In 490 B.C., the brand-new democracy at Athens faced its first existential challenge: a vast Persian army intent on crushing the Greek city-state for supporting the enemies of the Persian Emperor Darius the Great.
The Athenian army and its allies numbered perhaps 10,000 men; the invading Persian forces, the sources tell us, numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Despite being outnumbered, the Greeks attacked the Persians on the plain of Marathon, about 26 miles from Athens. It was a rout. After a pitched battle, Darius’ army was crushed and the Persian invasion thwarted.
Today, 2,500 years later, an angry horde is succeeding where the Persian army failed: Greece’s public-sector unions are rioting in the streets and sacking the capital in protest of the government’s desperate attempts to save the nation from fiscal collapse, a collapse that is certain if things don’t change — soon.