Geographical sites:

  • Marathon (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #580021)
    Pleiades_icon Marathon settlement Geocontext: Plasi NW (prehistoric acropolis?) [IX - coast - 10]
    Description: An ancient place, cited: BAtlas 59 C2 Marathon


Text #3655

Herodotus. The Histories. Series: Histories. Vol. 3
[Hdt. 6.117. Translated by Alfred Denis Godley. William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1922. (4 Vols.) p. 271]

In this fight at Marathon there were slain of the foreigners about six thousand four hundred men, and of the Athenians a hundred and ninety-two.These are the numbers of them that fell on both sides. And it fell out that a marvellous thing happened : a certain Athenian, Epizelus son of Cuphagoras, while he fought doughtily in the mellay lost the sight of his eyes, albeit neither stabbed in any part nor shot, and for the rest of his life continued blind from that day. I heard that he told the tale of this mishap thus: a tall man-at-arms (he said) encountered him, whose beard spread all over his shield ; this apparition passed Epizelus by, but slew his neighbour in the line. Such was the tale Epizelus told, as I heard.

Text #9053

Herodotus. The Histories. Series: Histories. Vol. 3
[Hdt. 6.98. Translated by Alfred Denis Godley. William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1922. (4 Vols.) p. 249]

This done, Datis1 sailed with his host against Eretria first, taking with him lonians and Aeolians; and after he had put out thence to sea, there was an earthquake in Delos, the first and last, as the Delians say, before my time. This portent was sent by heaven, as I suppose, to be an omen of the ills that were coming on the world.

For in three generations, that is, in the time of Darius son of Hystaspes and Xerxes son of Darius and Artoxerxes son of Xerxes, more ills befell Hellas than in twenty generations before Darius; which ills came in part from the Persians and in part from the wars for preeminence among the chief of the nations themselves. Thus it was no marvel that there should be an earthquake in Delos where none had been ere that. Also there was an oracle concerning Delos, wherein it was written :

Delos itself will I shake, that ne’er was shaken aforetime.

  1. a Persian general. [nE]

Text #3656

Pausanias. Description of Greece. Series: Description of Greece. Vol. 1
[Paus. 1.32.4--1.32.5. Translated by W. H. S. Jones. Harvard University Press. 1918. (6 Vols.) p. 175]


At Marathon every night you can hear horses neighing and men fighting. No one who has expressly set himself to behold this vision has ever got any good from it, but the spirits are not wroth with such as in ignorance chance to be spectators. The Marathonians worship both those who died in the fighting, calling them heroes, and secondly Marathon, from whom the parish derives its name, and then Heracles, saying that they were the first among the Greeks to acknowledge him as a god.

They say too that there chanced to be present in the battle a man of rustic appearance and dress. Having slaughtered many of the foreigners with a plough he was seen no more after the engagement. When the Athenians made enquiries at the oracle the god merely ordered them to honor Echetlaeus (He of the Plough-tail) as a hero. A trophy too of white marble has been erected. Although the Athenians assert that they buried the Persians, because in every case the divine law applies that a corpse should be laid under the earth, yet I could find no grave. There was neither mound nor other trace to be seen, as the dead were carried to a trench and thrown in anyhow.

Text #8571

Pausanias. Description of Greece. Series: Description of Greece. Vol. 1
[Paus. 1.15.3. Translated by W. H. S. Jones. Harvard University Press. 1918. (6 Vols.) p. 77]


At the end of the painting are those who fought at Marathon; the Boeotians of Plataea and the Attic contingent are coming to blows with the foreigners. In this place neither side has the better, but the center of the fighting shows the foreigners in flight and pushing one another into the morass, while at the end of the painting are the Phoenician ships, and the Greeks killing the foreigners who are scrambling into them. Here is also a portrait of the hero Marathon, after whom the plain is named, of Theseus represented as coming up from the under-world, of Athena and of Heracles. The Marathonians, according to their own account, were the first to regard Heracles as a god. Of the fighters the most conspicuous figures in the painting are Callimachus, who had been elected commander-in-chief by the Athenians, Miltiades, one of the generals, and a hero called Echetlus, of whom I shall make mention later.

Text #8572

Plutarch. Lives. Vol. 1
[Plut. Thes. 35.5. Translated by Bernadotte Perrin. Harvard University Press. 1914. (11 Vols.) p. 83]


In after times, however, the Athenians were moved to honour Theseus as a demigod, especially by the fact that many of those who fought at Marathon against the Medes thought they saw an apparition of Theseus in arms rushing on in front of them against the Barbarians.

Text #8576

Fink. The Battle of Marathon in Scholarship
[p. 187]

During the famous battle of Marathon on 12 August 4901, the popular belief was that the gods had intervened on the part of the Athenians against Darius’ troops. Herodotus tells the story of the Athenian soldier Epizelus (meaning “the envied ones” or the man mch to be envied”) who was blind for the rest of his life because in the midst of the fray a giant hoplite appeared before him with an enormous bird casting its shadow over his shield. The giant had then passed on and had killed the comrade who fought at Epizelus’ side.

Pausanias, in speaking of the Stoa Poikilê in the Agora at Athens, describes the famous painting of the battle of Marathon, which is dated in the second quarter of the 5th century BC. Heroes such as Marathon and Echetlaeus2, were seen during the battle, and Herakles, Theseus and Athena were depicted as present during the battle. Every year, 500 goats were given to Artemis Agortera as a partial payment for the 64000 goats they owed her, as the Athenians had promised to sacrifice one goat to her for every enemy killed if Athens was victorious. Also a bronze statue of Athena was dedicated n the Acropolis, and at Delphi a treasury to Apollo was built with the plunder taken from the Persians after the battle3.

  1. Green P, Les Guerres Médiques, 2012, p. 76

  2. see Jameson M.H., The Hero Echetlaeus, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 82 (1951), p. 49-61

  3. Fink D.L.,The Battle of Marathon in Scholarship, 2014, p. 187

Text #9054

Guidoboni & Comastri & Traina. Catalogue of ancient earthquakes in the Mediterranean area up to the 10th century
[pp. 109--111]

In 490, shortly after a Persian attack, Delos was shaken by an earthquake. In those days, such a matter was not without importance, because Delos was renowned for the shrine of Apollo, and so held to be exempt from earthquakes, in accordance with an ancient belief recorded as early as the time of Pindar. The particular position of Delos explains why the Herodotean tradition concerning the first earthquake was refuted by Thucydides (2.8.3). He contradicts Herodotus by maintaining that the first earthquake to be felt at Delos occurred in 431 BC, shortly before the beginning of the Peloponnesian war. According to Momigliano1, Thucydides had this very passage from Herodotus in mind, and was openly contradicting him in an attempt to correct the date for the earthquake.

  1. Momigliano A.” Erodoto e Tucidide sul terremoto di Delo”, SFIC 8, 1930, p. 87-89

Text #9055

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

I found the following:

ΔΗΛΟΣ ἘΚΙΝΉΘΗ: An ‘Imaginary Earthquake’ on Delos in Herodotus and Thucydides
Jeffrey S. Rusten
Cornell University


Thucydides’ and Herodotus’ comments on a portentous (and unique) Delian earthquake contain the same phrase, but date the event almost 60 years apart and mutually rule out each other’s datings. Two additional problems in these passages – geology demonstrates that Delos has never in fact had an earthquake of any significance and κινεῖν is not the word for an earthquake – point to an explanation for the historians’ treatment. They are based on the Delphic oracle quoted by Herodotus which promised to ‘move unmoved Delos’, a paradox based on the island’s mythical transition from floating to fixed (Pindar), but liable to confusion with its equally well-known aseismicity. Normally κινεῖν τὰ ἀκίνητα is used of interfering with religious sites; but the oracle’s prediction was interpreted as an earthquake, that was assumed to have occurred in due course (although it had not). Both historians accepted the interpretation, but followed different datings since they invested it with different symbolism, Herodotus of the evils of the Persian and subsequent Greek wars, Thucydides of excited anticipation on the eve of the Peloponnesian War, since for him κίνησις meant ‘mobilization’ (1.1).

Considering the contradictory reports of an “earth shaking” event given by Herodotus and Thucydides, my initial determination was to discard both events as not historical. However, when turning to the Battle of Marathon which was connected to the shaking event reported by Herodotus, and noting the famous alleged celestial prodigies, it seemed useful to include those reports here as possibly indicating some sort of celestial event, comet, fireball, etc. That one person was blinded by the encounter might suggest a brilliant fireball.

It is also curious that Jan-Wim Wesselius, in “The Origin of the History of Israel: Herodotus’ Histories as Blueprint for the First Books of the Bible”, (2002, Journal For the Study of The Old Testament Supplement Series 345, Sheffield Academic Press), based on the structural analysis ideas of Claude Levi-Strauss, proposes a significant amount of borrowing from The Histories of Herodotus for the composition of the Primary History of Israel. In particular, he writes:

I shall first attempt to demonstrate that in both works in their present shape there is a common element, which, though well hidden and hitherto never noticed, is so characteristic that it is almost unthinkable that there would not be a direct connection between the two, namely the important position of the key figures of Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob, who became viceroy of Egypt, on the one hand, and King Cyrus, the founder of the great Persian empire on the other. … there are a number of rather precise parallels between individual members of the families of Joseph and Cyrus, and that on this basis we can postulate a striking congruence between the genealogy of the patriarchs and that of the Persian Median royal house, exposing a number of parallelisms between persons belonging to corresponding generations. The most surprising of these parallels is between the figures of Moses and King Xerxes, not in the description of their character, appearance or course of life, but in certain aspects of their careers as leaders of their people. It will be noted in this connection that the main subjects of Primary History and the work of Herodotus are surprisingly similar: a leader, summoned by the divinity, brings an enormous army into another continent across a body of water as on dry land in order to conquer a country there. In both cases, the conquest finally comes to naught when the last city remaining in the hands of the conquerors is reduced by means of a gruelling siege. … (p.5-6)

In view of this correspondence, one cannot help but speculate about the mythicization of what may have been a cosmic event around the time of the Battle of Marathon. The description of the apparition: “a tall man-at-arms (he said) encountered him, whose beard spread all over his shield” involve cometary imagery such as a shield and the beard. The possibility exists for a Tunguska-like event that shook the ground violently, blinded the soldier (and possibly others), killed multiple combatants, and was later separated into more than one event: an event at Delos and apparitions of gods at the battle. If this is the case, and if this event - The Battle of Marathon - was selected as the model for the Exodus story, there may have been some awareness on the part of the author of the NT tale that there was, in fact, an “apparition of gods” at Marathon and this was transformed into an apparition of Yahweh on behalf of the Israelites. One notices the comparison of “an apparition of Theseus in arms rushing on in front of them” to the pillar of smoke/fire that went before the fleeing Israelites.

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