Marathon

MARATHON - Distance from Ermioni: 208 kms/ 3 hours 

MARATHON (Marathonas) is world famous for the historic Battle of Marathon that took place in August/September 490 BC.  Following the victory of the Athenians and their Plataean allies against superior Persian troop numbers, a runner/herald was despatched to report this great victory in Athens, whereas upon delivering his message of victory, the runner collaped and died.  This run from Marathon to Athens is today commemorated with the world famous Marathon race which is run at the modern Olympic Games as well as numerous cities around the world.  Today, the Bay of Marathon is extremely popular as a holiday destination for visiting tourists as well as local visitors from Athens and mainland Greece.  The area offers some fabulous sandy beaches in addition to 5 star luxury hotels, holiday homes, apartment complexes, family hotels and organised camping sites.

Prior to the Battle of Marathon, an Athenian runner called Pheidippides was despatched to Sparta to ask for military assistance against the invading Persian army of the Great King Darius.  Although Sparta had the best army of all the Hellene city states, they were not allowed to march to Athens' aid due to the sacred religious festival of Carneia being observed throughout Lakedaimon.  Pheidippides returned to Athens the next day, leaving the Athenians on their own to face the Persian invaders.  The Athenians were able to raise a force of 10,000 hopite warriors for the defence of their city, with 1,000 Plataean hoplites joining them against the Persian force of over 26,000 infantry and cavalry, in over 800 ships.  This Persian invasion force landed in the Bay of Marathon.

When the Athenian army, led by General Miltiades, arrived at Marathon, they positioned themselves to block the only two exits from the bay, trapping the Persians on the plain next to the sea. The two armies then just waited.  Finally on the fifth day, the Athenian army suddenly attacked!  Miltiades had reinforced his flanks, luring the Persian best fighters into the centre.  As the two armies came together, the Athenian inward wheeling flanks then enveloped the Persians, routing them.  As they broke in panic towards their ships, 6,400 Persians were slaughtered and many more drowned. 

One reason why the Athenians attacked the larger Persian army was probably because some of the invading force had set sail for Athens, which had been left unprotected.  So immediately following their victory, the Athenians force-marched 40 kms back to the city.  When the Persian fleet neared Athens and found an army waiting for them, they simply turned about and sailed back to Asia.  The defeat at Marathon marked the end of the first Persian invasion of Greece, however, the Persians would return 10 years later.

Visitors to Marathon can see The Soros burial mound (tumuli) of the 192 Athenians killed in the battle, with a statue of Miltiades by the entrance gate.  The 11 Plataeans that were killed were buried in a smaller mound close by.  Further along the shoreline, the Athenians later built a 10m high Trophy (Tropaion) of Marathon.  Parts of the original Ionic pentelic marble column can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Marathon, today a modern replica stands in its place.

In addition to the two burial mounds and the Trophy monument, Marathon has two museums within the town, the Archaeological Museum and the Marathon Run Museum, dedicated to the 40km race that started with the victory run from Marathon to Athens by Pheidippides.  Upon reaching Athens, Pheidippides conveyed his message, Nenikikamen 'We have won', then collapsed and died.  When the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, the organisers decided that a tribute to the original Marathon run should be the final race highlight of the Games, and so it has continued until the present day.  The first modern Marathon race was won by a Greek runner by the name of Spiridon Louis.  The distance of the Olympic Marathon race adopted the 1908 distance, held in London, to be 42.195 kilometres or 26.219 miles.  Many major cities throughout the world now hold their own annual 'Marathons', with Boston being the first in 1897.  In Greece, the annual 'authentic' Athens Classic Marathon race still starts from Marathon and finishes in the white marble Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, originally built for the Summer Olympic Games in 1896.

The Marathon Archaeological sites and Museums are closed on Mondays and National Holidays.  Admission: from 2 to 6 Euros.  Most places close at 15:00.

Location

Marathon
Greece
38° 7' 51.3876" N, 24° 0' 29.5812" E
Picture Gallery
Marathon Bay Marathon Bay Marathon town beachfront Marathon Bay beaches Marathon Bay beaches Marathon Bay beaches Marathon Bay beaches Marathon Bay beaches Marathon - Athenian General Miltiades Marathon - Battle plan 490 BC Marathon - The battle commences Marathon - The Battle of Marathon 490 BC Marathon - Athenian 'Soros' Tumuli burial mound Marathon - Athenian 'Soros' Tumuli burial mound Marathon - Plataean Tumuli burial mound Marathon - Plataean Tumuli burial mound interior Marathon - 'Trophy of Marathon' victory monument Marathon - Trophy and chapel of Panaghia Mesosporitissa Marathon - Original 'Trophy' in Archaeological Museum Marathon - Archaeological Museum entrance Marathon - Pheidippides runs the first 'Marathon' 490 BC Athens Olympics 1896 - Marathon Winner Spiridon Louis     Athens Olympics 1896 - Marathon Winner Spiridon Louis from Greece   Athens Olympics 2004 - Marathon Winner Stefano Baldini from Italy Marathon - Athens Classic original course   Marathon - The 'Authentic' Athens Classic Marathon  Marathon - The Athens Classic start from Marathon    Marathon to Athens record finishing time Marathon - The Marathon Run Museum Marathon - The Marathon Run Museum   Marathon - Olympic section of the Marathon Run Museum Marathon - 1896 Olympic Marathon Winners Cup