Battle of Marathon (490 BC), Envelop the Enemy

Battle of Marathon

 Date: September, 490 BCLocation: Marathon GreeceOutcome: Decisive Greek victory


 AthensPlataea  Persian Empire


 MiltiadesCallimachus  DatisArtaphrenes


 10,000 Athenians1,000 Plataeans  15,000 Asiatics


 192 Greeks  6,400 Asiatics

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”

~ Sun Tzu’s Art of War


Order of Battle (Eggenberger, 1985)(Parker, 2009)

  1. Persians under Datis landed a force of 15,000 soldiers near Marathon (24 miles northeast of Athens).
  2. The Greeks under general Miltiades rallied 10,000 Athenians and 1,000 Plataean citizen-soldiers to attack the Persians at Marathon. The Greek infantry was arrayed in a long line across the two-mile wide plain of Marathon. Miltiades deliberately strengthened the Greek flanks.
  3. Armed with swords, shields and spears, the Greeks attack and the more lightly armed Persians repulsed the Greek centre.
  4. The Athenian flanks defeated the wings of the Persian army and, instead of giving chase to the fleeing Persians, moved to envelop the Persian centre.
  5. The Persians are routed and retreated back to their ships.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Notes (Marsh & Carrick, 2005)

Upon hearing of the impending Persian invasion, the Athenians sent a messenger, Pheidippides, to request for reinforcements from Sparta. Travelling 150 miles in less than two days, he failed to convince the Spartans to join the Athenians because the Spartans would not allow their soldiers to march before the completion of their religious festival (still ten days away).

After facing the Persians alone and winning the decisive battle of marathon, the Greeks dispatched Pheidippides to deliver the good news back to Athens for fear of revolt (there were pro-Persian Athenians that wanted to instigate a revolt). Pheidippides ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens, delivered the news of victory (Nike) and fell dead from exhaustion.

In 1896, the Greeks commemorate this famous fun by instituting the first 260-mile run in the Olympics held in Athens. The winner was a Greek.

“He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.”

~ Sun Tzu’s Art of War


Eggenberger, D. (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles. New York, United States: Dover Publications, Inc.

Marsh, W., & Carrick, B. (2005). Great Stories from History: 365 For Every Day of the Year. UK: Icon Books Ltd.

Parker, G. (Ed.). (2009). The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare. New York, United States: Cambridge University Press.

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