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History and legend

~Ύ~ he. Battle of Marathon: History and Legend is an e x h i b i -


I t i o n in c o m m e m o r a t i o n o f t h e significant battle t h a t
t o o k place 2,500 years ago, w h e n ten t h o u s a n d Athenians
and Plataeans managed t o resist t h e attack o f t h e Persian
Empire, w h i c h had already c o n q u e r e d t h e w o r l d o f t h e East
w i t h their vast military and e c o n o m i c p o w e r
T h e Persian Empire, w i t h its swift expansion and t w o cen­
turies o f political d o m i n a n c e in the N e a r and M i d d l e East,
m a r k e d an intersection in tne h i s t o r y o f antiquity. It per­
m a n e n t l y eradicated all t h e p e t t y k i n g d o m s o f t h e area and
c r e a t e d a new, unified w o r l d . U n d e r Darius I ( 5 2 2 - 4 8 6 BC),
t h e state achieved stability and its identity as t h e first t r u l y
m u k i n a t i o n a l e m p i r e . T h e King was the absolute m a s t e r t h e
1. Dane, end of 5th c. - 375 BC.
agent o f t h e s u p r e m e g o d A h u r a - M a z d a . Athens, Numismatic Museum,
T h e G r e e k w o r l d , o n t h e o t h e r hand, in t h e late Archaic inv. no. NM 64646
© Hellenic Ministry of Culture
p e r i o d , w a s politically f r a g m e n t e d . T h e m o s t representa­
t i v e political u n i t w a s t h e city-state. City-states w e r e self-
2. Tetradrachm of Athens, 520/10-
c o n t a i n e d , i n d e p e n d e n t and highly c o m p e t i t i v e w i t h one 480 BC. Athens, Numismatic Mu­
a n o t h e r T h e political f r a g m e n t a t i o n w i t h i n t h e G r e e k w o r l d seum, inv. no. NM 1910/11 Ν 105
w a s h o w e v e r c o u n t e r b a l a n c e d by its c o m m o n religious and © Hellenic Ministry of Culture

cultural identity,The main means o f p r e s e r v i n g t h e f r e e d o m


o f t h e G r e e k city-states was t h e phalanx o f hoplkes - the
free, s e l f - s u p p o r t i n g citizens w h o f o u g h t o n f o o t , in f o r m a ­
t i o n , fully disciplined and c o o r d i n a t e d .

A t t h e t i m e , t h e Peloponnesian
League was the strongest
unified political and military
power; t h e only o n e ap­
pearing capable o f o p p o s ­
ing t h e Persian menace, f l
H o w e v e r a rising power,
Athens, managed t o re­
pulse t h e Spartan interven­
tions, t o finally rid herself o f
t h e tyranny o f t h e Peisistratid
family, and, u n d e r Cleisthenes in 5 0 8 / 7 BC, t o p r o c e e d w i t h
t h e forging o f a n e w system o f g o v e r n m e n t - d e m o c r a c y

This novel, radical political system o f t h e Athenians was t o b e


sorely t e s t e d and w o u l d be vindicated eighteen years later, at
t h e Battle o f M a r a t h o n .

T h e n u m b e r o f t r o o p s o f t h e Persian e x p e d i t i o n a r y force
u n d e r Datis' leadership that landed and e n c a m p e d o n t h e
shores o f M a r a t h o n in early S e p t e m b e r 4 9 0 B C is estimated
t o have b e e n b e t w e e n 12,000 t o 25,000 infantry a n d 2 0 0 t o
1,000 cavalry. 9,000 A t h e n i a n hopliies and 1,000 Plataean allies
r u s h e d t o M a r a t h o n and e n c a m p e d o n t h e heights that cut
o f f t h e plain f r o m t h e southwest. Heading t h e G r e e k force
w a s t h e C o m m a n d e r - i n - C h i e f (polemarchos) Callimachus, b u t
3. Red-figured amphora with Greek
t h e actual c o m m a n d was in t h e hands o f Miltiades, o n e o f t h e warrior attacking a Persian,
t e n generals (strategoi), w h o h a p p e n e d t o be familiar w i t h ca. 480-470 BC. New York,
Persian battle tactics. The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
inv. no. ME07527
T h e Persian army's presence in M a r a t h o n was actually meant © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/
as a diversion. So, once t h e Persian plan became apparent, Mil- Art Resource/Scala, Florence

tiades o r d e r e d t h e a t t a c k T h e phalanx m o v e d quickly, breaking


into a r u n f o r the last m e t e r s t o keep casualties f r o m t h e
enemy's arrows at a m i n i m u m . To compensate f o r
t h e Persians' supenority in numbers, t h e Athenians
had lengthened t h e i r line, thinning t h e centre, but
reinforcing t h e wings. T h e t w o wings, w i t h t h e
Persian cavalry absent, scattered t h e w e a k e r t(

Persian units before t h e m . T h e y t h e n t u r n e d t o -


wards t h e Persian centre, surrounding i t T h e latter
b r o k e and retreated in disarray t o w a r d s t h e i r ships.
It was t h e n w h e n t h e last and bloodiest phase o f t h e
battle t o o k place.The Persian fleet managed t o set sail f o r
Phaliron. only t o find t h e r e t h e Athenian army arrayed o n
t h e beach after an exhausting and desperate forced march.
T h e Persians sailed away, frustrated,

T h e epic character o f t h e battle n o t only gave rise t o tales


o f heroic deaths, like t h o s e o f Callimachus and Kinegirus, b u t
also t o t h o s e o f o t h e r personal teats, such as t h a t o f Pheidip-
pides, and o f t h e r u n n e r announcing v i c t o r y t o t h e Athenians
w i t h his dying breath after having r u n t o t h e city f r o m t h e dis-
t a n t battlefield. A n o t h e r ; mythic, dimension has gods and he-
r oes s u p p o r t i n g t h e Athenians' Pan fi 01 i i e At cad an
r
ioun 4. Attic red-figured bell-krater,
t i is Theseus f r o m t h e u n d e r attributed to the Altamura
Painter, depicting warriors
along w i t h goddess Athena, t h e local h e r o M a r a t h o n , and t h e
leaving home, 470-460 BC.
f a r m e r Echetlos. London, The British Museum,
inv. no. 1961,0710.1
T h e pictorial represet ' ' 1 a n t I
19th-century travellers' G r a n d T o u r M a r a t h o n was perceived
5. Part of the Frieze of Archers,
as a c o n d u i t o f r e m e m b r a n c e / t h e manifestation o f t h e g l o r y
ca. S10 BC. Paris, Musee du
ot t h e battle and its protagonists.The tounda+ion f o r this in- Louvre, inv. no. 97-024173
tellectual approach t o t h e site had been laid in s © RMN/Apeiron Photos
6. Carl Rottmann, Marathon, 1848,
oil on canvas, 161.5 χ 205 cm
Munchen, Bayerischen Staats-
gemaldesammlungen, Neu
Pinakothek, Inv. Nr. 860

7. Fragment of the trophy


of the battle. Marathon
Archaeological Museum
© Hellenic Ministry of Culture

Cover: Attic red-figured kylix


depicting a duel between an
Athenian and a Persian, 480 B C ,
attributed to the Triptolemos
Painter. Edinburgh, The Royal
Scottish Museum, inv. no. 1887.213
© The Trustees of the National
Museum of Scotland

e n m e n t and t h e French Revolution, w h i c h restored ancient


Greek d e m o c r a c y t o t h e ideological landscape.
M e m o r i a l t o t h e victory and t h e landmark o f this area is t h e
r e n o w n e d T o r n b o f t h e M a r a t h o n w a r n jt the 11 n l t r.oi ind'
- w h i c h according t o prevailing o p i n i o n - - covers Li ·,ε & nalns
o f t h e Athenian dead. It was first excavated by Heinrich Schli-
e m a n n in 1884, w h o claimed that the t o m b dates earlier than
the battie. In 1890-1891 t h e archaeologist Vaierios Sta'is discov­
ered at t h e same site a thick layer o f charcoal and ash as well
as charred skeletal remains, A c c o r d i n g t o Pausanias, a second
t o m b existed n e x t t o t h a t o f t h e A t h e n i ans t o r t h e burial of t h e
Plataeans and t h e slaves. Spyros Marinatos attributed t o t h e
Plataeans a t o m b , s o m e 3 k m n o r t h w e s t o f t h e l o m b o f t h e
Athenians. Many have questioned t h e identification o f t h e t w o
t o m b s . A s a rule, t h o u g h , it is generally accepted that t h e larger
t o m b , t h e "burial m o u n d " does indeed contain t h e remains o f
t h e 192 Athenians w h o fell in t h e battle.
T h e exhibition aims at e x p l o r i n g the different aspects o f the
Battle o f M a r a t h o n . Topics are e x p l o r e d t h r o u g h an educa­
tional perspective and d u e attention has been paid t o the ac-
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