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 (GreekΤύμβος, tymbos, tomb) of the 192 Athenian dead, also called the "Soros," which 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.
The name "Marathon" (Μαραθών) comes from the herb fennel, called marathon (μάραθον) or marathos (μάραθος) in Ancient Greek,[n 1] 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.
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.
The name of the athletic long-distance endurance race, the "marathon",[n 2] comes from the legend of a Greek runner who was sent from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon.
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 at the beginning of the 20th century the village was inhabited by an Arvanite population emigrated from Epirus.
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.