When was the first Marathon?
In the summer of 490 BC, after learning about the Persian landing, the Greek commander Miltiades marched his 10,000 infantry from Athens to the city of Marathon to block his enemy in advance. Persian King Darius I sent a fleet of 600 trireme vessels, with an army of 25,000 men led his nephew Artaphernes, and by his experienced Median admiral Datis with the objective to subdue Athens. The Persian army was many times the size of the Greek army.
Datis landed his force on the plains of Marathon. Although Datis’ army arrived days before, they made no effort to secure the road. When the Greeks arrived the Persians had two choices:
- To face the Greek army.
- To turn around and enter from another location.
The Greeks were ready and waiting for whatever the Persians chose. Battle was inevitable. Although the Greek army was lacking is archers, they stepped off toward the Persians. Before the Persian archers could fix the range, the Greek army was upon them. The Persians had no choice but to response to the attack, this momentarily pressed the Greek center steadily back. However, their commanders ordered to a counterattack causing the Persians to break and flee back to the beach and re-embark on their ships.
So how does this play into history’s first Marathon?
At the end of the battle, the Persians left 6,400 dead men, while the Athenians lost only 192 men. In the wake of the Greek victory over the Persians, it is likely the Greek Army likely would have sent a messenger to Athens with the news of victory. The tale of the first “marathon” occurred when Miltiades dispatched a runner to Athens to report the great victory—a distance of 26.2 miles (from Marathon to Athens). Whether the runner was the Athenian distance runner Pheidippides is still disputed. The story ends with the Greek runner—dropping dead after delivering the news.
For a long time I thought this tale to be a true story, however, after taking an ancient Greek class, I learned that this was but a legend!
Good luck to all the marathon runners today! Including myself! Stay hydrated and eat something so you don’t hit a wall and end up like Pheidippides!