From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Electra takes a refresher course on the Battle of Marathon in front of the Tumulus of Marathon Warriors.

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.

Read my children’s book, Runaway Smile, online for free!