September 12… 490 BC: Battle of Marathon

Today is the traditional anniversary date of the Battle of Marathon,  one of about four great battles between the Persian Empire and the Greek states in the fifth century BC. The Persians came as usual with a huge army and navy to punish Athens for supporting Greek outposts in Asia Minor in their rebellion against the Persians (the rebellion failed) and further extend the Empire West into Greece. Some 10,000 Greeks met 20,000 Persians at Marathon. The Greeks made an insane mile long charge at the Persians and folded the wings of the army. The Persian center held and counter- attacked , but the Greeks on the Persian flanks then merged on the Persian center which then fled for the safety of the anchored fleet. All but seven ships escaped, but the Persians lost about 6400 troops.

From Battles of the Ancient World:

Now you ask: What has this to do with the modern marathon run? The event was created in memory so to speak of one Philippides, Athens’ champion messenger at the time, who was sent to ask Sparta’s aid against the Persians (the Spartans took their religion seriously, and would not march until religious ceremonies were complete. Too late to fight off the Persians) and after the Greek victory, was supposed to have run the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver the good news, only to die from the run after giving his message.

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