Herodotus – The Histories, Book 6, “Erato” [94-140] – Battle of Marathon

  1. While the Eginetans & Athenians were fighting, Darius made plans of his own. He’d had his servant remind him about the Athenians, & the Pisistratidae were urging him to do something. He saw it all a good excuse to attack Greece that they failed to submit to him. He relieved Mardonius of command of the army & put Datis & Artaphernes, his nephew, in charge. Their orders were to take Athens & Eretria, & to bring back many prisoners.
  2. The commanders took their army down to Cilicia, with ships for transporting men & horses, & went to Ionia. They sailed along the shore of the Hellespont, to Thrace & across islands in the sea.
  3. When the Persians got to Naxos, the Naxians ran to the hills. The Persians managed to grab some as captives & burnt their temples. Then they moved on to the next island.
  4. While Persian were at Naxos, the Delians left Delos & went to Tenos. Datis sent them a message saying the Persians wouldn’t dream attacking such a holy island. They should come back. He left 100 talents of frankincense at the temple.
  5. The army sailed to Eretria. As the Persians left Delos, an earthquake happened which was a warning from god that bad things would happen. 3 generations of Persians would be a problem to the Greeks – Darius (“worker”), Xerxes (“warrior”), Artaxerxes (“great warrior”). The Oracle was clear on this.
  6. The Persians went from island to island, taking children as hostages. But the Carystians were not about to betray Athens or Eretria, hostages or not. Persians besieged Carystus & burnt their countryside until they cave to the demands made of them.
  7. The Eretrians knew a Persian attack was coming & asked Athens for help. The settles Athens had left by the Chalcidean estates were sent. But Eretrians didn’t know what to do themselves. They were tempted to leave the city & hide in the hills of Euboea.
  8. The Persia fleet came to Eretrian territory. They unloaded their men & horses, & got ready to attack. The Eretrians didn’t jump out ready for battle. Their main concern was to defend their city, since they weren’t willing to run away. The Persians attack for 6 days. But Eretrians, Euphorbus & Philagrus betrayed their city. The Persians got into the city & burnt temples in revenge to what happened in Sardis. The population was taken away as prisoners.
  9. The Persians sailed to Attica to do to the Athenians as they’d done to the Eretrians. Hippias took them to Marathon which was the best place for them to use their horses in battle.
  10. Athens heard the Persians were moving for Marathon, so they moved there to set up a defensive stance. They had 10 generals, including Miltiades, whose father Cimon had been banished by Pisistratus. While in exile, he won the 4-horse chariot race at the Olympics. He won the next Olympic race but yielded the victory to Pisistratus in return for being able to go home. He won the race for a 3rd time. Pisistratus had him murdered. He was buried with his horses. His elder son, Stesagoras was in the Chersonese with his uncle, Miltiades. The younger son, also named Miltiades, was with his father in Athens.
  11. Miltiades was in command of the Athenian army after escaping the Chersonese after nearly dying twice. He’d been chased by the Phoenicians looking to take him to Darius. He thought he’d gotten away, his enemies caught him & brought him to a court & had him impeached for tyranny. He won his case & left for Athens.
  12. The Athenian generals sent a herald named Pheidippides, who was friends with the god, Pan. He was sent to ask the Spartans for help. He later became a hero & had an annual race held in his honor.
  13. Pheidippides reached Sparta in 2 days & told Spartans: “Athens is asking you for help to prevent it from being enslaved by Persia. Eretria has already fallen & the rest of Greece is in danger. The Spartans wanted to help but it was a city holiday that day & it’d be illegal to march. They waited until the full moon passed to go to Athens.
  14. Hippias led the Persians to Marathon. The night before, he’d had a strange dream where he was lying in his mother’s arm. He thought that the dream meant he’d be restored to power in Athens. Now he was a guide to the Persians & brought the Eretrian prisoners to Aeglea. The fleet was anchor off Marathon. At this point, he sneezed & one of his loose teeth fell out & he lost it in the sand. He realized that the cause of both finding the tooth & winning at Marathon were lost.
  15. The Athenians lined up by an area that was near to the heart of Hercules, where they were joined by the Plataeans. The Plataeans became subject to Athens due to its being bullied by Thebes. They offered to be under the rule of the Spartans. However, the Spartans said they would never be able to defend them. The city would be destroyed by the time they even got there. The Spartans suggested they try their luck with the Athenians. The Athenians agreed. When the Thebans came around to threaten the Plataeans, the Corinthians jumped in to stop the fight. The 2 sides backed down & went home. But as soon as the Athenians were out of sight, the Thebans attacked Plataea again. The Athenians came back to defend it from Thebes & won. The boundary lines between Boetia & Attica were redrawn to account for Plataea being under Athenian protection. Now the Plataeans were at the Battle of Marathon.
  16. The Athenian generals were split in wanting to attack the Persians straight away & waiting to fight. Miltiades wanted to fight right away. But in order to make a decision, they had to consult the Polemarch, Callimachus (senior military advisor) to see what he wanted to do.  Callimachus would be casting the tie-breaking vote. Miltiades went to see him to convince him that he ought to vote to fight because it would be a vote to secure the freedom of Athens. Athens was in the most danger it had ever been in in its entire history. If they caved or lost to the Medes/Persians in battle, they would surely suffer under the tyranny of Hippias. It was up to Callimachus.
  17. Callimachus sided with Miltiades to fight. Miltiades was appointed head general & was given commanding privileges, which he turned down.
  18. Callimachus led the right wing. The Athenian tribes were in the middle & the Plataeans were on the left wing. They were lined up against the Medes, with the center ranks being the weakest, because the flanks were much deeper.
  19. The sacrifices went well for Athens. As soon as they were ready, they made a charge. The armies were a mile apart. The Persians prepared themselves but thought the Athenians were crazy to run at them without horsemen or archers. The Athenians in this battle were the first Greeks to charge at an enemy ever or to fight the Medes/Persians in their typical warrior dress. The Medes had been something to fear up till then.
  20. The 2 sides fought for some time. By the mid point of the battle, where the Persians were able to hold their place, they were successful & pushed the Greeks back. The Greek wings successful. The barbarians retreated & the 2 wings merged into one by going after the successful Persian forces. They easily won & the Persians fled. The Athenians killed any Persian stragglers pushing them all the way to the shore, getting a hold of the ships & attempting to set them on fire.
  21. Callimachus, Stesliaüs, Cynaegirus, all died. Many other famous Athenians died as well.
  22. Athenians got 7 Persian vessels. The other Persian ships set sail to go around Cape Sunium to try to reach Athens before the Athenians did. The Alcmaeonidae are accused of suggesting this to the Persia & told them when to leave by a signal.
  23. The Persians sailed around Sunium. The Athenians sped back to defend the city from further attacks. They camped out in the Hercules section of town. The Persian fleet arrived at Phalerum – Athens’s harbor. The Persians sat in their boats & then decided to go back to Asia.
  24. The Persians lost 6400 & the Athenians lost 192. During the battle, Epizelus went blind suddenly without being hit with a sword or axe. He also had a massive beard.
  25. Datis was on his way back to Asia & got to Myconus & had a dream. We don’t know what about but he made a search throughout his fleet & found an image of Apollo that had been taken from a Delian temple. He took it to Thebes but it really belonged to Delos. It took another 20 years to get it there.
  26. The captive Eretrians were taken to Susa. Darius was pissed off at them for attacking Persian without any provocation. Other than yelling at them, he did no harm to them, & settled them in a Cissian city of Ardericca, 210 furlongs from Susa. In this city was a well of bitumen, salt & oil. They had a complicated system to separate them all.
  27. Afterwards, the Spartans showed up to Athens, ready for battle. It had taken them 3 days. Obviously, they were too late. They went out to look at the Marathon battlefield & praised the Athenians’ work against the Persians. They went back home.
  28. I don’t believe it when they say Alcmaeonidae had tipped off the Persians. They’ve had a long history of hating tyrants. Callias was the only one who supported public commerce when the Pisistratidae had been drive out.
  29. Callias won the horse race & took 2nd place in the 4-horse chariot race in the Olympics. He also won at the Pythian Games. He had 3 daughters, when they were old enough, he gave them a large dowry to be used their discretion & were allowed to choose their own husbands.
  30. The Alcmaeonidae were in exile during the tyranny. They even devised the plan to get the Pisistratidae off their throne. They planned to kill Hipparchus. They were the deliverers of Athens.
  31. Maybe they were pissed off with the Athenian people & betrayed them. But in reality they were held in high regard, above most Athenians.
  32. The Alcmaeonidae has been a family of note in Athens for a long time but from the time of Alcmaeon & Megacles, they rose to a special prominence. Alcmaeon helped Croesus’s messengers from Sardis when they were on their way to Delphi. Croesus was very pleased to hear this & when Alcmaeon visitd him in Sardis, he was allowed to carry off as much gold as he could. Alcmaeon grabbed handfuls of gold, piled them in his baggy tunic, stuffed it in his shoes & in his mouth. He even rolled around in gold dust to get as much gold as he could. Croesus was so entertained in watching this that he sent even more gold to Alcmaeon once he got back to Greece.
  33. Later, Clisthenes, king of Sicyon, raised the Alcmaeonidae family to higher prominence. He had a daughter named Agarista who wanted the best husband in Greece. He invited the most eligible bachelors in all of Greece to prove they were worthy of marrying his daughter. He set up a race track & wrestling arena to test the young men.
  34. Smindyrides of Sybaris, Damasus of Siris, Amphimnestus of Epidamnus, Leocedes, king of Argos, Amiantus of Trapezus, Laphanes of Paeus, Onomastus of Elis, Megacles (of the Alcmaeonidae) of Athens, Lysanias of Eretria, Diactoriades of Cranon & Alcon of the Molossians were all invited.
  35. Clisthenes asked them about themselves, their families & their cities. They stayed a whole year. He tested them on their temper, strength, disposition & conversation in private & all in a group. They did sports but the biggest challenge was the banquet.
  36. When the day for Clisthenes to choose a man came, he made a sacrifice of 100 oxen & held a banquet. He even invited the whole city of Sicyon. The suitors all vied with each other in music & public speaking. Then the drinking began… Hippoclides blew everyone away when he asked a flute player to play a song he could dance to & began dancing. He thought he was dancing well but Clisthenes did not agree. Hippoclides ordered a table to be brought in. He climbed up on it & danced Laconic & Attic moves, & then stood on his head & threw his legs around. Clisthenes now hated him. He’d dealt with him at first but now Hippoclides was making a fool of himself & causing an embarrassing spectacle. He called out to Hippoclides, “So, you’ve just danced away your bride!” To which Hippoclides replied, “What does Hippoclides care?”
  37. Clisthenes ordered silence & spoke: “Suitors, I’d be glad to have most of your as my son-in-law but since I only have 1 daughter, I can only choose one. Those of you not chosen will receive a talent of silver for your troubles. But I choose Megacles to be Agarista’s husband.”
  38. Clisthenes of Athens was named by his father Megacles after the king of Sicyon, Agarista’s father. Megacles had another son, Hippocrates who had children – Megacles & Agarista. The younger Agarista had a child, having had a dream where she gave birth to a lion & named him Pericles.
  39. After winning at Marathon, Miltiades’s influence grew. He asked for a fleet of 70 ships, an army & money without discussing what he had planned to do with it. But since he was the hero of Marathon, he was given what he asked for without question.
  40. Miltiades sailed to Paros to punish the Parians for supplying just one ship to the Persians for the Battle of Marathon. That was just pretense. Miltiades held a grudge against Paros because Lysogoras had told tales on him to the Persians & he wanted to punish the whole city for that. He laid siege to the place, demanding money & if he refused, the siege would continue. The Parians refused. They worked day & night to build the walls to double their original height.
  41. Miltiades’s undoing was due to a prisoner, Timo an under-priestess. She advised him to go to the hill in the city & hop over the fence to the temple of Ceres. He went to the sanctuary to steal holy items or do some other illegal activity. When he left, he climbed back over the fence but fell, busting his knee.
  42. Miltiades went home injured, without an money or victory over Paros after a siege of 26 days. The Parians wanted to punish Timo for advising Miltiades. They asked the Oracle of Delphi how they should handle her situation. She answered that Timo expedited the destruction of Miltiades & was doing god’s will, so she should not be punished but praised.
  43. The Athenians had a debate about what to do with Miltiades. Xanthippus wanted to try him for his life for the deceit over the Parian excursion. Miltiades didn’t speak in his own defense because his injury was so crippling. Friends spoke on his behalf, mostly speaking of his role to save Athens. His life was spared but he was fine 50 talents. He died of his injury, so his son, Cimon, had to pay the fine.
  44. Miltiades had been able to conquer Lemnos like this. The Pelasgi say that the Athenians had driven them out of Attica & gave them some land at Hymettus for having built the wall around the Athenian citadel. The land was useless but the Pelasgi made it fertile. The Athenians didn’t like that & took the land, & drove them out. The Athenians say that the Pelasgi were abusing the Athenian children & trying to kidnap them. The Pelasgi tried to rebel but were caught & forced to leave the area. They went to Lemnos.
  45. Once they were in Lemnos, the Pelasgi wanted revenge. They sent a ship over to Athens when the Athenian were having a festival for Diana. They took the women back with them & kept them as concubines, later having children. These children grew up with Attic Greek habits & spoke the language, even acting superior to the Pelasgi Lemnians. The Pelasgi feared them & killed all the boys & their mothers.
  46. The sudden population drop caused Lemnos to enter a malaise. They sent a messenger to the Oracle of Delphi to ask what they should do about it. She told them that they ought to do whatever the Athenians required of them. The Pelasgi went to Athens to ask what they wanted of them. The Athenians had a couch set up in their town with tons of decorations & a table set out in front of it with tons of “nice things” on it. When the Pelagi did this to deliver the island to Athens, they’d be even. The Pelasgi said they’d only do that when a northern wind went from Athens to Lemnos in one day. They only said this because they felt that this would never happen.
  47. Many years later, sure enough, the winds actually went from Athens to Lemnos in one day. Miltiades, when he was ruler of the Chersonese, came down to remind the Pelasgi of their promise. They refused & he took the island by force.

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