« ПретходнаНастави »
the mountain close to him on the one side, and the bog on the other; and a few brave troops might, therefore, intercept the march of the mightiest army ever mustered.
It was at this situation that Xerxes found Leonidas waiting for him, with a band of only 6200 men. The haughty monarch was surprised to find that they were determined to dispute his passage. He had flattered himself that, on his approach, the Grecians would betake themselves to flight. Perceiving that this was not their disposition, he sent out a spy to view the enemy. This spy brought him word that he found the Lacedæmonians out of their entrenchments, and that they were diverting themselves with military exercises, and combing their hair. Such was the Spartan manner of preparing themselves for battle, and it indicated that they were fully determined to conquer or die.
To such effect Demaratus informed Xerxes; but the monarch was still incredulous, and maintained his position for four days, in expectation of seeing them retreat.
During this interval, Xerxes used his utmost endeavours to corrupt Leonidas, promising to make him master of all Greece if he would join his party. Leonidas rejected his proposals with contempt; and when Xerxes afterwards summoned him to surrender up his arms, he returned this laconic reply: "Come and take them."
On the fifth day, Xerxes, enraged at the pertinacity of the Greeks in retaining the pass, sent a detachment of Medes, with a command to bring them alive to his presence. These were defeated with great slaughter; and the Immortal Band, which were next sent against them, shared the same fate. After successive efforts, indeed, made with large bodies of their troops, to gain the pass, the Persians were obliged to desist from the attempt.
Xerxes was perplexed; but in the midst of his perplexity, treachery pointed out his path to Greece. One Epialtes, a Melian, in the hope of a great reward, discovered a secret passage to the top of the hill, and which led to the rear of the Grecian camp. This point is beyond the hot springs, in the north, and it is still used by the inhabitants of the country in their journeys to Salona, the ancient Amphissa. Xerxes despatched a detachment thither, which, marching all night, possessed themselves of that advantageous post at day-break.
Leonidas saw his danger, and convinced that it was impossible to oppose successfully so overwhelming a force, with so small a number of troops, he obliged his allies to retire; but he remained himself with his 300 Lacedæmonians, resolving to die in their country's cause; in obedience to an oracle, which foretold that "either Sparta or her king must fall." Glover makes Leonidas exclaim, on hearing that the enemy had circumvented him :
"I now behold the oracle fulfill'd.
Then art thou near, thou glorious sacred hour
Prodigies of valour were performed by this
little band; but at length, oppressed by numbers, they all fell, except one man, who escaped to Sparta, where he was treated as a coward and traitor to his country. The brave Leonidas was one of the first that fell on this memorable occasion. On the barrow, or tomb of this devoted band, an appropriate epitaph was inscribed, which reads thus:
"The Lacedæmonians, O stranger, tell,
That here, obeying their sacred laws, we fell." Herodotus records that Xerxes lost on this occasion above 20,000 men, which probably is an exaggeration. It appears, however, that he was dismayed at the valour of the Lacedæmonians; for he interrogated Demaratus, if they had yet many such soldiers; to which he replied, that they numbered about 8000 equal in valour to those who had fallen. Herodotus also says, that he caused great numbers to be buried secretly, lest the remainder of his troops should be dismayed. Thus lightly could he sport with human life. Surely, in all ages of the world,
"War is a game, which, were their subjects wise,
The same day on which the action at Thermopylæ occurred, the two fleets engaged at Artemisium, a promontory of Euboea. The fleet of the Grecians consisted of 271 vessels, exclusive of galleys and small boats: that of the enemy was much more numerous, notwithstanding its recent losses by the storm. The Persians sent 200 ships with orders to sail round the island of Euboea, and encompass the Grecian fleet, that none of their ships might escape. The Greeks had intelligence of this design, and set sail in the night, in order to attack them by day-break. They missed this squadron, and advanced to Aphetæ, where the bulk of the Persian fleet lay, and after several brief encounters, they came to a considerable engagement, which was long and obstinately maintained, and resulted in nearly equal success.
Though the Persians suffered very severely, yet the Grecians suffered also, and half of their ships were disabled. Such being the case, they deemed it expedient to retire to some safer place to refit; and, accordingly, they sailed to Salamis, an island in the Saronic Bay, nearly midway between Athens and Corinth. Herodotus justly observes, that though the engagement at Artemisium did not bring matters to an absolute decision, yet it contributed greatly to encourage the Greeks, who were now convinced that the enemy, notwithstanding their great number, was not invincible. The struggle for liberty is
Leonidas and his devoted companions, Xerxes passed through the country of Phocis, by the upper part of Doris, burning and plundering the cities of the Phocians. The inhabitants of Peloponnesus, intent only upon saving their own country, resolved to abandon the rest, and to bring all the Grecian forces together within the isthmus, the entrance of which they purposed securing by a strong wall, from one sea to the other, a space of nearly five English miles. The Athenians were provoked at this desertion, and seeing themselves ready to fall into the hands of the enraged Xerxes, consulted upon the best means of escape. Some time before, they had consulted the oracle of Delphi, the replies of which, Dr. Hales observes, were truly remarkable. The burden of them was, that their city should be destroyed, and that they should escape only by taking refuge within wooden walls. Themistocles interpreted this to denote their fleet, and, accordingly, the Athenian squadron took on board their families and effects, and deserted their city. Plutarch suspects (and this may form the key to these otherwise mysterious replies of the Pythian) that the oracle was indoctrinated by Themistocles, on this occasion, wishing to revive the drooping spirits of his countrymen. His sagacity, also, would foresee that this was the only means by which his countrymen could escape destruction.
Xerxes, arriving in the neighbourhood of Athens, wasted the whole country, putting all to fire and sword. A detachment was sent to plunder the temple of Apollo, at Delphi, in which there were immense treasures.
Herodotus relates a romantic tale concerning the escape of this temple from the violence of Xerxes. Thunder-bolts from heaven, he says, fell upon them; and two huge fragments from the tops of Parnassus rolled down with a great crash among them, and destroyed multitudes, while a shouting and clamour issued from the temple of the god. Depriving this tale of the preternatural machinery, it may be, that the priests planned a bold and uncommon stratagem, which they executed with equal prudence and courage, thereby delivering their temple from the spoiler. This will obtain more ample notice in the History of the Grecians.
The following lines, descriptive of the advance of Xerxes to Athens, are very appropriate :
"Her olive groves now Attica displayed;
The fields where Ceres first her gifts bestowed;
On this devoted country."-GLOVER'S ATHENAID.
Arriving at Athens, Xerxes found it deserted by all its inhabitants, except a small number of citizens, who had retired into the citadel, there to await death. That death was too soon found. They fell, fighting for their liberties, and Xerxes reduced the city to ashes. Exulting over the city, he despatched a messenger to Susa with the tidings of his success to his uncle Artabanus, in
whose hands he had left the government during his absence.
Demosthenes has preserved a curious trait of the Athenian spirit on this occasion. One Cyrsilus, a citizen, advised the people to remain in the city, and receive Xerxes. The citizens indignantly stoned him to death, and the women his wife, as traitors to their country.
The affairs of Xerxes had hitherto been prosperous, notwithstanding his severe losses: they were now about to suffer a reverse. While he was triumphing over Athens, the Grecian fleet, being reinforced by a great many ships from several parts of Greece, Eurybiades, commander in chief of all the naval forces, summoned a council. Many contended, and among them was Eurybiades, that it would be better to retire to the isthmus of Corinth, that they might be nearer the army which guarded that passage, under the command of Cleombrotus, brother of Leonidas. Others, at the head of whom was Themistocles, who commanded the Athenian fleet, contended that Salamis, where they were, was the most advantageous place they could choose to engage the numerous fleet of the enemies. Eurybiades and the other commanders came over to his opinion, and it was unanimously resolved to wait for the Persian fleet in the straits of Salamis.
Xerxes, on his part, also held a council of his principal naval commanders, placing them according to their rank; the king of Sidon first,* the king of Tyre next, and the rest in order. The general opinion was in favour of the engagement; but queen Artemisia advised, either to remain in their present station, which would force the Grecian fleet, confined at Salamis, to separate soon for want of provisions, and retire to their respective homes, or else to sail towards Peloponnesus, in which case it was not to be imagined that the confederates would remain behind, or risk a battle for the sake of the Athenians, when their own country was threatened: whereas, from the superior seamanship of the Grecians, the Persian fleet would be in great danger of a defeat. This wise counsel was unheeded.
The same night on which the resolution for an engagement was taken, Xerxes made his army proceed towards the Isthmus of Corinth. Alarmed at this movement, the Peloponnesians at Salamis held a second council, in which they overruled the Athenians, Æginetes, and Megareans, and resolved to sail to the succour of the Peninsula. But it was too late.
"Dissensions past, as puerile and vain,
This was the effect of artifice. Themistocles, foreseeing the, result of a division of the Greek forces, sent a trusty friend by night to Xerxes,
Dr. Hales says this precedence was due to the king of Sidon, because "Sidon was the eldest son of Ham,' Gen. x. 15; profane history thereby according with sacred in this place, in a remarkable manner.
to apprise him of their design, and advise him not to let slip this favourable opportunity of attacking the Grecians when they were divided among themselves, and incapable of resistance. Xerxes credited the report, and ordered the Persian fleet to range themselves in three divisions, and stretch across the bay, so as to cut off the retreat of the Greeks, and in that array to advance towards Salamis.
Imputing the ill success of his former engagements at sea to his own absence, Xerxes resolved to witness this from the top of an eminence, where he caused a throne to be erected. Around him were several scribes, after the manner of the Persian monarchs, who were to write down the names of such as should signalize themselves in the conflict. This was, no doubt, a wise arrangement, inasmuch as it tended to animate his hosts; rewards and honours being the only motives they had to incite them to deeds of arms.
Xerxes, who enthroned
High on Ægaleos anxious state to view
When the Peloponnesians found themselves encompassed by the Persian armament, they prepared to share the same dangers with their allies. Both sides prepared for battle. The Grecian fleet consisted of 380 sail; that of the Persians, upwards of 2000. Themistocles avoided the engagement till a certain wind began to blow, as was the case each day about the same time, knowing that it would be unfavourable to the enemy. As soon as he found himself favoured by this wind, he gave the signal for battle, which is thus finely described by Eschylus, who fought in this battle himself:
"Advance, ye sons of Greece, from thraldom save Your country, save your wives, your children save, The temples of your gods, the sacred tombs Where rest your honoured ancestors: this day The common cause of all demands your valour." The engagement was desperate. The Persians, knowing that they fought under the monarch's eye, advanced with great resolution; but the wind blowing directly in their faces, and the size and number of their ships embarrassing them in a place so narrow, their courage soon abated. The Greeks noted this circumstance, and rushed onwards
Amidst the ruins of the fleet,
The Ionians were the first that betook themselves to flight. Queen Artemisia had a narrow escape. Her galley was pursued by an Athenian vessel, commanded by the brother of the poet Eschylus, and would have been captured had she not turned suddenly upon one of her own side, a Calyndian vessel, with the commander of which she was on ill terms, attacked, and sunk it, with all the crew. Deceived by this stratagem, the Grecian, conceiving that she had now deserted the barbarians, quitted the pursuit. In the battle, she had behaved with such intrepidity, that Xerxes exclaimed, "My men are become
women, and the women men." To a reflective mind, the sight would have been a pitiful one. To woman belongs only the offices of love and tender affection. These are her prerogatives; and when they are laid aside for the savage din of war, the corruption of the human heart is exhibited in its most fearful forms. Many such, however, are instanced in the annals of profane history; and it may be safely asserted, that this was one of the bitter fruits of paganism. In the school of Christianity, woman is taught to walk the earth as an angel of mercy, to soothe the rugged path of human life.
Such was the battle of Salamis, one of the most memorable actions recorded in ancient history. According to Plutarch, it was fought on the 20th of the Attic month Boedromion, corresponding to the 15th of September, B. C. 480, which was the sixth day of the Eleusinian rites, on which the procession of the mystic Iacchus was held by the Greeks.
"A king sate on a rocky brow,
Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis;
But when the sun set, where were they?"
Themistocles, taking advantage of the alarm of Xerxes caused by his defeat, contrived, in order to hasten his departure from Greece, to inform him that it was the intention of the Greeks to break down the bridge over the Hellespont. Xerxes immediately sent the remainder of his fleet thither to protect it, and to secure his retreat. This he commenced under cover of the
night, leaving Mardonius, with an army of
300,000 men, to subdue Greece.
The Grecians, who expected that Xerxes would have renewed the combat the next day, having learned that the fleet had departed, pursued it as fast as they could. But it was to no purpose. They had destroyed 200 of the enemy's ships, besides those which they had captured: the rest, having suffered by the winds in their passage, retired towards the coast of Asia, and finally entered into the port of Cuma, a city of Etolia, where they passed the winter. They returned no more into Greece.
Xerxes marched with a portion of his army towards the Hellespont. As no victuals had been provided for them, they underwent great hardships during their whole march, which lasted forty-five days. After having consumed all the fruits they could find, the soldiers were obliged to live upon herbs, and even upon the bark and leaves of trees. This occasioned a great sickness in the army, and great numbers died, so that he arrived at the Hellespont with "scarcely a pittance of his army."
When Xerxes reached the Hellespont, he found the bridge already broken down and destroyed by storms. His fleet, however, conveyed him and the shattered remains of his host from the Chersonese to Abydos, on the coast of Asia,
whence he returned to Sardis, where he remained during the continuance of the war.*
The earliest care of the Grecians after the battle of Salamis was to send the first-fruits of their victory to Delphi, where they enriched the temple with the spoils of those who not long before sought to pillage it. Their next thought was to reward those who had signalized themselves above the rest, and by universal consent this honour was bestowed upon Themistocles.
But the liberty of the Greeks was not yet secure. Xerxes had commenced this unjust war by the advice of Mardonius; hence it was that when the monarch was defeated at Salamis, Mardonius, for fear he should feel the royal vengeance, deemed it better to propose the subjugation of Greece by his means, or in some great effort to meet death. His counsel to Xerxes, as narrated by Herodotus, is graphically given by Glover in his Athenaid :—
"Be not discourag'd, sovereign of the world!
Mardonius concluded with offering himself for the enterprise, which was accepted. The haughty monarch had not yet been taught wisdom by the lesson of adversity,-had not yet learned the lesson of mercy from a sight of suffering humanity.
On the approach of spring, B. c. 479, Mardonius made an attempt to gain over the Athenians, and draw them off from the confederacy. With this view, he sent Alexander, the son of Amyntas, king of Macedon, with very advantageous offers. These offers were, to rebuild, at the king's charge, their city, and every other edifice demolished the year before in Attica; to suffer them to live according to their own laws; to reinstate them in all their former possessions; and to bestow on them what other dominions they might desire.
Steady to the common cause, the Athenians replied, "Tell Mardonius, Thus say the Athenians, Whilst the sun holds its course, we will never compromise with Xerxes; but relying on the aid of the gods and heroes, whose temples and statues he has contemptuously burned, we resolve to resist him to the last extremity. And as for you, Alexander, appear no more among the Athenians with such messages; nor, under colour of rendering us good offices, exhort us to do what is abominable. For we wish not that you should suffer any unpleasant treatment on the part of the Athenians, as being a guest as well as a friend." Then turning to the Spartan deputies, who were fearful lest they should come to an accommodation with Xerxes, they said,
By some historians Xerxes is said to have passed over the Hellespont in a fishing boat. Herodotus rejects this story; and the whole of the narration of this event does appear to be introduced to calumniate Xerxes, whence it is rejected in these pages.
Not all the gold in the world, nor the greatest, richest, and most beautiful country, shall ever tempt us to enslave Greece. Many and cogent reasons forbid us to do this, even if we were so disposed: the first and greatest is, the temples and statues of the gods, burned and reduced to ashes, which we are bound to avenge to the uttermost, rather than compromise with the perpetrator; in the next place the Grecian commonwealth, all of the same blood and same language, having common altars and sacrifices of the gods, and similar customs, which it would not well become Athenians to betray. Know, therefore, now, if ye knew it not before, that whilst one of the Athenians shall survive, we never will compromise with Xerxes. We admire your forethought with respect to us, now that our houses and harvests are destroyed, in offering to entertain our families, and we thank you abundantly; but we shall seek to procure subsistence without burdening you. In the present posture of affairs, be it your care to bring your forces into the field with as much expedition as possible; for the barbarian* will not fail to invade our territories, so soon as he shall hear the account of our utter refusal to comply with his proposals. Before he shall be able to penetrate into Attica, it becomes us to march into Boeotia, and divert his attention to that quarter."
As the Greeks foresaw, so it happened. As soon as Mardonius heard from Alexander the fixed resolutions of the Athenians, he led his troops from Thessaly into Attica, wasting and destroying the whole country over which he passed, and collecting troops from every quarter. On his way through Boeotia, the Thebans advised him to halt and encamp in their country, as the most convenient; and by so doing, he might reduce all Greece, by bribing the leading men in the several states.
Had Mardonius listened to this treacherous counsel, it is possible Greece would have been conquered. It was overruled, however, by his desire to take Athens a second time, and his vanity; for he wished to show the king at Sardis, by fire signals, stationed throughout the islands, that he was in possession of that city. Mardonius entered Athens, which he found deserted, in the tenth month after it had been taken by Xerxes, and he demolished whatever had escaped the monarch's fury.
Not being able to withstand such a torrent alone, the Athenians again retired to Salamis. Mardonius still entertained hopes of bringing them to some terms of accommodation, and sent another deputy to renew the former proposals. Lycidas, a member of the council of five hundred, either approving the proposals, or bribed by Mardonius, recommended that they should be referred to the people. Fired with indignation, the Athenians gathered round him, and stoned him to death; and the women, following their example, rushed to his house, and stoned his wife and children. By this second tragedy, Mardonius perceived they were obstinately determined to carry on the war till either he should
The term "barbarians" was used by the ancients in a much milder sense than we use it: generally it imports strangers, occasionally an enemy, in which sense it is here used.
be expelled, or they buried in the ruins of their country.
In the mean time, the Athenians had sent deputies to Sparta, to complain of their tardiness, their breach of promise, and desertion of the common cause, in not opposing the enemy in Boeotia; and next to require that they would send an army to their assistance, in order that they might oppose him in Attica, recommending the Thracian plain as the fittest to give him battle. Freed from immediate danger, the Peloponnesians seemed careless about the matter; but at length, fearing that the Athenians, who were exasperated at their conduct, would realize their threat of quitting the confederacy, making peace with the king, and becoming his allies, they sent off hastily a force of 5000 troops to their assistance, toward the isthmus.
Mardonius, discovering this, and fearing to be attacked by the confederates in Attica, which was disadvantageous for his cavalry, and if defeated by them, to be intercepted in the narrow passes, retired into Boeotia. When he reached the Theban territory, which was convenient for his cavalry, in which his chief strength consisted, he fortified a large camp near the river Asopus, for a place of refuge should he be defeated.
The disposition which prevailed among the Persians at this time, and the fear that possessed them respecting the issue of the campaign, is well illustrated by an anecdote related by Herodotus: "Whilst the barbarians were employed on this work, Attaginus, a Theban, prepared a magnificent entertainment, to which Mardonius and fifty Persians were invited. At table, they chequered, a Persian and a Theban reclining on every couch.* After supper, as they were drinking freely, the Persian who was the associate of Thersander, a man of the first consideration at Orchomenos, asked him in Greek what countryman he was; and when he answered, 'An Orchomenian,' the Persian proceeded thus: "Since you and I share the same table, and the same libations, I wish to leave you a memorial of my sentiments, that being forewarned, you may have an opportunity of consulting your own interest. Do you see those Persians at supper, and the army which we left encamped on the banks of the river? Of all these, in a very short space of time, you will see very few surviving!' Saying this, the Persian shed many tears. Thersander, astonished at the remark, replied, 'Does it not become you to communicate this to Mardonius, and to those next him in dignity? My friend,' returned the Persian, 'it is not for man to counteract the decisions of Providence. None of them are willing to hearken to faithful advisers, A multitude of Persians share the same sentiments with me; but, like me, they follow on from necessity. Nothing in human life is more deeply to be regretted, than that the wise man's voice should be disregarded." "This," says Herodotus, "I heard from Thersander, the Orchomenian, who also told me that he had communicated the same to many before the battle of Platæa."
In more remote times, the ancients sat round a table as we do, as we read in Homer. This passage shows, however, that the custom of reclining on a couch at meals was of a very early date.
Eschylus, with powerful effect, has put a similar prediction in the mouth of the ghost of Darius, when evoked by Atossa and the chorus: In Platæa's plains,
Beneath the Doric spear, the clotted mass
Shortly before the battle of Platæa, Mardonius was furnished with a striking specimen of Grecian spirit. Among his auxiliaries, he was joined by a body of a thousand Phocians, who were driven to his ranks from necessity. Either suspecting their fidelity, or to prove their courage, Mardonius menaced them with destruction by his cavalry, which surrounded them on all sides. The Phocian commander exhorted his men to "die like heroes," and to show that they were Grecians: upon which they faced about every way, and closed their ranks in column. The Persian cavalry retired, as Mardonius had directed, and he sent a herald to inform them that he only meant to test their courage, and exhorted them to act with alacrity in the war, at the same time holding out large promises of reward for their services.
Roused by the example of the Lacedæmonians, the rest of the Peloponnesians prepared to prosecute the war with vigour. They raised their quotas, and joined the Lacedæmonians and Athenians at the isthmus. From thence they marched into Boeotia, to Mount Citharon, in the neighbourhood of the Persian army. Their army was under the conduct of Pausanias, king of Sparta, and of Aristides, commander in chief of the Athenians. Mardonius, in order to try the courage of the Greeks, sent out his cavalry to skirmish with the enemy. This led to a fierce engagement, wherein the Persians were routed, and their leader, Masistius, who was next in consideration to Mardonius himself, slain; an event which caused great dismay and sorrow in the Persian army. To denote their grief for the loss of Masistius, they cut off their hair, and the manes of their horses, and all Bootia resounded with their cries and lamentations. After this conflict, the Grecians removed to Platea, not far from Thebes.
The army of the Greeks consisted of 110,000 men, the flower of which were the Lacedæmonians, Tegeatæ, and Athenians, who numbered in the whole 19,500 men. The Persian army, it is said, amounted to 300,000 men, besides 50,000 Grecians who joined them voluntarily, as the Thebans, or by compulsion, as the Phocians, Thessalians, and others.
From superstitious motives,* the two armies
*The soothsayers, upon inspecting the entrails of the victims, according to Herodotus, foretold to both parties that they should be victorious if they acted only upon the
defensive; and threatened them with an utter overthrow if they made the first attack.
Potter gives a particular account of the mode of divination by inspecting he entrails. If they were whole and sound, had their natural place, colour, and proportion, all was well: if any thing was out of order, or wanting, evil was portended. The palpitation of the entrails was un