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Battle of Marathon, 490 BC

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By Jonathan Webb
Click here to view animation. 
(Ensure you hit F5 or View Show)
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Miltiades versus Datis: A Greek army under Miltiades tries to surprise a Persian rearguard under Datis and push it into the sea. Can Datis use his army’s strengths to defeat Miltiades?

Historians have cited this battle as the battle that saved Western culture in its youngest days and allowed it to survive and flourish. This is likely a touch over-dramatic but it is clear the result of this battle changed the path of history.
This battle emphasizes the importance of using tactics that are suitable to the composition of the forces involved. Miltiades’ sprint towards the Persian lines would have been nonsensical had he commanded light infantry and missile throwers while Datis commanded hoplites. The best commanders choose their maneuver based not only on the enemy’s dispositions but their composition as well; red and blue boxes are not always the same.
This is the first animation I completed so to me, it seems primitive and unattractive even after upgrading it to newer, higher standards. You will notice units do not rotate properly and the movement sequences are slower. Although this battle was chosen because it was basic, it allowed me to test things out which were built upon later. Almost everything started at this animation so it is fitting that the battle is the earliest battle animated thus far.
– Jonathan Webb
Works Consulted
Black, Jeremy. The Seventy Great Battles in History. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
Davis, Paul K. 100 Decisive Battles from Ancient Times to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Dupuy, Trevor N. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present, Fourth Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Goodenough, Simon. Tactical Genius in Battle. Oxford: Phodian Press, 1979.
Herodotus. The Histories. Translated by Aubrey de Selincourt. New York: Penguin, 2003.
Lendering, Jona. “Battle of Marathon.” Livius. (accessed Nov. 20, 2007).
United States Military Academy History Department. “Atlas for Ancient Warfare.” United States Military Academy. (accessed Sep. 25, 2008).
Greek hoplite:  
Map of the Persian Empire:
Map of the world:
Persian infantry:
Persian cavalry:


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  1. 18 Comments to “Battle of Marathon, 490 BC”

  2. Excellent!!! đŸ˜€ it’s simple, and easy to understand. But a little bit of demonstrating images (war gears, reconstruction, etc.) would make it even better. Thanks for the knowledge. Cheer!!!

    By Bobby on Feb 2, 2009 at 2:02 pm

  3. This website has helped me soooooooo much on my ancient battle project! I am doing the Battle of Marathon, and by watching the ppt. and the video it has helped a lot.
    I am accually just finishing up the project as i write this.
    I got way ahead of my self because I spent all day doing this project and it isn’t due untill the 26th.

    Thanks, The art of battle!!!

    By Laura on Feb 7, 2010 at 6:57 pm

  4. gigiddy gigidy

    By Nick C on Feb 24, 2010 at 7:39 pm

  5. Checked this site out as today is the Chicago Marathon. Great description of the battle. No words can substitute for an animation of a battle. I feel I have a very good understanding of the battle after watching the animation.

    By Ken Johnson on Oct 10, 2010 at 9:22 am

  6. Thanks everyone for the compliments, especially because this was the first animation I ever did.

    By Jonathan Webb on Oct 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm

  7. didn’t darius send some of his troops to athens and thats why the athians attack then but i like our sike alot thank you

    By kaelan anderson on Oct 20, 2010 at 8:11 pm

  8. site not sike and your not our :)

    By kaelan anderson on Oct 20, 2010 at 8:14 pm

  9. Good job with that. If you want positive constructive criticism, I’d suggest more context and geography to explain to non-history buff types more of the set-up and extended implications. You also leave out details of HOW Greeks and Persians fought technologically and strategically–differences which would shortly have massive implications clear to the Persian Plateau and beyond to the Oxus/Jaxartes & Indus. Does this site already have Hannibal at Cannae and at Lake Trasimene? If not, don’t skip those! For something kewl on ancient history to show you what can be done by pros with a big budget–check this out:

    By Red Barron on Nov 9, 2010 at 12:31 am

  10. This was the third of your animations I looked at, I am underwhelmed by the quality of the graphics, surprisingly poor even for a hobbyist.

    By Jansenart on Jan 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm

  11. Jansenart: This is actually a timely comment because I just updated the quality/frame rate of my animations but had yet to post them until now.

    This was my first animation ever, completed three years ago, so don’t be too harsh! The more recent the animation, the more concise the animation sequences.

    Regardless, I strongly encourage viewers to check out the PowerPoint animation as this medium often has additional information such as orders of battle, subordinates etc.

    By Jonathan Webb on Jan 24, 2011 at 1:27 am

  12. The idea for the moving graphic is terrific. But in my opinion the orientation of the forces is at right angles to what it should be.
    The Persian fleet was much further up the beach to the north not behind the Persian army – The Athenians were covering the exit from the beachhead – which is toward the southern end. The google map shows the relative location of the Soros – the beach and the exits from the beach area. There is a marsh westward from the area where the Persian fleet was beached – which was close to the protecting arm of land that is visible still today and mentioned by Herodotus and all. If the forces are facing each other at right angles to the beach line and not parallel to it then as the Persians are driven back they can retreat to their ships. 600 ships would occupy about 3 miles of beach – if only 7 were captured that means over 500 escaped – the 6400 Persian dead would be the infantry complement of 200 ships – those who did escape could not have necessarily got on the same ships they came on – what a mess the embarkation must have been. The Persians must have put up a good rear guard in the relatively narrow gap between that marsh and the beach as the men frantically tried to load and the sailors frantically tried to pull away.
    thanks for creating something for students
    john sloan

    By John Sloan on Mar 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm

  13. It was pretty good, i used most of this info for my project in social studies

    By Evan Howells on Mar 18, 2011 at 12:03 am

  14. I like this website to evan Howells

    By Adam D on Mar 20, 2011 at 11:35 pm

  15. There are multiple theorys of how this battle went down – as most research is based on the account of Herodotus, who was athenian and was prone to colour his account – he wasn’t actually there – I offer my account based on the History and common sense. I don’t think Marathon was a rear-guard action – the Persians had two choices, a direct amphibious assault on Athens or a land attack – the former would have been extremely difficult – attempting to take a walled city from the sea. Secondly Militiedes would not have abandoned Athens if the Persians were to attack there. He went in advance of the Persian landing at Marathon to choose his terrain – this was the key to victory, and copied 40 yrs later by Leonidas at Thermopylae. The only 2 routes from Marathon to Athens were the coast road,blocked by the Vrexia Swamp; which would have left Datus army exposed to a flank attack, or through the Vrana Valley – This is where Militiedes placed his forces – blocking the pass like a cork in a bottle – this also prevented Datus from using his cavalry to any effect as theAthenians flanks were protected by the terrain – your vid shows phase 2 of the battle which occured after the Persian Light Infantry had been repelled and after Datus’s Archers had no effect on the Athenians – I do not beleive The Athenians ran to attack the Persians at any point, but merel moved out of the valley as once Militiedes saw the Persians Heavy Infantry manoeuvering to attack, Militiedes realised his position was now a disadvantage – it was at this point he re-deployed his forces to weaken the centre and protect the flanks against Cavalry charge – not knowing Datus had loaded his Cavalry onto ships, The Immortals pushed back the Athenian centre but as the Persian flanks had weaker forces and were overwhelmed by numbers, theAthenian flanks then turned in on the Persian centre and had them in a pincer movement – Datus fled the battlefield and raced to Athens by sea – Militiedes marched his men through the night to beat him to Athens – and on Datus arrival he saw the city guarded and so set sail for home.

    By Bob Byrne on Feb 14, 2012 at 3:58 am

  16. Thanks for a great work!

    By xuxa ptolomeos on Mar 1, 2012 at 12:05 am

  17. Great site. Perfect visuals for teaching young students. Thanks for your hard work.

    By Mark on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:58 pm

  1. 2 Trackback(s)

  2. Sep 23, 2012: Aniversarea zilei: B?t?lia de la Marathon-postat de altmariusistoric -
  3. Nov 11, 2012: Delfos, el hogar del OrĂ¡culo (viaje a Grecia) « Tras las huellas de HerĂ³doto

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