Greece’s great martial history

The Roaming Parkers are Greece-bound! This fall we are headed to Athens for a couple of weeks and we are totally looking forward to exploring southern and eastern mainland areas!

But why Greece? What put that idea in our heads? I could probably rattle off a dozen reasons real quick, but today there is only one that I wanted to talk about.

I fancy myself a martial artist and historian and Greece is the epicenter of western martial history!

  • The Trojan War was fought in the 11th or 12th century BC in northwestern Turkey when legendary Greek (or proto-Greek Achaean) warriors besieged a Persian city-state over a woman (admittedly the most beautiful woman in the world.) The stories of Helen’s war told in the Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and in Virgil’s Aeneid were so iconic and important that Greek language and culture came to be called Hellenic.
  • I grew up on tales of Philip of Macedon (inventor of the iconic Greek military phalanx) and his son, Alexander the Great, who effectively used his father’s tactics to conquer Macedon (northern Greece) and then the rest of the Classic world.
  • But despite the fact that the Macedonians eventually conquered the world, there was some notable resistance to their conquest. When Philip turned toward Laconia (What we now call Sparta) he sent a threatening envoy to ask if they wanted to be his friends or his enemies, to which they tersely replied, “Neither.” Frustrated, he tried more direct threats saying, “If I bring my armies into your land they will destroy everything and kill everyone!” The Spartans’ terse response, “If.” gave rise to the term, “Laconic reply.” After that, Philip never dared attempt to overrun Sparta – and it is said that he even sent them tribute from his conquests in the rest of the world.
  • Thermopylae, The Gates of Fire, was the mountain pass where 300 Spartans bottled up and held off perhaps as many as a million Persian warriors. When the Persians told the 300 Spartans to surrender or they would shoot so many arrows it would blot out the sun, the Spartan King, shrugged and said, “Then we’ll fight in the shade.”
  • Marathon was the sight of another famous battle with the Persians. The story goes that the Athenians sent a runner named Pheidippides to Sparta to get help because the Persians were about to invade but the Spartans wouldn’t help because it was their holiday. So Pheidippides ran back to Athens, told the news, then accompanied the Athenian army to the battle. When the battle was over and Athens victorious, Pheidippides ran back to Athens to give the news that they’d prevailed, but dropped dead of exhaustion at the feet of the Athenian leaders, saying, “Joy to you! We have won!”
300 Travel Sculpture Statue Antique Greece Sparta

The above highlights are just the tip of the iceberg! There is so much martial history in Greece that it is a natural attraction for me.

The real hard part is going to be figuring out what we can fit in during our two weeks there! We think we can fit in a bunch of sightseeing within Athens, Thermopylae, and Marathon and still get some beaching and mountain climbing in!

Categories: Adventure, Martial Arts, Travel

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