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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsAthens: Its Rise And Fall - Vol 2 - Book 3 - Chapter 6
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Athens: Its Rise And Fall - Vol 2 - Book 3 - Chapter 6 Post by :imported_n/a Category :Nonfictions Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :989

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Athens: Its Rise And Fall - Vol 2 - Book 3 - Chapter 6

VOL II BOOK III CHAPTER VI

The Conduct of the Greeks.--The Oracle relating to Salamis.--Art of Themistocles.--The Isthmian Congress.--Embassies to Argos, Crete, Corcyra, and Syracuse.--Their ill Success.--The Thessalians send Envoys to the Isthmus.--The Greeks advance to Tempe, but retreat.--The Fleet despatched to Artemisium, and the Pass of Thermopylae occupied. --Numbers of the Grecian Fleet.--Battle of Thermopylae.


I. The first preparations of the Persians did not produce the effect which might have been anticipated in the Grecian states. Far from uniting against the common foe, they still cherished a frivolous and unreasonable jealousy of each other. Several readily sent the symbols of their allegiance to the Persian, including the whole of Boeotia, except only the Thespians and Plataeans. The more timorous states imagined themselves safe from the vengeance of the barbarian; the more resolute were overwhelmed with dismay. The renown of the Median arms was universally acknowledged for in spite of Marathon, Greece had not yet learned to despise the foreigner; and the enormous force of the impending armament was accurately known from the spies and deserters of the Grecian states, who abounded in the barbarian camp. Even united, the whole navy of Greece seemed insufficient to contend against such a foe; and, divided among themselves, several of the states were disposed rather to succumb than to resist (59). "And here," says the father of history, "I feel compelled to assert an opinion, however invidious it may be to many. If the Athenians, terrified by the danger, had forsaken their country, or submitted to the Persian, Xerxes would have met with no resistance by sea. The Lacedaemonians, deserted by their allies, would have died with honour or yielded from necessity, and all Greece have been reduced to the Persian yoke. The Athenians were thus the deliverers of Greece. They animated the ardour of those states yet faithful to themselves; and, next to the gods, they were the true repellers of the invader. Even the Delphic oracles, dark and ominous as they were, did not shake their purpose, nor induce them to abandon Greece." When even the deities themselves seemed doubtful, Athens was unshaken. The messengers despatched by the Athenians to the Delphic oracle received indeed an answer well calculated to appal them.

"Unhappy men," cried the priestess, "leave your houses and the ramparts of the city, and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth. Fire and keen Mars, compelling the Syrian chariot, shall destroy, towers shall be overthrown, and temples destroyed by fire. Lo! now, even now, they stand dropping sweat, and their house-tops black with blood, and shaking with prophetic awe. Depart and prepare for ill!"

II. Cast into the deepest affliction by this response, the Athenians yet, with the garb and symbols of suppliants, renewed their application. "Answer us," they said, "oh supreme God, answer us more propitiously, or we will not depart from your sanctuary, but remain here even until death."

The second answer seemed less severe than the first: "Minerva is unable to appease the Olympian Jupiter. Again, therefore, I speak, and my words are as adamant. All else within the bounds of Cecropia and the bosom of the divine Cithaeron shall fall and fail you. The wooden wall alone Jupiter grants to Pallas, a refuge to your children and yourselves. Wait not for horse and foot--tarry not the march of the mighty army--retreat, even though they close upon you. Oh Salamis the divine, thou shalt lose the sons of women, whether Ceres scatter or hoard her harvest!"

III. Writing down this reply, the messengers returned to Athens. Many and contradictory were the attempts made to interpret the response; some believed that by a wooden wall was meant the citadel, formerly surrounded by a palisade of wood. Others affirmed that the enigmatical expression signified the fleet. But then the concluding words perplexed them. For the apostrophe to Salamis appeared to denote destruction and defeat. At this juncture Themistocles approved himself worthy of the position he had attained. It is probable that he had purchased the oracle to which he found a ready and bold solution. He upheld the resort to the ships, but denied that in the apostrophe to Salamis any evil to Athens was denounced. "Had," said he, "the prediction of loss and slaughter referred to the Athenians, would Salamis have been called 'divine?' would it not have been rather called the 'wretched' if the Greeks were doomed to perish near that isle? The oracle threatens not the Athenians, but the enemy. Let us prepare then to engage the barbarian by sea. Our ships are our wooden walls."

This interpretation, as it was the more encouraging, so it was the more approved. The vessels already built from the revenues of the mines of Laurion were now destined to the safety of Greece.

IV. It was, however, before the arrival of the Persian envoys (60), and when the Greeks first woke to the certainty, that the vast preparations of Xerxes menaced Greece as the earliest victim, that a congress, perhaps at the onset confined to the Peloponnesian states, met at Corinth. At the head of this confederate council necessarily ranked Sparta, which was the master state of the Peloponnesus. But in policy and debate, if not in arms, she appears always to have met with a powerful rival in Corinth, the diplomacy of whose wealthy and liberal commonwealth often counteracted the propositions of the Spartan delegates. To this congress subsequently came the envoys of all the states that refused tribute and homage to the Persian king. The institution of this Hellenic council, which was one cause of the salvation of Greece, is a proof of the political impotence of the old Amphictyonic league. The Synedrion of Corinth (or rather of that Corinthian village that had grown up round the temple of Neptune, and is styled the ISTHMUS by the Greek writers) was the true historical Amphictyony of Hellas.

In the Isthmian congress the genius of Themistocles found an ampler sphere than it had hitherto done among the noisy cabals of Athens. Of all the Greek delegates, that sagacious statesman was most successful in accomplishing the primary object of the confederacy, viz., in removing the jealousies and the dissensions that hitherto existed among the states which composed it. In this, perhaps the most difficult, as the most essential, task, Themistocles was aided by a Tegean, named Chileus, who, though he rarely appears upon the external stage of action, seems to have been eminently skilled in the intricate and entangled politics of the time. Themistocles, into whose hands the Athenian republic, at this period, confided the trust not more of its interests than its resentments, set the example of concord; and Athens, for a while, consented to reconciliation and amity with the hated Aegina. All the proceedings of this illustrious congress were characterized by vigilant prudence and decisive energy. As soon as Xerxes arrived in Sardis, emissaries were despatched to watch the movements of the Persian army, and at the same period, or rather some time before (61), ambassadors were sent to Corcyra, Crete, Argos, and to Syracuse, then under the dominion of Gelo. This man, from the station of a high-born and powerful citizen of Gela, in Sicily, had raised himself, partly by military talents, principally by a profound and dissimulating policy, to the tyranny of Gela and of Syracuse. His abilities were remarkable, his power great; nor on the Grecian continent was there one state that could command the force and the resources that were at the disposal of the Syracusan prince.

The spies despatched to Sardis were discovered, seized, and would have been put to death, but for the interference of Xerxes, who dismissed them, after directing them to be led round his army, in the hope that their return from the terror of such a spectacle would, more than their death, intimidate and appal their countrymen.

The mission to Argos, which, as a Peloponnesian city, was one of the earliest applied to, was unsuccessful. That state still suffered the exhaustion which followed the horrible massacre perpetrated by Cleomenes, the Spartan king, who had burnt six thousand Argives in the precincts of the sanctuary to which they had fled. New changes of government had followed this fatal loss, and the servile population had been enabled to seize the privileges of the free. Thus, hatred to Sparta, a weakened soldiery, an unsettled internal government, all conspired to render Argos lukewarm to the general cause. Yet that state did not openly refuse the aid which it secretly resolved to withhold. It consented to join the common league upon two conditions; an equal share with the Spartans in the command, and a truce of thirty years with those crafty and merciless neighbours. The Spartans proposed to compromise the former condition, by allowing to the Argive king not indeed half the command, but a voice equal to that of each of their own kings. To the latter condition they offered no objection. Glad of an excuse to retaliate on the Spartans their own haughty insolence, the Argives at once rejected the proposition, and ordered the Spartan ambassador to quit their territories before sunset. But Argos, though the chief city of Argolis, had not her customary influence over the other towns of that district, in which the attachment to Greece was stronger than the jealous apprehensions of Sparta.

The embassy to Sicily was not more successful than that to Argos. Gelo agreed indeed to furnish the allies with a considerable force, but only on the condition of obtaining for Sicily the supreme command, either of the land-force claimed by Sparta, or of the naval force to which Athens already ventured to pretend; an offer to which it was impossible that the Greeks should accede, unless they were disposed to surrender to the craft of an auxiliary the liberties they asserted against the violence of a foe. The Spartan and the Athenian ambassadors alike, and with equal indignation, rejected the proposals of Gelo, who, in fact, had obtained the tyranny of his native city by first securing the command of the Gelan cavalry. The prince of Syracuse was little affected by the vehement scorn of the ambassadors. "I see you are in more want of troops than commanders," said he, wittily. "Return, then; tell the Greeks this year will be without its spring." For, as the spring to the year did Gelo consider his assistance to Greece. From Sicily the ambassadors repaired to Corcyra. Here they were amused with flattering promises, but the governors of that intriguing and factious state fitted out a fleet of sixty vessels, stationed near Pylos, off the coast of Sparta, to wait the issue of events assuring Xerxes, on the one hand, of their indisposition to oppose him, and pretending afterward to the Greeks, on the other, that the adverse winds alone prevented their taking share in the engagement at Salamis. The Cretans were not more disposed to the cause than the Corcyraeans; they found an excuse in an oracle of Delphi, and indeed that venerable shrine appears to have been equally dissuasive of resistance to all the states that consulted it; although the daring of the Athenians had construed the ambiguous menace into a favourable omen. The threats of superstition become but incitements to courage when interpreted by the brave.

V. And now the hostile army had crossed the Hellespont, and the Thessalians, perceiving that they were the next objects of attack, despatched ambassadors to the congress at the Isthmus.

Those Thessalian chiefs called the Aleuadae had, it is true, invited Xerxes to the invasion of Greece. But precisely because acceptable to the chiefs, the arrival of the great king was dreaded by the people. By the aid of the Persians, the Aleuadae trusted to extend their power over their own country--an ambition with which it is not to be supposed that the people they assisted to subject would sympathize. Accordingly, while Xerxes was to the chiefs an ally, to the people he remained a foe.

These Thessalian envoys proclaimed their willingness to assist the confederates in the defence of their fatherland, but represented the imminence of the danger to Thessaly, and demanded an immediate supply of forces. "Without this," they said, "we cannot exert ourselves for you, and our inability to assist you will be our excuse, if we provide for our own safety."

Aroused by these exhortations, the confederates commenced their military movements. A body of infantry passed the Euripus, entered Thessaly, and encamped amid the delights of the vale of Tempe. Here their numbers, in all ten thousand heavy-armed troops, were joined by the Thessalian horse. The Spartans were led by Euaenetus. Themistocles commanded the Athenians. The army did not long, however, remain in the encampment. Alexander, the king of Macedon, sent confidentially advising their retreat, and explaining accurately the force of the enemy. This advice concurred with the discovery that there was another passage into Thessaly through the higher regions of Macedonia, which exposed them to be taken in the rear. And, in truth, it was through this passage that the Persian army ultimately marched. The Greeks, therefore, broke up the camp and returned to the Isthmus. The Thessalians, thus abandoned, instantly treated with the invader, and became among the stanchest allies of Xerxes.

It was now finally agreed in the Isthmian congress, that the most advisable plan would be to defend the pass of Thermopylae, as being both nearer and narrower than that of Thessaly. The fleet they resolved to send to Artemisium, on the coast of Histiaeotis, a place sufficiently neighbouring Thermopylae to allow of easy communication. Never, perhaps, have the Greeks shown more military skill than in the choice of these stations. But one pass in those mountainous districts permitted the descent of the Persian army from Thessaly, bounded to the west by steep and inaccessible cliffs, extending as far as Mount Oeta; to the east by shoals and the neighbouring sea. This defile received its name Thermopylae, or Hot Gates, from the hot-springs which rose near the base of the mountain. In remote times the pastoral Phocians had fortified the place against the incursions of the Thessalians, and the decayed remains of the wall and gates of their ancient garrison were still existent in the middle of the pass; while, by marsh and morass, to render the place yet more impassable, they had suffered the hot-springs to empty themselves along the plain, on the Thessalian side, and the quagmire was still sodden and unsteady. The country on either side the Thermopylae was so contracted, that before, near the river Phoenix, and behind, near the village of Alpeni, was at that time space only for a single chariot. In such a pass the numbers and the cavalry of the Mede were rendered unavailable; while at the distance of about fifteen miles from Thermopylae the ships of the Grecian navy rode in the narrow sea, off the projecting shores of Euboea, equally fortunate in a station which weakened the force of numbers and allowed the facility of retreat.

The sea-station was possessed by the allied ships. Corinth sent forty; Megara twenty; Aegina eighteen; Sicyon twelve; Sparta ten; the Epidaurians contributed eight; the Eretrians seven; the Troezenians five; the Ityraeans and the people of Ceos each two, and the Opuntian Locrians seven vessels of fifty oars. The total of these ships (without reckoning those of fifty oars, supplied by the Locrians, and two barks of the same description, which added to the quota sent by the people of Ceos) amount to one hundred and twenty-four. The Athenian force alone numbered more vessels than all the other confederates, and contributed one hundred and twenty-seven triremes, partly manned by Plataeans, besides twenty vessels lent to the Chalcidians, who equipped and manned them. The Athenian fleet was commanded by Themistocles. The land-force at Thermopylae consisted chiefly of Peloponnesians; its numbers were as follows:--three hundred heavy-armed Spartans; five hundred Tegeans; five hundred Mantinaeans; one hundred and twenty Orchomenians; one thousand from the other states of Arcady; two hundred from Phlius; eighty from Mycenae. Boeotia contributed seven hundred Thespians, and four hundred Thebans; the last had been specially selected by Leonidas, the Spartan chief, because of the general suspicion that the Thebans were attached to the Medes, and he desired, therefore, to approve them as friends, or know them as foes. Although the sentiments of the Thebans were hostile, says Herodotus, they sent the assistance required. In addition to these, were one thousand Phocians, and a band of the Opuntian Locrians, unnumbered by Herodotus, but variously estimated, by Diodorus at one thousand, and, more probably, by Pausanias at no less than seven thousand.

The chief command was intrusted, according to the claims of Sparta, to Leonidas, the younger brother of the frantic Cleomenes (62), by a different mother, and his successor to the Spartan throne.

There are men whose whole life is in a single action. Of these, Leonidas is the most eminent. We know little of him, until the last few days of his career. He seems, as it were, born but to show how much glory belongs to a brave death. Of his character or genius, his general virtues and vices, his sorrows and his joys, biography can scarcely gather even the materials for conjecture. He passed from an obscure existence into an everlasting name. And history dedicates her proudest pages to one of whom she has nothing but the epitaph to relate.

As if to contrast the little band under the command of Leonidas, Herodotus again enumerates the Persian force, swelled as it now was by many contributions, forced and voluntary, since its departure from Doriscus. He estimates the total by sea and land, thus augmented, at two millions six hundred and forty-one thousand six hundred and ten fighting men, and computes the number of the menial attendants, the motley multitude that followed the armament, at an equal number; so that the son of Darius conducted, hitherto without disaster, to Sepias and Thermopylae, a body of five millions two hundred and eighty-three thousand two hundred and twenty human beings (63). And out of this wondrous concourse, none in majesty and grace of person, says Herodotus, surpassed the royal leader. But such advantages as belong to superior stature, the kings of Persia obtained by artificial means; and we learn from Xenophon that they wore a peculiar kind of shoe so constructed as to increase their height.

VI. The fleet of Xerxes, moving from Therme, obtained some partial success at sea: ten of their vessels despatched to Sciathos, captured a guard-ship of Troezene, and sacrificed upon the prow a Greek named Leon; the beauty of his person obtained him that disagreeable preference. A vessel of Aegina fell also into their hands, the crew of which they treated as slaves, save only one hero, Pytheas, endeared even to the enemy by his valour; a third vessel, belonging to the Athenians, was taken at the mouth of the Peneus; the seamen, however, had previously debarked, and consequently escaped. Beacons apprized the Greek station at Artemisium of these disasters, and the fleet retreated for a while to Chalcis, with a view of guarding the Euripus. But a violent storm off the coast of Magnesia suddenly destroying no less than four hundred of the barbarian vessels, with a considerable number of men and great treasure, the Grecian navy returned to Artemisium.

Here they soon made a capture of fifteen of the Persian vessels, which, taking them for friends, sailed right into the midst of them. With this exception, the rest of the barbarian fleet arrived safely at Aphetae.

VII. Meanwhile the mighty land-force of the great king, passing through Thessaly and Achaia, arrived at last at the wide Trachinian plains, which, stretching along the shores of Thessaly, forty miles in circumference, and adjacent to the straits of Thermopylae, allowed space for the encampment of his army.

The Greeks at Thermopylae beheld the approach of Xerxes with dismay; they had anticipated considerable re-enforcements from the confederate states, especially Sparta, which last had determined to commit all her strength to the campaign, leaving merely a small detachment for the defence of the capital. But the Carneian festival in honour of the great Dorian Apollo, at Sparta, detained the Lacedaemonians, and the Olympic games diverted the rest of the allies, not yet expecting an immediate battle.

The vicinity of Xerxes, the absence of the re-enforcements they expected, produced an alarmed and anxious council; Leonidas dissuaded the confederates from retreat, and despatched messengers to the various states, urging the necessity of supplies, and stating the hopelessness of opposing the Mede effectually with the present forces.

Xerxes, in the meanwhile, who had heard that an insignificant band were assembled under a Spartan descendant of Hercules, to resist his progress, despatched a spy to reconnoitre their number and their movements. The emissary was able only to inspect those without the intrenchment, who, at that time, happened to be the Spartans; he found that singular race engaged in gymnastic exercises, and dressing their long hair for the festival of battle. Although they perceived the spy, they suffered him to gaze at his leisure, and he returned in safety to the king.

Much astonished at the account he received, Xerxes sent for Demaratus, and detailing to him what the messenger had seen, inquired what it might portend, and whether this handful of men amusing themselves in the defile could seriously mean to resist his arms.

"Sire," answered the Spartan, "it is their intention to dispute the pass, and what your messenger has seen proves that they are preparing accordingly. It is the custom of the Spartans to adorn their hair on the eve of any enterprise of danger. You are advancing to attack the flower of the Grecian valour." Xerxes, still incredulous that opposition could be seriously intended, had the courtesy to wait four days to give the enemy leisure to retreat; in the interim he despatched a messenger to Leonidas, demanding his arms. "Come and take them!" replied the Spartan.

VIII. On the fifth day the patience of Xerxes was exhausted, and he sent a detachment of Medes and Cissians (64) into the pass, with orders to bring its rash and obstinate defenders alive into his presence. The Medes and Cissians were repulsed with considerable loss. "The Immortal Band" were now ordered to advance, under the command of Hydarnes. But even the skill and courage of that warlike troop were equally unsuccessful; their numbers were crippled by the narrowness of the pass, and their short weapons coped to great disadvantage with the long spears of the Greeks. The engagement was renewed a second day with the like fortune; the loss of the Persians was great, although the scanty numbers of the Spartans were also somewhat diminished.

In the midst of the perplexity which pervaded the king's councils after this defeat, there arrived at the Persian camp one Ephialtes, a Malian. Influenced by the hope of a great reward, this traitor demanded and obtained an audience, in which he offered to conduct the Medes through a secret path across the mountains, into the pass. The offer was joyfully accepted, and Hydarnes, with the forces under his command, was despatched under the guidance of the Malian. At the dusk of evening the detachment left the camp, and marching all night, from the river Asopus, between the mountains of Oeta on the right hand, and the Trachinian ridges on the left, they found themselves at the early dawn at the summit of the hill, on which a thousand Phocians had been stationed to defend the pass, for it was not unknown to the Spartans. In the silence of dawn they wound through the thick groves of oak that clad the ascent, and concealed the glitter of their arms; but the exceeding stillness of the air occasioned the noise they made in trampling on the leaves (65) to reach the ears of the Phocians. That band sprang up from the earth on which they had slept, to the consternation and surprise of the invaders, and precipitately betook themselves to arms. The Persians, though unprepared for an enemy at this spot, drew up in battle array, and the heavy onslaught of their arrows drove the Phocians to seek a better shelter up the mountains, not imagining that the passage into the defile, but their own destruction, was the object of the enterprise. The Persians prudently forbore pursuit, but availing themselves of the path now open to their progress, rapidly descended the opposite side of the mountain.

IX. Meanwhile, dark and superstitious terrors were at work in the Grecian camp. The preceding eve the soothsayer (Megistias) had inspected the entrails, and foretold that death awaited the defenders of Thermopylae in the morning; and on that fatal night a Cumaean deserted from the Persian camp had joined Leonidas, and informed him of the treachery of Ephialtes. At early day their fears were confirmed by the sentinels posted on the mountains, who fled into the defile at the approach of the barbarians.

A hasty council was assembled; some were for remaining, some for flight. The council ended with the resolution of a general retreat, probably with the assent, possibly by the instances, of Leonidas, who was contented to possess the monopoly of glory and of death. The laws of the Spartans forbade them to fly from any enemy, however numerous, and Leonidas did not venture to disobey them. Perhaps his resolution was strengthened by an oracle of that Delphi so peculiarly venerated by the Dorian race, and which foretold either the fall of Sparta, or the sacrifice of a Spartan king of the blood of Hercules. To men whose whole happiness was renown, life had no temptation equal to such a death!

X. Leonidas and his countrymen determined to keep the field. The Thespians alone voluntarily remained to partake his fate; but he detained also the suspected Thebans, rather as a hostage than an auxiliary. The rest of the confederates precipitately departed across the mountains to their native cities. Leonidas would have dismissed the prophetic soothsayer, but Megistias insisted on his right to remain; he contented himself with sending away his only son, who had accompanied the expedition. Even the stern spirit of Leonidas is said to have yielded to the voice of nature; and he ordered two of his relations to return to Sparta to report the state of affairs. "You prescribe to us the duties of messengers, not of soldiers," was the reply, as the warriors buckled on their shields, and took their posts with the rest.

If history could penetrate from events into the hearts of the agents, it would be interesting even to conjecture the feelings of this devoted band, awaiting the approach of a certain death, in that solitary defile. Their enthusiasm, and that rigid and Spartan spirit which had made all ties subservient to obedience to the law--all excitement tame to that of battle--all pleasure dull to the anticipation of glory--probably rendered the hours preceding death the most enviable of their lives. They might have exulted in the same elevating fanaticism which distinguished afterward the followers of Mahomet; and seen that opening paradise in immortality below, which the Moslemin beheld in anticipation above.

XI. Early on that awful morning, Xerxes offered a solemn libation to his gods, and at the middle of the noon, when Hydarnes might be supposed to be close upon the rear of the enemy, the barbarian troops commenced their march. Leonidas and his band advanced beyond their intrenchment, into the broader part of the defile. Before the fury of their despair, the Persians fell in great numbers; many of them were hurled into the sea, others trodden down and crushed by the press of their own numbers.

When the spears of the Greeks were shivered in pieces they had recourse to their swords, and the battle was fought hand to hand: thus fighting, fell Leonidas, surrounded in death by many of his band, of various distinction and renown. Two half-brothers of Xerxes, mingling in the foremost of the fray, contended for the body of the Spartan king, and perished by the Grecian sword.

For a short time the Spartans repelled the Persian crowd, who, where valour failed to urge them on, were scourged to the charge by the lash of their leaders, and drew the body of Leonidas from the press; and now, winding down the pass, Hydarnes and his detachment descended to the battle. The scene then became changed, the Spartans retired, still undaunted, or rather made yet more desperate as death drew near, into the narrowest of the pass, and, ranged upon an eminence of the strait, they died--fighting, even after their weapons were broken, with their hands and teeth--rather crushed beneath the number than slain by the swords of the foe--"non victi sed vincendo fatigati." (67)

XII. Two Spartans of the three hundred, Eurytus and Aristodemus, had, in consequence of a severe disorder in the eyes, been permitted to sojourn at Alpeni; but Eurytus, hearing of the contest, was led by his helot into the field, and died with his countrymen. Aristodemus alone remained, branded with disgrace on his return to Sparta; but subsequently redeeming his name at the battle of Plataea. (68)

The Thebans, beholding the victory of the Persians, yielded their arms; and, excepting a few, slain as they approached, not as foes, but as suppliants, were pardoned by Xerxes.

The king himself came to view the dead, and especially the corpse of Leonidas. He ordered the head of that hero to be cut off, and his body suspended on a cross (69), an instance of sudden passion, rather than customary barbarity. For of all nations the Persians most honoured valour, even in their foes.

XIII. The moral sense of mankind, which places the example of self-sacrifice among the noblest lessons by which our nature can be corrected, has justly immortalized the memory of Leonidas. It is impossible to question the virtue of the man, but we may fairly dispute the wisdom of the system he adorned. We may doubt whether, in fact, his death served his country so much as his life would have done. It was the distinction of Thermopylae, that its heroes died in obedience to the laws; it was the distinction of Marathon, that its heroes lived to defeat the invader and preserve their country. And in proof of this distinction, we find afterward, at Plataea, that of all the allied Greeks the Spartans the most feared the conquerors of Thermopylae; the Athenians the least feared the fugitives of Marathon.

XIV. Subsequently, on the hill to which the Spartans and Thespians had finally retired, a lion of stone was erected by the Amphictyons, in honour of Leonidas; and many years afterward the bones of that hero were removed to Sparta, and yearly games, at which Spartans only were allowed to contend, were celebrated round his tomb. Separate monuments to the Greeks generally, and to the three hundred who had refused to retreat, were built also, by the Amphictyons, at Thermopylae. Long extant, posterity admired the inscriptions which they bore; that of the Spartans became proverbial for its sublime conciseness.

"Go, stranger," it said, "and tell the Spartans that we obeyed the law--and lie here!"

The private friendship of Simonides the poet erected also a monument to Megistias, the soothsayer, in which it was said truly to his honour,

"That the fate he foresaw he remained to brave;"

Such is the history of the battle of Thermopylae (B. C. 480). (70)

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