While British poet, Robert Browning wrote about Pheidippides (poem below), Boaz Yakin and Joe Infurnari tell story of Eucles and The Battle of Marathon in their graphic novel Marathon (First Second, 2012). In this new format, Eucles also proves to be a hero of Common Core Standards as this story bridges literature, and historywhile integrating verbal and visual literacy.
In the beginning of Marathon - through use of color and and black and white - we see Eucles running to Sparta while reflecting on his life and setting the stage for the world's first marathon and an epic battle of democratic Athens fighting a Persian tyrant monarch. This gripping story told through prose, metaphor and illustrations retells history and clearly illustrates military strategy for teens through adults and can and should be used in language arts and history classes from Gr. 7+.
Applications for Visual Literacies:
While the text in this first image is not sharp enough to read (my apologies) you can see how the authors use color and black and white panel placement to flashback to the past while simultaneously focusing on the present. This use of brown-shaded vs. black and white panels provides a wonderful lesson for visual literacy.
Joe Infurnari brilliantly uses black and white images to recount Eucles' past as he runs towards his destiny in color. Furthermore, Infurnari uses only one color - antique brown - to add the feeling of 'history.' Finally, panel design and placement also plays a role. As you can see in this first image (and throughout the book) some panels have borders 'containing' the story and other panels have no constraining edges or borders empowering the story to 'overflow' freely while 'narrating' the story.
LESSON SUGGESTION: Discussing the use of color, panel design, and page organization provides a motivating lesson on non-verbal communication. You may also want to compare other graphic texts and graphic novels - critically evaluating other author/illustrators' use of color, panel and page usage to tell a story. A class project may be to break the class into a number of groups. Each group must visually retell the same story (any story): one group tell it in black and white, another in one color (and you may want a number of groups - each depicting the story in only one - different - color), and a final group using a variety of colors. Then have the class analyze each group's story based on the color and panels of their stories. How does the use of color influence the story?
Common Core Standard Skills addressed:
- Key ideas and details: understanding the story and how the past influenced the present
- Craft and structure: understanding word and color choices as well as visual/verbal organization
- Integration of knowledge and ideas: integrating information presented in different formats to tell one complete story
Applications for Laguage Arts and Verbal Literacy:
- Key ideas and details and critical reading
- Craft and structure
-You know those men?
-One was my dearest friend. The other a little tick who called for my father's blood. The gods have laid a feast both bitter and sweet before me.
-If they did otherwise they wouldn't be gods, and we would not be men...In this exchange, not only is the choice of words interesting, but the use of metaphor and literary devices is rife for discussion.
LESSON SUGGESTIONS: Discuss the author's choice of words to help give the story a more archaic, ancient 'feel'. Doe is work? Why or why not.
- Integration of knowledge and ideas (integrating information presented in different formats to tell one complete story)
First I salute this soil of the blessed, river and rock!
Gods of my birthplace, dæmons and heroes, honour to all!
Then I name thee, claim thee for our patron, co-equal in praise
Ay, with Zeus the Defender, with Her of the ægis and spear!
Also, ye of the bow and the buskin, praised be your peer,
Now, henceforth, and forever, O latest to whom I upraise
Hand and heart and voice! For Athens, leave pasture and flock!
Present to help, potent to save, Pan, patron I call!
Archons of Athens, topped by the tettix, see, I return!
See, ’tis myself here standing alive, no spectre that speaks!
Crowned with the myrtle, did you command me, Athens and you,
“Run, Pheidippides, run and race, reach Sparta for aid!
Persia has come, we are here, where is She?” Your command I obeyed,
Ran and raced: like stubble, some field which a fire runs through,
Was the space between city and city: two days, two nights did I burn
Over the hills, under the dales, down pits and up peaks.
Into their midst I broke: breath served but for “Persia has come!
Persia bids Athens proffer slaves’-tribute, water and earth;
Razed to the ground is Eretria. but Athens? shall Athens, sink,
Drop into dust and die, the flower of Hellas utterly die,
Die with the wide world spitting at Sparta, the stupid, the stander-by?
Answer me quick, what help, what hand do you stretch o’er destruction’s brink?
How, when? No care for my limbs! there’s lightning in all and some,
Fresh and fit your message to bear, once lips give it birth!”
O my Athens, Sparta love thee? did Sparta respond?
Every face of her leered in a furrow of envy, mistrust,
Malice, each eye of her gave me its glitter of gratified hate!
Gravely they turned to take counsel, to cast for excuses. I stood
Quivering, the limbs of me fretting as fire frets, an inch from dry wood:
“Persia has come, Athens asks aid, and still they debate?
Thunder, thou Zeus! Athene, are Spartans a quarry beyond
Swing of thy spear? Phoibos and Artemis, clang them ‘Ye must’!”
No bolt launched from Olumpos! Lo, their answer at last!
“Has Persia come, does Athens ask aid, may Sparta befriend?
Nowise precipitate judgment, too weighty the issue at stake!
Count we no time lost time which lags thro’ respect to the Gods!
Ponder that precept of old, ‘No warfare, whatever the odds
In your favour, so long as the moon, half-orbed, is unable to take
Full-circle her state in the sky!’ Already she rounds to it fast:
Athens must wait, patient as we, who judgment suspend.”
Athens, except for that sparkle, thy name, I had mouldered to ash!
That sent a blaze thro’ my blood; off, off and away was I back,
Not one word to waste, one look to lose on the false and the vile!
Yet “O Gods of my land!” I cried, as each hillock and plain,
Wood and stream, I knew, I named, rushing past them again,
“Have ye kept faith, proved mindful of honours we paid you erewhile?
Vain was the filleted victim, the fulsome libation! Too rash
Love in its choice, paid you so largely service so slack!
“Oak and olive and bay, I bid you cease to en-wreathe
50Brows made bold by your leaf! Fade at the Persian’s foot,
You that, our patrons were pledged, should never adorn a slave!
Rather I hail thee, Parnes, trust to thy wild waste tract!
Treeless, herbless, lifeless mountain! What matter if slacked
My speed may hardly be, for homage to crag and to cave
No deity deigns to drape with verdure? at least I can breathe,
Fear in thee no fraud from the blind, no lie from the mute!”
Such my cry as, rapid, I ran over Parnes’ ridge;
Gully and gap I clambered and cleared till, sudden, a bar
Jutted, a stoppage of stone against me, blocking the way.
Right! for I minded the hollow to traverse, the fissure across:
“Where I could enter, there I depart by! Night in the fosse?
Athens to aid? Tho’ the dive were thro’ Erebos, thus I obey
Out of the day dive, into the day as bravely arise! No bridge
Better!” when, ha! what was it I came on, of wonders that are?
There, in the cool of a cleft, sat he, majestical Pan!
Ivy drooped wanton, kissed his head, moss cushioned his hoof;
All the great God was good in the eyes grave-kindly, the curl
Carved on the bearded cheek, amused at a mortal’s awe
As, under the human trunk, the goat-thighs grand I saw.
“Halt, Pheidippides!”, halt I did, my brain of a whirl:
“Hither to me! Why pale in my presence?”! he gracious began:
“How is it, Athens, only in Hellas, holds me aloof?
“Athens, she only, rears me no fane, makes me no feast!
Wherefore? Than I what godship to Athens more helpful of old?
Ay, and still, and forever her friend! Test Pan, trust me!
Go bid Athens take heart, laugh Persia to scorn, have faith
In the temples and tombs! Go, say to Athens, ‘The Goat-God saith:
When Persia so much as strews not the soil, Is cast in the sea,
Then praise Pan who fought in the ranks with your most and least,
Goat-thigh to greaved-thigh, made one cause with the free and the bold!’
“Say Pan saith: ‘Let this, foreshowing the place, be the pledge!’”
(Gay, the liberal hand held out this herbage I bear
Fennel, I grasped it a-tremble with dew, whatever it bode),
“While, as for thee…” But enough! He was gone. If I ran hitherto,
Be sure that the rest of my journey, I ran no longer, but flew.
Parnes to Athens, earth no more, the air was my road;
Here am I back. Praise Pan, we stand no more on the razor’s edge!
Pan for Athens, Pan for me! I too have a guerdon rare!
Then spoke Miltiades. “And thee, best runner of Greece,
Whose limbs did duty indeed, what gift is promised thyself?
Tell it us straightway, Athens the mother demands of her son!”
Rosily blushed the youth: he paused: but, lifting at length
His eyes from the ground, it seemed as he gathered the rest of his strength
Into the utterance “Pan spoke thus: ‘For what thou hast done
Count on a worthy reward! Henceforth be allowed thee release
From the racer’s toil, no vulgar reward in praise or in pelf!’
“I am bold to believe, Pan means reward the most to my mind!
Fight I shall, with our foremost, wherever this fennel may grow,
Pound, Pan helping us, Persia to dust, and, under the deep,
Whelm her away forever; and then, no Athens to save,
Marry a certain maid, I know keeps faith to the brave,
Hie to my house and home: and, when my children shall creep
Close to my knees, recount how the God was awful yet kind,
Promised their sire reward to the full, rewarding him, so!”
Unforeseeing one! Yes, he fought on the Marathon day:
So, when Persia was dust, all cried “To Akropolis!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
‘Athens is saved, thank Pan,’ go shout!” He flung down his shield,
Ran like fire once more: and the space ‘twixt the Fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: “Rejoice, we conquer!” Like wine thro’ clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died, the bliss!
So, to this day, when friend meets friend, the word of salute
Is still “Rejoice!” his word which brought rejoicing indeed.
So is Pheidippides happy forever, the noble strong man
Who could race like a god, bear the face of a god, whom a god loved so well,
He saw the land saved he had helped to save, and was suffered to tell
Such tidings, yet never decline, but, gloriously as he began,
So to end gloriously, once to shout, thereafter be mute:
“Athens is saved!” Pheidippides dies in the shout for his meed.
- Vocabulary Here is just one page of the book. Notice the vocabulary in just this one page:
History Applications and Lesson Suggestions:
As this book retells history there are numerous ways in which it can be used in class. You might want to chart Greek and Persian military strategies, or even Greek and Persian means of preparing for war. You may want to discuss slavery - how it worked in Ancient Greece vs. the way it worked in Colonial America. You may also want to research and discuss Athens' early form of democracy and 'legislature'. Each of these options incorporate the goals of Common Core Standards demonstrating
- reading indpendence,
- reinforcing strong content knowledge,
- incorporating listening-reading-writing-speakin,
- searching for and valuing research and evidence for facts versus fiction, and
- evaluating perspectives of different cultures.
- DEMOCRACY: On the bottom of page 17, Mr. Infurnari depicts "The Athenian Democratic Assembly"
- Analyze the picture - who is speaking, who is participating/listening, are those speaking 'elected' officials or can anyone get up and speak, are 'the people' engaged in the conversation, how long might they be sitting and 'discussing'?
- Research how assemblies worked and how the Athenian Democratic Assembly differs from our Congress today.
- WAR: The authors spend a lot of time relaying the different Greek and Persian military strategies and war machines. LESSON SUGGESTION:
- Get a map of Ancient Greece and discuss the 'trip' from Persia to Athens, the terrain at Marathon, as well as the topography of the land from Athens to Sparta. Discuss how the Persians' voyage may have impacted their performance. Discuss how the topography may have impacted the battle and Eucles' run.
- Divide the class into Athenians and Persians or simply make a chart and compare military strategies as well as weapons used - discussing the merits and deficits they each present. Yakin and Infurnari spent a great deal of time developing and discussing this. In fact, the Athenians were successful because they used a 'new' strategy of running quickly into the foray of arrows and as a result not one arrow found its mark. The military strategies are both fascinating and motivating for discussion, research, and analysis and many are still used today.
- Compare and contrast how war was waged then vs. now. What did invaders do for food (they took what they conquered and did not bring their own - and once they landed they found their 'spoils' had been poisoned);
- MILITARY VESSELS: On the bottom of page 16, Joe Infurnari presents one of the Persian warships. Have students
- Analyze the illustration - ask them how it was propelled and who propelled it, how long might it have taken to construct, how might it have been maintained, what 'image' does the design relay and how might opposing armies reacted when seeing these vessels.
- Research the accuracy of this illustration- how does it compare to ships of different eras.
History and language arts can and should be fun and this is one way of motivating students while incorporating the past and present in meaningful ways.
Thanks for your visit.I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post in the comments, and hope to see you back next week.