Callimachus (polemarch)

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Native name Καλλίμαχος
Born Afidnes
Died 490 BC
Allegiance Athens
Rank Polemarch
Battles/wars Battle of Marathon
  • The statue of the "Nike of Callimachus"
  • He was portrayed among the Athenian gods and heroes at the wall‐paintings on the Stoa Poikile

Callimachus or Callimachos (Greek: Καλλίμαχος) was the Athenian polemarch at the Battle of Marathon at 490 BC. According to Herodotus he was from the Attica deme of Afidnes.[1]

The Battle of Marathon[edit]

Main article: Battle of Marathon

As polemarch, Callimachus had a vote in military affairs along with the 10 strategoi, the generals, such as Miltiades. Miltiades convinced Callimachus to vote in favour of a battle when the strategoi were split evenly on the matter.

Miltiades said to Callimachus, just before the polemarch cast his vote: “Everything now rests on you.”

At the battle, Callimachus commanded the right wing of the Athenian army, since the Athenians had a custom at that time that the polemarch should command the right wing.[2] The right and left wings (the left wing commanded by the Plataeans) surrounded the Persians after a seemingly suicidal charge by the centre line.

Although the Greeks were victorious, Callimachus was killed. He was killed during the retreat of the Persians while he was chasing them to their ships.[3]

Plutarch, in his work: Moralia. Greek and Roman Parallel Stories mention that Callimachus was pierced with so many spears that, even when he was dead, he continuing to be in a upright posture.[4]

There was a custom at Athens that the father of the man who had the most valorous death in a battle should pronounce the funerary oration in public. So, after the battle of Marathon, the father of Callimachus and the father of Cynaegirus had an argument about who of their sons were the bravest.

Polemon of Laodicea declaimed first on behalf of Cynaegirus and then on behalf of Callimachus.

In addition, he was portrayed among the Athenian gods and heroes at the wall‐paintings on the Stoa Poikile and, also, Athenians erected a statue in honor of Callimachus, the "Nike of Callimachus".

According to some sources, Callimachus, before the battle, promised that if the Greeks win, he would sacrifice to Artemis Agrotera as many goats as the Persian who would be killed at the battlefield. Athenians kept his promise, in spirit, and every year sacrificed 500 goats, because they didn't have enough goats for every single Persian who was killed at the battle (6,400).[5]

The statue of the "Nike of Callimachus"[edit]

After the battle of Marathon, Athenians created a statue in honor of Callimachus. The statue was the "Nike (Victory) of Callimachus" and it was erected next to the Parthenon (not the Parthenon that we can see today, but the previous temple which destroyed by the Persians) on the Acropolis of Athens.

The statue has been severely damaged by the Persians when a decade later conquered Athens and burned and destroyed the city. The statue depicts Nike (Victory), in the form of a woman with wings, on top of an inscribed column. Its height is 4.68 meters and was made of Parian marble. The head of the statue and parts of the torso and hands were never recovered.

On October 26, 2010 after the "Nike of Callimachus" was restored, it displayed to the public for the first time as a complete monument at the Acropolis Museum. The statue have been affixed to a metal column that holds the various parts in place and is built so that additional fragments might be attached if they are found. The unveiling of the Nike monument was among a series of events scheduled by the culture and tourism ministry of Greece to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary since the Battle of Marathon. In the Museum in front of the original statue there is also a copy showing how the statue looked like when it was whole and undamaged.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herodotus Book 6: Erato, 109 "the polemarch was Callimachos of the deme of Aphidnai"
  2. ^ Herodotus Book 6: Erato, 111 "On the right wing the polemarch Callimachos was leader (for the custom of the Athenians then was this, that the polemarch should have the right wing)"
  3. ^ Herodotus Book 6: Erato, 114 "In this part of the work was slain the polemarch Callimachos after having proved himself a good man,..."
  4. ^ [ Plutarch, Moralia. Greek and Roman Parallel Stories] "Callimachus was pierced with so many spears that, dead though he was, he stood upright"
  5. ^ "Two Monuments Erected after the Victory of Marathon". American Journal of Archaeology (Archaeological Institute of America) 44: 53. 1940. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Mitchell, Joseph B.; Creasy, Sir Edward S. (1964). Twenty Decisive Battles of the World. Old Saybrook, Connecticut: Konecky & Konecky. ISBN 9781568524580. 
  • Don Nardo (1995). Battles of the Ancient World. Lucent Books. ISBN 9781560064121.