Ancient Greek History

Ancient Greece – The First Marathon

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Most modern day marathon runners are usually aware that the marathon had its start in Ancient Greece but most aren’t fully aware of the story. The event itself is named after the location in

Greece where a battle against the Persians took place. However, there is so much more to the story than that. Here’s a look at how the First Marathon race came about:

Battle of Marathon

Today Marathon, Greece is a municipality with a population of around 12,000 people. In Ancient Greece, however, it was the site of an important battle that took place during the Greco-Persian Wars. This battle is seen by historians as a turning point for the Greeks.

Prior to this battle, the Persians had a reputation as being one of the biggest and strongest armies in the world. Ancient Greece was looked at as vulnerable because it was divided into a series of city-states. Persia assumed that Greece would be easily defeated. The Battle of Marathon proved Persia wrong.

At the time, King Darius I of Persia wanted to conquer Greece. Persia was a powerful country with one of the world’s top armies, particularly its cavalry. However, even though Ancient Greece was divided into multiple city-states, they became united in their cause to beat Persia. Not only that, but the ultimate victory at Marathon gave the Greek army confidence.

After standing off with the Persians for about five days, the Greek commander, Miltiades, got word that the Persian cavalry was away from the camp. So, he decided to launch a swift, surprise attack against the Persian army. Surprised by the Greeks’ maneuver the Persians scrambled to prepare for battle. Ultimately, the Greeks emerged from this battle as the victors. This was the first time the Greeks realized they could win against Persia.

Pheidippides Makes the Fateful Run

It was after the battle that the origins of our modern day marathon took place. Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, was given the task of running to Athens, which was a distance of 40 km or 26 miles, to tell them of the Greek victory at the Battle of Marathon. Upon arrival, he managed to deliver the message before he collapsed and eventually died.

Although it has been largely assumed that Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Greece, there are some who actually believe that his journey was much longer than that. It is thought that Pheidippides ran from Sparta to Marathon before he ran to Athens to give the message. If this is the case, than his total distance was much longer.

Races Based on Pheidippides’ Run

The first modern day marathon took place at the Athens Olympics in 1896. As you can see, the marathon was named in honor of not only that battle but also the runner who ultimately gave his life to give the good news to the Athenians. Since then, the marathon has increased in popularity and has become accessible to not just elite athletes but to anyone who is willing to train and compete in such an event.

However, now that we know that Pheidippides may have run a much longer distance, it makes sense that there is also a race that has been organized to commemorate what many believe to be his actual route. Every year, people gather in Greece in order to test their endurance. The race is grueling and spans more than one day, but those who finish it not only feel a sense of accomplishment, but they also feel much closer to that part of history.

Pheidippides represents what it means to be a true hero and he has been honored throughout the centuries for his valor. The traditional Marathon race, as well as the Spartathlon, were originally developed as a way to honor him.


Wikipedia – Marathon

Wikipedia – Battle of Marathon

Wikipedia – Pheidippides


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