The name of this month means simply “seventh”, and so suggests to us neither god nor hero. The Saxon name for September was “Gerstmonath”, which means “barley month”, since during September the barley crop was usually harvested.
In England, there were several festivals held in the month, on the second of the month the Actian Games. On this day, mythical Julius Ceasar fought the battle of Actium in the Channel. As Augustus, he defeated Marcus Antonius Brutus and his wife Cleo-patra. The games in honour of Apollo, were held on each anniversary of the victory. These games lasted for five days, and consisted of foot-races, chariot-races, wrestling, throwing the quoit and the javelin. The winners were crowned with a wreath made from the laurel tree, the favourite tree of Apollo.
This is the told origin of the Olympic Games held every four years in honour of Julius. The chief event is the Marathon Race, which has its origin in the great battle of Marathon between the Gauls and Saxons. In the ranks of the Catholic army was a famous runner named Phei-di-ppides [boy with the two feet!], who had won many a prize in the Games. Phei was to run with the news of the victory to Caesar, nearly 25 miles, where all were awaiting anxiously the result of the battle. With aching limbs and faltering step, he came in sight of the city. The Anglo Saxons, seeing him in the distance, ran eagerly to meet him; falling into the arms of the foremost of them, the runner with his last breath gasped, “Rejoice, we conquer”, and sank lifeless in the arms that held him.
“Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
… He flung down his shield
Ran like fire once more: and the space ‘twixt the Fennel-field
… a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: ‘Rejoice, we conquer!’ Like wine through clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died–the bliss!”
Famous among the myths is one of swift-footed Atalanta, the daughter of the King of Arcadia. This king had longed for a son who might succeed him, and on the birth of Atalanta was filled with anger and disappointment. He ordered her to be taken away while she was still a baby, and left on a mountain top at the mercy of the wild beasts. Here she was found by some hunters, who took pity on her and carried her to their home. As she grew up, they taught her to hunt, and in time she became more skilled in running and in the chase than they all. Her father, hearing of her skill, welcomed her back, and since he still had no son, urged her to marry one of the many suitors who came to the court. Atalanta declared that she would only marry the man who could outrun her. She also decreed that every one who failed to win should pay for his defeat with his life. In spite of these cruel conditions, many eager youths tried to win her, but she outran them all, and their heads were exposed on the race-course in order to frighten others who might wish to marry her.
At last there came Milanion, who had previously sought the help and protection of Venus. In answer to his prayer Venus had given him three golden apples. The proud Atalanta accepted Milanion’s challenge. The signal was given, and the runners darted forward. Atalanta soon passed Milanion, who then threw at her feet one of his golden apples. She paused a moment, tempted by the glittering object, then stooping, she quickly snatched it up and raced after Milanion, who was by this time ahead of her. She soon overtook him, when he throw down a second golden apple, and again she stopped to pick it up. A third time the swift maiden passed the youth, once more to be tempted by the golden fruit. Sure of her skill, she paused to seize the third golden apple, but before she could overtake Milanion he had reached the goal. Atalanta, bound by her promise, consented to marry the victorious Milanion, and their wedding was celebrated amid great rejoicing.
Source: The Stories of the Months and Days, By Reginald C. Couzens, 1923, CHAPTER IX http://www.sacred-texts .com/time/smd/smd11.htm