On September 12, 490 BCE, a vast
ed group of Athenians defeated Persian forces at the Battle of Marathon, Greece. The battle inspire
d a legend
that led to the creation of the marathon
race, although the legend is untrue.
The Athenian military
used a flanking maneuver
to defeat the Persians, who were hoping to launch a major invasion
of Greece. The Athenians put their strongest soldier
s on the outside, or flank
s, of their battle formation
. The Persians kept their strongest soldiers in the center. On the flanks of the Persian formation were slave
s or people the Persians had forced into battle. The Persians initially had success, but ultimate
ly failed when their forced laborers abandoned
them and the Greek flanks closed in.
The legend of Marathon surrounds the Athenian messenger Pheidippides, who alleged
ly ran about 42.2 kilometers (26 miles) from Marathon to Athens to inform the Athenians about their victory. Exhaust
ed from such a run, Pheidippides promptly died.
Many historians think the legend confuse
d Pheidippides’ earlier, even more-impressive journey
. Before the battle, Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta, asking the powerful Spartan army
for help. Pheidippides ran more than 225 kilometers (140 miles), and arrived in about a day. (The Spartans refused to help, and Pheidippides ran back to Athens.)