Starting from Athens, we will drive North of Athens through the plains of Mesogia to see Marathon battlefield and visit the Tumulus of the Athenian soldiers who died in the battle. The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. The battle was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate Greece. The Greek army decisively defeated the more numerous Persians, marking a turning point in the Greco-Persian Wars.
We continue on for a 2 hours drive to reach the area of Thermopylae. Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. “Hot gates” is also “the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades”.
The battle took place there in 480 BC, in which an outnumbered Greek force probably of seven thousand (including the famous 300 Spartans, 500 warriors from Tegea, 500 from Mantinea, 120 from Arcadian Orchomenos, 1000 from the rest of Arcadia, 200 from Phlius, 80 from Mycenae, 700 Corinthians, 400 Thebans, 1000 Phocians and the Opuntian Locrians) held off a substantially larger force of Persians estimated in the range 70,000 – 300,000 under Xerxes.
Today you can see the statue of Leonidas and the hill of Kolonos, fortified hill where the last of the Spartans were killed with arrows. On the third day of the battle of Thermopylae, after Leonidas had been killed, the rest of the Greeks retreated to this hill and fought to the death. Hundreds of Persian arrowheads were found on the Kolonos hill.
A modern Greek inscription on the hill reads “You stranger, go to Lakedaimonians and let them know that we lie here, faithful to their laws.”
Although there are a few surviving ancient ruins and the morphology of the ground has changed due to erosion, you can still get a good idea of how these battles must have been and where they took place.
We then continue on to Plataea. The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I.
The previous year the Persian invasion force, led by the Persian king in person, had scored victories at the battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium and conquered Thessaly, Boeotia, Euboea and Attica. However, at the ensuing Battle of Salamis, the Allied Greek navy had won an unlikely but decisive victory, preventing the conquest of the Peloponnesus. Xerxes then retreated with much of his army, leaving his general Mardonius to finish off the Greeks the following year.
Alternative Tour Options:
There are so many other things to see in this area. Keep in mind that your driver is at your disposal, so if you would like to adjust the proposed itinerary at all, just let him know!
Did you Know?
The Battle of Marathon was a huge victory for Greece. Had they lost, Greece would likely have become part of the Persian Empire, and many of the cultural and scientific advances would not have happened. After the victory, (at least in legend) a soldier ran the 26 miles to Athens to report the good news. Upon arriving in Athens, the runner collapsed and died.