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Map: Ancient Marathon Battlefield

Finds from the site are housed in a 5-room museum in the town of Marathon, as well as commemorative trophies of the victory.
Open Tues-Sun 8:30am-3pm; 3euros admission.

click to see largerThis most famous of Greek military battles was fought in 490 BC.

In it a Greek force of 10,000 (Athenians and Plataians) defeated an invading Persian army of almost 250,000 infantry and cavalry, which had attacked via both sea and land.

The Persians lost 6400 men, while the Athenian dead numbered only 192, an astonishing military victory.

The battle established the fact that the long-feared Persians were in fact vulnerable. There are many legends associated with the Greek victory at Marathon. Some of the best known described the ghostly assistance of both Theseus and Pan.

Battle sounds have been reported on the otherwise quiet plain at night. The fallen Athenians, contrary to the usual custom of sending the bodies back to their families, were honored with cremation and burial on the battlefield.

Excavations undertaken in 1890, confirmed the ancient tradition associated with the Soros (a heap, or mound) with ashes and calcined bones found there.

Small black-figured lekythoi of the early 5th century BC were also discovered. Heinrich Schliemann, the German father of modern archaeology, who excavatated Troy and Mycenae, found obsidian arrowheads on the surface, which led him to assume that the mound was even older, perhaps used by Ethiopian archers, though no graves of these slaves were found.

The mound where the 192 Athenians were buried, is sign-posted as The Marathon Tomb or Tymfos Marathona. It is 10meters high and about 180meters around, its top commanding a view of the battlefield. At its foot is a marble bas relief.

Though Pausanius described 'tombstones with the names of the fallen arranged according to tribes', set over the Soros, these have disappeared. According to the same writer, the Persian dead were simply thrown in an open trench. The nearby Soros of the Plataians, excavated in 1969-70, is nearby, though there uncertainty surrounds its identification.

This mound, unlike the other, which is simply earth, was constructed entirely of stones, and contains two circles of pit graves, with skeletons of mostly young men found. The pottery in the grave is contemporary with that of the Athenian Soros.

also see Battle of Marathon