Timeline of Greek history before and after the battle of Marathon


Miltiades born; son of Kimon of noble Philaid family



Persians conquer Ionia (east coast of Aegean Sea, modern Turkey)



Themistokles born



Aeschylos is born in Eleusis



Miltiades is elected chief arkhon of Athens



Darius becomes king of the Persian empire



Miltiades goes to rule in Khersonese. On arrival he throws all chief people of Khersonese into prison and makes himself tyrant.



Tyrant of Athens, Hipparkhos, is assassinated and his brother Hippias becomes very repressive, murdering and torturing opponents



Darius’ wife Atossa urges him to conquer Greece 



King Kleomenes of Sparta deposes Hippias. Hippias barricades himself in the Acropolis but Kleomenes captures his children; Hippias flees to Darius.

Two Athenian leaders, Kleisthenes and Isagoras, vie for power.

Miltiades’ son Kimon born.



Isagoras elected chief arkhon and Kleisthenes turns to the people.  He introduces a new constitution – an assembly for all citizens, equal rights for all under law; but only the rich can run for high office. Ten new tribes are formed to try to reduce conflict among clans (big families).

This makes Kleisthenes much stronger than Isagoras, now he has popular support.



Miltiades tries to make friends with new democratic government

Spartan herald demands expulsion of Alcmaeonids (Kleisthenes’ clan). Kleisthenes flees; Kleomenes and a small band of soldiers arrives; gets rid of 700 anti-Spartan families. They settle on the Acropolis with Isagoras, discuss getting rid of democracy, dissolving council.

The people revolt around the Acropolis, blockading the gates; on the third day Kleomenes gives in & the Spartans leave. Isagoras escapes but his followers are put to death. Kleisthenes returns.



Kleomenes returns with an army of Spartans and others, and allies from Thebes and Khalkis. They surround Athens (at a distance).

Athenians arrive at Eleusis to find the Spartan and allies had gone – the two Spartan kings had argued with each other, one saying it is wrong to overturn a democracy.

Athens soundly defeats Thebes, then Khalkis. They make Khalkis accept 4000 Athenian settlers and get ransoms for prisoners. Fetters suspended on Acropolis. According to Herodotus, this was proof that Athenians could fight for an ideal, freedom, as much as for a clan lord.



Agora and Pnyx founded.

Hippias goes to Sardis and tries to get the Persians to attack Athens; Athenian envoys go to oppose this.



Ionian revolt – cities of Ionia (eastern Aegean), led by Aristagoras of Miletos, get rid of their tyrants and free themselves from Persia.

Aeschylos, at the age of 26, enters the Dionysia – the play competition in Athens – and loses.



Aristagoras asks Sparta, Athens and other cities to help him in the Ionian revolt. He says the Persian warriors are weak, like women. Sparta refuses, but Athens and Eretria agree.



Athenian and Eretrian ships land at Ephesos and move to attack Sardis. They burn the city and the temple of Cybele. Persian cavalry defeat the Greeks at Ephesos.



Miltiades helps Athens to seize the island of Lemnos.

The Persians sweep the Ionian rebels out to sea – except for Miletos, which holds out.



Miletos defeated at the battle of Lade. The city is destroyed, the men slain, the women and children enslaved.



The Capture of Miletos is performed at the Dionysia, upsetting the audience (everyone bursts into tears). The playwright Phrynikos is fined 1000 drachmas by the assembly and a law is passed that it shall never be staged again.

More islands taken by Persia, which treats them as they treated Miletos.

Themistocles becomes chief arkhon of Athens. He urges the assembly to build a fleet and to fortify the harbour, Piraeus. They vote against the fleet but work begins on Piraeus.



Summer – Miltiades arrives in Athens, fleeing the Persians.

A large Persian force led by Mardonios crosses into Europe at the Hellespont. Macedonia submits to them. However a difficult battle against the Brygi and a devastating storm off Mt. Athos, which destroys 300 ships and 20,000 men, leads Mardonios to call off the invasion.



Darius sends envoys demanding earth and water from many Greek states. Sparta refuses, throwing them into a well to collect their own earth and water.

Athens puts them on trial at the instigation of Miltiades. They are convicted and cast into the barathron – a chasm used to execute serious criminals.



Darius sends his army from Susa to Cilicia, where his fleets joins them. In July they sail to Ionia, with 600 triremes. Each one has 160 rowers and 40 others = 120,000 men total; soldiers = about 25,000.

They besiege Lindos in Rhodes, then move north to Samos, then attack Naxos (who refused to give earth and water). They burn the city and temple; the citizens flee to the hills. They land at Paros, taking on supplies, men, and one ship. Datis stops at Delos, to burn incense and make offerings at the sanctuary of Apollo. The fleet takes on troops and hostages at Andros and Tenos, then arrives at Karystos, where it burns the fields and the city. Then onto Eretria up the coast of Euboea; the army and cavalry land and move on to the city. The Eretrians hold out for six days behind their city walls, but then they are betrayed by two of their own leaders, and the city is taken. Laves are taken and dropped off on the island of Aigilia on the way to the beach at Marathon.

The runner Philippides is sent to Sparta to ask for their support. He is refused. The assembly votes to send the army to Marathon to face the enemy in open battle. 9,000 hoplites (including slaves) march in early September and encamp in the sacred grove of Herakles at the south western exit to the plain. Here they are joined by 1,000 Plataians.

About 6 days later the Persians move to attack and battle is joined, the Greeks approaching at a run to reduce casualties from arrows. The Greek left and right flank are victorious, slaughtering many and pushing them into the Great Marsh. The centre however is sorely pressed, being thinned and facing the hardiest Persian warriors, the Immortals. They are rescued by the returning Greek flanks and the battle is won. The fleeing Persians are pursued to their ships at the far end of the bay but most escape; many are slain but only 7 ships are captured. Here Stesilaos, Kallimachos and Kynegeiros fall.

Seeing the Persian fleet headed toward Cape Sounion, Miltiades rouses his troops to another great feat, the march back to Athens. They arrive and rest overnight in the Kynosarges gym. In the morning the Persian fleet arrives. Datis, seeing he has been beaten to Athens, throws in the towel and heads for home.

There are numerous celebrations of the battle. The dead are buried in a special mound on the battlefield. Later in the year 500 kid goats are sacrificed to Artemis of the Wilds, following a promise made before the battle.


490 or 489

Miltiades persuades the assembly to let him take the full Athenian navy (70 ships) to attack those islands who supported the Persians. Eventually he besieges Paros, but fails to take the city and returns empty-handed and with a gangrenous leg wound.

Xanthippos son of Ariphron accuses him of deceiving the Athenian people, a capital offence; instead of the death sentence, he is fined 50 talents of silver, an immense sum. He dies in prison, leaving his son Kimon to pay the fine.



Aristeides elected chief arkhon.



Darius dies and his son Xerxes takes over the throne.



Xanthippos is ostracised (the assembly votes to exile him for ten years).



Aeschylos, at the age of 41, wins his first victory at the Dionysia.



Themistokles persuades the assembly to ostracise Aristeides. He also persuades the people to use new finds of silver to pay for a navy of 200 triremes.



The Persians return, led by their king, Xerxes – an enormous force of perhaps 1 million men plus a large fleet. They defeat a small force of Greeks including 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. A sea battle is fought at Artemision, with no clear victor. The Athenians flee their city which is taken and destroyed by Xerxes. The Athenians gain their revenge at the sea battle of Salamis (about which Aeschylos would late write in his play The Persians). Themistokles, the Athenian admiral at Salamis, has been credited with saving western civilisation more than any other man.



The Persians are finally defeated at the battle of Plataia by a Greek force of mainly Spartans.



Aeschylos writes The Persians – the earliest play still in existence. It is about the battle of Salamis, which he probably took part in .

Between 478 and 458 he writes about 80 plays, winning the play competition 13 times (out of 20).



Aeschylos’ most famous work, The Oresteia, wins the Dionysia.



Aeschylos dies in Sicily.



Building of the Parthenon



Peloponnesian War, between Athens and Sparta, eventually won

by Sparta



Philip II, king of Macedonia, conquers Greece.





Alexander, son of Philip, defeats Darius II, king of Persia, at the  battle of Issus and then Gaugamela, thus becoming king of Asia and ending the Achaemenid Persian Empire, and getting Greece’s final vengeance for the Persian Wars.



The Romans conquer Greece, which eventually becomes part of the Roman Empire.