The Farewell to Marathon
Folks, I wrote this for an author who answered some questions about Marathon for me and I attended a seminar celebrating the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon. This is a thank you AAR I sent to him. His name was Peter Krentz.
EDIT July 21sth 2011: oh and for other great information – The Armchair General has some recent articles and interactive maps that are very interesting and complement this post here for context.
Thanks for such a fun and great book, for answering my questions and doing a great job on your recent seminar.
I use simulation games to re create ancient conflicts amongst other things. Its interesting to look at not only the what, but the why and what if.
This simulation system is of medium complexity and as a thank you I thought you might like to see and read what happened when I relived the conflict using Delbrucks assessment of forces for the Persians (bow heavy, few if any heavy troops).
A quick primer so you will know what you are seeing:
Double sized units are Hoplites. They have a size of 10, a Troop Quality of 6 and move 4(hexes). When a unit suffers in combat or from some other activity it loses Cohesion points. This reflects the loss of men, break up of the unit and disarray of the formation. Once you lose the same number of cohesion points as your TQ number you typically Rout. In this case make all good speed to the ships just like our Persian friends.
Leaders, activate a formation and enable it to be in command. This means that a unit can conduct shock combat, and move adjacent to enemy units when in command.
The Leaders range reflects the distance a leader unit can influence (8). The Leadership rating (7) is used to allow leaders to perform certain functions such as seizing a turn from a less capable leader or trumping another player.
The Stadia run inflicts one cohesion point loss on the units that attempt it in this scenario.
Persian Cavalry start off field and come onto the field if a 0 or a 9 is rolled on the Persian turn using a 10 sided die.
Represents a good likeness to the Varna Valley and Plain of Marathon, even though it is the area where the battle of Issus was fought. The sea lies East and behind the Persians. South of them lie swamps (off map) The ‘river’ is treated as shallow stream of no consequence. Each hex is 100 yards.
The Battle Itself:
Prior to dawns light Miltiades consults the seers and omens; runners bring word that Artaphernes Cavalry are only just rousing. Miltiades decides to execute his plan. His troops knowing what is coming form up rapidly. The march begins from between the abatis’s and moves forward 300 yards at a steady pace.
The Persians hear the horns, and scramble to be in formation.
Datis’s Heavy Infantry anchor the center line, along with Saecean medium infantry. As the line extends left and right the majority of the light Infantry are archers or javelin armed men from Egypt, Babylon, India and Ethopia, just some of The King of the Worlds millions from countless lands.
From the higher ground Miltiades can see his scouts signaling that the cavalry are saddling up and will wind their way down the single file path that leads to the shore line. He has an hour at best
He turns to his seer, who performs the rite. Miltiades cries to his men, “Now is the time for Greece, now is the time that we men of Athens show these women, that Greece will remain free.” “At the double, At the double, he roars “ He turns and trots forward, leading his men in the center.
On each flank his men are doubled up densely packed in ‘double phalanx’ style formation. His was a risky stratagem. He must beat the Persian army in detail before their Cavalry arrive and drive him from the field. By attacking the flanks he hopes to double envelop. A tricky maneuver with crack troops. Yet his men are a mix of lightly armed, city conscripts, Athenians turned out to protect their city, blended with hardened men from many mercenary campaigns. A true mixed bag.
Their weapons, and armor vary. Some are fully armed, spear, sword, shield, greaves, stiff linen cuirass and helmet. Other Athenians have stripped down, knowing that arriving winded from too much weight would do himself and his spear arm no good. Archers have dropped bows, and shed arrows, taking up spare weapons and joined the ranks. Their armour weighs from just 28 pounds to as much as 48 pounds.
The Persian army was lightly armoured in any case, wicker shields! Light robes and tunics. Archers who flee at contact? Such small shields that the Athenian steel would tear through them. Such light armour that the mighty arms of Athens would ram a spear into, twist and yank free.
No need of the push and shove, the jostle of manly combat in tight formation.
Today Greeks will fight, and kill with speed.
The Stadia begins. 700 yards down and another 100 yards are covered.
At 500 yards, the Greeks gain pace and ranks disperse a little more as they come off the hill.
Datis sits astride his horse bemused, and a little concerned. In none of the previous battles fought against the Greeks and their cousins had there been a charge like this. They were still 700 yards away! There are no skirmishers?! There are no flanking light troops? In fact he notices how thin their center is. What the hell are they thinking?
“Archers ready” he calls. “Fire at the center” He directs. He glances to his right. Still no sign of Artaphernes, and dam it, he would not show for some time yet….
Steady he thinks, Steady. Never before has God of Gods army been beaten, why would this rabble be any different.
200 yards out. The ground vibrates as 10,000 Greeks trot in unison towards the Persian line. The Left and Right flanks of the Persian line look at the on rushing double formations of Hoplites warily, ome shuffle back into their fellow warriors, who shove them gruffly back.
Their flanks were exposed. This battle will not carry the comforting smell of horseflesh nearby.
150 yards. Each end of the line of Greeks has over 1200 men on it slowly spreading out past the limits of the Persian Line. As they do so the center thins further.
100 yards out.
Persian arrows darken the sky. Despite orders, the Persian flanks fire at the st
ill densely packed men their right, fearing being flanked. Dozens of Greeks fall. They are leapt over, the Greeks speed up now to avoid another volley!
Ranks break, men choose a target, knowing that their momentum and the brothers beside them and behind them will drive deep into the lightly armed invaders.
With a final roar, one of fear, adrenaline and part breathlessness, the Greeks crash loudly, heavily, brutally into the Persian Line.
A sea of men thrust, stab, hack and pound their way deep into the midst of the Ethiopians.
On the Greek left wing, the Ethiopian Archers disintegrate and turn tail.
The Babylonian Light Infantry fare little better, taking heavy losses they are driven back 50-75 yards from the initial rush.
In the thin center Miltiades men tackle the tough work running head longing into the Sacaean and Persian Infantry. Even they are rocked but recover quickly. Miltiades himself is initially hurt, but fights on. His men take a beating at the hands of the experienced more heavily armored Persian troops .
Over on the Greek Right Wing Persian forces are forced to retreat.
Datis seeing the situation orders his flanks to retire a 100 yards and fire more arrows, to little effect. While he and his heavier fighters advance upon Miltiades.
50 men die around Miltiades, another 20 further along the line fall as they strive to hold the surprisingly resilient Persians in check, they too back up.
Miltiades men attack again. The Left wing turns and bends the Persian line inwards. Another light unit routs. More arrows fill the air, but little damage is done to the Greeks. The center fights furiously, Miltiades men fight desperately.
The Right wing angles towards the two nearly broken light Persian archer units, both rout under pressure and flee towards their ships.
Miltiades seizes the initiative and manages to attack again before Datis can rally his troops to surge. The fight rages on. Miltiades, men hold their line.
All at once the PErsian line crumbles all but Datis, and a few crack men rout, upon this last attack. Dropping weapons, the archers and light infantry run for the ships. The Hoplites, tired now, begin a loping pursuit.
Kneeling breathing bloody bubbles Miltiades sees the Persian Cavalry arrive in the distance, kicking up dust on the plain. Too late he thinks wryly. Propped on his shield, men at his side. He smiles, and falls face forward in the rich Grecian soil.
The cavalry head off the Phalanxes buying valuable time for the Persian troops to board and urge the rowers to shove off. Greeks grab mooring lines, and heave against the departing ships. One brave fool loses and an arm in the process.
A runner is dispatched to share the word, that Athens and Greece are victorious, and the army is returning to Athens post haste.
Oaths were made, that must be kept. Heracles will be honored, animals sacrificed and stories told for a millennia. Greece is born again, the West will ascend to greatness on the back of this one great battle. The greatest of all time? Possibly.
See a Stop Motion HD Video of the Battle of Marathon here: