July 19, 2004

Old school marathoning

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at July 19, 2004 4:05 PM

Nothing like a marathon in August:

U.S. Astronomers Question Date of Original Marathon

The first marathon -- a grueling run by a battlefield messenger from the plains of Marathon to Athens -- may have occurred in August heat instead of the comparative cool of September in Greece, astronomers reported on Monday.

This finding would offer one explanation for the fabled quick demise of the original marathon runner, Pheidippides, who allegedly managed to gasp out the words, "Rejoice, we conquer," before dropping down dead on his arrival at Athens in 490 BC.

Many accounts date the battle of Marathon, against invading Persians, at Sept. 12 of that year, based on calculations made by 19th century German scholar August Boeckh.

Like the current astronomers, Boeckh reckoned the date of the battle of Marathon based on the writings of Herodotus, who provided precise descriptions of the phase of the moon around the time of the battle of Marathon.


The misfit between the two calendars is important because of communications between Athens and Sparta over the Marathon battle. When Athenians first learned the Persians had landed at Marathon, a messenger was sent to Sparta to ask for aid. The Spartans replied that they could not march before the next full moon, because of a religious festival.

What this article doesn't completely explain is that this calibration is based on a rather more impressive run, described in Herodotus' account, than in the usual legend. In Herodotus, Pheidippides is the name of the runner who went to Sparta from Athens to request assistance, and covered the distance of about 150 miles in two days. He then ran back to Athens over another two days to relay the Spartan response. I don't want to be too much of a stickler for accuracy, though; the 26-mile version of the race is long enough already.


A comment unrelated to this post but related to the blog itself:

What is this I see? Are you now putting music on your weblog? Weren't you the one who said, The real issue [is] that my music tastes are far too embarrassing to discuss in public ?

Posted by: Tracy | July 20, 2004 6:43 AM

This is all true. I'm also the one who believes in the mutability of identity. One of my self-modification projects over the past year or so has been to develop more sophisticated/less embarrassing music tastes. The fact that I am now willing to display publicly some subset of what I'm listening to reflects the recent success of this project.

And now I'm wondering whether every comment I leave on your blog will eventually be quoted back to me... :)

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | July 20, 2004 8:10 AM

If the moment calls for it, then yes!


Posted by: Tracy | July 20, 2004 9:28 AM

Pheidip should have trained in Houston during the summer. It would have toughened him up for the main event. I ran four miles of "hills" today on the treadmill. The clock ticks down slowly.....

Posted by: Dad | July 20, 2004 11:20 AM
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