The Battle of Marathon


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Peter Krentz

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A gripping account of the pivotal battle that changed Greek military history 2,500 years ago

How did the city-state of Athens defeat the invaders from Persia, the first world empire, on the plain of Marathon in 490 BCE? Clever scholars skeptical of our earliest surviving source, Herodotus, have produced one ingenious theory after another. In this stimulating new book, bound to provoke controversy, Peter Krentz argues that Herodotus was right after all.

Beginning his analysis with the Athenians’ first formal contact with the Persians in 507 BCE, Krentz weaves together ancient evidence with travelers’ descriptions, archaeological discoveries, geological surveys, and the experiences of modern reenactors and soldiers to tell his story.

Krentz argues that before Marathon the Athenian army fought in a much less organized way than the standard view of the hoplite phalanx suggests: as an irregularly armed mob rather than a disciplined formation of identically equipped infantry. At Marathon the Athenians equipped all their fighters, including archers and horsemen, as hoplites for the first time. Because their equipment weighed only half as much as is usually thought, the Athenians and their Plataean allies could charge almost a mile at a run, as Herodotus says they did. Krentz improves on this account in Herodotus by showing why the Athenians wanted to do such a risky thing.

Peter Krentz is W. R. Grey Professor of Classics and History, Davidson College, where he has taught Greek and Roman history since 1979.

"Do we need . . . more books [on the importance of Marathon]? The answer is emphatically 'yes,' when the [book is] as good as [this]."—Wall Street Journal

"I love this book! It accomplishes so much at such short length. The Battle of Marathon is not only history but perhaps even literature, evoking the ancient experience elegiacally yet never unmoored from the evidence.”—Phyllis Culham, United States Naval Academy

"Historians, topographers, reenactors, and general readers alike will all be indebted to cutting-edge military historian Peter Krentz's original, insightful, witty, provocative, and brilliantly illustrated account of one of the world's most significant battles ever. 'Marathon' is now not only a magic word but also a magical exercise in ancient historiography."—Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge

"Important new evidence, rigorous research and clear-headed analysis are combined to great effect in this original and persuasive study.  The best book yet on the fateful events at Marathon."—Hans van Wees, author of Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities

"Peter Krentz has written a lucid account of how and why Persians and Athenians fought at Marathon and provides an insightful and very plausible description of the battle itself. Bravo!"—Robert B. Strassler, editor of the Landmark edition of Xenophon's Hellenika

"Before Marathon was a race it was a battle, one of history's greatest. Peter Krentz tells its true story in a brilliant blend of scholarship and common sense. His reconstruction is painstaking and often magical. From the force of Persian arrows to the weight of Greek armor, Krentz makes Marathon fresh and real."—Barry Strauss, author of The Battle of Salamis

"…it is hard to images that Krentz’s account of the events of that sweltering day can be improved on."—Peter Thonemann, Times Literary Supplement

"Written with commendable clarity and good humour, it submits all the evidence to careful scrutiny, and adds a good deal more, to present a pretty convincing picture of what happened and why...Read this compelling book"—Peter Jones, The Daily Telegraph

"It is hard to imagine that Krentz's account of the events on that sweltering day can be improved on: the maddeningly elusive topography of the Marathon plain, in particular, has never been better treated."—Peter Thonemann, The Times Literary Supplement

“……a gripping account of the ancient Athenian’s finest hour.”—Tom Holland, The Observer

"In his new book on the subject, Peter Krentz aims to provide an account that is at once comprehensive, critical, and accessible to the scholar and general reader alike. The result is the best treatment if the battle now available. . . . Makes for an account that is fast-paced and exciting without coming up short in scholarly rigor. . . . This stimulating book will be essential reading for anyone desiring to learn more about Marathon, from the geo-political background of the campaign and the lay of the land itself to the scholarly debates that have raged for over a century."—Matthew Sears, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
ISBN: 9780300177664
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
256 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
32 b/w illus.

Sales Restrictions: World Italian language rights sold to Societa Editrice Il Mulino for sale in Italy and the Italian language market worldwide
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