A fresh, gripping look at one of Western history’s defining moments
The inspiration for our modern-day marathon comes from the legend of Philippides, who is said to have run 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of the Greeks’ victory over the Persians. Yet the battle of Marathon has had a far greater impact; it can even be seen as the most significant moment in our collective history.
In this riveting account, Richard A. Billows re-creates the atmosphere of the times and captures the drama of the day of battle. He describes how 10,000 Athenian citizens managed an unthinkable victory over a Persian military force of 25,=""000"""
‘It is a general principle about making movies that a battle on the screen is only as good as the buildup to the action. In laying out the histories of Greece and Persia immediately preceding the battle at Marathon, Billows follows this principle and the result is effective. This is no small feat considering the quantity, significance, and complexity of the events in discussion. Yet the opening chapters do not simply recap history, but set the stage for 490 BC. What comes across most strongly are the many changes, none of them inevitable, which the Athenians underwent in the time preceding Marathon which made victory possible … Billows' sections on early Athenian lawmaking and political life are especially good … Gladly, Dr. Billows' book is not laden with footnotes and excessive scholarly minutiae. Someone, even a non-expert and non-Classicist, can actually pick it up and read it and enjoy it.’
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‘Billows conceptualizes the fateful one-day battle between Persian Empire and the Athenian city-state with an engrossing narrative.’
‘The story's a classic: An outnumbered band of Athenians pushes back the mighty Persian army. But the battle of Marathon, 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece, left a legacy that extends far beyond the name of a famous race.’
National Public Radio
‘Even if you’re tough enough to survive the New York City Marathon, you’d probably have little chance to survive the original race in which Greek messenger Pheidippides ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce victory over the Persians. Historian Billows argues that Pheidippides’ run, which inspired the modern marathon race, introduced at the Athens Olympic Games of 1896, was a lot more challenging — a 280-mile round-trip jog to Sparta to ask for aid, with the entire Greek army in tow.’
New York Post
‘For anyone curious about one of the founding achievements of what became the great Athenian republic this is a cracker of a read.’
Stephen Matchett, The Weekend Australian
‘Acutely sensitive ... Billows, taking the long view, sees Marathon as preserving Athenian democracy and thus all that we think of as our classical heritage.’
Wall Street Journal