The Battle of Marathon Peter Krentz

Yale Library of Military History
Publication date:
27 Sep 2011
Yale University Press
256 pages: 235 x 156mm
32 b-w illus.
Sales territories:
WorldItalian language rights sold to Societa Editrice Il Mulino for sale in Italy and the Italian language market worldwide


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How did the city-state of Athens defeat the invaders from Persia, the first world empire, on the plain of Marathon in 490 BCE? Scholars skeptical of our earliest surviving source, Herodotus, have produced one ingenious theory after another. In this stimulating new book, bound to provoke controversy, Peter Krentz argues that Herodotus was right after all. Beginning his analysis with the Athenians' first formal contact with the Persians in 507 BCE, Krentz weaves together ancient evidence with travellers' descriptions, archaeological discoveries, geological surveys, and the experiences of modern reenactors and soldiers to tell his story.

Krentz argues that before Marathon the Athenian army fought in a much less organized way than the standard view of the hoplite phalanx suggests: as an irregularly armed mob rather than a disciplined formation of identically equipped infantry. At Marathon the Athenians equipped all their fighters, including archers and horsemen, as hoplites for the first time. Because their equipment weighed only half as much as is usually thought, the Athenians and their Plataean allies could charge almost a mile at a run, as Herodotus says they did. Krentz improves on Herodotus' account by showing why the Athenians wanted to do such a risky thing.

Peter Krentz is W. R. Grey Professor of Classics and History, Davidson College, where he has taught Greek and Roman history since 1979.

"Historians, topographers, reenactors, and general readers alike will all be indebted to cutting-edge military historian Peter Krentz's original, insightful, witty, provocative, and brilliantly illustrated account of one of the world's most significant battles ever. 'Marathon' is now not only a magic word but also a magical exercise in ancient historiography." -Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge

"Important new evidence, rigorous research and clear-headed analysis are combined to great effect in this original and persuasive study. The best book yet on the fateful events at Marathon." -Hans van Wees, author of Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities

"A gripping account of the ancient Athenian’s finest hour."—Tom Holland, The Observer

"This book is engaging and thoughtful, backed up by scholarly appendices, endnotes and further reading. It is a worthy testament to the battle that the Athenians thought their greatest."—Michael C Scott, BBC History Magazine