The plain of Marathon today
|Regional unit||East Attica|
|• Mayor||Ilias Psinakis|
|• Municipality||222.75 km2 (86.00 sq mi)|
|• Municipal unit||97.06 km2 (37.48 sq mi)|
|Elevation||28 m (92 ft)|
|Lowest elevation||0 m (0 ft)|
|• Municipality density||150/km2 (390/sq mi)|
|• Municipal unit||12,849|
|• Municipal unit density||130/km2 (340/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+2 (EET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+3 (EEST)|
|Postal code||190 07|
Marathon (Demotic Greek: Μαραθώνας, Marathónas; Attic/Katharevousa: Μαραθών, Marathṓn) is a town in Greece and the site of the battle of Marathon in 490 BCE, in which the heavily outnumbered Athenian army defeated the Persians. Legend has it that Pheidippides, a Greek herald at the battle, was sent running from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory, which is how the marathon running race was conceived in modern times.[n 1]
The name "Marathon" (Μαραθών) comes from the herb fennel, called marathon (μάραθον) or marathos (μάραθος) in Ancient Greek,[n 2] so Marathon literally means "a place full of fennels". It is believed that the town was originally named so because of an abundance of fennel plants in the area.
Anciently, Marathon (Ancient Greek: Μαραθών) occupied a small plain in the northeast of ancient Attica, which contained four places, Marathon, Probalinthus, Tricorythus, and Oenoe, which originally formed the Tetrapolis, one of the 12 districts into which Attica was divided before the time of Theseus. Here Xuthus, who married the daughter of Erechtheus, is said to have reigned; and here the Heracleidae took refuge when driven out of Peloponnesus, and defeated Eurystheus. The Marathonii claimed to be the first people in Greece who paid divine honours to Heracles, who possessed a sanctuary in the plain. Marathon is also celebrated in the legends of Theseus, who conquered the ferocious bull, which used to devastate the plain. Marathon is mentioned in Homer's Odyssey in a way that implies that it was then a place of importance. In mythology, its name was derived from an eponymous hero Marathon, who is described by Pausanias as a son of Epopeus, king of Sicyon, who fled into Attica in consequence of the cruelty of his father Plutarch calls him an Arcadian, who accompanied the Dioscuri in their expedition into Attica, and voluntarily devoted himself to death before the battle.
After Theseus united the 12 independent districts of Attica into one state, the name of Tetrapolis gradually fell into disuse; and the four places of which it consisted became Attic demi, Marathon, Tricorythus, and Oenoë belonging to the tribe Aeantis, and Probalinthus to the tribe Pandionis; but Marathon was so superior to the other three, that its name was applied to the whole district down to the latest times. Hence Lucian speaks of "the parts of Marathon about Oenoë".
Few places have obtained such celebrity in the history of the world as Marathon, on account of the victory which the Athenians here gained over the Persians in 490 BCE (Battle of Marathon). 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 march "double time" back to Athens, so that by the time Darius' troops arrived they saw the same Greek force waiting for them.
Although the name Marathon had a positive resonance in Europe in the nineteenth century, for some time that was sullied by the Dilessi murders, which happened nearby in 1870.
In the 19th century and beginning of twentieth century the village was inhabited by Albanian population (Arvanites). 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 municipality has an area of 222.747 km2, the municipal unit 97.062 km2.
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
- The Soros, a tumulus (Greek Τύμβος, tymbos, tomb), or burial mound, erected to the 192 Athenian fallen at the Battle of Marathon, is a feature of the coastal plain, now marked by a marble memorial stele and surrounded by a small park.
- Kato Souli Naval Transmission Facility with its 250-metre (820 ft) tall radio mast, the tallest structure in Greece.
- List of municipalities of Attica
- List of settlements in Attica
- Dimitrion Yordanidis, oldest man to have run the marathon, at age 98
Notes and references
- "Απογραφή Πληθυσμού - Κατοικιών 2011. ΜΟΝΙΜΟΣ Πληθυσμός" (in Greek). Hellenic Statistical Authority.
- μάραθον. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
- "The Linear B word ma-ra-tu-wo". Palaeolexicon. Word study tool of Ancient languages. Raymoure, K.A. "ma-ra-tu-wo". Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B. Deaditerranean. "MY 602 Ge (57)". "MY 606 Ge + fr. (57)". "MY 605 Ge + 607 + fr. [+] 60Sa + fr. [+] 605b + frr. (57)". DĀMOS: Database of Mycenaean at Oslo. University of Oslo.
- Μαραθών in Liddell and Scott.
- Strabo. Geographica. viii. p.383. Page numbers refer to those of Isaac Casaubon's edition.
- Stephanus of Byzantium. Ethnica. sub voce Τετμάπολις.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece. 1.15.3. , 1.35.4.
- Plutarch, Thes. 14; Strabo. Geographica. ix. p.399. Page numbers refer to those of Isaac Casaubon's edition.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece. 1.27.10.
- Homer. Odyssey. 7.80.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece. 2.1.1. , 2.6.5, 1.15.3, 1.32.4
- Plutarch, Thes. 32.
- Μαραθῶνος τὰ περὶ τὴν Οἰνόην, Icaro-Menip. 18.
- ‘‘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.
- 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.
- 2004 Summer Olympics official report. Archived 2008-08-19 at the Wayback Machine. Volume 2. p. 242.
- Kallikratis law Greece Ministry of Interior (in Greek)
- "Population & housing census 2001 (incl. area and average elevation)" (PDF) (in Greek). National Statistical Service of Greece. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-21.
- 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.