Marathon is the first battle from the Greek world that can be reconstructed in detail. The traditional view holds that the Greeks camped in opposition to the Persians in order to confine them to the plain of Marathon, and found themselves in battle with their foes due to either a Greek advance or a Persian attempt at breakout. According to Herodotus, it was the Greeks that attacked the Persian forces, advancing “at a run” to close with the enemy. In book four of The Histories, he implies that the Hoplites advanced the entire distance – Eight stadia, or about 1500 meters – at a full charge, something that has earned the disbelief of many later historians. To charge for this distance wearing full Hoplite panoply would be an impressive accomplishment indeed, to say nothing of meeting the enemy in anything approaching battle order. However it was that they reached the enemy, the result was shocking. According to Tom Holland, the Persians were utterly unprepared to meet with heavy infantry, being masters of a style of mobile warfare more suited for the open spaces of Western Asia. Their own infantry were masters of the bow and the sling, advantages negated by the Hoplites’ heavy armor and large shields, and by the speed of the advance if the Athenians truly did charge headlong across the plain. When the two sides met, the wall of solid bronze and sharpened iron shredded the lightly-armored Persian infantry, who had few if any weapons suited for the type of close combat practiced by the Greeks. In all accounts of the battle, the result is the rout of the Persian army as the panicked troops boarded their ships and cast off. Their first encounter with the Hoplite soldier provided a harsh lesson to the lightly-equipped Easterners.

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