athens

Is today THE day? The year 2499AD or the year 2500?

Local on-dit has it that today is D-Day – the year 2500AD and therefore the anniversary of the MARATHON.

However, it’s under dispute…

“The 2,500th anniversary of the original 490 B.C. marathon run will be 2011, not 2010. It’s the missing Year Zero again, but this time there’s no controversy. Missing Year Zero may have spawned hopeless arguments on the definition of “new millennium,” but it can’t alter counting. There is no way to count the years between 490 B.C. and 2010 and come up with 2,500,” says www.danaxtell.com who do continue to say that “the 2,500th Anniversary of the Marathon is in 2011… and why it won’t matter that everyone will celebrate in 2010.”

However, it appears that the miscount first surfaced during the 2004 Athens Olympics, when the marathon followed the original route of the messenger after the Battle of Marathon. Some newspapers reported the first run as ‘2,494 years earlier.’ Internet searches at the time found no correct reports of 2,493 years.

This battle was one of the proudest moments in the history of ancient Greece. The Athenian and Plataean forces beat the Persians for the first time on land. The victory endowed them with a faith in their destiny which was to endure for three centuries, during which time western culture was born. It is said that a defeat of the Athenians in this battle could easily have changed the tide of history.

Although the writings do not mention his name, the legend says that a brave Athenian called Pheidippides ran the 40km (approximately 25 miles) from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory.

Almost 24 centuries later, in 1896, the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece. The French historian and linguist Michele Breal proposed re-enacting the legendary run in a running event that would test man’s powers of endurance. The legend of the Athenian soldier-runner-messenger was therefore honored by a 40km (24.85 mile) run from the Marathon bridge to the Marble Olympic Stadium of Athens.

This first organized Marathon race took place on 10 April 1896 during the first Modern Olympic Games, and it was especially important to all Greeks. The host nation of the first Olympics became ecstatic as Spyridon Louis, a Greek water carrier, won the final, climactic race in 2:58′:50”. A 40-kilometre (24.85 mile) race called ‘The Marathon’ was born. Spyridon Louis, as the first Olympic Marathon gold medalist, became a legend, and the course from Marathon to Athens, used today for the annual Athens Classic Marathon, became known as the “authentic”, the “original” Marathon course.

All well and good, but it brings us back to the immediate question – is it this year or next year that should honour the 2,500th anniversary of ‘the marathon’?

You cannot simply add the years BC to the current year. Here are some questions to better understand the underlying confusion:

  1. A girl was born in 1 B.C. What year did she turn one?
  2. A boy was 2 years old in the year 1. What year was he born?
  3. What year was the 491st anniversary of the first Marathon?
  4. What year was the 490th anniversary of the first Marathon?

After answering ‘year 1’ for for the one-year-old girl, it’s clear that the two-year-old boy was born a year earlier in 2 B.C.

If you answered ‘year 1’ for the 491st anniversary, then you’ve got a scheduling problem for the 490th anniversary. One can’t let arithmetic get in the way of simple counting.

Suffice it to say that Marathon 2010 is being run as I write on the historic course in Greece, and is being heralded as the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon, Greece – a milestone event in human history.

At that time, in 490BC, it was the battle that inspired Byron to dream that “Greece might still be free”, and 2,500 years on Greeks hope the defeat of the Persians at Marathon will serve another more modern purpose – that of saving the country from insolvency.

A record number of athletes today mark the landmark anniversary gathering in the Greek capital to run the 24-mile course. Rarely has an event been celebrated with such enthusiasm. In a bid to address the very modern affliction of debt and budget deficit, the cash-strapped Greeks have cashed in on the prowess of their ancient forebears as never before.

Coins have been minted, statues unveiled, live concerts mounted and exhibitions held as officials have showcased the fight that John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher, called “more important than the battle of Hastings”.

For Greek officials, the anniversary has provided an unparalleled opportunity to promote the country – even if cutbacks have meant that elite marathoners are thin on the ground. However, there is a sterling field out there – more than 12,500 athletes will compete in the marathon – the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, is believed to be amongst the participants.

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