Remember Battle of Marathon Part 4: Who Led the Greeks? Check it out and then keep reading here!
Miltiades maneuvers and manipulations worked well for a few years, but then an overwhelming threat emerged in the east. The Persian Empire, under the rule of Great King Darius (550–486 BC), was expanding toward the Chersonese and all of Thrace. Miltiades responded by demonstrating his well-deserved instinct for survival that relied on shrewd duplicity. He joined forces with Darius. Then for years Miltiades fought with the Persians, and his subservience lasted until Miltiades thought he could outfox Darius by abandoning the Great King in a battle campaign that should have ended with Darius’ death. But Great Kings are neither easily outfoxed nor easily killed. Darius survived so the tables turned and Miltiades had to run for his life. He ran straight back to Athens in 492 BC, two years before the battle of Marathon.
There are several reasons to believe that Miltiades was the leader of the Athenians at Marathon, including the following three:
First, when Miltiades returned to Athens he brought something with him that no other Athenian possessed – an up close and personal knowledge of exactly how the Persians thought and fought, their tactics and strategy.
Second, subsequent to Miltiades’ death about a year after the Battle of Marathon, he was widely acknowledged as the Greek leader during the battle. The third and by far most persuasive reason to believe that Miltiades led the Greeks at Marathon is that the Father of History, Herodotus (484–425 BC), recognized Miltiades as the leader. (For an image and discussion of Herodotus, go to this website’s Resources/Contact Us page.) Herodotus’ The Histories, written a generation after Marathon, is without question the most authoritative source about the Greek Persians Wars in general and the Battle of Marathon in particular. While it is well established that Herodotus sometimes exaggerated and embellished his historical accounts, we must be very cautious to declare Herodotus wrong. Thus, the majority of scholars accept that Miltiades was, indeed, the Greek leader at the Battle of Marathon.
However, there are potent arguments that Herodotus was, in fact, wrong. Stay tuned for more.