“The Road to Sparta”: Get’s you thinking who are the modern-day Persians?

This is a documentary on the Spartathlon which is a 246-kilometre marathon from Athens to Sparta. You probably know the story about how the word marathon found its way into the English language.

The Athenians refused to submit to Darius the King of Persia and Darius sent a fleet of Persian warships with soldiers that dropped anchor in the Bay of Marathon 40 kilometres northeast of Athens in 490 BC catching the vastly outnumbered Athenians by surprise. Athenian General Miltades sent a runner Phedippides on a 246 km run to Sparta asking for help. He then ran back with the reply. The Spartans were in the midst of an important festival and would not send the help requested. The Athenians launched a successful surprise attack killing 6,000 Persians losing only 192 of their soldiers.

To commemorate this heroic run the Spartathlon is run each September attracting marathoners from all over the world. So you’ll hear some of their stories and it is a gruelling blood and guts run which in this year only 205 of the 349 contestants finished the race all kissing the feet of a statute of the great Spartan general Leonidis. The runners all have their interesting personal stories. It is tough, brutal and punishing but set to Greek music and poetry and the scenery becomes more spectacular as the race progresses making this almost a work of art as opposed to a mundane sport documentary. But unlike many marathons this one is highly symbolic and patriotic to Greeks, perhaps even an event of national pride. A Belgian Ivan Cudin wins the race for the third time with a time of 22 hours, 29 minutes and 29 seconds.

Perhaps as a bit of a teaser the film starts with the Greek riot police pushing back demonstrators and ends with a shot of a man with a sign asking for money to buy food and antibiotics. Why these scenes? Obviously, no accident but for me begs the question about the effects of the Greek government’s austerity programmes and bailout taking a punishing toll on Greeks. The enemies of Greece then are no longer Persian warships but the brutality of its lenders, the Greek government cutbacks, the rise of the New Dawn far right party and the weaponization of immigration and threats of Turkey’s President Erdogan? I am not sure who the enemies are the director had in mind but I think I am fairly accurate in my interpretation.

The film is brought to you by the Hellenic Film Society USA through their website https://hellenicfilmusa.org/https://hellenicfilmusa.org/ . It runs until March 28th. You can catch the trailer here   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5Z9-_UFG2Q

This 2016 60-minute film is in Greek and English with English subtitles where needed and is part of the celebration of 200 years of Greek independence. It is directed by Roddy Gibson and Barney Spender.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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