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The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory at Marathon and Its Impact on Western Civilization

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  165 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews

“A compelling and provocative read . . . With a soldier’s eye, Jim Lacey re-creates the battle of Marathon in all its brutal simplicity.”—Barry Strauss, author of Masters of Command

Marathon—one of history’s most pivotal battles. Its name evokes images of almost superhuman courage, endurance, and fighting spirit. In this eye-opening book, militar
ebook, 288 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30)
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Myke Cole
Dec 21, 2016 Myke Cole rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Lacey is an excellent writer with a real command of the source material and a comprehensive knowledge of the period. Yet he completely collapses what would be an otherwise great book in two ways:

1.) He aligns himself with Hanson's odious position - There is a "Western" way of war that is inherently superior to other cultures by dint of our free-thinking (and therefore morally superior) culture. Close/shock combat and Clausewitzian warfare is a Western invention, while deceit and insurgency are s
Clark Hays
Nov 20, 2011 Clark Hays rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A familiar story well-told; pair with a glass of retsina

The story is now familiar: a vastly outnumbered group of Athenian hoplites turning back the great Persian horde and saving the western world, but I never grow weary of the retelling. Lacey does a great job of distilling the historical events and figures and intrigues down to a very manageable and engaging work. Despite its slender size, it's rich with keen military insights while still providing a roadmap through the social and political co
“At Marathon, Athens saved itself, Greece, and by extension all of Western civilization. Some have proposed that Marathon made little difference in the creation and development of a unique Western civilization. After all, this argument goes, Pericles, Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates still would have been born. They still would have been brilliant, and their achievements would have been as great. One is hard-pressed, however, to think how these great minds and independent spirits would have soared ...more
Robin Friedman
Feb 12, 2014 Robin Friedman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 490 B.C., a force of 9,000 Athenian and 1,000 Platean hoplites (heavily armed infantrymen) defeated a Persian army at least three times its size on the plains of Marathon about 24 miles from Athens. It was a heroic and inspiring victory against what seemed to be long odds and saved the budding Greek city states from conquest by the Persian Empire. Ten years later, in 480 B.C., the Greeks would repel another, larger Persian invasion.

Marathon is the stuff of myth and poetry, but it also a criti
Lauren Albert
Sep 25, 2011 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-ancient
Since I don't know the controversies surrounding the battle of Marathon, to some extent I had to accept Lacey's point of view. His arguments seem reasonable enough. His first goal seems to destroy two myths--one, that the Athenian army was a collection of amateurs and their victory was a miracle; and two, that the Persians were effete. In his version, both armies were experienced warriors. But the Persians had no experience with the Hoplite battle style which made normal Persian battle strategy ...more
Lacey is not an ancient historian by training, rather he is an analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyse at John Hopkins University, and an embedded journalist for the American invasion of Iraq- therefore, his analysis is from a non specialist perspective, and should be read with caution.

Whilst there are many theoretical and logical problems with Lacey's article (so many that perhaps one could write a book or article simply reviewing his, work,as I have done for an ancient history thesis) the
Mar 08, 2012 J.S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Battle of Marathon (490 BC) was a pivotal moment in the history of western civilization. The mighty Persian Empire sent a large force to deal with some of the upstart Greek territories who refused to bow down and submit. Many others had already acquiesced or been brutally forced into submission, but not Athens and Sparta. In spite of overwhelming odds and being vastly outnumbered the miraculous occurred - the small Athenian army singlehandedly defeated Persia even before help from Sparta cou ...more
Jan 06, 2014 Jerome rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lively and well-paced (if surprisingly brief) history of the Battle of Marathon, with the right amount of background of the political and military context.

Billows does a great job providing context (the rise of Persia, Greek politics, Greek vs. Persian warfare etc.), but the sheer scale of the area, the name and number of small kingdoms, and the constantly shifting diplomacy between them can get somewhat overwhelming at times, although Billows does his best to makes sense out of it, even if n
Derek Weese
Oct 22, 2013 Derek Weese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent,short overview of the Battle of Marathon where a small Athenian and Plataen (I may have misspeled them...) army crushed a much larger Persian army in the first of many fights to occur between the Greek's and the Persians.
I gave this book five stars as, honestly, the majority of academic history is so poorly written that it is no wonder that most Americans couldn't care less about history. This book, while not able to blow minds with its amazing wordsmithing, is still a very
Chris Lemery
May 13, 2012 Chris Lemery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, war, asia
This is a pretty good overview of the Battle of Marathon, about which I previously knew little. It's a quick read. It's not superbly written, but it's not terrible, either. It has a lot of backstory about how Persia and Athens came to war, but much of it was dense and really hard to follow. I think it takes a more skilled writer than Lacey to really explain this part. The latter part of the book about the actual Battle was quite good, though, and Lacey offers pretty good evidence for his thesis ...more
Feb 04, 2011 Misty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Jim Lacey's "The First Clash" is a wonderful look at the historic Battle at Marathon, in which the Athenian army held their own against the Persians. Lacey goes in-depth into both the history of Persia and the Greek city states just prior to they met in battle, and his tale is fascinating and easy-to-read. It's been quite a while since I've read Greek history, but Lacey's telling is smooth and engaging.

An important part of Lacey's historical review is the revisionist portion of the book, which o
Steven Peterson
Apr 04, 2011 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is not a great deal known about the battle of Marathon, in which the Athenians and some others held back the horde of Persians, who were invading Greece. It is high testimony to the author's skills that he, nonetheless, has authored a fine book on the subject. Much of the book is background. Why did the Persians invade Greece? Why did Athens take on this vast military machine? Lacey does a good job on this background work, freely acknowledging what is his speculation and what is the best w ...more
Though this is my first real indepth look into the Battle of Marathon, showing that I do not have the experience nor the knowledge to tell how biased this account is, I found this to be an excellent read.

I was warned beforehand that the actual battle itself was only spoken of at the end, so there was no disappointment to be had upon first starting this book as I did not expect it to only speak of the battle. In fact
I found it rather nice to have background information and a better understanding
Jul 31, 2016 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A fine history of the battle of Marathon. Lacey is a military man, a journalist and a professor at the Marine War College. The book begins with a teaser briefly describing the battle. The author then discusses the rise of Darius and the Persian empire, the rise of Athens and the nature of Sparta and Athens, the immediate preceding history of the Ionian revolt, the Persian and Greek styles of warfare, and, finally, his view of what happened at the battle. There is a concluding discussion of other ...more
Jul 12, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this short book. The author raises a number of good points about Herodotus' veracity on certain points of the battle and reasonings, while at the same time being even handed enough (and thats the best compliment I can give to an author that addresses such a worked over topic)to admit that we cannot throw out Herodotus without completely giving up on our only source to have spoken with veterans of the battle. Plutach and others address Marathon, but they are further from the batt ...more
Jean-Paul Adriaansen
Without Marathon, the first deciding battle between East and West, we might never have known the benefits of Democracy.
The author states that the Greek were not as untrained and undermanned as we think they were, but rather a force to be reckoned with. Their phalanx, the backbone of their Army, was the ancient version of the modern tank. Their generals, skilled in battle, were heroic tacticians and strategists.
Jim Lacey explains the organization and growth of the Persian and Greek Armies, their
'Aussie Rick'
Although the title of this book sounds like it is about the Battle at Marathon in 490BC it covers much more. The majority of the narrative is taken up with the history of the people and empires (Greece and Persia) leading up to the climatic battle. Overall it's a good study of this period of ancient history and the author puts his own spin on his reading of ancient sources based on his military experience, it’s up to the reader to accept that or not. Overall a decent history but be aware that th ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Boris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't resist this book based on its promise to explain the impact of the Battle of Marathon's impact on Western civilization. It didn't do the job.
The writing was mediocre. The analysis was not compelling. The author included a lot of extraneous material.
I do love the subject though.
I didn't know that Aeschylus, the playwright, had fought in that battle and wanted to be remembered as a "Marathon Man."
Kilian Jones
Jan 06, 2014 Kilian Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great read with lots of details about both sides leading up to the battle of marathon. The only issue is that there seems to be more info about the factors leading up to the battle then the battle itself. But as I already knew a lot about the battle I still found the book vary engaging, but I felt like the book did get bogged down in the first few chapters.
Jan 24, 2017 Price rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and researched. Provided cogent description of battle, events leading up to the battle, and its historical significance. Prose is clean and reads well. One does not get bogged down in minutiae.
Avis Black
The main problem with this book is that you don't actually get to the Battle of Marathon until you're almost at the end of the book. There does need to a lead-in to the battle, but not as much material as the author has stuffed in here.
Jul 31, 2014 Gerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great History

Great History

I don't know if the author's view and opinions are correct, but he presented a strong argument for them and a very interesting history of the times.
Daniel Kukwa
Aug 27, 2014 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A book that manages to cover a pivotal moment in Ancient Greece, thrash through several different interpretations of that event, and provide suitable background knowledge of all the key players...all in a concise, easy-to-read package. What more could you want from a work of history?
Nov 30, 2011 Mitchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I very rarely give a 5 star rating - but this deserves it... Lacey presents convincing arguments for his point of view... Even though I am typically not a big reader on ancient military history, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated this account...
I really enjoyed 3/4 of the book but he rushed through the Battle of Marathon, and parts of one of the last chapters didnt add to the book.
Jan 11, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jim Lacey's book continues the long lineage of research and historical debate over the Battle of Marathon.
Jason Papademos
Jason Papademos rated it it was amazing
Mar 08, 2013
Justin Green
Justin Green rated it really liked it
Jan 10, 2017
Will rated it it was amazing
Jan 08, 2012
Costas Papagiannis
Costas Papagiannis rated it really liked it
Nov 04, 2016
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“I remain confident that if faced with such a threat, the West will remember its twenty-five hundred years of tradition, much to the detriment of any possible foe. Having said that, we must all hope our leaders are wise enough to forestall any threat of this magnitude before it manifests itself. Because the Western way of war is brutal. If it is ever again unleashed in all its decisive barbarity, it will be many generations before our enemies recover.” 0 likes
“And it is plain enough, not from this instance only, but from many everywhere, that freedom is an excellent thing since even the Athenians, who, while they continued under the rule of tyrants, were not a whit more valiant than any of their neighbors, no sooner shook off the yoke than they became decidedly the first of all. These things show that, while undergoing oppression, they let themselves be beaten, since then they worked for a master; but so soon as they got their freedom, each man was eager to do the best he could for himself.2 Despite Herodotus’s” 0 likes
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