The Persian Generals enter Europe. - Invasion of Naxos, Carystus, Eretria. - The Athenians Demand the Aid of Sparta. - The Result of their Mission and the Adventure of their Messenger. - The Persians advance to Marathon. - The Plain Described. - Division of Opinion in the Athenian Camp. - The Advice of Miltiades prevails. - The Dream of Hippias. - The Battle of Marathon.
I. On the Cilician coast the Persian armament encamped - thence, in a fleet of six hundred triremes, it sailed to Samos (B. C. 490) - passed through the midst of the clustering Cyclades, and along that part of the Aegaean Sea called "the Icarian," from the legendary fate of the son of Daedalus - invaded Naxos - burnt her town and temples, and sparing the sacred Delos, in which the Median Datis reverenced the traditionary birthplace of two deities analogous to those most honoured in the Persian creed  - awed into subjection the various isles, until it arrived at Euboea, divided but by a strait from Attica, and containing the city of the Eretrians. The fleet first assailed Carystus, whose generous citizens refused both to aid against their neighbours, and to give hostages for their conduct. Closely besieged, and their lands wasted, they were compelled, however, to surrender to the Persians. Thence the victorious armament passed to Eretria. The Athenians had sent to the relief of that city the four thousand colonists whom they had established in the island - but fear, jealousy, division, were within the walls. Ruin seemed certain, and a chief of the Eretrians urged the colonists to quit a city which they were unable to save. They complied with the advice, and reached Attica in safety. Eretria, however, withstood a siege of six days; on the seventh the city was betrayed to the barbarians by two of that fatal oligarchical party, who in every Grecian city seem to have considered no enemy so detestable as the majority of their own citizens; the place was pillaged - the temples burnt - the inhabitants enslaved. Here the Persians rested for a few days ere they embarked for Attica.
II. Unsupported and alone, the Athenians were not dismayed. A swift-footed messenger was despatched to Sparta, to implore its prompt assistance. On the day after his departure from Athens, he reached his destination, went straight to the assembled magistrates, and thus addressed them:
"Men of Lacedaemon, the Athenians supplicate your aid; suffer not the most ancient of the Grecian cities to be enslaved by the barbarian. Already Eretria is subjected to their yoke, and all Greece is diminished by the loss of that illustrious city."
The resource the Athenians had so much right to expect failed them. The Spartans, indeed, resolved to assist Athens, but not until assistance would have come too late. They declared that their religion forbade them to commence a march till the moon was at her full, and this was only the ninth day of the month . With this unsatisfying reply, the messenger returned to Athens. But, employed in this arduous enterprise - his imagination inflamed by the greatness of the danger - and its workings yet more kindled by the loneliness of his adventure and the mountain stillness of the places through which he passed, the Athenian messenger related, on his return, a vision less probably the creation of his invention than of his excited fancy. Passing over the Mount Parthenius, amid whose wild recesses gloomed the antique grove dedicated to Telephus, the son of Hercules , the Athenian heard a voice call to him aloud, and started to behold that mystic god to whom, above the rest of earth, were dedicated the hills and woods of Arcady - the Pelasgic Pan. The god bade him "ask at Athens why the Athenians forgot his worship - he who loved them well - and might yet assist them at their need."
Such was the tale of the messenger. The lively credulities of the people believed its truth, and in calmer times dedicated a temple to the deity, venerated him with annual sacrifices, and the race of torches.
III. While the Athenians listened to the dreams of this poetical superstition, the mighty thousands of the Mede and Persian landed on the Attic coast, and, conducted by Hippias among their leaders, marched to the plain of Marathon, which the traveller still beholds stretching wide and level, amid hills and marshes, at the distance of only ten miles from the gates of Athens. Along the shore the plain extends to the length of six miles - inland it exceeds two. He who surveys it now looks over a dreary waste, whose meager and arid herbage is relieved but by the scanty foliage of unfrequent shrubs or pear-trees, and a few dwarf pines drooping towards the sea. Here and there may be seen the grazing buffalo, or the peasant bending at his plough: - a distant roof, a ruined chapel, are not sufficient evidences of the living to interpose between the imagination of the spectator and the dead. Such is the present Marathon - we are summoned back to the past.
IV. It will be remembered that the Athenians were divided into ten tribes at the instigation of Clisthenes. Each of these tribes nominated a general; there were therefore ten leaders to the Athenian army. Among them was Miltiades, who had succeeded in ingratiating himself with the Athenian people, and obtained from their suffrages a command.