Now when tidings of the battle that had been fought at Marathon reached the ears of King Darius, the son of Hystaspes, his anger against the Athenians, which had been already roused by their attack upon Sardis, waxed still fiercer, and he became more than ever eager to lead an army against Greece. Instantly he sent off messengers to make proclamation through the several states that fresh levies were to be raised, and these at an increased rate; while ships, horses, provisions, and transports were likewise to be furnished. So the men published his commands; and now all Asia was in commotion by the space of three years, while everywhere, as Greece was to be attacked, the best and bravest were enrolled for the service, and had to make their preparations accordingly.
After this, in the fourth year, the Egyptians whom Cambyses had enslaved revolted from the Persians; whereupon Darius was more hot for war than ever, and earnestly desired to march an army against both adversaries.
Now, as he was about to lead forth his levies against Egypt and Athens, a fierce contention for the sovereign power arose among his sons; since the law of the Persians was that a king must not go out with his army, until he has appointed one to succeed him upon the throne. Darius, before he obtained the kingdom, had had three sons born to him from his former wife, who was a daughter of Gobryas; while, since he began to reign, Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, had borne him four. Artabazanes was the eldest of the first family, and Xerxes of the second. These two, therefore, being the sons of different mothers, were now at variance. Artabazanes claimed the crown as the eldest of all the children, because it was an established custom all over the world for the eldest to have the pre-eminence; while Xerxes, on the other hand, urged that he was sprung from Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, and that it was Cyrus who had won the Persians their freedom.
Before Darius had pronounced on the matter, it happened that Demaratus, the son of Ariston, who had been deprived of his crown at Sparta, and had afterwards, of his own accord, gone into banishment, came up to Susa, and there heard of the quarrel of the princes. Hereupon, as report says, he went to Xerxes, and advised him, in addition to all that he had urged before, to plead — that at the time when he was born Darius was already king, and bore rule over the Persians; but when Artabazanes came into the world, he was a mere private person. It would therefore be neither right nor seemly that the crown should go to another in preference to himself. “For at Sparta,” said Demaratus, byway of suggestion, “the law is that if a king has sons before he comes to the throne, and another son is born to him afterwards, the child so born is heir to his father’s kingdom.” Xerxes followed this counsel, and Darius, persuaded that he had justice on his side, appointed him his successor. For my own part I believe that, even without this, the crown would have gone to Xerxes; for Atossa was all-powerful.
Darius, when he had thus appointed Xerxes his heir, was minded to lead forth his armies; but he was prevented by death while his preparations were still proceeding. He died in the year following the revolt of Egypt and the matters here related, after having reigned in all six-and-thirty years, leaving the revolted Egyptians and the Athenians alike unpunished. At his death the kingdom passed to his son Xerxes.
Now Xerxes, on first mounting the throne, was coldly disposed towards the Grecian war, and made it his business to collect an army against Egypt. But Mardonius, the son of Gobryas, who was at the court, and had more influence with him than any of the other Persians, being his own cousin, the child of a sister of Darius, plied him with discourses like the following:—
“Master, it is not fitting that they of Athens escape scot-free, after doing the Persians such great injury. Complete the work which thou hast now in hand, and then, when the pride of Egypt is brought low, lead an army against Athens. So shalt thou thyself have good report among men, and others shall fear hereafter to attack thy country.”
Thus far it was of vengeance that he spoke; but sometimes he would vary the theme, and observe by the way, “that Europe was a wondrous beautiful region, rich in all kinds of cultivated trees, and the soil excellent: no one, save the king, was worthy to own such a land.”
All this he said, because he longed for adventures, and hoped to become satrap of Greece under the king; and after a while he had his way, and persuaded Xerxes to do according to his desires. Other things, however, occurring about the same time, helped his persuasions. For, in the first place, it chanced that messengers arrived from Thessaly, sent by the Aleuadae, Thessalian kings, to invite Xerxes into Greece, and to promise him all the assistance which it was in their power to give. And further, the Pisistratidae, who had come up to Susa, held the same language as the Aleuadae, and worked upon him even more than they, by means of Onomacritus of Athens, an oracle-monger, and the same who set forth the prophecies of Musaeus in their order. The Pisistratidae had previously been at enmity with this man, but made up the quarrel before they removed to Susa. He was banished from Athens by Hipparchus, the son of Pisistratus, because he foisted into the writings of Musaeus a prophecy that the islands which lie off Lemnos would one day disappear in the sea. Lasus of Hermione caught him in the act of so doing. For this cause Hipparchus banished him, though till then they had been the closest of friends. Now, however, he went up to Susa with the sons of Pisistratus, and they talked very grandly of him to the king; while he, for his part, whenever he was in the king’s company, repeated to him certain of the oracles; and while he took care to pass over all that spoke of disaster to the barbarians, brought forward the passages which promised them the greatest success. “’Twas fated,” he told Xerxes, “that a Persian should bridge the Hellespont, and march an army from Asia into Greece.” While Onomacritus thus plied Xerxes with his oracles, the Pisistratidae and Aleuadae did not cease to press on him their advice, till at last the king yielded, and agreed to lead forth an expedition.
First, however, in the year following the death of Darius, he marched against those who had revolted from him; and having reduced them, and laid all Egypt under a far harder yoke than ever his father had put upon it, he gave the government to Achaeamenes, who was his own brother, and son to Darius. This Achaeamenes was afterwards slain in his government by Inaros, the son of Psammetichus, a Libyan.
(SS 1.) After Egypt was subdued, Xerxes, being about to take in hand the expedition against Athens, called together an assembly of the noblest Persians to learn their opinions, and to lay before them his own designs. So, when the men were met, the king spake thus to them:—
“Persians, I shall not be the first to bring in among you a new custom — I shall but follow one which has come down to us from our forefathers. Never yet, as our old men assure me, has our race reposed itself, since the time when Cyrus overcame Astyages, and so we Persians wrested the sceptre from the Medes. Now in all this God guides us; and we, obeying his guidance, prosper greatly. What need have I to tell you of the deeds of Cyrus and Cambyses, and my own father Darius, how many nations they conquered, and added to our dominions? Ye know right well what great things they achieved. But for myself, I will say that, from the day on which I mounted the throne, I have not ceased to consider by what means I may rival those who have preceded me in this post of honour, and increase the power of Persia as much as any of them. And truly I have pondered upon this, until at last I have found out a way whereby we may at once win glory, and likewise get possession of a land which is as large and as rich as our own nay, which is even more varied in the fruits it bears — while at the same time we obtain satisfaction and revenge. For this cause I have now called you together, that I may make known to you what I design to do. (SS 2.) My intent is to throw a bridge over the Hellespont and march an army through Europe against Greece, that thereby I may obtain vengeance from the Athenians for the wrongs committed by them against the Persians and against my father. Your own eyes saw the preparations of Darius against these men; but death came upon him, and balked his hopes of revenge. In his behalf, therefore, and in behalf of all the Persians, I undertake the war, and pledge myself not to rest till I have taken and burnt Athens, which has dared, unprovoked, to injure me and my father. Long since they came to Asia with Aristagoras of Miletus, who was one of our slaves, and, entering Sardis, burnt its temples and its sacred groves; again, more lately, when we made a landing upon their coast under Datis and Artaphernes, how roughly they handled us ye do not need to be told. (SS 3.) For these reasons, therefore, I am bent upon this war; and I see likewise therewith united no few advantages. Once let us subdue this people, and those neighbours of theirs who hold the land of Pelops the Phrygian, and we shall extend the Persian territory as far as God’s heaven reaches. The sun will then shine on no land beyond our borders; for I will pass through Europe from one end to the other, and with your aid make of all the lands which it contains one country. For thus, if what I hear be true, affairs stand: the nations whereof I have spoken, once swept away, there is no city, no country left in all the world, which will venture so much as to withstand us in arms. By this course then we shall bring all mankind under our yoke, alike those who are guilty and those who are innocent of doing us wrong. (SS 4.) For yourselves, if you wish to please me, do as follows: when I announce the time for the army to meet together, hasten to the muster with a good will, every one of you; and know that to the man who brings with him the most gallant array I will give the gifts which our people consider the most honourable. This then is what ye have to do. But to show that I am not self-willed in this matter, I lay the business before you, and give you full leave to speak your minds upon it openly.”
Xerxes, having so spoken, held his peace.
(SS 1.) Whereupon Mardonius took the word, and said: “Of a truth, my lord, thou dost surpass, not only all living Persians, but likewise those yet unborn. Most true and right is each word that thou hast now uttered; but best of all thy resolve not to let the Ionians who live in Europe — a worthless crew — mock us any more. It were indeed a monstrous thing if, after conquering and enslaving the Sacae, the Indians, the Ethiopians, the Assyrians, and many other mighty nations, not for any wrong that they had done us, but only to increase our empire, we should then allow the Greeks, who have done us such wanton injury, to escape our vengeance. What is it that we fear in them? — not surely their numbers? — not the greatness of their wealth? We know the manner of their battle — we know how weak their power is; already have we subdued their children who dwell in our country, the Ionians, Aeolians, and Dorians. I myself have had experience of these men when I marched against them by the orders of thy father; and though I went as far as Macedonia, and came but a little short of reaching Athens itself, yet not a soul ventured to come out against me to battle. (SS 2.) And yet, I am told, these very Greeks are wont to wage wars against one another in the most foolish way, through sheer perversity and doltishness. For no sooner is war proclaimed than they search out the smoothest and fairest plain that is to be found in all the land, and there they assemble and fight; whence it comes to pass that even the conquerors depart with great loss: I say nothing of the conquered, for they are destroyed altogether. Now surely, as they are all of one speech, they ought to interchange heralds and messengers, and make up their differences by any means rather than battle; or, at the worst, if they must needs fight one against another, they ought to post themselves as strongly as possible, and so try their quarrels. But, notwithstanding that they have so foolish a manner of warfare, yet these Greeks, when I led my army against them to the very borders of Macedonia, did not so much as think of offering me battle. (SS 3.) Who then will dare, O king! to meet thee in arms, when thou comest with all Asia’s warriors at thy back, and with all her ships? For my part I do not believe the Greek people will be so foolhardy. Grant, however, that I am mistaken herein, and that they are foolish enough to meet us in open fight; in that case they will learn that there are no such soldiers in the whole world as we. Nevertheless let us spare no pains; for nothing comes without trouble; but all that men acquire is got by painstaking.”
When Mardonius had in this way softened the harsh speech of Xerxes, he too held his peace.
(SS 1.) The other Persians were silent; all feared to raise their voice against the plan proposed to them. But Artabanus, the son of Hystaspes, and uncle of Xerxes, trusting to his relationship, was bold to speak:—“O king!” he said, “it is impossible, if no more than one opinion is uttered, to make choice of the best: a man is forced then to follow whatever advice may have been given him; but if opposite speeches are delivered, then choice can be exercised. In like manner pure gold is not recognised by itself; but when we test it along with baser ore, we perceive which is the better. I counselled thy father, Darius, who was my own brother, not to attack the Scyths, a race of people who had no town in their whole land. He thought however to subdue those wandering tribes, and would not listen to me, but marched an army against them, and ere he returned home lost many of his bravest warriors. Thou art about, O king! to attack a people far superior to the Scyths, a people distinguished above others both by land and sea. ‘Tis fit therefore that I should tell thee what danger thou incurrest hereby. (SS 2.) Thou sayest that thou wilt bridge the Hellespont, and lead thy troops through Europe against Greece. Now suppose some disaster befall thee by land or sea, or by both. It may be even so; for the men are reputed valiant. Indeed one may measure their prowess from what they have already done; for when Datis and Artaphernes led their huge army against Attica, the Athenians singly defeated them. But grant they are not successful on both elements. Still, if they man their ships, and, defeating us by sea, sail to the Hellespont, and there destroy our bridge — that, sire, were a fearful hazard. (SS 3.) And here ‘tis not by my own mother wit alone that I conjecture what will happen; but I remember how narrowly we escaped disaster once, when thy father, after throwing bridges over the Thracian Bosphorus and the Ister, marched against the Scythians, and they tried every sort of prayer to induce the Ionians, who had charge of the bridge over the Ister, to break the passage. On that day, if Histiaeus, the king of Miletus, had sided with the other princes, and not set himself to oppose their views, the empire of the Persians would have come to nought. Surely a dreadful thing is this even to hear said, that the king’s fortunes depended wholly on one man.
(SS 4.) “Think then no more of incurring so great a danger when no need presses, but follow the advice I tender. Break up this meeting, and when thou hast well considered the matter with thyself, and settled what thou wilt do, declare to us thy resolve. I know not of aught in the world that so profits a man as taking good counsel with himself; for even if things fall out against one’s hopes, still one has counselled well, though fortune has made the counsel of none effect: whereas if a man counsels ill and luck follows, he has gotten a windfall, but his counsel is none the less silly. (SS 5.) Seest thou how God with his lightning smites always the bigger animals, and will not suffer them to wax insolent, while those of a lesser bulk chafe him not? How likewise his bolts fall ever on the highest houses and the tallest trees? So plainly does He love to bring down everything that exalts itself. Thus ofttimes a mighty host is discomfited by a few men, when God in his jealousy sends fear or storm from heaven, and they perish in a way unworthy of them. For God allows no one to have high thoughts but Himself. (SS 6.) Again, hurry always brings about disasters, from which huge sufferings are wont to arise; but in delay lie many advantages, not apparent (it may be) at first sight, but such as in course of time are seen of all. Such then is my counsel to thee, O king!
(SS 7.) “And thou, Mardonius, son of Gobryas, forbear to speak foolishly concerning the Greeks, who are men that ought not to be lightly esteemed by us. For while thou revilest the Greeks, thou dost encourage the king to lead his own troops against them; and this, as it seems to me, is what thou art specially striving to accomplish. Heaven send thou succeed not to thy wish! For slander is of all evils the most terrible. In it two men do wrong, and one man has wrong done to him. The slanderer does wrong, forasmuch as he abuses a man behind his back; and the hearer, forasmuch as he believes what he has not searched into thoroughly. The man slandered in his absence suffers wrong at the hands of both: for one brings against him a false charge; and the other thinks him an evildoer. (SS 8.) If, however, it must needs be that we go to war with this people, at least allow the king to abide at home in Persia. Then let thee and me both stake our children on the issue, and do thou choose out thy men, and, taking with thee whatever number of troops thou likest, lead forth our armies to battle. If things go well for the king, as thou sayest they will, let me and my children be put to death; but if they fall out as I prophesy, let thy children suffer, and thyself too, if thou shalt come back alive. But shouldest thou refuse this wager, and still resolve to march an army against Greece, sure I am that some of those whom thou leavest behind thee here will one day receive the sad tidings that Mardonius has brought a great disaster upon the Persian people, and lies a prey to dogs and birds somewhere in the land of the Athenians, or else in that of the Lacedaemonians; unless indeed thou shalt have perished sooner by the way, experiencing in thy own person the might of those men on whom thou wouldest fain induce the king to make war.”
Thus spake Artabanus. But Xerxes, full of wrath, replied to him:—
“Artabanus, thou art my father’s brother — that shall save thee from receiving the due meed of thy silly words. One shame however I will lay upon thee, coward and faint-hearted as thou art — thou shalt not come with me to fight these Greeks, but shalt tarry here with the women. Without thy aid I will accomplish all of which I spake. For let me not be thought the child of Darius, the son of Hystaspes, the son of Arsames, the son of Ariaramnes, the son of Teispes, the son of Cyrus, the son of Cambyses, the son of Teispes, the son of Achaemenes, if I take not vengeance on the Athenians. Full well I know that, were we to remain at rest, yet would not they, but would most certainly invade our country, if at least it be right to judge from what they have already done; for, remember, it was they who fired Sardis and attacked Asia. So now retreat is on both sides impossible, and the choice lies between doing and suffering injury; either our empire must pass under the dominion of the Greeks, or their land become the prey of the Persians; for there is no middle course left in this quarrel. It is right then that we, who have in times past received wrong, should now avenge it, and that I should thereby discover what that great risk is which I run in marching against these men — men whom Pelops the Phrygian, a vassal of my forefathers, subdued so utterly, that to this day both the land, and the people who dwell therein, alike bear the name of the conqueror!”
Thus far did the speaking proceed. Afterwards evening fell; and Xerxes began to find the advice of Artabanus greatly disquiet him. So he thought upon it during the night, and concluded at last that it was not for his advantage to lead an army into Greece. When he had thus made up his mind anew, he fell asleep. And now he saw in the night, as the Persians declare, a vision of this nature — he thought a tall and beautiful man stood over him and said, “Hast thou then changed thy mind, Persian, and wilt thou not lead forth thy host against the Greeks, after commanding the Persians to gather together their levies? Be sure thou doest not well to change; nor is there a man here who will approve thy conduct. The course that thou didst determine on during the day, let that be followed.” After thus speaking the man seemed to Xerxes to fly away.
Day dawned; and the king made no account of this dream, but called together the same Persians as before, and spake to them as follows:—
“Men of Persia, forgive me if I alter the resolve to which I came so lately. Consider that I have not yet reached to the full growth of my wisdom, and that they who urge me to engage in this war leave me not to myself for a moment. When I heard the advice of Artabanus, my young blood suddenly boiled; and I spake words against him little befitting his years: now however I confess my fault, and am resolved to follow his counsel. Understand then that I have changed my intent with respect to carrying war into Greece, and cease to trouble yourselves.”
When they heard these words, the Persians were full of joy, and, falling down at the feet of Xerxes, made obeisance to him.
But when night came, again the same vision stood over Xerxes as he slept, and said, “Son of Darius, it seems thou hast openly before all the Persians renounced the expedition, making light of my words, as though thou hadst not heard them spoken. Know therefore and be well assured, that unless thou go forth to the war, this thing shall happen unto thee thou art grown mighty and puissant in a short space, so likewise shalt thou within a little time be brought low indeed.”
Then Xerxes, greatly frightened at the vision which he had seen, sprang from his couch, and sent a messenger to call Artabanus, who came at the summons, when Xerxes spoke to him in these words:—
“Artabanus, at the moment I acted foolishly, when I gave thee ill words in return for thy good advice. However it was not long ere I repented, and was convinced that thy counsel was such as I ought to follow. But I may not now act in this way, greatly as I desire to do so. For ever since I repented and changed my mind a dream has haunted me, which disapproves my intentions, and has now just gone from me with threats. Now if this dream is sent to me from God, and if it is indeed his will that our troops should march against Greece, thou too wilt have the same dream come to thee and receive the same commands as myself. And this will be most sure to happen, I think, if thou puttest on the dress which I am wont to wear, and then, after taking thy seat upon my throne, liest down to sleep on my bed.”
Such were the words of Xerxes. Artabanus would not at first yield to the command of the king; for he deemed himself unworthy to sit upon the royal throne. At the last however he was forced to give way, and did as Xerxes bade him; but first he spake thus to the king (SS 1.):—
“To me, sire, it seems to matter little whether a man is wise himself or willing to hearken to such as give good advice. In thee truly are found both but the counsels of evil men lead thee astray: they are like the gales of wind which vex the sea — else the most useful thing for man in the whole world — and suffer it not to follow the bent of its own nature. For myself, it irked me not so much to be reproached by thee, as to observe that when two courses were placed before the Persian people, one of a nature to increase their pride, the other to humble it, by showing them how hurtful it is to allow one’s heart always to covet more than one at present possesses, thou madest choice of that which was the worse both for thyself and for the Persians. (SS 2.) Now thou sayest that from the time when thou didst approve the better course, and give up the thought of warring against Greece, a dream has haunted thee, sent by some god or other, which will not suffer thee to lay aside the expedition. But such things, my son, have of a truth nothing divine in them. The dreams that wander to and fro among mankind, I will tell thee of what nature they are — I who have seen so many more years than thou. Whatever a man has been thinking of during the day is wont to hover round him in the visions of his dreams at night. Now we during these many days past have had our hands full of this enterprise. (SS 3.) If however the matter be not as I suppose, but God has indeed some part therein, thou hast in brief declared the whole that can be said concerning it — let it e’en appear to me as it has to thee, and lay on me the same injunctions. But it ought not to appear to me any the more if I put on thy clothes than if I wear my own, nor if I go to sleep in thy bed than if I do so in mine — supposing, I mean, that it is about to appear at all. For this thing, be it what it may, that visits thee in thy sleep, surely is not so far gone in folly as to see me, and because I am dressed in thy clothes, straightway to mistake me for thee. Now however our business is to see if it will regard me as of small account, and not vouchsafe to appear to me, whether I wear mine own clothes or thine, while it keeps on haunting thee continually. If it does so, and appears often, I should myself say that it was from God. For the rest, if thy mind is fixed, and it is not possible to turn thee from thy design, but I must needs go and sleep in thy bed, well and good, let it be even so; and when I have done as thou wishest, then let the dream appear to me. Till such time, however, I shall keep to my former opinion.”
Thus spake Artabanus; and when he had so said, thinking to show Xerxes that his words were nought, he did according to his orders. Having put on the garments which Xerxes was wont to wear and taken his seat upon the royal throne, he lay down to sleep upon the king’s own bed. As he slept, there appeared to him the very same dream which had been seen by Xerxes; it came and stood over Artabanus, and said:—
“Thou art the man, then, who, feigning to be tender of Xerxes, seekest to dissuade him from leading his armies against the Greeks! But thou shalt not escape scathless, either now or in time to come, because thou hast sought to prevent that which is fated to happen. As for Xerxes, it has been plainly told to himself what will befall him, if he refuses to perform my bidding.”
In such words, as Artabanus thought, the vision threatened him, and then endeavoured to burn out his eyes with red-hot irons. At this he shrieked, and, leaping from his couch, hurried to Xerxes, and, sitting down at his side, gave him a full account of the vision; after which he went on to speak in the words which follow:—
“I, O King! am a man who have seen many mighty empires overthrown by weaker ones; and therefore it was that I sought to hinder thee from being quite carried away by thy youth; since I knew how evil a thing it is to covet more than one possesses. I could remember the expedition of Cyrus against the Massagetae, and what was the issue of it; I could recollect the march of Cambyses against the Ethiops; I had taken part in the attack of Darius upon the Scyths-bearing therefore all these things in mind, I thought with myself that if thou shouldst remain at peace, all men would deem thee fortunate. But as this impulse has plainly come from above, and a heaven-sent destruction seems about to overtake the Greeks, behold, I change to another mind, and alter my thoughts upon the matter. Do thou therefore make known to the Persians what the god has declared, and bid them follow the orders which were first given, and prepare their levies. Be careful to act so that the bounty of the god may not be hindered by slackness on thy part.”
Thus spake these two together; and Xerxes, being in good heart on account of the vision, when day broke, laid all before the Persians; while Artabanus, who had formerly been the only person openly to oppose the expedition, now showed as openly that he favoured it.
After Xerxes had thus determined to go forth to the war, there appeared to him in his sleep yet a third vision. The Magi were consulted upon it, and said that its meaning reached to the whole earth, and that all mankind would become his servants. Now the vision which the king saw was this: he dreamt that he was crowned with a branch of an olive tree, and that boughs spread out from the olive branch and covered the whole earth; then suddenly the garland, as it lay upon his brow, vanished. So when the Magi had thus interpreted the vision, straightway all the Persians who were come together departed to their several governments, where each displayed the greatest zeal, on the faith of the king’s offers. For all hoped to obtain for themselves the gifts which had been promised. And so Xerxes gathered together his host, ransacking every corner of the continent.
Reckoning from the recovery of Egypt, Xerxes spent four full years in collecting his host and making ready all things that were needful for his soldiers. It was not till the close of the fifth year that he set forth on his march, accompanied by a mighty multitude. For of all the armaments whereof any mention has reached us, this was by far the greatest; insomuch that no other expedition compared to this seems of any account, neither that which Darius undertook against the Scythians, nor the expedition of the Scythians (which the attack of Darius was designed to avenge), when they, being in pursuit of the Cimmerians, fell upon the Median territory, and subdued and held for a time almost the whole of Upper Asia; nor, again, that of the Atridae against Troy, of which we hear in story; nor that of the Mysians and Teucrians, which was still earlier, wherein these nations crossed the Bosphorus into Europe, and, after conquering all Thrace, pressed forward till they came to the Ionian Sea, while southward they reached as far as the river Peneus.
All these expeditions, and others, if such there were, are as nothing compared with this. For was there a nation in all Asia which Xerxes did not bring with him against Greece? Or was there a river, except those of unusual size, which sufficed for his troops to drink? One nation furnished ships; another was arrayed among the foot-soldiers; a third had to supply horses; a fourth, transports for the horse and men likewise for the transport service; a fifth, ships of war towards the bridges; a sixth, ships and provisions.
And in the first place, because the former fleet had met with so great a disaster about Athos, preparations were made, by the space of about three years, in that quarter. A fleet of triremes lay at Elaeus in the Chersonese; and from this station detachments were sent by the various nations whereof the army was composed, which relieved one another at intervals, and worked at a trench beneath the lash of taskmasters; while the people dwelling about Athos bore likewise a part in the labour. Two Persians, Bubares, the son of Megabazus, and Artachaees, the son of Artaeus, superintended the undertaking.
Athos is a great and famous mountain, inhabited by men, and stretching far out into the sea. Where the mountain ends towards the mainland it forms a peninsula; and in this place there is a neck of land about twelve furlongs across, the whole extent whereof, from the sea of the Acanthians to that over against Torone, is a level plain, broken only by a few low hills. Here, upon this isthmus where Athos ends, is Sand, a Greek city. Inside of Sand, and upon Athos itself, are a number of towns, which Xerxes was now employed in disjoining from the continent: these are Dium, Olophyxus, Acrothoum, Thyssus, and Cleonae. Among these cities Athos was divided.
Now the manner in which they dug was the following: a line was drawn across by the city of Sand; and along this the various nations parcelled out among themselves the work to be done. When the trench grew deep, the workmen at the bottom continued to dig, while others handed the earth, as it was dug out, to labourers placed higher up upon ladders, and these taking it, passed it on farther, till it came at last to those at the top, who carried it off and emptied it away. All the other nations, therefore, except the Phoenicians, had double labour; for the sides of the trench fell in continually, as could not but happen, since they made the width no greater at the top than it was required to be at the bottom. But the Phoenicians showed in this the skill which they are wont to exhibit in all their undertakings. For in the portion of the work which was allotted to them they began by making the trench at the top twice as wide as the prescribed measure, and then as they dug downwards approached the sides nearer and nearer together, so that when they reached the bottom their part of the work was of the same width as the rest. In a meadow near, there was a place of assembly and a market; and hither great quantities of corn, ready ground, were brought from Asia.
It seems to me, when I consider this work, that Xerxes, in making it, was actuated by a feeling of pride, wishing to display the extent of his power, and to leave a memorial behind him to posterity. For notwithstanding that it was open to him, with no trouble at all, to have had his ships drawn across the isthmus, yet he issued orders that a canal should be made through which the sea might flow, and that it should be of such a width as would allow of two triremes passing through it abreast with the oars in action. He likewise gave to the same persons who were set over the digging of the trench, the task of making a bridge across the river Strymon.
While these things were in progress, he was having cables prepared for his bridges, some of papyrus and some of white flax, a business which he entrusted to the Phoenicians and the Egyptians. He likewise laid up stores of provisions in divers places, to save the army and the beasts of burthen from suffering want upon their march into Greece. He inquired carefully about all the sites, and had the stores laid up in such as were most convenient, causing them to be brought across from various parts of Asia and in various ways, some in transports and others in merchantmen. The greater portion was carried to Leuce-Acte, upon the Thracian coast; some part, however, was conveyed to Tyrodiza, in the country of the Perinthians, some to Doriscus, some to Eion upon the Strymon, and some to Macedonia.
During the time that all these labours were in progress, the land army which had been collected was marching with Xerxes towards Sardis, having started from Critalla in Cappadocia. At this spot all the host which was about to accompany the king in his passage across the continent had been bidden to assemble. And here I have it not in my power to mention which of the satraps was adjudged to have brought his troops in the most gallant array, and on that account rewarded by the king according to his promise; for I do not know whether this matter ever came to a judgment. But it is certain that the host of Xerxes, after crossing the river Halys, marched through Phrygia till it reached the city of Celaenae. Here are the sources of the river Maeander, and likewise of another stream of no less size, which bears the name of Catarrhactes (or the Cataract); the last-named river has its rise in the market-place of Celaenae, and empties itself into the Maeander. Here, too, in this market-place, is hung up to view the skin of the Silenus Marsyas, which Apollo, as the Phrygian story goes, stripped off and placed there.
Now there lived in this city a certain Pythius, the son of Atys, a Lydian. This man entertained Xerxes and his whole army in a most magnificent fashion, offering at the same time to give him a sum of money for the war. Xerxes, upon the mention of money, turned to the Persians who stood by, and asked of them, “Who is this Pythius, and what wealth has he, that he should venture on such an offer as this?” They answered him, “This is the man, O king! who gave thy father Darius the golden plane-tree, and likewise the golden vine; and he is still the wealthiest man we know of in all the world, excepting thee.”
Xerxes marvelled at these last words; and now, addressing Pythius with his own lips, he asked him what the amount of his wealth really was. Pythius answered as follows:—
“O king! I will not hide this matter from thee, nor make pretence that I do not know how rich I am; but as I know perfectly, I will declare all fully before thee. For when thy journey was noised abroad, and I heard thou wert coming down to the Grecian coast, straightway, as I wished to give thee a sum of money for the war, I made count of my stores, and found them to be two thousand talents of silver, and of gold four millions of Daric staters, wanting seven thousand. All this I willingly make over to thee as a gift; and when it is gone, my slaves and my estates in land will be wealth enough for my wants.”
This speech charmed Xerxes, and he replied, “Dear Lydian, since I left Persia there is no man but thou who has either desired to entertain my army, or come forward of his own free will to offer me a sum of money for the war. Thou hast done both the one and the other, feasting my troops magnificently, and now making offer of a right noble sum. In return, this is what I will bestow on thee. Thou shalt be my sworn friend from this day; and the seven thousand staters which are wanting to make up thy four millions I will supply, so that the full tale may be no longer lacking, and that thou mayest owe the completion of the round sum to me. Continue to enjoy all that thou hast acquired hitherto; and be sure to remain ever such as thou now art. If thou dost, thou wilt not repent of it so long as thy life endures.”
When Xerxes had so spoken and had made good his promises to Pythius, he pressed forward upon his march; and passing Anaua, a Phrygian city, and a lake from which salt is gathered, he came to Colossae, a Phrygian city of great size, situated at a spot where the river Lycus plunges into a chasm and disappears. This river, after running under ground a distance of about five furlongs, reappears once more, and empties itself, like the stream above mentioned, into the Maeander. Leaving Colossae, the army approached the borders of Phrygia where it abuts on Lydia; and here they came to a city called Cydrara, where was a pillar set up by Croesus, having an inscription on it, showing the boundaries of the two countries.
Where it quits Phrygia and enters Lydia the road separates; the way on the left leads into Caria, while that on the right conducts to Sardis. If you follow this route, you must cross the Maeander, and then pass by the city Callatebus, where the men live who make honey out of wheat and the fruit of the tamarisk. Xerxes, who chose this way, found here a plane-tree so beautiful, that he presented it with golden ornaments, and put it under the care of one of his Immortals. The day after, he entered the Lydian capital.
Here his first care was to send off heralds into Greece, who were to prefer a demand for earth and water, and to require that preparations should be made everywhere to feast the king. To Athens indeed and to Sparta he sent no such demand; but these cities excepted, his messengers went everywhere. Now the reason why he sent for earth and water to states which had already refused was this: he thought that although they had refused when Darius made the demand, they would now be too frightened to venture to say him nay. So he sent his heralds, wishing to know for certain how it would be.
Xerxes, after this, made preparations to advance to Abydos, where the bridge across the Hellespont from Asia to Europe was lately finished. Midway between Sestos and Madytus in the Hellespontine Chersonese, and right over against Abydos, there is a rocky tongue of land which runs out for some distance into the sea. This is the place where no long time afterwards the Greeks under Xanthippus, the son of Ariphron, took Artayctes the Persian, who was at that time governor of Sestos, and nailed him living to a plank. He was the Artayctes who brought women into the temple of Protesilaus at Elaeus, and there was guilty of most unholy deeds.
Towards this tongue of land then, the men to whom the business was assigned carried out a double bridge from Abydos; and while the Phoenicians constructed one line with cables of white flax, the Egyptians in the other used ropes made of papyrus. Now it is seven furlongs across from Abydos to the opposite coast. When, therefore, the channel had been bridged successfully, it happened that a great storm arising broke the whole work to pieces, and destroyed all that had been done.
So when Xerxes heard of it he was full of wrath, and straightway gave orders that the Hellespont should receive three hundred lashes, and that a pair of fetters should be cast into it. Nay, I have even heard it said that he bade the branders take their irons and therewith brand the Hellespont. It is certain that he commanded those who scourged the waters to utter, as they lashed them, these barbarian and wicked words: “Thou bitter water, thy lord lays on thee this punishment because thou hast wronged him without a cause, having suffered no evil at his hands. Verily King Xerxes will cross thee, whether thou wilt or no. Well dost thou deserve that no man should honour thee with sacrifice; for thou art of a truth a treacherous and unsavoury river.” While the sea was thus punished by his orders, he likewise commanded that the overseers of the work should lose their heads.
Then they, whose business it was, executed the unpleasing task laid upon them; and other master-builders were set over the work, who accomplished it in the way which I will now describe.
They joined together triremes and penteconters, 360 to support the bridge on the side of the Euxine Sea, and 314 to sustain the other; and these they placed at right angles to the sea, and in the direction of the current of the Hellespont, relieving by these means the tension of the shore cables. Having joined the vessels, they moored them with anchors of unusual size, that the vessels of the bridge towards the Euxine might resist the winds which blow from within the straits, and that those of the more western bridge facing the Egean might withstand the winds which set in from the south and from the south-east. A gap was left in the penteconters in no fewer than three places, to afford a passage for such light craft as chose to enter or leave the Euxine. When all this was done, they made the cables taut from the shore by the help of wooden capstans. This time, moreover, instead of using the two materials separately, they assigned to each bridge six cables, two of which were of white flax, while four were of papyrus. Both cables were of the same size and quality; but the flaxen were the heavier, weighing not less than a talent the cubit. When the bridge across the channel was thus complete, trunks of trees were sawn into planks, which were out to the width of the bridge, and these were laid side by side upon the tightened cables, and then fastened on the top. This done, brushwood was brought, and arranged upon the planks, after which earth was heaped upon the brushwood, and the whole trodden down into a solid mass. Lastly a bulwark was set up on either side of this causeway, of such a height as to prevent the sumpter-beasts and the horses from seeing over it and taking fright at the water.
And now when all was prepared — the bridges, and the works at Athos, the breakwaters about the mouths of the cutting, which were made to hinder the surf from blocking up the entrances, and the cutting itself; and when the news came to Xerxes that this last was completely finished — then at length the host, having first wintered at Sardis, began its march towards Abydos, fully equipped, on the first approach of spring. At the moment of departure, the sun suddenly quitted his seat in the heavens, and disappeared, though there were no clouds in sight, but the sky was clear and serene. Day was thus turned into night; whereupon Xerxes, who saw and remarked the prodigy, was seized with alarm, and sending at once for the Magians, inquired of them the meaning of the portent. They replied —“God is foreshowing to the Greeks the destruction of their cities; for the sun foretells for them, and the moon for us.” So Xerxes, thus instructed, proceeded on his way with great gladness of heart.
The army had begun its march, when Pythius the Lydian, affrighted at the heavenly portent, and emboldened by his gifts, came to Xerxes and said —“Grant me, O my lord! a favour which is to thee a light matter, but to me of vast account.” Then Xerxes’ who looked for nothing less than such a prayer as Pythius in fact preferred, engaged to grant him whatever he wished, and commanded him to tell his wish freely. So Pythius, full of boldness, went on to say:—
“O my lord! thy servant has five sons; and it chances that all are called upon to join thee in this march against Greece. I beseech thee, have compassion upon my years; and let one of my sons, the eldest, remain behind, to be my prop and stay, and the guardian of my wealth. Take with thee the other four; and when thou hast done all that is in thy heart, mayest thou come back in safety.”
But Xerxes was greatly angered, and replied to him: “Thou wretch! darest thou speak to me of thy son, when I am myself on the march against Greece, with sons, and brothers, and kinsfolk, and friends? Thou, who art my bond-slave, and art in duty bound to follow me with all thy household, not excepting thy wife! Know that man’s spirit dwelleth in his ears, and when it hears good things, straightway it fills all his body with delight; but no sooner does it hear the contrary than it heaves and swells with passion. As when thou didst good deeds and madest good offers to me, thou wert not able to boast of having outdone the king in bountifulness, so now when thou art changed and grown impudent, thou shalt not receive all thy deserts, but less. For thyself and four of thy five sons, the entertainment which I had of thee shall gain protection; but as for him to whom thou clingest above the rest, the forfeit of his life shall be thy punishment.” Having thus spoken, forthwith he commanded those to whom such tasks were assigned to seek out the eldest of the sons of Pythius, and having cut his body asunder, to place the two halves. one on the right, the other on the left, of the great road, so that the army might march out between them.
Then the king’s orders were obeyed; and the army marched out between the two halves of the carcase. First of all went the baggage-bearers, and the sumpter-beasts, and then a vast crowd of many nations mingled together without any intervals, amounting to more than one half of the army. After these troops an empty space was left, to separate between them and the king. In front of the king went first a thousand horsemen, picked men of the Persian nation — then spearmen a thousand, likewise chosen troops, with their spearheads pointing towards the ground — next ten of the sacred horses called Nisaean, all daintily caparisoned. (Now these horses are called Nisaean, because they come from the Nisaean plain, a vast flat in Media, producing horses of unusual size.) After the ten sacred horses came the holy chariot of Jupiter, drawn by eight milk-white steeds, with the charioteer on foot behind them holding the reins; for no mortal is ever allowed to mount into the car. Next to this came Xerxes himself, riding in a chariot drawn by Nisaean horses, with his charioteer, Patiramphes, the son of Otanes, a Persian, standing by his side.
Thus rode forth Xerxes from Sardis — but he was accustomed every now and then, when the fancy took him, to alight from his chariot and travel in a litter. Immediately behind the king there followed a body of a thousand spearmen, the noblest and bravest of the Persians, holding their lances in the usual manner — then came a thousand Persian horse, picked men — then ten thousand, picked also after the rest, and serving on foot. Of these last one thousand carried spears with golden pomegranates at their lower end instead of spikes; and these encircled the other nine thousand, who bore on their spears pomegranates of silver. The spearmen too who pointed their lances towards the ground had golden pomegranates; and the thousand Persians who followed close after Xerxes had golden apples. Behind the ten thousand footmen came a body of Persian cavalry, likewise ten thousand; after which there was again a void space for as much as two furlongs; and then the rest of the army followed in a confused crowd.
The march of the army, after leaving Lydia, was directed upon the river Caicus and the land of Mysia. Beyond the Caius the road, leaving Mount Cana upon the left, passed through the Atarnean plain, to the city of Carina. Quitting this, the troops advanced across the plain of Thebe, passing Adramyttium, and Antandrus, the Pelasgic city; then, holding Mount Ida upon the left hand, it entered the Trojan territory. On this march the Persians suffered some loss; for as they bivouacked during the night at the foot of Ida, a storm of thunder and lightning burst upon them, and killed no small number.
On reaching the Scamander, which was the first stream, of all that they had crossed since they left Sardis, whose water failed them and did not suffice to satisfy the thirst of men and cattle, Xerxes ascended into the Pergamus of Priam, since he had a longing to behold the place. When he had seen everything, and inquired into all particulars, he made an offering of a thousand oxen to the Trojan Minerva, while the Magians poured libations to the heroes who were slain at Troy. The night after, a panic fell upon the camp: but in the morning they set off with daylight, and skirting on the left hand the towns Rhoeteum, Ophryneum, and Dardanus (which borders on Abydos), on the right the Teucrians of Gergis, so reached Abydos.
Arrived here, Xerxes wished to look upon all his host; so as there was a throne of white marble upon a hill near the city, which they of Abydos had prepared beforehand, by the king’s bidding, for his especial use, Xerxes took his seat on it, and, gazing thence upon the shore below, beheld at one view all his land forces and all his ships. While thus employed, he felt a desire to behold a sailing-match among his ships, which accordingly took place, and was won by the Phoenicians of Sidon, much to the joy of Xerxes, who was delighted alike with the race and with his army.
And now, as he looked and saw the whole Hellespont covered with the vessels of his fleet, and all the shore and every plain about Abydos as full as possible of men, Xerxes congratulated himself on his good fortune; but after a little while he wept.
Then Artabanus, the king’s uncle (the same who at the first so freely spake his mind to the king, and advised him not to lead his army against Greece), when he heard that Xerxes was in tears, went to him, and said:—
“How different, sire, is what thou art now doing, from what thou didst a little while ago! Then thou didst congratulate thyself; and now, behold! thou weepest.”
“There came upon me,” replied he, “a sudden pity, when I thought of the shortness of man’s life, and considered that of all this host, so numerous as it is, not one will be alive when a hundred years are gone by.”
“And yet there are sadder things in life than that,” returned the other. “Short as our time is, there is no man, whether it be here among this multitude or elsewhere, who is so happy, as not to have felt the wish — I will not say once, but full many a time — that he were dead rather than alive. Calamities fall upon us; sicknesses vex and harass us, and make life, short though it be, to appear long. So death, through the wretchedness of our life, is a most sweet refuge to our race: and God, who gives us the tastes that we enjoy of pleasant times, is seen, in his very gift, to be envious.”
“True,” said Xerxes; “human life is even such as thou hast painted it, O Artabanus! But for this very reason let us turn our thoughts from it, and not dwell on what is so sad, when pleasant things are in hand. Tell me rather, if the vision which we saw had not appeared so plainly to thyself, wouldst thou have been still of the same mind as formerly, and have continued to dissuade me from warring against Greece, or wouldst thou at this time think differently? Come now, tell me this honestly.”
“O king!” replied the other, “may the dream which hath appeared to us have such issue as we both desire! For my own part, I am still full of fear, and have scarcely power to control myself, when I consider all our dangers, and especially when I see that the two things which are of most consequence are alike opposed to thee.”
“Thou strange man!” said Xerxes in reply —“what, I pray thee, are the two things thou speakest of? Does my land army seem to thee too small in number, and will the Greeks, thinkest thou, bring into the field a more numerous host? Or is it our fleet which thou deemest weaker than theirs? Or art thou fearful on both accounts? If in thy judgment we fall short in either respect, it were easy to bring together with all speed another armament.”
“O king!” said Artabanus, “it is not possible that a man of understanding should find fault with the size of thy army or the number of thy ships. The more thou addest to these, the more hostile will those two things, whereof I spake, become. Those two things are the land and the sea. In all the wide sea there is not, I imagine, anywhere a harbour large enough to receive thy vessels, in case a storm arise, and afford them a sure protection. And yet thou wilt want, not one such harbour only, but many in succession, along the entire coast by which thou art about to make thy advance. In default then of such harbours, it is well to bear in mind that chances rule men, and not men chances. Such is the first of the two dangers; and now I will speak to thee of the second. The land will also be thine enemy; for if no one resists thy advance, as thou proceedest farther and farther, insensibly allured onwards (for who is ever sated with success?), thou wilt find it more and more hostile. I mean this, that, should nothing else withstand thee, yet the mere distance, becoming greater as time goes on, will at last produce a famine. Methinks it is best for men, when they take counsel, to be timorous, and imagine all possible calamities, but when the time for action comes, then to deal boldly.”
Whereto Xerxes answered —“There is reason, O Artabanus! in everything which thou hast said; but I pray thee, fear not all things alike, nor count up every risk. For if in each matter that comes before us thou wilt look to all possible chances, never wilt thou achieve anything. Far better is it to have a stout heart always, and suffer one’s share of evils, than to be ever fearing what may happen, and never incur a mischance. Moreover, if thou wilt oppose whatever is said by others, without thyself showing us the sure course which we ought to take, thou art as likely to lead us into failure as they who advise differently; for thou art but on a par with them. And as for that sure course, how canst thou show it us when thou art but a man? I do not believe thou canst. Success for the most part attends those who act boldly, not those who weigh everything, and are slack to venture. Thou seest to how great a height the power of Persia has now reached — never would it have grown to this point if they who sate upon the throne before me had been like-minded with thee, or even, though not like-minded, had listened to councillors of such a spirit. ‘Twas by brave ventures that they extended their sway; for great empires can only be conquered by great risks. We follow then the example of our fathers in making this march; and we set forward at the best season of the year; so, when we have brought Europe under us, we shall return, without suffering from want or experiencing any other calamity. For while on the one hand we carry vast stores of provisions with us, on the other we shall have the grain of all the countries and nations that we attack; since our march is not directed against a pastoral people, but against men who are tillers of the ground.”
Then said Artabanus —“If, sire, thou art determined that we shall not fear anything, at least hearken to a counsel which I wish to offer; for when the matters in hand are so many, one cannot but have much to say. Thou knowest that Cyrus the son of Cambyses reduced and made tributary to the Persians all the race of the Ionians, except only those of Attica. Now my advice is that thou on no account lead forth these men against their fathers; since we are well able to overcome them without such aid. Their choice, if we take them with us to the war, lies between showing themselves the most wicked of men by helping to enslave their fatherland, or the most righteous by joining in the struggle to keep it free. If then they choose the side of injustice, they will do us but scant good; while if they determine to act justly, they may greatly injure our host. Lay thou to heart the old proverb, which says truly, ‘The beginning and end of a matter are not always seen at once.’
“Artabanus,” answered Xerxes, “there is nothing in all that thou hast said, wherein thou art so wholly wrong as in this, that thou suspectest the faith of the Ionians. Have they not given us the surest proof of their attachment — a proof which thou didst thyself witness, and likewise all those who fought with Darius against the Scythians? When it lay wholly with them to save or to destroy the entire Persian army, they dealt by us honourably and with good faith, and did us no hurt at all. Besides, they will leave behind them in our country their wives, their children, and their properties — can it then be conceived that they will attempt rebellion? Have no fear, therefore, on this score; but keep a brave heart and uphold my house and empire. To thee, and thee only, do I intrust my sovereignty.”
After Xerxes had thus spoken, and had sent Artabanus away to return to Susa, he summoned before him all the Persians of most repute, and when they appeared, addressed them in these words:—
“Persians, I have brought you together because I wished to exhort you to behave bravely, and not to sully with disgrace the former achievements of the Persian people, which are very great and famous. Rather let us one and all, singly and jointly, exert ourselves to the uttermost; for the matter wherein we are engaged concerns the common weal. Strain every nerve, then, I beseech you, in this war. Brave warriors are the men we march against, if report says true; and such that, if we conquer them, there is not a people in all the world which will venture thereafter to with. stand our arms. And now let us offer prayers to the gods who watch over the welfare of Persia, and then cross the channel.”
All that day the preparations for the passage continued; and on the morrow they burnt all kinds of spices upon the bridges, and strewed the way with myrtle boughs, while they waited anxiously for the sun, which they hoped to see as he rose. And now the sun appeared; and Xerxes took a golden goblet and poured from it a libation into the sea, praying the while with his face turned to the sun “that no misfortune might befall him such as to hinder his conquest of Europe, until he had penetrated to its uttermost boundaries.” After he had prayed, he cast the golden cup into the Hellespont, and with it a golden bowl, and a Persian sword of the kind which they call acinaces. I cannot say for certain whether it was as an offering to the sun-god that he threw these things into the deep, or whether he had repented of having scourged the Hellespont, and thought by his gifts to make amends to the sea for what he had done. When, however, his offerings were made, the army began to cross; and the foot-soldiers, with the horsemen, passed over by one of the bridges — that (namely) which lay towards the Euxine — while the sumpter-beasts and the camp-followers passed by the other, which looked on the Egean. Foremost went the Ten Thousand Persians, all wearing garlands upon their heads; and after them a mixed multitude of many nations. These crossed upon the first day.
On the next day the horsemen began the passage; and with them went the soldiers who carried their spears with the point downwards, garlanded, like the Ten Thousand; — then came the sacred horses and the sacred chariot; next Xerxes with his lancers and the thousand horse; then the rest of the army. At the same time the ships sailed over to the opposite shore. According, however, to another account which I have heard, the king crossed the last.
As soon as Xerxes had reached the European side, he stood to contemplate his army as they crossed under the lash. And the crossing continued during seven days and seven nights, without rest or pause. ‘Tis said that here, after Xerxes had made the passage, a Hellespontian exclaimed —
“Why, O Jove, dost thou, in the likeness of a Persian man, and with the name of Xerxes instead of thine own, lead the whole race of mankind to the destruction of Greece? It would have been as easy for thee to destroy it without their aid!”
When the whole army had crossed, and the troops were now upon their march, a strange prodigy appeared to them, whereof the king made no account, though its meaning was not difficult to conjecture. Now the prodigy was this:— a mare brought forth a hare. Hereby it was shown plainly enough, that Xerxes would lead forth his host against Greece with mighty pomp and splendour, but, in order to reach again the spot from which he set out, would have to run for his life. There had also been another portent, while Xerxes was still at Sardis — a mule dropped a foal, neither male nor female; but this likewise was disregarded.
So Xerxes, despising the omens, marched forwards; and his land army accompanied him. But the fleet held an opposite course, and, sailing to the mouth of the Hellespont, made its way along the shore. Thus the fleet proceeded westward, making for Cape Sarpedon, where the orders were that it should await the coming up of the troops; but the land army marched eastward along the Chersonese, leaving on the right the tomb of Helle, the daughter of Athamas, and on the left the city of Cardia. Having passed through the town which is called Agora, they skirted the shores of the Gulf of Melas, and then crossed the river Melas, whence the gulf takes its name, the waters of which they found too scanty to supply the host. From this point their march was to the west; and after passing Aenos, an Aeolian settlement, and likewise Lake Stentoris, they came to Doriscus.
The name Doriscus is given to a beach and a vast plain upon the coast of Thrace, through the middle of which flows the strong stream of the Hebrus. Here was the royal fort which is likewise called Doriscus, where Darius had maintained a Persian garrison ever since the time when he attacked the Scythians. This place seemed to Xerxes a convenient spot for reviewing and numbering his soldiers; which things accordingly he proceeded to do. The sea-captains, who had brought the fleet to Doriscus, were ordered to take the vessels to the beach adjoining, where Sale stands, a city of the Samothracians, and Zone, another city. The beach extends to Serrheum, the well-known promontory; the whole district in former times was inhabited by the Ciconians. Here then the captains were to bring their ships, and to haul them ashore for refitting, while Xerxes at Doriscus was employed in numbering the soldiers.
What the exact number of the troops of each nation was I cannot say with certainty — for it is not mentioned by any one — but the whole land army together was found to amount to one million seven hundred thousand men. The manner in which the numbering took place was the following. A body of ten thousand men was brought to a certain place, and the men were made to stand as close together as possible; after which a circle was drawn around them, and the men were let go: then where the circle had been, a fence was built about the height of a man’s middle; and the enclosure was filled continually with fresh troops, till the whole army had in this way been numbered. When the numbering was over, the troops were drawn up according to their several nations.
Now these were the nations that took part in this expedition. The Persians, who wore on their heads the soft hat called the tiara, and about their bodies, tunics with sleeves of divers colours, having iron scales upon them like the scales of a fish. Their legs were protected by trousers; and they bore wicker shields for bucklers; their quivers hanging at their backs, and their arms being a short spear, a bow of uncommon size, and arrows of reed. They had likewise daggers suspended from their girdles along their right thighs. Otanes, the father of Xerxes’ wife, Amestris, was their leader. This people was known to the Greeks in ancient times by the name of Cephenians; but they called themselves and were called by their neighbours, Artaeans. It was not till Perseus, the son of Jove and Danae, visited Cepheus the son of Belus, and, marrying his daughter Andromeda, had by her a son called Perses (whom he left behind him in the country because Cepheus had no male offspring), that the nation took from this Perses the name of Persians.
The Medes had exactly the same equipment as the Persians; and indeed the dress common to both is not so much Persian as Median. They had for commander Tigranes, of the race of the Achaemenids. These Medes were called anciently by all people Arians; but when Media, the Colchian, came to them from Athens, they changed their name. Such is the account which they themselves give.
The Cissians were equipped in the Persian fashion, except in one respect:— they wore on their heads, instead of hats, fillets. Anaphes, the son of Otanes, commanded them.
The Hyrcanians were likewise armed in the same way as the Persians. Their leader was Megapanus, the same who was afterwards satrap of Babylon.
The Assyrians went to the war with helmets upon their heads made of brass, and plaited in a strange fashion which it is not easy to describe. They carried shields, lances, and daggers very like the Egyptian; but in addition, they had wooden clubs knotted with iron, and linen corselets. This people, whom the Greeks call Syrians, are called Assyrians by the barbarians. The Chaldaeans served in their ranks, and they had for commander Otaspes, the son of Artachaeus.
The Bactrians went to the war wearing a head-dress very like the Median, but armed with bows of cane, after the custom of their country, and with short spears.
The Sacae, or Scyths, were clad in trousers, and had on their heads tall stiff caps rising to a point. They bore the bow of their country and the dagger; besides which they carried the battle-axe, or sagaris. They were in truth Amyrgian Scythians, but the Persians called them Sacae, since that is the name which they give to all Scythians. The Bactrians and the Sacae had for leader Hystaspes, the son of Darius and of Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus.
The Indians wore cotton dresses, and carried bows of cane, and arrows also of cane with iron at the point. Such was the equipment of the Indians, and they marched under the command of Pharnazathres the son of Artabates.
The Arians carried Median bows, but in other respects were equipped like the Bactrians. Their commander was Sisamnes the son of Hydarnes.
The Parthians and Chorasmians, with the Sogdians, the Gandarians, and the Dadicae, had the Bactrian equipment in all respects. The Parthians and Chorasmians were commanded by Artabazus the son of Pharnaces, the Sogdians by Azanes the son of Artaeus, and the Gandarians and Dadicae by Artyphius the son of Artabanus.
The Caspians were clad in cloaks of skin, and carried the cane bow of their country and the scymitar. So equipped they went to the war; and they had for commander Ariomardus the brother of Artyphius.
The Sarangians had dyed garments which showed brightly, and buskins which reached to the knee: they bore Median bows, and lances. Their leader was Pherendates, the son of Megabazus.
The Pactyans wore cloaks of skin, and carried the bow of their country and the dagger. Their commander was Artyntes, the son of Ithamatres.
The Utians, the Mycians, and the Paricanians were all equipped like the Pactyans. They had for leaders, Arsamenes, the son of Darius, who commanded the Utians and Mycians; and Siromitres, the son of Oeobazus, who commanded the Paricanians.
The Arabians wore the zeira, or long cloak, fastened about them with a girdle; and carried at their right side long bows, which when unstrung bent backwards.
The Ethiopians were clothed in the skins of leopards and lions, and had long bows made of the stem of the palm-leaf, not less than four cubits in length. On these they laid short arrows made of reed, and armed at the tip, not with iron, but with a piece of stone, sharpened to a point, of the kind used in engraving seals. They carried likewise spears, the head of which was the sharpened horn of an antelope; and in addition they had knotted clubs. When they went into battle they painted their bodies, half with chalk, and half with vermilion. The Arabians, and the Ethiopians who came from the region above Egypt, were commanded by Arsames, the son of Darius and of Artystone daughter of Cyrus. This Artystone was the best-beloved of all the wives of Darius; and it was she whose statue he caused to be made of gold wrought with the hammer. Her son Arsames commanded these two nations.
The eastern Ethiopians — for two nations of this name served in the army — were marshalled with the Indians. They differed in nothing from the other Ethiopians, save in their language, and the character of their hair. For the eastern Ethiopians have straight hair, while they of Libya are more woolly-haired than any other people in the world. Their equipment was in most points like that of the Indians; but they wore upon their heads the scalps of horses, with the ears and mane attached; the ears were made to stand upright, and the mane served as a crest. For shields this people made use of the skins of cranes.
The Libyans wore a dress of leather, and carried javelins made hard in the fire. They had for commander Massages, the son of Oarizus.
The Paphlagonians went to the war with plaited helmets upon their heads, and carrying small shields and spears of no great size. They had also javelins and daggers, and wore on their feet the buskin of their country, which reached half way up the shank. In the same fashion were equipped the Ligyans, the Matienians, the Mariandynians, and the Syrians (or Cappadocians, as they are called by the Persians). The Paphlagonians and Matienians were under the command of Dotus the son of Megasidrus; while the Mariandynians, the Ligyans, and the Syrians had for leader Gobryas, the son of Darius and Artystone.
The dress of the Phrygians closely resembled the Paphlagonian, only in a very few points differing from it. According to the Macedonian account, the Phrygians, during the time that they had their abode in Europe and dwelt with them in Macedonia, bore the name of Brigians; but on their removal to Asia they changed their designation at the same time with their dwelling-place.
The Armenians, who are Phrygian colonists, were armed in the Phrygian fashion. Both nations were under the command of Artochmes, who was married to one of the daughters of Darius.
The Lydians were armed very nearly in the Grecian manner. These Lydians in ancient times were called Maeonians, but changed their name, and took their present title from Lydus the son of Atys.
The Mysians wore upon their heads a helmet made after the fashion of their country, and carried a small buckler; they used as javelins staves with one end hardened in the fire. The Mysians are Lydian colonists, and from the mountain-chain of Olympus, are called Olympieni. Both the Lydians and the Mysians were under the command of Artaphernes, the son of that Artaphernes who, with Datis, made the landing at Marathon.
The Thracians went to the war wearing the skins of foxes upon their heads, and about their bodies tunics, over which was thrown a long cloak of many colours. Their legs and feet were clad in buskins made from the skins of fawns; and they had for arms javelins, with light targes, and short dirks. This people, after crossing into Asia, took the name of Bithynians; before, they had been called Strymonians, while they dwelt upon the Strymon; whence, according to their own account, they had been driven out by the Mysians and Teucrians. The commander of these Asiatic Thracians was Bassaces the son of Artabanus.
. . . 1 had made small shields made of the hide of the ox, and carried each of them two spears such as are used in wolf-hunting. Brazen helmets protected their heads; and above these they wore the ears and horns of an ox fashioned in brass. They had also crests on their helms; and their legs were bound round with purple bands. There is an oracle of Mars in the country of this people.
1 There is a defect here in the text of Herodotus; the name of the nation has been lost and cannot be satisfactorily supplied.
The Cabalians, who are Maeonians, but are called Lasonians, had the same equipment as the Cilicians — an equipment which I shall describe when I come in due course to the Cilician contingent.
The Milyans bore short spears, and had their garments fastened with buckles. Some of their number carried Lycian bows. They wore about their heads skull-caps made of leather. Badres the son of Hystanes led both nations to battle.
The Moschians wore helmets made of wood, and carried shields and spears of a small size: their spear-heads, however, were long. The Moschian equipment was that likewise of the Tibarenians, the Macronians, and the Mosynoecians. The leaders of these nations were the following: the Moschians and Tibarenians were under the command of Ariomardus, who was the son of Darius and of Parmys, daughter of Smerdis son of Cyrus; while the Macronians and Mosynoecians. had for leader Artayctes, the son of Cherasmis, the governor of Sestos upon the Hellespont.
The Mares wore on their heads the plaited helmet peculiar to their country, and used small leathern bucklers, and javelins.
The Colchians wore wooden helmets, and carried small shields of raw hide, and short spears; besides which they had swords. Both Mares and Colchians were under the command of Pharandates, the son of Teaspes.
The Alarodians and Saspirians were armed like the Colchians; their leader was Masistes, the son of Siromitras.
The Islanders who came from the Erythraean Sea, where they inhabited the islands to which the king sends those whom he banishes, wore a dress and arms almost exactly like the Median. Their leader was Mardontes the son of Bagaeus, who the year after perished in the battle of Mycale, where he was one of the captains.
Such were the nations who fought upon the dry land, and made up the infantry of the Persians. And they were commanded by the captains whose names have been above recorded. The marshalling and numbering of the troops had been committed to them; and by them were appointed the captains over a thousand, and the captains over ten thousand; but the leaders of ten men, or a hundred, were named by the captains over ten thousand. There were other officers also, who gave the orders to the various ranks and nations; but those whom I have mentioned above were the commanders.
Over these commanders themselves, and over the whole of the infantry, there were set six generals — namely Mardonius, son of Gobryas; Tritantaechmes, son of the Artabanus who gave his advice against the war with Greece; Smerdomenes, son of Otanes — these two were the sons of Darius’ brothers, and thus were cousins of Xerxes — Masistes, son of Darius and Atossa; Gergis, son of Arizus; and Megabyzus, son of Zopyrus.
The whole of the infantry was under the command of these generals, excepting the Ten Thousand. The Ten Thousand, who were all Persians and all picked men, were led by Hydarnes, the son of Hydarnes. They were called “the Immortals,” for the following reason. If one of their body failed either by the stroke of death or of disease, forthwith his place was filled up by another man, so that their number was at no time either greater or less than 10,000.
Of all the troops the Persians were adorned with the greatest magnificence, and they were likewise the most valiant. Besides their arms, which have been already described, they glittered all over with gold, vast quantities of which they wore about their persons. They were followed by litters, wherein rode their concubines, and by a numerous train of attendants handsomely dressed. Camels and sumpter-beasts carried their provision, apart from that of the other soldiers.
All these various nations fight on horseback; they did not, however, at this time all furnish horsemen, but only the following:—
(i.) The Persians, who were armed in the same way as their own footmen, excepting that some of them wore upon their heads devices fashioned with the hammer in brass or steel.
(ii.) The wandering tribe known by the name of Sagartians — a people Persian in language, and in dress half Persian, half Pactyan, who furnished to the army as many as eight thousand horse. It is not the wont of this people to carry arms, either of bronze or steel, except only a dirk; but they use lassoes made of thongs plaited together, and trust to these whenever they go to the wars. Now the manner in which they fight is the following: when they meet their enemy, straightway they discharge their lassoes, which end in a noose; then, whatever the noose encircles, be it man or be it horse, they drag towards them; and the foe, entangled in the toils, is forthwith slain. Such is the manner in which this people fight; and now their horsemen were drawn up with the Persians.
(iii.) The Medes, and Cissians, who had the same equipment as their foot-soldiers.
(iv.) The Indians, equipped as their foot. men, but some on horseback and some in chariots — the chariots drawn either by horses, or by wild asses.
(v.) The Bactrians and Caspians, arrayed as their foot-soldiers.
(vi.) The Libyans, equipped as their foot-soldiers, like the rest; but all riding in chariots.
(vii.) The Caspeirians and Paricanians, equipped as their foot-soldiers.
(viii.) The Arabians, in the same array as their footmen, but all riding on camels, not inferior in fleetness to horses.
These nations, and these only, furnished horse to the army: and the number of the horse was eighty thousand, without counting camels or chariots. All were marshalled in squadrons, excepting the Arabians; who were placed last, to avoid frightening the horses, which cannot endure the sight of the camel.
The horse was commanded by Armamithras and Tithaeus, sons of Datis. The other commander, Pharnuches, who was to have been their colleague, had been left sick at Sardis; since at the moment that he was leaving the city, a sad mischance befell him:— a dog ran under the feet of the horse upon which he was mounted; and the horse, not seeing it coming, was startled, and, rearing bolt upright, threw his rider. After this fall Pharnuches spat blood, and fell into a consumption. As for the horse, he was treated at once as Pharnuches ordered: the attendants took him to the spot where he had thrown his master, and there cut off his four legs at the hough. Thus Pharnuches lost his command.
The triremes amounted in all to twelve hundred and seven; and were furnished by the following nations:—
(i.) The Phoenicians, with the Syrians of Palestine, furnished three hundred vessels, the crews of which were thus accoutred: upon their heads they wore helmets made nearly in the Grecian manner; about their bodies they had breastplates of linen; they carried shields without rims; and were armed with javelins. This nation, according to their own account, dwelt anciently upon the Erythraean Sea, but crossing thence, fixed themselves on the seacoast of Syria, where they still inhabit. This part of Syria, and all the region extending from hence to Egypt, is known by the name of Palestine.
(ii.) The Egyptians furnished two hundred ships. Their crews had plaited helmets upon their heads, and bore concave shields with rims of unusual size. They were armed with spears suited for a sea-fight, and with huge pole-axes. The greater part of them wore breastplates; and all had long cutlasses.
(iii.) The Cyprians furnished a hundred and fifty ships, and were equipped in the following fashion. Their kings had turbans bound about their heads, while the people wore tunics; in other respects they were clad like the Greeks. They are of various races; some are sprung from Athens and Salamis, some from Arcadia, some from Cythnus, some from Phoenicia, and a portion, according to their own account, from Ethiopia.
(iv.) The Cilicians furnished a hundred ships. The crews wore upon their heads the helmet of their country, and carried instead of shields light targes made of raw hide; they were clad in woollen tunics, and were each armed with two javelins, and a sword closely resembling the cutlass of the Egyptians. This people bore anciently the name of Hypachaeans, but took their present title from Cilix, the son of Agenor, a Phoenician.
(v.) The Pamphylians furnished thirty ships, the crews of which were armed exactly as the Greeks. This nation is descended from those who on the return from Troy were dispersed with Amphilochus and Calchas.
(vi.) The Lycians furnished fifty ships. Their crews wore greaves and breastplates, while for arms they had bows of cornel wood, reed arrows without feathers, and javelins. Their outer garment was the skin of a goat, which hung from their shoulders; their headdress a hat encircled with plumes; and besides their other weapons they carried daggers and falchions. This people came from Crete, and were once called Termilae; they got the name which they now bear from Lycus, the son of Pandion, an Athenian.
(vii.) The Dorians of Asia furnished thirty ships. They were armed in the Grecian fashion, inasmuch as their forefathers came from the Peloponnese.
(viii.) The Carians furnished seventy ships, and were equipped like the Greeks, but carried, in addition, falchions and daggers. What name the Carians bore anciently was declared in the first part of this History.
(ix.) The Ionians furnished a hundred ships, and were armed like the Greeks. Now these Ionians, during the time that they dwelt in the Peloponnese and inhabited the land now called Achaea (which was before the arrival of Danaus and Xuthus in the Peloponnese), were called, according to the Greek account, Aegialean Pelasgi, or “Pelasgi of the Sea-shore”; but afterwards, from Ion the son of Xuthus, they were called Ionians.
The Islanders furnished seventeen ships, and wore arms like the Greeks. They too were a Pelasgian race, who in later times took the, name of Ionians for the same reason me reason as those who inhabited the twelve cities founded from Athens.
The Aeolians furnished sixty ships, and were equipped in the Grecian fashion. They too were anciently called Pelasgians, as the Greeks declare.
The Hellespontians from the Pontus, who are colonists of the Ionians and Dorians, furnished a hundred ships, the crews of which wore the Grecian armour. This did not include the Abydenians, who stayed in their own country, because the king had assigned them the special duty of guarding the bridges.
On board of every ship was a band of soldiers, Persians, Medes, or Sacans. The Phoenician ships were the best sailers in the fleet, and the Sidonian the best among the Phoenicians. The contingent of each nation, whether to the fleet or to the land army, had at its head a native leader; but the names of these leaders I shall not mention, as it is not necessary for the course of my History. For the leaders of some nations were not worthy to have their names recorded; and besides, there were in each nation as many leaders as there were cities. And it was not really as commanders that they accompanied the army, but as mere slaves, like the rest of the host. For I have already mentioned the Persian generals who had the actual command, and were at the head of the several nations which composed the army.
The fleet was commanded by the following — Ariabignes, the son of Darius, Prexaspes, the son of Aspathines, Megabazus, the son of Megabates, and Achaemenes, the son of Darius. Ariabignes, who was the child of Darius by a daughter of Gobryas, was leader of the Ionian and Carian ships; Achaemenes, who was own brother to Xerxes, of the Egyptian; the rest of the fleet was commanded by the other two. Besides the triremes, there was an assemblage of thirty-oared and fifty-oared galleys, of cercuri, and transports for conveying horses, amounting in all to three thousand.
Next to the commanders, the following were the most renowned of those who sailed aboard the fleet:— Tetramnestus, the son of Anysus, the Sidonian; Mapen, the son of Sirom, the Tyrian; Merbal, the son of Agbal, the Aradian; Syennesis, the son of Oromedon, the Cilician; Cyberniscus, the son of Sicas, the Lycian; Gorgus, the son of Chersis, and Timonax, the son of Timagoras, the Cyprians; and Histiaeus, the son of Timnes, Pigres, the son of Seldomus, and Damasithymus, the son of Candaules, the Carians.
Of the other lower officers I shall make no mention, since no necessity is laid on me; but I must speak of a certain leader named Artemisia, whose participation in the attack upon Greece, notwithstanding that she was a woman, moves my special wonder. She had obtained the sovereign power after the death of her husband; and, though she had now a son grown up, yet her brave spirit and manly daring sent her forth to the war, when no need required her to adventure. Her name, as I said, was Artemisia, and she was the daughter of Lygdamis; by race she was on his side a Halicarnassian, though by her mother a Cretan. She ruled over the Halicarnassians, the men of Cos, of Nisyrus, and of Calydna; and the five triremes which she furnished to the Persians were, next to the Sidonian, the most famous ships in the fleet. She likewise gave to Xerxes sounder counsel than any of his other allies. Now the cities over which I have mentioned that she bore sway were one and all Dorian; for the Halicarnassians were colonists from Troezen, while the remainder were from Epidaurus. Thus much concerning the sea-force.
Now when the numbering and marshalling of the host was ended, Xerxes conceived a wish to go himself throughout the forces, and with his own eyes behold everything. Accordingly he traversed the ranks seated in his chariot, and, going from nation to nation, made manifold inquiries, while his scribes wrote down the answers; till at last he had passed from end to end of the whole land army, both the horsemen and likewise the foot. This done, he exchanged his chariot for a Sidonian galley, and, seated beneath a golden awning, sailed along the prows of all his vessels (the vessels having now been hauled down and launched into the sea), while he made inquiries again, as he had done when he reviewed the land-force, and caused the answers to be recorded by his scribes. The captains took their ships to the distance of about four hundred feet from the shore, and there lay to, with their vessels in a single row, the prows facing the land, and with the fighting-men upon the decks accoutred as if for war, while the king sailed along in the open space between the ships and the shore, and so reviewed the fleet.
Now after Xerxes had sailed down the whole line and was gone ashore, he sent for Demaratus the son of Ariston, who had accompanied him in his march upon Greece, and bespake him thus:—
“Demaratus, it is my pleasure at this time to ask thee certain things which I wish to know. Thou art a Greek, and, as I hear from the other Greeks with whom I converse, no less than from thine own lips, thou art a native of a city which is not the meanest or the weakest in their land. Tell me, therefore, what thinkest thou? Will the Greeks lift a hand against us? Mine own judgment is, that even if all the Greeks and all the barbarians of the West were gathered together in one place, they would not be able to abide my onset, not being really of one mind. But I would fain know what thou thinkest hereon.”
Thus Xerxes questioned; and the other replied in his turn — “O king! is it thy will that I give thee a true answer, or dost thou wish for a pleasant one?”
Then the king bade him speak the plain truth, and promised that he would not on that account hold him in less favour than heretofore.
So Demaratus, when he heard the promise, spake as follows:—
“O king! since thou biddest me at all risks speak the truth, and not say what will one day prove me to have lied to thee, thus I answer. Want has at all times been a fellow-dweller with us in our land, while Valour is an ally whom we have gained by dint of wisdom and strict laws. Her aid enables us to drive out want and escape thraldom. Brave are all the Greeks who dwell in any Dorian land; but what I am about to say does not concern all, but only the Lacedaemonians. First then, come what may, they will never accept thy terms, which would reduce Greece to slavery; and further, they are sure to join battle with thee, though all the rest of the Greeks should submit to thy will. As for their numbers, do not ask how many they are, that their resistance should be a possible thing; for if a thousand of them should take the field, they will meet thee in battle, and so will any number, be it less than this, or be it more.”
When Xerxes heard this answer of Demaratus, he laughed and answered:—
“What wild words, Demaratus! A thousand men join battle with such an army as this! Come then, wilt thou — who wert once, as thou sayest, their king — engage to fight this very day with ten men? I trow not. And yet, if all thy fellow-citizens be indeed such as thou sayest they are, thou oughtest, as their king, by thine own country’s usages, to be ready to fight with twice the number. If then each one of them be a match for ten of my soldiers, I may well call upon thee to be a match for twenty. So wouldest thou assure the truth of what thou hast now said. If, however, you Greeks, who vaunt yourselves so much, are of a truth men like those whom I have seen about my court, as thyself, Demaratus, and the others with whom I am wont to converse — if, I say, you are really men of this sort and size, how is the speech that thou hast uttered more than a mere empty boast? For, to go to the very verge of likelihood — how could a thousand men, or ten thousand, or even fifty thousand, particularly if they were all alike free, and not under one lord — how could such a force, I say, stand against an army like mine? Let them be five thousand, and we shall have more than a thousand men to each one of theirs. If, indeed, like our troops, they had a single master, their fear of him might make them courageous beyond their natural bent; or they might be urged by lashes against an enemy which far outnumbered them. But left to their own free choice, assuredly they will act differently. For mine own part, I believe, that if the Greeks had to contend with the Persians only, and the numbers were equal on both sides, the Greeks would find it hard to stand their ground. We too have among us such men as those of whom thou spakest — not many indeed, but still we possess a few. For instance, some of my bodyguard would be willing to engage singly with three Greeks. But this thou didst not know; and therefore it was thou talkedst so foolishly.”
Demaratus answered him —“I knew, O king! at the outset, that if I told thee the truth, my speech would displease thine ears. But as thou didst require me to answer thee with all possible truthfulness, I informed thee what the Spartans will do. And in this I spake not from any love that I bear them — for none knows better than thou what my love towards them is likely to be at the present time, when they have robbed me of my rank and my ancestral honours, and made me a homeless exile, whom thy father did receive, bestowing on me both shelter and sustenance. What likelihood is there that a man of understanding should be unthankful for kindness shown him, and not cherish it in his heart? For mine own self, I pretend not to cope with ten men, nor with two — nay, had I the choice, I would rather not fight even with one. But, if need appeared, or if there were any great cause urging me on, I would contend with right good will against one of those persons who boast themselves a match for any three Greeks. So likewise the Lacedaemonians, when they fight singly, are as good men as any in the world, and when they fight in a body, are the bravest of all. For though they be free-men, they are not in all respects free; Law is the master whom they own; and this master they fear more than thy subjects fear thee. Whatever he commands they do; and his commandment is always the same: it forbids them to flee in battle, whatever the number of their foes, and requires them to stand firm, and either to conquer or die. If in these words, O king! I seem to thee to speak foolishly, I am content from this time forward evermore to hold my peace. I had not now spoken unless compelled by thee. Certes, I pray that all may turn out according to thy wishes.”
Such was the answer of Demaratus; and Xerxes was not angry with him at all, but only laughed, and sent him away with words of kindness.
After this interview, and after he had made Mascames the son of Megadostes governor of Doriscus, setting aside the governor appointed by Darius, Xerxes started with his army, and marched upon Greece through Thrace.
This man, Mascames, whom he left behind him, was a person of such merit that gifts were sent him yearly by the king as a special favour, because he excelled all the other governors that had been appointed either by Xerxes or by Darius. In like manner, Artaxerxes, the son of Xerxes, sent gifts yearly to the descendants of Mascames. Persian governors had been established in Thrace and about the Hellespont before the march of Xerxes began; but these persons, after the expedition was over, were all driven from their towns by the Greeks, except the governor of Doriscus: no one succeeded in driving out Mascames, though many made the attempt. For this reason the gifts are sent him every year by the king who reigns over the Persians.
Of the other governors whom the Greeks drove out, there was not one who, in the judgment of Xerxes, showed himself a brave man, excepting Boges, the governor of Eion. Him Xerxes never could praise enough; and such of his sons as were left in Persia, and survived their father, he very specially honoured. And of a truth this Boges was worthy of great commendation; for when he was besieged by the Athenians under Cimon, the son of Miltiades, and it was open to him to retire from the city upon terms, and return to Asia, he refused, because he feared the king might think he had played the coward to save his own life, wherefore, instead of surrendering, he held out to the last extremity. When all the food in the fortress was gone, he raised a vast funeral pile, slew his children, his wife, his concubines, and his household slaves, and cast them all into the flames. Then, collecting whatever gold and silver there was in the place, he flung it from the walls into the Strymon; and, when that was done, to crown all, he himself leaped into the fire. For this action Boges is with reason praised by the Persians even at the present day.
Xerxes, as I have said, pursued his march from Doriscus against Greece; and on his way he forced all the nations through which he passed to take part in the expedition. For the whole country as far as the frontiers of Thessaly had been (as I have already shown) enslaved and made tributary to the king by the conquests of Megabazus, and, more lately, of Mardonius. And first, after leaving Doriscus, Xerxes passed the Samothracian fortresses, whereof Mesambria is the farthermost as one goes toward the west. The next city is Stryme, which belongs to Thasos. Midway between it and Mesambria flows the river Lissus, which did not suffice to furnish water for the army, but was drunk up and failed. This region was formerly called Gallaica; now it bears the name of Briantica; but in strict truth it likewise is really Ciconian.
After crossing the dry channel of the Lissus, Xerxes passed the Grecian cities of Maroneia, Dicaea, and Abdera, and likewise the famous lakes which are in their neighbourhood, Lake Ismaris between Maroneia and Stryme, and Lake Bistonis near Dicaea, which receives the waters of two rivers, the Travus and the Compsatus. Near Abdera there was no famous lake for him to pass; but he crossed the river Nestus, which there reaches the sea. Proceeding further upon his way, he passed by several continental cities, one of them possessing a lake nearly thirty furlongs in circuit, full of fish, and very salt, of which the sumpter-beasts only drank, and which they drained dry. The name of this city was Pistyrus. All these towns, which were Grecian, and lay upon the coast, Xerxes kept upon his left hand as he passed along.
The following are the Thracian tribes through whose country he marched: the Paeti, the Ciconians, the Bistonians, the Sapaeans, the Dersaeans, the Edonians, and the Satrae. Some of these dwelt by the sea, and furnished ships to the king’s fleet; while others lived in the more inland parts, and of these all the tribes which I have mentioned, except the Satrae, were forced to serve on foot.
The Satrae, so far as our knowledge goes, have never yet been brought under by any one, but continue to this day a free and unconquered people, unlike the other Thracians. They dwell amid lofty mountains clothed with forests of different trees and capped with snow, and are very valiant in fight. They are the Thracians who have an oracle of Bacchus in their country, which is situated upon their highest mountain-range. The Bessi, a Satrian race, deliver the oracles; but the prophet, as at Delphi, is a woman; and her answers are not harder to read.
When Xerxes had passed through the region mentioned above, he came next to the Pierian fortresses, one of which is called Phagres, and another Pergamus. Here his line of march lay close by the walls, with the long high range of Pangaeum upon his right, a tract in which there are mines both of gold and silver, some worked by the Pierians and Odomantians, but the greater part by the Satrae.
Xerxes then marched through the country of the Paeonian tribes — the Doberians and the Paeoplae — which lay to the north of Pangaeum, and, advancing westward, reached the river Strymon and the city Eion, whereof Boges, of whom I spoke a short time ago, and who was then still alive, was governor. The tract of land lying about Mount Pangaeum is called Phyllis; on the west it reaches to the river Angites, which flows into the Strymon, and on the south to the Strymon itself, where at this time the Magi were sacrificing white horses to make the stream favourable.
After propitiating the stream by these and many other magical ceremonies, the Persians crossed the Strymon, by bridges made before their arrival, at a place called “The Nine Ways,” which was in the territory of the Edonians. And when they learnt that the name of the place was “The Nine Ways,” they took nine of the youths of the land and as many of their maidens, and buried them alive on the spot. Burying alive is a Persian custom. I have heard that Amestris, the wife of Xerxes, in her old age buried alive seven pairs of Persian youths, sons of illustrious men, as a thank-offering to the god who is supposed to dwell underneath the earth.
From the Strymon the army, proceeding westward, came to a strip of shore, on which there stands the Grecian town of Argilus. This shore, and the whole tract above it, is called Bisaltia. Passing this, and keeping on the left hand the Gulf of Posideium, Xerxes crossed the Sylean plain, as it is called, and passing by Stagirus, a Greek city, came to Acanthus. The inhabitants of these parts, as well as those who dwelt about Mount Pangaeum, were forced to join the armament, like those others of whom I spoke before; the dwellers along the coast being made to serve in the fleet, while those who lived more inland had to follow with the land forces. The road which the army of Xerxes took remains to this day untouched: the Thracians neither plough nor sow it, but hold it in great honour.
On reaching Acanthus, the Persian king, seeing the great zeal of the Acanthians for his service, and hearing what had been done about the cutting, took them into the number of his sworn friends, sent them as a present a Median dress, and besides commended them highly.
It was while he remained here that Artachaees, who presided over the canal, a man in high repute with Xerxes, and by birth an Achaemenid, who was moreover the tallest of all the Persians, being only four fingers short of five cubits, royal measure, and who had a stronger voice than any other man in the world, fell sick and died. Xerxes therefore, who was greatly afflicted at the mischance, carried him to the tomb and buried him with all magnificence; while the whole army helped to raise a mound over his grave. The Acanthians, in obedience to an oracle, offer sacrifice to this Artachaees as a hero, invoking him in their prayers by name. But King Xerxes sorrowed greatly over his death.
Now the Greeks who had to feed the army, and to entertain Xerxes, were brought thereby to the very extremity of distress, insomuch that some of them were forced even to forsake house and home. When the Thasians received and feasted the host, on account of their possessions upon the mainland, Antipater, the son of Orges, one of the citizens of best repute, and the man to whom the business was assigned, proved that the cost of the meal was four hundred talents of silver.
And estimates almost to the same amount were made by the superintendents in other cities. For the entertainment, which had been ordered long beforehand and was reckoned to be of much consequence, was, in the manner of it, such as I will now describe. No sooner did the heralds who brought the orders give their message, than in every city the inhabitants made a division of their stores of corn, and proceeded to grind flour of wheat and of barley for many months together. Besides this, they purchased the best cattle that they could find, and fattened them; and fed poultry and water-fowl in ponds and buildings, to be in readiness for the army; while they likewise prepared gold and silver vases and drinking-cups, and whatsoever else is needed for the service of the table. These last preparations were made for the king only, and those who sat at meat with him; for the rest of the army nothing was made ready beyond the food for which orders had been given. On the arrival of the Persians, a tent ready pitched for the purpose received Xerxes, who took his rest therein, while the soldiers remained under the open heaven. When the dinner hour came, great was the toil of those who entertained the army; while the guests ate their fill, and then, after passing the night at the place, tore down the royal tent next morning, and seizing its contents, carried them all off, leaving nothing behind.
On one of these occasions Megacreon of Abdera wittily recommended his countrymen “to go to the temples in a body, men and women alike, and there take their station as suppliants, and beseech the gods that they would in future always spare them one-half of the woes which might threaten their peace — thanking them at the same time very warmly for their past goodness in that they had caused Xerxes to be content with one meal in the day.” For had the order been to provide breakfast for the king as well as dinner, the Abderites must either have fled before Xerxes came, or, if they awaited his coming, have been brought to absolute ruin. As it was, the nations, though suffering heavy pressure, complied nevertheless with the directions that had been given.
At Acanthus, Xerxes separated from his fleet, bidding the captains sail on ahead and await his coming at Therma, on the Thermaic Gulf, the place from which the bay takes its name. Through this town lay, he understood, his shortest road. Previously, his order of march had been the following:— from Doriscus to Acanthus his land force had proceeded in three bodies, one of which took the way along the sea-shore in company with the fleet, and was commanded by Mardonius and Masistes, while another pursued an inland track under Tritantaechmes and Gergis; the third, with which was Xerxes himself marching midway between the other two, and having for its leaders Smerdomenes and Megabyzus.
The fleet, therefore, after leaving the king, sailed through the channel which had been cut for it by Mount Athos, and came into the bay whereon lie the cities of Assa, Pilorus, Singus, and Sarta; from all which it received contingents. Thence it stood on for the Thermaic Gulf, and rounding Cape Ampelus, the promontory of the Toronaeans, passed the Grecian cities Torone, Galepsus, Sermyla, Mecyberna, and Olynthus, receiving from each a number of ships and men. This region is called Sithonia.
From Cape Ampelus the fleet stretched across by a short course to Cape Canastraeum, which is the point of the peninsula of Palline that runs out farthest into the sea, and gathered fresh supplies of ships and men from Potidaea, Aphytis, Neapolis, Aega, Therambus, Scione, Mende, and Sane. These are the cities of the tract called anciently Phlegra, but now Palline. Hence they again followed the coast, still advancing towards the place appointed by the king, and had accessions from all the cities that lie near Pallene, and border on the Thermaic Gulf, whereof the names are Lipaxus, Combreia, Lisae, Gigonus, Campsa, Smila, and Aenea. The tract where these towns lie still retains its old name of Crossaea. After passing Aenea, the city which I last named, the fleet found itself arrived in the Thermaic Gulf, off the land of Mygdonia. And so at length they reached Therma, the appointed place, and came likewise to Sindus and Chalestra upon the river Axius, which separates Bottiaea from Mygdonia. Bottiaea has a scanty sea-board, which is occupied by the two cities Ichnae and Pella.
So the fleet anchored off the Axius, and off Therma, and the towns that lay between, waiting the king’s coming. Xerxes meanwhile with his land force left Acanthus, and started for Therma, taking his way across the land. This road led him through Paeonia and Crestonia to the river Echeidorus, which rising in the country of the Crestonians, flows through Mygdonia, and reaches the sea near the marsh upon the Axius.
Upon this march the camels that carried the provisions of the army were set upon by lions, which left their lairs and came down by night, but spared the men and the sumpter-beasts, while they made the camels their prey. I marvel what may have been the cause which compelled the lions to leave the other animals untouched and attack the camels, when they had never seen that beast before, nor had any experience of it.
That whole region is full of lions and wild bulls, with gigantic horns, which are brought into Greece. The lions are confined within the tract lying between the river Nestus (which flows through Abdera) on the one side, and the Achelous (which waters Acarnania) on the other. No one ever sees a lion in the fore part of Europe east of the Nestus, nor through the entire continent west of the Achelous; but in the space between these bounds lions are found.
On reaching Therma Xerxes halted his army, which encamped along the coast, beginning at the city of Therma in Mygdonia, and stretching out as far as the rivers Lydias and Haliacmon, two streams which, mingling their waters in one, form the boundary between Bottiaea and Macedonia. Such was the extent of country through which the barbarians encamped. The rivers here mentioned were all of them sufficient to supply the troops, except the Echeidorus, which was drunk dry.
From Therma Xerxes beheld the Thessalian mountains, Olympus and Ossa, which are of a wonderful height. Here, learning that there lay between these mountains a narrow gorge through which the river Peneus ran, and where there was a road that gave an entrance into Thessaly, he formed the wish to go by sea himself, and examine the mouth of the river. His design was to lead his army by the upper road through the country of the inland Macedonians, and so to enter Perrhaebia, and come down by the city of Gonnus; for he was told that that way was the most secure. No sooner therefore had he formed this wish than he acted accordingly. Embarking, as was his wont on all such occasions, aboard a Sidonian vessel, he gave the signal to the rest of the fleet to get under weigh, and quitting his land army, set sail and proceeded to the Peneus. Here the view of the mouth caused him to wonder greatly; and sending for his guides, he asked them whether it were possible to turn the course of the stream, and make it reach the sea at any other point.
Now there is a tradition that Thessaly was in ancient times a lake, shut in on every side by huge hills. Ossa and Pelion — ranges which join at the foot — do in fact inclose it upon the east, while Olympus forms a barrier upon the north, Pindus upon the west, and Othrys towards the south. The tract contained within these mountains, which is a deep basin, is called Thessaly. Many rivers pour their waters into it; but five of them are of more note than the rest, namely, the Peneus, the Apidanus, the Onochonus, the Enipeus, and the Pamisus. These streams flow down from the mountains which surround Thessaly, and, meeting in the plain, mingle their waters together, and discharge themselves into the sea by a single outlet, which is a gorge of extreme narrowness. After the junction all the other names disappear, and the river is known as the Peneus. It is said that of old the gorge which allows the waters an outlet did not exist; accordingly the rivers, which were then as well as the Lake Boebeis, without names but flowed with as much water as at present, made Thessaly a sea. The Thessalians tell us that the gorge through which the water escapes was caused by Neptune; and this: is likely enough; at least any man who believes that Neptune causes earthquakes, and that chasms so produced are his handiwork, would say, upon seeing this rent, that Neptune did it. For it plainly appeared to me that the hills had been torn asunder by an earthquake.
When Xerxes therefore asked the guides if there were any other outlet by which the waters could reach the sea, they, being men well acquainted with the nature of their country, made answer:—
“O king! there is no other passage by which this stream can empty itself into the sea save that which thine eye beholds. For Thessaly is girt about with a circlet of hills.”
Xerxes is said to have observed upon this —
“Wise men truly are they of Thessaly, and good reason had they to change their minds in time and consult for their own safety. For, to pass by others matters, they must have felt that they lived in a country which may easily be brought under and subdued. Nothing more is needed than to turn the river upon their lands by an embankment.which should fill up the gorge and force the stream from its present channel, and lo! all Thessaly, except the mountains, would at once be laid under water.”
The king aimed in this speech at the sons of Aleuas, who were Thessalians, and had been the first of all the Greeks to make submission to him. He thought that they had made their friendly offers in the name of the whole people. So Xerxes, when he had viewed the place, and made the above speech, went back to Therma.
The stay of Xerxes in Pieria lasted for several days, during which a third part of his army was employed in cutting down the woods on the Macedonian mountain-range to give his forces free passage into Perrhaebia. At this time the heralds who had been sent into Greece to require earth for the king returned to the camp, some of them empty-handed, others with earth and water.
Among the number of those from whom earth and water were brought were the Thessalians, Dolopians, Enianians, Perrhaebians, Locrians, Magnetians, Malians, Achaeans of Phthiotis, Thebans, and Boeotians generally, except those of Plataea and Thespiae. These are the nations against whom the Greeks that had taken up arms to resist the barbarians swore the oath, which ran thus —“From all those of Greek blood who delivered themselves up to the Persians without necessity, when their affairs were in good condition, we will take a tithe of their goods, and give it to the god at Delphi.” So ran the words of the Greek oath.
King Xerxes had sent no heralds either to Athens or Sparta to ask earth and water, for a reason which I will now relate. When Darius some time before sent messengers for the same purpose, they were thrown, at Athens, into the pit of punishment, at Sparta into a well, and bidden to take therefrom earth and water for themselves, and carry it to their king. On this account Xerxes did not send to ask them. What calamity came upon the Athenians to punish them for their treatment of the heralds I cannot say, unless it were the laying waste of their city and territory; but that I believe was not on account of this crime.
On the Lacedaemonians, however, the wrath of Talthybius, Agamemnon’s herald, fell with violence. Talthybius has a temple at Sparta; and his descendants, who are called Talthybiadae, still live there, and have the privilege of being the only persons who discharge the office of herald. When therefore the Spartans had done the deed of which we speak, the victims at their sacrifices failed to give good tokens; and this failure lasted for a very long time. Then the Spartans were troubled; and, regarding what had befallen them as a grievous calamity, they held frequent assemblies of the people, and made proclamation through the town, “Was any Lacedaemonian willing to give his life for Sparta?” Upon this two Spartans, Sperthias, the son Aneristus, and Bulis, the son of Nicolaus, both men of noble birth, and among the wealthiest in the place, came forward and freely offered themselves as an atonement to Xerxes for the heralds of Darius slain at Sparta. So the Spartans sent them away to the Medes to undergo death.
Nor is the courage which these men hereby displayed alone worthy of wonder; but so likewise are the following speeches which were made by them. On their road to Susa they presented themselves before Hydarnes. This Hydarnes was a Persian by birth, and had the command of all the nations that dwelt along the sea-coast of Asia. He accordingly showed them hospitality, and invited them to a banquet, where, as they feasted, he said to them:—
“Men of Lacedaemon, why will ye not consent to be friends with the king? Ye have but to look at me and my fortune to see that the king knows well how to honour merit. In like manner ye yourselves, were ye to make your submission to him, would receive at his hands, seeing that he deems you men of merit, some government in Greece.”
“Hydarnes,” they answered, “thou art a one-sided counsellor. Thou hast experience of half the matter; but the other half is beyond thy knowledge. A slave’s life thou understandest; but, never having tasted liberty, thou canst not tell whether it be sweet or no. Ah! hadst thou known what freedom is, thou wouldst have bidden us fight for it, not with the spear only, but with the battle-axe.”
So they answered Hydarnes.
And afterwards, when they were come to Susa into the king’s presence, and the guards ordered them to fall down and do obeisance, and went so far as to use force to compel them, they refused, and said they would never do any such thing, even were their heads thrust down to the ground; for it was not their custom to worship men, and they had not come to Persia for that purpose. So they fought off the ceremony; and having done so, addressed the king in words much like the following:—
“O king of the Medes! the Lacedaemonians have sent us hither, in the place of those heralds of thine who were slain in Sparta, to make atonement to thee on their account.”
Then Xerxes answered with true greatness of soul “that he would not act like the Lacedaemonians, who, by killing the heralds, had broken the laws which all men hold in common. As he had blamed such conduct in them, he would never be guilty of it himself. And besides, he did not wish, by putting the two men to death, to free the Lacedaemonians from the stain of their former outrage.”
This conduct on the part of the Spartans caused the anger of Talthybius to cease for a while, notwithstanding that Sperthias and Bulis returned home alive. But many years afterwards it awoke once more, as the Lacedaemonians themselves declare, during the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians.
In my judgment this was a case wherein the hand of Heaven was most plainly manifest. That the wrath of Talthybius should have fallen upon ambassadors and not slacked till it had full vent, so much justice required; but that it should have come upon the sons of the very men who were sent up to the Persian king on its account — upon Nicolaus, the son of Bulis, and Aneristus, the son of Sperthias (the same who carried off fishermen from Tiryns, when cruising in a well-manned merchant-ship)— this does seem to me to be plainly a supernatural circumstance. Yet certain it is that these two men, having been sent to Asia as ambassadors by the Lacedaemonians, were betrayed by Sitalces, the son of Teres, king of Thrace, and Nymphodorus, the son of Pythes, a native of Abdera, and being made prisoners at Bisanthe, upon the Hellespont, were conveyed to Attica, and there put to death by the Athenians, at the same time as Aristeas, the son of Adeimantus, the Corinthian. All this happened, however, very many years after the expedition of Xerxes.
To return, however, to my main subject — the expedition of the Persian king, though it was in name directed against Athens, threatened really the whole of Greece. And of this the Greeks were aware some time before; but they did not all view the matter in the same light. Some of them had given the Persian earth and water, and were bold on this account, deeming themselves thereby secured against suffering hurt from the barbarian army; while others, who had refused compliance, were thrown into extreme alarm. For whereas they considered all the ships in Greece too few to engage the enemy, it was plain that the greater number of states would take no part in the war, but warmly favoured the Medes.
And here I feel constrained to deliver an opinion, which most men, I know, will mis-like, but which, as it seems to me to be true, I am determined not to withhold. Had the Athenians, from fear of the approaching danger, quitted their country, or had they without quitting it submitted to the power of Xerxes, there would certainly have been no attempt to resist the Persians by sea; in which case the course of events by land would have been the following. Though the Peloponnesians might have carried ever so many breastworks across the Isthmus, yet their allies would have fallen off from the Lacedaemonians, not by voluntary desertion, but because town after town must have been taken by the fleet of the barbarians; and so the Lacedaemonians would at last have stood alone, and, standing alone, would have displayed prodigies of valour and died nobly. Either they would have done thus, or else, before it came to that extremity, seeing one Greek state after another embrace the cause of the Medes, they would have come to terms with King Xerxes — and thus, either way Greece would have been brought under Persia. For I cannot understand of what possible use the walls across the Isthmus could have been, if the king had had the mastery of the sea. If then a man should now say that the Athenians were the saviours of Greece, he would not exceed the truth. For they truly held the scales; and whichever side they espoused must have carried the day. They too it was who, when they had determined to maintain the freedom of Greece, roused up that portion of the Greek nation which had not gone over to the Medes; and so, next to the gods, they repulsed the invader. Even the terrible oracles which reached them from Delphi, and struck fear into their hearts, failed to persuade them to fly from Greece. They had the courage to remain faithful to their land, and await the coming of the foe.
When the Athenians, anxious to consult the oracle, sent their messengers to Delphi, hardly had the envoys completed the customary rites about the sacred precinct, and taken their seats inside the sanctuary of the god, when the Pythoness, Aristonice by name, thus prophesied —
Wretches, why sit ye here? Fly, fly to the ends of creation,
Quitting your homes, and the crags which your city crowns with
Neither the head, nor the body is firm in its place, nor at
Firm the feet, nor the hands; nor resteth the middle uninjur’d.
All- all ruined and lost. Since fire, and impetuous Ares,
Speeding along in a Syrian chariot, hastes to destroy her.
Not alone shalt thou suffer; full many the towers he will level,
Many the shrines of the gods he will give to a fiery destruction.
Even now they stand with dark sweat horribly dripping,
Trembling and quaking for fear; and lo! from the high roofs
Black blood, sign prophetic of hard distresses impending.
Get ye away from the temple; and brood on the ills that await ye!
When the Athenian messengers heard this reply, they were filled with the deepest affliction: whereupon Timon, the son of Androbulus, one of the men of most mark among the Delphians, seeing how utterly cast down they were at the gloomy prophecy, advised them to take an olive-branch, and entering the sanctuary again, consult the oracle as suppliants. The Athenians followed this advice, and going in once more, said —“O king! we pray thee reverence these boughs of supplication which we bear in our hands, and deliver to us something more comforting concerning our country. Else we will not leave thy sanctuary, but will stay here till we die.” Upon this the priestess gave them a second answer, which was the following:—
Pallas has not been able to soften the lord of Olympus,
Though she has often prayed him, and urged him with excellent
Yet once more I address thee in words than adamant firmer.
When the foe shall have taken whatever the limit of Cecrops
Holds within it, and all which divine Cithaeron, shelters,
Then far-seeing Jove grants this to the prayers of Athene;
Safe shall the wooden wall continue for thee and thy children.
Wait not the tramp of the horse, nor the footmen mightily moving
Over the land, but turn your hack to the foe, and retire ye.
Yet shall a day arrive when ye shall meet him in battle.
Holy Salamis, thou shalt destroy the offspring of women,
When men scatter the seed, or when they gather the harvest.
This answer seemed, as indeed it was, gentler than the former one; so the envoys wrote it down, and went back with it to Athens. When, however, upon their arrival, they produced it before the people, and inquiry began to be made into its true meaning, many and various were the interpretations which men put on it; two, more especially, seemed to be directly opposed to one another. Certain of the old men were of opinion that the god meant to tell them the citadel would escape; for this was anciently defended by a palisade; and they supposed that barrier to be the “wooden wall” of the oracle. Others maintained that the fleet was what the god pointed at; and their advice was that nothing should be thought of except the ships, which had best be at once got ready. Still such as said the “wooden wall” meant the fleet, were perplexed by the last two lines of the oracle —
Holy Salamis, thou shall destroy the offspring of women,
When men scatter the seed, or when they gather the harvest.
These words caused great disturbance among those who took the wooden wall to be the ships; since the interpreters understood them to mean that, if they made preparations for a sea-fight, they would suffer a defeat off Salamis.
Now there was at Athens a man who had lately made his way into the first rank of citizens: his true name was Themistocles; but he was known more generally as the son of Neocles. This man came forward and said that the interpreters had not explained the oracle altogether aright —“for if,” he argued, “the clause in question had really respected the Athenians, it would not have been expressed so mildly; the phrase used would have been ‘Luckless Salamis,’rather than ‘Holy Salamis,’ had those to whom the island belonged been about to perish in its neighbourhood. Rightly taken, the response of the god threatened the enemy, much more than the Athenians.” He therefore counselled his countrymen to make ready to fight on board their ships, since they were the wooden wall in which the god told them to trust. When Themistocles had thus cleared the matter, the Athenians embraced his view, preferring it to that of the interpreters. The advice of these last had been against engaging in a sea-fight; “all the Athenians could do,” they said, “was, without lifting a hand in their defence, to quit Attica, and make a settlement in some other country.”
Themistocles had before this given a counsel which prevailed very seasonably. The Athenians, having a large sum of money in their treasury, the produce of the mines at Laureium, were about to share it among the full-grown citizens, who would have received ten drachmas apiece, when Themistocles persuaded them to forbear the distribution, and build with the money two hundred ships, to help them in their war against the Eginetans. It was the breaking out of the Eginetan war which was at this time the saving of Greece; for hereby were the Athenians forced to become a maritime power. The new ships were not used for the purpose for which they had been built, but became a help to Greece in her hour of need. And the Athenians had not only these vessels ready before the war, but they likewise set to work to build more; while they determined, in a council which was held after the debate upon the oracle, that, according to the advice of the god, they would embark their whole force aboard their ships, and, with such Greeks as chose to join them, give battle to the barbarian invader. Such, then, were the oracles which had been received by the Athenians.
The Greeks who were well affected to the Grecian cause, having assembled in one place, and there consulted together, and interchanged pledges with each other, agreed that, before any other step was taken, the feuds and enmities which existed between the different nations should first of all be appeased. Many such there were; but one was of more importance than the rest, namely, the war which was still going on between the Athenians and the Eginetans. When this business was concluded, understanding that Xerxes had reached Sardis with his army, they resolved to despatch spies into Asia to take note of the king’s affairs. At the same time they determined to send ambassadors to the Argives, and conclude a league with them against the Persians; while they likewise despatched messengers to Gelo, the son of Deinomenes, in Sicily, to the people of Corcyra, and to those of Crete, exhorting them to send help to Greece. Their wish was to unite, if possible, the entire Greek name in one, and so to bring all to join in the same plan of defence, inasmuch as the approaching dangers threatened all alike. Now the power of Gelo was said to be very great, far greater than that of any single Grecian people.
So when these resolutions had been agreed upon, and the quarrels between the states made up, first of all they sent into Asia three men as spies. These men reached Sardis, and took note of the king’s forces, but, being discovered, were examined by order of the generals who commanded the land army, and, having been condemned to suffer death, were led out to execution. Xerxes, however, when the news reached him, disapproving the sentence of the generals, sent some of his bodyguard with instructions, if they found the spies still alive, to bring them into his presence. The messengers found the spies alive, and brought them before the king, who, when he heard the purpose for which they had come, gave orders to his guards to take them round the camp, and show them all the footmen and all the horse, letting them gaze at everything to their hearts’ content; then, when they were satisfied, to send them away unharmed to whatever country they desired.
For these orders Xerxes gave afterwards the following reasons. “Had the spies been put to death,” he said, “the Greeks would have continued ignorant of the vastness of his army, which surpassed the common report of it; while he would have done them a very small injury by killing three of their men. On the other hand, by the return of the spies to Greece, his power would become known; and the Greeks,” he expected, “would make surrender of their freedom before he began his march, by which means his troops would be saved all the trouble of an expedition.” This reasoning was like to that which he used upon another occasion. While he was staying at Abydos, he saw some corn-ships, which were passing through the Hellespont from the Euxine, on their way to Egina and the Peloponnese. His attendants, hearing that they were the enemy’s, were ready to capture them, and looked to see when Xerxes would give the signal. He, however, merely asked “whither the ships were bound?” and when they answered, “For thy foes, master, with corn on board, “We too are bound thither,” he rejoined, “laden, among other things, with corn. What harm is it, if they carry our provisions for us?”
So the spies, when they had seen everything, were dismissed, and came back to Europe.
The Greeks who had banded themselves together against the Persian king, after despatching the spies into Asia, sent next ambassadors to Argos. The account which the Argives give of their own proceedings is the following. They say that they had information from the very first of the preparations which the barbarians were making against Greece. So, as they expected that the Greeks would come upon them for aid against the assailant, they sent envoys to Delphi to inquire of the god what it would be best for them to do in the matter. They had lost, not long before, six thousand citizens, who had been slain by the Lacedaemonians under Cleomenes the son of Anaxandridas; which was the reason why they now sent to Delphi. When the Pythoness heard their question, she replied —
Hated of all thy neighbors, beloved of the blessed Immortals,
Sit thou still, with thy lance drawn inward, patiently watching;
Warily guard thine head, and the head will take care of the body.
This prophecy had been given them some time before the envoys came; but still, when they afterwards arrived, it was permitted them to enter the council-house, and there deliver their message. And this answer was returned to their demands —“Argos is ready to do as ye require, if the Lacedaemonians will first make a truce for thirty years, and will further divide with Argos the leadership of the allied army. Although in strict right the whole command should be hers, she will be content to have the leadership divided equally.”
Such, they say, was the reply made by the council, in spite of the oracle which forbade them to enter into a league with the Greeks. For, while not without fear of disobeying the oracle, they were greatly desirous of obtaining a thirty years’ truce, to give time for their sons to grow to man’s estate. They reflected, that if no such truce were concluded, and it should be their lot to suffer a second calamity at the hands of the Persians, it was likely they would fall hopelessly under the power of Sparta. But to the demands of the Argive council the Lacedaemonian envoys made answer —“They would bring before the people the question of concluding a truce. With regard to the leadership, they had received orders what to say, and the reply was that Sparta had two kings, Argos but one — it was not possible that either of the two Spartans should be stripped of his dignity — but they did not oppose the Argive king having one vote like each of them.” The Argives say that they could not brook this arrogance on the part of Sparta, and rather than yield one jot to it, they preferred to be under the rule of the barbarians. So they told the envoys to be gone, before sunset, from their territory, or they should be treated as enemies.
Such is the account which is given of these matters by the Argives themselves. There is another story, which is told generally through Greece, of a different tenor. Xerxes, it is said, before he set forth on his expedition against Greece, sent a herald to Argos, who on his arrival spoke as follows: “Men of Argos, King Xerxes speaks thus to you. We Persians deem that the Perses from whom we descend was the child of Perseus the son of Danae, and of Andromeda the daughter of Cepheus. Hereby it would seem that we come of your stock and lineage. So then it neither befits us to make war upon those from whom we spring; nor can it be right for you to fight, on behalf of others, against us. Your place is to keep quiet and hold yourself aloof. Only let matters proceed as I wish, and there is no people whom I shall have in higher esteem than you.”
This address, says the story, was highly valued by the Argives, who therefore at the first neither gave a promise to the Greeks nor yet put forward a demand. Afterwards, however, when the Greeks called upon them to give their aid, they made the claim which has been mentioned, because they knew well that the Lacedaemonians would never yield it, and so they would have a pretext for taking no part in the war.
Some of the Greeks say that this account agrees remarkably with what happened many years afterwards. Callias, the son of Hipponicus, and certain others with him, had gone up to Susa, the city of Memnon, as ambassadors of the Athenians, upon a business quite distinct from this. While they were there, it happened that the Argives likewise sent ambassadors to Susa, to ask Artaxerxes, the son of Xerxes, “if the friendship which they had formed with his father still continued, or if he looked upon them as his enemies?”— to which King Artaxerxes replied, “Most certainly it continues; and there is no city which I reckon more my friend than Argos.”
For my own part I cannot positively say whether Xerxes did send the herald to Argos or not; nor whether Argive ambassadors at Susa did really put this question to Artaxerxes about the friendship between them and him; neither do I deliver any opinion hereupon other than that of the Argives themselves. This, however, I know — that if every nation were to bring all its evil deeds to a given place, in order to make an exchange with some other nation, when they had all looked carefully at their neighbours’ faults, they would be truly glad to carry their own back again. So, after all, the conduct of the Argives was not perhaps more disgraceful than that of others. For myself, my duty is to report all that is said; but I am not obliged to believe it all alike — a remark which may be understood to apply to my whole History. Some even go so far as to say that the Argives first invited the Persians to invade Greece, because of their ill success in the war with Lacedaemon, since they preferred anything to the smart of their actual sufferings. Thus much concerning the Argives.
Other ambassadors, among whom was Syagrus from Lacedaemon, were sent by the allies into Sicily, with instructions to confer with Gelo.
The ancestor of this Gelo, who first settled at Gela, was a native of the isle of Telos, which lies off Triopium. When Gela was colonised by Antiphemus and the Lindians of Rhodes, he likewise took part in the expedition. In course of time his descendants became the high-priests of the gods who dwell below — an office which they held continually, from the time that Telines, one of Gelo’s ancestors, obtained it in the way which I will now mention. Certain citizens of Gela, worsted in a sedition, had found a refuge at Mactorium, a town situated on the heights above Gela. Telines reinstated these men, without any human help, solely by means of the sacred rites of these deities. From whom he received them, or how he himself acquired them, I cannot say; but certain it is that relying on their power he brought the exiles back. For this his reward was to be the office of high-priest of those gods for himself and his seed for ever. It surprises me especially that such a feat should have been performed by Telines; for I have always looked upon acts of this nature as beyond the abilities of common men, and only to be achieved by such as are of a bold and manly spirit; whereas Telines is said by those who dwell about Sicily to have been a soft-hearted and womanish person. He however obtained this office in the manner above described.
Afterwards, on the death of Cleander the son of Pantares, who was slain by Sabyllus, a citizen of Gela, after he had held the tyranny for seven years, Hippocrates, Cleander’s brother, mounted the throne. During his reign, Gelo, a descendant of the high-priest Telines, served with many others — of whom Aenesidemus, son of Pataicus, was one — in the king’s bodyguard. Within a little time his merit caused him to be raised to the command of all the horse. For when Hippocrates laid siege to Callipolis, and afterwards to Naxos, to Zancle, to Leontini, and moreover to Syracuse, and many cities of the barbarians, Gelo in every war distinguished himself above all the combatants. Of the various cities above named, there was none but Syracuse which was not reduced to slavery. The Syracusans were saved from this fate, after they had suffered defeat on the river Elorus, by the Corinthians and Corcyraeans, who made peace between them and Hippocrates, on condition of their ceding Camarina to him; for that city anciently belonged to Syracuse.
When, however, Hippocrates, after a reign of the same length as that of Cleander his brother, perished near the city Hybla, as he was warring with the native Sicilians, then Gelo, pretending to espouse the cause of the two sons of Hippocrates, Eucleides and Cleander, defeated the citizens who were seeking to recover their freedom, and having so done, set aside the children, and himself took the kingly power. After this piece of good fortune, Gelo likewise became master Syracuse, in the following manner. The Syracusan landholders, as they were called, had been driven from their city by the common people assisted by their own slaves, the Cyllyrians, and had fled to Casmenae. Gelo brought them back to Syracuse, and so got possession of the town; for the people surrendered themselves, and gave up their city on his approach.
Being now master of Syracuse, Gelo cared less to govern Gela, which he therefore entrusted to his brother Hiero, while he strengthened the defences of his new city, which indeed was now all in all to him. And Syracuse sprang up rapidly to power and became a flourishing place. For Gelo razed Camarina to the ground, and brought all the inhabitants to Syracuse, and made them citizens; he also brought thither more than half the citizens of Gela, and gave them the same rights as the Camarinaeans. So likewise with the Megarians of Sicily — after besieging their town and forcing them to surrender, he took the rich men, who, having made the war, looked now for nothing less than death at his hands, and carrying them to Syracuse, established them there as citizens; while the common people, who, as they had not taken any share in the struggle, felt secure that no harm would be done to them, he carried likewise to Syracuse, where he sold them all as slaves to be conveyed abroad. He did the like also by the Euboeans of Sicily, making the same difference. His conduct towards both nations arose from his belief that a “people” was a most unpleasant companion. In this way Gelo became a great king.
When the Greek envoys reached Syracuse, and were admitted to an audience, they spoke as follows —
“We have been sent hither by the Lacedaemonians and Athenians, with their respective allies, to ask thee to join us against the barbarian. Doubtless thou hast heard of his invasion, and art aware that a Persian is about to throw a bridge over the Hellespont, and, bringing with him out of Asia all the forces of the East, to carry war into Greece — professing indeed that he only seeks to attack Athens, but really bent on bringing all the Greeks into subjection. Do thou therefore, we beseech thee, aid those who would maintain the freedom of Greece, and thyself assist to free her; since the power which thou wieldest is great, and thy portion in Greece, as lord of Sicily, is no small one. For if all Greece join together in one, there will be a mighty host collected, and we shall be a match for our assailants; but if some turn traitors, and others refuse their aid, and only a small part of the whole body remains sound, then there is reason to fear that all Greece may perish. For do not thou cherish a hope that the Persian, when he has conquered our country, will be content and not advance against thee. Rather take thy measures beforehand, and consider that thou defendest thyself when thou givest aid to us. Wise counsels, be sure, for the most part have prosperous issues.”
Thus spake the envoys; and Gelo replied with vehemence:—
“Greeks, ye have had the face to come here with selfish words, and exhort me to join in league with you against the barbarian. Yet when I erewhile asked you to join with me in fighting barbarians, what time the quarrel broke out between me and Carthage; and when I earnestly besought you to revenge on the men of Egesta their murder of Dorieus, the son of Anaxandridas, promising to assist you in setting free the trading places from which you receive great profits and advantages, you neither came hither to give me succour, nor yet to revenge Dorieus; but, for any efforts on your part to hinder it, these countries might at this time have been entirely under the barbarians. Now, however, that matters have prospered and gone well with me, while the danger has shifted its ground and at present threatens yourselves, lo! you call Gelo to mind. But though ye slighted me then, I will not imitate you now: I am ready to give you aid, and to furnish as my contribution two hundred triremes, twenty thousand men-at-arms, two thousand cavalry, and an equal number of archers, slingers, and light horsemen, together with corn for the whole Grecian army so long as the war shall last. These services, however, I promise on one condition — that ye appoint me chief captain and commander of the Grecian forces during the war with the barbarian. Unless ye agree to this, I will neither send succours, nor come myself.”
Syagrus, when he heard these words, was unable to contain himself, and exclaimed:—
“Surely a groan would burst from Pelops’ son, Agamemnon, did he hear that her leadership was snatched from Sparta by Gelo and the men of Syracuse. Speak then no more of any such condition, as that we should yield thee the chief command; but if thou art minded to come to the aid of Greece, prepare to serve under Lacedaemonian generals. Wilt thou not serve under a leader? — then, prithee, withhold thy succours.”
Hereupon Gelo, seeing the indignation which showed itself in the wolds of Syagrus, delivered to the envoys his final offer:—“Spartan stranger,” he said, “reproaches cast forth against a man are wont to provoke him to anger; but the insults which thou hast uttered in thy speech shall not persuade me to outstep good breeding in my answer. Surely if you maintain so stoutly your right to the command, it is reasonable that I should be still more stiff in maintaining mine, forasmuch as I am at the head of a far larger fleet and army. Since, however, the claim which I have put forward is so displeasing to you, I will yield, and be content with less. Take, if it please you, the command of the land-force, and I will be admiral of the fleet; or assume, if you prefer it, the command by sea, and I will be leader upon the land. Unless you are satisfied with these terms, you must return home by yourselves, and lose this great alliance.” Such was the offer which Gelo made.
Hereat broke in the Athenian envoy, before the Spartan could answer, and thus addressed Gelo —
“King of the Syracusans! Greece sent us here to thee to ask for an army, and not to ask for a general. Thou, however, dost not promise to send us any army at all, if thou art not made leader of the Greeks; and this command is what alone thou sticklest for. Now when thy request was to have the whole command, we were content to keep silence; for well we knew that we might trust the Spartan envoy to make answer for us both. But since, after failing in thy claim to lead the whole armament, thou hast now put forward a request to have the command of the fleet, know that, even should the Spartan envoy consent to this, we will not consent. The command by sea, if the Lacedaemonians do not wish for it, belongs to us. While they like to keep this command, we shall raise no dispute; but we will not yield our right to it in favour of any one else. Where would be the advantage of our having raised up a naval force greater than that of any other Greek people, if nevertheless we should suffer Syracusans to take the command away from us? — from us, I say, who are Athenians, the most ancient nation in Greece, the only Greeks who have never changed their abode — the people who are said by the poet Homer to have sent to Troy the man best able of all the Greeks to array and marshal an army — so that we may be allowed to boast somewhat.”
Gelo replied —“Athenian stranger, ye have, it seems, no lack of commanders; but ye are likely to lack men to receive their orders. As ye are resolved to yield nothing and claim everything, ye had best make haste back to Greece, and say that the spring of her year is lost to her.” The meaning of this expression was the following: as the spring is manifestly the finest season of the year, so (he meant to say) were his troops the finest of the Greek army — Greece, therefore, deprived of his alliance, would be like a year with the spring taken from it.
Then the Greek envoys, without having any further dealings with Gelo, sailed away home. And Gelo, who feared that the Greeks would be too weak to withstand the barbarians, and yet could not any how bring himself to go to the Peloponnese, and there, though king of Sicily, serve under the Lacedaemonians, left off altogether to contemplate that course of action, and betook himself to quite a different plan. As soon as ever tidings reached him of the passage of the Hellespont by the Persians, he sent off three penteconters, under the command of Cadmus, the son of Scythas, a native of Cos, who was to go to Delphi, taking with him a large sum of money and a stock of friendly words: there he was to watch the war, and see what turn it would take: if the barbarians prevailed, he was to give Xerxes the treasure, and with it earth and water for the lands which Gelo ruled — if the Greeks won the day, he was to convey the treasure back.
This Cadmus had at an earlier time received from his father the kingly power at Cos in a right good condition, and had of his own free will and without the approach of any danger, from pure love of justice, given up his power into the hands of the people at large, and departed to Sicily; where he assisted in the Samian seizure and settlement of Zancle, or Messana, as it was afterwards called. Upon this occasion Gelo chose him to send into Greece, because he was acquainted with the proofs of honesty which he had given. And now he added to his former honourable deeds an action which is not the least of his merits. With a vast sum entrusted to him and completely in his power, so that he might have kept it for his own use if he had liked, he did not touch it; but when the Greeks gained the sea-fight and Xerxes fled away with his army, he brought the whole treasure back with him to Sicily.
They, however, who dwell in Sicily, say that Gelo, though he knew that he must serve under the Lacedaemonians, would nevertheless have come to the aid of the Greeks, had not it been for Terillus, the son of Crinippus, king of Himera; who, driven from his city by Thero, the son of Aenesidemus, king of Agrigentum, brought into Sicily at this very time an army of three hundred thousand men, Phoenicians, Libyans, Iberians, Ligurians, Helisycians, Sardinians, and Corsicans, under the command of Hamilcar the son of Hanno, king of the Carthaginians. Terillus prevailed upon Hamilcar, partly as his sworn friend, but more through the zealous aid of Anaxilaus the son of Cretines, king of Rhegium; who, by giving his own sons to Hamilcar as hostages, induced him to make the expedition. Anaxilaus herein served his own father-in-law; for he was married to a daughter of Terillus, by name Cydippe. So, as Gelo could not give the Greeks any aid, he sent (they say) the sum of money to Delphi.
They say too, that the victory of Gelo and Thero in Sicily over Hamilcar the Carthaginian fell out upon the very day that the Greeks defeated the Persians at Salamis. Hamilcar, who was a Carthaginian on his father’s side only, but on his mother’s a Syracusan, and who had been raised by his merit to the throne of Carthage, after the battle and the defeat, as I am informed, disappeared from sight: Gelo made the strictest search for him, but he could not be found anywhere, either dead or alive.
The Carthaginians, who take probability for their guide, give the following account of this matter:— Hamilcar, they say, during all the time that the battle raged between the Greeks and the barbarians, which was from early dawn till evening, remained in the camp, sacrificing and seeking favourable omens, while he burned on a huge pyre the entire bodies of the victims which he offered. Here, as he poured libations upon the sacrifices, he saw the rout of his army; whereupon he cast himself headlong into the flames, and so was consumed and disappeared. But whether Hamilcar’s disappearance happened, as the Phoenicians tell us, in this way, or, as the Syracusans maintain, in some other, certain it is that the Carthaginians offer him sacrifice, and in all their colonies have monuments erected to his honour, as well as one, which is the grandest of all, at Carthage. Thus much concerning the affairs of Sicily.
As for the Corcyraeans, whom the envoys that visited Sicily took in their way, and to whom they delivered the same message as to Gelo — their answers and actions were the following. With great readiness they promised to come and give their help to the Greeks; declaring that “the ruin of Greece was a thing which they could not tamely stand by to see; for should she fall, they must the very next day submit to slavery; so that they were bound to assist her to the very uttermost of their power.” But notwithstanding that they answered so smoothly, yet when the time came for the succours to be sent, they were of quite a different mind; and though they manned sixty ships, it was long ere they put to sea with them; and when they had so done, they went no further than the Peloponnese, where they lay to with their fleet, off the Lacedaemonian coast, about Pylos and Taenarum — like Gelo, watching to see what turn the war would take. For they despaired altogether of the Greeks gaining the day, and expected that the Persian would win a great battle, and then be master of the whole of Greece. They therefore acted as I have said, in order that they might be able to address Xerxes in words like these: “O king! though the Greeks sought to obtain our aid in their war with thee, and though we had a force of no small size, and could have furnished a greater number of ships than any Greek state except Athens, yet we refused, since we would not fight against thee, nor do aught to cause thee annoyance.” The Corcyraeans hoped that a speech like this would gain them better treatment from the Persians than the rest of the Greeks; and it would have done so, in my judgment. At the same time, they had an excuse ready to give their countrymen, which they used when the time came. Reproached by them for sending no succours, they replied “that they had fitted out a fleet of sixty triremes, but that the Etesian winds did not allow them to double Cape Malea, and this hindered them from reaching Salamis — it was not from any bad motive that they had missed the sea-fight.” In this way the Corcyraeans eluded the reproaches of the Greeks.
The Cretans, when the envoys sent to ask aid from them came and made their request, acted as follows. They despatched messengers in the name of their state to Delphi, and asked the god, whether it would make for their welfare if they should lend succour to Greece. “Fools!” replied the Pythoness, “do ye not still complain of the woes which the assisting of Menelaus cost you at the hands of angry Minos? How wroth was he, when, in spite of their having lent you no aid towards avenging his death at Camicus, you helped them to avenge the carrying off by a barbarian of a woman from Sparta!” When this answer was brought from Delphi to the Cretans, they thought no more of assisting the Greeks.
Minos, according to tradition, went to Sicania, or Sicily, as it is now called, in search of Daedalus, and there perished by a violent death. After a while the Cretans, warned by some god or other, made a great expedition into Sicania, all except the Polichnites and the Praesians, and besieged Camicus (which in my time belonged to Agrigentum) by the space of five years. At last, however, failing in their efforts to take the place, and unable to carry on the siege any longer from the pressure of hunger, they departed and went their way. Voyaging homewards they had reached Iapygia, when a furious storm arose and threw them upon the coast. All their vessels were broken in pieces; and so, as they saw no means of returning to Crete, they founded the town of Hyria, where they took up their abode, changing their name from Cretans to Messapian Iapygians, and at the same time becoming inhabitants of the mainland instead of islanders. From Hyria they afterwards founded those other towns which the Tarentines at a much later period endeavoured to take, but could not, being defeated signally. Indeed so dreadful a slaughter of Greeks never happened at any other time, so far as my knowledge extends: nor was it only the Tarentines who suffered; but the men of Rhegium too, who had been forced to go to the aid of the Tarentines by Micythus the son of Choerus, lost here three thousand of their citizens; while the number of the Tarentines who fell was beyond all count. This Micythus had been a household slave of Anaxilaus, and was by him left in charge of Rhegium: he is the same man who was afterwards forced to leave Rhegium, when he settled at Tegea in Arcadia, from which place he made his many offerings of statues to the shrine at Olympia.
This account of the Rhegians and the Tarentines is a digression from the story which I was relating. To return — the Praesians say that men of various nations now flocked to Crete, which was stript of its inhabitants; but none came in such numbers as the Grecians. Three generations after the death of Minos the Trojan war took place; and the Cretans were not the least distinguished among the helpers of Menelaus. But on this account, when they came back from Troy, famine and pestilence fell upon them, and destroyed both the men and the cattle. Crete was a second time stript of its inhabitants, a remnant only being left; who form, together with fresh settlers, the third “Cretan” people by whom the island has been inhabited. These were the events of which the Pythoness now reminded the men of Crete; and thereby she prevented them from giving the Greeks aid, though they wished to have gone to their assistance.
The Thessalians did not embrace the cause of the Medes until they were forced to do so; for they gave plain proof that the intrigues of the Aleuadae were not at all to their liking. No sooner did they hear that the Persian was about to cross over into Europe than they despatched envoys to the Greeks who were met to consult together at the Isthmus, whither all the states which were well inclined to the Grecian cause had sent their delegates. These envoys on their arrival thus addressed their countrymen:—
“Men of Greece, it behoves you to guard the pass of Olympus; for thus will Thessaly be placed in safety, as well as the rest of Greece. We for our parts are quite ready to take our share in this work; but you must likewise send us a strong force: otherwise we give you fair warning that we shall make terms with the Persians. For we ought not to be left, exposed as we are in front of all the rest of Greece, to die in your defence alone and unassisted. If however you do not choose to send us aid, you cannot force us to resist the enemy; for there is no force so strong as inability. We shall therefore do our best to secure our own safety.”
Such was the declaration of the Thessalians.
Hereupon the Greeks determined to send a body of foot to Thessaly by sea, which should defend the pass of Olympus. Accordingly a force was collected, which passed up the Euripus, and disembarking at Alus, on the coast of Achaea, left the ships there, and marched by land into Thessaly. Here they occupied the defile of Tempe; which leads from Lower Macedonia into Thessaly along the course of the Peneus, having the range of Olympus on the one hand and Ossa upon the other. In this place the Greek force that had been collected, amounting to about 10,000 heavy-armed men, pitched their camp; and here they were joined by the Thessalian cavalry. The commanders were, on the part of the Lacedaemonians, Evaenetus, the son of Carenus, who had been chosen out of the Polemarchs, but did not belong to the blood royal; and on the part of the Athenians Themistocles, the son of Neocles. They did not however maintain their station for more than a few days; since envoys came from Alexander, the son of Amyntas, the Macedonian, and counselled them to decamp from Tempe, telling them that if they remained in the pass they would be trodden under foot by the invading army, whose numbers they recounted, and likewise the multitude of their ships. So when the envoys thus counselled them, and the counsel seemed to be good, and the Macedonian who sent it friendly, they did even as he advised. In my opinion what chiefly wrought on them was the fear that the Persians might enter by another pass, whereof they now heard, which led from Upper Macedonia into Thessaly through the territory of the Perrhaebi, and by the town of Gonnus — the pass by which soon afterwards the army of Xerxes actually made its entrance. The Greeks therefore went back to their ships and sailed away to the Isthmus.
Such were the circumstances of the expedition into Thessaly; they took place when the king was at Abydos, preparing to pass from Asia into Europe. The Thessalians, when their allies forsook them, no longer wavered, but warmly espoused the side of the Medes; and afterwards, in the course of the war, they were of the very greatest service to Xerxes.
The Greeks, on their return to the Isthmus, took counsel together concerning the words of Alexander, and considered where they should fix the war, and what places they should occupy. The opinion which prevailed was that they should guard the pass of Thermopylae; since it was narrower than the Thessalian defile, and at the same time nearer to them. Of the pathway, by which the Greeks who fell at Thermopylae were intercepted, they had no knowledge, until, on their arrival at Thermopylae, it was discovered to them by the Trachinians. This pass then it was determined that they should guard, in order to prevent the barbarians from penetrating into Greece through it; and at the same time it was resolved that the fleet should proceed to Artemisium, in the region of Histiaeotis, for, as those places are near to one another, it would be easy for the fleet and army to hold communication. The two places may be thus described.
Artemisium is where the sea of Thrace contracts into a narrow channel, running between the isle of Sciathus and the mainland of Magnesia. When this narrow strait is passed you come to the line of coast called Artemisium; which is a portion of Euboea, and contains a temple of Artemis (Diana). As for the entrance into Greece by Trachis, it is, at its narrowest point, about fifty feet wide. This however is not the place where the passage is most contracted; for it is still narrower a little above and a little below Thermopylae. At Alpini, which is lower down than that place, it is only wide enough for a single carriage; and up above, at the river Phoenix, near the town called Anthela, it is the same. West of Thermopylae rises a lofty and precipitous hill, impossible to climb, which runs up into the chain of Oeta; while to the east the road is shut in by the sea and by marshes. In this place are the warm springs, which the natives call “The Cauldrons”; and above them stands an altar sacred to Hercules. A wall had once been carried across the opening; and in this there had of old times been a gateway. These works were made by the Phocians, through fear of the Thessalians, at the time when the latter came from Thesprotia to establish themselves in the land of Aeolis, which they still occupy. As the Thessalians strove to reduce Phocis, the Phocians raised the wall to protect themselves, and likewise turned the hot springs upon the pass, that so the ground might be broken up by watercourses, using thus all possible means to hinder the Thessalians from invading their country. The old wall had been built in very remote times; and the greater part of it had gone to decay through age. Now however the Greeks resolved to repair its breaches, and here make their stand against the barbarian. At this point there is a village very nigh the road, Alpeni by name, from which the Greeks reckoned on getting corn for their troops.
These places, therefore, seemed to the Greeks fit for their purpose. Weighing well all that was likely to happen, and considering that in this region the barbarians could make no use of their vast numbers, nor of their cavalry, they resolved to await here the invader of Greece. And when news reached them of the Persians being in Pieria, straightway they broke up from the Isthmus, and proceeded, some on foot to Thermopylae, others by sea to Artemisium.
The Greeks now made all speed to reach the two stations; and about the same time — the Delphians, alarmed both for themselves and for their country, consulted the god, and received for answer a command to “pray to the winds, for the winds would do Greece good service.” So when this answer was given them, forthwith the Delphians sent word of the prophecy to those Greeks who were zealous for freedom, and, cheering them thereby amid the fears which they entertained with respect to the barbarian, earned their everlasting gratitude. This done, they raised an altar to the winds at Thyia (where Thyia, the daughter of Cephissus, from whom the region takes its name, has a precinct), and worshipped them with sacrifices. And even to the present day the Delphians sacrifice to the winds, because of this oracle.
The fleet of Xerxes now departed from Therma; and ten of the swiftest sailing ships ventured to stretch across direct for Sciathus, at which place there were upon the look-out three vessels belonging to the Greeks, one a ship of Troezen, another of Egina, and the third from Athens. These vessels no sooner saw from a distance the barbarians approaching than they all hurriedly took to flight.
The barbarians at once pursued, and the Troezenian ship, which was commanded by Prexinus, fell into their hands. Hereupon the Persians took the handsomest of the men-at-arms, and drew him to the prow of the vessel, where they sacrificed him; for they thought the man a good omen to their cause, seeing that he was at once so beautiful, and likewise the first captive they had made. The man who was slain in this way was called Leo; and it may be that the name he bore helped him to his fate in some measure.
The Eginetan trireme, under its captain, Asonides, gave the Persians no little trouble, one of the men-at-arms, Pythes, the son of Ischenous, distinguishing himself beyond all the others who fought that day. After the ship was taken this man continued to resist, and did not cease fighting till he fell quite covered with wounds. The Persians who served as men-at-arms in the squadron, finding that he was not dead, but still breathed, and being very anxious to save his life, since he had behaved so valiantly, dressed his wounds with myrrh, and bound them up with bandages of cotton. Then, when they were returned to their own station, they displayed their prisoner admiringly to the whole host, and behaved towards him with much kindness; but all the rest of the ship’s crew were treated merely as slaves.
Thus did the Persians succeed in taking two of the vessels. The third, a trireme commanded by Phormus of Athens, took to flight and ran aground at the mouth of the river Peneus. The barbarians got possession of the bark but not of the men. For the Athenians had no sooner run their vessel aground than they leapt out, and made their way through Thessaly back to Athens.
When the Greeks stationed at Artemisium learnt what had happened by fire-signals from Sciathus, so terrified were they, that, quitting their anchorage-ground at Artemisium, and leaving scouts to watch the foe on the highlands of Euboea, they removed to Chalcis, intending to guard the Euripus.
Meantime three of the ten vessels sent forward by the barbarians advanced as far as the sunken rock between Sciathus and Magnesia, which is called “The Ant,” and there set up a stone pillar which they had brought with them for that purpose. After this, their course being now clear, the barbarians set sail with all their ships from Therma, eleven days from the time that the king quitted the town. The rock, which lay directly in their course, had been made known to them by Pammon of Scyros. A day’s voyage without a stop brought them to Sepias in Magnesia, and to the strip of coast which lies between the town of Casthanaea and the promontory of Sepias.
As far as this point then, and on land, as far as Thermopylae, the armament of Xerxes had been free from mischance; and the numbers were still, according to my reckoning, of the following amount. First there was the ancient complement of the twelve hundred and seven vessels which came with the king from Asia — the contingents of the nations severally — amounting, if we allow to each ship a crew of two hundred men, to 241,400 — Each of these vessels had on board, besides native soldiers, thirty fighting men, who were either Persians, Medes, or Sacans; which gives an addition of 36,210. To these two numbers I shall further add the crews of the penteconters; which may be reckoned, one with another, at fourscore men each. Of such vessels there were (as I said before) three thousand; and the men on board them accordingly would be 240,000. This was the sea force brought by the king from Asia; and it amounted in all to 517,610 men. The number of the foot soldiers was 1,700,000; that of the horsemen 80,000; to which must be added the Arabs who rode on camels, and the Libyans who fought in chariots, whom I reckon at 20,000. The whole number, therefore, of the land and sea forces added together amounts to 2,317,610 men. Such was the force brought from Asia, without including the camp followers, or taking any account of the provision — ships and the men whom they had on board.
To the amount thus reached we have still to add the forces gathered in Europe, concerning which I can only speak from conjecture. The Greeks dwelling in Thrace, and in the islands off the coast of Thrace, furnished to the fleet one hundred and twenty ships; the crews of which would amount to 24,000 men. Besides these, footmen were furnished by the Thracians, the Paeonians, the Eordians, the Bottiaeans, by the Chalcidean tribes, by the Brygians, the Pierians, the Macedonians, the Perrhaebians the Enianians, the Dolopians, the Magnesians, the Achaeans and by all the dwellers upon the Thracian sea-board; and the forces of these nations amounted, I believe, to three hundred thousand men. These numbers, added to those of the force which came out of Asia, make the sum of the fighting men 2,641,610.
Such then being the number of the fighting men, it is my belief that the attendants who followed the camp, together with the crews of the corn-barks, and of the other craft accompanying the army, made up an amount rather above than below that of the fighting men. However I will not reckon them as either fewer or more, but take them at an equal number. We have therefore to add to the sum already reached an exactly equal amount. This will give 5,283,220 as the whole number of men brought by Xerxes, the son of Darius, as far as Sepias and Thermopylae.
Such then was the amount of the entire host of Xerxes. As for the number of the women who ground the corn, of the concubines, and the eunuchs, no one can give any sure account of it; nor can the baggage-horses and other sumpter-beasts, nor the Indian hounds which followed the army, be calculated, by reason of their multitude. Hence I am not at all surprised that the water of the rivers was found too scant for the army in some instances; rather it is a marvel to me how the provisions did not fail, when the numbers were so great. For I find on calculation that if each man consumed no more than a choenix of corn a day, there must have been used daily by the army 110,340 medimni, and this without counting what was eaten by the women, the eunuchs, the sumpter-beasts, and the hounds. Among all this multitude of men there was not one who, for beauty and stature, deserved more than Xerxes himself to wield so vast a power.
The fleet then, as I said, on leaving Therma, sailed to the Magnesian territory, and there occupied the strip of coast between the city of Casthanaea and Cape Sepias. The ships of the first row were moored to the land, while the remainder swung at anchor further off. The beach extended but a very little way, so that they had to anchor off the shore, row upon row, eight deep. In this manner they passed the night. But at dawn of day calm and stillness gave place to a raging sea, and a violent storm, which fell upon them with a strong gale from the east — a wind which the people in those parts call Hellespontias. Such of them as perceived the wind rising, and were so moored as to allow of it, forestalled the tempest by dragging their ships up on the beach, and in this way saved both themselves and their vessels. But the ships which the storm caught out at sea were driven ashore, some of them near the place called Ipni, or “The Ovens,” at the foot of Pelion; others on the strand itself; others again about Cape Sepias; while a portion were dashed to pieces near the cities of Meliboea and Casthanaea. There was no resisting the tempest.
It is said that the Athenians had called upon Boreas to aid the Greeks, on account of a fresh oracle which had reached them, commanding them to “seek help from their son-in-law.” For Boreas, according to the tradition of the Greeks, took to wife a woman of Attica, viz., Orithyia, the daughter of Erechtheus. So the Athenians, as the tale goes, considering that this marriage made Boreas their son-in-law, and perceiving, while they lay with their ships at Chalcis of Euboea, that the wind was rising, or, it may be, even before it freshened, offered sacrifice both to Boreas and likewise to Orithyia, entreating them to come to their aid and to destroy the ships of the barbarians, as they did once before off Mount Athos. Whether it was owing to this that Boreas fell with violence on the barbarians at their anchorage I cannot say; but the Athenians declare that they had received aid from Boreas before, and that it was he who now caused all these disasters. They therefore, on their return home, built a temple to this god on the banks of the Ilissus.
Such as put the loss of the Persian fleet in this storm at the lowest say that four hundred of their ships were destroyed, that a countless multitude of men were slain, and a vast treasure engulfed. Ameinocles, the son of Cretines, a Magnesian, who farmed land near Cape Sepias, found the wreck of these vessels a source of great gain to him; many were the gold and silver drinking-cups, cast up long afterwards by the surf, which he gathered; while treasure-boxes too which had belonged to the Persians, and golden articles of all kinds and beyond count, came into his possession. Ameinocles grew to be a man of great wealth in this way; but in other respects things did not go over well with him: he too, like other men, had his own grief — the calamity of losing his offspring.
As for the number of the provision craft and other merchant ships which perished, it was beyond count. Indeed, such was the loss, that the commanders of the sea force, fearing lest in their shattered condition the Thessalians should venture on an attack, raised a lofty barricade around their station out of the wreck of the vessels cast ashore. The storm lasted three days. At length the Magians, by offering victims to the Winds, and charming them with the help of conjurers, while at the same time they sacrificed to Thetis and the Nereids, succeeded in laying the storm four days after it first began; or perhaps it ceased of itself. The reason of their offering sacrifice to Thetis was this: they were told by the Ionians that here was the place whence Peleus carried her off, and that the whole promontory was sacred to her and to her sister Nereids. So the storm lulled upon the fourth day.
The scouts left by the Greeks about the highlands of Euboea hastened down from their stations on the day following that whereon the storm began, and acquainted their countrymen with all that had befallen the Persian fleet. These no sooner heard what had happened than straightway they returned thanks to Neptune the Saviour, and poured libations in his honour; after which they hastened back with all speed to Artemisium, expecting to find a very few ships left to oppose them, and arriving there for the second time, took up their station on that strip of coast: nor from that day to the present have they ceased to address Neptune by the name then given him, of “Saviour.”
The barbarians, when the wind lulled and the sea grew smooth, drew their ships down to the water, and proceeded to coast along the mainland. Having then rounded the extreme point of Magnesia, they sailed straight into the bay that runs up to Pagasae. There is a place in this bay, belonging to Magnesia, where Hercules is said to have been put ashore to fetch water by Jason and his companions; who then deserted him and went on their way to Aea in Colchis, on board the ship Argo, in quest of the golden fleece. From the circumstance that they intended, after watering their vessel at this place, to quit the shore and launch forth into the deep, it received the name of Aphetae. Here then it was that the fleet of Xerxes came to an anchor.
Fifteen ships, which had lagged greatly behind the rest, happening to catch sight of the Greek fleet at Artemisium, mistook it for their own, and sailing down into the midst of it, fell into the hands of the enemy. The commander of this squadron was Sandoces, the son of Thamasius, governor of Cyme, in Aeolis. He was of the number of the royal judges, and had been crucified by Darius some time before, on the charge of taking a bribe to determine a cause wrongly; but while he yet hung on the cross, Darius bethought him that the good deeds of Sandoces towards the king’s house were more numerous than his evil deeds; and so, confessing that he had acted with more haste than wisdom, he ordered him to be taken down and set at large. Thus Sandoces escaped destruction at the hands of Darius, and was alive at this time; but he was not fated to come off so cheaply from his second peril; for as soon as the Greeks saw the ships making towards them, they guessed their mistake, and putting to sea, took them without difficulty.
Aridolis, tyrant of Alabanda in Caria, was on board one of the ships, and was made prisoner; as also was the Paphian general, Penthylus, the son of Domonous, who was on board another. This person had brought with him twelve ships from Paphos, and, after losing eleven in the storm off Sepias, was taken in the remaining one as he sailed towards Artemisium. The Greeks, after questioning their prisoners as much as they wished concerning the forces of Xerxes, sent them away in chains to the Isthmus of Corinth.
The sea force of the barbarians, with the exception of the fifteen ships commanded (as I said) by Sandoces, came safe to Aphetae. Xerxes meanwhile, with the land army, had proceeded through Thessaly and Achaea, and three days earlier, had entered the territory of the Malians. In Thessaly, he matched his own horses against the Thessalian, which he heard were the best in Greece, but the Greek coursers were left far behind in the race. All the rivers in this region had water enough to supply his army, except only the Onochonus; but in Achaea, the largest of the streams, the Apidanus, barely held out.
On his arrival at Alus in Achaea, his guides, wishing to inform him of everything, told him the tale known to the dwellers in those parts concerning the temple of the Laphystian Jupiter — how that Athamas the son of Aeolus took counsel with Ino and plotted the death of Phrixus; and how that afterwards the Achaeans, warned by an oracle, laid a forfeit upon his posterity, forbidding the eldest of the race ever to enter into the court-house (which they call the people’s house), and keeping watch themselves to see the law obeyed. If one comes within the doors, he can never go out again except to be sacrificed. Further, they told him how that many persons, when on the point of being slain, are seized with such fear that they flee away and take refuge in some other country; and that these, if they come back long afterwards, and are found to be the persons who entered the court-house, are led forth covered with chaplets, and in a grand procession, and are sacrificed. This forfeit is paid by the descendants of Cytissorus the son of Phrixus, because, when the Achaeans, in obedience to an oracle, made Athamas the son of Aeolus their sin-offering, and were about to slay him, Cytissorus came from Aea in Colchis and rescued Athamus; by which deed he brought the anger of the god upon his own posterity. Xerxes, therefore, having heard this story, when he reached the grove of the god, avoided it, and commanded his army to do the like. He also paid the same respect to the house and precinct of the descendants of Athamas.
Such were the doing of Xerxes in Thessaly and in Achaea, From hence he passed on into Malis, along the shores of a bay, in which there is an ebb and flow of the tide daily. By the side of this bay lies a piece of flat land, in one part broad, but in another very narrow indeed, around which runs a range of lofty hills, impossible to climb, enclosing all Malis within them, and called the Trachinian cliffs. The first city upon the bay, as you come from Achaea, is Anticyra, near which the river Spercheius, flowing down from the country of the Enianians, empties itself into the sea. About twenty furlongs from this stream there is a second river, called the Dyras, which is said to have appeared first to help Hercules when he was burning. Again, at the distance of twenty furlongs, there is a stream called the Melas, near which, within about five furlongs, stands the city of Trachis.
At the point where this city is built, the plain between the hills and the sea is broader than at any other, for it there measures 22,000 plethra. South of Trachis there is a cleft in the mountain-range which shuts in the territory of Trachinia; and the river Asopus issuing from this cleft flows for a while along the foot of the hills.
Further to the south, another river, called the Phoenix, which has no great body of water, flows from the same hills, and falls into the Asopus. Here is the narrowest place of all; for in this part there is only a causeway wide enough for a single carriage. From the river Phoenix to Thermopylae is a distance of fifteen furlongs; and in this space is situate the village called Anthela, which the river Asopus passes ere it reaches the sea. The space about Anthela is of some width, and contains a temple of Amphictyonian Ceres, as well as the seats of the Amphictyonic deputies, and a temple of Amphictyon himself.
King Xerxes pitched his camp in the region of Malis called Trachinia, while on their side the Greeks occupied the straits. These straits the Greeks in general call Thermopylae (the Hot Gates); but the natives, and those who dwell in the neighbourhood, call them Pylae (the Gates). Here then the two armies took their stand; the one master of all the region lying north of Trachis, the other of the country extending southward of that place to the verge of the continent.
The Greeks who at this spot awaited the coming of Xerxes were the following:— From Sparta, three hundred men-at-arms; from Arcadia, a thousand Tegeans and Mantineans, five hundred of each people; a hundred and twenty Orchomenians, from the Arcadian Orchomenus; and a thousand from other cities: from Corinth, four hundred men; from Phlius, two hundred; and from Mycenae eighty. Such was the number from the Peloponnese. There were also present, from Boeotia, seven hundred Thespians and four hundred Thebans.
Besides these troops, the Locrians of Opus and the Phocians had obeyed the call of their countrymen, and sent, the former all the force they had, the latter a thousand men. For envoys had gone from the Greeks at Thermopylae among the Locrians and Phocians, to call on them for assistance, and to say —“They were themselves but the vanguard of the host, sent to precede the main body, which might every day be expected to follow them. The sea was in good keeping, watched by the Athenians, the Eginetans, and the rest of the fleet. There was no cause why they should fear; for after all the invader was not a god but a man; and there never had been, and never would be, a man who was not liable to misfortunes from the very day of his birth, and those misfortunes greater in proportion to his own greatness. The assailant therefore, being only a mortal, must needs fall from his glory.” Thus urged, the Locrians and the Phocians had come with their troops to Trachis.
The various nations had each captains of their own under whom they served; but the one to whom all especially looked up, and who had the command of the entire force, was the Lacedaemonian, Leonidas. Now Leonidas was the son of Anaxandridas, who was the son of Leo, who was the son of Eurycratidas, who was the son of Anaxander, who was the son of Eurycrates, who was the son of Polydorus, who was the son of Alcamenes, who was the son of Telecles, who was the son of Archelaus, who was the son of Agesilaus, who was the son of Doryssus, who was the son of Labotas, who was the son of Echestratus, who was the son of Agis, who was the son of Eurysthenes, who was the son of Aristodemus, who was the son of Aristomachus, who was the son of Cleodaeus, who was the son of Hyllus, who was the son of Hercules.
Leonidas had come to be king of Sparta quite unexpectedly.
Having two elder brothers, Cleomenes and Dorieus, he had no thought of ever mounting the throne. However, when Cleomenes died without male offspring, as Dorieus was likewise deceased, having perished in Sicily, the crown fell to Leonidas, who was older than Cleombrotus, the youngest of the sons of Anaxandridas, and, moreover, was married to the daughter of Cleomenes. He had now come to Thermopylae, accompanied by the three hundred men which the law assigned him, whom he had himself chosen from among the citizens, and who were all of them fathers with sons living. On his way he had taken the troops from Thebes, whose number I have already mentioned, and who were under the command of Leontiades the son of Eurymachus. The reason why he made a point of taking troops from Thebes, and Thebes only, was that the Thebans were strongly suspected of being well inclined to the Medes. Leonidas therefore called on them to come with him to the war, wishing to see whether they would comply with his demand, or openly refuse, and disclaim the Greek alliance. They, however, though their wishes leant the other way, nevertheless sent the men.
The force with Leonidas was sent forward by the Spartans in advance of their main body, that the sight of them might encourage the allies to fight, and hinder them from going over to the Medes, as it was likely they might have done had they seen that Sparta was backward. They intended presently, when they had celebrated the Carneian festival, which was what now kept them at home, to leave a garrison in Sparta, and hasten in full force to join the army. The rest of the allies also intended to act similarly; for it happened that the Olympic festival fell exactly at this same period. None of them looked to see the contest at Thermopylae decided so speedily; wherefore they were content to send forward a mere advanced guard. Such accordingly were the intentions of the allies.
The Greek forces at Thermopylae, when the Persian army drew near to the entrance of the pass, were seized with fear; and a council was held to consider about a retreat. It was the wish of the Peloponnesians generally that the army should fall back upon the Peloponnese, and there guard the Isthmus. But Leonidas, who saw with what indignation the Phocians and Locrians heard of this plan, gave his voice for remaining where they were, while they sent envoys to the several cities to ask for help, since they were too few to make a stand against an army like that of the Medes.
While this debate was going on, Xerxes sent a mounted spy to observe the Greeks, and note how many they were, and see what they were doing. He had heard, before he came out of Thessaly, that a few men were assembled at this place, and that at their head were certain Lacedaemonians, under Leonidas, a descendant of Hercules. The horseman rode up to the camp, and looked about him, but did not see the whole army; for such as were on the further side of the wall (which had been rebuilt and was now carefully guarded) it was not possible for him to behold; but he observed those on the outside, who were encamped in front of the rampart. It chanced that at this time the Lacedaemonians held the outer guard, and were seen by the spy, some of them engaged in gymnastic exercises, others combing their long hair. At this the spy greatly marvelled, but he counted their number, and when he had taken accurate note of everything, he rode back quietly; for no one pursued after him, nor paid any heed to his visit. So he returned, and told Xerxes all that he had seen.
Upon this, Xerxes, who had no means of surmising the truth — namely, that the Spartans were preparing to do or die manfully — but thought it laughable that they should be engaged in such employments, sent and called to his presence Demaratus the son of Ariston, who still remained with the army. When he appeared, Xerxes told him all that he had heard, and questioned him concerning the news, since he was anxious to understand the meaning of such behaviour on the part of the Spartans. Then Demaratus said —
“I spake to thee, O king! concerning these men long since, when we had but just begun our march upon Greece; thou, however, didst only laugh at my words, when I told thee of all this, which I saw would come to pass. Earnestly do I struggle at all times to speak truth to thee, sire; and now listen to it once more. These men have come to dispute the pass with us; and it is for this that they are now making ready. ‘Tis their custom, when they are about to hazard their lives, to adorn their heads with care. Be assured, however, that if thou canst subdue the men who are here and the Lacedaemonians who remain in Sparta, there is no other nation in all the world which will venture to lift a hand in their defence. Thou hast now to deal with the first kingdom and town in Greece, and with the bravest men.”
Then Xerxes, to whom what Demaratus said seemed altogether to surpass belief, asked further “how it was possible for so small an army to contend with his?”
“O king!” Demaratus answered, “let me be treated as a liar, if matters fall not out as I say.”
But Xerxes was not persuaded any the more. Four whole days he suffered to go by, expecting that the Greeks would run away. When, however, he found on the fifth that they were not gone, thinking that their firm stand was mere impudence and recklessness, he grew wroth, and sent against them the Medes and Cissians, with orders to take them alive and bring them into his presence. Then the Medes rushed forward and charged the Greeks, but fell in vast numbers: others however took the places of the slain, and would not be beaten off, though they suffered terrible losses. In this way it became clear to all, and especially to the king, that though he had plenty of combatants, he had but very few warriors. The struggle, however, continued during the whole day.
Then the Medes, having met so rough a reception, withdrew from the fight; and their place was taken by the band of Persians under Hydarnes, whom the king called his “Immortals”: they, it was thought, would soon finish the business. But when they joined battle with the Greeks, ‘twas with no better success than the Median detachment — things went much as before — the two armies fighting in a narrow space, and the barbarians using shorter spears than the Greeks, and having no advantage from their numbers. The Lacedaemonians fought in a way worthy of note, and showed themselves far more skilful in fight than their adversaries, often turning their backs, and making as though they were all flying away, on which the barbarians would rush after them with much noise and shouting, when the Spartans at their approach would wheel round and face their pursuers, in this way destroying vast numbers of the enemy. Some Spartans likewise fell in these encounters, but only a very few. At last the Persians, finding that all their efforts to gain the pass availed nothing, and that, whether they attacked by divisions or in any other way, it was to no purpose, withdrew to their own quarters.
During these assaults, it is said that Xerxes, who was watching the battle, thrice leaped from the throne on which he sate, in terror for his army.
Next day the combat was renewed, but with no better success on the part of the barbarians. The Greeks were so few that the barbarians hoped to find them disabled, by reason of their wounds, from offering any further resistance; and so they once more attacked them. But the Greeks were drawn up in detachments according to their cities, and bore the brunt of the battle in turns — all except the Phocians, who had been stationed on the mountain to guard the pathway. So, when the Persians found no difference between that day and the preceding, they again retired to their quarters.
Now, as the king was in great strait, and knew not how he should deal with the emergency, Ephialtes, the son of Eurydemus, a man of Malis, came to him and was admitted to a conference. Stirred by the hope of receiving a rich reward at the king’s hands, he had come to tell him of the pathway which led across the mountain to Thermopylae; by which disclosure he brought destruction on the band of Greeks who had there withstood the barbarians. This Ephialtes afterwards, from fear of the Lacedaemonians, fled into Thessaly; and during his exile, in an assembly of the Amphictyons held at Pylae, a price was set upon his head by the Pylagorae. When some time had gone by, he returned from exile, and went to Anticyra, where he was slain by Athenades, a native of Trachis. Athenades did not slay him for his treachery, but for another reason, which I shall mention in a later part of my history: yet still the Lacedaemonians honoured him none the less. Thus then did Ephialtes perish a long time afterwards.
Besides this there is another story told, which I do not at all believe — to wit, that Onetas the son of Phanagoras, a native of Carystus, and Corydallus, a man of Anticyra, were the persons who spoke on this matter to the king, and took the Persians across the mountain. One may guess which story is true, from the fact that the deputies of the Greeks, the Pylagorae, who must have had the best means of ascertaining the truth, did not offer the reward for the heads of Onetas and Corydallus, but for that of Ephialtes of Trachis; and again from the flight of Ephialtes, which we know to have been on this account. Onetas, I allow, although he was not a Malian, might have been acquainted with the path, if he had lived much in that part of the country; but as Ephialtes was the person who actually led the Persians round the mountain by the pathway, I leave his name on record as that of the man who did the deed.
Great was the joy of Xerxes on this occasion; and as he approved highly of the enterprise which Ephialtes undertook to accomplish, he forthwith sent upon the errand Hydarnes, and the Persians under him. The troops left the camp about the time of the lighting of the lamps. The pathway along which they went was first discovered by the Malians of these parts, who soon afterwards led the Thessalians by it to attack the Phocians, at the time when the Phocians fortified the pass with a wall, and so put themselves under covert from danger. And ever since, the path has always been put to an ill use by the Malians.
The course which it takes is the following:— Beginning at the Asopus, where that stream flows through the cleft in the hills, it runs along the ridge of the mountain (which is called, like the pathway over it, Anopaea), and ends at the city of Alpenus — the first Locrian town as you come from Malis — by the stone called Melampygus and the seats of the Cercopians. Here it is as narrow as at any other point.
The Persians took this path, and, crossing the Asopus, continued their march through the whole of the night, having the mountains of Oeta on their right hand, and on their left those of Trachis. At dawn of day they found themselves close to the summit. Now the hill was guarded, as I have already said, by a thousand Phocian men-at-arms, who were placed there to defend the pathway, and at the same time to secure their own country. They had been given the guard of the mountain path, while the other Greeks defended the pass below, because they had volunteered for the service, and had pledged themselves to Leonidas to maintain the post.
The ascent of the Persians became known to the Phocians in the following manner:— During all the time that they were making their way up, the Greeks remained unconscious of it, inasmuch as the whole mountain was covered with groves of oak; but it happened that the air was very still, and the leaves which the Persians stirred with their feet made, as it was likely they would, a loud rustling, whereupon the Phocians jumped up and flew to seize their arms. In a moment the barbarians came in sight, and, perceiving men arming themselves, were greatly amazed; for they had fallen in with an enemy when they expected no opposition. Hydarnes, alarmed at the sight, and fearing lest the Phocians might be Lacedaemonians, inquired of Ephialtes to what nation these troops belonged. Ephialtes told him the exact truth, whereupon he arrayed his Persians for battle. The Phocians, galled by the showers of arrows to which they were exposed, and imagining themselves the special object of the Persian attack, fled hastily to the crest of the mountain, and there made ready to meet death; but while their mistake continued, the Persians, with Ephialtes and Hydarnes, not thinking it worth their while to delay on account of Phocians, passed on and descended the mountain with all possible speed.
The Greeks at Thermopylae received the first warning of the destruction which the dawn would bring on them from the seer Megistias, who read their fate in the victims as he was sacrificing. After this deserters came in, and brought the news that the Persians were marching round by the hills: it was still night when these men arrived. Last of all, the scouts came running down from the heights, and brought in the same accounts, when the day was just beginning to break. Then the Greeks held a council to consider what they should do, and here opinions were divided: some were strong against quitting their post, while others contended to the contrary. So when the council had broken up, part of the troops departed and went their ways homeward to their several states; part however resolved to remain, and to stand by Leonidas to the last.
It is said that Leonidas himself sent away the troops who departed, because he tendered their safety, but thought it unseemly that either he or his Spartans should quit the post which they had been especially sent to guard. For my own part, I incline to think that Leonidas gave the order, because he perceived the allies to be out of heart and unwilling to encounter the danger to which his own mind was made up. He therefore commanded them to retreat, but said that he himself could not draw back with honour; knowing that, if he stayed, glory awaited him, and that Sparta in that case would not lose her prosperity. For when the Spartans, at the very beginning of the war, sent to consult the oracle concerning it, the answer which they received from the Pythoness was “that either Sparta must be overthrown by the barbarians, or one of her kings must perish.” The prophecy was delivered in hexameter verse, and ran thus:—
O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon!
Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of
Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country
Mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles.
He cannot be withstood by the courage of bulls nor of lions,
Strive as they may; he is mighty as Jove; there is nought that
shall stay him,
Till he have got for his prey your king, or your glorious city.
The remembrance of this answer, I think, and the wish to secure the whole glory for the Spartans, caused Leonidas to send the allies away. This is more likely than that they quarrelled with him, and took their departure in such unruly fashion.
To me it seems no small argument in favour of this view, that the seer also who accompanied the army, Megistias, the Acarnanian — said to have been of the blood of Melampus, and the same who was led by the appearance of the victims to warn the Greeks of the danger which threatened them — received orders to retire (as it is certain he did) from Leonidas, that he might escape the coming destruction. Megistias, however, though bidden to depart, refused, and stayed with the army; but he had an only son present with the expedition, whom he now sent away.
So the allies, when Leonidas ordered them to retire, obeyed him and forthwith departed. Only the Thespians and the Thebans remained with the Spartans; and of these the Thebans were kept back by Leonidas as hostages, very much against their will. The Thespians, on the contrary, stayed entirely of their own accord, refusing to retreat, and declaring that they would not forsake Leonidas and his followers. So they abode with the Spartans, and died with them. Their leader was Demophilus, the son of Diadromes.
At sunrise Xerxes made libations, after which he waited until the time when the forum is wont to fill, and then began his advance. Ephialtes had instructed him thus, as the descent of the mountain is much quicker, and the distance much shorter, than the way round the hills, and the ascent. So the barbarians under Xerxes began to draw nigh; and the Greeks under Leonidas, as they now went forth determined to die, advanced much further than on previous days, until they reached the more open portion of the pass. Hitherto they had held their station within the wall, and from this had gone forth to fight at the point where the pass was the narrowest. Now they joined battle beyond the defile, and carried slaughter among the barbarians, who fell in heaps. Behind them the captains of the squadrons, armed with whips, urged their men forward with continual blows. Many were thrust into the sea, and there perished; a still greater number were trampled to death by their own soldiers; no one heeded the dying. For the Greeks, reckless of their own safety and desperate, since they knew that, as the mountain had been crossed, their destruction was nigh at hand, exerted themselves with the most furious valour against the barbarians.
By this time the spears of the greater number were all shivered, and with their swords they hewed down the ranks of the Persians; and here, as they strove, Leonidas fell fighting bravely, together with many other famous Spartans, whose names I have taken care to learn on account of their great worthiness, as indeed I have those of all the three hundred. There fell too at the same time very many famous Persians: among them, two sons of Darius, Abrocomes and Hyperanthes, his children by Phratagune, the daughter of Artanes. Artanes was brother of King Darius, being a son of Hystaspes, the son of Arsames; and when he gave his daughter to the king, he made him heir likewise of all his substance; for she was his only child.
Thus two brothers of Xerxes here fought and fell. And now there arose a fierce struggle between the Persians and the Lacedaemonians over the body of Leonidas, in which the Greeks four times drove back the enemy, and at last by their great bravery succeeded in bearing off the body. This combat was scarcely ended when the Persians with Ephialtes approached; and the Greeks, informed that they drew nigh, made a change in the manner of their fighting. Drawing back into the narrowest part of the pass, and retreating even behind the cross wall, they posted themselves upon a hillock, where they stood all drawn up together in one close body, except only the Thebans. The hillock whereof I speak is at the entrance of the straits, where the stone lion stands which was set up in honour of Leonidas. Here they defended themselves to the last, such as still had swords using them, and the others resisting with their hands and teeth; till the barbarians, who in part had pulled down the wall and attacked them in front, in part had gone round and now encircled them upon every side, overwhelmed and buried the remnant which was left beneath showers of missile weapons.
Thus nobly did the whole body of Lacedaemonians and Thespians behave; but nevertheless one man is said to have distinguished himself above all the rest, to wit, Dieneces the Spartan. A speech which he made before the Greeks engaged the Medes, remains on record. One of the Trachinians told him, “Such was the number of the barbarians, that when they shot forth their arrows the sun would be darkened by their multitude.” Dieneces, not at all frightened at these words, but making light of the Median numbers, answered “Our Trachinian friend brings us excellent tidings. If the Medes darken the sun, we shall have our fight in the shade.” Other sayings too of a like nature are reported to have been left on record by this same person.
Next to him two brothers, Lacedaemonians, are reputed to have made themselves conspicuous: they were named Alpheus and Maro, and were the sons of Orsiphantus. There was also a Thespian who gained greater glory than any of his countrymen: he was a man called Dithyrambus, the son of Harmatidas.
The slain were buried where they fell; and in their honour, nor less in honour of those who died before Leonidas sent the allies away, an inscription was set up, which said:—
Here did four thousand men from Pelops’ land
Against three hundred myriads bravely stand.
This was in honour of all. Another was for the Spartans alone:—
Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell
That here, obeying her behests, we fell.
This was for the Lacedaemonians. The seer had the following:—
The great Megistias’ tomb you here may view,
Whom slew the Medes, fresh from Spercheius’ fords.
Well the wise seer the coming death foreknew,
Yet scorned he to forsake his Spartan lords.
These inscriptions, and the pillars likewise, were all set up by the Amphictyons, except that in honour of Megistias, which was inscribed to him (on account of their sworn friendship) by Simonides, the son of Leoprepes.
Two of the three hundred, it is said, Aristodemus and Eurytus, having been attacked by a disease of the eyes, had received orders from Leonidas to quit the camp; and both lay at Alpeni in the worst stage of the malady. These two men might, had they been so minded, have agreed together to return alive to Sparta; or if they did not like to return, they might have gone both to the field and fallen with their countrymen. But at this time, when either way was open to them, unhappily they could not agree, but took contrary courses. Eurytus no sooner heard that the Persians had come round the mountain than straightway he called for his armour, and having buckled it on, bade his helot lead him to the place where his friends were fighting. The helot did so, and then turned and fled; but Eurytus plunged into the thick of the battle, and so perished. Aristodemus, on the other hand, was faint of heart, and remained at Alpeni. It is my belief that if Aristodemus only had been sick and returned, or if both had come back together, the Spartans would have been content and felt no anger; but when there were two men with the very same excuse, and one of them was chary of his life, while the other freely gave it, they could not but be very wroth with the former.
This is the account which some give of the escape of Aristodemus. Others say that he, with another, had been sent on a message from the army, and, having it in his power to return in time for the battle, purposely loitered on the road, and so survived his comrades; while his fellow-messenger came back in time, and fell in the battle.
When Aristodemus returned to Lacedaemon, reproach and disgrace awaited him; disgrace, inasmuch as no Spartan would give him a light to kindle his fire, or so much as address a word to him; and reproach, since all spoke of him as “the craven.” However he wiped away all his shame afterwards at the battle of Plataea.
Another of the three hundred is likewise said to have survived the battle, a man named Pantites, whom Leonidas had sent on an embassy into Thessaly. He, they say, on his return to Sparta, found himself in such disesteem that he hanged himself.
The Thebans under the command of Leontiades remained with the Greeks, and fought against the barbarians, only so long as necessity compelled them. No sooner did they see victory inclining to the Persians, and the Greeks under Leonidas hurrying with all speed towards the hillock, than they moved away from their companions, and with hands upraised advanced towards the barbarians, exclaiming, as was indeed most true —“that they for their part wished well to the Medes, and had been among the first to give earth and water to the king; force alone had brought them to Thermopylae; and so they must not be blamed for the slaughter which had befallen the king’s army.” These words, the truth of which was attested by the Thessalians, sufficed to obtain the Thebans the grant of their lives. However, their good fortune was not without some drawback; for several of them were slain by the barbarians on their first approach; and the rest, who were the greater number, had the royal mark branded upon their bodies by the command of Xerxes — Leontiades, their captain, being the first to suffer. (This man’s son, Eurymachus, was afterwards slain by the Plataeans, when he came with a band Of 400 Thebans, and seized their city.)
Thus fought the Greeks at Thermopylae. And Xerxes, after the fight was over, called for Demaratus to question him; and began as follows:—
“Demaratus, thou art a worthy man; thy true-speaking proves it. All has happened as thou didst forewarn. Now then, tell me, how many Lacedaemonians are there left, and of those left how many are such brave warriors as these? Or are they all alike?”
“O king!” replied the other, “the whole number of the Lacedaemonians is very great; and many are the cities which they inhabit. But I will tell thee what thou really wishest to learn. There is a town of Lacedaemon called Sparta, which contains within it about eight thousand full-grown men. They are, one and all, equal to those who have fought here. The other Lacedaemonians are brave men, but not such warriors as these.”
“Tell me now, Demaratus,” rejoined Xerxes, “how we may with least trouble subdue these men. Thou must know all the paths of their counsels, as thou wert once their king.”
Then Demaratus answered —“O king! since thou askest my advice so earnestly, it is fitting that I should inform thee what I consider to be the best course. Detach three hundred vessels from the body of thy fleet, and send them to attack the shores of Laconia. There is an island called Cythera in those parts, not far from the coast, concerning which Chilon, one of our wisest men, made the remark that Sparta would gain if it were sunk to the bottom of the sea — so constantly did he expect that it would give occasion to some project like that which I now recommend to thee. I mean not to say that he had a foreknowledge of thy attack upon Greece; but in truth he feared all armaments. Send thy ships then to this island, and thence affright the Spartans. If once they have a war of their own close to their doors, fear not their giving any help to the rest of the Greeks while thy land force is engaged in conquering them. In this way may all Greece be subdued; and then Sparta, left to herself, will be powerless. But if thou wilt not take this advice, I will tell thee what thou mayest look to see. When thou comest to the Peloponnese, thou wilt find a narrow neck of land, where all the Peloponnesians who are leagued against thee will be gathered together; and there thou wilt have to fight bloodier battles than any which thou hast yet witnessed. If, however, thou wilt follow my plan, the Isthmus and the cities of Peloponnese will yield to thee without a battle.”
Achaeamenes, who was present, now took the word, and spoke — he was brother to Xerxes, and, having the command of the fleet, feared lest Xerxes might be prevailed upon to do as Demaratus advised “I perceive, O king” (he said), “that thou art listening to the words of a man who is envious of thy good fortune, and seeks to betray thy cause. This is indeed the common temper of the Grecian people — they envy good fortune, and hate power greater than their own. If in this posture of our affairs, after we have lost four hundred vessels by shipwreck, three hundred more be sent away to make a voyage round the Peloponnese, our enemies will be, come a match for us. But let us keep our whole fleet in one body, and it will be dangerous for them to venture on an attack, as they will certainly be no match for us then. Besides, while our sea and land forces advance together, the fleet and army can each help the other; but if they be parted, no aid will come either from thee to the fleet, or from the fleet to thee. Only order thy own matters well, and trouble not thyself to inquire concerning the enemy — where they will fight, or what they will do, or how many they are. Surely they can manage their own concerns without us, as we can ours without them. If the Lacedaemonians come out against the Persians to battle, they will scarce repair the disaster which has befallen them now.”
Xerxes replied —“Achaeamenes, thy counsel pleases me well, and I will do as thou sayest. But Demaratus advised what he thought best — only his judgment was not so good as thine. Never will I believe that he does not wish well to my cause; for that is disproved both by his former counsels, and also by the circumstances of the case. A citizen does indeed envy any fellow-citizen who is more lucky than himself, and often hates him secretly; if such a man be called on for counsel, he will not give his best thoughts, unless indeed he be a man of very exalted virtue; and such are but rarely found. But a friend of another country delights in the good fortune of his foreign bond-friend, and will give him, when asked, the best advice in his power. Therefore I warn all men to abstain henceforth from speaking ill of Demaratus, who is my bond-friend.”
When Xerxes had thus spoken, he proceeded to pass through the slain; and finding the body of Leonidas, whom he knew to have been the Lacedaemonian king and captain, he ordered that the head should be struck off, and the trunk fastened to a cross. This proves to me most clearly, what is plain also in many other ways — namely, that King Xerxes was more angry with Leonidas, while he was still in life, than with any other mortal. Certes, he would not else have used his body so shamefully. For the Persians are wont to honour those who show themselves valiant in fight more highly than any nation that I know. They, however, to whom the orders were given, did according to the commands of the king.
I return now to a point in my History, which at the time I left incomplete. The Lacedaemonians were the first of the Greeks to hear of the king’s design against their country; and it was at this time that they sent to consult the Delphic oracle, and received the answer of which I spoke a while ago. The discovery was made to them in a very strange way. Demaratus, the son of Ariston, after he took refuge with the Medes, was not, in my judgment, which is supported by probability, a well-wisher to the Lacedaemonians. It may be questioned, therefore, whether he did what I am about to mention from good-will or from insolent triumph. It happened that he was at Susa at the time when Xerxes determined to lead his army into Greece; and in this way becoming acquainted with his design, he resolved to send tidings of it to Sparta. So as there was no other way of effecting his purpose, since the danger of being discovered was great, Demaratus framed the following contrivance. He took a pair of tablets, and, clearing the wax away from them, wrote what the king was purposing to do upon the wood whereof the tablets were made; having done this, he spread the wax once more over the writing, and so sent it. By these means, the guards placed to watch the roads, observing nothing but a blank tablet, were sure to give no trouble to the bearer. When the tablet reached Lacedaemon, there was no one, I understand, who could find out the secret, till Gorgo, the daughter of Cleomenes and wife of Leonidas, discovered it, and told the others. “If they would scrape the wax off the tablet,” she said, “they would be sure to find the writing upon the wood.” The Lacedaemonians took her advice, found the writing, and read it; after which they sent it round to the other Greeks. Such then is the account which is given of this matter.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51