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Translated into English by G. C. MACAULAY, M.A. Credits
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Book I
Page 01
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Book II
Page 10
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Book III
Book 16
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Book IV
Page 21
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Book V
Page 27
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Book VI
Page 31
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Book VII
Page 35
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Page 42
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Book IX
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The History of Herodotus: Page 38

Volume Two - Book VII

108. Xerxes from Doriscos was proceeding onwards to invade Hellas; and as he went he compelled those who successively came in his way, to join his march: for the whole country as far as Thessaly had been reduced to subjection, as has been set forth by me before, and was tributary under the king, having been subdued by Megabazos and afterwards by Mardonios. And he passed in his march from Doriscos first by the Samothrakian strongholds, of which that which is situated furthest towards the West is a city called Mesambria. Next to this follows Stryme, a city of the Thasians, and midway between them flows the river Lisos, which at this time did not suffice when supplying its water to the army of Xerxes, but the stream failed. This country was in old time called Galla´ke, but now Briantike; however by strict justice this also belongs to the Kikonians.

109. Having crossed over the bed of the river Lisos after it had been dried up, he passed by these Hellenic cities, namely Maroneia, Dicaia and Abdera. These I say he passed by, and also the following lakes of note lying near them,-- the Ismarian lake, lying between Maroneia and Stryme; the Bistonian lake near Dicaia, into which two rivers pour their waters, the Trauos[99] and the Compsantos;[100] and at Abdera no lake indeed of any note was passed by Xerxes, but the river Nestos, which flows there into the sea. Then after passing these places he went by the cities of the mainland,[101] near one of which there is, as it chances, a lake of somewhere about thirty furlongs in circumference, abounding in fish and very brackish; this the baggage-animals alone dried up, being watered at it: and the name of this city is Pistyros.[102]

110. These cities, I say, lying by the sea coast and belonging to Hellenes, he passed by, leaving them on the left hand; and the tribes of Thracians through whose country he marched were as follows, namely the Paitians, Kikonians, Bistonians, Sapaians, Dersaians, Edonians, Satrians. Of these they who were settled along the sea coast accompanied him with their ships, and those of them who dwelt inland and have been enumerated by me, were compelled to accompany him on land, except the Satrians: 111, the Satrians however never yet became obedient to any man, so far as we know, but they remain up to my time still free, alone of all the Thracians; for they dwell in lofty mountains, which are covered with forest of all kinds and with snow, and also they are very skilful in war. These are they who possess the Oracle of Dionysos; which Oracle is on their most lofty mountains. Of the Satrians those who act as prophets[103] of the temple are the Bessians; it is a prophetess[104] who utters the oracles, as at Delphi; and beyond this there is nothing further of a remarkable character.[105]

112. Xerxes having passed over the land which has been spoken of, next after this passed the strongholds of the Pierians, of which the name of the one is Phagres and of the other Pergamos. By this way, I say, he made his march, going close by the walls of these, and keeping Mount Pangaion on the right hand, which is both great and lofty and in which are mines both of gold and of silver possessed by the Pierians and Odomantians, and especially by the Satrians.

113. Thus passing by the Paionians, Doberians and Paioplians, who dwell beyond Pangaion towards the North Wind, he went on Westwards, until at last he came to the river Strymon and the city of E´on, of which, so long as he lived, Boges was commander, the same about whom I was speaking a short time back. This country about Mount Pangaion is called Phyllis, and it extends Westwards to the river Angites, which flows into the Strymon, and Southwards it stretches to the Strymon itself; and at this river the Magians sacrificed for good omens, slaying white horses.

114. Having done this and many other things in addition to this, as charms for the river, at the Nine Ways[106] in the land of the Edonians, they proceeded by the bridges, for they had found the Strymon already yoked with bridges; and being informed that this place was called the Nine Ways, they buried alive in it that number of boys and maidens, children of the natives of the place. Now burying alive is a Persian custom; for I am informed that Amestris also, the wife of Xerxes, when she had grown old, made return for her own life to the god who is said to be beneath the earth by burying twice seven children of Persians who were men of renown.

115. As the army proceeded on its march from the Strymon, it found after this a sea-beach stretching towards the setting of the sun, and passed by the Hellenic city, Argilos, which was there placed. This region and that which lies above it is called Bisaltia. Thence, keeping on the left hand the gulf which lies of Posideion, he went through the plain which is called the plain of Syleus, passing by Stageiros a Hellenic city, and so came to Acanthos, taking with him as he went each one of these tribes and also of those who dwell about Mount Pangaion, just as he did those whom I enumerated before, having the men who dwelt along the sea coast to serve in the ships and those who dwelt inland to accompany him on foot. This road by which Xerxes the king marched his army, the Thracians do not disturb nor sow crops over, but pay very great reverence to it down to my own time.

116. Then when he had come to Acanthos, Xerxes proclaimed a guest- friendship with the people of Acanthos and also presented them with the Median dress[107] and commended them, perceiving that they were zealous to serve him in the war and hearing of that which had been dug.

117. And while Xerxes was in Acanthos, it happened that he who had been set over the making of the channel, Artachaies by name, died of sickness, a man who was highly esteemed by Xerxes and belonged to the Achaimenid family; also he was in stature the tallest of all the Persians, falling short by only four fingers of being five royal cubits[108] in height, and he had a voice the loudest of all men; so that Xerxes was greatly grieved at the loss of him, and carried him forth and buried him with great honour, and the whole army joined in throwing up a mound for him. To this Artachaies the Acanthians by the bidding of an oracle do sacrifice as a hero, calling upon his name in worship.

118. King Xerxes, I say, was greatly grieved at the loss of Artachaies: and meanwhile the Hellenes who were entertaining his army and providing Xerxes with dinners had been brought to utter ruin, so that they were being driven from house and home; seeing that when the Thasians, for example, entertained the army of Xerxes and provided him with a dinner on behalf of their towns upon the mainland, Antipater the son of Orgeus, who had been appointed for this purpose, a man of repute among the citizens equal to the best, reported that four hundred talents of silver had been spent upon the dinner.

119. Just so or nearly so in the other cities also those who were set over the business reported the reckoning to be: for the dinner was given as follows, having been ordered a long time beforehand, and being counted by them a matter of great importance:--In the first place, so soon as they heard of it from the heralds who carried round the proclamation, the citizens in the various cities distributed corn among their several households, and all continued to make wheat and barley meal for many months; then they fed cattle, finding out and obtaining the finest animals for a high price; and they kept birds both of the land and of the water, in cages or in pools, all for the entertainment of the army. Then again they had drinking-cups and mixing-bowls made of gold and of silver, and all the other things which are placed upon the table: these were made for the king himself and for those who ate at his table; but for the rest of the army only the things appointed for food were provided. Then whenever the army came to any place, there was a tent pitched ready wherein Xerxes himself made his stay, while the rest of the army remained out in the open air; and when it came to be time for dinner, then the entertainers had labour; but the others, after they had been satiated with food and had spent the night there, on the next day tore up the tent and taking with them all the movable furniture proceeded on their march, leaving nothing, but carrying all away with them.

120. Then was uttered a word well spoken by Megacreon, a man of Abdera, who advised those of Abdera to go in a body, both themselves and their wives, to their temples, and to sit down as suppliants of the gods, entreating them that for the future also they would ward off from them the half of the evils which threatened; and he bade them feel great thankfulness to the gods for the past events, because king Xerxes had not thought good to take food twice in each day; for if it had been ordered to them beforehand to prepare breakfast also in like manner as the dinner, it would have remained for the men of Abdera either not to await the coming of Xerxes, or if they stayed, to be crushed by misfortune more than any other men upon the Earth.

121. They then, I say, though hard put to it, yet were performing that which was appointed to them; and from Acanthos Xerxes, after having commanded the generals to wait for the fleet at Therma, let the ships take their course apart from himself, (now this Therma is that which is situated on the Thermaic gulf, from which also this gulf has its name); and thus he did because he was informed that this was the shortest way: for from Doriscos as far as Acanthos the army had been making its march thus:--Xerxes had divided the whole land-army into three divisions, and one of them he had set to go along the sea accompanying the fleet, of which division Mardonios and Masistes were commanders; another third of the army had been appointed to go by the inland way, and of this the generals in command were Tritantaichmes and Gergis; and meanwhile the third of the subdivisions, with which Xerxes himself went, marched in the middle between them, and acknowledged as its commanders Smerdomenes and Megabyzos.

122. The fleet, when it was let go by Xerxes and had sailed right through the channel made in Athos (which went across to the gulf on which are situated the cities of Assa, Piloros, Singos and Sarte), having taken up a contingent from these cities also, sailed thence with a free course to the Therma´c gulf, and turning round Ampelos the headland of Torone, it left on one side the following Hellenic cities, from which it took up contingents of ships and men, namely Torone, Galepsos, Sermyle, Mekyberna, Olynthos: this region is called Sithonia.

123. And the fleet of Xerxes, cutting across from the headland of Ampelos to that of Canastron,[108a] which runs out furthest to sea of all Pallene, took up there contingents of ships and men from Potidaia, Aphytis, Neapolis, Aige, Therambo, Skione, Mende and Sane, for these are the cities which occupy the region which now is called Pallene, but was formerly called Phlegra. Then sailing along the coast of this country also the fleet continued its course towards the place which has been mentioned before, taking up contingents also from the cities which come next after Pallene and border upon the Therma´c gulf; and the names of them are these,--Lipaxos, Combreia, Lisai, Gigonos, Campsa, Smila, Aineia; and the region in which these cities are is called even to the present day Crossaia. Then sailing from Aineia, with which name I brought to an end the list of the cities, at once the fleet came into the Therma´c gulf and to the region of Mygdonia, and so it arrived at the aforesaid Therma and at the cities of Sindos and Chalestra upon the river Axios. This river is the boundary between the land of Mygdonia and Bottiaia, of which district the narrow region which lies on the sea coast is occupied by the cities of Ichnai and Pella.

124. Now while his naval force was encamped about the river Axios an the city of Therma and the cities which lie between these two, waiting for the coming of the king, Xerxes and the land-army were proceeding from Acanthos, cutting through the middle by the shortest way[109] with a view to reaching Therma: and he was proceeding through Paionia and Crestonia to the river Cheidoros,[110] which beginning from the land of the Crestonians, runs through the region of Mygdonia and comes out alongside of the marsh which is by the river Axios.

125. As he was proceeding by this way, lions attacked the camels which carried his provisions; for the lions used to come down regularly by night, leaving their own haunts, but they touched nothing else, neither beast of burden nor man, but killed the camels only: and I marvel what was the cause, and what was it that impelled the lions to abstain from all else and to attack the camels only, creatures which they had never seen before, and of which they had had no experience.

126. Now there are in these parts both many lions and also wild oxen, those that have the very large horns which are often brought into Hellas: and the limit within which these lions are found is on the one side the river Nestos, which flows through Abdera, and on the other the Achelos, which flows through Acarnania; for neither do the East of the Nestos, in any part of Europe before you come to this, would you see a lion, nor again in the remaining part of the continent to the West of the Acheloos, but they are produced in the middle space between these rivers.

127. When Xerxes had reached Therma he established the army there; and his army encamping there occupied of the land along by the sea no less than this,--beginning from the city of Therma and from Mygdonia it extended as far as the river Lydias and the Haliacmon, which form the boundary between the lands of Bottiaia and Macedonia, mingling their waters together in one and the same stream. The Barbarians, I say, were encamped in these regions; and of the rivers which have been enumerated, only the river Cheidoros flowing from the Crestonian land was insufficient for the drinking of the army and failed in its stream.

128. Then Xerxes seeing from Therma the mountains of Thessaly, Olympos and Ossa, that they were of very great height, and being informed that in the midst between them there was a narrow channel, through which flows the Peneios, and hearing also that by this way there was a good road leading to Thessaly, formed a desire to sail thither and look at the outlet of the Peneios, because he was meaning to march by the upper road, through the land of the Macedonians who dwell inland, until he came to the Perraibians, passing by the city of Gonnos; for by this way he was informed that it was safest to go. And having formed this desire, so also he proceeded to do; that is, he embarked in a Sidonian ship, the same in which he used always to embark when he wished to do anything of this kind, and he displayed a signal for the others to put out to sea also, leaving there the land-army. Then when Xerxes had looked at the outlet of the Peneios, he was possessed by great wonder, and summoning his guides he asked them whether it was possible to turn the river aside and bring it out to the sea by another way.

129. Now it is said that Thessaly was in old time a lake, being enclosed on all sides by very lofty mountains: for the parts of it which lie towards the East are shut in by the ranges of Pelion and Ossa, which join one another in their lower slopes, the parts towards the North Wind by Olympos, those towards the West by Pindos and those towards the mid-day and the South Wind by Othrys; and the region in the midst, between these mountains which have been named, is Thessaly, forming as it were a hollow. Whereas then many rivers flow into it and among them these five of most note, namely Peneios, Apidanos, Onochonos, Enipeus and Pamisos, these, which collect their waters from the mountains that enclose Thessaly round, and flow into this plain, with names separate each one, having their outflow into the sea by one channel and that a narrow one, first mingling their waters all together in one and the same stream; and so soon as they are mingled together, from that point onwards the Peneios prevails with its name over the rest and causes the others to lose their separate names. And it is said that in ancient time, there not being yet this channel and outflow between the mountains, these rivers, and besides these rivers the lake Boibe´s also, had no names as they have now, but by their waters they made Thessaly to be all sea. The Thessalians themselves say that Poseidon made the channel through which the Peneios flows; and reasonably they report it thus, because whosoever believes that it is Poseidon who shakes the Earth and that the partings asunder produced by earthquake are the work of this god, would say, if he saw this, that it was made by Poseidon; for the parting asunder of the mountains is the work of an earthquake, as is evident to me.

130. So the guides, when Xerxes asked whether there was any other possible outlet to the sea for the Peneios, said with exact knowledge of the truth: "O king, for this river there is no other outgoing which extends to the sea, but this alone; for all Thessaly is circled about with mountains as with a crown." To this Xerxes is said to have replied: "The Thessalians then are prudent men. This it appears was that which they desired to guard against in good time[111] when they changed their counsel,[112] reflecting on this especially besides other things, namely that they had a country which, it appears, is easy to conquer and may quickly be taken: for it would have been necessary only to let the river flow over their land by making an embankment to keep it from going through the narrow channel and so diverting the course by which now it flows, in order to put all Thessaly under water except the mountains." This he said in reference to the sons of Aleuas, because they, being Thessalians, were the first of the Hellenes who gave themselves over to the king; for Xerxes thought that they offered him friendship on behalf of their whole nation. Having said thus and having looked at the place, he sailed back to Therma.

131. He then was staying in the region of Pieria many days, for the road over the mountains of Macedonia was being cut meanwhile by a third part of his army, that all the host might pass over by this way into the land of the Perraibians: and now the heralds returned who had been sent to Hellas to demand the gift of earth, some empty-handed and others bearing earth and water.

132. And among those who gave that which was demanded were the following, namely the Thessalians, Dolopians, Enianians,[113] Perraibians, Locrians, Megnesians, Malians, Achaians of Phthiotis, and Thebans, with the rest of the Bťotians also excepting the Thespians and Plataians. Against these the Hellenes who took up war with the Barbarian made an oath; and the oath was this,-- that whosoever being Hellenes had given themselves over to the Persian, not being compelled, these, if their own affairs should come to a good conclusion, they would dedicate as an offering[114] to the god at Delphi.

133. Thus ran the oath which was taken by the Hellenes: Xerxes however had not sent to Athens or to Sparta heralds to demand the gift of earth, and for this reason, namely because at the former time when Dareios had sent for this very purpose, the one people threw the men who made the demand into the pit[115] and the others into a well, and bade them take from thence earth and water and bear them to the king. For this reason Xerxes did not send men to make this demand. And what evil thing[116] came upon the Athenians for having done this to the heralds, I am not able to say, except indeed that their land and city were laid waste; but I do not think that this happened for that cause: 134, on the Lacedemonians however the wrath fell of Talthybios, the herald of Agamemnon; for in Sparta there is a temple of Talthybios, and there are also descendants of Talthybios called Talthybiads, to whom have been given as a right all the missions of heralds which go from Sparta; and after this event it was not possible for the Spartans when they sacrificed to obtain favourable omens. This was the case with them for a long time; and as the Lacedemonians were grieved and regarded it as a great misfortune, and general assemblies were repeatedly gathered together and proclamation made, asking if any one of the Lacedemonians was willing to die for Sparta, at length Sperthias the son of Aneristos and Bulis the son of Nicolaos, Spartans of noble birth and in wealth attaining to the first rank, voluntarily submitted to pay the penalty to Xerxes for the heralds of Dareios which had perished at Sparta. Thus the Spartans sent these to the Medes to be put to death.

135. And not only the courage then shown by these men is worthy of admiration, but also the following sayings in addition: for as they were on their way to Susa they came to Hydarnes (now Hydarnes was a Persian by race and commander of those who dwelt on the sea coasts of Asia), and he offered them hospitality and entertained them; and while they were his guests he asked them as follows: "Lacedemonians, why is it that ye flee from becoming friends to the king? for ye may see that the king knows how to honour good men, when ye look at me and at my fortunes. So also ye, Lacedemonians, if ye gave yourselves to the king, since ye have the reputation with him already of being good men, would have rule each one of you over Hellenic land by the gift of the king." To this they made answer thus: "Hydarnes, thy counsel with regard to us is not equally balanced,[117] for thou givest counsel having made trial indeed of the one thing, but being without experience of the other: thou knowest well what it is to be a slave, but thou hast never yet made trial of freedom, whether it is pleasant to the taste or no; for if thou shouldest make trial of it, thou wouldest then counsel us to fight for it not with spears only but also with axes."

136. Thus they answered Hydarnes; and then, after they had gone up to Susa and had come into the presence of the king, first when the spearmen of the guard commanded them and endeavoured to compel them by force to do obeisance to the king by falling down before him, they said that they would not do any such deed, though they should be pushed down by them head foremost; for it was not their custom to do obeisance to a man, and it was not for this that they had come. Then when they had resisted this, next they spoke these words or words to this effect: "O king of the Medes, the Lacedemonians sent us in place of the heralds who were slain in Sparta, to pay the penalty for their lives." When they said this, Xerxes moved by a spirit of magnanimity replied that he would not be like the Lacedemonians; for they had violated the rules which prevailed among all men by slaying heralds, but he would not do that himself which he blamed them for having done, nor would he free the Lacedemonians from their guilt by slaying these in return.

137. Thus the wrath of Talthybios ceased for the time being, even though the Spartans had done no more than this and although Sperthias and Bulis returned back to Sparta; but a long time after this it was roused again during the war between the Peloponnesians and Athenians, as the Lacedemonians report. This I perceive to have been most evidently the act of the Deity: for in that the wrath of Talthybios fell upon messengers and did not cease until it had been fully satisfied, so much was but in accordance with justice; but that it happened to come upon the sons of these men who went up to the king on account of the wrath, namely upon Nicolaos the son of Bulis and Aneristos the son of Sperthias (the same who conquered the men of Halieis, who came from Tiryns, by sailing into their harbour with a merchant ship filled with fighting men),--by this it is evident to me that the matter came to pass by the act of the Deity caused by this wrath. For these men, sent by the Lacedemonians as envoys to Asia, having been betrayed by Sitalkes the son of Teres king of the Thracians and by Nymphodoros the son of Pythes a man of Abdera, were captured at Bisanthe on the Hellespont; and then having been carried away to Attica they were put to death by the Athenians, and with them also Aristeas the son of Adeimantos the Corinthian. These things happened many years after the expedition of the king; and I return now to the former narrative.

138. Now the march of the king's army was in name against Athens, but in fact it was going against all Hellas: and the Hellenes being informed of this long before were not all equally affected by it; for some of them having given earth and water to the Persian had confidence, supposing that they would suffer no hurt from the Barbarian; while others not having given were in great terror, seeing that there were not ships existing in Hellas which were capable as regards number of receiving the invader in fight, and seeing that the greater part of the States were not willing to take up the war, but adopted readily the side of the Medes.

139. And here I am compelled by necessity to declare an opinion which in the eyes of most men would seem to be invidious, but nevertheless I will not abstain from saying that which I see evidently to be the truth. If the Athenians had been seized with fear of the danger which threatened them and had left their land,[118] or again, without leaving their land, had stayed and given themselves up to Xerxes, none would have made any attempt by sea to oppose the king. If then none had opposed Xerxes by sea, it would have happened on the land somewhat thus:--even if many tunics of walls[119] had been thrown across the Isthmus by the Peloponnesians, the Lacedemonians would have been deserted by their allies, not voluntarily but of necessity, since these would have been conquered city after city by the naval force of the Barbarian, and so they would have been left alone: and having been left alone and having displayed great deeds of valour, they would have met their death nobly. Either they would have suffered this fate, or before this, seeing the other Hellenes also taking the side of the Medes, they would have made an agreement with Xerxes; and thus in either case Hellas would have come to be under the rule of the Persians: for as to the good to be got from the walls thrown across the Isthmus, I am unable to discover what it would have been, when the king had command of the sea. As it is however, if a man should say that the Athenians proved to be the saviours of Hellas, he would not fail to hit the truth; for to whichever side these turned, to that the balance was likely to incline: and these were they who, preferring that Hellas should continue to exist in freedom, roused up all of Hellas which remained, so much, that is, as had not gone over to the Medes, and (after the gods at least) these were they who repelled the king. Nor did fearful oracles, which came from Delphi and cast them into dread, induce them to leave Hellas, but they stayed behind and endured to receive the invader of their land.

140. For the Athenians had sent men to Delphi to inquire and were preparing to consult the Oracle; and after these had performed the usual rites in the sacred precincts, when they had entered the sanctuary[120] and were sitting down there, the Pythian prophetess, whose name was Aristonike, uttered to them this oracle: "Why do ye sit, O ye wretched? Flee thou[121] to the uttermost limits, Leaving thy home and the heights of the wheel-round city behind thee! Lo, there remaineth now nor the head nor the body in safety,-- Neither the feet below nor the hands nor the middle are left thee,-- All are destroyed[122] together; for fire and the passionate War-god,[123] Urging the Syrian[124] car to speed, doth hurl them[125] to ruin. Not thine alone, he shall cause many more great strongholds to perish, Yes, many temples of gods to the ravening fire shall deliver,-- Temples which stand now surely with sweat of their terror down-streaming, Quaking with dread; and lo! from the topmost roof to the pavement Dark blood trickles, forecasting the dire unavoidable evil. Forth with you, forth from the shrine, and steep your soul in the sorrow![126]

141. Hearing this the men who had been sent by the Athenians to consult the Oracle were very greatly distressed; and as they were despairing by reason of the evil which had been prophesied to them, Timon the son of Androbulos, a man of the Delphians in reputation equal to the first, counselled them to take a suppliant's bough and to approach the second time and consult the Oracle as suppliants. The Athenians did as he advised and said: "Lord,[127] we pray thee utter to us some better oracle about our native land, having respect to these suppliant boughs which we have come to thee bearing; otherwise surely we will not depart away from the sanctuary, but will remain here where we are now, even until we bring our lives to an end." When they spoke these words, the prophetess gave them a second oracle as follows: "Pallas cannot prevail to appease great Zeus in Olympos, Though she with words very many and wiles close-woven entreat him. But I will tell thee this more, and will clench it with steel adamantine: Then when all else shall be taken, whatever the boundary[128] of Kecrops Holdeth within, and the dark ravines of divinest Kithairon, A bulwark of wood at the last Zeus grants to the Trito-born goddess Sole to remain unwasted, which thee and thy children shall profit. Stay thou not there for the horsemen to come and the footmen unnumbered; Stay thou not still for the host from the mainland to come, but retire thee, Turning thy back to the foe, for yet thou shalt face him hereafter. Salamis, thou the divine, thou shalt cause sons of women to perish, Or when the grain[129] is scattered or when it is gathered together."

142. This seemed to them to be (as in truth it was) a milder utterance than the former one; therefore they had it written down and departed with it to Athens: and when the messengers after their return made report to the people, many various opinions were expressed by persons inquiring into the meaning of the oracle, and among them these, standing most in opposition to one another:--some of the elder men said they thought that the god had prophesied to them that the Acropolis should survive; for the Acropolis of the Athenians was in old time fenced with a thorn hedge; and they conjectured accordingly that this saying about the "bulwark of wood" referred to the fence: others on the contrary said that the god meant by this their ships, and they advised to leave all else and get ready these. Now they who said that the ships were the bulwark of wood were shaken in their interpretation by the two last verses which the prophetess uttered: "Salamis, thou the divine, thou shalt cause sons of women to perish, Or when the grain is scattered or when it is gathered together." In reference to these verses the opinions of those who said that the ships were the bulwark of wood were disturbed; for the interpreters of oracles took these to mean that it was fated for them, having got ready for a sea-fight, to suffer defeat round about Salamis.

143. Now there was one man of the Athenians who had lately been coming forward to take a place among the first, whose name was Themistocles, called son of Neocles. This man said that the interpreters of oracles did not make right conjecture of the whole, and he spoke as follows, saying that if these words that had been uttered referred really to the Athenians, he did not think it would have been so mildly expressed in the oracle, but rather thus, "Salamis, thou the merciless," instead of "Salamis, thou the divine," at least if its settlers were destined to perish round about it: but in truth the oracle had been spoken by the god with reference to the enemy, if one understood it rightly, and not to the Athenians: therefore he counselled them to get ready to fight a battle by sea, for in this was their bulwark of wood. When Themistocles declared his opinion thus, the Athenians judged that this was to be preferred by them rather than the advice of the interpreters of oracles, who bade them not make ready for a sea-fight, nor in short raise their hands at all in opposition, but leave the land of Attica and settle in some other.

144. Another opinion too of Themistocles before this one proved the best at the right moment, when the Athenians, having got large sums of money in the public treasury, which had come in to them from the mines which are at Laureion, were intending to share it among themselves, taking each in turn the sum of ten drachmas. Then Themistocles persuaded the Athenians to give up this plan of division and to make for themselves with this money two hundred ships for the war, meaning by that the war with the Eginetans: for this war having arisen[130] proved in fact the salvation of Hellas at that time, by compelling the Athenians to become a naval power. And the ships, not having been used for the purpose for which they had been made, thus proved of service at need to Hellas. These ships then, I say, the Athenians had already, having built them beforehand, and it was necessary in addition to these to construct others. They resolved then, when they took counsel after the oracle was given, to receive the Barbarian invading Hellas with their ships in full force, following the commands of the god, in combination with those of the Hellenes who were willing to join them.

145. These oracles had been given before to the Athenians: and when those Hellenes who had the better mind about Hellas[131] came together to one place, and considered their affairs and interchanged assurances with one another, then deliberating together they thought it well first of all things to reconcile the enmities and bring to an end the wars which they had with one another. Now there were wars engaged[132] between others also, and especially between the Athenians and the Eginetans. After this, being informed that Xerxes was with his army at Sardis, they determined to send spies to Asia to make observation of the power of the king; and moreover they resolved to send envoys to Argos to form an alliance against the Persian, and to send others to Sicily to Gelon the son of Deinomenes and also to Corcyra, to urge them to come to the assistance of Hellas, and others again to Crete; for they made it their aim that if possible the Hellenic race might unite in one, and that they might join all together and act towards the same end, since dangers were threatening all the Hellenes equally. Now the power of Gelon was said to be great, far greater than any other Hellenic power.

146. When they had thus resolved, they reconciled their enmities and then sent first three men as spies to Asia. These having come to Sardis and having got knowledge about the king's army, were discovered, and after having been examined by the generals of the land-army were being led off to die. For these men, I say, death had been determined; but Xerxes, being informed of this, found fault with the decision of the generals and sent some of the spearmen of his guard, enjoining them, if they should find the spies yet alive, to bring them to his presence. So having found them yet surviving they brought them into the presence of the king; and upon that Xerxes, being informed for what purpose they had come, commanded the spearmen to lead them round and to show them the whole army both foot and horse, and when they should have had their fill of looking at these things, to let them go unhurt to whatsoever land they desired.

147. Such was the command which he gave, adding at the same time this saying, namely that if the spies had been put to death, the Hellenes would not have been informed beforehand of his power, how far beyond description it was; while on the other hand by putting to death three men they would not very greatly have damaged the enemy; but when these returned back to Hellas, he thought it likely that the Hellenes, hearing of his power, would deliver up their freedom to him themselves, before the expedition took place which was being set in motion; and thus there would be no need for them to have the labour of marching an army against them. This opinion of his is like his manner of thinking at other times;[133] for when Xerxes was in Abydos, he saw vessels which carried corn from the Pontus sailing out through the Hellespont on their way to Egina and the Peloponnese. Those then who sat by his side, being informed that the ships belonged to the enemy, were prepared to capture them, and were looking to the king to see when he would give the word; but Xerxes asked about them whither the men were sailing, and they replied: "Master, to thy foes, conveying to them corn": he then made answer and said: "Are we not also sailing to the same place as these men, furnished with corn as well as with other things necessary? How then do these wrong us, since they are conveying provisions for our use?"





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