Preserving the History and Legacy of The Battle of Marathon

StoriesMay 31, 2023

About 25 miles from Athens, the capital of Greece, there is a small town called Marathon. If you ever wander around it you will stumble upon what looks like a small hill, but that’s actually a burial mound known as the Tymbos of Marathon. It is here where 192 Athenians who died in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC are buried. This battle, between the Greeks and the Persians, changed the course of Western civilization as it demonstrated how a small but united city-state could successfully stand up against one of the most powerful empires of the time.

The Battle of Marathon was the first major battle between the Greeks and Persians and it signaled a decisive victory for the Greeks. At this time, Persia had become an increasingly powerful empire under King Darius I. He had already conquered Egypt and much of Asia Minor, so he decided to turn his attention to Europe. In order to do so, however, he needed to take out Greece first. So, he sent an army of around 25,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalries to Marathon.

The Greeks, with 10,000 Athenians and 1,000 Plataeans, were vastly outnumbered by the Persians, but they had one major advantage: their hoplite warriors were among the best in the world at that time. The Athenian general, Miltiades commanded his troops to form a phalanx and charge the Persian lines. This bold move worked and the Greek forces managed to rout the Persian invaders. The Battle of Marathon was an incredible victory for the Greeks, but it also marked a turning point in European history. It showed that Greece could stand up against even the most powerful force in the world. 

It also showed that the best way to win a battle was not always through sheer numbers but through superior tactics and strategy. This lesson would be echoed in other battles throughout history. A Persian victory would have destroyed the foundations of Greek culture, and with it, threatened to extinguish the foundation of Western political philosophy as we know it. The civilization that blossomed in ancient Greece had a major influence on Roman civilization - if the Persians had been successful in their invasion, this influential legacy might never have existed.

To most of you, the name "Marathon" might already sound familiar. It’s the name of a hugely popular annual running race, which is run in many countries around the world. This type of race, known as a marathon, was inspired by the feat of Pheidippides, the messenger who ran from Marathon to Athens after the battle to announce the victory. The legend says that after announcing the victory with the words "We Won!", he collapsed and died from exhaustion. And that’s why to this day, running a marathon is still considered one of the greatest physical feats that any athlete can undertake.

As for the marathon run that takes place in Athens, it always starts at the Tymbos of Marathon. Athletes from all over the world come to run the race, and when they do, they’re running in a reminder of the courage and determination that was shown by the Athenians centuries ago. Today, aside from visiting the Tymbos of Marathon, tourists can also visit the Archaeological Museum of Marathon, the impressive Olympic Rowing Centre and the beautiful beaches nearby.

Furthermore, We Love Marathon, a volunteer team led by founder Sonia Gerodimou, has set up a website to promote collectivism and preserve the history of Marathon and the cultural significance of the area. Sonia explains, “Through our articles, we strive to promote teamwork while also bringing attention to local issues that need addressing. In 2021, we began taking environmental action in order to emphasize the importance of resident involvement in improving our daily lives. We pay tribute on our site to Marathon's history, while last year we created an app in English; this app is a guide for visitors that provides useful information both to tourists and helps local professionals alike.”

From tree planting initiatives to informative articles, We Love Marathon is actively dedicating itself to ensuring that the area and its history remain an integral part of Greek culture. The Battle of Marathon and its legacy are important reminders of the courage, determination, and ingenuity that is so often associated with Greek culture. The annual race held in Marathon seeks to honor Pheidippides’ legendary feat, while also providing a platform for athletes around the world to test their limits. And thanks to the work done by We Love Marathon, the area’s natural beauty and cultural heritage will remain an important part of Greek history for generations to come.

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