The battle of Marathon
The Greek army seemed so very small beside the huge host of invaders, that the Persians felt perfectly sure that it would surrender as soon as the fight began. Imagine their surprise, therefore, when the Greeks, instead of waiting for them, gave the signal for battle, and rushed furiously upon them.
The daring and force of the Greek attack so confused the Persians, that they began to give way. This encouraged the Greeks still further, and they fought with such bravery that soon the army of The Great King was completely routed.
Hippias, fighting at the head of the Persian army, was one of the first to die; and when the Persians saw their companions falling around them like ripe grain under the mower’s scythe, they were seized with terror, rushed toward the sea, and embarked in their vessels in great haste.
The Athenians followed the enemy closely, killing all they could reach, and trying to prevent them from embarking and so escaping their wrath. One Greek soldier even rushed down into the waves, and held a Persian vessel which was about to push off.
The Persians, anxious to escape, struck at him, and chopped off his hand; but the Greek, without hesitating a moment, grasped the boat with his other hand, and held it fast. In their hurry to get away, the Persians struck off that hand too; but the dauntless hero caught and held the boat with his strong teeth, and died beneath the repeated blows of the enemy without having once let go. Thanks to him, not one of those enemies escaped.
The victory was a glorious one. The whole Persian force had been routed by a mere handful of men; and the Athenians were so proud of their victory, that they longed to have their fellow-citizens rejoice with them.
One of the soldiers, who had fought bravely all day, and who was covered with blood, said he would carry the glad news, and, without waiting a moment, he started off at a run.
Such was his haste to reassure the Athenians, that he ran at his utmost speed, and reached the city in a few hours. He was so exhausted, however, that he had barely time to gasp out, “Rejoice, we have conquered!” before he sank down in the middle of the market place, dead.
The Greeks, having no more foes to kill, next began to rob the tents, where they found so much booty that each man became quite rich. Then they gathered up their dead, and buried them honorably on the battlefield, at a spot where they afterward erected ten small columns bearing the names of all who had lost their lives in the conflict.
Just as all was over, the Spartan force came rushing up, ready to give their promised aid. They were so sorry not to have had a chance to fight also, and to have missed a share in the glory, that they vowed they would never again allow any superstition to prevent their striking a blow for their native land whenever the necessity arose.
Miltiades, instead of permitting his weary soldiers to camp on the battlefield, and celebrate their victory by a grand feast, next ordered them to march on to the city, so as to defend it in case the Persian fleet came to attack it.
The troops had scarcely arrived in town and taken up their post there, when the Persian vessels came in; but when the soldiers attempted to land, and saw the same men ready to meet them, they were so dismayed that they beat a hasty retreat without striking another blow.