New coin celebrates one of the earliest recorded battles in history

In September 490 BC, a vastly outnumbered group of Athenians defeated Persian forces at the Battle of Marathon, Greece. One of the earliest recorded battles, not only did the victory mark the end of the first Persian invasion of Greece, but it gave the Greek's confidence in battle and belief in their continued existence. It is considered a defining moment in the development of European culture.

This sixth release in our Battles that Changed History collection features a coloured illustration of Athenian General Miltiades. He stands against an antique, engraved background showing Greek and Persian troops engaged in close quarters combat.

Battle of Marathon
The Athenians had marched to Marathon to meet the Persian force but stalled the battle whilst waiting for reinforcements from Sparta.

The Athenian General, Miltiades, may well have learned that the Persian cavalry was absent and convinced his fellow generals that this was the best time to attack. He was right. The Persians were completely unprepared for and unable to adapt to the Greeks' tactics. The engagement set an example of how tactical surprises could undermine the greatest of armies.

Miltiades ordered his Greek warriors to attack the Persian line at a dead run — thereby reducing the impact of the Persian archers who would normally fire volley after volley of arrows, creating fear and confusion in their enemy's ranks. The Athenian hoplite (heavily armed infantry) was much better prepared for the subsequent close quarters battle, carrying a heavy, 9-foot spear and almost body-length shield and wearing a solid breastplate. In contrast, the Persian infantryman wore little more than robes and carried a shorter sword and a wicker shield.

Using his knowledge of Persian battle tactics to turn the tide further in their favour, Miltiades ensured that their best hoplites were on the flanks, not the centre. Persian battle strategy dictated that the best troops, true Persians, fought in the centre, while conscripts, pressed into service from tribute states, fought on the flanks. The Persian forces surged into the centre of the fray, easily gaining the advantage against a weakened Greek centre. But this time it was a fatal mistake. The Persian conscripts on the flanks quickly broke into flight. Then instead of pursuing their fleeing foes, the Greeks turned inward to aid their countrymen fighting in the centre of the battle.

By then, the Persians were in a state of complete confusion. Their tactics had failed, their cavalry was absent and their archers were useless. Their more heavily armed and armoured opponents were attacking them from three sides. As they fled back to their ships, large numbers were slaughtered.

Did you know that the battle inspired a legend that led to the creation of the marathon race? Although it turns out the legend may be more of myth.

Stories tell of an Athenian runner named Pheidippides who was sent to run from Athens to Sparta to ask for assistance before the battle. He ran a distance of over 225 kilometres (140 miles). Then, following the battle, the Athenian army marched the 40 kilometres (25 miles) or so back to Athens at a very high pace (considering the quantity of armour, and the fatigue after the battle), in order to head off the Persian force sailing to Athens. It is assumed that these two events became confused with each other with Pheidippides running from Marathon to Athens after the battle (to announce the Greek victory)!

Don't wait an age to add this battle coin to your collection, with a worldwide mintage of only 5,000 coins it might be history soon too!

Battle of Marathon 1oz Silver Coin

Shop Now - Battle of Marathon 1oz Silver Coin


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