Category Archives: Cohort II

Trajan

Marcus Ulpius Traianus, the Roman Emperor known as Trajan was born in about 54 AD in Spain. He was the son of a Consul which made him royalty.  Due to his exceptional public and military reputation he was chosen to be the successor of Nerva who adopted him in approximately 98 AD.  Shortly after his adoption, Emperor Nerva died and Trajan became the Emperor.  Just three years later Rome would embark on the first of two wars with the Dacians (Germanic barbarians) who lived across the Danube in what is now known as Romania. The leader of the Dacians was by Decebalus.  Emperor Trajan’s lead the Romans to victory in both wars (Beckman, 1998).Trajan’s Column is a monument located Rome, Italy and was created to commemorate Rome’s victory in the Dacian Wars.  Emperor Trajan was the leader of the Roman Army and he is the subject of many of the etchings which depict the Roman army in their daily activities as well as when they were in battle with the Dacians (Trajan’s column, 2012).

This section of the column below to the left depicts Trajan standing on a bridge welcoming his soldiers on the left. Upon close examination of the section the construction of the bridge is apparent.  Also, notice how the soldiers are wearing their armor.  The soldiers are depicted standing lower that Trajan and his advisors.  Trajan arrives at a campsite and is conversing with the soldiers.  Here the soldiers are dressed more casually.  The construction of the walls which the Roman soldiers are famous for is clearly shown in the background (Rockwell, Trajan interacting with his soldiers, 1980-1990).

Scene 50-51 Trajan interacting with his soldiers. Used by permission. Copyright Peter Rockwell http://www.stoa.org/trajan/images/hi/4.1.h.jpg

Scene 428 Trajan making a sacrifice on the danube. Used with permission. Copyright Peter Rockwell. http://www.stoa.org/trajan/images/hi/4.79.h.jpg

In the section of the column to the right, the army is standing in front of a fort on a bridge. Trajan appears to be offering a sacrifice in their behalf. He is bare headed and in wearing what is known as military undress uniform. He appears to be pouring something on the alter.  The people standing around Trajan seem to be at ease and there is also a small girl known as a camulis standing by with a incense box.  There is at least one high ranking officer standing next to Trajan.   (Rockwell, Trajan sacrificing by the danube, 1980-1990).

Resources

Trajan’s column. (2012, March 2). Retrieved March 8, 2012, from Wikpedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan’s_Column

Beckman, M. (1998). Trajans Column. (M. G. George, Editor, G. Rockwell, Producer, & The MacMaster Trajan Project) Retrieved March 8, 2012, from http://www.stoa.org: http://www.stoa.org/trajan/introductory_essay.html

Richmond, I. (1935). Trajan’s army in trajan’s column. Papers of the British School at Rome, 13, 1-40. Retrieved March 8, 2012, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40310440

Rockwell, P. Trajan sacrificing by the danube. Retrieved March 8, 2012, from http://www.stoa.org/trajan/buildtrajanpage.cgi?205.0914+true

Rockwell, P. Trajan interacting with his soldiers. Retrieved March 8, 2012, from http://www.stoa.org/trajan/buildtrajanpage.cgi?4

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Strategic Formations of the Battle of Cannae

August, 216 B.C: near the small township of Cannae, a mere two hundred fifty miles from Rome, Hannibal of Carthage and his army prepared for battle. They were faced off against the legions of Aemilius Paullus and Caius Terrentius Varro, the Consuls of Rome. Under normal circumstances, one consul and a couple of legions was enough to stir optimism in a Roman victory. “On the occasion in question, however, they were so alarmed and terrified that they decided to send not just four, but eight Roman legions into battle at once” (Polybius 213) as well as both of their consuls. These were also extended legions, each consisting of 5000 infantry and 300 cavalry instead of 4000 and 200 respectively (Lancel 104). Legionary command alternated every other day for Paullus and Varro, who disagreed on nearly everything. On August 2, 216 B.C., it was Varro’s turn to command the army. Just after sunrise, he led his troops out onto the battlefield, forming a continuous line facing south. Aemilius commanded the right wing of 2,400 Roman cavalry posted near the river Aufidus. Center force of 55,000 heavy infantry  and forward center position of 15,000 light infantry(McKnight 7) was commanded by the previous year’s consuls, Atilius and Servilius (Polybius219). Varro headed the Allied cavalry of 3,600 on the left wing. In total, the Roman army was a force of approximately 86,000 men.

Hannibal’s army of 50,000 was much smaller than that of the Romans. However, he also had cavalry superiority, which was perfect for the flat and treeless battlefield they would be fighting on. Hasdrubal was in charge of the Spanish and Gallic cavalry of 6,500 on the left wing near the river. Hannibal and his brother, Mago, commanded the center of 10,000 Libyans, 6000 Spaniards, and 1,250 Gauls/Celts as well as the 11,500 light infantry that took up the forward position. Right wing made of  3,500 Numidian cavalry was commanded by Hanno (McKnight). The fighting had begun: it was Hasdrubal’s Spanish/Gallic cavalry versus Paullus’ Roman cavalry near the river, the main bodies of infantry in the center, and Hanno’s Numidian cavalry versus Varro’s Roman Allied cavalry on the opposite side.

Varro’s plan was to smash through the Carthaginian center using sheer weight of numbers. To further this ideal, he reduced the gaps between the maniples in each line and made each maniple very deep (Goldsworthy 97) increasing its power but sacrificing its order and flexibility. Hannibal took his straight line of infantry and moved the center forward, making a crescent shaped line that protruded out toward the enemy (Polybius 218).

Outcome and movements of the Roman and Carthaginian armies

 Near the river Afidus, Hasdrubal’s cavalry engaged Paullus’ Roman cavalry. Varro hoped that the cramped space between the river and the flank of the river army would cancel out any advantage Hasdrubal may have had in making a mobile attack. However, the Gauls and Spaniards were used to fighting in close quarters (McKnight 11). Their ferocity decimated the Roman cavalry, whose survivors were chased along the riverbank and slaughtered. Paullus escaped and rejoined the main conflict in the center.

 The Roman line of infantry had become much thicker in the center, since Hannibal’s formation provoked the Romans to attack there first.  The thin crescent line of Gauls and Spaniards began to fall back under the pressure of the densely packed maniples. As they gave way and swiftly retreated, the Romans chased after them. Exploiting their supposed success, maniples from behind as well as large numbers from the sides were drawn into the struggle. The Roman infantry was now more like a frenzied crowd than an organized body of soldiers. (Goldsworthy147)

 Meanwhile, the Numidian Cavalry on Hannibal’s right wing attacked the Roman Allied Cavalry facing them. The Numidians harassed them from all sides, taking turns at throwing javelins and then running away. They did not inflict or sustain any major damage but at the same time distracted the Roman allies from aiding the infantry in the main conflict.

 Hasdrubal’s cavalry had regrouped and came over to assist the Numidians. The outnumbered Roman Allies panicked and fled. The remaining Allied horsemen were picked off by the pursuing Numidians, whose peculiar tactics became more dangerous once they had the enemy on the run (Polybius 220).

During this time, the Roman legions rushed right into Hannibal’s trap. In pursuit of the fleeing Gauls and Spaniards, the Romans had continued so far forward that they exposed both flanks to the heavy Libyan infantry. Having not yet fought, these eight to ten thousand troops were fresh and in good order (Goldsworthy 148). Startled by the energetic attack from the Libyans on either side, the Romans stopped dead in their tracks and turned to face their attackers. The Gauls and Spaniards returned, walling them in from three sides.  

With the Allied cavalry being taken care of by the Numidians, Hasdrubal’s horsemen joined the main conflict. Closing in and attacking from the back served to boost morale for Hannibal’s troops as well as demoralize and terrify the Romans. They were now surrounded on all sides, unable to escape because of their packed formations. Inner maniples may not have realized the danger until the men in front of them were cut down; the victorious Carthaginians annihilated the remaining Roman army rank by rank from the outside in.

Works Cited

Polybius. The Histories. Trans. Robin Waterfield. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print

Goldsworthy, Adrian. Cannae. London: Cassell & Co. 1988. Print.

McKnight, Sean. Holmes, Richard., ed The Hutchinson Atlas of Battle Plans. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998. Print.

Holmes, Terence M. “Classical Blitzkrieg: The Untimely Modernity of Schlieffen’s Cannae Programme.” The Journal of Military History 67.3 (2003) 745-771. Web. 15 Feb. 2012

Lancel, Serge. Hannibal. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Inc.

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To Rome!! Or not…

After a victory of epic proportions at the Battle of Cannae, the assumed logical step for Hannibal and the Carthaginian army would be to march on Rome and overtake the capital. With 20/20 hindsight, it is in fact quite obvious that Hannibal’s failure to capture Rome “cost him his one good chance of final victory” and eventually led to his downfall (Matyszac). Livy has recorded that while congratulating him on an incredible victory, Hannibal’s general Maharbal stated:

“That you may know, what has been gained by this battle I prophesy that in five days you will be feasting as victor in the Capitol. Follow me; I will go in advance with the cavalry; they will know that you are come before they know that you are coming” (22.51). Livy records that Hannibal “told Maharbal that he commended his zeal, but he needed time to think out his plans” (22.51). To this Maharbal replied: “The gods have not given all their gifts to one man. You know how to win victory Hannibal, you do not how to use it” (22.51).

One can only speculate his true motivation behind the decision not to march on Rome, but clues exist that help to illustrate a clearer picture of Hannibal’s judgment.

Hannibal (Wikipedia Contributors)

One of the most fundamental, yet easily overlooked reasons behind Hannibal’s decision is his supply of food. Prior to Cannae, Hannibal lacked the sustenance necessary to support an army. At this time he was not receiving any support from Carthage and his troops spent much of their time foraging across the Italian countryside (Shean, 185). Hannibal’s strategy once in Italy focused largely on relying upon Rome’s resources (Lazenby, 43). Shean states that “logistical problems had dogged him throughout his early campaigns in Italy [and] the victory at Cannae brought no immediate relief to these problems” (185). It is not difficult to imagine why Hannibal chose not to drag an already battered, poorly provisioned and underfed army on a 250 mile march to attack a walled and fortified city. Even after a catastrophic defeat, the Romans still had an advantage of an “inexhaustible suppl[y] of provisions and of men” (Lazenby, 43). According to Shean, “Hannibal’s failure to move on Rome stemmed from the least glamorous and most mundane reason of all: no food” (185).

Maharbal’s eager exclamation of Hannibal dining as a victor in Rome within five days is indeed a pretty sentiment, but would be logistically next to impossible. The distance Hannibal’s forces would be required to cover the between Cannae and Rome within five days would equate to a pace of fifty miles per day, as opposed to the usual pace of Hannibal’s army which hovered around nine (Lazenby, 41).  After such a sprint across the Italian countryside, it is highly unlikely that his troops would be able to accomplish anything significant once they reached Rome—a city that was by no means left unfortified or lacking in able-bodied civilians (Lazenby, 41). Hannibal would not only face many who would have already seen military service, but many armed slaves, and all who would rise to defend their country, honor, wives and children (Lazenby, 41; Polybius, par. 109).

It is impossible to pinpoint a single motivation for Hannibal’s decision not to attack the capitol. Food, logistics and manpower may have all contributed to the objections against taking the city. Hannibal may have recognized his disadvantage in the particular type of “trench warfare” that would have been required to take Rome (Lazenby, 41). It is also a possibility that the victory at Cannae left Hannibal with the impression that the “war was already won” (Matyszac, 38). Whatever the reason behind the decision, “that day’s delay is believed to have saved the City and the empire [of Rome]” (Livy, 22.51).

Sources:

Knox, E.L. Skip. The Punic Wars: Battle of Cannae. Boise State University History of Western Civilization. 15 Feb 2012. http://www.boisestate.edu/courses/westciv/punicwar/09.shtml

Lazenby, John. Was Maharbal Right?. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. 22 Feb 2011. Web. 16 Feb 2012. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2041-5370.1996.tb01912.x/abstract

Livy. Livy’s History of Rome: The Disaster of Cannae. Book 22. University of Virginia Electronic Text Center. Web. 15 Feb 2012.

Matyszac, Philip. The Enemies of Rome From Hannibal to Attila the Hun. London: Thames and Hudson, 2004. Print.

Polybius. The Battle of Cannae, 216 BCE. Book III. Fordham University Ancient History Sourcebook. Web. 15 Feb 2012.

Shean, John F. Hannibal’s Mules: The Logistical Limitations of Hannibal’s Army and the Battle of Cannae, 216 B.C.. Franz Steiner Verlag, 1996. 16 Feb 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4436417

Wikipedia contributors. “Hannibal.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.

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Horses, Camels, Elephants, Oh my!

 

Alexander’s army of 65,000 Macedonians was also accompanied by 1300 baggage animals and 6100 cavalry horses, according to Engel. The estimation of this exact number of animals would fluctuate due to the provisions  being carried, availability of animals, as well as those lost to sickness and exhaustion. Horses, mules, and camels were the main types of pack animals included in Alexander’s baggage train.

 In addition to food and provisions, some pack animals were used for carrying non-comestible supplies like tents, hammocks, firewood, medical supplies, and treasure. A few horse or mule-drawn carts were designated to carry siege weapons, act as the army ambulance, or sometimes carry women and children. These were limited due to their tendency to break down and their cumbersome nature over rough terrain. Carts were additionally restricted because of the inefficient throat and girth harness, which was placed directly over the animal’s windpipe: the harder the horse pulled, the more it choked him. (Engel)

Horses and mules are basically the same as far as rations and carrying capacity; both  require an average of ten pounds of grain rations, ten pounds of grazing fodder, and eight gallons of water per day (Engel 18). A horse or mule can carry two-hundred pounds and each animal is capable of pulling a load directionally proportional to its body weight. The animals can bear the load, whether from pack or rider, for about five to seven consecutive days. After that, they will need to rest and have time – at least sixteen hours a day – for grazing to stay in good condition (Sidnell 85). Being a military campaign, conditions were not particularly ideal for the animal. Many horses died from exhaustion and/or malnutrition because the speed of the march prevented them from grazing, even though there was plenty of grain supply (Engel 81). Under these types of harsh conditions, common equine health issues may have also included wounds, poor body condition, respiratory diseases, parasites, dental problems, and lameness (Burn et al.)

Unfortunately, sick, injured, or exhausted horses were an encumbrance to the army and had to be left behind. Worse things could happen to a pack animal, namely being engulfed by sand, washed away by monsoons, or eaten by hungry soldiers (Arrian 6.24.4-6, 6.25.1-3, 6.25.4-5). Alexander turned a blind eye on this sort of ravenous activity, especially during desperate times. It made sense for the soldiers to eat the animals – after all, the average camel carcass provides 900-1400 pounds of meat (Wikipedia Contributors).

The introduction of the camel may have occurred after the Battle of Issus where Darius’ baggage train, which included camels, was captured by Alexander’s army. The benefits of using camels as pack animals in arid climates is obvious; camels are genetically developed to withstand temperatures and conditions that would kill most other animals (Wikipedia). A camel can also carry at least one hundred pounds more than the typical horse or mule (Engel 14). The largest disadvantage of using camels is that they require more water – ten gallons per day on average (Engel 18).

A mosaic depiction of Alexander and his horse Bucephalus at the Battle of Issus.

Besides camels, Alexander’s entourage even included elephants at times, some of which were captured from enemy baggage trains or rounded up from abandoned settlements (Arrian 3.15.4,4.30.7). When Alexander arrived at the Indus River, he was presented with thirty elephants in addition to the two ships, two hundred silver talents, three thousand sacrificial oxen, and ten thousand head of cattle (Arrian 5.3.5). Alexander’s horse, Bucephalus, was bred from famous Thessalian strain and cost thirteen talents – enough money for a Greek laborer to live on for a hundred years (Sidnell 85).

Among the 6100 cavalry horses, there are three distinct breeds that may have used. The first is an extinct breed: the Nisaean. Sixteen hands high and very muscular, the sacred Median horses were prized for their unusual size and strength. They were the most valuable horses in the ancient world and regarded as the most beautiful horses alive (Wikipedia Contributors). Modern descendants of the Nisaean include the Iberian breeds such as the Andalusian and Lusitano. The second breed used by the Macedonians, the Ferghana, is also extinct. Bred in what is now modern Uzbekistan and measuring at 15.3 hands, this ‘celestial’ breed used by Alexander was also greatly sought after by the Chinese to establish an Imperial bloodline. Emperor Wu Ti’s army suffered fifty thousand casualties when he forcibly seized three thousand stallions from Ferghana (Sidnell). The third breed, the Akhal-Teke, is the only one still in existence. A bit smaller than the Ferghana and more finely built than the Nisaean, these horses have prodigious stamina and beautiful, shining coats that look almost metallic in sunlight; the capital of the country from which the Akhal-Teke originate was even called ‘Bactra of the Golden Horses’ (Sidnell 85).

A modern day photograph of an Akhal-Teke. Tekes come not only in gold, but also in many other colors including bronze, copper, and obsidian.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A dark brown Andalusian horse. Andalusians and other Spanish breeds are believed to be descended from the now extinct Nisaean horse - the most beautiful and valuable breed in antiquity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of Emperor Taizong's horses from Zhaoling - likely to have Ferghana bloodlines. Tang Dynasty (c.650). University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Arrianus, Lucius Flavius. The Landmark Arrian: the Campaigns of Alexander. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. Print

 Sidnell, Philip. Warhorse: Cavalry in Ancient Warfare. New York: Continuum Books US, 2006. Print

 Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and Logistics of the Macedonian Army. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. Print.

 Burn, Charlotte C., Tania L. Dennison, and Helen R. Whay. “Relationships between behaviour and health in working horses, donkeys, and mules in developing countries.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 126, 3 (2010): 109-118. Web. 8 Feb. 2012

Wikipedia contributors. “Nisean horse.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 12 Dec. 2011. Web. 9 Feb. 2012.

Wikipedia contributors. “Camel.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 8 Feb. 2012.

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Grecian Military Technology at the Battle of Marathon

Advancing two kilometers under a broiling August sun, each combatant sweltering under more than 30 kg of bronze, wood and leather, and running the last 100 m through a storm of arrows, the Greeks smashed into their lightly armored foes. Driving the Persians back to their ships, the Athenians killed 6,400 of them while losing only 192 of their own men. Then, in perhaps the day’s most impressive military feat, the exhausted Greeks turned around and raced 42 km back to Athens — the length of a modern marathon run– arriving in time to protect it from the Persian fleet.” (Bethune)

Undoubtedly, weapons and military technology play a crucial part in the decision of victory or defeat. Had the Persians been as heavily armored as Greeks, western civilization as we know it would not exist. For the sake of brevity, Grecian siege weapons and naval technology will not be covered in this blog. Instead, we will focus on military technology relevant to the Battle of Marathon from a Greek perspective. Mainly, this would include the weapons and battle techniques of Athenian and Plataean Hoplites, since the Greeks had “neither cavalry nor archers” (Herodotus).

Hoplites are heavily armored infantry, their name deriving from the word hoplon, or a piece of armor or equipment. Their greatest innovation and primary piece of equipment, the aspis, or shield, had both defensive and offensive capabilities. The typical Bronze Age aspis measured one meter in diameter and weighed about nine kilograms (approx. twenty pounds) or more, being made of a concave wooden disc overlaid with bronze. To hold this type of shield, the left arm would be inserted through two leather straps, one strap bearing most of the shield’s weight on the forearm, the other strap being held in the hand for maneuverability (Strickland). Being thus attached to the left arm, one can imagine the hoplite’s right side would be vulnerable to attack. However, the close knit formation of the phalanx remedied this problem; each man’s shield would cover his left side as well as the right side of the person next to him, creating a nearly impenetrable wall of defense.

A Hoplon shield

While good defense is very helpful, bashing one’s enemy with a twenty pound shield is not going to cut it. That said, a Hoplite’s primary weapon of choice was a doru. The doru was a six to ten foot long spear, two inches in diameter, made of cornel or ash wood. It weighed two to four pounds, fronted by a flat, leaf-shaped iron spearhead counterbalanced by a bronze butt-spike. The butt-spike was nicknamed “lizard killer” after the way an enemy’s toes looked, peeking out from under their shield. “The blunt, square shape would prevent the spike from penetrating deeply enough into the foot or ankle to entangle it and would have maximized damage to the bones, ligaments, and tendons of the foot with a minimum of force” (Wikipedia). Stabbing this bronze spike into an exposed leg or foot would likely be enough to bring an opponent to their knees – and consequently, their demise. This innovation also enabled the rear ranks of a phalanx to dispatch any Persian that may have fallen to the ground as the phalanx pushed forward.

The secondary weapon of choice was a short sword of iron known as the xiphos. Hoplites were trained for phalanx warfare; developing skill as a swordsmen was left up to the individual. Being somewhat lacking in that area, the average hoplite would most likely draw his sword only if the spear was no longer an option. Lesser equipment such as the helmet, breastplate, and greaves were developed with much less care than the aspis or doru. Because of the aspis, Hoplites could wear smaller, more form-fitting body armor. The lesser armor was typically made of bronze, making them still quite heavy. The 10,000 heavily armored infantrymen present at the battle had a considerable advantage over their lightly-armored Persian adversaries  not only because of their equipment, but also because of the combination of tactics and terrain. The wrong tactic can cancel out any superiority in weapons: “Greek hoplites, for instance, proved to be ineffective against light-armed infantry on rough terrain, exactly like light-armed troops proved useless against heavy infantry on level ground “ (Fagan and Trundle).

Iron sword, arrowhead, and two lead sling bullets found on the field of  Marathon

Bronze greaves

Works Cited

Herodotus. The Landmark Herodotus: the histories. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007. Print

Bethune, Brian. “The most decisive conflict in world history.” Maclean’s Dec. 2005. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 Jan. 2012.

Strickland, Tod. “An Impressive and Amazing Force: The Hoplite Warrior” Fall 2001. Google Scholar. Web. 30 Jan. 2012.

Fagan, Garrett and Matthew Trundle. New Perspectives on Ancient Warfare. Brill, 2010. Google Scholar. Web. 30 Jan. 2012

“Battle of Marathon.” Wikipedia. Web. 30 Jan. 2012

“Doru.” Wikipedia. Web. 30 Jan. 2012

“Aspis” Wikipedia. Web. 30 Jan. 2012

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Greek Strategy in the Battle of Marathon

  Battle of Marathon Battle of Thermopylae Battle of Salamis
Time August/September

490 BCE

August 7 or September 8-10, 480 BCE September, 480 BCE
Where it was fought Marathon Greece Thermopylae, Greece The Straits of Salamis
 

Who’s fighting who

Athenians

And Plateans

Greek City- States Persian Empire Persians Greek City-states Achaemenid Empire
 

 

Led By

Miltiades the younger, Callimachus Themistocles, Leonidas I and Demophilus Xerxes I of Persia, Mardonius, and Hydarnes Datis,  Artaphernes Eurybiades, Themistocles Xerxes I of Persia, Artemisia I of Caria, and Ariabignes
Result Greek victory Persian Victory Greek Victory

Looking at the Battle of Marathon from the Greek side, we see that strategically the Greek (particularly Athenian) motivation was to defend themselves against Persian invaders. It is believed that King Darius of Persia ordered his general, Mardonius, to pillage, burn and enslave Athens as punishment for their role in the feeding the Ionian Revolt which lasted from c. 499 to 493 BCE (“Greco-Persian Wars”). In the battle of Marathon, 10,000 Athenian citizen-soldiers confronted an overwhelmingly larger Persian force and miraculously emerged victorious.

Even though fighting on home turf, the Greek force was still at a disadvantage.  Terrain is a definite deciding factor in any battle as each group developed fighting tactics based on the nature of the country—therefore, if one group can entice their opponent into an engagement on favorable terrain, there is a decisive advantage given to one party while the other is fatally handicapped. While the Greeks may have had home court advantage, the flat battlefield and surrounding country was ideal for the Persian cavalry (“The Battle of Marathon, 490 BC). Greek victory may be partially attributed to the ineffectiveness or tardiness of the Persian cavalry.

To Fight, or Not to Fight:

Herodotus recounts Athenian generals being divided in opinion whether to risk battle with the Persians because the Athenian forces were too few in number. The ten generals cast a vote, with the deciding eleventh vote belonging to Callimachus of Aphindae. It is believed that Miltiades, a general in favor of battle, approached Callimachus in an attempt to persuade his vote toward engaging in battle. His argument for conflict was that the people of Athens were faced with one of two options: submit to slavery without engaging in conflict or fight to defend themselves with the hopes that with a just cause and the assistance of the gods they can overcome the enemy and leave a legacy for future generations (Koeller).

When the vote was cast, the Athenian force prepared for battle. The small army succeeded in blocking the two exits to the plain of Marathon which brought about a stalemate. After waiting five days, the Athenians attacked the Persians (“The Battle of Marathon, 490 BC”). To the astonishment of the Persian army, what appeared to be a small handful of men charged across the plain of Marathon without archers or cavalry—apparently welcoming their own destruction (Koeller). Even outnumbered as they were, the Greek hoplites were much more effective against the Persian infantry (“The Battle of Marathon, 490 BC”).  In defense of their lives, freedom and city, the Athenian army slew about six thousand four hundred barbarians, while only losing one hundred ninety two of their own (Koeller). The victory at Marathon was monumental to Greeks, so much so that after the death of Aeschylus (a famous Greek playwright who is considered the father of tragedy) his participation in the Battle of Marathon was held in higher esteem than his life as a successful playwright (West).

Αἰσχύλον Εὐφορίωνος Ἀθηναῖον τόδε κεύθει

μνῆμα καταφθίμενον πυροφόροιο Γέλας·

ἀλκὴν δ’ εὐδόκιμον Μαραθώνιον ἄλσος ἂν εἴποι

καὶ βαθυχαιτήεις Μῆδος ἐπιστάμενος

Beneath this stone lies Aeschylus, son of Euphorion, the Athenian,

who perished in the wheat-bearing land of Gela;

of his noble prowess the grove of Marathon can speak,

and the long-haired Persian knows it well.

Copy & Translation of the inscription on Aeschylus’s tomb (“Aeschylus”)

 

Battle Plan: Battle of Marathon (Hatzigeorgiou)

 

Fighting on the plain of Marathon (Hatzigeorgiou)

 

Sources:

Research:

Koeller, David. Then Again. “Herodotus The Persian Wars: The Battle of Marathon.” Liberal Arts College in Chicago , IL., 2005. Web. 24 Jan 2012. http://www.thenagain.info/Classes/Sources/HerodotusMarathon.html

“Aeschylus.” Wikipedia, 26 Jan 2012. Web. 24 Jan 2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeschylus

“Greco-Persian Wars” Wikipedia, 20 Jan 2012. Web. 31 Jan 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GrecoPersian_Wars

“The Battle of Marathon, 490 BC.” EyeWitness to History, 2006. Web. 31 Jan 2012. eyewitnesstohistory.com

 Images:

Hatzigeorgiou, Karen J. “Battle of Marathon.” Karen’s Whimsy, 2011. Web. 31Jan 2012. karenswhimsy.com/battleofmarathon.shtm

“Aeschylus.” Wikipedia, 26 Jan 2012. Web. 24 Jan 2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeschylus

 

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The Battle of Marathon Post

Brief  History and Aftermath

The year is 490 BC and the Persian King, Darius I, knows no restraints in his conquest for vengeance against his enemies from the Ionian Revolt. In 492 and 491 Darius built his army and commanded that vessels be constructed to transport his army in order to overtake the Greeks (Doenges 2). A force of 9,000  Athenians and 1,000 Plataeans held their position against 600 triremes and an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 Persian infantry in Marathon, Greece. (Hammond 32).  

After approximately 5 days of waiting the Athenian infantry still held its advantageous position.  The Persian force desiring to remove the Athenian force from its defensive position at last gave up. Datis, the Persian commander, consented to the fight in fear that the Spartans may show up. On September 11, 490 BC the battle ensued as the Persian and Athenian forces mingled to test their fate. Datis moved his forces opposite from the Athenian infantry with their backs to the sea that they had entered days before. Sixteen-hundred yards away, the Athenians marched until they were at approximately 200 meters from the first Persian line  – just out of range from the Persian archers (Hammond 29).

“Elelue! Eleleu!” The Athenians ran the last 200 meters colliding into the Persian force (Wikipedia.org).

The Persians pushed through the strategic weak point in the Athenian infantry’s line. The Persians found that the Athenians had overtaken them on the wings and were now folding in on them (Doenges 13).

In fear, the Persian army retreated into the unfamiliar marshes toward the sea in which they entered, clinging to the boats which brought them. Many were slaughtered perhaps most losing their lives in the retreat. Seven ships were captured. At the end of the battle 6,400 Persians had been slain compared to the 192 Athenians who won a noble victory. File:Hill where the Athenians were buried after the Battle of Marathon.jpg This image is the burial mound for the 192 Athenian soldiers who lost their lives at the battle of marathon (Johnson).

After pushing the Persians back to sea, they sailed around Sounion. It is assumed,  in hopes that they might invade and conquer Athens. As the Athenians observed the route which the Persians took towards Athens, they tiresomely marched toward Athens to meet the opposing fleet. Because of the timely return to Athens by the Athenians, the Persians sailed back toward Asia (Doenges 15).

The Spartan force arrived a day later and witnessed the calamity distributed to the Persians acknowledging that the Athenians “had won a great victory” (Wikipedia.org).

Although the Athenians leaned their foes the Persians we not invincible, fear still ensued in the hearts of the Athenians that the Persians would shortly come back. For a decade later the people and politics were aroused by the ongoing threat that Darius would seek yet another vengeance against them. Themistocles rose to the challenge revitalizing and enlarging the Athenian Military (Doenges 17).

 

References

 
Doenges, Norman A. “The Campaign and Battle of Marathon.” Historia: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschichte Bd. 47, H. 1 (1st Qtr., 1998): 1-17 JSTOR Weber State University, Ogden UT. Jan. 2012 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4436491>
 
Hammond, N. G. L. “The Campaign and the Battle of Marathon.” The Journal of hellenisc Studies, Vol. 88, (1968): 13-57 JSTOR Weber State University, Ogden UT. Jan 2012 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/628670>.
 

Johnson, Ryan. “Hill where the Athenians were buried after the Battle of Marathon.” 3 April 2007. 29 January 2012 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hill_where_the_Athenians_were_buried_after_the_Battle_of_Marathon.jpg>.

 
Wikipedia.org “Battle of Marathon.” Wikipedia.org. (Jan. 9 2012). Jan 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Battle_of_Marathon&oldid=470371322>.
 

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