The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory at Marathon and Its Impact on Western Civilization
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“A compelling and provocative read . . . With a soldier’s eye, Jim Lacey re-creates the battle of Marathon in all its brutal simplicity.”—Barry Strauss, author of Masters of Command
Marathon—one of history’s most pivotal battles. Its name evokes images of almost superhuman courage, endurance, and fighting spirit. In this eye-opening book, military analyst James Lacey takes a fresh look at Marathon and reveals why the battle happened, how it was fought, and whether, in fact, it saved Western civilization. Lacey brilliantly reconstructs the world of the fifth century B.C. leading up to the astonishing military defeat of the Persian Empire by the vastly undermanned Greek defenders. With the kind of vivid detail that characterizes the best modern war reportage, he shows how the heavily armed Persian army was shocked and demoralized by the relentless assault of the Athenian phalanx. He reveals the fascinating aftermath of Marathon, how its fighters became the equivalent of our “Greatest Generation,” and challenges the legacy and lessons that have often been misunderstood—perhaps, now more than ever, at our own peril.
Immediate, visceral, and full of new analyses that defy decades of conventional wisdom, The First Clash is a superb interpretation of a conflict that indeed made the world safe for Aristotle, Plato, and our own modern democracy.
“With a fresh eye to tactics, strategy, and military organization, and with his text grounded in direct experience of the troops on the battlefield, James Lacey gives us not only new understanding of how the Athenians managed to win but also a greater appreciation of the beginning of a long tradition of Western military dynamism that we take for granted today.”—Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture
“Lacey’s swords-and-shields approach will absorb readers ever fascinated by the famous battles of antiquity.”—Booklist
“A lively and rewarding read.”—Charleston Post and Courier
“Exemplary . . . Lacey, a veteran of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions and a professor at the Marine War College, brings to the tale of Marathon the practical experiences of the combat soldier and an intellectual sensibility.”—The New Criterion
allowing Darius’s army to escape destruction in Scythia. He was a key Greek leader in the later stages of the Ionian revolt. Isagoras—He opposed Cleisthenes and seized power with the support of the Spartan king Cleomenes. When the Athenian assembly resisted his bid for power, the Spartans withdrew their support and he was banished from Athens. Mardonius—Persian general instrumental in crushing the Ionian revolt. He was put aside by Darius after a failed expedition into northern Greece but was
put it about that he had gone mad. He then entered the Agora (marketplace) and read a stirring poem of his own composition, concluding with:7 Forward to Salamis! Let us fight for the lovely island and wipe out our shame and disgrace.8 The poem had such an effect that Solon was forgiven his crime, the law against advocating war was repealed, and the war with Megara was renewed with “greater vigor than ever before.”9 The military effort was led by a young noble and friend of Solon, Pisistratus,
for Sparta to make trouble for Athens came in 519 BC. Plataea, a small city-state just north of Attica and on the southern edge of Boeotia, came under heavy pressure to submit to Thebes’s rule. In its search for a powerful ally, Plataea first turned to Sparta. For the Spartans, an invitation to expand their writ north of the Peloponnesus must have been tempting. Only the certainty of perpetual Theban enmity, which might become the basis of an effective anti-Spartan alliance with Athens and
compared with their own meager resources. After being outvoted, Hecataeus advised them to put their faith in controlling the sea, where the Persians were weak and by which means they could supply cities under Persian siege. He also advocated that the rebels immediately seize the great wealth stored in the temple to Zeus at Branchidae, to gain sufficient capital to wage a protracted war. Unwilling to commit such a great sacrilege, the rebel leaders voted down the proposal. At first, things went
policy of terror. According to Herodotus: For after they had completed the conquest of the cities, they picked out the most handsome boys and castrated them, making them eunuchs instead of males. And they dragged off the most beautiful virgins to the King. After they had carried out these threats, they also set fire to the cities and to their sanctuaries, too. Thus the Ionians were reduced to slavery for the third time, the first being at the hands of the Lydians, and then twice in succession by