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And first, before they left the city, the generals sent off to Sparta a herald, one Pheidippides, who was by birth an Athenian, and by profession and practice a trained runner. . .
Herodotus, The Persian Wars, VI, 106.

Isolated Figure from a Panathenaic Black-figure amphora, Berlin Painter, 480-470 BC, showing a middle-distance race "hippios"

Phidippides or Pheidippides (or Philippides according to a text around 600 years later of Lucian) was send by the Athenians to Sparta as fast as possible he can to ask for help. The Spartans said that they will help after the moon was full (probably in order to let the Athenians alone with the Persians and not only for religious reasons). Phidippides came back running the 147 miles distance with the disappointing news for the Athenians. Phidippides then returned to Marathon in time to fight in the battle. He was ordered to run to Athens to bring the news of victory. In one week he had to run more than 300 miles.


Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869

When he reached the agora, he gasped: nenikikamen, "We have won" and dropped exhausted dead. The modern Marathon race commemorates his feat.

Historians assumed that the Marathon battle date was 12 September 490 BC. New studies suggest that it was probably one month earlier. Interesting

is that the temperature in August is usually higher than in September and this could be also more exhausting for Phidippides.


Phidippides with an important message for the Athenians and for all Hellenes: Nenikikamen

Why did Phidippides not use a horse? Probably because for the large distance for a runner and considering the terrain (mountains, rivers, etc) it was much better not to use a horse.

But did Phidippides really exist and if yes did he really die? Was the story invented by Herodotus? Nobody knows!

Some other “Marathon” men

Ageus, or Argeus (according to Robert in Hermes 1900 p. 154 Aegeus) a day-runner from Argos, was victor in Olympia in 328 B.C. the dolichos, and immediately left Olympia "And in Argos, on the very same day announced his victory (Euseb. Edition Schöne. I. p. 206). It should be noted that Olympia is about 100 kilometres distant direct from Argos.

Another athlete, Euchidas, went from Plataea to Delphi and returned within the same day, before sunset, in order to bring the pure flame of the altar of Apollon, that is to say he covered a distance of 180 kilometres. He did not survive it, however, for after he handed over the flame, he fell down and breathed his last. (Kleanthis Palaiologos)

Astronomers revise likely date of Marathon run

The marathon was scheduled as the last event on the Olympic program in Athens 1896, and no Greek athlete had yet taken a gold. George Averoff, a Greek financier had made an offer of 100000 Drachmas and his daughter’s hand in marriage to any Greek who won the marathon.

A Greek, Spiridon Louis, prepared for the race by praying for two days and fasting for one. When Louis entered the stadium first, the Greek crowd went wild. Louis did not accept the marriage offered but he did accept free meals for one year and free shoe polishing for life. He also accepted a field. Told by the Greek king he could have anything he wanted, he asked for a horse and a cart so he would not have to chase his mule anymore. Some say that he won because he wanted to marry Helena, but her parents were against him but they changed their mind after the victory of Spiridon.

See also:

Spartathlon a ultra-distance foot race that takes place in September of every year in Greece.

The Olympic Games. Not for money, but for honor

Yannis Kouros The “Superman of Ultra-Distance Running” and the successor of Phidippides

There is a interesting story of distance running: In 404 BC Lasthenes a Olympian Champion wins a race against a horse over a distance of 30 kilometers (a story that is too amazing to be true, an American athlete, Shawn Crawford, was not so successful in a competition against a Zebra)

Herodotus, The Persian Wars, VI

And first, before they left the city, the generals sent off to Sparta a herald, one Pheidippides, who was by birth an Athenian, and by profession and practice a trained runner. This man, according to the account which he gave to the Athenians on his return, when he was near Mount Parthenium, above Tegea, fell in with the god Pan, who called him by his name, and bade him ask the Athenians "wherefore they neglected him so entirely, when he was kindly disposed towards them, and had often helped them in times past, and would do so again in time to come?" The Athenians, entirely believing in the truth of this report, as soon as their affairs were once more in good order, set up a temple to Pan under the Acropolis, and, in return for the message which I have recorded, established in his honour yearly sacrifices and a torch-race.

On the occasion of which we speak when Pheidippides was sent by the Athenian generals, and, according to his own account, saw Pan on his journey, he reached Sparta on the very next day after quitting the city of Athens. Upon his arrival he went before the rulers, and said to them:-

"Men of Lacedaemon, the Athenians beseech you to hasten to their aid, and not allow that state, which is the most ancient in all Greece, to be enslaved by the barbarians. Eretria, look you, is already carried away captive; and Greece weakened by the loss of no mean city."

Thus did Pheidippides deliver the message committed to him. And the Spartans wished to help the Athenians, but were unable to give them any present succour, as they did not like to break their established law. It was then the ninth day of the first decade; and they could not march out of Sparta on the ninth, when the moon had not reached the full. So they waited for the full of the moon.


...when the Persians had landed in Attica Philippides was sent to carry the tidings to Lacedaemon. On his return he said that the Lacedacmonians had postponed their departure, because it was their custom not to go out to fight before the moon was full. Philippides went on to say that near Mount Parthenius he had been met by Pan, who told him that he was friendly to the Athenians and would come to Marathon to fight for them. This deity, then, has been honored for this announcement.


We owe him a big "thank you" because men and women like him are the reason we still have our beautiful Hellas today. All the important ancient Greek cities still retain their original names and locations after thousands of years. ... we would say to him: "Pheidippides, here lies Sparta still; Tegea, Nauplion, Mycenae, Argos, Corinth, Eleusis, and the town of the Goddess Athena. Where are Sousa, Persepolis, Carthage, Tyre, Hattousa, Memphis, and Babylon?", Tassos Efstathiou, Elliniki Agogi 2001, from the http://www.grecoreport.com/index.htm site.

So, when Persia was dust, all cried, "To Acropolis!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
Athens is saved, thank Pan, go shout!" He flung down his shield
Ran like fire once more: and the space 'twixt the fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: "Rejoice, we conquer!" Like wine through clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died - the bliss!
Robert Browning Pheidippides 1879 .

See also

Jean-Pierre CORTOT, The soldier of Marathon announces the victory, 1822-1834

Greeks today in the spirit of Pheidippides

Nick Tsiotos, Andy Dabilis, Johnny Kelley, Running with Pheidippides: Stylianos Kyriakides, the Miracle Marathoner, Syracuse University Press 2001

Stylianos (Stelios) Kyriakides (Στυλιανός (Στέλιος) Κυριακίδης) (4.5.1910 or 15.1.1910 Statos/Pafos in Cyprus - ?.12.1987) winner of the Boston Marathon 20.4.1946 (in 2 hr 29 min 27 sec), ”A true son of Pheidippides, Grecian immortal who ran the first marathon almost 2500 years ago, The New York Times, 21.4.1946”, Journey of a Warrior , " ο ξεχασμένος ήρωας"

Dean Karnazes , Greek American from San Francisco, the best ultramarathon runner in the world: ran for 3 days without stopping a distance of 226 miles! That's ten marathons in a row! He also ran to the south pole and through death valley for many miles,


Phidippides, Polygnotos Vagis


The Giant of Marathon , a Sword and Sandal film, with Steeve Reeves as Philippides

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