Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Book III.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Part 3 out of 3

Spartan manners. But perhaps there might be another and a graver
reason for the delayed determination of the ephors.

When the isthmian fortifications were completed, the superstition of
the regent Cleombrotus, who had superintended their construction, was
alarmed by an eclipse, and he led back to Sparta the detachment he had
commanded in that quarter. He returned but to die; and his son
Pausanias succeeded to the regency during the continued minority of
Pleistarchus, the infant heir of Leonidas [97]. If the funeral
solemnities on the death of a regent were similar to those bestowed
upon a deceased king, we can account at once for the delay of the
ephors, since the ten days which passed without reply to the
ambassadors exactly correspond in number with the ten days dedicated
to public mourning. [98] But whatever the cause of the Spartan delay
--and the rigid closeness of that oligarchic government kept, in yet
more important matters, its motives and its policy no less a secret to
contemporaneous nations than to modern inquirers--the delay itself
highly incensed the Athenian envoys: they even threatened to treat
with Mardonius, and abandon Sparta to her fate, and at length fixed
the day of their departure. The ephors roused themselves. Among the
deputies from the various states, there was then in Sparta that
Chileus of Tegea, who had been scarcely less serviceable than
Themistocles in managing the affairs of Greece in the isthmian
congress. This able and eminent Arcadian forcibly represented to the
ephors the danger of forfeiting the Athenian alliance, and the
insufficient resistance against the Persian that the fortifications of
the isthmus would afford. The ephors heard, and immediately acted
with the secrecy and the vigilance that belongs to oligarchies. That
very night they privately despatched a body of five thousand Spartans
and thirty-five thousand helots (seven to each Spartan), under the
command of Pausanias.

The next morning the ephors calmly replied to the angry threats of the
Athenians, by protesting that their troops were already on the march,
and by this time in Oresteum, a town in Arcadia, about eighteen miles
distant from Sparta. The astonished deputies [99] hastened to
overtake the Spartan force, and the ephors, as if fully to atone for
their past procrastination, gave them the escort and additional
re-enforcement of five thousand heavy-armed Laconians or Perioeci.

VI. Mardonius soon learned from the Argives (who, not content with
refusing to join the Greek legion, had held secret communications with
the Persians) of the departure of the Spartan troops. Hitherto he had
refrained from any outrage on the Athenian lands and city, in the hope
that Athens might yet make peace with him. He now set fire to Athens,
razed the principal part of what yet remained of the walls and temples
[100], and deeming the soil of Attica ill adapted to his cavalry, and,
from the narrowness of its outlets, disadvantageous in case of
retreat, after a brief incursion into Megara he retired towards
Thebes, and pitched his tents on the banks of the Asopus, extending
from Erythrae to Plataea. Here his force was swelled by such of the
Greeks as were friendly to his cause.

VII. Meanwhile the Spartans were joined at the isthmus by the rest of
the Peloponnesian allies. Solemn sacrifices were ordained, and the
auguries drawn from the victims being favourable, the Greek army
proceeded onward; and, joined at Eleusis by the Athenians, marched to
the foot of Cithaeron, and encamped opposite the Persians, with the
river of the Asopus between the armies. Aristides commanded the
Athenians, at the head of eight thousand foot; and while the armies
were thus situated, a dangerous conspiracy was detected and defeated
by that able general.

The disasters of the war--the devastation of lands, the burning of
houses--had reduced the fortunes of many of the Athenian nobles. With
their property diminished their influence. Poverty, and discontent,
and jealousy of new families rising into repute [101], induced these
men of fallen fortunes to conspire for the abolition of the popular
government at Athens, and, failing that attempt, to betray the cause
to the enemy.

This project spread secretly through the camp, and corrupted numbers;
the danger became imminent. On the one hand, the conspiracy was not
to be neglected; and, on the other, in such a crisis it might be
dangerous too narrowly to sift a design in which men of mark and
station were concerned. Aristides acted with a singular prudence. He
arrested eight of the leaders. Of these he prosecuted only two (who
escaped during the proceedings), and, dismissing the rest, appealed to
the impending battle as the great tribunal which would acquit them of
the charge and prove their loyalty to the state. [102]

VIII. Scarce was this conspiracy quelled than the cavalry of the
Persians commenced their operations. At the head of that skilful and
gallant horse, for which the oriental nations are yet renowned, rode
their chief, Masistius, clad in complete armour of gold, of brass, and
of iron, and noted for the strength of his person and the splendour of
his trappings. Placed on the rugged declivities of Cithaeron, the
Greeks were tolerably safe from the Persian cavalry, save only the
Megarians, who, to the number of three thousand, were posted along the
plain, and were on all sides charged by that agile and vapid cavalry.
Thus pressed, the Megarians sent to Pausanias for assistance. The
Spartan beheld the air darkened with shafts and arrows, and knew that
his heavy-armed warriors were ill adapted to act against horse. He in
vain endeavoured to arouse those about him by appeals to their honour
--all declined the succour of the Megarians--when Aristides, causing
the Athenian to eclipse the Spartan chivalry, undertook the defence.
With three hundred infantry, mixed with archers, Olympiodorus, one of
the ablest of the Athenian officers, advanced eagerly on the

Masistius himself, at the head of his troops, spurred his Nisaean
charger against the new enemy. A sharp and obstinate conflict ensued;
when the horse of the Persian general, being wounded, threw its rider,
who could not regain his feet from the weight of his armour. There,
as he lay on the ground, with a swarm of foes around him, the close
scales of his mail protected him from their weapons, until at length a
lance pierced the brain through an opening in his visor. After an
obstinate conflict for his corpse, the Persians were beaten back to
the camp, where the death of one, second only to Mardonius in
authority and repute, spread universal lamentation and dismay.

The body of Masistius, which, by its vast size and beautiful
proportions, excited the admiration of the victors, remained the prize
of the Greeks; and, placed on a bier, it was borne triumphantly
through the ranks.

IX. After this victory, Pausanias conducted his forces along the base
of Cithaeron into the neighbourhood of Plataea, which he deemed a more
convenient site for the disposition of his army and the supply of
water. There, near the fountain of Gargaphia [103], one of the
sources of the Asopus (which splits into many rivulets, bearing a
common name), and renowned in song for the death of the fabulous
Actaeon, nor far from the shrine of an old Plataean hero
(Androcrates), the Greeks were marshalled in regular divisions, the
different nations, some on a gentle acclivity, others along the plain.

In the allotment of the several stations a dispute arose between the
Athenians and the Tegeans. The latter claimed, from ancient and
traditionary prescription, the left wing (the right being unanimously
awarded to the Spartans), and assumed, in the course of their
argument, an insolent superiority over the Athenians.

"We came here to fight," answered the Athenians (or Aristides in their
name [104]), "and not to dispute. But since the Tegeans proclaim
their ancient as well as their modern deeds, fit is it for us to
maintain our precedence over the Arcadians."

Touching slightly on the ancient times referred to by the Tegeans, and
quoting their former deeds, the Athenians insisted chiefly upon
Marathon; "Yet," said their orators, or orator, in conclusion, "while
we maintain our right to the disputed post, it becomes us not, at this
crisis, to altercate on the localities of the battle. Place us, oh
Spartans! wherever seems best to you. No matter what our station; we
will uphold our honour and your cause. Command, then--we obey."

Hearing this generous answer, the Spartan leaders were unanimous in
favour of the Athenians; and they accordingly occupied the left wing.

X. Thus were marshalled that confederate army, presenting the
strongest force yet opposed to the Persians, and comprising the whole
might and manhood of the free Grecian states; to the right, ten
thousand Lacedaemonians, one half, as we have seen, composed of the
Perioeci, the other moiety of the pure Spartan race--to each warrior
of the latter half were allotted seven armed helots, to each of the
heavy-armed Perioeci one serving-man. Their whole force was,
therefore, no less than fifty thousand men. Next to the Spartans (a
kind of compromise of their claim) were the one thousand five hundred
Tegeans; beyond these five thousand Corinthians; and to them
contiguous three hundred Potidaeans of Pallene, whom the inundation of
their seas had saved from the Persian arms. Next in order, Orchomenus
ranged its six hundred Arcadians; Sicyon sent three thousand,
Epidaurus eight hundred, and Troezene one thousand warriors.
Neighbouring the last were two hundred Lepreatae, and by them four
hundred Myceneans and Tirynthians [105]. Stationed by the Tirynthians
came, in successive order, a thousand Phliasians, three hundred
Hermionians, six hundred Eretrians and Styreans, four hundred
Chalcidians, five hundred Ambracians, eight hundred Leucadians and
Anactorians, two hundred Paleans of Cephallenia, and five hundred only
of the islanders of Aegina. Three thousand Megarians and six hundred
Plataeans were ranged contiguous to the Athenians, whose force of
eight thousand men, under the command of Aristides, closed the left

Thus the total of the heavy-armed soldiery was thirty-eight thousand
seven hundred. To these were added the light-armed force of thirty-
five thousand helots and thirty-four thousand five hundred attendants
on the Laconians and other Greeks; the whole amounting to one hundred
and eight thousand two hundred men, besides one thousand eight hundred
Thespians, who, perhaps, on account of the destruction of their city
by the Persian army, were without the heavy arms of their

Such was the force--not insufficient in number, but stronger in heart,
union, the memory of past victories, and the fear of future chains--
that pitched the tent along the banks of the rivulets which confound
with the Asopus their waters and their names.

XI. In the interim Mardonius had marched from his former post, and
lay encamped on that part of the Asopus nearest to Plataea. His brave
Persians fronted the Lacedaemonians and Tegeans; and, in successive
order, ranged the Medes and Bactrians, the Indians and the Sacae, the
Boeotians, Locrians, Malians, Thessalians, Macedonians, and the
reluctant aid of a thousand Phocians. But many of the latter tribe
about the fastnesses of Parnassus, openly siding with the Greeks,
harassed the barbarian outskirts: Herodotus calculates the hostile
force at three hundred and fifty thousand, fifty thousand of which
were composed of Macedonians and Greeks. And, although the historian
has omitted to deduct from this total the loss sustained by Artabazus
at Potidaea, it is yet most probable that the barbarian nearly trebled
the Grecian army--odds less fearful than the Greeks had already met
and vanquished.

XII. The armies thus ranged, sacrifices were offered up on both
sides. It happened, by a singular coincidence, that to either army
was an Elean augur. The appearance of the entrails forbade both
Persian and Greek to cross the Asopus, and ordained each to act on the

That the Persian chief should have obeyed the dictates of a Grecian
soothsayer is sufficiently probable; partly because a superstitious
people rarely despise the superstitions of another faith, principally
because a considerable part of the invading army, and that perhaps the
bravest and the most skilful, was composed of native Greeks, whose
prejudices it was politic to flatter--perilous to affront.

Eight days were consumed in inactivity, the armies confronting each
other without motion; when Mardonius, in order to cut off the new
forces which every day resorted to the Grecian camp, despatched a body
of cavalry to seize the pass of Cithaeron. Falling in with a convoy
of five hundred beasts of burden, carrying provisions from the
Peloponnesus, the barbarians, with an inhumanity sufficient, perhaps,
to prove that the detachment was not composed of Persians, properly so
speaking, a mild though gallant people--slaughtered both man and
beast. The provisions were brought to the Persian camp.

XIII. During the two following days Mardonius advanced nearer to the
Asopus, and his cavalry (assisted by the Thebans, who were the right
arm of the barbarian army), in repeated skirmishes, greatly harassed
the Greeks with much daring and little injury.

At length Mardonius, either wearied of this inactivity or unable to
repress the spirit of a superior army, not accustomed to receive the
attack, resolved to reject all further compliance with the oracles of
this Elean soothsayer, and, on the following morning, to give battle
to the Greeks. Acting against one superstition, he sagaciously,
however, sought to enlist on his behalf another; and, from the
decision of a mortal, he appealed to the ambiguous oracles of the
Delphic god, which had ever one interpretation for the enterprise and
another for the success.

XIV. "The watches of the night were set," says Herodotus, in his
animated and graphic strain--"the night itself was far advanced--a
universal and utter stillness prevailed throughout the army, buried in
repose--when Alexander, the Macedonian prince, rode secretly from the
Persian camp, and, coming to the outposts of the Athenians, whose line
was immediately opposed to his own, demanded an audience of their
commanders. This obtained, the Macedonian thus addressed them: "I am
come to inform you of a secret you must impart to Pausanias alone.
From remote antiquity I am of Grecian lineage. I am solicitous of the
safety of Greece. Long since, but for the auguries, would Mardonius
have given battle. Regarding these no longer, he will attack you
early on the morning. Be prepared. If he change his purpose, remain
as you are--he has provisions only for a few days more. Should the
event of war prove favourable, you will but deem it fitting to make
some effort for the independence of one who exposes himself to so
great a peril for the purpose of apprizing you of the intentions of
the foe. I am Alexander of Macedon.'"

"Thus saying, the horseman returned to the Persian camp."

"The Athenian leaders hastened to Pausanias, and informed him of what
they had heard."

The Spartan does not appear, according to the strong expressions [106]
of Herodotus, to have received the intelligence with the customary
dauntlessness of his race. He feared the Persians, he was
unacquainted with their mode of warfare, and he proposed to the
Athenians to change posts with the Lacedaemonians; "For you," said he,
"have before contended with the Mede, and your experience of their
warfare you learned at Marathon. We, on the other hand, have fought
against the Boeotians and Thessalians [opposed to the left wing]. Let
us then change our stations."

At first the Athenian officers were displeased at the offer, not from
terror, but from pride; and it seemed to them as if they were shifted,
like helots, from post to post at the Spartan's pleasure. But
Aristides, whose power of persuasion consisted chiefly in appeals, not
to the baser, but the loftier passions, and who, in swaying, exalted
his countrymen--represented to them that the right wing, which the
Spartan proposed to surrender, was, in effect, the station of command.

"And are you," he said, "not pleased with the honour you obtain, nor
sensible of the advantage of contending, not against the sons of
Greece, but the barbarian invader?" [107]

These words animated those whom the Athenian addressed; they instantly
agreed to exchange posts with the Spartans, and "to fight for the
trophies of Marathon and Salamis." [108]

XV. As, in the dead of night, the Athenians marched to their new
station, they exhorted each other to valour and to the recollection of
former victories. But Mardonius, learning from deserters the change
of position, moved his Persians opposite the Spartans; and Pausanias
again returning to the right, Mardonius pursued a similar manoeuvre.
Thus the day was consumed without an action. The troops having
resumed their former posts, Mardonius sent a herald to the Spartans,
chiding them for their cowardice, and proposing that an allotted
number meet equal Spartans in battle, and whoever conquered should be
deemed victors over the whole adverse army.

This challenge drew no reply from the Spartans. And Mardonius,
construing the silence into a proof of fear, already anticipated the
victory. His cavalry, advancing upon the Greeks, distressed them from
afar and in safety with their shafts and arrows. They succeeded in
gaining the Gargaphian fountain, which supplied water to the Grecian
army, and choked up the stream. Thus cut off from water, and, at the
same time, yet more inconvenienced by the want of provisions, the
convoy of which was intercepted by the Persian cavalry, the Grecian
chiefs determined to shift the ground, and occupy a space which, being
surrounded by rivulets, was termed the Island of Oeroe [109], and
afforded an ample supply of water. This island was about a mile from
their present encampment: thence they proposed to detach half their
army to relieve a convoy of provisions encompassed in the mountains.

About four hours after sunset the army commenced its march; but when
Pausanias gave the word to his Spartans, one officer, named
Amompharetus, obstinately refused to stir. He alleged the customs and
oaths of Sparta, and declared he would not fly from the barbarian foe,
nor connive at the dishonour of Sparta.

XVI. Pausanias, though incensed at the obstinacy of the officer, was
unwilling to leave him and his troop to perish; and while the dispute
was still unsettled, the Athenians, suspicious of their ally, "for
they knew well it was the custom of Spartans to say one thing and to
think another," [110] despatched a horseman to Pausanias to learn the
cause of the delay. The messenger found the soldiers in their ranks;
the leaders in violent altercation. Pausanias was arguing with
Amompharetus, when the last, just as the Athenian approached, took up
a huge stone with both hands, and throwing it at the feet of
Pausanias, vehemently exclaimed, "With this calculus I give my
suffrage against flying from the stranger." Pausanias, in great
perplexity, bade the Athenian report the cause of the delay, and
implore his countrymen to halt a little, that they might act in
concert. At length, towards morning, Pausanias resolved, despite
Amompharetus, to commence his march. All his forces proceeded along
the steep defiles at the base of Cithaeron, from fear of the Persian
cavalry; the more dauntless Athenians along the plain. Amompharetus,
after impotent attempts to detain his men, was reluctantly compelled
to follow.

XVII. Mardonius, beholding the vacant ground before him no longer
bristling with the Grecian ranks, loudly vented his disdain of the
cowardice of the fugitives, and instantly led his impatient army over
the Asopus in pursuit. As yet, the Athenians, who had already passed
the plain, were concealed by the hills; and the Tegeans and
Lacedaemonians were the sole object of attack.

As the troops of Mardonius advanced, the rest of the Persian armament,
deeming the task was now not to fight but to pursue, raised their
standards and poured forward tumultuously, without discipline or

Pausanias, pressed by the Persian line, and if not of a timorous, at
least of an irresolute temper, lost no time in sending to the
Athenians for succour. But when the latter were on their march with
the required aid, they were suddenly intercepted by the auxiliary
Greeks in the Persian service, and cut off from the rescue of the

The Spartans beheld themselves thus left unsupported with considerable
alarm. Yet their force, including the Tegeans and helots, was fifty-
three thousand men. Committing himself to the gods, Pausanias
ordained a solemn sacrifice, his whole army awaiting the result, while
the shafts of the Persian bowmen poured on them near and fast. But
the entrails presented discouraging omens, and the sacrifice was again
renewed. Meanwhile the Spartans evinced their characteristic
fortitude and discipline--not one man stirring from his ranks until
the auguries should assume a more favouring aspect; all harassed, and
some wounded, by the Persian arrows, they yet, seeking protection only
beneath their broad bucklers, waited with a stern patience the time of
their leader and of Heaven. Then fell Callicrates, the stateliest and
strongest soldier in the whole army, lamenting, not death, but that
his sword was as yet undrawn against the invader.

XVIII. And still sacrifice after sacrifice seemed to forbid the
battle, when Pausanias, lifting his eyes, that streamed with tears, to
the temple of Juno that stood hard by, supplicated the tutelary
goddess of Cithaeron, that if the fates forbade the Greeks to conquer,
they might at least fall like warriors [111]. And while uttering this
prayer, the tokens waited for became suddenly visible in the victims,
and the augurs announced the promise of coming victory.

Therewith the order of battle rang instantly through the army, and, to
use the poetical comparison of Plutarch, the Spartan phalanx suddenly
stood forth in its strength, like some fierce animal--erecting its
bristles and preparing its vengeance for the foe. The ground, broken
in many steep and precipitous ridges, and intersected by the Asopus,
whose sluggish stream [112] winds over a broad and rushy bed, was
unfavourable to the movements of cavalry, and the Persian foot
advanced therefore on the Greeks.

Drawn up in their massive phalanx, the Lacedaemonians presented an
almost impenetrable body--sweeping slowly on, compact and serried--
while the hot and undisciplined valour of the Persians, more fortunate
in the skirmish than the battle, broke itself into a thousand waves
upon that moving rock. Pouring on in small numbers at a time, they
fell fast round the progress of the Greeks--their armour slight
against the strong pikes of Sparta--their courage without skill--their
numbers without discipline; still they fought gallantly, even when on
the ground seizing the pikes with their naked hands, and with the
wonderful agility which still characterizes the oriental swordsman,
springing to their feet and regaining their arms when seemingly
overcome--wresting away their enemies' shields, and grappling with
them desperately hand to hand.

XIX. Foremost of a band of a thousand chosen Persians, conspicuous by
his white charger, and still more by his daring valour, rode
Mardonius, directing the attack--fiercer wherever his armour blazed.
Inspired by his presence, the Persians fought worthily of their
warlike fame, and, even in falling, thinned the Spartan ranks. At
length the rash but gallant leader of the Asiatic armies received a
mortal wound--his scull was crushed in by a stone from the hand of a
Spartan [113]. His chosen band, the boast of the army, fell fighting
round him, but his death was the general signal of defeat and flight.
Encumbered by their long robes, and pressed by the relentless
conquerors, the Persians fled in disorder towards their camp, which
was secured by wooden intrenchments, by gates, and towers, and walls.
Here, fortifying themselves as they best might, they contended
successfully, and with advantage, against the Lacedaemonians, who were
ill skilled in assault and siege.

Meanwhile the Athenians obtained the victory on the plains over the
Greeks of Mardonius--finding their most resolute enemy in the Thebans
(three hundred of whose principal warriors fell in the field)--and now
joined the Spartans at the Persian camp. The Athenians are said to
have been better skilled in the art of siege than the Spartans; yet at
that time their experience could scarcely have been greater. The
Athenians were at all times, however, of a more impetuous temper; and
the men who had "run to the charge" at Marathon were not to be baffled
by the desperate remnant of their ancient foe. They scaled the walls
--they effected a breach through which the Tegeans were the first to
rush--the Greeks poured fast and fierce into the camp. Appalled,
dismayed, stupefied by the suddenness and greatness of their loss, the
Persians no longer sustained their fame--they dispersed themselves in
all directions, falling, as they fled, with a prodigious slaughter, so
that out of that mighty armament scarce three thousand effected an
escape. We must except, however, the wary and distrustful Artabazus,
who, on the first tokens of defeat, had fled with the forty thousand
Parthians and Chorasmians he commanded towards Phocis, in the
intention to gain the Hellespont. The Mantineans arrived after the
capture of the camp, too late for their share of glory; they
endeavoured to atone the loss by the pursuit of Artabazus, which was,
however, ineffectual. The Eleans arrived after the Mantineans. The
leaders of both these people were afterward banished.

XX. An Aeginetan proposed to Pausanias to inflict on the corpse of
Mardonius the same insult which Xerxes had put upon the body of

The Spartan indignantly refused. "After elevating my country to
fame," said he, "would you have me depress it to infamy by vengeance
on the body of the dead? Leonidas and Thermopylae are sufficiently
avenged by this mighty overthrow of the living."

The body of that brave and ill-fated general, the main author of the
war, was removed the next day--by whose piety and to what sepulchre is
unknown. The tomb of his doubtful fame is alone eternally visible
along the plains of Plataea, and above the gray front of the
imperishable Cithaeron!

XXI. The victory won (September, B. C. 479), the conquerors were
dazzled by the gorgeous plunder which remained--tents and couches
decorated with precious metals--cups, and vessels, and sacks of gold--
and the dead themselves a booty, from the costly ornaments of their
chains and bracelets, and cimeters vainly splendid--horses, and
camels, and Persian women, and all the trappings and appliances by
which despotism made a luxury of war.

Pausanias forbade the booty to be touched [114], and directed the
helots to collect the treasure in one spot. But those dexterous
slaves secreted many articles of value, by the purchase of which
several of the Aeginetans, whose avarice was sharpened by a life of
commerce, enriched themselves--obtaining gold at the price of brass.

Piety dedicated to the gods a tenth part of the booty--from which was
presented to the shrine of Delphi a golden tripod, resting on a three-
headed snake of brass; to the Corinthian Neptune a brazen statue of
the deity, seven cubits high; and to the Jupiter of Olympia a statue
of ten cubits. Pausanias obtained also a tenth of the produce in each
article of plunder--horses and camels, women and gold--a prize which
ruined in rewarding him. The rest was divided among the soldiers,
according to their merit.

So much, however, was left unappropriated in the carelessness of
satiety, that, in after times, the battlefield still afforded to the
search of the Plataeans chests of silver and gold, and other

XXIL Taking possession of the tent of Mardonius, which had formerly
been that of Xerxes, Pausanias directed the oriental slaves who had
escaped the massacre to prepare a banquet after the fashion of the
Persians, and as if served to Mardonius. Besides this gorgeous feast,
the Spartan ordered his wonted repast to be prepared; and then,
turning to the different chiefs, exclaimed--"See the folly of the
Persian, who forsook such splendour to plunder such poverty."

The story has in it something of the sublime. But the austere Spartan
was soon corrupted by the very luxuries he affected to disdain. It is
often that we despise to-day what we find it difficult to resist to-

XXIII. The task of reward to the living completed, the Greeks
proceeded to that of honour to the dead. In three trenches the
Lacedaemonians were interred; one contained those who belonged to a
class in Sparta called the Knights [115], of whom two hundred had
conducted Themistocles to Tegea (among these was the stubborn
Amompharetus); the second, the other Spartans; the third, the helots.
The Athenians, Tegeans, Megarians, Phliasians, each had their single
and separate places of sepulture, and, over all, barrows of earth were
raised. Subsequently, tribes and states, that had shared indeed the
final battle or the previous skirmishes, but without the glory of a
loss of life, erected cenotaphs to imaginary dead in that illustrious
burial-field. Among those spurious monuments was one dedicated to the
Aeginetans. Aristodemus, the Spartan who had returned safe from
Thermopylae, fell at Plataea, the most daring of the Greeks on that
day, voluntarily redeeming a dishonoured life by a glorious death.
But to his manes alone of the Spartan dead no honours were decreed.

XXIV. Plutarch relates that a dangerous dispute ensued between the
Spartans and Athenians as to their relative claim to the Aristeia, or
first military honours; the question was decided by awarding them to
the Plataeans--a state of which none were jealous; from a similar
motive, ordinary men are usually found possessed of the honours due to
the greatest.

More important than the Aristeia, had the spirit been properly
maintained, were certain privileges then conferred on Plataea.
Thither, in a subsequent assembly of the allies, it was proposed by
Aristides that deputies from the states of Greece should be annually
sent to sacrifice to Jupiter the Deliverer, and confer upon the
general politics of Greece. There, every fifth year, should be
celebrated games in honour of Liberty; while the Plataeans themselves,
exempted from military service, should be deemed, so long as they
fulfilled the task thus imposed upon them, a sacred and inviolable
people. Thus Plataea nominally became a second Elis--its battle-field
another Altis. Aristides, at the same time, sought to enforce the
large and thoughtful policy commenced by Themistocles. He endeavoured
to draw the jealous states of Greece into a common and perpetual
league, maintained against all invaders by a standing force of one
thousand cavalry, one hundred ships, and ten thousand heavy-armed

XXV. An earnest and deliberate council was now held, in which it was
resolved to direct the victorious army against Thebes, and demand the
persons of those who had sided with the Mede. Fierce as had been the
hostility of that state to the Hellenic liberties, its sin was that of
the oligarchy rather than the people. The most eminent of these
traitors to Greece were Timagenidas and Attaginus, and the allies
resolved to destroy the city unless those chiefs were given up to

On the eleventh day from the battle they sat down before Thebes, and
on the refusal of the inhabitants to surrender the chiefs so justly
obnoxious, laid waste the Theban lands.

Whatever we may think of the conduct of Timagenidas in espousing the
cause of the invaders of Greece, we must give him the praise of a
disinterested gallantry, which will remind the reader of the siege of
Calais by Edward III., and the generosity of Eustace de St. Pierre.
He voluntarily proposed to surrender himself to the besiegers.

The offer was accepted: Timagenidas and several others were delivered
to Pausanias, removed to Corinth, and there executed--a stern but
salutary example. Attaginus saved himself by flight. His children,
given up to Pausanias, were immediately dismissed. "Infants," said
the Spartan, "could not possibly have conspired against us with the

While Thebes preserved herself from destruction, Artabazus succeeded
in effecting his return to Asia, his troop greatly reduced by the
attacks of the Thracians, and the excesses of famine and fatigue.

XXVI. On the same day as that on which the battle of Plataea crushed
the land-forces of Persia, a no less important victory was gained over
their fleet at Mycale in Ionia.

It will be remembered that Leotychides, the Spartan king, and the
Athenian Xanthippus, had conducted the Grecian navy to Delos. There
anchored, they received a deputation from Samos, among whom was
Hegesistratus, the son of Aristagoras. These ambassadors declared
that all the Ionians waited only the moment to revolt from the Persian
yoke, and that the signal would be found in the first active measures
of the Grecian confederates. Leotychides, induced by these
representations, received the Samians into the general league, and set
sail to Samos. There, drawn up in line of battle, near the temple of
Juno, they prepared to hazard an engagement.

But the Persians, on their approach, retreated to the continent, in
order to strengthen themselves with their land-forces, which, to the
amount of sixty thousand, under the command of the Persian Tigranes,
Xerxes had stationed at Mycale for the protection of Ionia.

Arrived at Mycale, they drew their ships to land, fortifying them with
strong intrenchments and barricades, and then sanguinely awaited the

The Greeks, after a short consultation, resolved upon pursuit.
Approaching the enemy's station, they beheld the sea deserted, the
ships secured by intrenchments, and long ranks of infantry ranged
along the shore. Leotychides, by a herald, exhorted the Ionians in
the Persian service to remember their common liberties, and that on
the day of battle their watchword would be "Hebe."

The Persians, distrusting these messages, though uttered in a tongue
they understood not, and suspecting the Samians, took their arms from
the latter; and, desirous of removing the Milesians to a distance,
intrusted them with the guard of the paths to the heights of Mycale.
Using these precautions against the desertion of their allies, the
Persians prepared for battle.

The Greeks were anxious and fearful not so much for themselves as for
their countrymen in Boeotia, opposed to the mighty force of Mardonius.
But a report spreading through the camp that a complete victory had
been obtained in that territory (an artifice, most probably, of
Leotychides), animated their courage and heightened their hopes.

The Athenians, who, with the troops of Corinth, Sicyon, and Troezene,
formed half the army, advanced by the coast and along the plain--the
Lacedaemonians by the more steep and wooded courses; and while the
latter were yet on their march, the Athenians were already engaged at
the intrenchments (Battle of Mycale, September, B. C. 479).

Inspired not more by enmity than emulation, the Athenians urged each
other to desperate feats--that they, and not the Spartans, might have
the honours of the day. They poured fiercely on--after an obstinate
and equal conflict, drove back the foe to the barricades that girt
their ships, stormed the intrenchments, carried the wall, and, rushing
in with their allies, put the barbarians to disorderly and rapid
flight. The proper Persians, though but few in number, alone stood
their ground--and even when Tigranes himself was slain, resolutely
fought on until the Lacedaemonians entered the intrenchment, and all
who had survived the Athenian, perished by the Spartan, sword.

The disarmed Samians, as soon as the fortunes of the battle became
apparent, gave all the assistance they could render to the Greeks; the
other Ionians seized the same opportunity to revolt and turn their
arms against their allies. In the mountain defiles the Milesians
intercepted their own fugitive allies, consigning them to the Grecian
sword, and active beyond the rest in their slaughter. So relentless
and so faithless are men, compelled to servitude, when the occasion
summons them to be free.

XXVII. This battle, in which the Athenians were pre-eminently
distinguished, was followed up by the conflagration of the Persian
ships and the collection of the plunder. The Greeks then retired to
Samos. Here deliberating, it was proposed by the Peloponnesian
leaders that Ionia should henceforth, as too dangerous and remote to
guard, be abandoned to the barbarian, and that, in recompense, the
Ionians should be put into possession of the maritime coasts of those
Grecian states which had sided with the Mede. The Athenians resisted
so extreme a proposition, and denied the power of the Peloponnesians
to dispose of Athenian colonies. The point was surrendered by the
Peloponnesians; the Ionians of the continent were left to make their
own terms with the barbarian, but the inhabitants of the isles which
had assisted against the Mede were received into the general
confederacy, bound by a solemn pledge never to desert it. The fleet
then sailed to the Hellespont, with the design to destroy the bridge,
which they believed still existent. Finding it, however, already
broken, Leotychides and the Peloponnesians returned to Greece. The
Athenians resolved to attempt the recovery of the colony of Miltiades
in the Chersonese. The Persians collected their whole remaining force
at the strongest hold in that peninsula--the Athenians laid siege to
it (begun in the autumn, B. C. 479, concluded in the spring, B. C.
478), and, after enduring a famine so obstinate that the cordage, or
rather straps, of their bedding were consumed for food, the Persians
evacuated the town, which the inhabitants then cheerfully surrendered.

Thus concluding their victories, the Athenians returned to Greece,
carrying with them a vast treasure, and, not the least precious
relics, the fragments and cables of the Hellespontic bridge, to be
suspended in their temples.

XXVIII. Lingering at Sardis, Xerxes beheld the scanty and exhausted
remnants of his mighty force, the fugitives of the fatal days of
Mycale and Plataea. The army over which he had wept in the zenith of
his power, had fulfilled the prediction of his tears: and the armed
might of Media and Egypt, of Lydia and Assyria, was now no more!

So concluded the great Persian invasion--that war the most memorable
in the history of mankind, whether from the vastness or from the
failure of its designs. We now emerge from the poetry that belongs to
early Greece, through the mists of which the forms of men assume
proportions as gigantic as indistinct. The enchanting Herodotus
abandons us, and we do not yet permanently acquire, in the stead of
his romantic and wild fidelity, the elaborate and sombre statesmanship
of the calm Thucydides. Henceforth we see more of the beautiful and
the wise, less of the wonderful and vast. What the heroic age is to
tradition, the Persian invasion is to history.


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