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5. Did Pheidippides run from Marathon?

What Herodot is saying

In the footsteps of Pheidippides?

After publishing the the last blogpost, where we are indicating that Pheidippides started from Marathon beach — and therefore we changed the start point accordingly- Phil Simmonds, as earlier mentioened as of one the RAF expedition “pacers”, comments;

According to Herodotus Pheidippides left Athens and arrived in Sparta the next day. Why add on the unnecessary extra 42 k from Marathon?

And he continues:

If Ph had left Marathon just before the battle it would have been over by the time he got to Sparta. He was sent to try and get a Spartan army to come. He must have been sent, from Athens, several days before the battle, the Athenians having realized, or had information, that the Persians would land on Marathon beach.

Phil explains this by adding following section from Herodot:

While still in the city, the generals first sent to Sparta the herald Philippides, an Athenian and a long-distance runner who made that his calling. As Philippides himself said when he brought the message to the Athenians, when he was in the Parthenian mountain above Tegea he encountered Pan. Pan called out Philippides’ name and bade him ask the Athenians why they paid him no attention, though he was of goodwill to the Athenians, had often been of service to them, and would be in the future. The Athenians believed that these things were true, and when they became prosperous they established a sacred precinct of Pan beneath the Acropolis. Ever since that message they propitiate him with annual sacrifices and a torch-race.

This Philippides was in Sparta on the day after leaving the city of Athens, that time when he was sent by the generals and said that Pan had appeared to him. He came to the magistrates and said, “Lacedaemonians, the Athenians ask you to come to their aid and not allow the most ancient city among the Hellenes to fall into slavery at the hands of the foreigners. Even now Eretria has been enslaved, and Hellas has become weaker by an important city.” He told them what he had been ordered to say, and they resolved to send help to the Athenians, but they could not do this immediately, for they were unwilling to break the law. It was the ninth day of the rising month, and they said that on the ninth they could not go out to war until the moon’s circle was full.

Based on this, my understanding after last week, that Pheidippides started his famous run from the beach — seems to be incorrect.

Bob Hearn, an American four times Spartathlete, and a history buff, adds on:

There’s no evidence Pheidippides was at Marathon at all, and in particular every indication that the “Marathon run” is fiction.

And then refers to a section of Wikipedia.

The first known written account of a run from Marathon to Athens occurs in the works of the Greek writer Plutarch (46–120 AD), in his essay “On the Glory of Athens”. Plutarch attributes the run to a herald called either Thersippus or Eukles. Lucian, a century later, credits one “Philippides”. It seems likely that in the 500 years between Herodotus’s time and Plutarch’s, the story of Pheidippides had become muddled with that of the Battle of Marathon (in particular with the story of the Athenian forces making the march from Marathon to Athens in order to intercept the Persian ships headed there), and some fanciful writer had invented the story of the run from Marathon to Athens.

Based on this, we can conclude that Pheidippdes did not run from Marathon to Athen to Sparta.

Is King Leonidas the correct king?

In Sparta, you will find the statue of King Leonidas. This is the finish line for the Spartathlon race. And every finisher is kissing the foot. But is this the correct king?

Simen kissing the foot of King Leonidas in 2021 Spartathlon.

Nick states following:

Remember — the King in Sparta, Leonidas is the wrong King. Foden chose to finish there and now every Spartathlete kisses it. Leonidas existed some years after the Battle of Marathon and Phidippides!

And Bob follow-up:

it’s true that Leonidas is known for his role in the second Persian invasion, in 480 BC. However, apparently he became king right around the time of the first invasion, and the battle of Marathon.

Change project?

It seems, after all, that Pheidippides did not start in Marathon, but should we therefore rename the project from “In the footsteps of Pheidippides” to “Running in time” (or something)? No! We are still running with his idea and with his spirit. We are even starting from the street with his name, and are passing his statute on the way to Athen. The name is still valid. And the route is still the same. We will still start from Marathon.

Statue of Pheidippides on the road from Marathon to Athen.

— — — -

Final word…

I was made aware of following, and very important, Greek word. Filotimo, filotimos Φιλότιμο, φιλότιμος. The Greek word that can´t be translated. A word they are proud of. I am trying to show filotimos in this project, and to be it.

Following article “(…) conclude that the word ultimately refers to the concept of a ‘none-for-profit altruism’; the willingness to do something for someone without seeking reward, but simply because it feels right”.




Planing, background, motivation. Why?

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Simen Holvik

Simen Holvik

Norwegian ultrarunner. | Next race: Spartathlon

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