In 490 BC the Persian army amassed itself outside of Athens on the Plains of Marathon. The Persian Empire was about to attack Europe. Athens was in their path and a man named Phidippides was a hero in one of the greatest turning points in history.
Phidippides was an Athenian soldier and a professional runner. Athenian army generals realizing they were about to be attacked by the massive Persian army sent Phidippides to Sparta to ask for assistance.
He ran 140 miles in 36 hours to inform the Spartans of the impending conflict. The Spartans agreed to join only after a religious holiday was over. Phiddipedes ran back over the same rugged mountainous trail to the Athenian army to give the generals the disappointing news. In spite of this the Athenians including Phidippides marched into the Plains of Marathon and engaged the Persian army by surprise.
Theirs was victory in spite of 4 to 1 odds against them. The Battle ended. The Persians retreated to the sea toward Athens leaving more than 6,000 dead. The Athenian casualties were only 195.
After enduring his round trip 280 mile run and joining the battle all day, Phidippides ran to Athens only 26 miles away to warn the city of the impending invasion.
He paid with his life for his devotion to his patriotic mission and died of exhaustion shortly after delivering the message. The City of Athens was able to defend against the invading Persians. The Marathon race is a memorial to Phidippides heroism.
On October 9th the Chicago Marathon was held and runners from around the world came to compete. Each runner was there, for personal reasons. Captain William Caviness, a firefighter from Greensboro, died just short of finishing the race. He left a wife and two young children. William Caviness too was on a mission. He was running to raise money for IAFF Burn Foundation which helps improve the lives of burn victims. Captain Caviness in the true spirit of a Marathon hero gave his life for a noble cause.
When I researched the history for my book Archimedes’ Claw I became a great fan of ancient Greek heroes. They were thinkers and philosophers, artists, scientists and men of vision and strong character. We owe most of our modern civilization to their legacy. It is inspiring when a modern hero like Captain Caviness rises to their level of greatness in personal achievement. It is with sorrow that we recognize him posthumously.
Theodore Morrison Homa MD