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Highlights of Ancient Greek History: Battle of Marathon

In 490 BCE, the Battle of Marathon took place between Athens and King Darius’ Persia. At first, the Athens enjoyed an extreme victory over Darius and the Persian troops during the first Persian invasion of Greece. Other battles would ensue. In this article, you will learn more about the events, as well as meet influential philosopher, Heraclitus.

The citizens of Athens (with the help of Plataea) took on the Persian forces of Datis and Artaphernes. This war marked the first attempt by Persia to conquer Greece , a goal of King Darius I. The Persians were upset with the Greek’s involvement in the Ionian Revolt, where Athens and Eretria had dispensed a force to support the cities of Ionia in an effort to overthrow Persian rule. The Athenians and Eretrians were victorious in capturing and burning Sardis. However, they were forced to retreat because of the high number of losses. The raid did not go over well with the Persian king, who swore to seek revenge against Athens and Eretria.

Darius put plans into motion to conquer Greece after the Ionian revolt suffered a setback with a Persian victory at the Battle of Lade. In 490 BC, Persian forces were sent across the Aegean with Datis and Artaphernes leading the way. The objective was to take over the Cyclades and to launch attacks on Athens and Eretria. The Persians were successful in the Aegean and went on to besiege and capture Eretria. Persian forces then sailed to Attica, where they landed in a bay situated close to the town of Marathon. By that time, the Athenians had joined forces with a small number from Plataea. They marched to Marathon and were triumphant in blocking the two exist from the plain of Marathon.

No one got any further in their goals of victory for five days until the Athenians decided to attack the Persians. Even though the Persians outnumbered the Greeks, the more lightly armed forces of Persia were no match for the Greeks. The defeat at Marathon signified the end of the first Persian invasion of Greece. The Persian forced retreated to Asia. Darius was not done. He began raising a larger army with plans to conquer Greece.

Before he could launch a new attack, his Egyptian subjects revolted in 486 BC and the expedition to Greece was postponed until his son Xerxes I re-established the desire to invade Greece for a second time. His new plans did not start until 480 BC.

~ 485 BCE: Heraclitus of Ephesus is a popular pre-Socratic philosopher at this time.

Heraclitus of Ephesus came from the Greek city of Ephesus in Ionia , on the coast of Asia Minor. Although not much is known about his early life or education, it is told that he came from notable parentage. Throughout his life, he saw himself as being self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. Heraclitus chose to lead a lonely life, which stemmed from his philosophical approach and disapproval for humankind in general. Because of this, he earned the nickname of “The Obscure,” and the “Weeping Philosopher.”

Heraclitus is known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe. One of his main teachings was that reality is in a constant state of flux and has stated “one cannot step into the same river twice.” He believed in the unity of opposites, as seen in his statement that “the path up and down are one and the same.”