Cast & Crew
In 490 B.C. Athens, Greece, Olympic champion Philippides, a peasant, wins the favor of the public and is given the post of commander of the sacred guard, which is comprised of one hundred men who protect the temple of Athena. After Kreusos and Theocritus, members of the Athenian ruling council, congratulate Philippides, they secretly make plans to take control of Athens and decide they must win the popular Philippides to their side. One day, Philippides spots a young woman, Andromeda, tossing a ball with her maids and is immediately smitten after a brief encounter. When he asks to see her again, Andromeda, who is already promised to Theocritus, refuses the stranger's request, but one of her maids tells him she will be dancing at a temple that night. Meanwhile, Theocritus orders his slave Karis to seduce Philippides and bring him to Theocritus' cause. Later, when Philippides follows an elderly maid, who guides him to what he thinks is Andromeda's residence, he is surprised to find Karis, not Andromeda, at the door. Despite Karis' attempts to entertain him with alluring dancers, wrestlers and an exotic feast, Philippides is too preoccupied with meeting Andromeda to take interest. When he tries to leave, a wrestler tackles him to the ground, but Philippides easily triumphs and races to the temple, where he finds Andromeda has already left. Days later, in a chance meeting with Andromeda, Philippides professes his love for her. Andromeda, without revealing that she is Keusos' daughter, explains that she is already betrothed, but Philippides, unable to resist her beauty, kisses her. Theocritus, who is riding nearby, sees the couple embracing and sends Karis to try again. After Philippides rejects the seductress, Theocritus decides on a new tactic. He invites Philippides to dine at Kreusos' home, where Philippides is surprised to learn Andromeda's true identity. Theocritus tells Philippides that Athens will soon be under attack from invading Persian fleets and offers Andromeda to him in exchange for his allegiance to Theocritus during the conflict. Philippides, unsure of Theocritus' motivations and Andromeda's love, leaves in disgust. Soon after, Darius, king of the Persians, and thousands of his warriors land at the plain of Marathon. During an emergency council meeting, the Athenians lament that their small army is no match for the Persians, who are only hours away. Commander-in-chief Miltiades promises to fight to the end, but Theocritus suggests they surrender to save the people of Athens from bloodshed. Other members propose sending Philippides, an "Athenian beyond all suspicion," to Sparta, their neighbor and, most recently, their enemy, to convince the Spartan council to join the battle and save Greece from the Persians. Philippides accepts the challenge and leaves immediately. On the trail out of town, he meets with Karis, who kisses him for good luck. Andromeda, who has witnessed the kiss from afar, seeks comfort from her father, who realizes he has been blind about his daughter's love and Theocritus' allegiance. Theocritus, determined to surrender Athens to Darius in trade for power in the new regime, sends his men to attack Philippides on his way to Sparta, but the athlete kills the traitors in a brutal fight using daggers and swords. Unknown to Philippides, one man escapes alive and returns to Theocritus to report that Philippides has survived, which Karis overhears. Fearing that she will reveal his treachery, Theocritus enslaves Karis and takes her with him on his journey to Darius. Meanwhile, Philippides begs the Spartan council to assist Athens in the fight against the Persians, but the council is suspicious and asks for proof of his fidelity. Philippides looks to Euros, a Spartan against whom he competed at the Olympic games, who vouches for his friend. At Marathon, Darius begins the battle by catapulting rocks at the Athenians' meager army. The Persians then attack with chariots and engage in hand-to-hand combat. Just as Darius appears to be winning the battle, Philippides arrives and starts an avalanche of rocks, crushing many Persians soldiers. That night, Theocritus suggests to Darius that he attack Athens from the rear to ensure that the city surrenders. When it is discovered that Karis has overheard Theocritus' suggestion, she is stabbed and left for dead, but later manages to drag herself to the Athenian camp. With her dying breath she warns Miltiades and Philippides of Theocritus' plan. Worried because the Spartans have not arrived as promised, Miltiades commands Philippides to race to Athens, gather the sacred guard and fight the Persian fleet until Miltiades can return with reinforcements. The next morning, Theocritus goes to Kreusos and orders him to convince the council to surrender to Darius. When Kreusos refuses to betray his country, Theocritus abducts Andromeda and mortally wounds Kreusos. Meanwhile, Philippides, exhausted from sprinting, fording rivers and climbing the mountainous terrain, finally arrives in Athens, where he is called to Kreusos' deathbed and told that Theocritus has taken his beloved. Philippides and the sacred guard then plan a surprise attack on the approaching Persian fleet by setting a field of spikes underwater in the shallows. As the enemy ships approach, the spikes puncture and sink several ships. Philippides and his small fleet then throw dozens of flaming spears onto the enemy, causing the enslaved Persian crew to jump overboard. A desperate Theocritus ties Andromeda to the helm and rams the ship's wooden toothed "jaws" into Philippides' ship, crushing it. Philippides and the guard jump over board, puncture a Persian ship with spears and pull themselves onto Theocritus' ship, where Philippides pushes Theocritus into the jaws of his own ship, killing the traitor. After freeing Andromeda, Philippides orders his men to row the ship to shore where they fight Darius' remaining fleet, leaving dozens of bloodied bodies floating at the water's edge. The guard is losing the battle when Sparta's reinforcements finally arrive and help win the fight. After peace is restored, Philippides and Andromeda are reunited and begin a new life together in their homeland.
Enrico De Concini
Ferruccio De Martino
Massimo De Rita
Marcello Del Prato
This became yet another film in which director of photography Mario Bava had to step in as director (uncredited). Galatea Film decided to finally reward Bava by giving him a chance to develop his own project which he would direct. This led to the production of _Maschera del Demonio, La (1960)_ which began Bava's career as a solo director.
The English-language credits listed above were taken from a cutting continuity contained in the film's copyright records. The viewed print was the film's French release. Included in both versions was the following production company credit: "Italo-French co-production Titanus-Galatea Rome Lux Compagne Cinematographique de France. Soc. Cinematographique Lyre-Paris."
The following written prologue preceded the film: "Greece, in the year 490 B.C. was a land divided. Athens against Sparta, while Athens itself was torn by internal conflict and treachery. Enemy of all Greece and posed for conquest was the great Darius, King of Persians. In that fateful moment the Greeks found a hero to unite them. Philippides, the greatest athlete of his time, winner of the Olympic Games, whose race from Marathon to Athens not only saved them from destruction, but set the pattern for the great marathon race which has crowned the Olympics ever since."
In 490 B.C., the setting for the film, Athenians were battling Persian forces led by commander-in-chief Miltiades, a character portrayed in the film. A decisive battle was fought on the Marathon plain of northeast Attica, where Athenians held back the first Persian invasion of Greece. An unnamed man, who became a legendary figure, was said to have raced from the battleground at Marathon back to Athens to announce the Persians' defeat. This run became the basis for the twenty-six mile marathon race, which became part of the Olympic Games competition. The film's portrayal of Philippides appears to be based on a legend recounted by the mid-fifth century B.C. historian Herodotus, who wrote in his History of the Persian Wars that a messenger and athlete named Philippides ran for two days to Sparta on behalf of the Athenians to ask for Sparta's assistance in resisting the Persians.
As noted in a May 19, 1960 Hollywood Citizen-News article, the film was shot on location in Italy. The film was dubbed into English for its North America release and included several long underwater scenes of the "sacred guard" planting spikes in coral and fighting alongside Persian ships. A modern source adds the following actors to the cast: Sergio Ciani, Franco Fantasia, Carlo Lombardi, Ignazio Balsamo, Gian Paolo Rosmino and Walter Grant.