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The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome

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    CHAPTER X. EMPIRE OF PERSIA AND MEDIA—XERXES. SALAMIS

    Athens Taken and Burnt—Defence of the Isthmus—The Greeks Make Ready—The Greeks Victorious—Xerxes Flees

    ON the very days of the fighting at Thermopylae, there were three engagements between the Greek and the Persian fleets, in which neither side gained a decided victory, though the loss of both ships and men was far greater on the side of the Persians.GEP 109.1

    2. When Xerxes had buried his slain, which numbered about twenty thousand, he again took up his march toward Athens. He passed through Doris and Phocis. The country of Doris was spared; but the land of Phocis “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. The march of the army lay along the valley of the Cephissus; and here they ravaged far and wide, burning” twelve towns.GEP 109.2

    3. At the border of Boeotia “the army separated into two bodies, whereof one, which was the more numerous and the stronger of the two, marched, under Xerxes himself, toward 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.” “The other division took guides, and proceeded toward 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.”GEP 109.3

    4. “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 behooved them to follow.... 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.”GEP 110.1

    5. “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 sailors, was Athens.”GEP 110.2

    6. “When the captains from these various nations were come together at Salamis, a council of war was summoned.” In the midst of the council “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 had 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.”GEP 110.3

    7. As the inhabitants of Athens had fled, the Persians “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 [the Acropolis] with planks and boards, held out against the enemy.” “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 them terms of surrender; they stoutly refused all parley, and among their other modes of defense, 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.GEP 110.4

    8. “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, and 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’s 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.GEP 111.1

    9. “Xerxes, thus completely master of Athens, despatched a horseman to Susa, with a message to Arbanus, 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.” 1[Page 111] Book viii, chaps. 34, 35, 40-42, 49, 50, 52-54.GEP 111.2

    10. “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.”GEP 112.1

    11. Before any had sailed away, however, Themistocles succeeded in having another council called, the result of which was that they “decided to remain and give battle at Salamis;” and all the commanders “at once made ready for the fight.” And now the Persian fleet gathered together in the bay of Phalerum, the principal port of Athens. On account of additions by both land and sea, the forces of Xerxes “were not less numerous than they had been on their arrival at Sepias and Thermopylae.” At Phalerum the sea forces were “visited by Xerxes, who had conceived a desire to go aboard and learn the wishes of the fleet.”GEP 112.2

    12. “So he came and sat in a seat of honor; 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 sat 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. 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,” queen of Caria. It was decided to risk a naval battle, and Xerxes “resolved that he would be an eyewitness of the combat.”GEP 112.3

    13. “Orders were now given to stand out to sea; and the ships proceeded toward 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.GEP 112.4

    14. “The same night the land army of the barbarians began its march toward the Peloponnese, where, however, all that was possible had been done to prevent the enemy from forcing an entry 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 worked without ceasing either by night or day.GEP 113.1

    15. “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 marveled 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.GEP 113.2

    16. “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’s 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 mediating 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, ‘t is likely ye may see a fight already begun between such as favor and such as oppose your cause.’ The messenger, when he had thus expressed himself, departed and was seen no more.GEP 114.1

    17. “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 toward Salamis, so as to enclose 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.GEP 114.2

    18. “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. In the midst of their contention, Aristides, the son of Lysimachus, who had crossed from Egina, arrived in Salamis.... 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 enclosed 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.GEP 115.1

    19. “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 three hundred and eighty ships; otherwise it fell short by two of that amount.GEP 115.2

    20. “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 this time the trireme, that had been sent to Egina for the AEacidae, returned, whereupon the Greeks put to sea with all their fleet.GEP 115.3

    21. “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 Pallene, 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.... Against the Athenians, who held the western extremity of the line toward Eleusis, were placed the Phenicians; against the Lacedaemonians, whose station was eastward toward the Piraeus, the Ionians. Of these last a few only followed the advice of Themistocles, to fight backwardly; the greater number did far otherwise....GEP 116.1

    22. “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.GEP 116.2

    23. “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 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 can not 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.GEP 116.3

    24. “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, and my women like men!’GEP 117.1

    25. “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 valor 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.GEP 117.2

    26. “During the whole time of the battle, Xerxes sat 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.... 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 endeavored to escape down the straits; so that the Persian vessels were no sooner clear of the Athenians than straightway they fell into the hands of the Eginetan squadron. Such of the barbarian vessels as escaped from the battle fled to Phalerum, and there sheltered themselves under the protection of the land army.GEP 117.3

    27. “Xerxes, when he saw the extent of his loss, began to be afraid lest the Greeks might be counseled 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 Phenician 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 2[Page 118] “Nothing mortal travels so fast as these Persian messengers. The entire plan isa 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.’”—Id., chap. 98. to carry intelligence of his misfortune to Persia.GEP 118.1

    28. “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.” 3[Page 119] Id., chaps. 67, 68, 70, 71, 74-76, 78, 79, 81-92, 95-99.GEP 119.1

    29. The remains of the Persian fleet sailed away to the Hellespont. Xerxes being anxious to reach Asia as soon as possible, Mardonius requested that he might select three hundred thousand of the Persian army, and with this bring all Greece into subjection to the Persians. This arrangement was made; but as it was now late in the year, about September, 480 B. C., Mardonius concluded to winter in Thessaly, and make his campaign the following summer. Accordingly, the whole army took up its march from Athens, and arrived in Thessaly.GEP 119.2

    30. “After the army was come into Thessaly, Mardonius made choice of the troops that were to stay with him; and, first of all, he took the whole body called the ‘Immortals,’ except only their leader, Hydarnes, who refused to quit the person of the king. Next, he chose the Persians who wore breastplates, and the thousand picked horse; likewise the Medes, the Sacans, the Bactrians, and the Indians, foot and horse equally. These nations he took entire: from the rest of the allies he culled a few men, taking such as were either remarkable for their appearance, or else such as had performed, to his knowledge, some valiant deed. The Persians furnished him with the greatest number of troops, men who were adorned with chains and armlets. Next to them were the Medes, who in number equaled the Persians, but in valor fell short of them. The whole army, reckoning the horsemen with the rest, amounted to three hundred thousand men.GEP 119.3

    31. “Xerxes, after this, left Mardonius in Thessaly, and marched away himself, at his best speed, toward the Hellespont. In five and forty days he reached the place of passage, where he arrived with scarce a fraction, so to speak, of his former army. All along their line of march, in every country where they chanced to be, his soldiers seized and devoured whatever corn they could find belonging to the inhabitants; while, if no corn was to be found, they gathered the grass that grew in the fields, and stripped the trees, whether cultivated or wild, alike of their bark and of their leaves, and so fed themselves. They left nothing anywhere, so hard were they pressed by hunger. Plague, too, and dysentery attacked the troops while still upon their march, and greatly thinned their ranks. Many died; others fell sick and were left behind in the different cities that lay upon the route, the inhabitants being strictly charged by Xerxes to tend and feed them. Of these some remained in Thessaly, others in Siris of Paeonia, others again in Macedon. Here Xerxes, on his march into Greece, had left the sacred car and steeds of Jove; which, upon his return, he was unable to recover; for the Paeonians had disposed of them to the Thracians, and, when Xerxes demanded them back, they said that the Thracian tribes which dwelt about the sources of the Strymon had stolen the mares as they pastured.GEP 120.1

    32. “The Persians, having journeyed through Thrace and reached the passage, entered their ships hastily and crossed the Hellespont to Abydos. The bridges were not found stretched across the strait; since a storm had broken and dispersed them. At Abydos the troops halted, and obtaining more abundant provision than they had yet got upon their march, they fed without stint; from which cause, added to the change in their water, great numbers of those who had hitherto escaped, perished. The remainder, together with Xerxes himself, came safe to Sardis.” 4[Page 120] Id., chaps. 113, 115, 117.GEP 120.2

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