Phidippides' & the First Marathon

Phidippides' & the First Marathon Phidippides running, from The Greeks documentary

When the Persian army landed at Marathon in 490 BC, the Athenians chose Phidippides, their best runner, to send word to other Greeks of the invasion.

Setting out from Athens, Phidippides made for Sparta journeying by way of Eleusis, Megara, and Corinth. Greek couriers of his day are believed to have been able to cover over a hundred kilometres a day, but Phidippides is said to have run the 250 kilometres to Sparta in only two, much of it over uneven and rocky terrain.

Unfortunately, when he reached Sparta, the city was in the middle of a religious festival that forbade mobilization for war during its celebrations. When at last the Spartans set off for Athens several days later, the battle had already been fought.

According to Phidippides' own account of the journey, the Greek god Pan accosted him on his way back demanding to know why the Athenians had been neglecting him. Fortunately, by promising he would persuade his countrymen to make the good the omission, he was allowed to continue on his way.

Although probably the greatest runner of ancient Greece, it was not Phidippides who ran what we call a marathon. The modern sport of marathon running comes from another runner's return from the battle. He ran the 26 miles, 385 yards to give news of the victory.