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In September of 490 BC. The Greco-Persian war rages on in the Marathon Plain of Northwest Attica. The Athenians have just repulsed the first Persian invasion of Greece. The Greek army was vested to ten different generals each controlling one day of battle. The generals were evenly divided on whether to wait for the Persians to attack or to attack them. A civil official, Callimachus, who decided to attack, broke the tie. Four of the generals ceded their commands to the Athenian general Miltiades making him commander in chief. The Greeks did not want to face the Persian cavalry on the open plain, but before dawn the Greeks learned the cavalry was temporarily absent from the Persian camp. Miltiades ordered a general attack on the Persian army. He led his contingent of 10,000 Athenians and 1,000 Plataeans against the Persian force of 15,000. By re-enforcing his battle lines flank thus decoying the Persians best troops into pushing back his center where they were surrounded by inward-wheeling Greek wings. According to legend an Athenian messenger was sent from Marathon to Athens, a distance of 25 miles, where he announced the Persian defeat before dying of exhaustion. That tale became the basis for the modern marathon race. Herodotus tells that a trained runner Pheidippides was sent from Athens to Sparta before the battle to request assistance from the Spartans. He is said to have run some 150 miles in about two days.
Through all the fighting there was one tradition that continued through all the ages. For centuries Olympic games have never stopped. The Olympian games were celebrated in the summer every four years in the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia. The order of events is really not known but they believe that the first day was devoted for sacrifices to the gods. The second day began with foot races. Spectators gathered in the stadion, an oblong area enclosed by sloping banks of earth. On other days wrestling, boxing, and the pancratium, a combination of the two, was held. In the first of the sports the object was to throw your opponent to the ground three times. Contestants in boxing would originally wrap strips of soft leather over their fingertips to deaden the blows; they then started using hard leather weighted with metal. They fought until one opponent acknowledged defeat. Horse racing and a pentathlon next, the pentathlon included sprinting, long jumping, javelin, discus, and wrestling. Every event that the ancient Olympians had, we now have, and the Olympics is still a chance for life long enemies to put aside their weapons and compete as gentlemen. The Olympic games are a way for all kinds to get along if only for a short time.
By Josh Rudolph
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Battle of Marathon, Philaidae, Greco-Persian Wars, Ionian Revolt, Miltiades, Callimachus, First Persian invasion of Greece, Plataea, Pheidippides, Classical Athens
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