The battle of Marathon was a famous clash between the Persians and an army of Athenians in 490 BC. The author is Peter Krentz who is was is a professor of history and classics, at Davidson College. Due to his fascination with ancient history during his undergraduate, he majors on Greek and Roman history. Krentz is the author of Battle of Marathon among other publications.
In the ancient Greek warfare, battlefield trophies and requests for retrieval of corpses in the concession of defeat were regular forms of victory. Greek warfare was seen as a tournament with rules and ceremonies even. The earliest Greek military protocols came in the form of historians Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon. According to Herodotus, Greeks were ignorant; hence they had the habit of starting wars stupidly. They would also wage surprise attacks on rare occasions, although it was their habit to declare war formally. They preferred battles on a leveled field as part of fighting by the rules. The ancient Greek found it unacceptable waging war on their enemies by way of fraud. They wanted to crush their adversaries in open battleground. War was an affair between the two military outfits. There would be attacks on the civilians, but the warriors would get them out of the way very quickly. In practice, however, invaders never attacked the non-combats. In the 4th century, Archaic period, battles were fought during the summer. This was because it was impractical fighting at other times of the year for Greece's summer soldiers.
During the 5th century, however, conditions improved. Battles started occurring at other times of the year when those in military service started earning for services they rendered. The rules of engagement of battle also stated a battle to be properly prefaced by a ritual and acceptance challenge. This was according to Pritchett chapter 'The Challenge to Battle.' The title does not include ritual, and there is no known history of a Greek herald issuing a challenge to battle. However, a Persian Herald challenged the Lakedaimonians at Plataia. He challenged them to single combat between equal numbers of Persians and Lakedaimoni. The Greeks if outnumbered felt they did not have an obligation to accept a challenge. The most battle took place when both armies were of equal size. When the odds were against them, the leaders declined the challenge to battle.
A perfect example is when Perikles' refused to lead the Athenians out to battle during the Peloponnesian War
Ancient Greeks improved their equipment and continued with mass fighting where they used the advance first then withdrawal strategy. Deployed in compact mass formation, they would proceed, then reaching a certain point retreat, then advance again. This would result in a looser formation which allowed for horses and their chariots to approach the killing zone and withdraw again. In the killing zone, they used arrows, stones, and spears against the advancing opponents.
The Persian Empire was quite enormous stretching from western Turkey all the way to India. The Persian king, Darius ruled about 70 million people. Athenians, on the other hand, were a freedom loving people. A Greek poet, Aeschylus was one of the fighters of Marathon. In fact, one of his epitaphs said that the grove of the marathon could tell of his famous valor. Aeschylus valiantly fought in the marathon of 490BC and wanted to be remembered for it. At the battle of marathon 490BC, the Athenians confronted a much larger Persian army. It was advantage Athenians because they knew how the Persians fought. This was a result of a previous experience during the Jonian Revolt where they were routed. Persians liked to soften their enemies with a barrage of arrows. Therefore the Athenians decided to arm themselves with hand to hand weapons and charge at a run. The Persians made their way into the marathon by landing. This was attributable to the vast area of the plain because it accommodated their cavalry. They would also be able to deploy their cavalry through landing. The classic Greek combat interpretation style is similar to the rugby scrum. This happened when the front ranks in the army stabbed while the rest pushed. According to Krentz, the Athenians were heavily armed. They had equipped even their archers and horsemen for the first time in their history. This was done in collaboration with their allies, the Plataeans. The equipment they used weighs only as half as is usually thought and for this reason, the two allies could charge almost a mile in motion. So for once and for all the Athenian charge the Persians once and for all. After that battle, 6400 Persians were killed, and only 192 Greeks died. This was their most significant victory. The Athenians were so thrilled with the victory. They now behaved more like foxes rather than hedgehogs. The experience had changed them. They now appreciated the value of organized contingents and soon established their cavalry.
Moreover, they made Persian style mounted archers at Plataia.
On the other hand, Athenian hoplites remembered the marathon as an essence of what warfare should be. After the marathon, the 5th century was built around the battle of marathon ideologically. The battle began the salvation of Greece
Krentz examines this military system used by the Greeks. Herodotus says they ran 0.9 miles to attack the Persians. The modern assessment suggests that with the armors they wore it would have been practically impossible that they ran all that distance. If they did, they would have been too tired to even go ahead with the battle. Krentz, however, agrees with Herodotus that this may have been indeed possible. He says that based on the weights of the armors which were 28 and 40 pounds which were practical to carry. He further states that modern soldiers can run with approximately similar weight with supporting evidence. This is with the assumption which equates running to jogging.
Krentz refutes the common Greek combat classic, concerning the battle. The classic is where the front ranks stab while their counterparts of phalanx pushed behind them. This depiction nullifies the hand to hand individual combat. Krentz puts forward a phalanx that is a more cohesive unit rather than one made up of only a large number of warriors. The Greeks jogged and defeated the Persians through hand to hand individual battle. Some argue that this was too sophisticated of a manoveur, but Krentz agrees with Herodotus. Krentz asserts the importance of the marathon was a demonstration to the Athenians, that the Persian Empire was not invincible
In conclusion, the battle of the marathon was a significant event in the history of Greece which is assumed to have saved their civilization. The Persians wanted them back in chains before the marathon, but the Athenians fought for their freedom. The Greeks improved their armory and strategy from the Archaic period to defeat the Persians in the marathon. By this actions, the Greeks built the model by which future warfare was based on. Krentz description of the Battle of Marathon is very informative and would be helpful for further research. Casual readers would also enjoy a ride.
Krentz, Peter. "Fighting by the rules: the invention of the hoplite agon." In The Armies of Classical Greece, pp. 111-128. Routledge, 2017.
Bartholomees Jr, J. Boone. "The Battle of Marathon." Parameters 41, no. 3 (2011): 120-122.
Krentz, Peter. The battle of Marathon. Yale University Press, 2010.
Peter Jones "The Battle of Marathon by Peter Krentz" 2010 Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8076102/The-Battle-of-Marathon-by-Peter-Krentz-review.html
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