces at the Bay of Marathon, the Athenians waited for an answer from Sparta. Meanwhile, one interesting detail over which ancient sources and modern historians don't reach a consensus is that the Persian cavalry was missing the entire time that the battle ensued.

There are two possible explanations for this mysterious absence of one of the most fierce parts of the Persian forces. One is that their commander, Datis, could not have properly utilized them because of all the sporadic trees that spread across the battlefield, and the second being in favor of his intelligence and foresight, claiming that he might have sent the cavalry along with other forces of the Persian army to attack Athens while the Athenian army was facing off against the Persian infantry in Marathon. Some also say that the absence of Persian cavalry might have been a ploy to trick the Greek army into engaging in battle with the Persian army before having the time to implement their own strategies on the ground. Irrespective, as we are aware, the Spartans refused to help, prompting both the infantries to engage in battle. A lengthy and bloody fight ensued where initially the Persian army pushed the Greeks back with the help of Persian archers, surrounding them, breaking the thin Greek centerline. However, the left and right flank of the Greek army gained momentum against the Persian flanks and drove the Persian center back. The Greek hoplites (citizen solderis) gaining the upper hand in battle eventually resulted in a consolidated Greek line and a broken Persian line, where most Greek troops ended up fighting frantically, without any direction or order. This, in turn, resulted in Persian soldiers retreating back to their ships, which then started to sail away.

The Battle of Marathon, which after the Persian victory of Cyclades, appeared to fall in favor of the Persian empire, ended up in a Persian defeat. The battle resulted in Athenian victory with lesser and weaker troops, without the help of the spartan army, compared to the mighty Persian army, which went down as a landmark event in Ancient European history.

Battle Of Marathon Timeline 

Figuring out the actual timeline of wars and battles during ancient times is quite a task, given most of the information available is disputed. Therefore, it is only through historical sources the time of events can be estimated. In this case, after Athens' and Eretria's involvement in Ionia's revolt against Persian rule in 510 B.C., the Persian king vowed to punish Athens after winning the Battle of Lade in 494 B.C. The entire conquest subsequently began after that in 490 B.C. when the Persian ship started to arrive at the bay of Marathon and started setting up camp. The Persian camp along the shore prompted the Greek forces, especially the Athenians, to assemble along the line.

The battle lasted the entire year. After defeating the Cyclades and fighting the Greeks in the latter half of the year, the Persians, who were considered invincible, lost the battle and were forced to retreat. The Persian infantry was lightly armed and was no match for the Greek hoplites. This was the first loss Persia had ever faced. The first invasion of Greece by Persia came to an end. However, after the death of King Darius I in 486 B.C., his son started the conquest again in the same year by initiating the second Persian invasion of Greece.

Why was the battle of Marathon important?

The battle of Marathon was the first attempt made by Persia to enter Europe by trying to invade Greece. This battle holds a strategic significance in terms of ancient war history.

Where the entire world is aware of British history and the rest of the events which took place in western society, very little is known about ancient Greece and its rich history. Greece is mostly credited for its contribution to science, the golden age of knowledge, the evolution of democracy, and even mythology. But when it comes to wars and conflicts concerning Ancient Greece, often it is only the Spartans who come to mind. This battle is a reminder of Athenian contribution to war efforts, which were fought and won without the support of Sparta. Athens and Sparta were two Greek cities that had maximum contribution towards the rich history of Greece.

Battle of Marathon results proved that Athenian citizens, even though not as skilled and trained as Spartans, still had the capability to drive off invaders if threatened. This is why the battle of Marathon is important. It emphasizes the part played by lesser highlighted cities of Greece, like Eretria and Athens, during battles and wars.

According to legend, Athenian leader Miltiades killed multiple Persian soldiers in this war.

Battle Of Marathon Summary

After the Persian king promised vengeance against Athens and Eretria for their participation in Ionia's attempts to overthrow him, Persia sailed and marched against the city of Athens on the bay of a small town called Marathon. The Persian cavalry could not join the battle due to reasons contended among historians. The Greeks sent a call for help to the Spartan king, who declined to offer help due to religious engagements.

The two infantries engaged in a fierce battle near the bay and marshland, where the Athenian camp was set. The Persian and Greek formation was essentially the same, with the only point of difference being the weakness of the Greek center. The Persian army dominated the Greeks on Marathon plain by surrounding their center. This prompted the Greek wings to rise from the sidelines and push against the Persian wings to cut through their center. As a result, the Athenian wings weakened the lightly armed Persian forces and drove them away, also capturing seven of their ships. The Persians had never been defeated before this battle.

It served as a reminder of the Persian's weakness, sending a message across the world that even Persia could be conquered. It also highlighted this part of European history which was often overshadowed by the French and British adventures mixed with the rise of religion and philosophy, to which, again, the Greeks contributed immensely.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our article on Battle of Marathon facts, then why not take a look at our other articles on the Battle of Jutland or the Battle of Chancellorsville.

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