Corinthian-style helmet from the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) found with warrior’s skull inside. Note marks of helmet on the skull.
On the morning of September 17, 490 BC, some 10,000 Greeks stood assembled on the plain of Marathon, preparing to fight to the last man. Behind them lay everything they held dear: their city, their homes, their families. In front of the outnumbered Greeks stood the assembled forces of the Persian empire, a seemingly invincible army with revenge, pillage and plunder on its mind. The two sides faced each another directly, waiting for the fight to start. The Athenians stalled for days, anticipating reinforcements promised by Sparta. But they knew they could not wait for long. The Persians, expecting as easy a victory as they had won against enemies so many times before, were in no hurry.
The Greeks, knowing the time for battle had come, began to move forward. Ostensibly, they advanced with focus and purpose, but beneath this firm veneer, as they looked on a vastly larger enemy â€” at least twice their number â€” many must have been fearful of what was to come. The Persian archers sat with their bows drawn, ready to loose a barrage of arrows that would send fear and confusion through the Greek ranks .Eventually, though, the infantry on both sides engaged in battle. Moving towards each other and perhaps with the Greeks running the final 400 metres whilst undoubtedly under fire from the Persian archers, the two armies clashed.
Few hours later the bloody battle ended. Herodotus records that 6,400 Persian bodies were counted on the battlefield, and it is unknown how many more perished in the swamps. The Athenians lost 192 men and the Plataeans 11.