|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
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
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
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
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."
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