The Greek and Persian War



King Darius, being very wroth with the Athenians for their share in the burning of Sardis, sent a great army across the Hellespont to march through Thrace against Athens, under his young kinsman Mardonius. But disaster befell these at the hands of the Thracians, and the fleet that was to aid them was shattered in a storm; so that they returned to Asia without honour. Then Darius sent envoys to demand earth and water from the Greek states; and of the islands the most gave them, and some also of the cities on the mainland; and among these were the Aeginetans, which were at feud with Athens.

But of those who would not give the earth and water were the Eretrians of Euboea. So Darius sent a great armament by sea against Eretria and Athens, led by Datis and Artaphernes, which sailed first against Eretria. The Athenians, indeed, sent aid; but when they found that the counsels of the Eretrians were divided, so that no firm stand might be made, they withdrew. Nevertheless, the Eretrians fought valiantly behind their walls, till they were betrayed on the seventh day. But the Persians, counselled by Hippias, sailed to the bay of Marathon.

THEN the Athenians sent the strong runner Pheidippides to call upon the Spartans for aid; who promised it, yet for sacred reasons would not move until the full moon. So the Athenian host had none to aid them save the loyal Plataeans, valiant though few. Yet in the council of their generals the word of Miltiades was given for battle, whereto the rest consented. Then the Athenians and Plataeans, being drawn up in a long line, charged across the plain nigh a mile, running upon the masses of the Persians; and, breaking them upon the wings, turned and routed the centre also after long fighting, and drove them down to the ships, slaying as they went; and of the ships they took seven. And of the barbarians there fell 6,400 men, and of the Athenians, 192. But as for the story that the Alcmaeonidae hoisted a friendly signal to the Persians, I credit it not at all.

Now, Darius was very wroth with the Greeks when he heard of these things, and made preparation for a mighty armament to overthrow the Greeks, and also the Egyptians, who revolted soon afterwards. But he died before he was ready, and Xerxes, his son, reigned in his stead. Then, having first crushed the Egyptians, he, being ruled by Mardonius, gathered a council and declared his intent of marching against the Hellenes; which resolution was commended by Mardonius, but Artabanus, the king's uncle, spoke wise words of warning. Then Xerxes would have changed his mind, but for a dream which came to him twice, and to Artabanus also, threatening disaster if he ceased from his project; so that Artabanus was won over.

THEN Xerxes made vast provision for his invasion-for the building of a bridge over the Hellespont, and the cutting of a canal through the peninsula of Athos, where the fleet of Mardonius had been shattered. And from all parts of his huge empire he mustered his hosts first in Cappadocia, and marched thence by way of Sardis to the Hellespont. And because, when the bridge was a-building, a great storm wrecked it, he bade flog the naughty waves of the sea. Then, the bridge being finished, he passed over with his host, which took seven days to accomplish.

And when they were come to Doriscus he numbered them, and found them to be 1,700,000 men, besides his fleets. And in the fleet were 1,207 great ships, manned chiefly by the Phoenicians and the Greeks of Asia, having also Persian and Scythian fighting men on board. But when Demaratus, an exiled king of Sparta, warned Xerxes of the valour of all the Greeks, but chiefly of the Spartans, who would give battle, however few they might be, against any foe, however many, his words seemed to Xerxes a jest, seeing how huge his own army was.

Now, Xerxes had sent to many of the Greek states heralds to demand earth and water, which many had given; but to Athens and Sparta he had not sent, because there the heralds of his father Darius had been evilly entreated. And if it had not been for the resolution of the Athenians at this time, all Hellas would have been forced to submit to the Great King; for they, in despite of threatening oracles, held fast to their defiance, being urged thereto by Themistocles, who showed them how those oracles must mean that, although they would suffer evil things, they would be victorious by means of wooden bulwarks, which is to say, ships; and thus they were encouraged to rely upon building and manning a mighty fleet. And all the other cities of a Greece resolved to stand by them, except the Argives, who would not submit to the leadership of the Spartans. Nor were the men of Thessaly willing to join, since the other Greeks could not help them to guard Thessaly itself.

Therefore, the Greeks resolved to make their stand at Thermopylae on land, and at the strait of Artemisium by sea. But at the strong pass of Thermopylae only a small force was gathered to hold the barbarians in check, there being of the Spartans themselves only 300, commanded by the king Leonidas. And when the Persians had come thither and sought to storm the pass, they were beaten back with ease, until a track was found by which they might take the defenders in the rear. Then Leonidas bade the rest of the army depart except his Spartans. But the Thespians also would not go; and then those Spartans and Thespians went out into the open and died gloriously.

During these same days the Greek fleet at Artemisium fought three several engagements with the Persian fleet, in which neither side had much the better. And thereafter the Greek fleet withdrew, but was persuaded to remain undispersed in the bay of Salamis. The Peloponnesians were no longer minded to attempt the defence of Attica, but to fortify their isthmus, so that the Athenians had no choice but either to submit or to evacuate Athens, removing their families and their goods to Troezen or Aegina or Salamis. In the fleet, their contingent was by far the largest and best, but the commanding admiral was the Spartan Eurybiades. Then the Persians, passing through Boeotia, but, being dispersed before Delphi by thunderbolts and other portents, took possession of Athens, after a fierce fight with the garrison in the Acropolis.

Then the rest of the Greek fleet was fain to withdraw from Salamis, and look to the safety of the Peloponnese only. But Themistocles warned them that if they did so, the Athenians would leave them and sail to new lands and make themselves a new Athens; and thus the fleet was persuaded to hold together at Salamis. Yet he did not trust only to their goodwill, but sent a messenger to the Persian fleet that the way of retreat might be intercepted. For the Persian fleet had gathered at Phalerum, and now looked to overwhelm the Grecian fleet altogether, despite the adverse counsel of Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus. When Aristides, called the Just, the great rival of Themistocles, told the Greeks that their retreat by sea was cut off, then they were no longer divided, but resolved to fight it out.

In the battle, the Aeginetans and the Athenians did the best of all the Greeks, and Themistocles best among the commanders; nor was ever any fleet more utterly put to rout than that of the Persians, among whom Queen Artemisia won praise unmerited. As for King Xerxes, panic seized him when he saw the disaster to his fleet, and he made haste to flee. He consented, however, to leave Mardonius behind with 300,000 troops in Thessaly, he being still assured that he could crush the Greeks.

When the winter and spring were passed, Mardonius marched from Thessaly and again occupied Athens, which the Athenians had again evacuated, the Spartans having failed to send succour. But when at length the Lacedaemonians, fearing to lose the Athenian fleet, sent forth an army, the Persians fell back to Boeotia. So the Greek hosts gathered near Plataea to the number of 108,000 men, but the troops of Mardonius were about 350,000. Yet, by reason of doubtful auguries, both armies held back, till Mardonius resolved to attack, whereof warning was brought to the Athenians by Alexander of Macedon.

But when the Spartan Pausanias, the general of the Greeks, heard of this, he did what caused no little wonder, for he proposed that the Athenians instead of the Lacedaemonians should face the picked troops of the Persians, as having fought them at Marathon. But Mardonius, seeing them move, moved also. Then he sent some light horse against the Greeks by a fountain whence flowed the army's water; which, becoming choked, it was needful to move to a new position. The move being at night, most of the allies withdrew into the town. But the Spartans and Tegeans and Athenians, perceiving this, held each their ground till dawn.

Now, in the morning the picked Persian troops fell on the Spartans, and their Grecian allies attacked the Athenians. But, Mardonius being slain, the Persians fled to their camp, which was stormed by the Spartans and Tegeans, and the Athenians, who also had routed their foes; and there the barbarians were slaughtered, so that of 300,000 men not 3,000 were left alive. But Artabanus, who, before the battle, had withdrawn with 40,000 men, escaped hurriedly to the Hellespont.

And on the same day was fought another fight by sea at Mycale in Ionia, where also the barbarians were utterly routed, for the fleet had sailed thither. And thence the Greeks sailed to Sestos, attacked and captured the place, and so went home.





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