The Battle of Marathon

The battle of Marathon was one of the most important battles in world history. On a summer's morning in 490BC, two armies faced each other across the plain of Marathon, 26 miles from Athens. On one side were 9,000 Athenians, supported by 1,000 men from Plataia. On the other were between 18,000 and 25,000 Persian warriors (including men from various parts of the Persian empire).

The Persian army had come to conquer Athens, as a first step to taking over the whole of Greece, adding it to the already enormous Persian Empire. On the way to Marathon they had defeated several other Greek cities, killing the men, enslaving the women and children, and burning down the towns.

Imagine how those brave Greek hoplites must have felt. How could they possibly defeat an army twice the size of their own? And there was another big problem. The Persians had many thousands of archers - and the Greeks had none. Long before the hoplites could even reach the Persians with their spears, the sky would be filled with a black cloud of arrows raining death onto their heads. If you were Miltiades, the Greek commander, how would you win the battle?

Follow the links on this page to learn more about the battle of Marathon - why it happened, what the two armies were like, and what actually happened.

If you can't wait, here's the answer: the Athenians won. And if they hadn't, the history of western civilisation might have been completely different.





The history of the Persian Wars was first written down by a Greek, Herodotus, in his 'Histories'. This was in fact the first ever book of history, and Herodotus is sometimes called 'the father of history.' Clever man. And it's quite an entertaining book. It also contains the story of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, which so many books and films have been based on (like the recent 300).

Herodotus travelled widely and interviewed lots of people for his book. It was first published (and read aloud in public) around 424BC - about 55 years after the last battle of the Persian Wars. It's a very long book - my copy is over 700 pages, including footnotes.

The Two Armies

Build-up to Battle 1: 499-491BC

Build-up to Battle 2: 490BC

Build-up to Battle 3: The Persians Have Landed!

The Battle

After the Battle