John Armstrong (1893-1973) Pheidippides 490 B.C. Si
John Armstrong (1893-1973) PHEIDIPPIDES 490 B.C. signed in the plate with the initials J.A., a colour lithograph for the General Post Office, P.R.D. 56 printed in the lower margin, 46 by 60cm., 18 by 22 1/2in. In the First World War John Armstrong served as an officer in the Royal Field Artillery and the period spent in Salonika fostered a lifelong interest in the painting and pottery of Ancient Greece which was a subject that appeared often in his later work. The marathon was not an event in the Ancient Olympic Games. However the Frenchman Michel Breal, a friend and supporter of Baron de Coubertin, asserted that an event should be held at the first modern games in Athens in 1896 that should allude to Ancient Greece. He therefore offered a silver cup if an athlete could emulate the feat of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger, who ran from the plains of Marathon to Athens with news of the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 BC. The home nation of Greece was particularly keen to win the marathon and fielded 12 of the 16 runners. Amidst scenes of enormous fervour, Spyridon 'Spyros' Louis won for Greece and was presented with Breal's silver cup by King George together with an olive branch and an ancient Greek vase which he later donated to a local museum. Incidentally, the silver cup was sold at auction in April 2012 for £450,000.