The authentic Marathon swim is taking place this weekend off the island of Evia in Greece with the participation of hundreds of swimmers from all over the world.
2,500 years after it first happened, competitors from 14 countries swim in the waters where the epic battle of Artemisium took place which was fought between Greek and Persian naval forces ten years after the Battle of Marathon, during the same year of the Battle of Thermopylae.
The original 16-kilometer swim between the Pelion peninsula and the island of Evia was achieved by Hydna and her father Scyllis, in 480 BC.
Authentic Marathon swim at the epic battle of Artemisium site
The battle first recorded by the Greek geographer Pausanias, who wrote his accounts during the 2nd century AD, occurred on the eve of the Persian leader Xerxes’ naval campaign.
On that dark day, a menacing fleet of 1,207 of his ships was moored off the Pelion peninsula, facing the island of Evia, ready to take part in his renewed attacks in the effort to take over Greece — and thereby gain an important foothold on the European mainland.
The Greek forces were represented by a much smaller group of only 271 ships, according to the historian Herodotus.
At the same time, a man named Scyllis and his daughter Hydna had become so proficient at deep-sea diving that their services had been requisitioned by Xerxes as a means to plunder the many shipwrecks that were already under the waves at that time.
Unbeknownst to him, the daring Greek father and daughter duo had other plans. Taking advantage of a huge storm that blew up as the ships from both sides sat at their moorings the day before the battle, the anchors of the Persian fleet’s vessels were dragged away by Hydna and Scyllis, causing many of them to be destroyed in the maelstrom.
As Pausanias wrote, in his work entitled Description of Greece, “When the fleet of Xerxes was attacked by a violent storm off Mount Pelion, father and daughter completed its destruction by dragging away under the sea the anchors and any other security the triremes had.”
The father and daughter became so famous for their feat that statues of them were even erected at Delphi, the beautiful religious sanctuary on the Greek mainland.
Tragically, however, the statues have been lost to time as the Roman emperor Nero was known to have taken at least 500 statues from Delphi back to Rome. Pausanias noted at the time that one of these statues was indeed of Scyllis’ heroic daughter, Hydna.