Settlements > Marathon



Marathon, a significant historical site in Greece, is most famous for the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE, where the Athenians achieved a decisive victory over the Persians. While this battle predated Alexander the Great, the region continued to hold cultural and historical importance during the Hellenistic period. Here’s an exploration of the connections between Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic period, and Marathon:

Alexander the Great

  1. Legacy of Greek Victories:

    • Inspiration from Marathon: The Battle of Marathon was a symbol of Greek resilience and military prowess. The victory at Marathon inspired later generations of Greeks, including Alexander the Great, who admired the military achievements of his predecessors.
    • Hellenistic Pride: Alexander’s campaigns were often framed as a continuation of the struggle against Persia, building on the legacy of earlier Greek victories like those at Marathon and Salamis.
  2. Military Tactics and Leadership:

    • Military Genius: Alexander’s admiration for the strategic brilliance displayed by the Athenians at Marathon influenced his own military tactics and leadership style. He studied past battles to learn from their successes and mistakes.

Hellenistic Period

  1. Cultural and Historical Significance:

    • Heroic Legacy: During the Hellenistic period, the legacy of the Battle of Marathon continued to be celebrated. The site was revered as a symbol of Greek valor and independence.
    • Historical Commemoration: Hellenistic rulers, including those of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties, promoted the commemoration of Greek historical victories to legitimize their own rule and emphasize their connection to the glorious past.
  2. Monuments and Memorials:

    • Tumulus of the Athenians: The burial mound (tumulus) of the Athenian soldiers who died at Marathon remained an important historical monument. During the Hellenistic period, it continued to be a site of commemoration and respect.
    • Cultural Celebrations: Festivals and athletic games were held to honor the memory of the battle and its heroes, reflecting the continued cultural importance of Marathon in Greek society.

Marathon in the Hellenistic Context

  1. Strategic Location:

    • Athenian Territory: Marathon was part of the territory controlled by Athens, which remained a significant city-state throughout the Hellenistic period.
    • Military Training: The plains of Marathon, known for the historic battle, were used for military training and exercises, keeping the martial spirit alive among the Greek youth.
  2. Cultural Revival:

    • Literature and Arts: The Hellenistic period saw a revival of interest in Greek history and legends. Marathon featured prominently in literature, art, and oratory, symbolizing the ideals of heroism and patriotism.
    • Historical Studies: Scholars and historians of the Hellenistic period, such as those in the Library of Alexandria, studied and wrote about the Battle of Marathon, ensuring its place in the collective memory of the Greek world.

Influence on Alexander’s Successors

  1. Diadochi and Greek Legacy:

    • Hellenistic Kings: The Diadochi, Alexander’s successors, often invoked the legacy of Greek victories over Persia to bolster their own legitimacy. The memory of battles like Marathon served as a touchstone for their claims to leadership and their promotion of Greek culture.
    • Cultural Patronage: Hellenistic rulers patronized cultural institutions and sponsored the arts, emphasizing the continuity of Greek traditions and celebrating historical victories.
  2. Military Parallels:

    • Strategic Inspirations: Hellenistic generals and kings studied the tactics used at Marathon and other famous battles, applying these lessons to their own military campaigns. The principles of discipline, strategic positioning, and unity exemplified at Marathon were integral to Hellenistic military doctrine.


Marathon, while primarily renowned for its earlier historical significance, continued to hold cultural and symbolic importance during the Hellenistic period. The legacy of the Battle of Marathon, celebrated by Alexander the Great and his successors, influenced the military strategies, cultural expressions, and historical commemorations of the time. The site of Marathon remained a revered symbol of Greek valor and independence, inspiring both military leaders and cultural figures throughout the Hellenistic era. Alexander's respect for past Greek victories and the continued reverence for Marathon illustrate the enduring impact of this historic battle on the collective memory and cultural identity of the Hellenistic world.


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