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Nav Sci 421. The Battle of Marathon 490 B.C. Capt T. B. Pochop Marine Officer Instructor. Learning Objectives . Understand the battle of Marathon as it pertains to the Levels of War (Policy, Strategy, Operational, and Tactical).

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the battle of marathon 490 b c
Nav Sci 421

The Battle of Marathon490 B.C.

Capt T. B. Pochop

Marine Officer Instructor

learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • Understand the battle of Marathon as it pertains to the Levels of War (Policy, Strategy, Operational, and Tactical).
  • Understand the 4 types of amphibious operations and how they relate to the battle of Marathon.
  • Comprehend the conduct of the amphibious operation by the Persians, particularly the choice to land at Marathon.
  • Relate the conduct and success/failure of the battle to the 9 Principles of War and key terms of MCDP-1 Warfighting .
general significance
General Significance
  • Classic examples of:
    • Land power vs. sea power.
    • Heavy infantry shock system vs. light cavalry missile power.
    • Policy, Strategy, Operational Levels of War.
    • 9 Principles of War.
    • 4 types of Amphibious Operations.
greek hoplite
Greek Hoplite

Hoplon 32-40” diam.



Leaf blade ~2’


Led by Miltiades & Callimachus

10,000 troops

Phalanx formations

Heavy Infantry

Shock Action/No firepower

No cavalry

Unbreakable front, vulnerable flanks.


Led by Darius

Datis - Army Cmdr

Artaphernes - Navy Cmdr

600 galleys

10-15,000 troops

Light force

Primarily cavalry

Missile power, no shock.

why invade the athenians
Why invade the Athenians?
  • Punish Athenians for supporting the Ionian revolt in 499 B.C.
  • Secure west flank of Aegean Sea for Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC).
  • To secure south flank for attack on Scythians.
  • To build the Persian Empire.


how to get to the fight darius has 2 options
By land, supported logistically by the navy.

Persian strength - Army

Not limited on the number of troops

Long, difficult, time consuming route.

By sea, with an amphibious landing.

Direct route

Persia is not a naval power.

Size of invasion force limited by transport capacity.

How to get to the fight? Darius has 2 options:


let s invade take 1
Let’s Invade - Take 1
  • 492 B.C. - Darius attacks by land, supported logistically by the Navy.
    • Movement halted when the navy is destroyed in a storm off of Mt Athos.


let s invade take 2
Let’s Invade - Take 2
  • 490 B.C. - Darius decides to conduct an amphibious operation.

Sack Eretria first. (Amphib Raid)


why land marathon
Why land Marathon?
  • Why land at Marathon, far from Athens? Why not land at Athens?
    • Intel from Hippias.
    • Unopposed Landing site.
    • Draw the garrison army out of Athens.
    • Conduct an amphibious envelopment on an unprotected Athens.
    • Marathon supposedly has good terrain for cavalry.

Force the enemy to react to you.

Amphib Operations as a form of envelopment.

The influence of terrain and geography.


what happened
What happened?

Landing is rarely the key problem

  • Persians land unopposed at Marathon.
    • Stay on beach and bivouac.
    • Beach is not suitable for cavalry.
  • Athenians arrive from the inland route and observe Persians encamped on the beach.
    • Wait for Spartans to reinforce (~2 weeks),


    • Attack now, before Persian plans develop further.

Seize the Initiative

conduct of the battle
Conduct of the Battle
  • Athenians attack Persians on the beach.
    • They extend the phalanx, reinforce the flanks and thin their center.
    • They anchor the flanks along terrain obstacles.
    • Persians push through the weakened Greek center.
    • The strong Greek flanks destroy the lightly armed Persian flanks, and collapse on the Persian center (double envelopment).
    • Hand-to-hand combat = decisive victory for Athenians.

Maneuver – put the enemy at a disadvantage.


conduct of the battle1
Conduct of the Battle

Persians – Frontal Attack

Athenians – Double Envelopment


what happened next
What happened next?
  • Persian forces still attempted an amphibious envelopment on Athens.
  • Successful Athenians returned to the city via inland, direct route
  • Spartan reinforcements arrived
  • Political intrigue did not manifest in fall of Athens
  • End result: Persians unable to land and conduct decisive battle
  • Interesting attempt by Persians to use amphibious operations to draw the army out of Athens and then conduct and amphibious envelopment on Athens.
  • Darius had one land and one navy commander (Split Command).
  • Persian’s failure to move off the beach allowed the Athenians to seize the initiative, block exits, and choose the battlefield.
conclusions cont
Conclusions (cont.)
  • Athenians tactical control of the battle and initiative negated the strengths of the Persian army.
    • KIA: 192 Greeks to 6,400 Persians
  • Persians forced to conduct a difficult amphibious withdrawal.