The Story of the Greeks
Page: 50When the Athenians heard that the Persians were coming, they immediately decided to ask the Spartans, who were now their allies, to come to their aid, and help them drive back the enemy. As there was no time to lose, they chose as their messenger a fleet-footed Athenian, who made the journey of a hundred and fifty miles in a few hours, running every step of the way, and only seldom pausing to rest.
The Spartans listened breathlessly to his tidings, and promised that they would help the Athenians; but they added, that they would not be able to start until the moon was full, for they thought that they would be beaten unless they set out at a certain time.
The Persians in the mean while were advancing rapidly,[Pg 112] so the Athenians started out to meet them with no other help than that of their neighbors the Pla-tæ´ans. The whole Greek force numbered only ten thousand men, and was under the command of the ten Athenian generals who were each entitled to the leadership for a day in turn.
Among these ten Athenian generals were three remarkable men,—Mil-ti´a-des, Ar-is-ti´des, and The-mis´to-cles. They consulted together, hoping to find a plan by which their small army could successfully oppose the Persian host, which was twelve times greater.
At last Miltiades proposed a plan which might succeed, provided there was but one chief, and all obeyed him well. Aristides, who was not only a good man, but also remarkably just and wise, at once saw the importance of such a plan, and offered to give up his day's command, and to carry out his friend's orders just as if he were nothing but a common soldier.
The other generals, not wishing to appear less generous than he, also gave up their command to Miltiades, who thus found himself general in chief of the Athenian and Platæan armies. So he speedily made his preparations, and drew up his small force on the plain of Marathon, between the mountains and the sea.[Pg 113]
The Greek army seemed so very small beside the huge host of invaders, that the Persians felt perfectly sure that it would surrender as soon as the fight began. Imagine their surprise, therefore, when the Greeks, instead of waiting for them, gave the signal for battle, and rushed furiously upon them.
The daring and force of the Greek attack so confused the Persians, that they began to give way. This encouraged the Greeks still further, and they fought with such bravery that soon the army of The Great King was completely routed.
Hippias, fighting at the head of the Persian army, was one of the first to die; and when the Persians saw their companions falling around them like ripe grain under the mower's scythe, they were seized with terror, rushed toward the sea, and embarked in their vessels in great haste.