My involvement in the Baltimore Running Festival over the past 3 years has peaked my interest in the origin of the marathon race. While I knew it had something to do with 26 miles, the Olympic Games and the Battle of Marathon, that was about it. But some of you will say, “I thought you said you were an archaeologist…shouldn’t you know this stuff?” Well, I am an archaeologist and I do work in the Middle East, but I have always treated the Persian Wars like modern history! It is, in comparison to what I work with at my excavations in Israel and Jordan.
So every year, around marathon race time, I get interested again and read a little bit more about the historical events related to the origin of the race. This year I jumped in with both feet and nailed down the historic timeline and details, especially as recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus who actually lived in the region during most of these events. Frequently called the “Father of History,” he was the first person known to have made a systematic attempt at collecting and testing information for accuracy and then arranging it in a narrative form. His famous text, The Histories, is that narrative – focusing on the origins and outcomes of the Greco-Persian Wars.
So now I am interested in this period of history, too. Just in case you wanted to know…the marathon run had it origin in the 490 BC Battle of Marathon between the Greeks (featuring the Athenians ) and Darius the Great of Persia (during whose time the Temple in Jerusalem was actually completed; Ezra 4-6). The 480 BC Battle of Thermopylae between the Greeks (featuring the 300 Spartans) and Xerxes I (also known as “the Great”), the son of Darius “the Great.” was a follow up battle. This Xerxes is the Persian king in the Book of Esther.
Because of my research this year, I wrote an article on the subject. If you are interested you can read it at http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/11/15/The-Baltimore-Running-Festival-the-300-and-Esther.aspx This is the website of the archaeological organization with which I am associated.
God is good and, good news, in the end the good guys will win.
One day at a time,
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director