7 Small Armies That Devastated Larger Foes

John Steeple Davis, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

490 BC – The Battle of Marathon

Recorded as one of the earliest battles in history, in September of 490 BCE, the Persian king Darius the Great ordered his troops to invade Greece after several Greek regions of Asia Minor rebelled against Persian rule. 600 Persian ships, carrying more than 20,000 Persian soldiers, sailed across the Aegean Sea to crush the uprising.

The Greeks were woefully unprepared for such an invasion force, only gathering together 10,000 hoplite warriors. Still, the two sides would meet nonetheless 26 miles north of the capital Athens in the town of Marathon. Outnumbered two-to-one, the Athenian general Miltiades ordered the troops to form a line equal to that of the Persian invaders.

He ordered his troops to charge at the Persians at a full run, demanding they hold the line, which they did. This strategy was so successful that the Greeks had lost only 192 hoplite warriors by the end of the battle, while the Persians lost some 6,400 troops. The defeat at Marathon marked the end of the first Persian invasion of Greece, and the Persian force retreated to Asia.

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