What Happened at the Battle of Marathon?

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At Marathon, Greek forces successfully defended a Persian invasion. The Battle of Marathon was one of history's earliest recorded battles, occurring in September 490 B.C., nine years after the beginning of the Greco-Persian Wars. The battle is also considered a turning point in the wars, as the Persians were forced to retreat and end their first attempt at invasion.

Persian forces were led by Datis and Artaphernes. Under the orders of King Darius I, they had already begun to subjugate other Greek cities before the battle. Greece, at this time, was a group of city-states rather than a unified country. Forces from Athens learned of a looming Persian attack and enlisted the aid of Plataean troops to catch the Persians off guard. The Persian cavalry likely would have outmatched the Greek forces, but they were away for a short absence. The two armies battled on the Plains of Marathon, about 26 miles north of Athens. The Greek attack method is notable because it was one of the first recorded accounts of a full-run charge into enemy forces. Though momentum swayed between the opponents, Greek forces were able to flank both sides of the Persians, who were forced to retreat. The Persians boarded their vessels and tried to sail to Athens before the Athenian troops could return but were unsuccessful, and they retreated to Asia.