If you’ve read any of my interviews, you may remember that the concept behind my epic fantasy series, Pearseus came to me after reading Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, followed by Jim Lacey’s The First Clash and Herodotus’ Cyrus the Great and Rise of Persia. The last two describe the fatal battle on Marathon between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC.
Marathon is a 20’ drive from my home, and I’d often visited the tomb where the ancient Athenians buried their dead. So, I thought at the time, “wouldn’t it be great if someone did what Martin did for medieval England, only with the story of Greece vs. Persia? And in space? How cool would that be?” Then it occurred to me: so, what’s stopping me from writing it?
And that’s how it all started!
Well, the other day it occurred to me that I’ve been telling this story forever, but haven’t shared with you any photos from Marathon. Since the day was lovely (sorry, Craig), I took Electra for a short ride over to the Tumulus of the Marathon Warriors to remedy that.
The Battle of What?
In the late summer of 490 BC, 10,000 Athenians and 1,000 men from the small city of Plataea, Athens’ ally, fought and defeated the invading Persian army. To give you an indication of the ferocious nature of the battle, here is the story of Kynaigeiros:
When the Athenians routed the Persians, sending them back to their ships, the latter pushed their ships into the sea to flee. Kynaigeiros, brother of famous playwright and poet Aeschylus, grabbed the stern of a ship with his right hand to stop it from leaving. A Persian soldier cut it off, but Kynaigeiros held on to the ship with his left hand. When the Persian soldier cut off that, too, Kynaigeiros bit the stern in a desperate attempt to stop the ship from sailing. He died when the Persians cut off his head, and was proclaimed a hero by the Athenians, alongside Hercules and Theseus.
The Athenians erected an earth mound, or tumulus, 10 m high and 50 m in diameter, on the spot where the clash reached its climax. They placed it over the ash and burnt bones from the funeral pyres and the remains of the banquets for the 192 Athenians who died in battle. Stelai (memorial plaques) inscribed with the casualties’ names, classed by tribe, were erected on the summit of the Tumulus.
For centuries, funerary games and torch races were organized in honor of the fallen, and the Tumulus remained into Roman times a place of pilgrimage for Athenian youths. Even today, the place is considered holy – and haunted: my mother, along with many others, swears she has heard at night the clash of weapons, the cries of battle and the neighing of horses.
The mound was rediscovered in 1890, and the vases from the pyre and the offering pit are now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum at Marathon and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
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Fascinating history and gorgeous photos! So cool that you live right near there!
Thanks! Yes, it does have its perks 🙂
I love reading about historical events and lovely to know where your story idea came from! 😀
A wonderful presentation, Brother! I wish I had access to these pictures when I taught my students about the Battle of Marathon. Bravo!
Aw, thanks, John! I know you’re a great teacher, so I’m pretty sure you managed just fine even without them 🙂
I envy the centuries of history at your fingertips. There’s nothing quite the same as standing in the footprints of ancient warriors to bring a story to life.
Aw, thanks! In Greece, we grow up listening to these tales, so they’re part of our psyche. Retelling them in a different guise does comes natural. 🙂
Yep. Now I’m really jealous.
Lol – it’s both a gift and a curse 🙂
Too bad I didn’t include that epic battle in my retelling of Greek myth in The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head. Instead, I chose to add a couple of medieval tales, and so I chose The Song of Roland, an equally heroic event. I do have a thermopylae in my story, the Hot Gate through which the armies have to pass to enter the Valley of Thorns (Roncevalles). There is no battle at the Hot Gate,though, although undoubtedly there have been battles there and will be more. Nicholas, I’ve promised to read the rest of your story, but at the moment I don’t feel like reading or writing anything, so you’ll have to forgive me.
Please don’t worry about it. You’re already ahead of me, in that I’ve been meaning to read your books for a while now and still haven’t managed to. 🙂
I, too, mix and match from historical anecdotes. Sadly, human history is stranger than fiction when it comes to war.
Happy New Year, Nicholas.
Thought-provoking information. No wonder you were taken with writing the series. How strong are we humans when the need arises!
Hear hear! 🙂
That’s so cool. I’m jealous of you guys who can visit actual ancient sites. We don’t have much like that in the Western US. I’ve been to Mesa Verde, but it’s about a thousand miles from here now. I suppose I could go visit Whitebird Hill again and make a Cowboys and Indians post. It isn’t as old as the sites you and Ali get to visit.
I’d love to visit that!
Stopping a ship with your teeth. That is truly badass. This might be a strange question, but how many times did the Persians try to invade Greece? That seems to be a fairly common event.
Since I’m Greek and saw this before Nicholas, I’ll try to answer: the Battle of Marathon was during the first Persian invasion of Greece (492-490 BC), and there was a second (489-479 BC) when the battles of Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea took place. Yeah, okay, I looked that up, but I had to rise to the occasion… 🙂
Thanks. Not much time between the invasions, so I guess they weren’t really done the first time.
It was a Persian father and his son. Pretty much like Bush Sr. and Jr.
Good old dynasties. Carrying over wars since ancient times.
A king’s work is never done… What, with all the conquesting and fighting and running the harem and everything, I almost pity the poor man.
Especially with the harem. Guess he does need a reason to leave the kingdom at least once a month.
I think they had people for that. What are we talking about, again? 😀
I think going out with the boys when married. That or odd hobbies
Wow, MMJaye really covered this one 🙂 Thanks!
Such an interesting post – thanks for sharing! And I love how you say Pearseus ‘came to you.’ It’s like that, isn’t it, when a story arrives, like the character comes and taps you on the shoulder and says ‘OK, please tell my tale.’
You really get it! 🙂
Much appreciated!! 🙂
Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
More fascinating stuff from Nicholas. 🙂
A unique place where the course of history was changed. Thanks for the great photos!
Indeed, modern historian agree this was a pivotal moment in history. Glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂
A wonderful post. Thanks so much for the history lesson. I had never heard of Kynaigeiros until reading this very interesting account.
As Charles put it, he was quite the badass, wasn’t he? 🙂
Yes he was!
Fabulous post, Nick! Exactly the kind of stuff I like… and so close to your home, lucky man! No wonder you were so inspired to write…
Thanks! I base my historical posts on your excellent ones. So, I’ve learnt from the best 😉
Waaaaay too much Greek charm lol! Thank you!
You did once call me silver-tongued, remember? 😀
Lol yes! Its something you have in common with the Irish… they can be like that too!
Thanks for this wonderful piece of history you put together for us.
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
Always!!! I have to confess that I still did not make it to read in your beautiful book. I hope that I can start with the first story this week 🙂
No rush, dear. It’s all about having fun 🙂
Glad you see it the same way 😀
Really interesting piece of history, Nicholas. Beautiful photos.
Thanks, Suzanne! It was a lovely day (the photos were taken in November, actually).
What a great post! I have read books and watched documentaries over the years about the Persian efforts to invade Greece and it’s wonderful to see photos of the battlefield at Marathon. Thank you for posting them.
That’s so sweet of you, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂