The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory At Marathon And Its Impact On Western Civilization

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The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory At Marathon And Its Impact On Western Civilization

by Jim Lacey

Random House Publishing Group | October 29, 2013 | Hardcover

The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory At Marathon And Its Impact On Western Civilization is rated 5 out of 5 by 2.
Marathon—one of history’s most pivotal battles. Its very name evokes images of almost superhuman courage, endurance, and fighting spirit. But until now, the story of what happened at Marathon has been told exclusively through the narrow viewpoint of specialists in antiquity. In this eye-opening new book, acclaimed journalist Jim Lacey, both a military historian and a combat veteran, takes a fresh look at Marathon and reveals why the battle happened, how it was fought, and whether, in fact, it saved Western civilization.

Lacey brilliantly reconstructs the world of the fifth century B.C. leading up to the astonishing military defeat of the Persian Empire by the vastly undermanned but determined Greek defenders. Using the seminal work of Herodotus as his starting point, Lacey reconstructs the tactical and strategic scenario of the battle, including how many combatants each side might have used and who actually led the Greeks. He also disputes the long-repeated myths of Athenian inexperience and effete Persian arrogance.

With the kind of vivid detail that characterizes the best modern war reportage, Lacey shows how the heavily armed Persian army was shocked, demoralized, and ultimately defeated by the relentless assault of the Athenian phalanx, which battered the Persian line in a series of brutal attacks. He reveals the fascinating aftermath of Marathon, how its fighters became the equivalent of our “Greatest Generation,” and challenges the view of many historians that Marathon ultimately proved the Greek “Western way of war” to be the superior strategy for fighting—and winning—battles to the present day.

Immediate, visceral, and full of new analyses that defy decades of conventional wisdom, The First Clash is a superb interpretation of a conflict that indeed made the world safe for Aristotle, Plato, and our own modern democracy. But it was also a battle whose legacy and lessons have often been misunderstood—perhaps, now more than ever, at our own peril.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 272 pages, 9.55 × 6.52 × 1.01 in

Published: October 29, 2013

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 055380734X

ISBN - 13: 9780553807349

Found in: History

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Battle of Marathon: From Causes to Outcome In this captivating book, the author recounts the battle of Marathon which took place in 490 BCE. This was the first significant military encounter between the mainland Greeks and the Persian Empire. But prior to describing the battle itself and its aftermath, the author provides much background information on the two sides in this conflict: the rise of Persia, the rise of Greece, interactions between the Ionian Greeks and Persia, wars between Greek city states, differences in fighting techniques between Greeks and Persians, political shenanigans, religions, etc. The causes of the conflict are also clearly described. Also very important is the fact that individuals of varying importance on both sides and their various activities are appropriately discussed in adequate detail. Since there are several of these individuals, some of whom switched sides, I found keeping track of them all to be a bit difficult at times. Fortunately, the author has included a “Dramatis Personae” section near the book’s beginning for quick and easy reference. It was quite helpful. I found the author’s prose to be quite clear, lively, accessible and very engaging. This is a book that should appeal to most ancient history enthusiasts, but any interested general reader should find it a most enjoyable read.
Date published: 2014-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This book, by a former U.S. Army officer, is a military history of the 60 or so years leading up to and ending with the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The battle is generally regarded by historians, including the author, as one of the 15 most decisive battles in all history. A Persian victory at Marathon would have resulted in eventual Persian control of all of present day Greece and would have nipped western democracy in the bud, thereby altering the course of history. It is Marathon, in the author's view, not the defeat of the Persians 10 years later in their next invasion (immortalized by the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae) that saved Western civilization. Although the subtitle to the book suggests victory by Athens was something of a miracle (the view of most historians) the author reinterprets the battle and events leading up to it to argue that a Greek victory may not have been quite the miracle most believe it to have been. While out-numbered by the Persians, the Athenian army was battle-hardened and superbly led (at one point the author describes Athens as the Israel of its day). On the day of the battle, the Greeks surprised the Persians with an all out disciplined attack that overwhelmed the enemy on the flanks, lost in the centre which caused the middle of the Greek line to fall back drawing the elite of the Persian army forward, then had the flanks turn to close the trap and destroy the middle. And the rest is history. If I have one complaint, it's with the two maps in the book, one showing the Aegean region and the other Greece and the Persian Empire. Many places mentioned throughout the book are not shown on either map. It's very frustrating to come across a new place name, turn to the maps to locate it, and find it's not shown. Perhaps the paperback edition can deal with this irritation.
Date published: 2011-07-15

– More About This Product –

The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory At Marathon And Its Impact On Western Civilization

by Jim Lacey

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 272 pages, 9.55 × 6.52 × 1.01 in

Published: October 29, 2013

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 055380734X

ISBN - 13: 9780553807349

About the Book

A scholarly chronicle describes how Persian invaders were defeated by Greek defenders in the Battle of Marathon, in an account that reveals how an alternate outcome would have posed historical consequences to western civilization.

Read from the Book

Chapter 1 An Empire Rises In 547 BC, Croesus, the king of Lydia, had reason to feel satisfied. To his west, where the Greek cities of Ionia dotted the Aegean coastline, a long, costly war had finally ended. These often troublesome Greeks were presently awed by Lydian power and were now paying him annual tribute. To the north, from which the terrifying Scythian horsemen in previous generations had swept down in devastating raids, it had been quiet since his father, Alyattes II, broke the back of Cimmerian power decades before.1 To the south, Babylonia remained a strong and dependable ally, a state of affairs that was unlikely to change as long as mighty Babylon felt threatened by the power of the Medes, who occupied the lands east of both Lydia and Babylon. Since the crushing of the Cimmerians and the demise of the dreaded Assyrian Empire in 613 BC, the Medes had been Lydia’s most serious threat. For five bloody years, during the reign of Alyattes II, Lydia fought an exhausting war to halt Median expansion. Herodotus reports that the war ended only when in the midst of a great battle both sides withdrew in terror as a solar eclipse darkened the field.2 Whatever the influence of the eclipse, the truth is that the war so exhausted both sides, they willingly allowed Babylon to arbitrate an end to the fighting. The “Peace of the Eclipse” lasted a generation. In that time, Lydia, the first state to create a standardized coinage, grew rich. So rich, in fact, that e
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From the Publisher

Marathon—one of history’s most pivotal battles. Its very name evokes images of almost superhuman courage, endurance, and fighting spirit. But until now, the story of what happened at Marathon has been told exclusively through the narrow viewpoint of specialists in antiquity. In this eye-opening new book, acclaimed journalist Jim Lacey, both a military historian and a combat veteran, takes a fresh look at Marathon and reveals why the battle happened, how it was fought, and whether, in fact, it saved Western civilization.

Lacey brilliantly reconstructs the world of the fifth century B.C. leading up to the astonishing military defeat of the Persian Empire by the vastly undermanned but determined Greek defenders. Using the seminal work of Herodotus as his starting point, Lacey reconstructs the tactical and strategic scenario of the battle, including how many combatants each side might have used and who actually led the Greeks. He also disputes the long-repeated myths of Athenian inexperience and effete Persian arrogance.

With the kind of vivid detail that characterizes the best modern war reportage, Lacey shows how the heavily armed Persian army was shocked, demoralized, and ultimately defeated by the relentless assault of the Athenian phalanx, which battered the Persian line in a series of brutal attacks. He reveals the fascinating aftermath of Marathon, how its fighters became the equivalent of our “Greatest Generation,” and challenges the view of many historians that Marathon ultimately proved the Greek “Western way of war” to be the superior strategy for fighting—and winning—battles to the present day.

Immediate, visceral, and full of new analyses that defy decades of conventional wisdom, The First Clash is a superb interpretation of a conflict that indeed made the world safe for Aristotle, Plato, and our own modern democracy. But it was also a battle whose legacy and lessons have often been misunderstood—perhaps, now more than ever, at our own peril.

About the Author

Jim Lacey was an active-duty military officer for twelve years in the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division. Lacey is currently a professor of strategy, war, and policy at the Marine War College, and an adjunct professor in the Johns Hopkins National Security Program. He also works as a consultant on a number of projects for the United States military. Lacey has written for several publications, including the New York Post and The New York Sun, appears regularly in Military History magazine, and was an embedded journalist for Time magazine during the invasion of Iraq.

Editorial Reviews

"On the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of the battle of Marathon, defense analyst James Lacey has not only offered a fresh appraisal of the battle, but in a larger sense demonstrated how the Athenian victory established a precedent of Western military advantage for subsequent millennia. With a fresh eye to tactics, strategy, and military organization, grounded with direct experience with troops on the battlefield, the result is not only new understanding of how the Athenians managed to win, but also a greater appreciation of the beginning of a long tradition of Western military dynamism that we take for granted today."—Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture and The Western Way of War

“With a soldier’s eye, Jim Lacey recreates the Battle of Marathon in all its brutal simplicity. This compelling and provocative read makes a potent contribution to an enduring debate.”—Barry Strauss, author of The Battle of Salamis and Professor of History, Cornell University


“A lively and readable account of the battle of Marathon and its significance. Jim Lacey’s experience as a professional soldier gives it an added dimension, especially his ability to see the military situation from both sides.”—Donald Kagan, author of The Peloponnesian War
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