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OLYMPIC GAMES

“The Persians . . . enquired of them [deserters from Arcadia] what the Greeks were doing. The Arcadians answered, ‘They are holding the Olympic games, seeing the athletic sports and the chariot races.’ ‘And what,’ said the man, ‘is the prize for which they contend?’ ‘An olive wreath,’ returned the others, ‘which is given to the man who wins.’ On hearing this, Tritantaechmes, the son of Artabanus, uttered a speech which was in truth most noble, but which caused him to be taxed with cowardice by King Xerxes. Hearing the men say that the prize was not money but a wreath of olive, he could not forbear from exclaiming before them all, ‘Good heavens, Mardonius, what manner of men are these against whom you have brought us to fight--men who contend with one another, not for money, but for honor.’” Herodotus, The Persian Wars, VIII, 26


PHILIPPIDES

"And first, before they left the city, the generals sent off to Sparta a herald, one Philippides, who was by birth an Athenian, and by profession and practice a trained runner. . . he reached Sparta on the very next day after quitting the city of Athens. Upon his arrival he went before the rulers, and said:
' Men of Lacedaemon, the Athenians beseech you to hasten to their aid, and not allow that state, which is the most ancient in all Greece, to be enslaved by the barbarians. Eretria is already carried away captive, and Greece weakened by the loss of no mean city.'”
Herodotus, The Persian Wars, VI, 106.

Philippides returned to Marathon in time to fight in the battle. He was ordered to run to Athens to bring the news of victory. When he reached the agora, he gasped "We have won" and dropped dead. The modern Marathon race commemorates his feat.