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The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory at Marathon and Its Impact on Western Civilization Paperback – April 9, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553385755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553385755
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #726,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 46 customer reviews
Okay, now down to business: The book is fun to read. yes, it is a history.
Dusty White
I am most impressed with Mr. Lacey's take on the first clash between the Greek and Persian cultures.
Robert Busko
This book will appeal to readers interested in military history or the ancient world.
Robin Friedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Julia A. Andrews VINE VOICE on February 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is a very interesting addition to the existing works that cover the pivotal Battle of Marathon. The author, Jim Lacey, is a military historian whereas the previously existing body of work on this subject has been produced by classicists. This, in itself, gives the author a different and (to this reader) plausible explanation of the course of the battle.

The first part of the account deals with the political and military background in the eastern Mediterranean over the century or so preceding Darius' invasion of Greece. As a non-classicist, I found parts of this narrative less than gripping. The area covered is so large, the small kingdoms so numerous, the names of the main participants so many, and the alliances so shifting that someone relatively unfamiliar with the period is likely to flinch. This is not really a criticism of the author, nor indeed of his writing style. Rather it is the more or less inevitable reaction of a non-scholar to a dense tapestry of history.

Far more accessible is the part dealing with the Battle intself. The author points out that an over-reliance on the writings of Herotodus (variously desribed as the "Father of History" and the "Father of Lies")can be dangerous. Although he is the primary source of the time, his inclination to gild the lily for the sake of popularity with his Athenian audience can be a problem. Jim Lacey's description of the possible course of the battle is extremely plausible, written as it is from a military perspective. It adequately answers the major questions about the battle which he outlines at the end of the book under the title of "The Great Debates"

In the book's conclusion, the author deals briefly with the impact of the Battle on Western Civiisation.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Green VINE VOICE on March 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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 could arrive. At the end of the brief battle over 6,000 dead Persian soldiers lay on the field while only 192 Athenians had fallen.

I'll readily admit I'm not very familiar with ancient history, but after reading The Ghosts of Cannae by Robert O'Connell my interest was piqued (admittedly the two books cover a history hundreds of years apart, but when it's that old it's all "ancient" to me). I knew about the stereotypes of Sparta (warlike) and Athens (democratic) but that was about it. But this book is full of information on the time and told in a very methodical manner that manages to keep some dusty old history from becoming overly textbookish.

Scholars and those interested in this particular history will certainly find this an essential read, but I think others with a strong interest in history will find this appealing as well. Since I'm not familiar with the era I found it hard reading and had to go slow to absorb it, frequently rereading paragraphs. There's a LOT of names and places that make it confusing, and in spite of its overall short length it's not the kind of book I could breeze through. But it was a rewarding effort. Mr.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"The First Clash" by military historian Jim Lacey makes for an interesting read that can keep a history buff reading this book for an entire weekend. I enjoyed it because he offers a well-balanced and well-defended thesis that the Greeks were able to defeat the Persians at Marathon through their determined spirit, their experience fighting Spartans, and their effectiveness as hoplites against the larger and better-armed Persian cavalry.

For readers wanting to know more about Cyrus and Darius, the first part of this book focuses on Persia, to understand the drive the Persians had to move westward. This helps to stress how effective a Greek vicotry has turned out to be. By all accounts, the Greeks should have lost.

Ultimately the war at Marathon was won by Athens because they had obviously more reason to fight: a loss to Persia met subjugation to a foreign ruler and the demise of all things Helenic. Athens and Sparta never trusted one another, but united in the end to defeat the Persians, and thus the Greek empire was formed.

Dr Lacey presents the history of the battle of Marathon and the importance of a Greek victory into viable perspective. Had the Greeks lost, it would have doomed Greek civilization, and with that, the rise of western civilization. The writing style flows, although at times it may appear too scholarly. His biggest source, as with all things ancient Greece, is Herodotus, whom he sees as a biased journalist rather than a historian, and he gives examples of that throughout the book. It makes the reader wonder how much of Herodotus was made up just to please certain Greek emperors?

Kudos to Lacey also for not just repeating other historian's theories about the Battle of Marathon.
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