According to one reckoning, today, 12 September, could be the anniversary of the Battle of Marathon (490 BC). They are probably wrong, but… who cares?
Marathon is, of course, a Greek word (Mάραθον or modern Greek Μαραθώνας and ancient Μαραθών, Latin marathrum) meaning “fennel”. The famous battle (related by Herodotus +425 BC) was likely fought in a fennel field, which grows wild in the in the eastern part of Attica.
This was one of the most significant event of ancient history. Changed… saved… Western Civilization.
Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Vienna in 1683, leading to the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. Changed… saved… Western Civilization.
You would have had to guess that if there are, 150 years after the fact, Civil War reenactors, then there are Marathon reenactors, 2500 years after the fact. Indeed there are. I read about it some years ago.
Battle of Marathon. Very cool. A great maneuver was involved and great discipline by the Greeks. To make a long story very short, just as the much large Persian forces were shifting their position and loading their cavalry back into ships, the Greek general Miltiades sent the Greeks on a frontal attack charging over a mile in a tight formation to sweep through the Persian flanks. As they collapsed, the Greeks focused on the center and as the Persian wings retreated, the Greeks forced an envelopment. The Athenians sent a runner Pheidippides to Athens. 21.4 miles away. He ran the distance, gasped “Νενικήκαμεν! Nenikékamen! We were victorious!”, and died.
Robert Browning, by the way, wrong about Marathon in his 1879 poem Pheidippides.
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!
One man’s bliss…
Note the reference to fennel. Also the reference to the God Pan, who instilled “panic”, they say, in the enemy Persians. I’m all for that, given who is running Persia now.
This was the poem which inspired Baron Pierre de Coubertin and other founders of the modern Olympic Games to invent a running race called the Marathon.