Schinias Beach near Athens is no stranger to hordes in sandals flocking here every summer — but a group arriving next week is less interested in the area’s blue waters and seaside taverns.
A re-enactment of the Battle of Marathon is to be held here on September 10 to commemorate the historic Greek-Persian showdown in 490 BCE, with hundreds of participants in armour from around the world, organizers say
The three-day amateur event on the presumed battlefield, which has since been altered by soil erosion, will showcase Greek and Persian combat as well as dance, literature, crafts and cultural features from the Archaic period.
But the main feature will be a planned confrontation between the Greek and Persian ‘armies’, composed of up to 200 experimental archaeology fans.
“It has taken us three years to equip even that many,” says Christian Cameron, a Canadian novelist and former US navy career officer.
“Correct armour and weapons — not to mention period textiles and dyes — take hundreds of hours to make,” the 49-year-old organizer told AFP.
“Most people at Marathon will be wearing five to ten thousand euros ($7,200-14,500) worth of equipment, much of it made by hand,” adds Cameron, who intends to portray an unnamed Greek aristocrat.
In addition to their custom-made armour and clothing, the participants will carry modified weapons including safe-edge spears for the Greeks and rubber-head arrows for the Persians.
“I believe this meeting will be the largest ever held in Greece, both in participants and duration,” said Yiannis Kadoglou, a 23-year-old agronomy student from Thessaloniki.
One of history’s most famous military engagements — and one of the first to be recorded — the Battle of Marathon is considered to have changed Europe’s fate.
It galvanized the warring Greek city-states and demonstrated that the Persian Empire, the superpower of the age, could be defeated.
Aside from fighting, the re-enacts also plan period cooking, camping, an archery demonstration and a sprint in armour, “to show just how many shots a Persian archer could get off while a Greek hoplite charged him,” Cameron says.
The organizers have asked the Culture Ministry for permission to march from the ancient Agora in Athens to the Acropolis in celebration of the victory.
No response has been given so far, though the local municipality is helping the initiative with camping and logistical support.
“We understand that these are difficult times in Greece, but we’re a little startled by the lack of interest,” Cameron says.
“I’d love to talk to the minister for ten minutes about the potential for re-enacting to enhance both Greek culture and tourism,” he adds.