Even in the short time, Hanson discussed the differences between the life of an Athenian and a Persian soldier around the time of the Battle of Marathon. He explained that on the Athenian side, hoplites were farmers who were usually fighting side-by-side with friends and neighbors. Although traditionally scholars thought of Athenians as having shields above the mantelpiece and taking them to fight in a moment, but the shield and the armor was so heavy that they must have had some kind of training practice, even if it was not to the degree that the Spartans trained. Furthermore,battles only lasted about an hour because that's how long it would take for everyone to be exhausted. This may sound strange, because the people they were fighting were not existential enemies (i.e. they did not need to kill all the opposing people) all they had to do was win on the battlefield.
The Persian soldiers were quite different. Unlike the Greeks, they were not fighting in a uniform battle formation and all had different types of armor. Most of them were mercenary-type armies from all over the Persian empire and they often did not speak the same language (see Herodotus 7.61-7.80). Furthermore, they were held together primarily by the fear of the horrible things done to them rather than the Greeks united in fighting for their homeland; Hanson gave the example from Herodotus 7.39). Furthermore, unlike the Greeks, the Persians were looking for death-counts (existential battle) rather than simply to win on the battlefield .
According to Hanson, the crucial difference between the two armies was that the Greeks were a unit. Although they had skirmishes among themselves, they had the same gods, similar political structure, similar constitutional rights, and the same language. So even though the Persians had vastly superior numbers, the Greeks managed to defeat them.
However, Hanson says that this was the battle in which certain leaders realized that although they managed to defeat the Persians, the hoplite strategy was not always going to work. He explains that the Persians came on their own terms, in ships, and had much more versatility than the Greeks. Themistocles realized this and changed the way that the Athenians did battle.
One funny moment happened about 5-10 minutes into the lecture, Hanson mentioned that he thought his battery might be having trouble, and a minute later entirely cut off. It was pretty funny. However, he managed quickly to get back online.
You can listen to the lecture on the Marathon 2500 site.
One last thing that I found interesting was Hanson's explanation of the difference between the hoplite battle strategy. The Athenians ran faster, chanted louder, and were slightly more disorganized, while the Spartans marched more deliberately, shined their armor and combed their hair to make the enemy nervous, and shouted less loudly to make sure they could stay in perfect formation.
- However, these generalizations are problematic because almost all of the evidence comes from the Greek accounts of the Persians, since we do not have any literature, but just imperial inscriptions, from Persia.