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History and legend

~Ύ~ he. Battle of Marathon: I

History

and Legend is an e x h i b 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 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 . 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 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 t i v e political u n i t w a s t h e city-state. representa­ 1. Dane, end of 5th c. - 375 BC. Athens, Numismatic Museum, inv. no. NM 64646 © Hellenic Ministry of Culture 2. Tetradrachm of Athens, 520/10480 BC. Athens, Numismatic Mu­ seum, inv. no. NM 1910/11 Ν 105 © Hellenic Ministry of Culture

City-states w e r e selfone

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

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 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 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 warrior attacking a Persian, ca. 480-470 BC. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. no. ME07527 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Art Resource/Scala, Florence

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 t e n generals (strategoi), Persian battle tactics. T h e Persian army's presence in M a r a t h o n was actually meant as a diversion. So, once t h e Persian plan became apparent, Miltiades 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 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. t
(

w h o h a p p e n e d t o be familiar w i t h

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 Pheidippides, 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 dist a n t battlefield. A n o t h e r ; mythic, dimension has gods and her 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

t i is Theseus f r o m t h e u n d e r 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 f a r m e r Echetlos. T h e pictorial represet ' ' 1 a n t I

4. Attic red-figured bell-krater, attributed to the Altamura Painter, depicting warriors leaving home, 470-460 BC. London, The British Museum, inv. no. 1961,0710.1 5. Part of the Frieze of Archers, ca. S10 BC. Paris, Musee du Louvre, inv. no. 97-024173 © RMN/Apeiron Photos

19th-century travellers' G r a n d T o u r M a r a t h o n was perceived 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 ot t h e battle and its protagonists.The tounda+ion f o r this intellectual approach t o t h e site had been laid in s

6. Carl Rottmann, Marathon, 1848, oil on canvas, 161.5 χ 205 cm Munchen, Bayerischen Staatsgemaldesammlungen, 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 Schlie 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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