By dr. of anthropology N. A. Poulianos
Hellenic P.R Director

 1. Few months prior to the famous battle of Marathon, a Medean (i.e. Persian) armada of ~600 ships had sailed from the central Asia Minor against the southern Greek mainland. The Persian justifications referred to the punishment of the cities of Athens and Eretria for their military support provided during the Ionian Revolution (499-494 BC) to the Hellenes (i.e. Greeks) that were living then on the coasts of the today Turkey (Greeks that however genetically continue to survive there till our times). The above referred Persian justifications were soon revealed to be nothing but pretences, since the Medean campaign began by the conquest of many islands of the Aegean See. Thus, it was since the beginning evident that the goal of Medeans was not just the punishment of Eretria and Athens, but also the gaining of extra lands and wealth (by lootings, enslavements etc). An equally important purpose of this campaign (if not the most important one) was the annihilation of the (anyway) more democratic Hellenic cities that existed to the western border of the Persian Empire, since such a "bad" political example could not be tolerated by its par excellence monarchic leadership and the unique superpower of the epoch. At the same time Medeans also pursued at keeping uneventful the Iones (Yunans as are named Hellenes in most oriental languages, Turkish included most probably due to the outcome of Marathon battle), along with the other subordinated peoples of the Persian Empire, in order to be clear everybody that the Medeans were holding the “upper hand”. Consequently, a target was also the Greeks living to the west of Asia Minor, so that not even them could assist again their compatriots and / or other ethnicities incorporated into the Persian Empire (as it contrariwise finally happened some years or even centuries later with Iones, Cypriots, Egyptians and others).
 2. About two weeks before (the battle of Marathon) the fall of Eretria occurred along with the enslavement of its inhabitants too. This development could have feared the Athenians, but at the same time it acted also as a catalyst for the determination and the militancy of their soldiers. For reasons that most probably are due to the capacity (tonnage) of the ships, the Eretria’s hostages were left by Medeans (guarded) at Styra, an islet towards Euboea ~ 6 miles to the NE of Marathon.
 3. Soon after the Eretria’s conquest, by the end of summer of 490 BC the Medean forces landed at the northern edge of the Marathon plain, on the sandy Schinias beach. A consequence of this access was the approach of the Persian army to Athens approximately 25 km or 15 miles. The above sandy beach is about 2 km long, on which for every 5 meters about 200 ships could be drawn or at most 400 (in the less probable case that one ship was set side-by-side to the other). The at least 200 ships remaining were necessarily anchored off the coastline. Therefore, the offshoot had to proceed partially (e.g. initially from the first 200 ships, afterwards from the other 200, and finally from the remainder).
 4. The Athenians reacted immediately by sending overnight 9,000 soldiers to Marathon, blocking thus to the Persian invaders the way towards their city. This must have been the most important military enterprise that took place before the Battle of Marathon (if not even generally). Subsequently, the Athenian army was fortified on rocky hills in the SW corner of the Marathon plain almost to the opposite of the Medeans. This also very important militarily action cancelled the advantage of the mighty Persian cavalry as it could not attack against an elevated fortified position. Under these circumstances, the opposite armies (which initially had a distance of ~ 1.5 km) did not risk fighting each other over the next five days. However it is rumored that the Greeks approached every day a little, in order to get closer and have the possibility of a sudden attack, although remaining in a safe distance outside the range of the Medean arrows.
 5. At the same time, the Athenians sent runners to various Hellenic cities with a call for help, but only Plataea responded to this request, by sending in fact all of its available military forces composed by 1000 hoplites. However they brought the enthusiasm at the Hellenic camp of Marathon, raising the moral of the Athenian fighters. Sparta, due to the “Carnea” (rituals in honour of God Apollo), sent military aid only after the new moon. This resulted to that the 2,000 Lacedaemon soldiers arrived to Attica only the day after the battle. Such a delay may also be due to the fact that the Spartans did not sympathize the (“exceedingly more”) democratic Athenians and / or because they did not want their forces to be placed under the Callimachus military command.

6. During the night before the battle of Marathon, the biggest part of the Persian cavalry secretly boarded (possibly along with some infantry troopers) in order to overcome Cape Sounion and attack the day after against the almost unguarded Athens. There are also indications that a Medean naval squadron (of 100 ships?) transporting the aforementioned Persian military force had already sailed by night against Athens. Thus in the dark it was not easily evident where towards is heading the squadron (with the exception perhaps to ancient observatories, called fryctories), neither in day light that some of the Medean ships were missing. Therefore at the down this squadron should not be yet very far from Marathon (lets say for example near to Vravron). This hypothesis is supported by that otherwise, if e.g. part of the Persian fleet had not yet sailed, the cavalry could disembark immediately and participate to the battle. If again the naval squadron had reached the Cape Sounion, then would probably continue to perform on the plan at attacking Athens. Therefore the aforementioned Medean naval squadron must have had being alerted and hurriedly returned in order to disembark and to assist the Persian soldiers who had suffered on the first day light the attack at Marathon. However the Medean strategy may be characterized as of good inspiration, by remaining on one hand most of the Persian army at Schinias bay keeping busy and practically not allowing to their adversary to leave Marathon and on the other hand to sail with Medean forces towards the undefended Athens. Obviously the goal was a relatively easy Persian victory, with the further probable purpose to put the Hellenes in the middle, i.e. simultaneously from two places (i.e. from Athens and from Marathon). Evidently, an eventual occupation of Athens and the enslavement of its women and children, but also the fear of finding the Greek allied troops even encircled, it would have disrupted the morale of its hoplites, being this also a part of the Persian strategic plan.
 7. Facing the above new developed situation, the Commander-in-Chief Callimachus (with this memorable name) along with his ten generals decided at a night military council not to wait for the Spartan aid as close as it might be, but the allied Athenians with the Plataeans to attack at dawn, exactly because most of the fearsome Persian cavalry was missing (the presence of which in battle is however not mentioned by Herodotus, reconfirming that Medean horses were not anymore present at Marathon battlefield). The news for the departure of the cavalry was transferred from Ions which were obliged to participate in the campaign with the Persians against Greece (cf. the "Souida" dictionary). Obviously, the Athenians would have sent spies to check the relevant information, or else the following morning is not likely any attack to be attempted.

NB: In the past five days it is possible that the ten generals disagreed among them as concerns the necessity or not of a battle with the Medeans. Such discussions could even be made publicly in order to reach the Persian ears with the purpose to deceive them (that they allegedly were determined to attack, defying even the Persian cavalry). Consequently, due also to the fact that it had not yet completely extinguished the danger from the Eastern Empire during the middle of the Golden Age, what is referred by the Greek historian from Halicarnassus, that five generals have agreed and five disagreed before the engagement with Medeans at Marathon, must not co respond to the truth, since after the withdrawal of the Persian cavalry, there was no other choice but to have the Greek attack proceeded without any further delay. In fact it was decided that the co respective clash should take place without even expecting the Peloponnesian aids that were en route and anymore near Attica. Furthermore the Persians obviously kept in mind what was happening in the past five days, i.e. without any battle concluded, were surprised by the Greek racing so they could not even successfully use their terrible archers. On the contrary if the sudden Greek attack did not take place and the Battle of Marathon was not given that particular morning, then the Medeans might have conquered Athens and afterwards encircle the Greek forces at Marathon. The absence of the Persian cavalry, the neutralization of the Medean archers, as well as the better armament of the Greek Marathon fighters were the factors that almost certainly would grant to the Greeks the victory. Therefore the Hellenic attack ordered by Callimachus did not represent a despair effort (in a meaning: "all for all") as one might assume, but the only chance to conclude a battle with a successful for the Greeks outcome. In any case, the Hellenic forces were obliged to first win and neutralize the Persian army that was in front of them at Marathon and then (since there was time - obviously not a lot) run to the Athens’ seaport Faliron to face the invaders again there too (as it finally happened).

ΛΕΞΕΙΣ: Μαραθων, Μαχη Μαραθωνος
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