While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill - little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago. — John Adams

Story of Greece - Mary Macgregor

The Battle of Marathon

While the council of war was being held, a youth named Philippides was on his way to Sparta to beg the citizens to hasten to the help of their country. Philippides was sometimes called by his friends Pheidippides.

As Philippides sped on his errand a strange adventure befell him, for it is told that he met the great god Pan:

'There, in the cool of a cleft, sat he—majestical Pan.

Ivy drooped wanton, kissed his head, moss cushioned his hoof,

All the great God was good in the eyes grave-kindly—the curl

Carved on the bearded cheek, amused at a mortal's awe,

As under the human trunk, the goat thighs grand I saw.

"Halt, Pheidippides!" halt I did, my brain in a whirl;

"Hither to me; why pale in my presence?" he gracious began.'

The young Athenian was too amazed to answer, he but gazed at the god in silence. Then Pan asked why he was no longer worshipped in Athens, and promised that he would fight among the ranks of the Athenians against Persia, so that henceforth they would worship him in gratitude for his help.

'Test Pan, trust me!

Go bid Athens take heart, laugh Persia to scorn; have faith

In the temples and tombs. Go say to Athens, "The Goat-God saith;

When Persia—so much as strews not the soil—is flung under the sea,

Then praise Pan who fought in the ranks with your most and least,

Goat-thigh to greaved-thigh, made one cause with the free and the bold." '

As a pledge the god then gave to Philippides a handful of a herb called fennel.

The youth then sped on as before until he reached Sparta. But although the Spartans said they were willing to fight, they could not march until the moon was full, for their religious rites forbade that they should.

So Philippides, having done his errand, hastened back to Athens and told the citizens all that had befallen him.

Glad that the god had promised his aid the Athenians at once set out on their march to Marathon. Here they were joined by a force of one thousand men from the little town of Plataea. They came to show their gratitude to the Athenians who had sent help to them when they were attacked by their enemies.

From their camp on a hill above the plain of Marathon, the Greeks looked down upon the vast army of the Persians. For several days no battle was fought, the Persians being unable to attack the Athenians without danger as they were on the hill.

At length Miltiades, whom the other nine generals were willing to follow, resolved to wait no longer. He ordered his men to advance at a sharp run down the hill and to charge the enemy.

When they had started, the soldiers could not stop themselves. Quicker and quicker they ran, until, when they reached the plain, they crashed into the Persian army with tremendous force.

They crashed into the Persian army with tremendous force

The shock was so great that the enemy gave way before it and was driven by the Athenians toward the sea or toward a small marsh that lay at one end of the plain.

But while both wings of the Greek army were victorious, the centre, which was weak, would have been beaten, had not Miltiades seen the danger and called back those who were pursuing the scattered Persian wings. Only after a fierce struggle was the centre of the Persian army also driven to the shore in utter confusion.

Those who escaped the sword of the Athenians tried to reach their ships, but seven of the vessels had been seized by the victors. In the struggle on the shore, Callimachus the polemarch was slain.

The battle of Marathon was won, and the glory of the victory was due to the prowess and skill of Miltiades.

No sooner was the victory certain, than the whole army cried that Philippides should race once again, but this time to the Acropolis, to tell Athens that by the help of Pan she was indeed saved.

'So Pheidippides flung down his shield,

Ran like fire once more; and the space 'twixt the Fennel-field

And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,

Till in he broke; "Rejoice, we conquer." Like wine through clay

Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died—the bliss! . . .

So is Pheidippides happy for ever, the noble, strong man

Who could race like a god, bear the face of a god, whom a god loved so well.

He saw the land saved he had helped to save and was suffered to tell

Such tidings, yet never decline, but gloriously as he began

So to end gloriously—once to shout, thereafter be mute:

"Athens is saved!" Pheidippides dies in the shout for his meed.'


Front Matter

The Great God Pan
The Six Pomegranate Seeds
The Birth of Athene
The Two Weavers
The Purple Flowers
Danae and Her Little Son
The Quest of Perseus
Andromeda and Sea-Monster
Acrisius Killed by Perseus
Achilles and Briseis
Menelaus and Paris Do Battle
Hector and Andromache
The Horses of Achilles
The Death of Hector
Polyphemus the Giant
Odysseus Escapes from Cave
Odysseus Returns to Ithaca
Argus the Hound Dies
The Bow of Odysseus
The Land of Hellas
Lycurgus and His Nephew
Lycurgus Returns to Sparta
Training of the Spartans
The Helots
Aristomenes and the Fox
The Olympian Games
The Last King of Athens
Cylon Fails to be Tyrant
Solon Frees the Slaves
Athenians Take Salamis
Pisistratus Becomes Tyrant
Harmodius and Aristogiton
The Law of Ostracism
The Bridge of Boats
Darius Rewards Histiaeus
Histiaeus Shaves His Slave
Sardis Is Destroyed
Sandal Sewn by Histiaeus
Earth and Water
Battle of Marathon
Miltiades Sails to Paros
Aristides is Ostracised
The Dream of Xerxes
Xerxes Scourges the Hellespont
Bravest Men of All Hellas
Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Artemisium
Themistocles at Salamis
Themistocles Tricks Admirals
Battle of Salamis
Battle of Plataea
Delian League
Themistocles Deceives Spartans
Themistocles is Ostracised
Eloquence of Pericles
Pericles and Elpinice
The City of Athens
Great Men of Athens
Thebans Attack Plataeans
Attica Invaded by Spartans
Last Words of Pericles
Siege of Plataea
The Sentence of Death
Brasidas Loses His Shield
The Spartans Surrender
Brasidas the Spartan
Amphipolus Surrenders
Alcibiades the Favourite
Socrates the Philosopher
Alcibiades Praises Socrates
Images of Hermes Destroyed
Alcibiades Escapes to Sparta
The Siege of Syracuse
Athenian Army is Destroyed
Alcibiades Returns to Athens
Antiochus Disobeys Alcibiades
Walls of Athens Destroyed
March of the Ten Thousand
Pelopidas and Epaminondas
Seven Conspirators
Battle of Leuctra
Death of Epaminondas
The Two Brothers
Timoleon exiles Dionysius
Icetes Attacks Timoleon
Battle of Crimisus
Demosthenes' Wish
Greatest Orator of Athens
The Sacred War
Alexander and Bucephalus
Alexander and Diogenes
Battle of Granicus
The Gordian Knot
Darius Gallops from Battle
Tyre Stormed by Alexander
Battle of Gaugamela
Alexander Burns Persepolis
Alexander Slays Foster-Brother
Porus and His Elephant
Alexander Is Wounded
The Death of Alexander
Demosthenes in the Temple