Marathon according to Herodotus [Freedom]

So when the battle was set in array, and the victims showed themselves favourable, instantly the Athenians, so soon as they were let go, charged the barbarians at a run.

Now the distance between the two armies was little short of eight furlongs. The Persians, therefore, when they saw the Greeks coming on at speed, made ready to receive them, although it seemed to them that the Athenians were bereft of their senses, and bent upon their own destruction; for they saw a mere handful of men coming on at a run without either horsemen or archers. Such was the opinion of the barbarians; but the Athenians in close array fell upon them, and fought in a manner worthy of being recorded.

They were the first of the Greeks, so far as I know, who introduced the custom of charging the enemy at a run, and they were likewise the first who dared to look upon the Median garb, and to face men clad in that fashion. Until this time the very name of the Medes had been a terror to the Greeks to hear.

The two armies fought together on the plain of Marathon for a length of time; and in the mid battle, where the Persians themselves and the Sacae had their place, the barbarians were victorious, and broke and pursued the Greeks into the inner country; but on the two wings the Athenians and the Plataeans defeated the enemy.

Having so done, they suffered the routed barbarians to fly at their ease, and joining the two wings in one, fell upon those who had broken their own centre, and fought and conquered them. These likewise fled, and now the Athenians hung upon the runaways and cut them down, chasing them all the way to the shore, on reaching which they laid hold of the ships and called aloud for fire.

It was in the struggle here that Callimachus the Polemarch, after greatly distinguishing himself, lost his life; Stesilaus too, the son of Thrasilaus, one of the generals, was slain; and Cynaegirus, the son of Euphorion, having seized on a vessel of the enemy’s by the ornament at the stern, had his hand cut off by the blow of an axe, and so perished; as likewise did many other Athenians of note and name.

Nevertheless the Athenians secured in this way seven of the vessels; while with the remainder the barbarians pushed off, and taking aboard their Eretrian prisoners from the island where they had left them, doubled Cape Sunium, hoping to reach Athens before the return of the Athenians.

The Alcmaeonidae were accused by their countrymen of suggesting this course to them; they had, it was said, an understanding with the Persians, and made a signal to them, by raising a shield, after they were embarked in their ships.

– Herodotus

 

This battle has driven historical writing thru the ages. From Herodutus’s time until now historians and writers have explored the facts, the impact and the influence of the Battle of Marathon. For me it is a simple thing.  Regardless of the tactics, the forces on the field, the leaders on the day, this battle stands as one that influenced Western Civilization as we know it today. Without the victory the Greek States fall. The nascent civilisation falters and western thought in its infancy is snuffed out. Athenian thought is suppressed under the weight of Persian rule and becomes another conquest a mere footnote in history. It was the desire for the concept of freedom derived out of the ashes Ionian Revolt that led to the invasion of the Grecian States and their rejection of Darius I that culminated in the Battle of Marathon.

It felt appropriate to share Herodotus’s words across the ages on this day in the USA as we celebrate Americas freedom. A direct descendant and beneficiary of coalescence of the Greek States into what would become Greece, and a Republic.

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