The pivotal Battle of Marathon between Greece and Persia is the sixth Battle That Changed History

Another entrant in one of the New Zealand Mints ongoing series, The Battle of Marathon is the sixth coin in the Battles That Changed History range. Without question a battle that deserves inclusion in a series with that title, Marathon was a crucial victory for Greek, and by association Western civilisation. If the Persians had not been crushed on this Greek battlefield, the world we live in today would surely be a much different one.

Very close in execution to this mints prior Warriors of History, these are one-ounce silver coins with an antique finish and some selective colouring on the reverse face. Not exactly a ground-breaking specification then, but it’s in the execution that these succeed. The reverse of the coin features an image of Miltiades, the Athenian general that commanded the defending forces on that day in 490 BCE. The highlighting of an important figure in colour has been a signature of this, and the prior series and looks pretty good against the antique finish used on the rest of the design. The background depicts a battle scene and does a good job in the limited space of showing the carnage of an ancient battlefield.

No custom design on the obverse however, just the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II as expected with a Niue issue. Packaging remains the small wooden chest that is a decent quality item, although like all these things you do wish for a nice box to hold them all – especially if it meant the coins could be available without the individual packaging for a cheaper price perhaps, maybe on a subscription basis.

A fine series, we’d certainly be happy to see more in this set. The Warriors of History series garnered ten entrants in all, so it’s highly possible, although we only saw six designs at the 2017 WMF in Berlin and those are all now out. Selling for $80 USD, it should be available to buy today from a few of our sponsors, or from the mint estore. We’ll add this to our Coin Series Profile later today.


The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. The battle was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate Greece. The Greek army decisively defeated the more numerous Persians, marking a turning point in the Greco-Persian Wars. The first Persian invasion was a response to Athenian involvement in the Ionian Revolt, when Athens and Eretria had sent a force to support the cities of Ionia in their attempt to overthrow Persian rule. The Athenians and Eretrians had succeeded in capturing and burning Sardis, but they were then forced to retreat with heavy losses. In response to this raid, Darius swore to burn down Athens and Eretria.

At the time of the battle, Sparta and Athens were the two largest city-states in Greece. Once the Ionian revolt was finally crushed by the Persian victory at the Battle of Lade in 494 BC, Darius began plans to subjugate Greece. In 490 BC, he sent a naval task force under Datis and Artaphernes across the Aegean, to subjugate the Cyclades, and then to make punitive attacks on Athens and Eretria. Reaching Euboea in mid-summer after a successful campaign in the Aegean, the Persians proceeded to besiege and capture Eretria. The Persian force then sailed for Attica, landing in the bay near the town of Marathon. The Athenians, joined by a small force from Plataea, marched to Marathon, and succeeded in blocking the two exits from the plain of Marathon. The Athenians also sent a message asking for support to the Spartans. When the messenger arrived in Sparta, the Spartans were involved in a religious festival and gave this as a reason for not coming to aid of the Athenians.

The Athenians and their allies chose a location for the battle, with marshes and mountainous terrain, that prevented the Persian cavalry from joining the Persian infantry. Miltiades, the Athenian general, ordered a general attack against the Persian forces, composed primarily of missile troops. He reinforced his flanks, luring the Persians’ best fighters into his center. The inward wheeling flanks enveloped the Persians, routing them. The Persian army broke in panic towards their ships, and large numbers were slaughtered. The defeat at Marathon marked the end of the first Persian invasion of Greece, and the Persian force retreated to Asia. Darius then began raising a huge new army with which he meant to completely subjugate Greece; however, in 486 BC, his Egyptian subjects revolted, indefinitely postponing any Greek expedition. After Darius died, his son Xerxes I restarted the preparations for a second invasion of Greece, which finally began in 480 BC.

The Battle of Marathon was a watershed in the Greco-Persian wars, showing the Greeks that the Persians could be beaten; the eventual Greek triumph in these wars can be seen to begin at Marathon. The battle also showed the Greeks that they were able to win battles without the Spartans, as they had heavily relied on Sparta previously. This victory was largely due to the Athenians, and Marathon raised Greek esteem of them. Since the following two hundred years saw the rise of the Classical Greek civilization, which has been enduringly influential in western society, the Battle of Marathon is often seen as a pivotal moment in Mediterranean and European history.

COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 31.1 grams
FINISH Antique
BOX / COA Yes / Yes