| On the Shores of the Great Sea|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book I of the Story of the World series. Focuses on the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ. Brief histories of the Ancient Israelites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans are given, concluding with the conquest of the entire Mediterranean by Rome. Important myths and legends that preceded recorded history are also related. Ages 9-18 |
THE BATTLE OF MARATHON
"The mountains look on Marathon,
And Marathon looks on the sea."
NOW the Ionian Greeks longed for freedom from the Persians. They liked to think they belonged to
 the mother country, not to these foreigners, whom they had to serve. So they made another attempt to throw off
the yoke of Persia, and this time the men of Athens helped them.
But it was no use, for the Persians were too strong for them. Miletus was the strongest of these coast cities
belonging to the Ionian Greeks. When the men of Miletus found that the whole great Persian army was about to
blockade their city, they resolved, in their despair, to take to their ships and surround the city themselves,
and so prevent the Persians entering it. They mustered some three hundred and fifty-three ships in all, but
what was their dismay to find, that the Persians had brought double that number, manned by Phnician sailors!
Then arose a Greek, named Dionysius, commander of the Greek ships. He promised them certain victory, even, over
the Phnician sailors, if they would only work hard under his directions, and learn better how to manage their
ships. From morning to night, through seven long summer days, the Greeks practised, under their commander, for
the coming battle. But on the eighth day they lost all patience. They were a pleasure-loving race and not used
to discipline. They had not been brought up like the Spartan boys.
So they left their ships and spent the precious hours, in careless ease, under the shade of the trees on
 The Persian fleet attacked, the Greeks scrambled on board; the last struggle for the freedom of Ionia was at
hand. But a disgraceful scene followed; many of the Greek ships deserted, and the result was, the capture of
Miletus, by the Persians. They killed all the men and carried the women and children into captivity. Everywhere
they carried fire and sword, and the Ionian Greeks were more than ever subject to them.
Still Darius was not satisfied. He was very angry with the men of Athens for helping the Ionian Greeks against
him, and he made a vow that he would punish them. It is said, that he bade one of his slaves, to say to him
three times at dinner, "Sire, remember the Athenians."
It was early, on one September day, in the year 490 B.C., that a great Persian fleet sailed into the Bay of
Marathon, the seaport of Athens, in order to attack the city by land and sea. From the heights above the town,
the men of Athens beheld the plain crowded with Persian tents, and the bay full of Persian ships—beheld them
with terror and awe. Was not this Darius, who had captured their rich seaboard cities in Asia Minor, who
possessed Egypt and would fain possess the rest of the world? The very name of Persia was a terror to the
A great question was before the men of Athens. Should they await the approach of the great Persian army, or
should they boldly go forth to meet
 them? There were five times as many Persians as Athenians; a fact which seemed to promise no chance of victory.
They assembled together. Miltiades
spoke. He was the man who had urged the Ionians to destroy the bridge over the Danube some years before. He now
proposed that the army should march to Marathon and meet the Persians there. His decision carried the day. He
had won undying fame.
The Athenians marched out of their city and encamped on the hills, overlooking the plain of Marathon, for
Marathon lay between the mountains and the sea. They were alone in their desperate peril, for the Spartans
could hardly arrive in time.
The battle-signal was given, and the whole Greek army, shouting their war-cry, "Io pćan! Io pćan!" charged down
the hills, at a run, into the plain of Marathon. Such courage deserved success. For some time Athenians and
Persians fought together at Marathon; then the Persians gave way and ran backwards toward the sea, while six
thousand lay dead upon the plain.
Thus Athens saved Greece from the Persians. The battle of Marathon was one of the most splendid battles that
has ever been fought and won; for had Greece become subject to Darius, the great monarch of the East, the
history of Europe might have been, like the history of Asia, a story of misery and oppression.
 And still the ships of to-day, sailing eastwards, may see the monument, put up to the heroes of Marathon,
bearing the words of the old Greek poet—
"At Marathon for Greece the Athenians fought."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics