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490 - 449 BC - Persian War

The Battle of Marathon

HERODOTUS “THE HISTORIES”, VOLUME 22, 109-110 (excerpt)

Herodotus (484-425 BC) is considered by many to be the founder of historical writing. In fact, he is often referred to as “The Father of History”. In this excerpt from his greatest work, “The Persian War”, he describes the crucial battle of Marathon between the Greeks and the Persians.

109. Now the opinions of the generals of the Athenians were divided,
and the one party urged that they should not fight a battle, seeing
that they were too few to fight with the army of the Medes (Persians), while the
others, and among them Miltiades (Greek general), advised that they should do so…

Miltiades … said as follows: "With thee now it rests,
Callimachos (another Greek general), either to bring Athens under slavery, or by making her
free to leave behind thee for all the time that men shall live a
memorial …
For now the Athenians have come to a danger the greatest to which they
have ever come since they were a people; and on the one hand, if they
submit to the Medes (Persians), it is determined what they shall suffer …

110. Thus speaking Miltiades gained Callimachos to his side; and the
opinion of the polemarch (leader of Athens ) being added, it was thus determined to fight
a battle.


HERODOTUS “THE HISTORIES”, VOLUME 22, 105-106 (excerpt)

105. First of all, while they were still in the city, the generals sent off to Sparta a herald,
namely Pheidippides an … runner of long day-courses
and one who practiced this as his profession.

106. However at that time … Pheidippides having been sent by the generals
was in Sparta on the next day after that on which he left the city of the Athenians;
and when he had come to the magistrates (government officials)
he said: " … the Athenians make request of you to come to their help
and not to allow a city most anciently established among the Hellenes
to fall into slavery by the means of Barbarians; for even now Eretria has been enslaved,
and Hellas has become the weaker by a city of renown." He, as I say, reported to them
that with which he had been charged, and it pleased them well to come to help the Athenians…


A POEM BY ROBERT BROWNING 1812-1889 (excerpt)

Robert Browning was born in Camberwell, a suburb of London . Young Robert spent much of his time in his father's private library of 6000 volumes in several languages. This was the chief source of his education. Browning became an admirer of Elizabeth Barrett's poetry in 1844. He began corresponding with her by letter. This was the start of one of the world's most famous romances.

"Run, Pheidippides, run and race, reach Sparta for aid!
Persia has come, we are here, where is She?” Your command I obeyed,
Ran and raced: like stubble, some field which a fire runs through
Was the space between city and city; two days, two nights did I burn

Over the hills, under the dales, down pits and up peaks.
Into their midst I broke: breath served but for " Persia has come!
Persia bids Athens proffer slaves'-tribute, water and earth;
Razed to the ground is Eretria--but Athens, shall Athens sink,
Drop into dust and die--the flower of Hellas utterly die,
Die with the wide world spitting at Sparta, the stupid, the stander-by?
Answer me quick, what help, what hand do you stretch o'er destruction's brink?
How--when? No care for my limbs!--there's lightning in all and some--
Fresh and fit your message to bear, once lips give it birth!"

O my Athens -- Sparta love thee? Did Sparta respond?
Every face of her leered in a furrow of envy, mistrust,
Malice,--each eye of her gave me its glitter of gratified hate!
Gravely they turned to take counsel, to cast for excuses. I stood
Quivering,--the limbs of me fretting as fire frets, an inch from dry wood:
" Persia has come, Athens asks aid, and still they debate?
Thunder, thou Zeus! Athena, are Spartans a quarry beyond
Swing of thy spear? Phoibos and Artemis, clang them 'Ye must'!"

Unforeseeing one! Yes, he fought on the Marathon day:
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 thro' clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died--the bliss!

So, to this day, when friend meets friend, the word of salute
Is still "Rejoice!” --his word which brought rejoicing indeed.
So is Pheidippides happy forever,--then noble strong man
Who could race like a god, bear the face of a god, whom a god loved
so well,
He saw the land saved he had helped to save, and was suffered to tell
Such tidings, yet never decline, but, gloriously as he began,
So to end gloriously--once to shout, thereafter be mute:
"Athens is saved!” --Pheidippides dies in the shout for his meed.

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