Marathon is a small town standing in a fertile plain which leads down to the Bay of Marathon. Man first lived here in prehistoric times; a cave at Oinoi near Marathon, where there was a cult of the god Pan in the fifth century, has yielded traces of Neolithic habitation. A settlement dating from the early part of the Bronze Age has come to light at the spot called Plasi, while Tsepi has yielded one of the best-preserved cemeteries of the early Bonze Age. At Vrana, four Middle Helladic and Mycenean mounds have been excavated, and a nearby tholos tomb produced royal grave offerings.
Marathon is best known however, for the battle in the vicinity in 490 BC, when the Greeks triumphed over the Persians. The Greek army was made up chiefly of Athenians and men of Plataeae, and the large force they faced consisted of hoplites or infantrymen, archers and mounted knights. Miltiades of Athens, commanding the Greeks, skillfully managed to surprise the Persian army and force it in on to the retreat, turning the invaders back to their ships in Marathon Bay. The Athenians chose the spot where the last clashes between the two sides had taken place as the burial-ground for their dead, over whose tombs they erected a mound which can still be seen today. Another such mound, discovered at Vrana, is believed to have contained the fallen of Plataeae. At Marathon there is an Archaeological Museum with finds from prehistoric times to the Roman period.
To the west of the town of Marathon is Marathon lake, from which the water supply of Athens is piped.
The lake has a fine marble-faced dam built early in the twentieth century.