Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Marathon of Marathons:490 B.C - 2010 A.D - Commemorating 2500 Years Since the Battle of Marathon

Greece's special 2 euro coin issue 
 Commemorating the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon
 put into circulation on December 21 by the Bank of Greece

Symbolizing the battle for freedom and the noble ideals derived from the Battle of Marathon, the center of the coin shows a synthesis of a shield and a warrior. Τhe bird on the shield symbolizes the birth of western civilization in its present form.

The designer of the coin is George Stamatopoulos, a sculptor from the Minting department at the Bank of Greece who also designed the EMU 10th anniversary coin.
So, when Persia was dust, all cried "To Akropolis !
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,--the 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.

Robert Browning

Six years after the Olympics came home to Greece,  the heart of Athens today is beating to the rhythm of the Marathon!

Today's Athens Marathon Race followed exactly the same route run by the runner Pheidippides but with an extra special historic was the Marathon of Marathons!

According to the historian Herodotus, the Persian fleet landed 100,000 troops on Schinias Beach in the year 490 B.C. Against this huge army the Athenians brought 10,000 soldiers and with the help of 1,000 Plataian soldiers, thanks to an ingenious strategic plan of the Greek army commander, Miltiades, managed to be the victors.

They formed the Greek letter (Π) with weak centre and strong sides, and when the battle started, the central section retreated and the sides closed in and squeezed the panicked Persian soldiers. Thousands of Persians were killed or drowned in the swamp nearby, (where the rowing venue of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games was), while the Athenians had 192 soldiers dead, all buried in the Tymvos of Marathon area.

 The Tymvos of Marathon, the burial ground of the 192 Athenian soldiers who were killed
Photo Source: Ioanna Balla 

2500 years after that historic victory in the Battle of Marathon, 2500 years after Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to announce it, with the historic phrase NENIKIKAMEN, which he uttered then collaped and died, Greece is once more celebrating one of it's legacies to the world! 

Greece, and Athens in particular has been the focus of the athletic and historic world in the last few days as the whole city welcomed around 22 000 athletes for today's 28th Classic Marathon.

Commemorating that incredible 42 kilometre run by an exhausted Pheidippides who had just run to Sparta and back in two days, dispatched by the Athenians to ask the Spartans for their help in the Battle of Marathon - a distance of around 480 kilometres, people from all over the world have flocked to Greece to take part in today's Marathon of Marathons  few being able to withstand the lure, the historic significance and symbolism of running the same route as Pheidippides...

Athletes and personalities, members of foreign royalty, politicians, friends of the Children's Cancer Foundation Floga and athletes from the Special Olympics took part in the different runs as well as the actual Classic Marathon.

Greek American presenter Maria Menounos is one of our Global Greeks who is in Athens to take part. As always, our Global Greeks, Greeks from all over the world have also heeded the call and seized the opportunity to be in Athens for this milestone, historic event, with organisations like AHEPA arranging for many of it's members to take part. 

We listened to a visibly moved Maria speaking to reporters after she finished the 5 kilometre run with her parents and declared that she would love to come back and do the Classic 42.195 kilometre Marathon one day, in fact she said, everyone should come to Greece for the Classic Marathon!  

Shortly afterwards, she had this to say to her friends on Twitter...

Finished the 5k marathon today w/my parents.I didn't know that the 5k finishes thru the original olympic stadium..omg it was so moving!!

I almost lost it coming thru-such a historic day-truly honored to have participated-i recommend the classic athens marathon to all!

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou,  competed in the 10 kilometre run, whilst Slovenia's Foreign Minister, Greece's Foreign Minister, Greece's Environment Minister, diplomats and thousands of others ran the actual Marathon route, the 10 kilometre or the 5 kilometre runs.

Each person who took part got a commemorative medallion and it was wonderful to see everyone wearing it proudly...even on the Metro ride home!

The medals for the 3 races
Photo Source: Ioanna Balla 

The mood along the route from Marathon, throughout downtown Athens and especially in front of the impressive Kalimarmaro Stadium which was the finish line, was festive and fun, with families sitting inside the Stadium applauding each athlete who crossed into the stadium from Herodus Atticus Street and down through the finishing arch!

A loud cheer rose up from the crowd lining the streets and the stadium as Kenya's Raymond Bett ran down Herodus Atticus Street and into the Kallimarmaro Stadium crossing the finishing line first, 2 hours 12 minutes and 40 seconds after setting off from Marathon, and setting a new record. He was closely followed by fellow Kenyans Jonathan Kipkorir and Edwin Kimutai in 2nd and 3rd place, while the first Greek runner, Michael Parmakis, came in at 2 hours 20 minutes and 48 seconds, placing 15th overall.

  The Winner -Kenya's Raymond Bett
 Photo Source: Ioanna Balla

Dignitaries and officials mixed with athletes and spectators in a wonderful atmosphere of celebration, sport and music. We  spotted lots of politicians and dignitaries including former PM Konstantinos Mitsotakis (seen in the photo below accompanied by his longtime assistant Gryllakis)

and Minister of Foreign Affairs Droutsas in the crowd, walking by in front of the statue of the Discus Thrower. 

Incidentally, for those that don't know, the statue of the Discus Thrower by Costas Dimitriadis, which stands in front of the entrance to the National Gardens, was erected in 1927 by the City of Athens thanks to a donation by one of our very patriotic Global Greeks, Ery Kehaya, who left Asia Minor for the USA and founded Standard Commercial Corporation to trade tobacco in 1910. 

It was wonderful to see a lot of the Athens 2004 volunteers during todays Marathon celebrations, lending a hand once again to ensure it's tremendous success!

Ioanna asisting one of the Marathon participants

We thank Mrs Ioanna Balla, one of our precious volunteers for the photographs she so generously allowed us to use. 

Our wonderful volunteers! 
Ioanna, Teti, and Dimitri with friend...

In the last week the Zappeio Megaro, which was also the registration and accreditation centre for the Marathon, hosted an excellent exhibition on the Battle of Marathon and Ancient Drama.

We thought we would share with you some of the photos from that exhibition, because our noble predecessors always considered it essential for sport and culture to go together


and to is Google's  tribute to today's historic anniversary...

 And don't forget...
The Athens Classic Marathon is the Marathon of Marathons! You haven't run a real Marathon until you've run the original!

At Global Greek World, We ♥ Greece...and it shows!

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