The style, O Alexander, of Herodotus, as being simple, free, and easily suiting itself to its subject, has deceived many; but more, a persuasion of his dispositions being equally sincere. For it is not only (as Plato says) an extreme injustice, to make a show of being just when one is not so; but it is also the highest malignity, to pretend to simplicity and mildness and be in the meantime really most malicious. Now since he principally exerts his malice against the Boeotians and Corinthians, though without sparing any other, I think myself obliged to defend our ancestors and the truth against this part of his writings, since those who would detect all his other lies and fictions would have need of many books. But, as Sophocles has it, the face of persuasion, is prevalent, especially when delivered in the good language, and such as has power to conceal both the other absurdities and the ill-nature of the writer. King Philip told the Greeks who revolted from him to Titus Quinctius that they had got a more polished, but a longer lasting yoke. So the malice of Herodotus is indeed more polite and delicate than that of Theopompus, yet it pinches closer, and makes a more severe impression — not unlike to those winds which, blowing secretly through narrow chinks, are sharper than those that are more diffused. Now it seems to me very convenient to delineate, as it were, in the rough draught, those signs and marks that distinguish a malicious narration from a candid and unbiassed one, applying afterwards every point we shall examine to such as appertain to them.
First then, whoever in relating a story shall use the odious terms when gentler expressions might do as well, is it not to be esteemed impartial, but an enjoyer of his own fancy, in putting the worst construction on things; as if any one, instead of saying Nicias is too superstitious, should call him fanatic, or should accuse Cleon of presumption and madness rather than of inconsiderateness in speech.
Now the opposite to this is known to every one, as the omitting to relate some good and laudable action, which, though it may seem not to be reprehensible, yet is then done maliciously when the omission happens in a place that is pertinent to the history. For to praise unwillingly is so far from being more civil than to dispraise willingly, that it is perhaps rather more uncivil.
The fourth sign of a partial disposition in writing of history I take to be this: When a matter is related in two or more several manners, and the historian shall embrace the worst. Sophisters indeed are permitted, for the obtaining either of profit or reputation, to undertake the defence of the worst cause; for they neither create any firm belief of the matter, nor yet do they deny that they are often pleased in maintaining paradoxes and making incredible things appear probable. But an historian is then just, when he asserts such things as he knows to be true, and of those that are uncertain reports rather the better than the worse. Nay, there are many writers who wholly omit the worse. Thus Ephorus writes of Themistocles, that he was acquainted with the treason of Pausanias and his negotiations with the King’s lieutenants, but that he neither consented to it, nor hearkened to Pausanias’s proffers of making him partaker of his hopes; and Thucydides left the whole matter out of his story, as judging it to be false.
Moreover, in things confessed to have been done, but for doing which the cause and intention is unknown, he who casts his conjectures on the worst side is partial and malicious. Thus do the comedians, who affirm the Peloponnesian war to have been kindled by Pericles for the love of Aspasia or the sake of Phidias, and not through any desire of honor, or ambition of pulling down the Peloponnesian pride and giving place in nothing to the Lacedaemonians. For those who suppose a bad cause for laudable works and commendable actions, endeavoring by calumnies to insinuate sinister suspicions of the actor when they cannot openly discommend the act — as they that impute the killing of Alexander the tyrant by Theba not to any magnanimity or hatred of vice, but to a certain feminine jealousy and passion, and those that say Cato slew himself for fear Caesar should put him to a more shameful death — such as these are manifestly in the highest degree envious and malicious.
An historical narration is also more or less guilty of malice, according as it relates the manner of the action; as if one should be said to have performed an exploit rather by money than bravery, as some affirm of Philip; or else easily and without any labor, as it is said of Alexander; or else not by prudence, but by Fortune, as the enemies of Timotheus painted cities falling into his nets as he lay sleeping. For they undoubtedly diminish the greatness and beauty of the actions, who deny the performer of them to have done them generously, industriously, virtuously, and by themselves.
Moreover, those who will directly speak ill of any one incur the reproach of moroseness, rashness, and madness, unless they keep within measure. But they who send forth calumnies obliquely, as if they were shooting arrows out of corners, and then stepping back think to conceal themselves by saying they do not believe what they most earnestly desire to have believed, whilst they disclaim all malice, condemn themselves also of farther disingenuity.
Next to these are they who with their reproaches intermix some praises, as did Aristoxenus, who, having termed Socrates unlearned, ignorant, and libidinous, added, Yet was he free from injustice. For, as they who flatter artificially and craftily sometimes mingle light reprehensions with their many and great praises, joining this liberty of speech as a sauce to their flattery; so malice, that it may gain belief to its accusations, adds also praise.
We might here also reckon up more notes; but these are sufficient to let us understand the nature and manners of Herodotus.
First therefore — beginning, as the proverb is, with Vesta — whereas all the Grecians affirm Io, daughter to Inachus, to have been worshipped with divine honor by the barbarians, and by her glory to have left her name to many seas and principal ports, and to have given a source and original to most noble and royal families; this famous author says of her, that she gave herself to certain Phoenician merchants, having been not unwillingly deflowered by a mariner, and fearing lest she should be found by her friends to be with child (Herodotus, i. 5.) And he belies the Phoenicians as having delivered these things of her, and says that the Persian stories testify of her being carried away by the Phoenicians with other women. (Ibid. i. 1.) Presently after, he gives sentence on the bravest and greatest exploits of Greece, saying that the Trojan war was foolishly undertaken for an ill woman. For it is manifest, says he, that had they not been willing they had never been ravished. (Ibid. i. 4.) Let us then say, that the gods also acted foolishly, in inflicting their indignation on the Spartans for abusing the daughters of Scedasus the Leuctrian, and in punishing Ajax for the violation of Cassandra. For it is manifest, if we believe Herodotus, that if they had not been willing they had never been defiled. And yet he himself said that Aristomenes was taken alive by the Spartans; and the same afterwards happened to Philopoemen, general of the Achaeans; and the Carthaginians took Regulus, the consul of the Romans; than whom there are not easily to be found more valiant and warlike men. Nor is it to be wondered, since even leopards and tigers are taken alive by men. But Herodotus blames the poor women that have been abused by violence, and patronizes their ravishers.
Nay, he is so favorable to the barbarians, that, acquitting Busiris of those human sacrifices and that slaughter of his guests for which he is accused, and attributing by his testimony to the Egyptians much religion and justice, he endeavors to cast that abominable wickedness and those impious murders on the Grecians. For in his Second Book he says, that Menelaus, having received Helen from Proteus and having been honored by him with many presents, showed himself a most unjust and wicked man; for wanting a favorable wind to set sail, he found out an impious device, and having taken two of the inhabitants’ boys, consulted their entrails; for which villany being hated and persecuted, he fled with his ships directly into Libya. (See Herodotus, ii. 45.) From what Egyptian this story proceeds, I know not. For, on the contrary, many honors are even at this day given by the Egyptians to Helen and Menelaus.
The same Herodotus, that he may still be like himself, says that the Persians learned the defiling of the male sex from the Greeks. (Ibid, i. 135.) And yet how could the Greeks have taught this impurity to the Persians, amongst whom, as is confessed by many, boys had been castrated before ever they arrived in the Grecian seas? He writes also, that the Greeks were instructed by the Egyptians in their pomps, solemn festivals, and worship of the twelve gods; that Melampus also learned of the Egyptians the name of Dionysus (or Bacchus) and taught it the other Greeks; that the mysteries likewise and rites of Ceres were brought out of Egypt by the daughters of Danaus; and that the Egyptians were wont to beat themselves and make great lamentation, but yet he himself refused to tell the names of their deities, but concealed them in silence. As to Hercules and Bacchus, whom the Egyptians named gods, and the Greeks very aged men, he nowhere has such scruples and hesitation; although he places also the Egyptian Hercules amongst the gods of the second rank, and Bacchus amongst those of the third, as having had some beginning of their being and not being eternal, and yet he pronounces those to be gods; but to the gods Bacchus and Hercules, as having been mortal and being now demi-gods, he thinks we ought to perform anniversary solemnities, but not to sacrifice to them as to gods. The same also he said of Pan, overthrowing the most venerable and purest sacrifices of the Greeks by the proud vanities and mythologies of the Egyptians. (For the passages referred to in this chapter, see Herodotus, ii. 48, 51, 145, 146, 171.)
Nor is this impious enough; but moreover, deriving the pedigree of Hercules from Perseus, he says that Perseus was an Assyrian, as the Persians affirm. “But the leaders,” says he, “of the Dorians may appear to be descended in a right line from the Egyptians, reckoning their ancestors from before Danae and Acrisius.” (Herodotus, vi. 53, 54.) Here he has wholly passed by Epaphus, Io, Iasus, and Argus, being ambitious not only to make the other Herculeses Egyptians and Phoenicians but to carry this also, whom himself declares to have been the third, out of Greece to the barbarians. But of the ancient learned writers, neither Homer, nor Hesiod, nor Archilochus, nor Pisander, nor Stesichorus, nor Alcman, nor Pindar, makes any mention of the Egyptian or the Phoenician Hercules, but all acknowledge this our own Boeotian and Argive Hercules.
Now of the seven sages, whom he calls Sophisters, he affirms Thales to have been a barbarian, descended of the Phoenicians. (Ibid, i. 170.) Speaking ill also of the gods under the person of Solon, he has these words: “Thou, O Croesus, askest me concerning human affairs, who know that every one of the deities envious and tumultuous.” (Ibid, i. 32.) Thus attributing to Solon what himself thinks of the gods, he joins malice to blasphemy. Having made use also of Pittacus in some trivial matters, not worth the mentioning, he has passed over the greatest and gallantest action that was ever done by him. For when the Athenians and Mitylenaeans were at war about Sigaeum, Phrynon, the Athenian general, challenging whoever would come forth to a single combat, Pittacus advanced to meet him, and catching him in a net, slew that stout and giant-like man; for which when the Mitylaenans offered him great presents, darting his javelin as far as he could out of his hand, he desired only so much ground as he should reach with that throw; and the place is to this day called Pittacium. Now what does Herodotus, when he comes to this? Instead of Pittacus’s valiant act, he tells us the fight of Alcaeus the poet, who throwing away his arms ran out of the battle; by thus not writing of honorable deeds and not passing over such as are dishonorable, he offers his testimony to those who say, that from one and the same malice proceed both envy and a rejoicing at other men’s harms. (Herodotus v. 95.)
After this, he accuses of treason the Alcmaeonidae who showed themselves generous men, and delivered their country from tyranny. (Ibid. i. 61.) He says, that they received Pisistratus after his banishment and got him called home, on condition he should marry the daughter of Megacles; but the damsel saying to her mother, Do you see, mother, how I am known by Pisistratus contrary to nature? The Alcmaeonidae were so offended at this villany, that they expelled the tyrant.
Now that the Lacedaemonians might have no less share of his malice than the Athenians, behold how he bespatters Othryadas, the man most admired and honored by them. “He only,” says Herodotus, “remaining alive of the three hundred, and ashamed to return to Sparta, his companions being lost, slew himself on the spot at Thyreae.” (Ibid. i. 82.) For having before said the victory was doubtful on both sides, he here, by making Othryadas ashamed, witnesses that the Lacedaemonians were vanquished. For it was shameful for him to survive, if conquered; but glorious, if conqueror.
I pass by now, that having, represented Croesus as foolish, vainglorious, and ridiculous in all things, he makes him, when a prisoner, to have taught and instructed Cyrus, who seems to have excelled all other kings in prudence, virtue, and magnanimity. (Ibid. i. 155, 156, 207, 208.) Having testified of the same Croesus nothing else that was commendable but his honoring the gods with many and great oblations, he shows that very act of his to have been the most impious of all. For he says, that he and his brother Pantoleon contended for the kingdom while their father was yet alive; and that Croesus, having obtained the crown, caused a companion and familiar friend of Pantoleon’s to be torn in pieces in a fulling-mill, and sent presents to the gods from his property. (Ibid. i. 92.) Of Deioces also, the Median, who by virtue and justice obtained the government, he says that he got it not by real but pretended justice. (Ibid. i. 96.)
But I let pass the barbarian examples, since he has offered us plenty enough in the Grecian affairs. He says, that the Athenians and many other Ionians were so ashamed of that name that they wholly refused to be called Ionians; and that those who esteemed themselves the noblest among them, and who had come forth from the very Prytaneum of Athens, begat children on barbarian wives whose parents, husbands, and former children they had slain; that the women had therefore made a law among themselves, confirmed it by oath, and delivered it to be kept by their daughters, never to eat with their husbands, nor to call any of them by his name; and that the present Milesians are descended from these women. Having afterwards added that those are true Ionians who celebrate the feast called Apaturia; they all, says he, keep it except the Ephesians and Colophonians. (Herodotus, i. 143–148.) In this manner does he deprive these two states of their nobility.
He says moreover, that the Cumaeans and Mitylenaeans agreed with Cyrus to deliver up to him for a price Pactyas, who had revolted from him. I know not indeed, says he, for how much; since it is not certain what it was. Bravo! — not to know what it was, and yet to cast such an infamy on a Grecian city, without an assured knowledge! He says farther, that the Chians took Pactyas, who was brought to them out of the temple of Minerva Poliuchus (or Guardianess of the city), and delivered him up, having received the city Atarneus for their recompense. And yet Charon the Lampsacenian, a more ancient writer, relating this matter concerning Pactyas, charges neither the Mitylenaeans nor the Chians with any such action. These are his very words: “Pactyas, hearing that the Persian army drew near, fled first to Mitylene, then to Chios, and there fell into the hands of Cyrus.” (See Herodotus, i. 157. etc.)
Our author in his Third Book, relating the expedition of the Lacedaemonians against the tyrant Polycrates, affirms, that the Samians think and say that the Spartans, to recompense them for their former assistance against the Messenians, both brought back the Samians that were banished, and made war on the tyrant; but that the Lacedaemonians deny this, and say, they undertook this design not to help or deliver the Samians, but to punish them for having taken away a cup sent by them to Croesus, and besides, a breastplate sent them by Amasis. (Ibid. iii. 47, 48.) And yet we know that there was not at that time any city so desirous of honor, or such an enemy to tyrants, as Sparta. For what breastplate or cup was the cause of their driving the Cypselidae out of Corinth and Ambracia, Lygdamis out of Naxos, the children of Pisistratus out of Athens, Aeschines out of Sicyon, Symmachus out of Thasus, Aulis out of Phocis, and Aristogenes out of Miletus; and of their overturning the domineering powers of Thessaly, pulling down Aristomedes and Angelus by the help of King Leotychides? — which facts are elsewhere more largely described. Now, if Herodotus says true, they were in the highest degree guilty both of malice and folly, when, denying a most honorable and most just cause of their expedition, they confessed that in remembrance of a former injury, and too highly valuing an inconsiderable matter, they invaded a miserable and afflicted people.
Now perhaps he gave the Lacedaemonians this stroke, as directly falling under his pen; but the city of Corinth, which was wholly out of the course of his story, he has brought in-going out of his way (as they say) to fasten upon it — and has bespattered it with a most filthy crime and most shameful calumny. “The Corinthians,” says he, “studiously helped this expedition of the Lacedaemonians to Samos, as having themselves also been formerly affronted by the Samians.” The matter was this. Periander tyrant of Corinth sent three hundred boys, sons to the principal men of Corcyra, to King Alyattes, to be gelt. These, going ashore in the island of Samos, were by the Samians taught to sit as suppliants in the temple of Diana, where they preserved them, setting before them for their food sesame mingled with honey. This our author calls an affront put by the Samians on the Corinthians, who therefore instigated the Lacedaemonians against them, to wit, because the Samians had saved three hundred children of the Greeks from being unmanned. By attributing this villany to the Corinthians, he makes the city more wicked than the tyrant. He indeed was revenging himself on those of Corcyra who had slain his son; but what had the Corinthians suffered, that they should punish the Samians for putting an obstacle to so great a cruelty and wickedness? — and this, after three generations, reviving the memory of an old quarrel for the sake of that tyranny, which they found so grievous and intolerable that they are still endlessly abolishing all the monuments and marks of it, though long since extinct. Such then was the injury done by the Samians to the Corinthians. Now what a kind of punishment was it the Corinthians would have inflicted on them? Had they been indeed angry with the Samians, they should not have incited the Lacedaemonians, but rather diverted them from their war against Polycrates, that the Samians might not by the tyrant’s overthrow recover liberty, and be freed from their slavery. But (what is most to be observed) why were the Corinthians so offended with the Samians, that desired indeed but were not able to save the Corcyraeans children, and yet were not displeased with the Cnidians, who both preserved them and restored them to their friends? Nor indeed have the Corcyraeans any great esteem for the Samians on this account; but of the Cnidians they preserve a grateful recollection, having granted them several honors and privileges, and made decrees in their favor. For these, sailing to Samos, drove away Periander’s guards from the temple, and taking the children aboard their ships, carried them safe to Corcyra; as it is recorded by Antenor the Cretan, and by Dionysius the Chalcidian in his foundations. Now that the Spartans undertook not this war on any design of punishing the Samians, but to save them by delivering them from the tyrant, we have the testimony of the Samians themselves. For they affirm that there is in Samos a monument erected at the public charge, and honors there done to Archias a Spartan, who fell fighting valiantly in that quarrel; for which cause also his posterity still keep a familiar and friendly correspondence with the Samians, as Herodotus himself witnesses.
In his Fifth Book, he says, that Clisthenes, one of the best and noblest men in Athens, persuaded the priestess Pythia to be a false prophetess, and always to exhort the Lacedaemonians to free Athens from the tyrants; calumniating this most excellent and just action by the imputation of so great a wickedness and imposture, and taking from Apollo the credit of that true and good prophecy, beseeming even Themis herself, who is also said to have joined with him. He says farther, that Isagoras prostituted his wife to Cleomenes, who came to her. (Herodotus, v. 63, 70.) Then, as his manner is, to gain credit by mixing some praises with his reproaches, he says: Isagoras the son of Tisander was of a noble family, but I cannot tell the original of it; his kinsmen, however, sacrifice to the Carian Jupiter. (Herodotus, v. 66.) O this pleasant and cunning scoffer of a writer, who thus disgracefully sends Isagoras to the Carians, as it were to the ravens. As for Aristogiton, he puts him not forth at the back door, but thrusts him directly out of the gate into Phoenicia, saying that he had his original from the Gephyraeans, and that the Gephyraeans were not, as some think, Euboeans or Eretrians, but Phoenicians, as himself has heard by report. (Ibid, v. 58.) And since he cannot altogether take from the Lacedaemonians the glory of having delivered the Athenians from the tyrants, he endeavors to cloud and disgrace that most honorable act by as foul a passion. For he says, they presently repented of it, as not having done well, in that they had been persuaded by spurious and deceitful oracles to drive the tyrants, who were their allies and had promised to put Athens into their hands, out of their country, and had restored the city to an ungrateful people. He adds, that they were about to send for Hippias from Sigeum, and bring him back to Athens; but that they were opposed by the Corinthians, Sosicles telling them how much the city of Corinth had suffered under the tyranny of Cypselus and Periander. (Ibid, v. 90, 91.) And yet there was no outrage of Periander’s more abominable and cruel than his sending the three hundred children to be emasculated, for the delivering and saying of whom from that contumely the Corinthians, he says, were angry and bore a grudge against the Samians, as having put an affront upon them. With so much repugnance and contradiction is that malice of his discourse filled, which on every occasion insinuates itself into his narrations.
After this, relating the action of Sardis, he, as much as in him lies, diminishes and discredits the matter; being so audacious as to call the ships which the Athenians sent to the assistance of the Ionians, who had revolted from the King the beginning of evils, because they endeavored to deliver so many and so great Grecian cities from the barbarians. (Ibid, v. 97.) As to the Eretrians, making mention of them only by the way, he passes over in silence a great, gallant, and memorable action of theirs. For when all Ionia was in a confusion and uproar, and the King’s fleet drew nigh, they, going forth to meet him, overcame in a sea-fight the Cyprians in the Pamphylian Sea. Then turning back and leaving their ships at Ephesus, they invaded Sardis and besieged Artaphernes, who was fled into the castle, that so they might raise the siege of Miletus. And this indeed they effected, causing the enemies to break up their camp and remove thence in a wonderful fright, and then seeing themselves in danger to be oppressed by a multitude, retired. This not only others, but Lysanias of Mallus also in his history of Eretria relates, thinking it convenient, if for no other reason, yet after the taking and destruction of the city, to add this valiant and heroic act. But this writer of ours says, they were defeated, and pursued even to their ships by the barbarians; though Charon the Lampsacenian has no such thing, but writes thus, word for word: “The Athenians set forth with twenty galleys to the assistance of the Ionians, and going to Sardis, took all thereabouts, except the King’s wall; which having done, they returned to Miletus.”
In his Sixth Book, our author, discoursing of the Plataeans — how they gave themselves to the Lacedaemonians, who exhorted them rather to have recourse to the Athenians, who were nearer to them and no bad defenders — adds, not as a matter of suspicion or opinion, but as a thing certainly known by him, that the Lacedaemonians gave the Plataeans this advice, not so much for any goodwill, as through a desire to find work for the Athenians by engaging them with the Boeotians. (Herodotus, vi. 108.) If then Herodotus is not malicious, the Lacedaemonians must have been both fraudulent and spiteful; and the Athenians fools, in suffering themselves to be thus imposed on; and the Plataeans were brought into play, not for any good-will or respect, but as an occasion of war.
He is farther manifestly convinced of belying the Lacedaemonians, when he says that, whilst they expected the full moon, they failed of giving their assistance to the Athenians at Marathon. For they not only made a thousand other excursions and fights at the beginning of the month, without staying for the full moon; but wanted so little of being present at this very battle, which was fought the sixth day of the month Boedromion, that at their coming they found the dead still lying in the field. And yet he has written thus of the full moon: “It was impossible for them to do these things at that present, being unwilling to break the law; for it was the ninth of the month, and they said, they could not go forth on the ninth day, the orb of the moon being not yet full. And therefore they stayed for the full moon.” (Herodotus, vi. 106.) But thou, O Herodotus, transferest the full moon from the middle to the beginning of the month, and at the same time confoundest the heavens, days, and all things; and yet thou dost claim to be the historian of Greece!
And professing to write more particularly and carefully of the affairs of Athens, thou dost not so much as say a word of that solemn procession which the Athenians even at this day send to Agrae, celebrating a feast of thanksgiving to Hecate for their victory. But this helps Herodotus to refel the crime with which he is charged, of having flattered the Athenians for a great sum of money he received of them. For if he had rehearsed these things to them, they would not have omitted or neglected to remark that Philippides, when on the ninth he summoned the Lacedaemonians to the fight, must have come from it himself, since (as Herodotus says) he went in two days from Athens to Sparta; unless the Athenians sent for their allies to the fight after their enemies were overcome. Indeed Diyllus the Athenian, none of the most contemptible as an historian, says, that he received from Athens a present of ten talents, Anytus proposing the decree. Moreover Herodotus, as many say, has in relating the fight at Marathon derogated from the credit of it, by the number he sets down of the slain. For it is said that the Athenians made a vow to sacrifice so many kids to Diana Agrotera, as they should kill barbarians; but that after the fight, the number of the dead appearing infinite, they appeased the goddess by making a decree to immolate five hundred to her every year.
But letting this pass, let us see what was done after the fight. “The barbarians,” say he, “retiring back with the rest of their ships, and taking the Eretrian slaves out of the island, where they had left them, doubled the point of Sunium, desiring to prevent the Athenians before they could gain the city. The Athenians suspected this to have been done by a plot of the Alcmaeonidae, who by agreement showed a shield to the Persians when they were got into their ships. They therefore doubled the cape of Sunium.” (Herodotus, vi. 115, 121–124.) Let us in this place take no notice of his calling the Eretrians slaves, who showed as much courage and gallantry in this war as any other of the Grecians, and suffered things unworthy their virtue. Nor let us insist much on the calumny with which he defames the Alcmaeonidae, some of whom were both the greatest families and noblest men of the city. But the greatness of the victory itself is overthrown, and the end of that so celebrated action comes to nothing, nor does it seem to have been a fight or any great exploit, but only a light skirmish with the barbarians, as the envious and ill-willers affirm, if they did not after the battle fly away, cutting their cables and giving themselves to the wind, to carry them as far as might be from the Attic coast, but having a shield lifted up to them as a signal of treason, made straight with their fleet for Athens, in hope to surprise it, and having at leisure doubled the point of Sunium, were discovered above the port Phalerum, so that the chief and most illustrious men, despairing to save the city would have betrayed it. For a little after, acquitting the Alcmaeonidae, he charges others with the treason. “For the shield indeed was shown, nor can it be denied,” says he, as if he had seen it himself. But this could no way be, since the Athenians obtained a solid victory; and if it had been done, it could not have been seen by the barbarians, flying in a hurry amidst wounds and arrows into their ships, and leaving every one the place with all possible speed. But when he again pretends to excuse the Alcmaeonidae of those crimes which he first of all men objected against them, and speaks thus: “I cannot credit the report that the Alcmaeonidae by agreement would ever have lifted up a shield to the Persians, and have brought the Athenians under the power of the barbarians and Hippias”; it reminds me of a certain proverbial saving — Stay and be caught, crab, and I’ll let you go. For why art thou so eager to catch him, if thou wilt let him go when he is caught? Thus you first accuse, then apologize; and you write calumnies against illustrious men, which again you refute. And you discredit yourself; for you heard no one else but yourself say that the Alcmaeonidae lifted up a shield to the vanquished and flying barbarians. And in those very things which you allege for the Alcmaeonidae, you show yourself a sycophant. For if, as here you write, the Alcmaeonidae were more or no less enemies to tyrants than Callias, the son of Phaenippus and father of Hipponicus, where will you place their conspiracy, of which you write in your First Book, that assisting Pisistratus they brought him back from exile to the tyranny and did not drive him away till he was accused of unnaturally abusing his wife? Such then are the repugnances of these things; and by his intermixing the praises of Callias, the son of Phaenippus, amidst the crimes and suspicions of the Alcmaeonidae, and joining to him his son Hipponicus, who was (as Herodotus himself says) one of the richest men in Athens, he confesses that he brought in Callias not for any necessity of the story, but to ingratiate himself and gain favor with Hipponicus.
Now, whereas all know that the Argives denied not to enter into the common league of the Grecians, though they thought not fit to follow and be under the command of the Lacedaemonians, who were their mortal enemies, and that this was no otherways, our author subjoins a most malicious cause for it, writing thus: “When they saw they were comprised by the Greeks, knowing that the Lacedaemonians would not admit them into a share of the command, they requested it, that they might have a pretence to lie still.” “And of this,” he says, “the Argive ambassadors afterwards put Artaxerxes in mind, when they attended him at Susa, and the King said, he esteemed no city more his friend than Argos.” Then adding, as his manner is, to cover the matter, he says: “Of these things I know nothing certainly; but this I know, that all men have faults, and that the worst things were not done by the Argives; but I must tell such things as are reported, though I am not bound to believe them all; and let this be understood of all my narrations. For it is farther said that the Argives, when they were not able to sustain the war against the Lacedaemonians, called the Persians into Greece, willing to suffer anything rather than the present trouble.” (Herodotus, vii. 148–152.) Therefore, as himself reports the Ethiopian to have said of the ointment and purple, “Deceitful are the beauties, deceitful the garments of the Persians,” (Herodotus, iii. 22.) may not any one say also of him, Deceitful are the phrases, deceitful the figures of Herodotus’s speeches; as being perplexed, unsound, and full of ambiguities? For as painters set off and render more eminent the luminous part of their pictures by adding shadows, so he by his denials extends his calumnies, and by his dubious speeches makes his suspicions take deeper impression. If the Argives joined not with the other Greeks, but stood out through an emulation of the Lacedaemonians command and valor, it cannot be denied but that they acted in a manner not beseeming their nobility and descent from Hercules. For it had been more honorable for the Argives under the leadership of Siphnians and Cythnians to have defended the Grecian liberty, than contending with the Spartans for superiority to have avoided so many and such signal combats. And if it was they who brought the Persians into Greece, because their war against the Lacedaemonians succeeded ill, how came it to pass, that they did not at the coming of Xerxes openly join themselves to the Medes? Or if they would not fight under the King, why did they not, being left at home, make incursions into Laconia or again attempt Thyreae or by some other way disturb and infest the Lacedaemonians? For they might have greatly damaged the Grecians, by hindering the Spartans from going with so great an army to Plataea.
But in this place indeed he has highly magnified the Athenians and pronounced them the saviours of Greece, doing herein rightly and justly, if he had not intermixed many reproaches with their praises. But now, when he says (Ibid. vii. 139.) that (but for the Athenians) the Lacedaemonians would have been betrayed by the other Greeks, and then, being left alone and having performed great exploits, they would have died generously; or else, having before seen that the Greeks were favoring the Medes, they would have made terms with Xerxes; it is manifest, he speaks not these things to the commendation of the Athenians, but he praises the Athenians that he may speak ill of all the rest. For how can any one now be angry with him for so bitterly and intemperately upbraiding the Thebans and Phocians at every turn, when he charges even those who exposed themselves to all perils for Greece with a treason which was never acted, but which (as he thinks) might have been. Nay, of the Lacedaemonians themselves, he makes it doubtful whether they might have fallen in the battle or have yielded to the enemy, minimizing the proofs of their valor which were shown at Thermopylae; — and these indeed were small!
After this, when he declares the shipwreck that befell the King’s fleet, and how, an infinite mass of wealth being cast away, Aminocles the Magnesian, son of Cresines, was greatly enriched by it, having gotten an immense quantity of gold and silver; he could not so much as let this pass without snarling at it. “For this man,” say she, “who had till then been none of the most fortunate, by wrecks became exceeding rich; for the misfortune he had in killing his son much afflicted his mind.” (Herodotus, vii. 190.) This indeed is manifest to every one, that he brought this golden treasure and this wealth cast up by the sea into his history, that he might make way for the inserting Aminocles’s killing his son.
Now Aristophanes the Boeotian wrote, that Herodotus demanded money of the Thebans but received none and that going about to discourse and reason with the young men, he was prohibited by the magistrates through their clownishness and hatred of learning; of which there is no other argument. But Herodotus bears witness to Aristophanes, whilst he charges the Thebans with some things falsely, with others ignorantly, and with others as hating them and having a quarrel with them. For he affirms that the Thessalians at first upon necessity inclined to the Persians, (Ibid, vii. 172.) in which he says the truth; and prophesying of the other Grecians that they would betray the Lacedaemonians, he added, that they would not do it willingly, but upon necessity, one city being taken after another. But he does not allow the Thebans the same plea of necessity, although they sent to Tempe five hundred men under the command of Mnamias, and to Thermopylae as many as Leonidas desired, who also alone with the Thespians stood by him, the rest leaving him after he was surrounded. But when the barbarian, having possessed himself of the avenues, was got into their confines, and Demaratus the Spartan, favoring in right of hospitality Attaginus, the chief of the oligarchy, had so wrought that he became the King’s friend and familiar, whilst the other Greeks were in their ships, and none came on by land; then at last being forsaken did they accept conditions of peace, to which they were compelled by great necessity. For they had neither the sea and ships at hand, as had the Athenians; nor did they dwell far off, as the Spartans, who inhabited the most remote parts of Greece; but were not above a day and half’s journey from the Persian army, whom they had already with the Spartans and Thespians alone resisted at the entrance of the straits, and were defeated.
But this writer is so equitable, that having said, “The Lacedaemonians, being alone and deserted by their allies, would perhaps have made a composition with Xerxes,” he yet blames the Thebans, who were forced to the same act by the same necessity. But when he could not wholly obliterate this most great and glorious act of the Thebans, yet went he about to deface it with a most vile imputation and suspicion, writing thus: “The confederates who had been sent returned back, obeying the commands of Leonidas; there remained only with the Lacedaemonians the Thespians and the Thebans: of these, the Thebans stayed against their wills, for Leonidas retained them as hostages; but the Thespians most willingly, as they said they would never depart from Leonidas and those that were with him.” (Herodotus, vii. 222.) Does he not here manifestly discover himself to have a peculiar pique and hatred against the Thebans, by the impulse of which he not only falsely and unjustly calumniated the city, but did not so much as take care to render his contradiction probable, or to conceal, at least from a few men, his being conscious of having knowingly contradicted himself? For having before said that Leonidas, perceiving his confederates not to be in good heart nor prepared to undergo danger, wished them to depart, he a little after adds that the Thebans were against their wills detained by him; whereas, if he had believed them inclined to the Persians, he should have driven them away though they had been willing to tarry. For if he thought that those who were not brisk would be useless, to what purpose was it to mix among his soldiers those that were suspected? Nor was the king of the Spartans and general of all Greece so senseless as to think that four hundred armed Thebans could be detained as hostages by his three hundred, especially the enemy being both in his front and rear. For though at first he might have taken them along with him as hostages; it is certainly probable that at last, having no regard for him, they would have gone away from him, and that Leonidas would have more feared his being encompassed by them than by the enemy. Furthermore, would not Leonidas have been ridiculous, to have sent away the other Greeks, as if by staying they should soon after have died, and to have detained the Thebans, that being himself about to die, he might keep them for the Greeks? For if he had indeed carried them along with him for hostages, or rather for slaves, he should not have kept them with those that were at the point of perishing, but have delivered them to the Greeks that went away. There remained but one cause that might be alleged for Leonidas’s unwillingness to let them go, to wit, that they might die with him; and this our historian himself has taken away, writing thus of Leonidas’s ambition: “Leonidas, considering these things, and desirous that this glory might redound to the Spartans alone, sent away his confederates rather for this than because they differed in their opinions.” (Herodotus, vii. 220.) For it had certainly been the height of folly to keep his enemies against their wills, to be partakers of that glory from which he drove away his confederates. But it is manifest from the effects, that Leonidas suspected not the Thebans of insincerity, but esteemed them to be his steadfast friends. For he marched with his army into Thebes, and at his request obtained that which was never granted to any other, to sleep within the temple of Hercules; and the next morning he related to the Thebans the vision that had appeared to him. For he imagined that he saw the most illustrious and greatest cities of Greece irregularly tossed and floating up and down on a very stormy and tempestuous sea; that Thebes, being carried above all the rest, was lifted up on high to heaven, and suddenly after disappeared. And this indeed had a resemblance of those things which long after befell that city.
Now Herodotus, in his narration of that fight, hath obscured also the bravest act of Leonidas, saying that they all fell in the straits near the hill. (Herodotus, vii. 225.) But the affair was otherwise managed. For when they perceived by night that they were encompassed by the barbarians, they marched straight to the enemies’ camp, and got very near the King’s pavilion, with a resolution to kill him and leave their lives about him. They came then to his tent, killing or putting to flight all they met; but when Xerxes was not found there, seeking him in that vast camp and wandering about, they were at last with much difficulty slain by the barbarians, who surrounded them on every side. What other acts and sayings of the Spartans Herodotus has omitted, we will write in the Life of Leonidas; yet that hinders not but we may here set down also some few. Before Leonidas went forth to that war, the Spartans exhibited to him funeral spectacles, at which the fathers and mothers of those that went along with him were spectators. Leonidas himself, when one said to him, You lead very few with you to the battle, answered, There are many to die there. When his wife, at his departure, asked him what commands he had for her; he, turning to her, said, I command you to marry a good man, and bring him good children. After he was enclosed by the enemy at Thermopylae, desiring to save two that were related to him, he gave one of them a letter and sent him away; but he rejected it, saying angrily, I followed you as a soldier, not as a postman. The other he commanded to go on a message to the magistrates of Sparta; but he, answering, that is a messenger’s business, took his shield, and stood up in his rank. Who would not have blamed another that should have omitted these things? But he who has collected and recorded the fart of Amasis, the coming of the thief’s asses, and the giving of bottles, and many such like things, cannot seem to have omitted these gallant acts and these remarkable sayings by negligence and oversight, but as bearing ill-will and being unjust to some.
He says that the Thebans, being at the first with the Greeks, fought compelled by necessity. (Ibid, vii. 233.) For belike not only Xerxes, but Leonidas also, had whipsters following his camp, by whom the Thebans were scourged and forced against their wills to fight. And what more ruthless libeller could there be than Herodotus, when he says that they fought upon necessity, who might have gone away and fled, and that they inclined to the Persians, whereas not one came in to help them. After this, he writes that, the rest making to the hill, the Thebans separated themselves from them, lifted up their hands to the barbarian, and coming near, cried with a most true voice, that they had favored the Persians, had given earth and water to the King, that now being forced by necessity they were come to Thermopylae, and that they were innocent of the King’s wound. Having said these things, they obtained quarter; for they had the Thessalians for witnesses of all they said. Behold, how amidst the barbarians, exclamations, tumults of all sorts, flights and pursuits, their apology was heard, the witnesses examined; and the Thessalians, in the midst of those that were slain and trodden under foot, all being done in a very narrow passage, patronized the Thebans, to wit, because the Thebans had but a little before driven away them, who were possessed of all Greece as far as, Thespiae, having conquered them in a battle, and slain their leader Lattamyas! For thus at that time stood matters between the Boeotians and the Thessalians, without any friendship or good-will. But yet how did the Thebans escape, the Thessalians helping them with their testimonies? Some of them, says he, were slain by the barbarians; many of them were by command of Xerxes marked with the royal mark, beginning with their leader Leontiades. Now the captain of the Thebans at Thermopylae was not Leontiades, but Anaxander, as both Aristophanes, out of the Commentaries of the Magistrates, and Nicander the Colophonian have taught us. Nor did any man before Herodotus know that the Thebans were stigmatized by Xerxes; for otherwise this would have been an excellent plea for them against his calumny, and this city might well have gloried in these marks, that Xerxes had punished Leonidas and Leontiades as his greatest enemies, having outraged the body of the one when he was dead, and caused the other to be tormented whilst living. But as to a writer who makes the barbarian’s cruelty against Leonidas when dead a sign that he hated him most of all men when living, (Herodotus, vii. 238.) and yet says that the Thebans, though favoring the Persians, were stigmatized by them at Thermopylae, and having been thus stigmatized, again cheerfully took their parts at Plataea, it seems to me that such a man — like that Hippoclides (See Herodotus, vi. 126–130.) who gesticulating with his limbs by standing on his head on a table — would dance away the truth and say, It makes no difference to Herodotus.
In the Eighth Book our author says, that the Greeks being frighted designed to fly from Artemisium into Greece, and that, being requested by the Euboeans to stay a little till they could dispose of their wives and families, they regarded them not, till such time as Themistocles, having taken money of them, divided it between Eurybiades and Adimantus, the captain of the Corinthians, and that then they stayed and had a sea-fight with the barbarians (Ibid. viii. 4.) Yet Pindar, who was not a citizen of any of the confederate cities, but of one that was suspected to take part with the Medians, having made mention of Artemisium, brake forth into this exclamation: “This is the place where the sons of the Athenians laid the glorious foundation of liberty.” But Herodotus, by whom, as some will have it, Greece is honored, makes that victory a work of bribery and theft, saying that the Greeks, deceived by their captains, who had to that end taken money, fought against their wills. Nor does he here put an end to his malice. All men in a manner confess that, although the Greeks got the better at sea, they nevertheless abandoned Artemisium to the barbarians after they had received the news of the overthrow at Thermopylae. For it was to no purpose for them to stay there and keep the sea, the war being already within Thermopylae, and Xerxes having possessed himself of the avenues. But Herodotus makes the Greeks contriving to fly before they heard anything of Leonidas’s death. For thus he says: “But they having been ill-treated, and especially the Athenians, half of whose ships were sorely shattered, consulted to take their flight into Greece.” (Ibid. viii. 18.) But let him be permitted so to name (or rather reproach) this retreat of theirs before the fight; but having before called it a flight, he both now styles it a flight, and will again a little after term it a flight; so bitterly does he adhere to this word “flight.” “Presently after this,” says he, “there came to the barbarians in the pinnace a man of Hestiaea, who acquainted them with the flight of the Grecians from Artemisium. They, because the thing seemed incredible, kept the messenger in custody, and sent forth some light galleys to discover the truth.” (Herodotus, viii. 23.) But what is this you say? That they fled as conquered, whom the enemies after the fight could not believe to have fled, as having got much the better? Is then this a fellow fit to be believed when he writes of any man or city, who in one word deprives Greece of the victory, throws down the trophy, and pronounces the inscriptions they had set up to Diana Proseoa (EASTWARD-FACING) to be nothing but pride and vain boasting? The tenor of the inscription was as follows:—
When Athens youth had in a naval fight
All Asia’s forces on this sea o’verthrown,
And all the Persian army put to flight,
Than which a greater scare was ever known,
To show how much Diana they respected,
This trophy to her honor they erected.
Moreover, not having described any order of the Greeks, nor told us what place every city of theirs held during the sea-fight, he says that in this retreat, which he calls their flight, the Corinthians sailed first and the Athenians last. (Ibid. viii, 21.)
He indeed ought not to have too much insulted over the Greeks that took part with the Persians, who, being by others thought a Thurian, reckons himself among the Halicarnassians, who, being Dorians by descent, went with their wives and children to the war against the Greeks. But he is so far from giving first an account of the straits they were in who revolted to the Persians, that, having related how the Thessalians sent to the Phocians, who were their mortal enemies, and promised to preserve their country free from all damage if they might receive from them a reward of fifty talents, he writ thus of the Phocians: “For the Phocians were the only people in these quarters who inclined not to the Persians, and that, as far as I upon due consideration can find, for no other reason but because they hated the Thessalians; for if the Thessalians had been affected to the Grecian affairs, I suppose the Phocians would have joined themselves to the Persians.” And yet, a little after he would say that thirteen cities of the Phocians were burned by the barbarians, their country laid waste, and the temple which was in Abae set on fire, and all of both sexes put to the sword, except those that by flight escaped to Parnassus. (Herodotus, viii. 30–33. Compare ix. 17.) Nevertheless, he puts those who suffered all extremities rather than lose their honesty in the same rank with those who most affectionately sided with the Persians. And when he could not blame the Phocians actions, writing at his desk invented false causes and got up suspicions against them, and bids us judge them not by what they did, but by what they would have done if the Thessalians had not taken the same side, as if they had been prevented from treason because they found the place already occupied by others! Now if any one, going about to excuse the revolt of the Thessalians to the Persians, should say that they would not have done it but for the hatred they bare the Phocians — whom when they saw joined to the Greeks, they against their inclinations followed the party of the Persians — would not such a one be thought most shamefully to flatter, and for the sake of others to pervert the truth, by reigning good causes for evil actions? Indeed, I think, he would. Why then would not he be thought openly to calumniate, who says that the Phocians chose the best, not for the love of virtue, but because they saw the Thessalians on the contrary side? For neither does he refer this device to other authors, as he is elsewhere wont to do, but says that himself found it out by conjecture. He should therefore have produced certain arguments, by which he was persuaded that they, who did things like the best, followed the same counsels with the worst. For what he alleges of their hatreds is ridiculous. For neither did the difference between the Aeginetans and the Athenians, nor that between the Chalcidians and the Eretrians, nor yet that between the Corinthians and the Megarians, hinder them from fighting together for Greece. Nor did the Macedonians, their most bitter enemies, turn the Thessalians from their friendship with the barbarians, by joining the Persian party themselves. For the common danger did so bury their private grudges, that banishing their other passions, they applied their minds either to honesty for the sake of virtue, or to profit through the impulse of necessity. And indeed, after that necessity which compelled them to obey the Persians was over, they returned again to the Greeks, as Lacrates the Spartan has openly testified of them. And Herodotus, as constrained to it, in his relation of the affairs at Plataea, confessed that the Phocians took part with the Greeks. (Herodotus, ix. 31.)
Neither ought it to seem strange to any, if he thus bitterly inveighs against the unfortunate; since he reckons amongst enemies and traitors those who were present at the engagement, and together with the other Greeks hazarded their safety. For the Naxians, says he, sent three ships to the assistance of the barbarians; but Democritus, one of their captains, persuaded the others to take the party of the Greeks. (Ibid. viii. 46.) So unable he is to praise without dispraising, that if he commends one man he must condemn a whole city or people. But in this there give testimony against him, of the more ancient writers Hellanicus, and of the later Ephorus, one of which says that the Naxians came with six ships to aid the Greeks, and the other with five. And Herodotus convinces himself of having feigned these things. For the writers of the Naxian annals say, that they had before beaten back Megabates, who came to their island with two hundred ships, and after that had put to flight the general Datis who had set their city on fire. Now if, as Herodotus has elsewhere said, the barbarians burned their city so that the men were glad to save themselves by flying into the mountains, had they not just cause rather to send aid to the destroyers of their country than to help the protectors of the common liberty? But that he framed this lie not so much to honor Democritus, as to cast infamy on the Naxians, is manifest from his omitting and wholly passing over in silence the valiant acts then performed by Democritus, of which Simonides gives us an account in this epigram:—
When as the Greeks at sea the Medes did meet,
And had near Salamis a naval fight,
Democritus as third led up the fleet,
Charging the enemy with all his might;
He took five of their ships, and did another,
Which they had taken from the Greeks, recover.
But why should any one be angry with him about the Naxians? If we have, as some say, antipodes inhabiting the other hemisphere, I believe that they also have heard of Themistocles and his counsel, which he gave to the Greeks, to fight a naval battle before Salamis, on which, the barbarian being overcome, he built in Melite a temple to Diana the Counsellor. This gentle writer, endeavoring, as much as in him lies, to deprive Themistocles of the glory of this, and transfer it to another, writes thus word for word: “Whilst things were thus, Mnesiphilus, an Athenian, asked Themistocles, as he was going aboard his ship, what had been resolved on in council. And being answered, that it was decreed the ships should be brought back to Isthmus, and a battle fought at sea before Peloponnesus; he said, If then they remove the navy from Salamis, you will no longer be fighting for one country for they will return every one to his own city. Wherefore, if there be any way left, go and endeavor to break this resolution; and, if it be possible, persuade Eurybiades to change his mind and stay here.” Then adding that this advice pleased Themistocles, who, without making any reply, went straight to Eurybiades, he has these very expressions: “And sitting by him he related what he had heard from Mnesiphilus, feigning as if it came from himself, and adding other things.” (Herodotus, viii. 57, 58.) You see how he accuses Themistocles of disingenuity in arrogating to himself the counsel of Mnesiphilus.
And deriding the Greeks still further, he says, that Themistocles, who was called another Ulysses for his wisdom, was so blind that he could not foresee what was fit to be done; but that Artemisia, who was of the same city with Herodotus, without being taught by any one, but by her own consideration, said thus to Xerxes: “The Greeks will not long be able to hold out against you, but you will put them to flight, and they will retire to their own cities; nor is it probable, if you march your army by land to Peloponnesus, that they will sit still, or take care to fight at sea for the Athenians. But if you make haste to give them a naval battle, I fear lest your fleets receiving damage may prove also very prejudicial to your land-forces.” (Ibid. viii. 68.) Certainly Herodotus wanted nothing but verses to make Artemisia another Sibyl, so exactly prophesying of things to come. Therefore Xerxes also delivered his sons to her to be carried to Ephesus for he had (it seems) forgot to bring women with him from Susa, if indeed the children wanted a train of female attendants.
But it is not our design to search into the lies of Herodotus; we only make inquiry into those which he invented to detract from the glory of others. He says: “It is reported by the Athenians that Adimantus, captain of the Corinthians, when the enemies were now ready to join battle, was struck with such fear and astonishment that he fled; not thrusting his ship backward by the stern, or leisurely retreating through those that were engaged, but openly hoisting up his sails, and turning the heads of all his vessels. And about the farther part of the Salaminian coast, he was met by a pinnace, out of which one spake thus to him: Thou indeed, Adimantus, fliest, having betrayed the Grecians; yet they overcome, and according to their desires have the better of their enemies.” (Herodotus, viii. 94.) This pinnace was certainly let down from heaven. For what should hinder him from erecting a tragical machine, who by his boasting excelled the tragedians in all other things? Adimantus then crediting him (he adds) “returned to the fleet, when the business was already done.” “This report,” says he, “is believed by the Athenians; but the Corinthians deny it, and say, they were the first at the sea-fight, for which they have the testimony of all the other Greeks.” Such is this man in many other places. He spreads different calumnies and accusations of different men, that he may not fail of making some one appear altogether wicked. And it has succeeded well with him in this place; for if the calumny is believed, the Corinthians — if it is not, the Athenians — are rendered infamous. But in reality the Athenians did not belie the Corinthians, but he hath belied them both. Certainly Thucydides, bringing in an Athenian ambassador contesting with a Corinthian at Sparta, and gloriously boasting of many things about the Persian war and the sea-fight at Salamis, charges not the Corinthians with any crime of treachery or leaving their station. Nor was it likely the Athenians should object any such thing against Corinth, when they saw her engraven in the third place after the Lacedaemonians and themselves on those spoils which, being taken from the barbarians, were consecrated to the gods. And in Salamis they had permitted them to bury the dead near the city, as being men who had behaved themselves gallantly, and to write over them this elegy:—
Well-watered Corinth, stranger, was our home;
Salamis, Ajax’s isle, is now our grave;
Here Medes and Persians and Phoenician ships
We fought and routed, sacred Greece to save.
And their honorary sepulchre at the Isthmus has on it this epitaph:—
When Greece upon the point of danger stood,
We fell, defending her with our life-blood.
Moreover, on the offerings of Diodorus, one of the Corinthian sea-captains, reserved in the temple of Latona, there is this inscription:—
Diodorus’s seamen to Latona sent
These arms, of hostile Medes the monument
And as for Adimantus himself, against whom Herodotus frequently inveighs — saying, that he was the only captain who went about to fly from Artemisium, and would not stay the fight — behold in how great honor he is:—
Here Adimantus rests: the same was he,
Whose counsels won for Greece the crown of liberty.
For neither is it probable, that such honor would have been shown to a coward and a traitor after his decease; nor would he have dared to give his daughters the names of Nausinica, Acrothinius, and Alexibia, and his son that of Aristeas, if he had not performed some illustrious and memorable action in that fight. Nor is it credible that Herodotus was ignorant of that which could not be unknown even to the meanest Carian, that the Corinthian women alone made that glorious and divine prayer, by which they besought the Goddess Venus to inspire their husbands with a love of fighting against the barbarians. For it was a thing divulged abroad, concerning which Simonides made an epigram to be inscribed on the brazen image set up in that temple of Venus which is said to have been founded by Medea, when she desired the goddess, as some affirm, to deliver her from loving her husband Jason, or, as others say, to free him from loving Thetis. The tenor of the epigram follows:—
For those who, fighting on their country’s side,
Opposed th’ imperial Mede’s advancing tide,
We, votaresses, to Cythera pray’d;
Th’ indulgent power vouchsafed her timely aid,
And kept the citadel of Hellas free
From rude assaults of Persia’s archery.
These things he should rather have written and recorded, than have inserted Aminocles’s killing of his son.
After he had abundantly satisfied himself with the accusations brought against Themistocles — of whom he says that, unknown to the other captains, he incessantly robbed and spoiled the islands — (Herodotus, viii. 112.) he at length openly takes away the crown of victory from the Athenians, and sets it on the head of the Aeginetans, writing thus: “The Greeks having sent the first-fruits of their spoils to Delphi, asked in general of the god, whether he had a sufficient part of the booty and were contented with it. He answered, that he had enough of all the other Greeks, but not of the Aeginetans for he expected a donary of them, as having won the greatest honor in the battle at Salamis.” (Ibid. viii. 122.) See here how he attributes not his fictions to the Scythians, to the Persians, or to the Egyptians, as Aesop did his to the ravens and apes; but using the very person of the Pythian Apollo, he takes from Athens the chief honor of the battle at Salamis. And the second place in honor being given to Themistocles at the Isthmus by all the other captains — every one of which attributed to himself the first degree of valor, but give the next to Themistocles — and the judgment not coming to a determination, when he should have reprehended the ambition of the captains, he said, that all the Greeks weighed anchor from thence through envy, not being willing to give the chief honor of the victory to Themistocles. (Ibid. viii. 123, 124.)
In his ninth and last book, having nothing left to vent his malice on but the Lacedaemonians and their glorious action against the barbarians at Plataea, he writes, that the Spartans at first feared lest the Athenians should suffer themselves to be persuaded by Mardonius to forsake the other Greeks; but that now, the Isthmus being fortified, they, supposing all to be safe at Peloponnesus, slighted the rest, feasting and making merry at home, and deluding and delaying the Athenian ambassadors. (Herodotus, ix. 8. See also viii. 141.) How then did there go forth from Sparta to Plataea a thousand and five men, having every one of them with him seven Helots? Or how came it that, exposing themselves to so many dangers, they vanquished and overthrew so many thousand barbarians? Hear now his probable cause of it. “It happened,” says he, “that there was then at Sparta a certain stranger of Tegea, named Chileus, who had some friends amongst the Ephori, between whom and him there was mutual hospitality. He then persuaded them to send forth the army, telling them that the fortification on the Isthmus, by which they had fenced in Peloponnesus, would be of no avail if the Athenians joined themselves with Mardonius.” (Ibid. ix. 9.) This counsel then drew Pausanias with his army to Plataea; but if any private business had kept that Chileus at Tegea, Greece had never been victorious.
Again, not knowing what to do with the Athenians, he tosses to and fro that city, sometimes extolling it, and sometimes debasing it. He says that, contending for the second place with the Tegeatans they made mention of the Heraclidae, alleged their acts against the Amazons, and the sepulchres of the Peloponnesians that died under the walls of Cadmea, and at last brought down their discourse to the battle of Marathon, saying, however, that they would be satisfied with the command of the left wing. (Ibid. ix. 26, 27.) A little after, he says, Pausanias and the Spartans yielded them the first place, desiring them to fight in the right wing against the Persians and give them the left, who excused themselves as not skilled in fighting against the barbarians. (Ibid. ix. 46.) Now it is a ridiculous thing, to be unwilling to fight against an enemy unless one has been used to him. But he says farther, that the other Greeks being led by their captains to encamp in another place, as soon as they were moved, the horse fled with joy towards Plataea, and in their flight came as far as Juno’s temple. (Ibid. ix. 52.) In which place indeed he charges them all in general with disobedience, cowardice, and treason. At last he says, that only the Lacedaemonians and the Tegeates fought with the barbarians, and the Athenians with the Thebans; equally defrauding all the other cities of their part in the honor of the victory, whilst he affirms that none of them joined in the fight, but that all of them, sitting still hard by in their arms, betrayed and forsook those who fought for them; that the Phliasians and Megarians indeed, when they heard Pausanias had got the better, came in later, and falling on the Theban horse, were all cut off; that the Corinthians were not at the battle, and that after the victory, by hastening on over the hills, they escaped the Theban cavalry. (See the account of the battle of Plataea, Herodotus, ix, 59–70.) For the Thebans, after the barbarians were overthrown, going before with their horse, affectionately assisted them in their flight; to return them thanks (forsooth) for the marks they had stigmatized them with at Thermopylae! Now what rank the Corinthians had in the fight at Plataea against the barbarians, and how they performed their duty, you may hear from Simonides in these verses:
I’ th’ midst were men, in warlike feats excelling,
Who Ephyre full of springs, inhabited,
And who in Corinth, Glaucus’ city, dwelling,
Great praise by their great valor merited;
Of which they to perpetuate the fame,
To th’ gods of well-wrought gold did offerings frame.
For he wrote not these things, as one that taught at Corinth or that made verses in honor of the city, but only as recording these actions in elegiac verses. But Herodotus, whilst he desires to prevent that objection by which those might convince him of lying who should ask, Whence then are so many mounts, tombs, and monuments of the dead, at which the Plataeans, even to this day, celebrate funeral solemnities in the presence of the Greeks? — has charged, unless I am mistaken, a fouler crime than that of treason on their posterity. For these are his words: “As for the other sepulchres that are seen in Plataea, I have heard that their successors, being ashamed of their progenitors’ absence from this battle, erected every man a monument for posterity’s sake.” (Herodotus, ix. 85.) Of this treacherous deserting the battle Herodotus was the only man that ever heard. For if any Greeks withdrew themselves from the battle, they must have deceived Pausanias, Aristides, the Lacedaemonians, and the Athenians. Neither yet did the Athenians exclude the Aeginetans who were their adversaries from the inscription, nor convince the Corinthians of having fled from Salamis before the victory, Greece bearing witness to the contrary. Indeed Cleadas, a Plataean, ten years after the Persian war, to gratify, as Herodotus says, the Aeginetans, erected a mount bearing their name. Now came it then to pass that the Athenians and Lacedaemonians, who were so jealous of each other that they were presently after the war ready to go together by the ears about the setting up a trophy, did not yet repel those Greeks who fled in a fear from the battle from having a share in the honor of those that behaved themselves valiantly, but inscribed their names on the trophies and colossuses, and granted them part of the spoils? Lastly they set up an altar, on which was engraven this epigram:
The Greeks, by valor having put to flight
The Persians and preserved their country’s right,
Erected here this altar which you see,
To Jove, preserver of their liberty.
Did Cleadas, O Herodotus, or some other, write this also, to oblige the cities by flattery? What need had they then to employ fruitless labor in digging up the earth, to make tombs and erect monuments for posterity’s sake, when they saw their glory consecrated in the most illustrious and greatest donaries? Pausanias, indeed, when he was aspiring to the tyranny, set up this inscription in Delphi:—
Pausanias, of Greeks the general
When he the Medes in fight had overthrown,
Offered to Phoebus a memorial
Of victory, this monumental stone.
In which he gave the glory to the Greeks, whose general he professed himself to be. Yet the Greeks not enduring but utterly misliking it, the Lacedaemonians, sending to Delphi, caused this to be cut out, and the names of the cities, as it was fit, to be engraven instead of it. Now how is it possible that the Greeks should have been offended that there was no mention made of them in the inscription, if they had been conscious to themselves of deserting the fight? or that the Lacedaemonians would have erased the name of their leader and general, to insert deserters and such as withdrew themselves from the common danger? For it would have been a great indignity, that Sophanes, Aeimnestus, and all the rest who showed their valor in that fight, should calmly suffer even the Cythnians and Melians to be inscribed on the trophies; and that Herodotus, attributing that fight only to three cities, should raze all the rest out of those and other sacred monuments and donaries.
There having been then four fights with the barbarians; he says, that the Greeks fled from Artemisium; that, whilst their king and general exposed himself to danger at Thermopylae, the Lacedaemonians sat negligent at home, celebrating the Olympian and Carnean feasts; and discoursing of the action at Salamis, he uses more words about Artemisia than he does in his whole narrative of the naval battle. Lastly, he says, that the Greeks sat still at Plataea, knowing no more of the fight, till it was over, than if it had been a skirmish between mice and frogs (like that which Pigres, Artemisia’s fellow countryman, merrily and scoffingly related in a poem), and it had been agreed to fight silently, lest they should be heard by others; and that the Lacedaemonians excelled not the barbarians in valor, but only got the better, as fighting against naked and unarmed men. To wit, when Xerxes himself was present, the barbarians were with much difficulty compelled by scourges to fight with the Greeks; but at Plataea, having taken other resolutions, as Herodotus says, “they were no way inferior in courage and strength; but their garments being without armor was prejudicial to them, since being naked they fought against a completely armed enemy.” What then is there left great and memorable to the Grecians of those fights, if the Lacedaemonians fought with unarmed men, and the other Greeks, though present, were ignorant of the battle; if empty monuments are set up everywhere, and tripods and altars full of lying inscriptions are placed before the gods; if, lastly, Herodotus only knows the truth, and all others that give any account of the Greeks have been deceived by the fame of those glorious actions, as the effect of an admirable prowess? But he is an acute writer, his style is pleasant, there is a certain grace, force, and elegancy in his narrations; and he has, like a musician, elaborated his discourse, though not knowingly, still clearly and elegantly. These things delight, please, and affect all men. But as in roses we must beware of the venomous flies called cantharides; so must we take heed of the calumnies and envy lying hid under smooth and well-couched phrases and expressions, lest we imprudently entertain absurd and false opinions of the most excellent and greatest cities and men of Greece.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59