“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Inscription, New York City Post Office
This quote appears in book eight of the Herodotus’ Histories, a nine-volume account of the Persian Wars (500-449 B.C.) by the Greek historian Herodotus. It describes the rebellion of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus the Great. According to the U.S. Postal Service, the Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers and the quote describes the fidelity with which they performed their work.
Philippides (530 BC–490 BC), was an Athenian hemerodrome (translated as “day-runner” or “courier”), who was dispatched to Sparta to request aid to fight the Persians who had landed at Marathon, Greece. The 140-mile course was mountainous and rugged. Sparta agreed to send help however they couldn’t depart until the full moon for religious reasons.
Philippides returned to Athens to deliver the bad news. Subsequently, the Athenian Army outnumbered 4 to 1, marched to Marathon to launch a surprise offensive. By day’s end, 6400 Persians had died on the battlefield with 192 Athenian casualties.
Philippides then ran the 40 km (25 mi) from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory “niké” in the Battle of Marathon, whereupon according to Greek mythology he collapsed and died.
More Postal Trivia:
In the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 Spiridon “Spiro” Louis, a Greek postal worker, from the village of Marousi won the Olympic marathon in a time of 2:58:50 for the 40-kilometer distance (average pace of 7:11 minutes per mile).
As a marathon runner and retired letter carrier “high 5’s” to Philippides and “Spiro” Louis.