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BOOK VII: POLYMNIA - Herodotus, The History [431 BC]
The History of Herodotus, 4 vols. trans. George Rawlinson (New York: Tandy-Thomas Co., 1909).
Part of: The History, 4 vols.
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NOW when tidings of the battle that had been fought at Marathon reached the ears of King Darius, the son of Hystaspes,1 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.
2. 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.
3. 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, by way 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.”
6. 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 Aleuadæ, 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 Pisistratidæ, who had come up to Susa, held the same language as the Aleuadæ, 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 Musæus in their order. The Pisistratidæ 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 Musæus a prophecy that the islands which lie off Lemnos would one day disappear in the sea. Lasus of Hermioné 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 Pisistratidæ and Aleuadæ did not cease to press on him their advice, till at last the king yielded, and agreed to lead forth an expedition.
7. 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 Achæmenes, who was his own brother, and son to Darius. This Achæmenes was afterwards slain in his government by Inarôs, the son of Psammetichus, a Libyan.
8. (§ 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.2 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. (§ 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. (§ 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. (§ 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.
9. (§ 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 Sacæ, 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, Æolians, 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. (§ 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. (§ 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.
10. The other Persians were silent; for 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. (§ 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. (§ 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 Histiæus, 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.
(§ 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. (§ 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. (§ 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!
(§ 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. (§ 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 Lacedæmonians; 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.”
11. 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 Achæmenes, 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,3 subdued so utterly, that to this day both the land, and the people who dwell therein, alike bear the name of the conqueror!”
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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—as thou art grown mighty and puissant in a short space, so likewise shalt thou within a little time be brought low indeed.”
15. 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.”
16. 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:
“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 tempers; 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 worst both for thyself and for the Persians. (§ 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. (§ 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.”
17. 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.”
18. 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 Massagetæ, 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 been 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.
19. 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.
20. 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 Atridæ 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.
21. 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 horses and men likewise for the transport service; a fifth, ships of war towards the bridges; a sixth, ships and provisions.
22. 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 Elæus 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 Artachæes, the son of Artæus, 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 Torôné, is a level plain, broken only by a few low hills. Here, upon this isthmus where Athos ends, is Sané, a Greek city. Inside of Sané, and upon Athos itself, are a number of towns, which Xerxes was now employed in disjoining from the continent: these are, Dium, Olophyxus, Acrothoüm, Thyssus, and Cleônæ. Among these cities Athos was divided.
23. Now the manner in which they dug was the following:4 a line was drawn across by the city of Sané; 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 further, 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 Phœnicians, 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 Phœnicians 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 downward 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.
24. 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.
25. 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 Phœnicians 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 Leucé-Acté, upon the Thracian coast; some part, however, was conveyed to Tyrodiza, in the country of the Perinthians, some to Doriscus, some to Eïron upon the Strymon and some to Macedonia.
26. During the time that all these labours were in progress, the land army which had been collected was marching with Xerxes toward 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 Celænæ. Here are the sources of the river Mæander, 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 Celænæ, and empties itself into the Mæander. Here, too, in this market-place, is hung up to view the skin of the Silênus Marsyas, which Apollo, as the Phrygian story goes, stripped off and placed there.
27. 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.”
28. 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,5 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.”
29. 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 will not repent of it so long as thy life endures.”
30. 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 Colossæ, a Phrygian city of great size, situated at a spot where the river Lycus plunges into a chasm and disappears. This river, after running underground a distance of about five furlongs, reappears once more, and empties itself, like the stream above mentioned, into the Mæander. Leaving Colossæ, the army approached the borders of Phrygia where it abuts on Lydia; and there they came to a city called Cydrara, where was a pillar set up by Crœsus, having an inscription on it, showing the boundaries of the two countries.
31. 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 Mæander, and then pass by the city Callatêbus, 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.
32. 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.
33. 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 Protesilaüs at Elæus, and there was guilty of most unholy deeds.
34. Towards this tongue of land then, the men to whom the business was assigned, carried out a double bridge from Abydos; and while the Phœnicians 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.
35. 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.
36. 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 southeast. 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 cut 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 height as to prevent the sumpter-beasts and the horses from seeing over it and taking fright at the water.
37. 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.
38. 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.”
39. 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 bondslave, 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.
40. 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 onehalf 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 spear-heads pointing towards the ground—next ten of the sacred horses called Nisæan, all daintily caparisoned. (Now these horses are called Nisæan, because they come from the Nisæan 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 Nisæan horses, with his charioteer, Patiramphes, the son of Otanes, a Persian, standing by his side.6
41. 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.
42. The march of the army, after leaving Lydia, was directed upon the river Caïcus and the land of Mysia. Beyond the Caïcus 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 Thebé, 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.
43. 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 Rhœteum, Ophryneum, and Dardanus (which borders on Abydos), on the right the Teucrians of Gergis, so reached Abydos.
44. 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 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 Phœnicians of Sidon, much to the joy of Xerxes, who was delighted alike with the race and with his army.
45. 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.
46. 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.”
47. “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.”
48. “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.”
49. “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 further and further, 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.”
50. 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.”
51. 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.’ ”
52. “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 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.”
53. 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 withstand our arms. And now let us offer prayers to the gods who watch over the welfare of Persia, and then cross the channel.”
54. 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 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.
55. 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 chariots; 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.
56. 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!”
57. 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.
58. 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 Sarpêdon, 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 Hellé 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 Ænos, an Æolian settlement, and likewise Lake Stentoris, they came to Doriscus.
59. 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 Salé stands, a city of the Samothracians, and Zôné, another city. The beach extends to Serrhêum, 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.
60. What the exact number of the troops of each nation was I cannot say with certainty—for it is not mentioned by anyone—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.
61. 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, Artæans. It was not till Perseus, the son of Jove and Danaë, 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.
62. 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 Achæmenids. These Medes were called anciently by all people Arians; but when Medêa, 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.
63. 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;7 but in addition, they had wooden clubs knotted with iron, and linen corselets. This people, whom the Greeks called Syrians, are called Assyrians by the barbarians. The Chaldæans served in their ranks, and they had for commander Otaspes, the son of Artachæus.
64. 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 Sacæ, 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 Sacæ, since that is the name which they give to all Scythians. The Bactrians and the Sacæ had for leader Hystaspes, the son of Darius and of Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus.
65. 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.
66. 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 Dadicæ, 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 Artæus, and the Gandarians and Dadicæ by Artyphius, the son of Artabanus.
67. The Caspians were clad in cloaks of skin, and carried the canebow 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.
68. 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 Œobazus, who commanded the Paricanians.
69. 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 Artystôné, daughter of Cyrus. This Artystôné 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.
70. 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,8 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.
71. The Libyans wore a dress of leather, and carried javelins made hard in the fire. They had for commander Massages, the son of Oarizus.
72. 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 Dôtus the son of Megasidrus; while the Mariandynians, the Ligyans, and the Syrians had for leader Gobryas, the son of Darius and Artystôné.
73. 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.
74. The Lydians were armed very nearly in the Grecian manner. These Lydians in ancient times were called Mæonians, 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 javelin staves with one end hardened in the fire. The Mysians are Lydian colonists, and from the mountain-chain of Olympus, are called Olympiêni. 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.
75. 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.
76. The Chalybians had 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.
77. The Cabalians, who are Mæonians, 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.
78. 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 Mosynœcians. 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 Mosynœcians had for leader Artayctes, the son of Cherasmis, the governor of Sestos upon the Hellespont.
79. 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 rawhide, 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.
80. The Islanders who came from the Erythræan 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 Bagæus, who the year after perished in the battle of Mycalé, where he was one of the captains.
81. 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.
82. Over these commanders themselves, and over the whole of the infantry, there were set six generals,—namely, Mardonius, son of Gobryas; Tritantæchmes, 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.
83. 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 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.9 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.
84. 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.
85. (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.
86. (iii.) The Medes, and Cissians, who had the same equipment as their foot-soldiers.
(iv.) The Indians, equipped as their footmen, 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.1
87. 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.
88. The horse was commanded by Armamithras and Tithæus, 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 bold 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.
89. The triremes amounted in all to twelve hundred and seven; and were furnished by the following nations:
(i.) The Phœnicians, 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 Erythræan sea, but, crossing thence, fixed themselves on the sea-coast 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.
90. (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 Phœnicia, and a portion, according to their own account, from Ethiopia.
91. (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 rawhide; 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 Hypachæans, but took their present title from Cilix, the son of Agenor, a Phœnician.
(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.
92. (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 head-dress a hat encircled with plumes; and besides their other weapons they carried daggers and falchions. This people came from Crete, and were once called Termilæ; they got the name which they now bear from Lycus, the son of Pandion, an Athenian.
93. (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.2
94. (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 Achæa (which was before the arrival of Danaüs and Xuthus in the Peloponnese), were called, according to the Greek account, Ægialean Pelasgi, or “Pelasgi of the Seashore;” but afterwards, from Ion the son of Xuthus, they were called Ionians.
95. 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 as those who inhabited the twelve cities founded from Athens.
The Æolians 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.
96. On board of every ship was a band of soldiers, Persians, Medes, or Sacans. The Phœnician ships were the best sailers in the fleet, and the Sidonian the best among the Phœnicians. 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.
97. The fleet was commanded by the following: Ariabignes, the son of Darius, Prêxaspes, the son of Aspathines, Megabazus, the son of Megabates, and Achæmenes the son of Darius. Ariabignes, who was the child of Darius by a daughter of Gobyras, was leader of the Ionian and Carian ships; Achæmenes, 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.
98. Next to the commanders, the following were the most renowned of those who sailed aboard the fleet: Tetramnêstus, the son of Anysus, the Sidonian; Mapên, 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 Timônax, the son of Timagoras, the Cyprians; and Histiæus, the son of Timnes, Pigres, the son of Seldômus, and Damasithymus, the son of Candaules, the Carians.
99. 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,3 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 Trœzen, while the remainder were from Epidauras. Thus much concerning the sea-force.
100. 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.
101. 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.
102. 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 Lacedæmonians. 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.”
103. 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 body-guard would be willing to engage singly with three Greeks. But this thou didst not know; and therefore it was thou talkedst so foolishly.”
104. 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 Lacedæmonians, 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 freemen, 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.”
105. 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.
106. 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.
107. 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 Eïon. 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.
108. 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 furthermost as one goes toward the west. The next city is Strymè, 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 Gallaïca; now it bears the name of Briantica; but in strict truth it likewise is really Ciconian.
109. After crossing the dry channel of the Lissus, Xerxes passed the Grecian cities of Marôneia, Dicæa, and Abdêra, and likewise the famous lakes which are in their neighbourhood, Lake Ismaris between Marôneia and Strymé, and Lake Bistonis near Dicæa, which receives the waters of two rivers, the Travus and the Compsatus. Near Abdêra 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.
110. The following are the Thracian tribes through whose country he marched: the Pæti, the Ciconians, the Bistonians, the Sapæans, the Dersæans, the Edonians, and the Satræ. 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 Satræ, were forced to serve on foot.
111. The Satræ, 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.
112. 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 Pangæum upon his right, a tract in which there are mines both of gold and silver,4 some worked by the Pierians and Odomantians, but the greater part by the Satræ.
113. Xerxes then marched through the country of the Pæonian tribes—the Doberians and the Pæoplæ—which lay to the north of Pangæum, and, advancing westward, reached the river Strymon and the city Eïon, 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 Pangæum, 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.
114. 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.
115. 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 Pangæum, 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.
116. 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.
117. It was while he remained here that Artachæes, who presided over the canal, a man in high repute with Xerxes, and by birth an Achæmenid, 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 Artachæes as a hero, invoking him in their prayers by name. But king Xerxes sorrowed greatly over his death.
118. 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.5
119. 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.
120. 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.
121. 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 Tritantæchmes and Gergis; the third, with which was Xerxes himself, marching midway between the other two, and having for its leaders Smerdomenes and Megabazus.
122. 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, Pilôrus, 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 Torônæans, passed the Grecian cities Torôné, Galepsus, Sermyla, Mecyberna, and Olynthus, receiving from each a number of ships and men. This region is called Sithonia.
123. From Cape Ampelus the fleet stretched across by a short course to Cape Canastræum, which is the point of the peninsula of Pallêné that runs out furthest into the sea, and gathered fresh supplies of ships and men from Potidæa, Aphytis, Neapolis, Æga, Therambus, Sciôné, Mendé, and Sané. These are the cities of the tract called anciently Phlegra, but now Pallêné. 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 Pallêné, and border on the Thermaic Gulf, whereof the names are Lipaxus, Cômbreia, Lisæ, Gigônus, Campsa, Smila, and Ænêa. The tract where these towns lie still retains its old name of Crossæa. After passing Ænêa, 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 Bottiæa from Mygdonia. Bottiæa has a scanty sea-board, which is occupied by the two cities Ichnæ and Pella.6
124. 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 Pæonia and Crestonia to the river Echeidôrus, which, rising in the country of the Crestonians, flows through Mygdonia, and reaches the sea near the marsh upon the Axius.
125. 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.
126. 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 Abdêra) on the one side, and the Acheloüs (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 Acheloüs; but in the space between these bounds lions are found.
127. 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 Bottiæa 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 Echeidôrus, which was drunk dry.
128. 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 Perrhæbia, 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.
129. 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 Onochônus, 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 Bœbêïs, 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.
130. 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 other 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.
131. 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 Perrhæbia. 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.
132. Among the number of those from whom earth and water were brought, were the Thessalians, Dolopians, Enianians, Perrhæbians, Locrians, Magnetians, Malians, Achæans of Phthiôtis, Thebans, and Bœotians generally, except those of Platæa and Thespiæ. 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.
133. 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,7 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.
134. On the Lacedæmonians, however, the wrath of Talthybius, Agamemnon’s herald, fell with violence. Talthybius has a temple at Sparta; and his descendants, who are called Talthybiadæ, 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 Lacedæmonian willing to give his life for Sparta?” Upon this two Spartans, Sperthias, the son of Anêristus, and Bulis, the son of Nicolaüs, 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.
135. 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 Lacedæmon, 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.
136. 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 Lacedæmonians 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 Lacedæmonians, 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 Lacedæmonians from the stain of their former outrage.”
137. This conduct on the part of the Spartans caused the anger of Talthybius to cease for a while, notwithstanding that Sperthius and Bulis returned home alive. But many years afterwards it awoke once more, as the Lacedæmonians 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 Nicolaüs, the son of Bulis, and Anêristus, 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 Lacedæmonians, were betrayed by Sitalces, the son of Teres, king of Thrace, and Nymphodôrus, the son of Pythes, a native of Abdêra, and being made prisoners at Bisanthé, 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.
138. 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.
139. And here I feel constrained to deliver an opinion which most men, I know, will mislike, 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 Lacedæmonians, not by voluntary desertion, but because town after town must have been taken by the fleet of the barbarians; and so the Lacedæmonians 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.
140. 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, Aristonicé by name, thus prophesied:
141. When the Athenian messengers heard this reply, they were filled with the deepest affliction: whereupon Timon, the son of Androbûlus, 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:
142. 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 specially, 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 shalt 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.
143. 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.8 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.”
144. 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.
[1 ]Mr. Blakesley well remarks, that this expression, and the statement of Darius’ irritation at the invasion of Sardis in such general terms, “seem to indicate that we have here the beginning of what, in its first draft at any rate, was an independent history.” “In fact,” he adds, “the whole of the work of Herodotus up to this point may almost be regarded as a mere introduction, for the more complete understanding of what follows.”
[2 ]These speeches have scarcely any higher historical character than those of the conspirators in the third book. They must be considered, however, as embodying Persian as well as Greek views of the circumstances out of which the war arose, and the feelings of those who engaged in it. Oriental respect for royalty strove to exonerate Xerxes from all blame.
[3 ]Herodotus tells us at the beginning of his History that the Persians considered Asia and all its nations as their own always. In this spirit Xerxes is made to claim Pelops the Phrygian as a Persian vassal, though at the time when Pelops (according to the tradition) came to Greece (ab. 1300), the Persian tribes were probably confined as yet within the Caspian Gates, or perhaps had not even emerged from their primitive seats beyond the Hindoo Koosh Mountains.
[4 ]The whole story of the canal across the isthmus of Athos has been considered a fable by some writers. Many modern travellers, however, have given accounts of the distinct traces which remain of the work. Captain Spratt appears to have surveyed the isthmus with great exactness. He found distinct appearances of the ancient cutting, almost across its whole extent, only failing where the canal approached the sea, and somewhat indistinctly marked in the alluvial plain north of the hills. The canal forms a line of ponds, from two to eight feet deep and from sixty to ninety broad, nearly from one sea to the other. It was “cut through beds of tertiary sands and marls” (which would account for the falling in of the banks), being probably, where it was deepest, not more than sixty feet below the natural surface of the ground, which at its highest point rises only fifty-one feet above the sea level. It was not really a great work, but a very easy one, and can scarcely have taken more than a year to complete.
[5 ]The stater was the only gold coin known to the Greeks generally. It was adopted by them from the Asiatics, from whom their gold was in the earlier time entirely derived. The staters of different countries differed slightly in weight and value. The Macedonian weighed 133 grains, the Attic 132½ grains.
[6 ]The Persian monarchs fought from chariots down to the era of the Macedonian conquest. Herein they followed the practice of the Assyrian kings, as appears from the sculptures recently excavated. The chariot used seems to have been (like those of the Greeks and Romans) light and small, affording barely room for three men to stand in it. In battle and in hunting, the king and his charioteer were the only occupants, and stood side by side; on occasions of state there was a third person in the car, an attendant who bore the royal parasol.
[7 ]The Assyrians do not appear from the monuments to have been armed like the Egyptians. The “spears and daggers” may have been similar, but the “shields” of the Egyptians were of peculiar shape, and remarkable for a small circular depression instead of a boss. They were a wooden frame, sometimes covered with bull’s hide, and bound round the rim with metal. Their form, round at the summit, and squared at the base, is still retained in that used at the present day by the people of Bornou. The dagger was sometimes used for stabbing downwards. The hair, in a mass at the back of the head, and bound by a fillet, as worn by the Assyrians, is commonly given to Asiatics on the Egyptian monuments.
[8 ]Some Greek bronze helmets had horses’ ears of metal, as well as the mane.
[9 ]All accounts agree in representing the use of ornaments in pure gold as common among the Persians. That there was no mistake about the matter seems evident from what is related concerning the spoils gained at Platæa, and the great wealth which thereby accrued to the Eginetans.
[1 ]The speed of the dromedary being equal to that of a horse is an error; it scarcely exceeds nine miles an hour. The camel answers to the cart-horse, the dromedary to the saddle-horse. Each has one hump; the Bactrian camel has two. It is singular that the camel is not represented in the Egyptian sculptures. An instance occurs only of late time. But this does not prove its non-existence in Egypt, as it was there in the age of Abraham. Poultry are also unnoticed on the monuments; and it is possible that they were rare in Egypt in early times. They appear to have come originally from Asia, where alone they are still found wild on the mainland and its islands.
[2 ]We may conclude from this passage that Herodotus regarded his work as divided into certain definite portions; though of course we are not entitled to identify these with the divisions which have come down to us.
[3 ]The special notice taken of Artemisia is undoubtedly due in part to her having been queen of Halicarnassus, the native place of the historian. Though he became an exile from his country, and though the grandson of Artemisia, Lygdamis, became a tyrant in the worst sense of the term yet with Herodotus patriotism triumphs over every other motive, and he does ample justice to the character of one who, he felt, had conferred honour upon his birthplace.
[4 ]The whole region from Philippi and Datum on the east to Dysorum on the west was most rich in the precious metals. Aristotle relates that after heavy rains “nuggets” of virgin gold were often found of above a pound weight. There were two—one of three pounds and one of five—in the possession of the Macedonian kings.
[5 ]Nearly $500,000 of our money—a sum not far short of the whole annual revenue received by Athens from her allies under the rating of Aristides.
[6 ]Pella (which became under Philip the capital of Macedonia) was not upon the coast, as we should gather from this passage, but above twenty miles from the sea, on the borders of a lake formed by the overflowings of the Lydias. Its exact site is fixed by Colonel Leake at a place where there are extensive remains, not far from jannitza. It has been spposed that Ichnæ was also an inland town. But Pliny agrees with Herodotus in placing it upon the coast.
[7 ]The barathrum, or “pit of punishment” at Athens, was a deep hole like a well into which criminals were precipitated. Iron hooks were inserted in the sides, which tore the body in pieces as it fell. It corresponded to the Ceadas of the Lacedæmonians. According to a single obscure writer it was situated within the deme of Ceraïdes. The fate of the heralds is noticed by several writers. Pausanias says that at Athens, Miltiades was mainly responsible for the step, and considers that the calamities which befell him and his family were a judgment on him in consequence.
[8 ]It has been with reason suspected that the ingenuity of Themistocles was less shown in expounding these oracles than in contriving them. He had probably “himself prepared the crisis which he now stept forward to decide.” The oracle would be open to influence, and Themistocles would not be likely to neglect such an engine. It was his object to overcome the natural clinging to home of his countrymen, and to drive them by sheer terror to their ships. Thence the threats of the oracles. His “keen eye” may also well have “caught a prophetic glimpse of the events that were to hallow the shores of Salamis;” i.e., he saw the importance of the position, and determined that there the great battle must and should take place.