Ancient Hoplites

Ancient Hoplites

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Marathon - An Excerpt from "A Heroic King"



There is a tendency to forget that, while Marathon was a great Athenian-Platean victory, it was in fact only half a victory: half the Persian army and fleet had already departed Marathon when Miltiades made the brilliant decision to attack the rest. It is likewise usually forgotten that Eukles ran the original "Marathon" from Marathon to Athens not merely to bring word of a victory but to warn about the other half of the Persian army that was approaching Athens by sea -- while all her fighting men were miles away, victorious but exhausted, at Marathon. That Athens was not seized by the Persians is one of those little, forgotten mysteries of history.

In the excerpt below, the only fighting men left in Athens -- the ephebes (youths not yet citizens) and old reservists -- prepare to defend Piraeus against the massive force aboard a Persian fleet. Among them is Kimon, son of Athen's commander at Marathon, Militiades.



Persian ships were clogging the narrows at the mouth of the harbor. "And something is going on out there too! A trireme arrived from the west, and now there is activity aboard every ship. They are preparing something. Look!" Kimon's commander pointed to the coastline to the west. "Do you see?"

Kimon shook his head.

"Something's moving along the coastal road. Either the Persians have landed troops to our west -- or the Spartans are coming."

"It's too soon for the Spartans," Kimon protested.

"Well, I sure the hell don't like the alternative!" the old man snapped back. "Instead of just sitting there on that fancy horse of yours, why don't you take your ass over there and find out?"

Kimon drew a deep breath to protest such language, but the man had already turned away. Kimon swallowed his protest and turned his colt around to start working his way through the maze of streets toward the western road.

Finding his way occupied so much of his attention that it was only after he'd left the congested part of the port that Kimon could focus on his task. Since there was no way the Spartans could be here in less than three days, he was pre-occupied with the idea of riding to warn his father that the Persians had landed to the west.

He drew up and looked along the coast, squinting in an effort to see better. He could see nothing -- except the sunlight glittering on the blue waters of the bay, heat waves shimmering upward from the nearest fields, and dust drifting off to the north. The dust must have been stirred up by men on the road.  He better find out more before he reported back to his father, he decided, and kept riding. After another quarter hour, he was convinced that a large body of troops was indeed approaching. Wasn't that enough information? How much further should he go?

With shock, Kimon recognized that he was afraid. He did not want to go any closer. He wanted to gallop in the opposite direction, and it was precisely this realization that made him urge his colt forward, his lips pressed together unconsciously. He kept his eyes on the coastal road until they watered from the strain. Then he blinked and wiped sweat from his eyes with the back of his naked arm. Keep riding, he ordered himself, reminding himself that his colt was the direct descendant of one of the four mares with which his grandfather won the Olympic chariot race three times. The colt would bring him to safety. 

But what if the colt stumbled? Or was killed by an arrow?

Or could it really be the Spartans?

It penetrated Kimon's terrified brain that there were no mounted officers with the approaching troops. Persian noblemen never walked. These troops could be neither Persian nor Mede. Ionian allies of the Persians? But how could the Persians trust them not to join the Athenians? Certainly if they were Ionains, it would be worth appealing to their patriotism. Kimon urged his horse forward a little more hopefully.

Abruptly he caught a wisp of what sounded like singing. He pulled up and held his breath, his ear cocked. When the wind fell away, it came again: men's voices raised in song. The approaching troops were singing as they marched.

Spartans! Only Spartans sang as they marched!

He started cantering forward in relief. 


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3 comments:

  1. I'm going to get to it, really. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No hurry! The Leonidas Trilogy is selling quite well at the moment. It's my Jerusalem Trilogy that is trapped in some sort of Bermuda Triangle going nowhere and disappearing into oblivion....

      Delete
    2. No hurry! The Leonidas Trilogy is selling well at the moment. It is the Jerusalem Trilogy that is trapped in some weird "Bermuda Triangle" going nowhere and slowly sinking into oblivion...

      Delete