2500 years ago today, Pheidippides ran something like 26 miles from the plains of Marathon back to the city of Athens to announce the unbelievable news that the Athenians had defeated the Persians in one of the most significant battles in world history.
Persia was a genteel kingdom, especially compared with the Assyrian savages and the Babylonian slaves that preceded them. But to the Greeks, they were still a slave kingdom. When little Greece fought off giant Persia, they saw it as the triumph of freedom and a high view of man over slavery and a debased view of man.
What isn’t often discussed is the amount of treachery to be found among the Greeks. Pragmatists who saw survival and adapting to the new world order above honor and freedom sold out to the Persians and argued in the Ekklesia that the Greeks should be realistic. Only a few morons had the folly to believe in this crazy idea of freedom.
But they did believe, and they spoke. And because they spoke, enough people joined them to conquer the Persians.
Today we celebrate their resolve in a world more like the one Thucydides wrote about fifty years later than the one Herodotus wrote about. I urge you, on this one of the most important days in western history, to remember.
Read Herodotus on the battle if you have a minute. If not, take a look at this site. Nice and simple and pretty cool.