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Xenophon (Cyrop. viii. 6. 18), too, says the Persian post is the quickest travelling accomplished by man on land. We may compare ‘The prairie post or pony express’ in Mark Twain's ‘Roughing it’ (Macan), and, better, the description of the Great Khan's post (Marco Polo, bk. ii, ch. 26; Yule, i. 433 f.): ‘These men travel a good 200 or 250 miles in the day . . . the despatch speeds along from post to post always at full gallop with a regular change of horses.’

λαμπαδηφορίη. Torch races were held at the Panathenaea, and the festivals of Prometheus, Hephaestus, Pan (vi. 105. 3), Bendis (Plato, Rep. i. 328 A), Hermes, and Theseus. They appear to have been of two kinds. In the simpler, a number of runners each with a lighted torch started abreast, and the one who first carried his torch alight to the goal won (Paus. i. 30. 2). The other was a relay or team race. There were several lines of runners; the first man in each line had his torch lighted at the altar and ran with it at full speed to the second, to whom he passed it on, the second to the third, and so on till the last man carried it to the goal. The line of runners which first passed its torch alight to the goal was the winning team. Cf. Lucr. ii. 79; Aesch. Ag. 312 f.; and of the similar horse race to Bendis, Plato, l. c. λαμπάδια ἔχοντες διαδώσουσιν ἀλλήλοις ἁμιλλώμενοι τοῖς ἵπποις (cf. also Laws 776 B). The torch race arose from the custom of transmitting a new and sacred fire from the altar to hearths polluted by death or the enemy's presence (Plut. Arist. 20). In such cases the old fire was extinguished and new pure fire carried as quickly as possible by runners to the hearths awaiting it (cf. Frazer, Paus. ii. 392).

ἄγγαρος, ‘post-rider,’ is a Babylonian loan-word (Meyer, iii, § 39 n.), the pure Persian being ἀστάνδης. It is used by Aesch. Ag. 282φρυκτὸς δὲ φρυκτὸν δεῦρ᾽ ἀπ᾽ ἀγγάρου πυρὸς ἔπεμπεν”, and Xen. Cyrop. viii. 6. 17. For this post cf. also Esther viii. 10, iii. 13.

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hide References (5 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (5):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.30.2
    • Plutarch, Aristeides, 20
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8.6.17
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 282
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 312
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