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Herodotus From The History Of The Persian Wars Assignment


Translated by: George Rawlinson 1942
Edited by: Bruce J. Butterfield


Book 8 - URANIA

[8.1] THE Greeks engaged in the sea-service were the following. The Athenians furnished a hundred and twenty-seven vessels to the fleet, which were manned in part by the Plataeans, who, though unskilled in such matters, were led by their active and daring spirit to undertake this duty; the Corinthians furnished a contingent of forty vessels; the Megarians sent twenty; the Chalcideans also manned twenty, which had been furnished to them by the Athenians; the Eginetans came with eighteen; the Sicyonians with twelve; the Lacedaemonians with ten; the Epidaurians with eight; the Eretrians with seven; the Troezenians with five; the Styreans with two; and the Ceans with two triremes and two penteconters. Last of all, the Locrians of Opus came in aid with a squadron of seven penteconters.

[8.2] Such were the nations which furnished vessels to the fleet now at Artemisium; and in mentioning them I have given the number of ships furnished by each. The total number of the ships thus brought together, without counting the penteconters, was two hundred and seventy-one; and the captain, who had the chief command over the whole fleet, was Eurybiades the son of Eurycleides. He was furnished by Sparta, since the allies had said that "if a Lacedaemonian did not take the command, they would break up the fleet, for never would they serve under the Athenians."

[8.3] From the first, even earlier than the time when the embassy went to Sicily to solicit alliance, there had been a talk of intrusting the Athenians with the command at sea; but the allies were averse to the plan, wherefore the Athenians did not press it; for there was nothing they had so much at heart as the salvation of Greece, and they knew that, if they quarrelled among themselves about the command, Greece would be brought to ruin. Herein they judged rightly; for internal strife is a thing as much worse than war carried on by a united people, as war itself is worse than peace. The Athenians therefore, being so persuaded, did not push their claims, but waived them, so long as they were in such great need of aid from the other Greeks. And they afterwards showed their motive; for at the time when the Persians had been driven from Greece, and were now threatened by the Greeks in their own country, they took occasion of the insolence of Pausanias to deprive the Lacedaemonians of their leadership. This, however, happened afterwards.

[8.4] At the present time the Greeks, on their arrival at Artemisium, when they saw the number of the ships which lay at anchor near Aphetae, and the abundance of troops everywhere, feeling disappointed that matters had gone with the barbarians so far otherwise than they had expected, and full of alarm at what they saw, began to speak of drawing back from Artemisium towards the inner parts of their country. So when the Euboeans heard what was in debate, they went to Eurybiades, and besought him to wait a few days, while they removed their children and their slaves to a place of safety. But, as they found that they prevailed nothing, they left him and went to Themistocles, the Athenian commander, to whom they gave a bribe of thirty talents, on his promise that the fleet should remain and risk a battle in defence of Euboea.

[8.5] And Themistocles succeeded in detaining the fleet in the way which I will now relate. He made over to Eurybiades five talents out of the thirty paid him, which he gave as if they came from himself; and having in this way gained over the admiral, he addressed himself to Adeimantus, the son of Ocytus, the Corinthian leader, who was the only remonstrant now, and who still threatened to sail away from Artemisium and not wait for the other captains. Addressing himself to this man, Themistocles said with an oath - "Thou forsake us? By no means! I will pay thee better for remaining than the Mede would for leaving thy friends" - and straightway he sent on board the ship of Adeimantus a present of three talents of silver. So these two captains were won by gifts, and came over to the views of Themistocles, who was thereby enabled to gratify the wishes of the Euboeans. He likewise made his own gain on the occasion; for he kept the rest of the money, and no one knew of it. The commanders who took the gifts thought that the sums were furnished by Athens, and had been sent to be used in this way.

[8.6] Thus it came to pass that the Greeks stayed at Euboea and there gave battle to the enemy.

Now the battle was on this wise. The barbarians reached Aphetae early in the afternoon, and then saw (as they had previously heard reported) that a fleet of Greek ships, weak in number, lay at Artemisium. At once they were eager to engage, fearing that the Greeks would fly, and hoping to capture them before they should get away. They did not however think it wise to make straight for the Greek station, lest the enemy should see them as they bore down, and betake themselves to flight immediately; in which case night might close in before they came up with the fugitives, and so they might get clean off and make their escape from them; whereas the Persians were minded not to let a single soul slip through their hands.

[8.7] They therefore contrived a plan, which was the following:- They detached two hundred of their ships from the rest, and - to prevent the enemy from seeing them start - sent them round outside the island of Sciathos, to make the circuit of Euboea by Caphareus and Geraestus, and so to reach the Euripus. By this plan they thought to enclose the Greeks on every side; for the ships detached would block up the only way by which they could retreat, while the others would press upon them in front. With these designs therefore they dispatched the two hundred ships, while they themselves waited - since they did not mean to attack the Greeks upon that day, or until they knew, by signal, of the arrival of the detachment which had been ordered to sail round Euboea. Meanwhile they made a muster of the other ships at Aphetae.

[8.8] Now the Persians had with them a man named Scyllias, a native of Scione, who was the most expert diver of his day. At the time of the shipwreck off Mount Pelion he had recovered for the Persians a great part of what they lost; and at the same time he had taken care to obtain for himself a good share of the treasure. He had for some time been wishing to go over to the Greeks; but no good opportunity had offered till now, when the Persians were making the muster of their ships. In what way he contrived to reach the Greeks I am not able to say for certain: I marvel much if the tale that is commonly told be true. 'Tis said he dived into the sea at Aphetae, and did not once come to the surface till he reached Artemisium, a distance of nearly eighty furlongs. Now many things are related of this man which are plainly false; but some of the stories seem to be true. My own opinion is that on this occasion he made the passage to Artemisium in a boat.

However this might be, Scyllias no sooner reached Artemisium than he gave the Greek captains a full account of the damage done by the storm, and likewise told them of the ships sent to make the circuit of Euboea.

[8.9] So the Greeks on receiving these tidings held a council, whereat, after much debate, it was resolved that they should stay quiet for the present where they were, and remain at their moorings, but that after midnight they should put out to sea, and encounter the ships which were on their way round the island. Later in the day, when they found that no one meddled with them, they formed a new plan, which was to wait till near evening, and then sail out against the main body of the barbarians, for the purpose of trying their mode of fight and skill in manoeuvring.

[8.10] When the Persian commanders and crews saw the Greeks thus boldly sailing towards them with their few ships, they thought them possessed with madness, and went out to meet them, expecting (as indeed seemed likely enough) that they would take all their vessels with the greatest ease. The Greek ships were so few, and their own so far outnumbered them, and sailed so much better, that they resolved, seeing their advantage, to encompass their foe on every side. And now such of the Ionians as wished well to the Grecian cause and served in the Persian fleet unwillingly, seeing their countrymen surrounded, were sorely distressed; for they felt sure that not one of them would ever make his escape, so poor an opinion had they of the strength of the Greeks. On the other hand, such as saw with pleasure the attack on Greece, now vied eagerly with each other which should be the first to make prize of an Athenian ship, and thereby to secure himself a rich reward from the king. For through both the hosts none were so much accounted of as the Athenians.

[8.11] The Greeks, at a signal, brought the sterns of their ships together into a small compass, and turned their prows on every side towards the barbarians; after which, at a second signal, although inclosed within a narrow space, and closely pressed upon by the foe, yet they fell bravely to work, and captured thirty ships of the barbarians, at the same time taking prisoner Philaon, the son of Chersis, and brother of Gorgus king of Salamis, a man of much repute in the fleet. The first who made prize of a ship of the enemy was Lycomedes the son of Aeschreas, an Athenian, who was afterwards adjudged the meed of valour. Victory however was still doubtful when night came on, and put a stop to the combat. The Greeks sailed back to Artemisium; and the barbarians returned to Aphetae, much surprised at the result, which was far other than they had looked for. In this battle only one of the Greeks who fought on the side of the king deserted and joined his countrymen. This was Antidorus of Lemnos, whom the Athenians rewarded for his desertion by the present of a piece of land in Salamis.

[8.12] Evening had barely closed in when a heavy rain - it was about midsummer - began to fall, which continued the whole night, with terrible thunderings and lightnings from Mount Pelion: the bodies of the slain and the broken pieces of the damaged ships were drifted in the direction of Aphetae, and floated about the prows of the vessels there, disturbing the action of the oars. The barbarians, hearing the storm, were greatly dismayed, expecting certainly to perish, as they had fallen into such a multitude of misfortunes. For before they were well recovered from the tempest and the wreck of their vessels off Mount Pelion, they had been surprised by a sea-fight which had taxed all their strength, and now the sea-fight was scarcely over when they were exposed to floods of rain, and the rush of swollen streams into the sea, and violent thunderings.

[8.13] If, however, they who lay at Aphetae passed a comfortless night, far worse were the sufferings of those who had been sent to make the circuit of Euboea; inasmuch as the storm fell on them out at sea, whereby the issue was indeed calamitous. They were sailing along near the Hollows of Euboea, when the wind began to rise and the rain to pour: overpowered by the force of the gale, and driven they knew not whither, at the last they fell upon rocks - Heaven so contriving, in order that the Persian fleet might not greatly exceed the Greek, but be brought nearly to its level. This squadron, therefore, was entirely lost about the Hollows of Euboea.

[8.14] The barbarians at Aphetae were glad when day dawned, and remained in quiet at their station, content if they might enjoy a little peace after so many sufferings. Meanwhile there came to the aid of the Greeks a reinforcement of fifty-three ships from Attica. Their arrival, and the news (which reached Artemisium about the same time) of the complete destruction by the storm of the ships sent to sail round Euboea, greatly cheered the spirits of the Greek sailors. So they waited again till the same hour as the day before, and, once more putting out to sea, attacked the enemy. This time they fell in with some Cilician vessels, which they sank; when night came on, they withdrew to Artemisium.

[8.15] The third day was now come, and the captains of the barbarians, ashamed that so small a number of ships should harass their fleet, and afraid of the anger of Xerxes, instead of waiting for the others to begin the battle, weighed anchor themselves, and advanced against the Greeks about the hour of noon, with shouts encouraging one another. Now it happened that these sea-fights took place on the very same days with the combats at Thermopylae; and as the aim of the struggle was in the one case to maintain the pass, so in the other it was to defend the Euripus. While the Greeks, therefore, exhorted one another not to let the barbarians burst in upon Greece, these latter shouted to their fellows to destroy the Grecian fleet, and get possession of the channel.

[8.16] And now the fleet of Xerxes advanced in good order to the attack, while the Greeks on their side remained quite motionless at Artemisium. The Persians therefore spread themselves, and came forward in a half-moon, seeking to encircle the Greeks on all sides, and thereby prevent them from escaping. The Greeks, when they saw this, sailed out to meet their assailants; and the battle forthwith began. In this engagement the two fleets contended with no clear advantage to either - for the armament of Xerxes injured itself by its own greatness, the vessels falling into disorder, and oft-times running foul of one another; yet still they did not give way, but made a stout fight, since the crews felt it would indeed be a disgrace to turn and fly from a fleet so inferior in number. The Greeks therefore suffered much, both in ships and men; but the barbarians experienced a far larger loss of each. So the fleets separated after such a combat as I have described.

[8.17] On the side of Xerxes the Egyptians distinguished themselves above all the combatants; for besides performing many other noble deeds, they took five vessels from the Greeks with their crews on board. On the side of the Greeks the Athenians bore off the meed of valour; and among them the most distinguished was Clinias, the son of Alcibiades, who served at his own charge with two hundred men, on board a vessel which he had himself furnished.

[8.18] The two fleets, on separating, hastened very gladly to their anchorage-grounds. The Greeks, indeed, when the battle was over, became masters of the bodies of the slain and the wrecks of the vessels; but they had been so roughly handled, especially the Athenians, one-half of whose vessels had suffered damage, that they determined to break up from their station, and withdraw to the inner parts of their country.

[8.19] Then Themistocles, who thought that if the Ionian and Carian ships could be detached from the barbarian fleet, the Greeks might be well able to defeat the rest, called the captains together. They met upon the seashore, where the Euboeans were now assembling their flocks and herds; and here Themistocles told them he thought that he knew of a plan whereby he could detach from the king those who were of most worth among his allies. This was all that he disclosed to them of his plan at that time. Meanwhile, looking to the circumstances in which they were, he advised them to slaughter as many of the Euboean cattle they liked - for it was better (he said) that their own troops should enjoy them than the enemy - and to give orders to their men to kindle the fires as usual. With regard to the retreat, he said that he would take upon himself to watch the proper moment, and would manage matters so that they should return to Greece without loss. These words pleased the captains; so they had the fires lighted, and began the slaughter of the cattle.

[8.20] The Euboeans, until now, had made light of the oracle of Bacis, as though it had been void of all significancy, and had neither removed their goods from the island, nor yet taken them into their strong places; as they would most certainly have done if they had believed that war was approaching. By this neglect they had brought their affairs into the very greatest danger. Now the oracle of which I speak ran as follows:-

When o'er the main shall be thrown a byblus yoke by a stranger,
Be thou ware, and drive from Euboea the goats' loud-bleating.

So, as the Euboeans had paid no regard to this oracle when the evils approached and impended, now that they had arrived, the worst was likely to befall them.

[8.21] While the Greeks were employed in the way described above, the scout who had been on the watch at Trachis arrived at Artemisium. For the Greeks had employed two watchers:- Polyas, a native of Anticyra, had been stationed off Artemisium, with a row-boat at his command ready to sail at any moment, his orders being that, if an engagement took place by sea, he should convey the news at once to the Greeks at Thermopylae; and in like manner Abronychus the son of Lysicles, an Athenian, had been stationed with a triaconter near Leonidas, to be ready, in case of disaster befalling the land force, to carry tidings of it to Artemisium. It was this Abronychus who now arrived with news of what had befallen Leonidas and those who were with him. When the Greeks heard the tidings they no longer delayed to retreat, but withdrew in the order wherein they had been stationed, the Corinthians leading, and the Athenians sailing last of all.

[8.22] And now Themistocles chose out the swiftest sailers from among the Athenian vessels, and, proceeding to the various watering-places along the coast, cut inscriptions on the rocks, which were read by the Ionians the day following, on their arrival at Artemisium. The inscriptions ran thus:- "Men of Ionia, ye do wrong to fight against your own fathers, and to give your help to enslave Greece. We beseech you therefore to come over, if possible, to our side: if you cannot do this, then, we pray you, stand aloof from the contest yourselves, and persuade the Carians to do the like. If neither of these things be possible, and you are hindered, by a force too strong to resist, from venturing upon desertion, at least when we come to blows fight backwardly, remembering that you are sprung from us, and that it was through you we first provoked the hatred of the barbarian." Themistocles, in putting up these inscriptions, looked, I believe, to two chances - either Xerxes would not discover them, in which case they might bring over the Ionians to the side of the Greeks; or they would be reported to him and made a ground of accusation against the Ionians, who would thereupon be distrusted, and would not be allowed to take part in the sea-fights.

[8.23] Shortly after the cutting of the inscriptions, a man of Histiaea went in a merchantship to Aphetae, and told the Persians that the Greeks had fled from Artemisium. Disbelieving his report, the Persians kept the man a prisoner, while they sent some of their fastest vessels to see what had happened. These brought back word how matters stood; whereupon at sunrise the whole fleet advanced together in a body, and sailed to Artemisium, where they remained till mid-day; after which they went on to Histiaea. That city fell into their hands immediately; and they shortly overran the various villages upon the coast in the district of Hellopia, which was part of the Histiaean territory.

[8.24] It was while they were at this station that a herald reached them from Xerxes, whom he had sent after making the following dispositions with respect to the bodies of those who fell at Thermopylae. Of the twenty thousand who had been slain on the Persian side, he left one thousand upon the field while he buried the rest in trenches; and these he carefully filled up with earth, and hid with foliage, that the sailors might not see any signs of them. The herald, on reaching Histiaea, caused the whole force to be collected together, and spake thus to them:

"Comrades, King Xerxes gives permission to all who please, to quit their posts, and see how he fights with the senseless men who think to overthrow his armies."

[8.25] No sooner had these words been uttered, than it became difficult to get a boat, so great was the number of those who desired to see the sight. Such as went crossed the strait, and passing among the heaps of dead, in this way viewed the spectacle. Many helots were included in the slain, but every one imagined that the bodies were all either Lacedaemonians or Thespians. However, no one was deceived by what Xerxes had done with his own dead. It was indeed most truly a laughable device - on the one side a thousand men were seen lying about the field, on the other four thousand crowded together into one spot. This day then was given up to sight-seeing; on the next the seamen embarked on board their ships and sailed back to Histiaea, while Xerxes and his army proceeded upon their march.

[8.26] There came now a few deserters from Arcadia to join the Persians - poor men who had nothing to live on, and were in want of employment. The Persians brought them into the king's presence, and there inquired of them, by a man who acted as their spokesman, "what the Greeks were doing?" The Arcadians answered - "They are holding the Olympic Games, seeing the athletic sports and the chariot-races." "And what," said the man, "is the prize for which they contend?" "An olive-wreath," returned the others, "which is given to the man who wins." On hearing this, Tritantaechmes, the son of Artabanus, uttered a speech which was in truth most noble, but which caused him to be taxed with cowardice by King Xerxes. Hearing the men say that the prize was not money but a wreath of olive, he could not forbear from exclaiming before them all: "Good heavens! Mardonius, what manner of men are these against whom thou hast brought us to fight? - men who contend with one another, not for money, but for honour!"

[8.27] A little before this, and just after the blow had been struck at Thermopylae, a herald was sent into Phocis by the Thessalians, who had always been on bad terms with the Phocians, and especially since their last overthrow. For it was not many years previous to this invasion of Greece by the king, that the Thessalians, with their allies, entered Phocis in full force, but were defeated by the Phocians in an engagement wherein they were very roughly handled. The Phocians, who had with them as soothsayer Tellias of Elis, were blocked up in the mountain of Parnassus, when the following stratagem was contrived for them by their Elean ally. He took six hundred of their bravest men, and whitened their bodies and their arms with chalk; then instructing them to slay every one whom they should meet that was not whitened like themselves, he made a night attack upon the Thessalians. No sooner did the Thessalian sentries, who were the first to see them, behold this strange sight, than, imagining it to be a prodigy, they were all filled with affright. From the sentries the alarm spread to the army, which was seized with such a panic that the Phocians killed four thousand of them, and became masters of their dead bodies and shields. Of the shields one half were sent as an offering to the temple at Abae, the other half were deposited at Delphi; while from the tenth part of the booty gained in the battle, were made the gigantic figures which stand round the tripod in front of the Delphic shrine, and likewise the figures of the same size and character at Abae.

[8.28] Besides this slaughter of the Thessalian foot when it was blockading them, the Phocians had dealt a blow to their horse upon its invading their territory, from which they had never recovered. There is a pass near the city of Hyampolis, where the Phocians, having dug a broad trench, filled up the void with empty wine-jars, after which they covered the place with mould, so that the ground all looked alike, and then awaited the coming of the Thessalians. These, thinking to destroy the Phocians at one sweep, rushed rapidly forward, and became entangled in the wine-jars, which broke the legs of their horses.

[8.29] The Thessalians had therefore a double cause of quarrel with the Phocians, when they dispatched the herald above mentioned, who thus delivered his message:-

"At length acknowledge, ye men of Phocis, that ye may not think to match with us. In times past, when it pleased us to hold with the Greeks, we had always the vantage over you; and now our influence is such with the barbarian, that, if we choose it, you will lose your country, and (what is even worse) you will be sold as slaves. However, though we can now do with you exactly as we like, we are willing to forget our wrongs. Quit them with a payment of fifty talents of silver, and we undertake to ward off the evils which threaten your country."

[8.30] Such was the message which the Thessalians sent. The Phocians were the only people in these parts who had not espoused the cause of the Medes; and it is my deliberate opinion that the motive which swayed them was none other - neither more nor less - than their hatred of the Thessalians: for had the Thessalians declared in favour of the Greeks, I believe that the men of Phocis would have joined the Median side. As it was, when the message arrived, the Phocians made answer, that "they would not pay anything - it was open to them, equally with the Thessalians, to make common cause with the Medes, if they only chose so to do - but they would never of their own free will become traitors to Greece."

[8.31] On the return of this answer, the Thessalians, full of wrath against the Phocians, offered themselves as guides to the barbarian army, and led them forth from Trachinia into Doris. In this place there is a narrow tongue of Dorian territory, not more than thirty furlongs across, interposed between Malis and Phocis; it is the tract in ancient times called Dryopis; and the land, of which it is a part, is the mother-country of the Dorians in the Peloponnese. This territory the barbarians did not plunder, for the inhabitants had espoused their side; and besides, the Thessalians wished that they should be spared.

[8.32] From Doris they marched forward into Phocis; but here the inhabitants did not fall into their power: for some of them had taken refuge in the high grounds of Parnassus - one summit of which, called Tithorea, standing quite by itself, not far from the city of Neon, is well fitted to give shelter to a large body of men, and had now received a number of the Phocians with their movables; while the greater portion had fled to the country of the Ozolian Locrians, and placed their goods in the city called Amphissa, which lies above the Crissaean plain. The land of Phocis, however, was entirely overrun, for the Thessalians led the Persian army through the whole of it; and wherever they went, the country was wasted with fire and sword, the cities and even the temples being wilfully set alight by the troops.

[8.33] The march of the army lay along the valley of the Cephissus; and here they ravaged far and wide, burning the towns of Drymus, Charadra, Erochus, Tethronium, Amphicaea, Neon, Pedieis, Triteis, Elateia, Hyampolis, Parapotamii, and Abae. At the last-named place there was a temple of Apollo, very rich, and adorned with a vast number of treasures and offerings. There was likewise an oracle there in those days, as indeed there is at the present time. This temple the Persians plundered and burnt; and here they captured a number of the Phocians before they could reach the hills, and caused the death of some of their women by ill-usage.

[8.34] After passing Parapotamii, the barbarians marched to Panopeis; and now the army separated into two bodies, whereof one, which was the more numerous and the stronger of the two, marched, under Xerxes himself, towards Athens, entering Boeotia by the country of the Orchomenians. The Boeotians had one and all embraced the cause of the Medes; and their towns were in the possession of Macedonian garrisons, whom Alexander had sent there, to make it manifest to Xerxes that the Boeotians were on the Median side. Such then was the road followed by one division of the barbarians.

[8.35] The other division took guides, and proceeded towards the temple of Delphi, keeping Mount Parnassus on their right hand. They too laid waste such parts of Phocis as they passed through, burning the city of the Panopeans, together with those of the Daulians and of the Aeolidae. This body had been detached from the rest of the army, and made to march in this direction, for the purpose of plundering the Delphian temple and conveying to King Xerxes the riches which were there laid up. For Xerxes, as I am informed, was better acquainted with what there was worthy of note at Delphi, than even with what he had left in his own house; so many of those about him were continually describing the treasures - more especially the offerings made by Croesus the son of Alyattes.

[8.36] Now when the Delphians heard what danger they were in, great fear fell on them. In their terror they consulted the oracle concerning the holy treasures, and inquired if they should bury them in the ground, or carry them away to some other country. The god, in reply, bade them leave the treasures untouched - "He was able," he said, "without help to protect his own." So the Delphians, when they received this answer, began to think about saving themselves. And first of all they sent their women and children across the gulf into Achaea; after which the greater number of them climbed up into the tops of Parnassus, and placed their goods for safety in the Corycian cave; while some effected their escape to Amphissa in Locris. In this way all the Delphians quitted the city, except sixty men, and the Prophet.

[8.37] When the barbarian assailants drew near and were in sight of the place, the Prophet, who was named Aceratus, beheld, in front of the temple, a portion of the sacred armour, which it was not lawful for any mortal hand to touch, lying upon the ground, removed from the inner shrine where it was wont to hang. Then went he and told the prodigy to the Delphians who had remained behind. Meanwhile the enemy pressed forward briskly, and had reached the shrine of Minerva Pronaia, when they were overtaken by other prodigies still more wonderful than the first. Truly it was marvel enough, when warlike harness was seen lying outside the temple, removed there by no power but its own; what followed, however, exceeded in strangeness all prodigies that had ever before been seen. The barbarians had just reached in their advance the chapel of Minerva Pronaia, when a storm of thunder burst suddenly over their heads - at the same time two crags split off from Mount Parnassus, and rolled down upon them with a loud noise, crushing vast numbers beneath their weight - while from the temple of Minerva there went up the war-cry and the shout of victory.

[8.38] All these things together struck terror into the barbarians, who forthwith turned and fled. The Delphians, seeing this, came down from their hiding-places, and smote them with a great slaughter, from which such as escaped fled straight into Boeotia. These men, on their return, declared (as I am told) that besides the marvels mentioned above, they witnessed also other supernatural sights. Two armed warriors, they said, of a stature more than human, pursued after their flying ranks, pressing them close and slaying them.

[8.39] These men, the Delphians maintain, were two Heroes belonging to the place - by name Phylacus and Autonous - each of whom has a sacred precinct near the temple; one, that of Phylacus, hard by the road which runs above the temple of Pronaia; the other, that of Autonous, near the Castalian spring, at the foot of the peak called Hyampeia. The blocks of stone which fell from Parnassus might still be seen in my day; they lay in the precinct of Pronaia, where they stopped, after rolling through the host of the barbarians. Thus was this body of men forced to retire from the temple.

[8.40] Meanwhile, the Grecian fleet, which had left Artemisium, proceeded to Salamis, at the request of the Athenians, and there cast anchor. The Athenians had begged them to take up this position, in order that they might convey their women and children out of Attica, and further might deliberate upon the course which it now behoved them to follow. Disappointed in the hopes which they had previously entertained, they were about to hold a council concerning the present posture of their affairs. For they had looked to see the Peloponnesians drawn up in full force to resist the enemy in Boeotia, but found nothing of what they had expected; nay, they learnt that the Greeks of those parts, only concerning themselves about their own safety, were building a wall across the Isthmus, and intended to guard the Peloponnese, and let the rest of Greece take its chance. These tidings caused them to make the request whereof I spoke, that the combined fleet should anchor at Salamis.

[8.41] So while the rest of the fleet lay to off this island, the Athenians cast anchor along their own coast. Immediately upon their arrival, proclamation was made that every Athenian should save his children and household as he best could; whereupon some sent their families to Egina, some to Salamis, but the greater number to Troezen. This removal was made with all possible haste, partly from a desire to obey the advice of the oracle, but still more for another reason. The Athenians say that they have in their Acropolis a huge serpent, which lives in the temple, and is the guardian of the whole place. Nor do they only say this, but, as if the serpent really dwelt there, every month they lay out its food, which consists of a honey-cake. Up to this time the honey-cake had always been consumed; but now it remained untouched. So the priestess told the people what had happened; whereupon they left Athens the more readily, since they believed that the goddess had already abandoned the citadel. As soon as all was removed, the Athenians sailed back to their station.

[8.42] And now, the remainder of the Grecian sea-force, hearing that the fleet which had been at Artemisium, was come to Salamis, joined it at that island from Troezen - orders having been issued previously that the ships should muster at Pogon, the port of the Troezenians. The vessels collected were many more in number than those which had fought at Artemisium, and were furnished by more cities. The admiral was the same who had commanded before, to wit, Eurybiades, the son of Eurycleides, who was a Spartan, but not of the family of the kings: the city, however, which sent by far the greatest number of ships, and the best sailers, was Athens.

[8.43] Now these were the nations who composed the Grecian fleet. From the Peloponnese, the following - the Lacedaemonians with sixteen ships; the Corinthians with the same number as at Artemisium; the Sicyonians with fifteen; the Epidaurians with ten; the Troezenians with five; and the Hermionians with three. These were Dorians and Macedonians all of them (except those from Hermione), and had emigrated last from Erineus, Pindus, and Dryopis. The Hermionians were Dryopians, of the race which Hercules and the Malians drove out of the land now called Doris. Such were the Peloponnesian nations.

[8.44] From the mainland of Greece beyond the Peloponnese, came the Athenians with a hundred and eighty ships, a greater number than that furnished by any other people; and these were now manned wholly by themselves; for the Plataeans did not serve aboard the Athenian ships at Salamis, owing to the following reason. When the Greeks, on their withdrawal from Artemisium, arrived off Chalcis, the Plataeans disembarked upon the opposite shore of Boeotia, and set to work to remove their households, whereby it happened that they were left behind. (The Athenians, when the region which is now called Greece was held by the Pelasgi, were Pelasgians, and bore the name of Cranaans; but under their king Cecrops, they were called Cecropidae; when Erechtheus got the sovereignty, they changed their name to Athenians; and when Ion, the son of Xuthus, became their general, they were named after him Ionians.)

[8.45] The Megarians served with the same number of ships as at Artemisium; the Ambraciots came with seven; the Leucadians (who were Dorians from Corinth) with three.

[8.46] Of the islanders, the Eginetans furnished thirty ships - they had a larger number equipped; but some were kept back to guard their own coasts, and only thirty, which however were their best sailers, took part in the fight at Salamis. (The Eginetans are Dorians from Epidaurus; their island was called formerly Oenone). The Chalcideans came next in order; they furnished the twenty ships with which they had served at Artemisium. The Eretrians likewise furnished their seven. These races are Ionian. Ceos gave its old number - the Ceans are Ionians from Attica. Naxos furnished four: this detachment, like those from the other islands, had been sent by the citizens at home to join the Medes; but they made light of the orders given them, and joined the Greeks, at the instigation of Democritus, a citizen of good report, who was at that time captain of a trireme. The Naxians are Ionians, of the Athenian stock. The Styreans served with the same ships as before; the Cythnians contributed one, and likewise a penteconter - these two nations are Dryopians: the Seriphians, Siphnians, and Melians, also served; they were the only islanders who had not given earth and water to the barbarian.

[8.47] All these nations dwelt inside the river Acheron and the country inhabited by the Thesprotians; for that people borders on the Ambraciots and Leucadians, who are the most remote of all those by whom the fleet was furnished. From the countries beyond, there was only one people which gave help to the Greeks in their danger. This was the people of Crotona, who contributed a single ship, under the command of Phayllus, a man who had thrice carried off the prize at the Pythian Games. The Crotoniats are, by descent, Achaeans.

[8.48] Most of the allies came with triremes; but the Melians, Siphnians, and Seriphians, brought penteconters. The Melians, who draw their race from Lacedaemon, furnished two; the Siphnians and Seriphians, who are Ionians of the Athenian stock, one each. The whole number of the ships, without counting the penteconters, was three hundred and seventy-eight.

[8.49] When the captains from these various nations were come together at Salamis, a council of war was summoned; and Eurybiades proposed that any one who liked to advise, should say which place seemed to him the fittest, among those still in the possession of the Greeks, to be the scene of a naval combat. Attica, he said, was not to be thought of now; but he desired their counsel as to the remainder. The speakers mostly advised that the fleet should sail away to the Isthmus, and there give battle in defence of the Peloponnese; and they urged as a reason for this, that if they were worsted in a sea-fight at Salamis, they would be shut up in an island where they could get no help; but if they were beaten near the Isthmus, they could escape to their homes.

[8.50] As the captains from the Peloponnese were thus advising, there came an Athenian to the camp, who brought word that the barbarians had entered Attica, and were ravaging and burning everything. For the division of the army under Xerxes was just arrived at Athens from its march through Boeotia, where it had burnt Thespiae and Plataea - both which cities were forsaken by their inhabitants, who had fled to the Peloponnese - and now it was laying waste all the possessions of the Athenians. Thespiae and Plataea had been burnt by the Persians, because they knew from the Thebans that neither of those cities had espoused their side.

[8.51] Since the passage of the Hellespont and the commencement of the march upon Greece, a space of four months had gone by; one, while the army made the crossing, and delayed about the region of the Hellespont; and three while they proceeded thence to Attica, which they entered in the archonship of Calliades. They found the city forsaken; a few people only remained in the temple, either keepers of the treasures, or men of the poorer sort. These persons having fortified the citadel with planks and boards, held out against the enemy. It was in some measure their poverty which had prevented them from seeking shelter in Salamis; but there was likewise another reason which in part induced them to remain. They imagined themselves to have discovered the true meaning of the oracle uttered by the Pythoness, which promised that "the wooden wall" should never be taken - the wooden wall, they thought, did not mean the ships, but the place where they had taken refuge.

[8.52] The Persians encamped upon the hill over against the citadel, which is called Mars' hill by the Athenians, and began the siege of the place, attacking the Greeks with arrows whereto pieces of lighted tow were attached, which they shot at the barricade. And now those who were within the citadel found themselves in a most woeful case; for their wooden rampart betrayed them; still, however, they continued to resist. It was in vain that the Pisistratidae came to them and offered terms of surrender - they stoutly refused all parley, and among their other modes of defence, rolled down huge masses of stone upon the barbarians as they were mounting up to the gates: so that Xerxes was for a long time very greatly perplexed, and could not contrive any way to take them.

[8.53] At last, however, in the midst of these many difficulties, the barbarians made discovery of an access. For verily the oracle had spoken truth; and it was fated that the whole mainland of Attica should fall beneath the sway of the Persians. Right in front of the citadel, but behind the gates and the common ascent - where no watch was kept, and no one would have thought it possible that any foot of man could climb - a few soldiers mounted from the sanctuary of Aglaurus, Cecrops' daughter, notwithstanding the steepness of the precipice. As soon as the Athenians saw them upon the summit, some threw themselves headlong from the wall, and so perished; while others fled for refuge to the inner part of the temple. The Persians rushed to the gates and opened them, after which they massacred the suppliants, When all were slain, they plundered the temple, and fired every part of the citadel.

[8.54] Xerxes, thus completely master of Athens, despatched a horseman to Susa, with a message to Artabanus, informing him of his success hitherto. The day after, he collected together all the Athenian exiles who had come into Greece in his train, and bade them go up into the citadel, and there offer sacrifice after their own fashion. I know not whether he had had a dream which made him give this order, or whether he felt some remorse on account of having set the temple on fire. However this may have been, the exiles were not slow to obey the command given them.

[8.55] I will now explain why I have made mention of this circumstance: there is a temple of Erechtheus the Earth-born, as he is called, in this citadel, containing within it an olive-tree and a sea. The tale goes among the Athenians, that they were placed there as witnesses by Neptune and Minerva, when they had their contention about the country. Now this olive-tree had been burnt with the rest of the temple when the barbarians took the place. But when the Athenians, whom the king had commanded to offer sacrifice, went up into the temple for the purpose, they found a fresh shoot, as much as a cubit in length, thrown out from the old trunk. Such at least was the account which these persons gave.

[8.56] Meanwhile, at Salamis, the Greeks no sooner heard what had befallen the Athenian citadel, than they fell into such alarm that some of the captains did not even wait for the council to come to a vote, but embarked hastily on board their vessels, and hoisted sail as though they would take to flight immediately. The rest, who stayed at the council board, came to a vote that the fleet should give battle at the Isthmus. Night now drew on; and the captains, dispersing from the meeting, proceeded on board their respective ships.

[8.57] Themistocles, as he entered his own vessel, was met by Mnesiphilus, an Athenian, who asked him what the council had resolved to do. On learning that the resolve was to stand away for the Isthmus, and there give battle on behalf of the Peloponnese, Mnesiphilus exclaimed:-

"If these men sail away from Salamis, thou wilt have no fight at all for the one fatherland; for they will all scatter themselves to their own homes; and neither Eurybiades nor any one else will be able to hinder them, nor to stop the breaking up of the armament. Thus will Greece be brought to ruin through evil counsels. But haste thee now; and, if there be any possible way, seek to unsettle these resolves - mayhap thou mightest persuade Eurybiades to change his mind, and continue here."

[8.58] The suggestion greatly pleased Themistocles; and without answering a word, he went straight to the vessel of Eurybiades. Arrived there, he let him know that he wanted to speak with him on a matter touching the public service. So Eurybiades bade him come on board, and say whatever he wished. Then Themistocles, seating himself at his side, went over all the arguments which he had heard from Mnesiphilus, pretending as if they were his own, and added to them many new ones besides; until at last he persuaded Eurybiades, by his importunity, to quit his ship and again collect the captains to council.

[8.59] As soon as they were come, and before Eurybiades had opened to them his purpose in assembling them together, Themistocles, as men are wont to do when they are very anxious, spoke much to divers of them; whereupon the Corinthian captain, Adeimantus, the son of Ocytus, observed - "Themistocles, at the Games they who start too soon are scourged." "True," rejoined the other in his excuse, "but they who wait too late are not crowned."

[8.60] Thus he gave the Corinthian at this time a mild answer; and towards Eurybiades himself he did not now use any of those arguments which he had urged before, or say aught of the allies betaking themselves to flight if once they broke up from Salamis; it would have been ungraceful for him, when the confederates were present, to make accusation against any: but he had recourse to quite a new sort of reasoning, and addressed him as follows:-

"With thee it rests, O Eurybiades! to save Greece, if thou wilt only hearken unto me, and give the enemy battle here, rather than yield to the advice of those among us, who would have the fleet withdrawn to the Isthmus. Hear now, I beseech thee, and judge between the two courses. At the Isthmus thou wilt fight in an open sea, which is greatly to our disadvantage, since our ships are heavier and fewer in number than the enemy's; and further, thou wilt in any case lose Salamis, Megara, and Egina, even if all the rest goes well with us. The land and sea force of the Persians will advance together; and thy retreat will but draw them towards the Peloponnese, and so bring all Greece into peril. If, on the other hand, thou doest as I advise, these are the advantages which thou wilt so secure: in the first place, as we shall fight in a narrow sea with few ships against many, if the war follows the common course, we shall gain a great victory; for to fight in a narrow space is favourable to us - in an open sea, to them. Again, Salamis will in this case be preserved, where we have placed our wives and children. Nay, that very point by which ye set most store, is secured as much by this course as by the other; for whether we fight here or at the Isthmus, we shall equally give battle in defence of the Peloponnese. Assuredly ye will not do wisely to draw the Persians upon that region. For if things turn out as I anticipate, and we beat them by sea, then we shall have kept your Isthmus free from the barbarians, and they will have advanced no further than Attica, but from thence have fled back in disorder; and we shall, moreover, have saved Megara, Egina, and Salamis itself, where an oracle has said that we are to overcome our enemies. When men counsel reasonably, reasonable success ensues; but when in their counsels they reject reason, God does not choose to follow the wanderings of human fancies."

[8.61] When Themistocles had thus spoken, Adeimantus the Corinthian again attacked him, and bade him be silent, since he was a man without a city; at the same time he called on Eurybiades not to put the question at the instance of one who had no country, and urged that Themistocles should show of what state he was envoy, before he gave his voice with the rest. This reproach he made, because the city of Athens had been taken, and was in the hands of the barbarians. Hereupon Themistocles spake many bitter things against Adeimantus and the Corinthians generally; and for proof that he had a country, reminded the captains, that with two hundred ships at his command, all fully manned for battle, he had both city and territory as good as theirs; since there was no Grecian state which could resist his men if they were to make a descent.

[8.62] After this declaration, he turned to Eurybiades, and addressing him with still greater warmth and earnestness - "If thou wilt stay here," he said, "and behave like a brave man, all will be well - if not, thou wilt bring Greece to ruin. For the whole fortune of the war depends on our ships. Be thou persuaded by my words. If not, we will take our families on board, and go, just as we are, to Siris, in Italy, which is ours from of old, and which the prophecies declare we are to colonise some day or other. You then, when you have lost allies like us, will hereafter call to mind what I have now said."

[8.63] At these words of Themistocles, Eurybiades changed his determination; principally, as I believe, because he feared that if he withdrew the fleet to the Isthmus, the Athenians would sail away, and knew that without the Athenians, the rest of their ships could be no match for the fleet of the enemy. He therefore decided to remain, and give battle at Salamis.

[8.64] And now, the different chiefs, notwithstanding their skirmish of words, on learning the decision of Eurybiades, at once made ready for the fight. Morning broke; and, just as the sun rose, the shock of an earthquake was felt both on shore and at sea: whereupon the Greeks resolved to approach the gods with prayer, and likewise to send and invite the Aeacids to their aid. And this they did, with as much speed as they had resolved on it. Prayers were offered to all the gods; and Telamon and Ajax were invoked at once from Salamis, while a ship was sent to Egina to fetch Aeacus himself, and the other Aeacids.

[8.65] The following is a tale which was told by Dicaeus, the son of Theocydes, an Athenian, who was at this time an exile, and had gained a good report among the Medes. He declared that after the army of Xerxes had, in the absence of the Athenians, wasted Attica, he chanced to be with Demaratus the Lacedaemonian in the Thriasian plain, and that while there, he saw a cloud of dust advancing from Eleusis, such as a host of thirty thousand men might raise. As he and his companion were wondering who the men, from whom the dust arose, could possibly be, a sound of voices reached his ear, and he thought that he recognised the mystic hymn to Bacchus. Now Demaratus was unacquainted with the rites of Eleusis, and so he inquired of Dicaeus what the voices were saying. Dicaeus made answer - "O Demaratus! beyond a doubt some mighty calamity is about to befall the king's army! For it is manifest, inasmuch as Attica is deserted by its inhabitants, that the sound which we have heard is an unearthly one, and is now upon its way from Eleusis to aid the Athenians and their confederates. If it descends upon the Peloponnese, danger will threaten the king himself and his land army - if it moves towards the ships at Salamis, 'twill go hard but the king's fleet there suffers destruction. Every year the Athenians celebrate this feast to the Mother and the Daughter; and all who wish, whether they be Athenians or any other Greeks, are initiated. The sound thou hearest is the Bacchic song, which is wont to be sung at that festival." "Hush now," rejoined the other; "and see thou tell no man of this matter. For if thy words be brought to the king's ear, thou wilt assuredly lose thy head because of them; neither I nor any man living can then save thee. Hold thy peace therefore. The gods will see to the king's army." Thus Demaratus counselled him; and they looked, and saw the dust, from which the sound arose, become a cloud, and the cloud rise up into the air and sail away to Salamis, making for the station of the Grecian fleet. Then they knew that it was the fleet of Xerxes which would suffer destruction. Such was the tale told by Dicaeus the son of Theocydes; and he appealed for its truth to Demaratus and other eye-witnesses.

[8.66] The men belonging to the fleet of Xerxes, after they had seen the Spartan dead at Thermopylae, and crossed the channel from Trachis to Histiaea, waited there by the space of three days, and then sailing down through the Euripus, in three more came to Phalerum. In my judgment, the Persian forces both by land and sea when they invaded Attica were not less numerous than they had been on their arrival at Sepias and Thermopylae. For against the Persian loss in the storm and at Thermopylae, and again in the sea-fights off Artemisium, I set the various nations which had since joined the king - as the Malians, the Dorians, the Locrians, and the Boeotians - each serving in full force in his army except the last, who did not number in their ranks either the Thespians or the Plataeans; and together with these, the Carystians, the Andrians, the Tenians, and the other people of the islands, who all fought on this side except the five states already mentioned. For as the Persians penetrated further into Greece, they were joined continually by fresh nations.

[8.67] Reinforced by the contingents of all these various states, except Paros, the barbarians reached Athens. As for the Parians, they tarried at Cythnus, waiting to see how the war would go. The rest of the sea forces came safe to Phalerum; where they were visited by Xerxes, who had conceived a desire to go aboard and learn the wishes of the fleet. So he came and sate in a seat of honour; and the sovereigns of the nations, and the captains of the ships, were sent for, to appear before him, and as they arrived took their seats according to the rank assigned them by the king. In the first seat sate the king of Sidon; after him, the king of Tyre; then the rest in their order. When the whole had taken their places, one after another, and were set down in orderly array, Xerxes, to try them, sent Mardonius and questioned each, whether a sea-fight should be risked or no.

[8.68] Mardonius accordingly went round the entire assemblage, beginning with the Sidonian monarch, and asked this question; to which all gave the same answer, advising to engage the Greeks, except only Artemisia, who spake as follows:-

"Say to the king, Mardonius, that these are my words to him: I was not the least brave of those who fought at Euboea, nor were my achievements there among the meanest; it is my right, therefore, O my lord, to tell thee plainly what I think to be most for thy advantage now. This then is my advice. Spare thy ships, and do not risk a battle; for these people are as much superior to thy people in seamanship, as men to women. What so great need is there for thee to incur hazard at sea? Art thou not master of Athens, for which thou didst undertake thy expedition? Is not Greece subject to thee? Not a soul now resists thy advance. They who once resisted, were handled even as they deserved. Now learn how I expect that affairs will go with thy adversaries. If thou art not over-hasty to engage with them by sea, but wilt keep thy fleet near the land, then whether thou abidest as thou art, or marchest forward towards the Peloponnese, thou wilt easily accomplish all for which thou art come hither. The Greeks cannot hold out against thee very long; thou wilt soon part them asunder, and scatter them to their several homes. In the island where they lie, I hear they have no food in store; nor is it likely, if thy land force begins its march towards the Peloponnese, that they will remain quietly where they are - at least such as come from that region. Of a surety they will not greatly trouble themselves to give battle on behalf of the Athenians. On the other hand, if thou art hasty to fight, I tremble lest the defeat of thy sea force bring harm likewise to thy land army. This, too, thou shouldst remember, O king; good masters are apt to have bad servants, and bad masters good ones. Now, as thou art the best of men, thy servants must needs be a sorry set. These Egyptians, Cyprians, Cilicians, and Pamphylians, who are counted in the number of thy subject-allies, of how little service are they to thee!"

[8.69] As Artemisia spake, they who wished her well were greatly troubled concerning her words, thinking that she would suffer some hurt at the king's hands, because she exhorted him not to risk a battle; they, on the other hand, who disliked and envied her, favoured as she was by the king above all the rest of the allies, rejoiced at her declaration, expecting that her life would be the forfeit. But Xerxes, when the words of the several speakers were reported to him, was pleased beyond all others with the reply of Artemisia; and whereas, even before this, he had always esteemed her much, he now praised her more than ever. Nevertheless, he gave orders that the advice of the greater number should be followed; for he thought that at Euboea the fleet had not done its best, because he himself was not there to see - whereas this time he resolved that he would be an eye-witness of the combat.

[8.70] Orders were now given to stand out to sea; and the ships proceeded towards Salamis, and took up the stations to which they were directed, without let or hindrance from the enemy. The day, however, was too far spent for them to begin the battle, since night already approached: so they prepared to engage upon the morrow. The Greeks, meanwhile, were in great distress and alarm, more especially those of the Peloponnese, who were troubled that they had been kept at Salamis to fight on behalf of the Athenian territory, and feared that, if they should suffer defeat, they would be pent up and besieged in an island, while their own country was left unprotected.

[8.71] The same night the land army of the barbarians began its march towards the Peloponnese, where, however, all that was possible had been done to prevent the enemy from forcing an entrance by land. As soon as ever news reached the Peloponnese of the death of Leonidas and his companions at Thermopylae, the inhabitants flocked together from the various cities, and encamped at the Isthmus, under the command of Cleombrotus, son of Anaxandridas, and brother of Leonidas. Here their first care was to block up the Scironian Way; after which it was determined in council to build a wall across the Isthmus. As the number assembled amounted to many tens of thousands, and there was not one who did not give himself to the work, it was soon finished. Stones, bricks, timber, baskets filled full of sand, were used in the building; and not a moment was lost by those who gave their aid; for they laboured without ceasing either by night or day.

[8.72] Now the nations who gave their aid, and who had flocked in full force to the Isthmus, were the following: the Lacedaemonians, all the tribes of the Arcadians, the Eleans, the Corinthians, the Sicyonians, the Epidaurians, the Phliasians, the Troezenians, and the Hermionians. These all gave their aid, being greatly alarmed at the danger which threatened Greece. But the other inhabitants of the Peloponnese took no part in the matter; though the Olympic and Carneian festivals were now over.

[8.73] Seven nations inhabit the Peloponnese. Two of them are aboriginal, and still continue in the regions where they dwelt at the first - to wit, the Arcadians and the Cynurians. A third, that of the Achaeans, has never left the Peloponnese, but has been dislodged from its own proper country, and inhabits a district which once belonged to others. The remaining nations, four out of the seven, are all immigrants - namely, the Dorians, the Aetolians, the Dryopians, and the Lemnians. To the Dorians belong several very famous cities; to the Aetolians one only, that is, Elis; to the Dryopians, Hermione and that Asine which lies over against Cardamyle in Laconia; to the Lemnians, all the towns of the Paroreats. The aboriginal Cynurians alone seem to be Ionians; even they, however, have, in course of time, grown to be Dorians, under the government of the Argives, whose Orneats and vassals they were. All the cities of these seven nations, except those mentioned above, stood aloof from the war; and by so doing, if I may speak freely, they in fact took part with the Medes.

[8.74] So the Greeks at the Isthmus toiled unceasingly, as though in the greatest peril; since they never imagined that any great success would be gained by the fleet. The Greeks at Salamis, on the other hand, when they heard what the rest were about, felt greatly alarmed; but their fear was not so much for themselves as for the Peloponnese. At first they conversed together in low tones, each man with his fellow, secretly, and marvelled at the folly shown by Eurybiades; but presently the smothered feeling broke out, and another assembly was held; whereat the old subjects provoked much talk from the speakers, one side maintaining that it was best to sail to the Peloponnese and risk battle for that, instead of abiding at Salamis and fighting for a land already taken by the enemy; while the other, which consisted of the Athenians, Eginetans, and Megarians, was urgent to remain and have the battle fought where they were.

[8.75] Then Themistocles, when he saw that the Peloponnesians would carry the vote against him, went out secretly from the council, and, instructing a certain man what he should say, sent him on board a merchant ship to the fleet of the Medes. The man's name was Sicinnus; he was one of Themistocles' household slaves, and acted as tutor to his sons; in after times, when the Thespians were admitting persons to citizenship, Themistocles made him a Thespian, and a rich man to boot. The ship brought Sicinnus to the Persian fleet, and there he delivered his message to the leaders in these words:-

"The Athenian commander has sent me to you privily, without the knowledge of the other Greeks. He is a well-wisher to the king's cause, and would rather success should attend on you than on his countrymen; wherefore he bids me tell you that fear has seized the Greeks and they are meditating a hasty flight. Now then it is open to you to achieve the best work that ever ye wrought, if only ye will hinder their escaping. They no longer agree among themselves, so that they will not now make any resistance - nay, 'tis likely ye may see a fight already begun between such as favour and such as oppose your cause." The messenger, when he had thus expressed himself, departed and was seen no more.

[8.76] Then the captains, believing all that the messenger had said, proceeded to land a large body of Persian troops on the islet of Psyttaleia, which lies between Salamis and the mainland; after which, about the hour of midnight, they advanced their western wing towards Salamis, so as to inclose the Greeks. At the same time the force stationed about Ceos and Cynosura moved forward, and filled the whole strait as far as Munychia with their ships. This advance was made to prevent the Greeks from escaping by flight, and to block them up in Salamis, where it was thought that vengeance might be taken upon them for the battles fought near Artemisium. The Persian troops were landed on the islet of Psyttaleia, because, as soon as the battle began, the men and wrecks were likely to be drifted thither, as the isle lay in the very path of the coming fight - and they would thus be able to save their own men and destroy those of the enemy. All these movements were made in silence, that the Greeks might have no knowledge of them; and they occupied the whole night, so that the men had no time to get their sleep.

[8.77] I cannot say that there is no truth in prophecies, or feel inclined to call in question those which speak with clearness, when I think of the following:-

When they shall bridge with their ships to the sacred strand of Diana
Girt with the golden falchion, and eke to marine Cynosura,
Mad hope swelling their hearts at the downfall of beautiful Athens
Then shall godlike Right extinguish haughty Presumption,
Insult's furious offspring, who thinketh to overthrow all things.
Brass with brass shall mingle, and Mars with blood shall empurple
Ocean's waves. Then - then shall the day of Grecia's freedom
Come from Victory fair, and Saturn's son all-seeing.

When I look to this, and perceive how clearly Bacis spoke, neither venture myself to say anything against prophecies, nor do approve of others impugning them.

[8.78] Meanwhile, among the captains at Salamis, the strife of words grew fierce. As yet they did not know that they were encompassed, but imagined that the barbarians remained in the same places where they had seen them the day before.

[8.79] In the midst of their contention, Aristides, the son of Lysimachus, who had crossed from Egina, arrived in Salamis. He was an Athenian, and had been ostracised by the commonalty; yet I believe, from what I have heard concerning his character, that there was not in all Athens a man so worthy or so just as he. He now came to the council, and, standing outside, called for Themistocles. Now Themistocles was not his friend, but his most determined enemy. However, under the pressure of the great dangers impending, Aristides forgot their feud, and called Themistocles out of the council, since he wished to confer with him. He had heard before his arrival of the impatience of the Peloponnesians to withdraw the fleet to the Isthmus. As soon therefore as Themistocles came forth, Aristides addressed him in these words:-

"Our rivalry at all times, and especially at the present season, ought to be a struggle, which of us shall most advantage our country. Let me then say to thee, that so far as regards the departure of the Peloponnesians from this place, much talk and little will be found precisely alike. I have seen with my own eyes that which I now report: that, however much the Corinthians or Eurybiades himself may wish it, they cannot now retreat; for we are enclosed on every side by the enemy. Go in to them, and make this known."

[8.80] "Thy advice is excellent," answered the other; "and thy tidings are also good. That which I earnestly desired to happen, thine eyes have beheld accomplished. Know that what the Medes have now done was at my instance; for it was necessary, as our men would not fight here of their own free will, to make them fight whether they would or no. But come now, as thou hast brought the good news, go in and tell it. For if I speak to them, they will think it a feigned tale, and will not believe that the barbarians have inclosed us around. Therefore do thou go to them, and inform them how matters stand. If they believe thee, 'twill be for the best; but if otherwise, it will not harm. For it is impossible that they should now flee away, if we are indeed shut in on all sides, as thou sayest."

[8.81] Then Aristides entered the assembly, and spoke to the captains: he had come, he told them, from Egina, and had but barely escaped the blockading vessels - the Greek fleet was entirely inclosed by the ships of Xerxes - and he advised them to get themselves in readiness to resist the foe. Having said so much, he withdrew. And now another contest arose; for the greater part of the captains would not believe the tidings.

[8.82] But while they still doubted, a Tenian trireme, commanded by Panaetius the son of Sosimenes, deserted from the Persians and joined the Greeks, bringing full intelligence. For this reason the Tenians were inscribed upon the tripod at Delphi among those who overthrew the barbarians. With this ship, which deserted to their side at Salamis, and the Lemnian vessel which came over before at Artemisium, the Greek fleet was brought to the full number of 380 ships; otherwise it fell short by two of that amount.

[8.83] The Greeks now, not doubting what the Tenians told them, made ready for the coming fight. At the dawn of day, all the men-at-arms were assembled together, and speeches were made to them, of which the best was that of Themistocles; who throughout contrasted what was noble with what was base, and bade them, in all that came within the range of man's nature and constitution, always to make choice of the nobler part. Having thus wound up his discourse, he told them to go at once on board their ships, which they accordingly did; and about his time the trireme, that had been sent to Egina for the Aeacidae, returned; whereupon the Greeks put to sea with all their fleet.

[8.84] The fleet had scarce left the land when they were attacked by the barbarians. At once most of the Greeks began to back water, and were about touching the shore, when Ameinias of Palline, one of the Athenian captains, darted forth in front of the line, and charged a ship of the enemy. The two vessels became entangled, and could not separate, whereupon the rest of the fleet came up to help Ameinias, and engaged with the Persians. Such is the account which the Athenians give of the way in which the battle began; but the Eginetans maintain that the vessel which had been to Egina for the Aeacidae, was the one that brought on the fight. It is also reported, that a phantom in the form of a woman appeared to the Greeks, and, in a voice that was heard from end to end of the fleet, cheered them on to the fight; first, however, rebuking them, and saying - "Strange men, how long are ye going to back water?"

[8.85] Against the Athenians, who held the western extremity of the line towards Eleusis, were placed the Phoenicians; against the Lacedaemonians, whose station was eastward towards the Piraeus, the Ionians. Of these last a few only followed the advice of Themistocles, to fight backwardly; the greater number did far otherwise. I could mention here the names of many trierarchs who took vessels from the Greeks, but I shall pass over all excepting Theomestor, the son of Androdamas, and Phylacus, the son of Histiaeus, both Samians. I show this preference to them, inasmuch as for this service Theomestor was made tyrant of Samos by the Persians, which Phylacus was enrolled among the king's benefactors, and presented with a large estate in land. In the Persian tongue the king's benefactors are called Orosangs.

[8.86] Far the greater number of the Persian ships engaged in this battle were disabled, either by the Athenians or by the Eginetans. For as the Greeks fought in order and kept their line, while the barbarians were in confusion and had no plan in anything that they did, the issue of the battle could scarce be other than it was. Yet the Persians fought far more bravely here than at Euboea, and indeed surpassed themselves; each did his utmost through fear of Xerxes, for each thought that the king's eye was upon himself.

[8.87] What part the several nations, whether Greek or barbarian, took in the combat, I am not able to say for certain; Artemisia, however, I know, distinguished herself in such a way as raised her even higher than she stood before in the esteem of the king. For after confusion had spread throughout the whole of the king's fleet, and her ship was closely pursued by an Athenian trireme, she, having no way to fly, since in front of her were a number of friendly vessels, and she was nearest of all the Persians to the enemy, resolved on a measure which in fact proved her safety. Pressed by the Athenian pursuer, she bore straight against one of the ships of her own party, a Calyndian, which had Damasithymus, the Calyndian king, himself on board. I cannot say whether she had had any quarrel with the man while the fleet was at the Hellespont, or no - neither can I decide whether she of set purpose attacked his vessel, or whether it merely chanced that the Calyndian ship came in her way - but certain it is that she bore down upon his vessel and sank it, and that thereby she had the good fortune to procure herself a double advantage. For the commander of the Athenian trireme, when he saw her bear down on one of the enemy's fleet, thought immediately that her vessel was a Greek, or else had deserted from the Persians, and was now fighting on the Greek side; he therefore gave up the chase, and turned away to attack others.

[8.88] Thus in the first place she saved her life by the action, and was enabled to get clear off from the battle; while further, it fell out that in the very act of doing the king an injury she raised herself to a greater height than ever in his esteem. For as Xerxes beheld the fight, he remarked (it is said) the destruction of the vessel, whereupon the bystanders observed to him - "Seest thou, master, how well Artemisia fights, and how she has just sunk a ship of the enemy?" Then Xerxes asked if it were really Artemisia's doing; and they answered, "Certainly; for they knew her ensign": while all made sure that the sunken vessel belonged to the opposite side. Everything, it is said, conspired to prosper the queen - it was especially fortunate for her that not one of those on board the Calyndian ship survived to become her accuser. Xerxes, they say, in reply to the remarks made to him, observed - "My men have behaved like women, my women like men!"

[8.89] There fell in this combat Ariabignes, one of the chief commanders of the fleet, who was son of Darius and brother of Xerxes; and with him perished a vast number of men of high repute, Persians, Medes, and allies. Of the Greeks there died only a few; for, as they were able to swim, all those that were not slain outright by the enemy escaped from the sinking vessels and swam across to Salamis. But on the side of the barbarians more perished by drowning than in any other way, since they did not know how to swim. The great destruction took place when the ships which had been first engaged began to fly; for they who were stationed in the rear, anxious to display their valour before the eyes of the king, made every effort to force their way to the front, and thus became entangled with such of their own vessels as were retreating.

[8.90] In this confusion the following event occurred: certain Phoenicians belonging to the ships which had thus perished made their appearance before the king, and laid the blame of their loss on the Ionians, declaring that they were traitors, and had wilfully destroyed the vessels. But the upshot of this complaint was that the Ionian captains escaped the death which threatened them, while their Phoenician accusers received death as their reward. For it happened that, exactly as they spoke, a Samothracian vessel bore down on an Athenian and sank it, but was attacked and crippled immediately by one of the Eginetan squadron. Now the Samothracians were expert with the javelin, and aimed their weapons so well, that they cleared the deck of the vessel which had disabled their own, after which they sprang on board, and took it. This saved the Ionians. Xerxes, when he saw the exploit, turned fiercely on the Phoenicians - (he was ready, in his extreme vexation, to find fault with any one) - and ordered their heads to be cut off, to prevent them, he said, from casting the blame of their own misconduct upon braver men. During the whole time of the battle Xerxes sate at the base of the hill called Aegaleos, over against Salamis; and whenever he saw any of his own captains perform any worthy exploit he inquired concerning him; and the man's name was taken down by his scribes, together with the names of his father and his city. Ariaramnes too, a Persian, who was a friend of the Ionians, and present at the time whereof I speak, had a share in bringing about the punishment of the Phoenicians.

[8.91] When the rout of the barbarians began, and they sought to make their escape to Phalerum, the Eginetans, awaiting them in the channel, performed exploits worthy to be recorded. Through the whole of the confused struggle the Athenians employed themselves in destroying such ships as either made resistance or fled to shore, while the Eginetans dealt with those which endeavoured to escape down the strait; so that the Persian vessels were no sooner clear of the Athenians than forthwith they fell into the hands of the Eginetan squadron.

[8.92] It chanced here that there was a meeting between the ship of Themistocles, which was hasting in pursuit of the enemy, and that of Polycritus, son of Crius the Eginetan, which had just charged a Sidonian trireme. The Sidonian vessel was the same that captured the Eginetan guard-ship off Sciathus, which had Pythias, the son of Ischenous, on board - that Pythias, I mean, who fell covered with wounds, and whom the Sidonians kept on board their ship, from admiration of his gallantry. This man afterwards returned in safety to Egina; for when the Sidonian vessel with its Persian crew fell into the hands of the Greeks, he was still found on board. Polycritus no sooner saw the Athenian trireme than, knowing at once whose vessel it was, as he observed that it bore the ensign of the admiral, he shouted to Themistocles jeeringly, and asked him, in a tone of reproach, if the Eginetans did not show themselves rare friends to the Medes. At the same time, while he thus reproached Themistocles, Polycritus bore straight down on the Sidonian. Such of the barbarian vessels as escaped from the battle fled to Phalerum, and there sheltered themselves under the protection of the land army.

[8.93] The Greeks who gained the greatest glory of all in the sea-fight off Salamis were the Eginetans, and after them the Athenians. The individuals of most distinction were Polycritus the Eginetan, and two Athenians, Eumenes of Anagyrus, and Ameinias of Palline; the latter of whom had pressed Artemisia so hard. And assuredly, if he had known that the vessel carried Artemisia on board, he would never have given over the chase till he had either succeeded in taking her, or else been taken himself. For the Athenian captains had received special orders touching the queen; and moreover a reward of ten thousand drachmas had been proclaimed for any one who should make her prisoner; since there was great indignation felt that a woman should appear in arms against Athens. However, as I said before, she escaped; and so did some others whose ships survived the engagement; and these were all now assembled at the port of Phalerum.

[8.94] The Athenians say that Adeimantus, the Corinthian commander, at the moment when the two fleets joined battle, was seized with fear, and being beyond measure alarmed, spread his sails, and hasted to fly away; on which the other Corinthians, seeing their leader's ship in full flight, sailed off likewise. They had reached in their flight that part of the coast of Salamis where stands the temple of Minerva Sciras, when they met a light bark, a very strange apparition: it was never discovered that any one had sent it to them; and till it appeared they were altogether ignorant how the battle was going. That there was something beyond nature in the matter they judged from this - that when the men in the bark drew near to their ships they addressed them, saying - "Adeimantus, while thou playest the traitor's part, by withdrawing all these ships, and flying away from the fight, the Greeks whom thou hast deserted are defeating their foes as completely as they ever wished in their prayers." Adeimantus, however, would not believe what the men said; whereupon they told him "he might take them with him as hostages, and put them to death if he did not find the Greeks winning." Then Adeimantus put about, both he and those who were with him; and they re-joined the fleet when the victory was already gained. Such is the tale which the Athenians tell concerning them of Corinth; these latter however do not allow its truth. On the contrary, they declare that they were among those who distinguished themselves most in the fight. And the rest of Greece bears witness in their favour.

[8.95] In the midst of the confusion Aristides, the son of Lysimachus, the Athenian, of whom I lately spoke as a man of the greatest excellence, performed the following service. He took a number of the Athenian heavy-armed troops, who had previously been stationed along the shore of Salamis, and, landing with them on the islet of Psyttaleia, slew all the Persians by whom it was occupied.

[8.96] As soon as the sea-fight was ended, the Greeks drew together to Salamis all the wrecks that were to be found in that quarter, and prepared themselves for another engagement, supposing that the king would renew the fight with the vessels which still remained to him. Many of the wrecks had been carried away by a westerly wind to the coast of Attica, where they were thrown upon the strip of shore called Colias. Thus not only were the prophecies of Bacis and Musaeus concerning this battle fulfilled completely, but likewise, by the place to which the wrecks were drifted, the prediction of Lysistratus, an Athenian soothsayer, uttered many years before these events, and quite forgotten at the time by all the Greeks, was fully accomplished. The words were -

Then shall the sight of the oars fill Colian dames with amazement.

Now this must have happened as soon as the king was departed.

[8.97] Xerxes, when he saw the extent of his loss, began to be afraid lest the Greeks might be counselled by the Ionians, or without their advice might determine to sail straight to the Hellespont and break down the bridges there; in which case he would be blocked up in Europe, and run great risk of perishing. He therefore made up his mind to fly; but, as he wished to hide his purpose alike from the Greeks and from his own people, he set to work to carry a mound across the channel to Salamis, and at the same time began fastening a number of Phoenician merchant ships together, to serve at once for a bridge and a wall. He likewise made many warlike preparations, as if he were about to engage the Greeks once more at sea. Now, when these things were seen, all grew fully persuaded that the king was bent on remaining, and intended to push the war in good earnest. Mardonius, however, was in no respect deceived; for long acquaintance enabled him to read all the king's thoughts. Meanwhile, Xerxes, though engaged in this way, sent off a messenger to carry intelligence of his misfortune to Persia.

[8.98] Nothing mortal travels so fast as these Persian messengers. The entire plan is a Persian invention; and this is the method of it. Along the whole line of road there are men (they say) stationed with horses, in number equal to the number of days which the journey takes, allowing a man and horse to each day; and these men will not be hindered from accomplishing at their best speed the distance which they have to go, either by snow, or rain, or heat, or by the darkness of night. The first rider delivers his despatch to the second and the second passes it to the third; and so it is borne from hand to hand along the whole line, like the light in the torch-race, which the Greeks celebrate to Vulcan. The Persians give the riding post in this manner, the name of "Angarum."

[8.99] At Susa, on the arrival of the first message, which said that Xerxes was master of Athens, such was the delight of the Persians who had remained behind, that they forthwith strewed all the streets with myrtle boughs, and burnt incense, and fell to feasting and merriment. In like manner, when the second message reached them, so sore was their dismay, that they all with one accord rent their garments, and cried aloud, and wept and wailed without stint. They laid the blame of the disaster on Mardonius; and their grief on the occasion was less on account of the damage done to their ships, than owing to the alarm which they felt about the safety of the king. Hence their trouble did not cease till Xerxes himself, by his arrival, put an end to their fears.

[8.100] And now Mardonius, perceiving that Xerxes took the defeat of his fleet greatly to heart, and suspecting that he had made up his mind to leave Athens and fly away, began to think of the likelihood of his being visited with punishment for having persuaded the king to undertake the war. He therefore considered that it would be the best thing for him to adventure further, and either become the conqueror of Greece - which was the result he rather expected - or else die gloriously after aspiring to a noble achievement. So with these thoughts in his mind, he said one day to the king:-

"Do not grieve, master, or take so greatly to heart thy late loss. Our hopes hang not altogether on the fate of a few planks, but on our brave steeds and horsemen. These fellows, whom thou imaginest to have quite conquered us, will not venture - no, not one of them - to come ashore and contend with our land army; nor will the Greeks who are upon the mainland fight our troops; such as did so have received their punishment. If thou so pleasest, we may at once attack the Peloponnese; if thou wouldst rather wait a while, that too is in our power. Only be not disheartened. For it is not possible that the Greeks can avoid being brought to account, alike for this and for their former injuries; nor can they anyhow escape being thy slaves. Thou shouldst therefore do as I have said. If, however, thy mind is made up, and thou art resolved to retreat and lead away thy army, listen to the counsel which, in that case, I have to offer. Make not the Persians, O king! a laughing-stock to the Greeks. If thy affairs have succeeded ill, it has not been by their fault; thou canst not say that thy Persians have ever shown themselves cowards. What matters it if Phoenicians and Egyptians, Cyprians and Cilicians, have misbehaved? - their misconduct touches not us. Since then thy Persians are without fault, be advised by me. Depart home, if thou art so minded, and take with thee the bulk of thy army; but first let me choose out 300,000 troops, and let it be my task to bring Greece beneath thy sway."

[8.101] Xerxes, when he heard these words, felt a sense of joy and delight, like a man who is relieved from care. Answering Mardonius, therefore, "that he would consider his counsel, and let him know which course he might prefer," Xerxes proceeded to consult with the chief men among the Persians; and because Artemisia on the former occasion had shown herself the only person who knew what was best to be done, he was pleased to summon her to advise him now. As soon as she arrived, he put forth all the rest, both councillors and bodyguards, and said to her:-

"Mardonius wishes me to stay and attack the Peloponnese. My Persians, he says, and my other land forces, are not to blame for the disasters which have befallen our arms; and of this he declares they would very gladly give me the proof. He therefore exhorts me, either to stay and act as I have said, or to let him choose Out 300,000 of my troops - wherewith he undertakes to reduce Greece beneath my sway - while I myself retire with the rest of my forces, and withdraw into my own country. Do thou, therefore, as thou didst counsel me so wisely to decline the sea-fight, now also advise me in this matter, and say, which course of the twain I ought to take for my own good."

[8.102] Thus did the king ask Artemisia's counsel; and the following are the words wherewith she answered him:-

"'Tis a hard thing, O king! to give the best possible advice to one who asks our counsel. Nevertheless, as thy affairs now stand, it seemeth to me that thou wilt do right to return home. As for Mardonius, if he prefers to remain, and undertakes to do as he has said, leave him behind by all means, with the troops which he desires. If his design succeeds, and he subdues the Greeks, as he promises, thine is the conquest, master; for thy slaves will have accomplished it. If, on the other hand, affairs run counter to his wishes, we can suffer no great loss, so long as thou art safe, and thy house is in no danger. The Greeks, too, while thou livest, and thy house flourishes, must be prepared to fight full many a battle for their freedom; whereas if Mardonius fall, it matters nothing - they will have gained but a poor triumph - a victory over one of thy slaves! Remember also, thou goest home having gained the purpose of thy expedition; for thou hast burnt Athens!"

[8.103] The advice of Artemisia pleased Xerxes well; for she had exactly uttered his own thoughts. I, for my part, do not believe that he would have remained had all his counsellors, both men and women, united to urge his stay, so great was the alarm that he felt. As it was, he gave praise to Artemisia, and entrusted certain of his children to her care, ordering her to convey them to Ephesus; for he had been accompanied on the expedition by some of his natural sons.

[8.104] He likewise sent away at this time one of the principal of his eunuchs, a man named Hermotimus, a Pedasian, who was bidden to take charge of these sons. Now the Pedasians inhabit the region above Halicarnassus; and it is related of them, that in their country the following circumstance happens: when a mischance is about to befall any of their neighbours within a certain time, the priestess of Minerva in their city grows a long beard. This has already taken place on two occasions.

[8.105] The Hermotimus of whom I spoke above was, as I said, a Pedasian; and he, of all men whom we know, took the most cruel vengeance on the person who had done him an injury. He had been made a prisoner of war, and when his captors sold him, he was bought by a certain Panionius, a native of Chios, who made his living by a most nefarious traffic. Whenever he could get any boys of unusual beauty, he made them eunuchs, and, carrying them to Sardis or Ephesus, sold them for large sums of money. For the barbarians value eunuchs more than others, since they regard them as more trustworthy. Many were the slaves that Panionius, who made his living by the practice, had thus treated; and among them was this Hermotimus of whom I have here made mention. However, he was not without his share of good fortune; for after a while he was sent from Sardis, together with other gifts, as a present to the king. Nor was it long before he came to be esteemed by Xerxes more highly than all his eunuchs.

[8.106] When the king was on his way to Athens with the Persian army, and abode for a time at Sardis, Hermotimus happened to make a journey upon business into Mysia; and there, in a district which is called Atarneus, but belongs to Chios, he chanced to fall in with Panionius. Recognising him at once, he entered into a long and friendly talk with him, wherein he counted up the numerous blessings he enjoyed through his means, and promised him all manner of favours in return, if he would bring his household to Sardis and live there. Panionius was overjoyed, and, accepting the offer made him, came presently, and brought with him his wife and children. Then Hermotimus, when he had got Panionius and all his family into his power, addressed him in these words:-

"Thou man, who gettest a living by viler deeds than any one else in the whole world, what wrong to thee or thine had I or any of mine done, that thou shouldst have made me the nothing that I now am? Ah! surely thou thoughtest that the gods took no note of thy crimes. But they in their justice have delivered thee, the doer of unrighteousness, into my hands; and now thou canst not complain of the vengeance which I am resolved to take on thee."

After these reproaches, Hermotimus commanded the four sons of Panionius to be brought, and forced the father to make them eunuchs with his own hand. Unable to resist, he did as Hermotimus required; and then his sons were made to treat him in the self-same way. So in this way there came to Panionius requital at the hands of Hermotimus.

[8.107] Xerxes, after charging Artemisia to convey his sons safe to Ephesus, sent for Mardonius, and bade him choose from all his army such men as he wished, and see that he made his achievements answer to his promises. During this day he did no more; but no sooner was night come, than he issued his orders, and at once the captains of the ships left Phalerum, and bore away for the Hellespont, each making all the speed he could, and hasting to guard the bridges against the king's return. On their way, as they sailed by Zoster, where certain narrow points of land project into the sea, they took the cliffs for vessels, and fled far away in alarm. Discovering their mistake, however, after a time, they joined company once more, and proceeded upon their voyage.

 CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS FOUNDATION
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WINTER 2009 (Volume 24, No. 3)

 Communication of Ideas

 

Herodotus and Thucydides: Inventing History   |    Gutenberg and the Printing Revolution in Europe   |   Henry Clay: Compromise and Union

Herodotus and Thucydides: Inventing History

Herodotus wrote about the wars between Persia and Greece. Thucydides wrote about the civil war between Athens and Sparta. Together these ancient Greek writers became the first true historians in Western civilization.

Herodotus and The Histories

We know little about the personal life of Herodotus. He was born around 485 B.C. in Halicarnassus, a city settled by Greeks on the western coast of Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). His family was probably aristocratic and wealthy. When he was a youngster, Herodotus and his family fled Halicarnassus after backing an unsuccessful revolt against the tyrant who ruled the city.

As a young man, Herodotus traveled widely, perhaps as a merchant. He visited Greek colonies along the northern coast of the Black Sea. He ventured into Eastern Europe where a nomadic people called Scythians lived. He spent a lot of time exploring Egypt. He toured the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, and maybe the city of Babylon in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). Herodotus was curious and learned everything he could about the non-Greek world.

At about age 35, Herodotus settled in Athens. For many years, he had been writing an account of the wars between Greece and Persia, which had ended when he was a small child. Herodotus entertained Athenians and other Greeks by reading parts of his work for a fee.

He did not finish his life’s work until he moved to Thurii, a Greek colony in southern Italy. The book is today known as TheHistories. It was first “published” on papyrus scrolls in Athens, probably in a series, starting around 430 B.C.Herodotus died in Thurii about 425 B.C.

He wrote The Histories in prose. Centuries earlier, Homer had used poetry to write The Iliad, which is about the Trojan Wars. No Greek had ever written a long narration of past events in prose.

Herodotus probably started writing intending just to cover the two Persian Wars. When he finished, however, he had added huge amounts of background material that filled the first half of The Histories.

Herodotus traced the conquests of Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darius, who made the Persian Empire the dominant power in the “inhabited world.” He also wrote about the cultures, stories, and legends of the numerous peoples who made up the Persian Empire. Herodotus decided not to leave out anything he had learned about these foreign lands and peoples.

Herodotus pioneered many methods and sources that historians use today. He depended heavily on his own observations from his extensive travels. He also interviewed individual Greeks, Persians, and others.

Herodotus’ writing was not always reliable. He did not rigorously separate fact from fiction as modern historians try to do. He also composed long speeches, most of which had never been actually spoken. But Herodotus presented a balanced picture of the Greeks and Persians at war. Remarkably, much of his account was from the Persian point of view. Although he wrote about oracles and dreams influencing men, he did not put the gods in the middle of the action as Homer had done.

Herodotus and the First Persian War

In the first sentence of The Histories, Herodotus explained why he wrote his monumental work:

Herodotus of Halicarnassus here presents his research so that human events do not fade with time. May the great and wonderful deeds—some brought forth by the Hellenes [Greeks], others by the barbarians [Persians]—not go unsung; as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other.

Early in The Histories, Herodotus told the story of King Croessus of Lydia in the western part of Asia Minor. Known for his vast riches, Croessus learned of an oracle who predicted he would destroy a great empire. This emboldened him to attack the Persians to the east. The Persian King Cyrus crushed his army and conquered Lydia. Only then did Croessus realize that the empire he would destroy was his own. Herodotus thus set the stage for the fall of great men who came too close to thinking of themselves as all-powerful gods.

Herodotus described a remarkable scene in Persian history following the sudden death of King Cambyses. Persian nobles debated whether they should continue the monarchy (rule by a king), or adopt a democracy (rule by the many) or an oligarchy (rule by the few). The noble Darius reminded his countrymen that King Cyrus had alone made the decisions that created the Persian Empire. This argument convinced the nobles to stay with a monarchy. They also agreed to make Darius the new king.

Herodotus told how Darius reorganized and expanded the Persian Empire so that it reached from western India in Asia to Thrace, north of Greece, in Europe. The Greeks, he wrote, spoke of Darius as the “Great King.”

Greece comprised many city-states. The most important were Athens, a democracy, and Sparta, an oligarchy. These city-states were not unified and thus were in danger if King Darius ever decided to conquer Greece.

In 499 B.C., with the help of Athens, Greek colonies along the west coast of Asia Minor revolted against Persian rule. Darius easily crushed the revolt. He then retaliated against Athens by mounting a massive seaborne invasion of Greece in 490 B.C. The Athenians with a few allies defeated Darius at the battle of Marathon. Herodotus described how the Athenians finally won:

In their victory there, they allowed the barbarian troops that they had routed to flee and then . . . as the Persians fled, the Athenians pursued them and cut them down until they reached the sea, where they called for fire and started to seize the [Persian] ships.

“Great King” Darius returned to Persia, vowing to come back to Greece, but he died before he could lead another invasion. His son, Xerxes, succeeded him in 486 B.C.

Herodotus and the Second Persian War

A few years after Darius died, Xerxes decided to lead a second invasion of Greece. Herodotus quoted a long speech Xerxes made to the Persian nobles, stating his reasons and intentions. This speech, like others that Herodotus quoted in The Histories, probably never took place. He did, however, interview a number of Persians and probably captured the thinking of Xerxes, as indicated in this excerpt from Xerxes’ speech:

Persians, I am not about to introduce a new custom to you, instead I shall follow the tradition handed down to me. . . . I was struck by the realization that we could gain glory; take possession of lands fully as extensive, productive, and fertile as those which we have now; and at the same time obtain vengeance and retribution, too. . . . [I] shall not give up until I conquer Athens and set it on fire, since it is they who began the offenses against me and my father. . . .

In 480 B.C., Xerxes led the largest army the world had ever seen across a pontoon bridge over the Hellespont, a narrow strait between Asia Minor and Europe. He also assembled a navy that consisted of war ships from subject states.

As the massive army and navy moved toward Athens, 300 Spartans held a key pass in the mountains at Thermopylae. Xerxes asked an exiled Spartan if his countrymen would fight the overwhelming Persian army. Herodotus quoted the Spartan’s reply:

For though they are free, they are not free in all respects, for they are actually ruled by a lord and master: law is that master, and it is the law that they inwardly fear—much more so than your men fear you. They do whatever it commands, which is always the same: It forbids them to flee from battle, and no matter how many men they are fighting, it orders them to remain in their rank or perish.

Xerxes laughed at this, wrote Herodotus, but was stunned when the 300 Spartans repelled three assaults by his army. The Spartans were defeated only after a Greek betrayed them by showing the Persians a concealed path through the mountains.

Herodotus wrote that as Xerxes then marched toward Athens, the citizens debated the meaning of an oracle, predicting “wooden walls” would save the city. The Athenian leader Themistocles persuaded the others that this meant the Athenians should fight at sea with their wooden ships.

The Athenian navy destroyed the Persian fleet as Xerxes looked on in horror. The Spartans went on to win a great land victory over the Persian army, forcing it to march back across the pontoon bridge to Persia, never to return

Thucydides and The History of the Peloponnesian War

After the defeat of Xerxes, many Greek city-states joined a league, headed by Athens with its superior navy, to defend Greece from any further Persian invasions. Athens, however, began to demand tribute—money, soldiers, or warships—from league members. In addition, Athens forced other city-states to join the league and prevented any member from leaving it. It also pressured league cities to adopt a democratic government like its own.

The combination of tribute and expanded trade created a wealthy Athenian Empire. This, in turn, enabled Pericles, the leader of the Athenian democracy, to launch a major building program in the city. One of his projects included the famous Parthenon, a temple to the goddess Athena. Pericles admitted that the Athenian Empire was a tyranny but argued the benefits it brought to Athens outweighed its evils.

Meanwhile, the Spartans with their dominant land army withdrew to their homeland of Peloponnesus, a wide peninsula connected to the Greek mainland by a narrow strip of land.

Sparta differed greatly from Athens. It was a regimented, militaristic society. All Spartan males, ages 20–60, were soldiers. Women and slaves performed most other tasks in Sparta. Its government was an oligarchy, drawn from the professional warrior class.

As Athens gathered more Greek city-states into its empire, the Spartans began to view the Athenians as a threat. Sparta formed its own defensive league, and before long sporadic fighting broke out with Athens and its allies. A peace treaty between Athens and Sparta did not last long, and in 431 B.C. the Peloponnesian War began. Fighting in Greece continued for most of the next 27 years.

Herodotus was still alive at the start of the Peloponnesian War, but another Greek, Thucydides, would write its history. Thucydides was born into a wealthy Athenian family about 460 B.C. Little else is known about the first 30 years of his life.

Shortly after the war began, the Athenians elected Thucydides as one of the city’s 10 generals. Assigned to command a fleet off the coast of Thrace, he failed to prevent the Spartans from capturing an Athenian colony. As was the custom, Athens punished Thucydides by exiling him from Athens for 20 years.

With lots of time on his hands, Thucydides decided to write a prose account of the war as it happened, almost like a modern news reporter. He traveled extensively into the war zones, observed battles, interviewed Athenian and Spartan military and political leaders, and read documents relating to the war. He was the first to analyze human behavior in wartime. He concluded that war was rooted in human nature and would be repeated in the future.

Unlike Herodotus, Thucydides rejected telling crowd-pleasing stories and concentrated on the facts of important events. He avoided writing about myths, oracles, and superstitions. He recognized that even eyewitnesses could not always be reliable sources. In general, he tried hard to be accurate, fair, and unbiased.

Like Herodotus, Thucydides quoted speeches, but these actually took place. Thucydides heard some of them himself. As for the rest, he wrote that he stuck “as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said.”

Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War

In the first sentence of hisHistory of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides wrote that he began writing about the war because he believed “it would be a great war, and more worthy of relation than any other that had preceded it.” He went on to identify what he believed to be the “real cause” of the war. “The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm that this inspired in Sparta,” he wrote, “made war inevitable.”

Thucydides wrote how Corinth, a Spartan ally already fighting the Athenians, pushed Sparta to go to war against “the tyrant city” and liberate Greece. Typically slow to act, Sparta finally agreed to lead the fight against Athens, demanding that it restore independence to the Greek cities under its control.

In Athens, Pericles also called for war, but only under certain conditions since he recognized Sparta’s advantage on land with its larger professional army. He counseled the Athenians to fight a defensive war by remaining behind their city walls, depending on their superior navy and avoiding “schemes of fresh conquest.”

Thucydides wrote that only an honest leader like Pericles could make Athenian democracy work. But Pericles, whom Thucydides called “the first citizen,” died soon after the war began, probably in a plague that ravaged Athens. According to Thucydides, those who replaced Pericles ignored his defensive strategy and committed a series of blunders that eventually led to Sparta’s victory over Athens.

Thucydides was interested in how both soldiers and civilians behaved in wartime. In 427 B.C., rebels in Corcyra, one of the city-states under the thumb of Athens, revolted against the democratic government there. Athens quickly crushed the revolt, and the people of the city slaughtered the rebel faction. This incident prompted Thucydides to comment on the evils of revolution:

The sufferings that revolution entailed upon cities were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur as long as the nature of mankind remains the same. . . . The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition. . . .

In 421 B.C., the war was at a stalemate, and the two sides agreed on a “Fifty Year Peace Treaty.” It lasted only about five years.

As the war resumed, Athenian leaders argued for a major military expedition to Sicily. They disregarded Pericles’ advice that the Athenians should stay close to home.

In 413 B.C., a large Athenian fleet carrying thousands of soldiers headed for Syracuse, a Spartan ally in Sicily. The expedition failed to attack Syracuse immediately, allowing the city to prepare strong defenses and get help from Sparta.

The Athenians failed in several assaults on the city, including an unusual night attack that Thucydides described. Then the Athenians lost most of their ships in a battle within Syracuse’s harbor. Trapped, Athenian troops panicked and tried to escape inland. The Syracusans followed them, killing and capturing many. Thucydides described how it all ended at a river crossing:

Meanwhile the opposite [river] bank, which was steep, was lined with Syracusans, who showered missiles down upon the Athenians, most of them drinking greedily and heaped together in disorder in the hollow bed of the river. The [Spartans] also came down and butchered them, especially those in the water, which was thus immediately spoiled, but which they went on drinking the same, mud and all, bloody as it was, most even fighting to have it. . . .

As the war dragged on, atrocities on both sides increased. Probably the worst was a massacre in the defenseless city of Mycalessus in 413 B.C. by Thracians allied with Athens. Thucydides described the horror:

The Thracians bursting into Mycalessus sacked the houses and temples and butchered the inhabitants, sparing neither youth nor age but killing all they fell in with, one after the other, children and women. . . . Everywhere confusion reigned and death in all its shapes; and in particular they attacked a boys’ school . . . into which children had just gone, and massacred them all.

In 411 B.C., Thucydides suddenly stopped writing. The war, however, continued for seven more years until Sparta won a decisive victory over the Athenian fleet, finally forcing Athens to surrender in 404 B. C. We do not know why Thucydides never finished his History. He died, some ancient sources say violently, around 400 B.C., after the war ended.

* * * * *

Herodotus and Thucydides invented history, or at least the writing of it, in the Western world. Before Herodotus, the Greeks had no word for history in the sense of writing a narration of past events in prose. Therefore, the Roman writer Cicero was correct when he called Herodotus the “Father of History.”

Herodotus may have been the first Western historian, but Thucydides was the first modern one. He explained the causes of events, analyzed political developments like revolutions, and evaluated leaders such as Pericles. In addition, like historians today, he was rigorous in searching for the truth and discarding information that he could not verify.

For Discussion and Writing

1.         According to Herodotus, what were the causes of the Persian Wars?

2.         According to Thucydides, how did the Spartans and Athenians differ in their reasons for going to war with one another?

3.         Compare Herodotus and Thucydides as historians.

A C T I V I T Y

Greek Historians Meet the Press

In this activity, the class will hold two separate “news conferences.” In one, Herodotus will answer questions from the press on the Persian Wars. In the other, Thucydides will answer questions on the Peloponnesian War.

1. Choose two students to role play the Greek historians. Have the historians prepare by reading the article and preparing to answer questions that might be asked. They will answer reporters’ questions based on how Herodotus and Thucydides probably would have replied.

2. Divide the rest of the class into two groups—one group will role play reporters questioning Herodotus. The other will role play reporters and question Thucydides. They should read the article and prepare questions that seek the opinion of the historian.

            Examples:

To Herodotus: What do you think was the main cause of the Persian Wars?

To Thucydides: Why do you think the Peloponnesian War lasted so long?

For Further Information

Herodotus | Athens | The Histories | First Persian War| Sparta | Second Persian War| Thucydides | Peloponnesian War | History of the Peloponnesian War | Books

Herodotus

Encyclopedia Articles on Herodotus:

Wikipedia: Herodotus 
Columbia Encyclopedia: Herodotus 
Answers.com: Herodotus 
Citizendium: Herodotus 
1911 Britannica: Herodotus

Herodotus of Halicarnassus Overview of Herodotus through analysis of his writings.
Herodotus on the Web Comprehensive source including articles, images, and pop culture references.
Ancient History Sourcebook:11th Brittanica: Herodotus Biography of Herodotus.

Links on Herodotus:

Yahoo Directory: Herodotus 
Open Directory Project: Herodotus  
Google Directory: Herodotus

Athens

Encyclopedia Articles on Athens:

Wikipedia: Athens 
Columbia Encyclopedia: Athens 
Answers.com: Athens 
Citizendium: Athens 
1911 Britannica: Athens

The Ancient City of Athens Photographic archive of Athens along with several essays.
Ancient Greek Civilizations Information on the different areas of Athens and Athenian society.
Ancient Athens of Greece An illustrated history of Athens. 

Links on Athens:

Yahoo Directory: Athens 
Open Directory Project: Athens  
Google Directory: Athens

The Histories

Encyclopedia Articles on The Histories:

Wikipedia: The Histories 
Answers.com: The Histories 
Citizendium: The Histories 
The History of Herodotus The complete text of The Histories.
Herodotus’ Histories: the 28 logoiText of “the Histories” divided into parts accompanied by short summaries.

Links on The Histories:

Yahoo Directory: The Histories 
Open Directory Project: The Histories  
Google Directory: The Histories 

First Persian War

Encyclopedia Articles on the First Persian War:

Wikipedia: First Persian War 
Columbia Encyclopedia: First Persian War 
Answers.com: First Persian War

The Persian War Flow chart showing the progression of the Persian Wars.
The First Persian War- Greek Wars Extensive history of the First Persian War.
Dr. J’s Illustrated Persian Wars History of the Persian Wars with accompanying images.

Links on the First Persian War:

Yahoo Directory: First Persian War 
Open Directory Project: First Persian War 
Google Directory: First Persian War

Sparta

Encyclopedia Articles on Sparta:

Wikipedia: Sparta 
Columbia Encyclopedia: Sparta 
Answers.com: Sparta 
1911 Britannica: Sparta

Sparta Essay on the society of Sparta.
Sparta General overview of Sparta, with emphasis of the women of the civilization.
History of Sparta Extensive history of Sparta.

Links on Sparta:

Yahoo Directory: Sparta  
Open Directory Project: Sparta  
Google Directory: Sparta

Second Persian War

Encyclopedia Articles on the Second Persian War:

Wikipedia: Second Persian War 
Columbia Encyclopedia: Second Persian War 
Answers.com: Second Persian War

The Second Persian War: The Great Invasion Descriptions of key battles of the Second Persian War.
The 2nd Persian War Story and consequences of the Second Persian War.
Persian Wars Timeline Timeline of major events.

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Yahoo Directory: Second Persian War 
Open Directory Project: Second Persian War  
Google Directory: Second Persian War

Thucydides

Encyclopedia Articles on Thucydides:

Wikipedia: Thucydides 
Columbia Encyclopedia: Thucydides 
Answers.com: Thucydides 
1911 Britannica: Thucydides

Thucydides Short biography and explanation of the History of the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides Detailed biography of Thucydides.
On the Life and History Thucydides Another biographical source.

Links on Thucydides:

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Peloponnesian War

Encyclopedia Articles on the Peloponnesian War:

Wikipedia: Peloponnesian War 
Columbia Encyclopedia: Peloponnesian War 
Answers.com: Peloponnesian War 
1911 Britannica: Peloponnesian War

The Peloponnesian War Comprehensive resource complete with extensive timeline and translations.  
The Peloponnesian War Audio descriptions of the Peloponnesian War.
Peloponnesian War Timeline Chronology of the Peloponnesian War.

Links on the Peloponnesian War:

Yahoo Directory: Peloponnesian War 
Open Directory Project: Peloponnesian War 
Google Directory: Peloponnesian War 

History of the Peloponnesian War

Encyclopedia Articles on the History of the Peloponnesian War:

Wikipedia: History of the Peloponnesian War 
Columbia Encyclopedia: History of the Peloponnesian War 
Answers.com: History of the Peloponnesian War

The History of the Peloponnesian War The full text of the book.
The History of the Peloponnesian War Another version of the text with chapter summaries.

Links on the History of the Peloponnesian War:

Yahoo Directory: History of the Peloponnesian War 
Open Directory Project: History of the Peloponnesian War 
Google Directory: History of the Peloponnesian War

Books

Dewald, Carolyn, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus 2006.
Kagen, Donald. The Peloponnesian War. 2004.
Powell, Anton.Athens and Sparta: Constructing Greek Political and Social History from 478 BCE. 2001.
Strassler, Robert B., ed. The Landmark Herodotus. 2007 and The Landmark Thucydides. 1996.