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Bristol team to mark 2,500th anniversary of the first marathon

The statue of Philippides on the Marathon Road

The statue of Philippides on the Marathon Road

Press release issued: 7 September 2011

A team of runners, sponsored by the Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition at the University of Bristol, will be running the Bristol Half Marathon this Sunday [11 September] to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary year of the very first marathon.

As well as increasing awareness of this anniversary, the team also hope to raise £2,500 for a new charity called Classics for All, which aims to increase access to Classics tuition in state schools around the country.  The charity will be starting a project in Bristol in January 2012.

The first marathon was supposedly run by Philippides, a Greek messenger, who, having fought in the Battle of Marathon in 490BC, ran non-stop from the battlefield to Athens to bring news of the Greeks’ victory.  He burst into the council house, exclaiming ‘νικωμεν’ (nikomen - ‘We have won’) before collapsing and dying from exhaustion.

The account of this run from Marathon to Athens first appears in Plutarch’s On the Glory of Athens in the first century AD and, almost 2,000 years later, provided inspiration for a great, showcase event in the first modern Olympic Games.  The first Olympic marathon was run on 10 April 1896, and, as a result, ‘marathon mania’ spread throughout the twentieth century.  These days, marathons – and half marathons – take place in cities around the world on an almost weekly basis.

Dr Jessica Priestley, a post-doctoral fellow in Bristol’s School of Humanities, who is leading the team, said: “We are really looking forward to the challenge of running the Bristol Half with Philippides as our inspiration – though, of course, we hope to avoid his ultimate fate!

“Our run aims to show that the study of Classics is as relevant today as it has always been.  By raising money for Classics for All, it will help to introduce more young people to the delights of this fascinating and richly rewarding subject.”  

Running the Bristol Half Marathon is the culmination of a number of activities held by the Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition to mark this anniversary year, including public talks and a competition for schools.

To help the team reach their £2,500 target, please visit their fundraising page.

The Bristol Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition promotes research into all aspects of Greco-Roman culture from antiquity to the present day, in the belief that classical culture remains a vital influence in the modern world.  It embraces research from many fields, including history of all kinds, archaeology, literary studies, art history and philosophy, and has a particular focus on research that explores the links between ancient and modern.

Classics for All is an education charity committed to funding projects that embed the teaching of Classics within the state education system.  It does not receive any public funding but relies on the generosity of donors to give students opportunities across the country.