The plain of Marathon today
|Regional unit:||East Attica|
|Population statistics (as of 2011)|
|- Area:||226.6 km2 (87 sq mi)|
|- Density:||147 /km2 (382 /sq mi)|
|- Area:||97.1 km2 (37 sq mi)|
|- Density:||132 /km2 (343 /sq mi)|
|Time zone:||EET/EEST (UTC+2/3)|
|Elevation:||0 m (0 ft)|
|Postal code:||190 07|
Marathon (Demotic Greek: Μαραθώνας, Marathónas; Attic/ Katharevousa: Μαραθών, Marathṓn) is a town in Greece, the site of the battle of Marathon in 490 BC, in which the heavily outnumbered Athenian army defeated the Persians. The tumulus or burial mound (Greek Τύμβος, tymbos, i.e. tomb), also called the "Soros," for the 192 Athenian dead that was erected near the battlefield remains a feature of the coastal plain. The Tymbos is now marked by a marble memorial stele and surrounded by a small park.
Marathon's name (Μαραθών) comes from the herb fennel, called marathon (μάραθον) or marathos (μάραθος) in Greek, so Marathon literally means "a place with fennels". The name of the athletic long-distance endurance race, the "marathon", comes from the legend of a Greek runner, who was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping, but moments after proclaiming his message "Nenīkēkamen" ("We have won!") to the city, he collapsed from exhaustion. The account of the run near Marathon to Athens first appears in Plutarch's On the Glory of Athens in the 1st century AD, which quotes from Heraclides Ponticus' lost work, giving the runner's name as either Thersipus of Erchius or Eucles. Lucian of Samosata (2nd century AD) also gives the story but names the runner Philippides (not Pheidippides). The Greek historian Herodotus, the main source for the Greco-Persian Wars, mentions Pheidippides as the messenger who ran from Athens to Sparta asking for help. In some manuscripts of Herodotus the name of the runner between Athens and Sparta is given as Philippides.
In Ancient Greece, the messengers (day-runners) who carried the news of war from one city to another, enjoyed great esteem and respect; the roads were problematic, they had to pass through hostile territory, and traveling posed great dangers at that time. The states would assign specially trained "messengers" or "runners" or "road-heralds”, with great stamina and strength of character to carry messages in times of war as well as peace.
The sport of Marathon was established during the first modern Olympics held in Athens in 1896. The idea to include the event in the program of the Olympic Games was of French philosopher and professor at the Sorbonne, Michel Breal, a friend of Pierre de Coubertin, the man who contributed decisively to the founding of the modern Olympic Games. He proposed the introduction of an endurance road race under the name "Marathon" which would start from the region where in 490 BC the battle of the Greeks against the Persians occurred and would end at the Pnyx of Ancient Athens, where, presumably, the messenger arrived bringing the good news of victory to the Athenians. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) accepted his proposal. Michel Breal did not know exactly what the distance was and how difficult the sport would be - the first marathon was 40,000 meters long. In 1924, the 42,195 meters long Marathon became the standard that is today, based on the distance for the 1908 London Marathon from Windsor Castle to the White City stadium in London.
There are two roads out of the battlefield of Marathon towards Athens, one more mountainous towards the north whose distance is about 34.5 km (21.4 mi), and another flatter but longer towards the south with a distance of 40.8 km (25.4 mi). It has been successfully argued that the ancient runner took the more difficult northern road because at the time of the battle there were still Persian soldiers in the south of the plain.
Marathon (μάραθον) is the Greek word for fennel. It is believed that the town was originally named so because of an abundance of fennel plants in the area. After Miltiades (the general of the Greek forces) defeated Darius' Persian forces, the Persians decided to sail from Marathon to Athens in order to sack the unprotected city. Miltiades ordered all his hoplite forces to 'Double-time' march back to Athens. So by the time Darius' troops arrived, they saw the same Greek force waiting for them.
In the 19th century and beginning of twentieth century the village was inhabited by Albanian population. Thomas Chase, an English traveller, describes his meeting with ‘an old Albanian’ in Marathon and also says that they ‘accosted some Albanian children playing near a well, but they did not understand modern Greek.’   Another English traveller Robert Hichens writes in 1913: ‘Some clustering low houses far off under the hills form the Albanian village of Marathon.’ 
The sophist and magnate Herodes Atticus was born in Marathon. In 1926, the American company ULEN began construction on the Marathon Dam in a valley above Marathon, in order to ensure water supply for Athens. It was completed in 1929. About 10 km² of forested land were flooded to form Lake Marathon.
The beach of Schinias is located southeast of the town and it is a popular windsurfing spot and the Olympic Rowing Center for the 2004 Summer Olympics is also located there. At the 1896 and 2004 Summer Olympics, Marathon was the starting point of the marathon races (for both women and men in 2004). The area is susceptible to flash flooding, because of forest fires having denuded parts of the eastern slopes of Mount Penteli especially in 2006.
The municipality Marathon was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 4 former municipalities, that became municipal units:
The other settlements in the municipal unit are Agios Panteleimonas (pop. 1,591), Kato Souli (2,142), Vranas (1,082), Avra (191), Vothon (177), Ano Souli (232), and Schinias (264).
Points of interest
- Kato Souli Naval Transmission Facility with its 250-metre (820 ft) tall radio mast, the tallest structure in Greece.
- Xiamen, China
- List of municipalities of Attica
- List of settlements in Attica
- Dimitrion Yordanidis, oldest man to have run the marathon, at age 98
- Detailed census results 2011 (Greek)
- Aerial photograph in John Boardman, Jasper Griffin and Oswyn Murray, Greece and the Hellenistic World (Oxford History of the Classical World) 1988, vol. I p. 34.
- μάραθον. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
- Μαραθών. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
- Herodotus, The Histories Herodotus makes no mention of a post-battle runner, who is only noted in much later sources, and the "Marathon runner" is generally rejected as a fiction, possibly a confusion with the runner sent to Sparta before the battle. (Penguin Books: New York, 1977) p. 425.
- Wallechinsky, David and Jaime Loucky (2008). "Track & Field (Men): Marathon". In The Complete Book of the Olympics: 2008 Edition. London: Aurum Press Limited. p. 133.
- 1896 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 2. pp. 86-90.
- ‘‘Passing, after a few hours, the little hamlet of Stamata, from a hill-top we caught a glimpse of the beautiful sea and shore of Marathon, and saw, as we descended a mountain slope by a long, steep path, paved in part with slippery stones, the little village of Marathona. Pushing on towards this village, we came upon a large meadow, at whose western end, on our left, stood a high round tower of mediaeval date. Towards this the old Albanian began to run, pointing, gesticulating, and shouting, here was the battle fought ; this was the ground that had drunk the blood of the Turks. " The Turks ! " said I. " Pshaw ! show me the field where your old Greeks routed the Persians." " The Persians ? " — the old man had never heard of them ; the name of Miltiades was equally strange to his ears ;— so much for all his stories of guiding strangers to the immortal plain, all his boasts of familiarity with its localities. I explained the matter to my attendant, (for he knew no more of the history of Marathon than the old rustic,) and, in the first flush of vexation, we spurred our horses and galloped away from this profitless servant. We came soon to the banks of a little river (its course dry in the hot season), which, coming from among the hills, and washing the village of Marathona, crosses the battle-field, and empties into the sea. On its side and in its bed rose countless oleanders of large size, with their glorious blossoms in their fullest beauty,— the finest specimens I saw even in Greece. By this flowery hedge we rode to the village, and, after inquiring of an intelligent citizen the proper way to the field, at once began to descend to it. We accosted some Albanian children playing near a well, but they did not understand modern Greek. Our path lay by the side of the river, or in its wide bed, covered with sand, and large, round, white marble stones. ‘ Chase,Thomas, Hellas, her monuments and scenery, SEVER AND FRANCIS, Cambridge, pp. 102-103
- Hichens, The Near East, Dalmatia, Greece and Constantiople, Hodder and Stoght, London, 1913, p. 116.
- 2004 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 2. p. 242.
- Kallikratis law Greece Ministry of Interior (Greek)
|Kapandriti, Afidnes||Petalioi Gulf|