History brought to life in Battle of Marathon re-enactment -

Sweating beneath heavy armour, a group of die-hard archaeology fans brought the Battle of Marathon to life this weekend on the coastal plain where the fate of Europe dramatically changed 2,500 years ago.

Gathering from Europe, North America and Australia, the re-enacters staged a three-day event of combat, archaic culture revival and commemoration at Marathon Bay never before seen in Greece despite its rich archaeological heritage.

For many of the participants, it was also a personal pilgrimage after long years of arduous preparation and unfulfilled hope.

"It's a dream come true after 10 years," said Hywel Jones, a printer from Wales who came to Marathon with his wife Stephanie to fight as a Greek hoplite, the heavily armed infantry soldier of ancient Greece.

Most of the re-enacters had spent thousands of euros (dollars) on travel expenses just to get to this small town 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of Athens that is better known for the long-distance race held here every year.

They brought with them family members as well as hand-made armour and kit crafted over the years at great personal cost.

"I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say that standing around is $1 million in kit and travel fare," said Christian Cameron, a Canadian novelist and former US navy career officer who headed preparations for the event.

"What you see today is the product of 11 years of work," added Andy Cropper, a university lecturer from England's Sheffield region and member of a British historical revival association who arrived with several sets of Greek, Persian and Scythian armour in tow.

"It was worth spending the money because it's such a unique event, as a Greek re-enactor, to be able to be on the field of Marathon," he told AFP.

The re-enacters initially had to persuade their hosts in Greece that this was the correct moment to commemorate the 2,500-year anniversary of the 490 BC battle in the bay of Marathon.

"Originally everybody thought it was last year, and of course it wasn't, as there's no year 'zero'," Cropper noted.

Few in number but no less determined, the group showed they meant business from the start, setting up camp near the presumed battlefield, sleeping on straw-filled mattresses and serving up a simple diet of vegetables, fruit, cheese and water in wooden bowls and cups.

Spare armour was quickly put to good use among the combatants as a set of last-minute cancellations and the loss of a large contingent from Bulgaria left the event badly short of Persian adversaries.

"We would have had 15 more hoplites but what we really missed is that the Bulgarians were Persians, and that would have helped us a lot," Cameron said.

Organisers had initially hoped for a turnout of 200 but had to settle for 50 battle-ready Greek hoplites and a handful of Persian archers.

They were also refused permission from the Greek culture ministry to access archaeological sites such as the tomb of the Athenian warriors slain in the battle, and the ancient Agora and Acropolis in Athens.

But the municipality of Marathon was more amenable, providing logistical support and allowing the group to hold a memorial ceremony to honour the Greek and Persian fallen at the battle's victory monument.

"I think the town would like us to come back every year," Cameron said, though the cost to the participants makes an immediate re-run unlikely.

"I think it would be three years," he notes. "They want to do it again, we'll do it better. Fifty people is a start, 500 is an achievable goal."

One of history's most famous military engagements, the Battle of Marathon is also one of the first to be recorded by chroniclers.

It gave its name to the world's premier long-distance running event, inaugurated during the first modern Olympics in 1896 in honour of an Athenian messenger believed to have run back to the city to deliver news of the victory, and subsequently dying of exhaustion.

Although only the citizen armies of Athens and Platea fought against the Persian levies that day, the battle galvanised the warring Greek city-states and demonstrated that the Persian Empire, the superpower of the age, could be defeated.

"People argue that it is the battle where the Greeks saved Western civilisation. People can equally argue that it was the moment at which a great civilisation, the Persian civilisation, lost control of the West," Cameron said.

jph-amp-lg/im/gk

 

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape