Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
Privacy
 
Home - Ancient States



Most Viewed

Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David


Least Viewed

Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David





The Persian War








We come now to the most important and interesting of Grecian history--the
great contest with Persia--the age of heroes and of battle-fields, when
military glory was the master passion of a noble race. What inspiration
have all ages gained from that noble contest in behalf of liberty!

We have seen how Asiatic cities were colonized by Greeks, among
whom the Ionians were pre-eminent. The cities were governed by tyrants,
who were sustained in their usurpation by the power of Persia, then the
great power of the world. Darius, then king, had absurdly invaded Scythia,
with an immense army of six hundred thousand men, to punish the people for
their inroad upon Western Asia, subject to his sway, about a century
before. He was followed by his allies, the tyrants of the Ionian cities,
to whom he intrusted the guardianship of the bridge of boats by which he
had crossed the Danube, B.C. 510. As he did not return within the time
specified--sixty days--the Greeks were left at liberty to return. A body of
Scythians then appeared, who urged the Greeks to destroy the bridge, as
Darius was in full retreat, and thus secure the destruction of the Persian
army and the recovery of their own liberty. Miltiades, who ruled the
Chersonese--the future hero of Marathon, seconded the wise proposal of the
Scythians, but Histiaeus, tyrant of Miletus, feared that such an act would
recoil upon themselves, and favor another inroad of Scythians--a fierce
nation of barbarians. The result was that the bridge was not destroyed,
but the further end of it was severed from the shore. Night arrived, and
the Persian hosts appeared upon the banks of the river, but finding no
trace of it, Darius ordered an Egyptian who had a trumpet-voice to summon
to his aid Histiaeus, the Milesian. He came forward with a fleet and
restored the bridge, and Darius and his army were saved, and the
opportunity was lost to the Ionians for emancipating themselves from the
Persians. The bridge was preserved, not from honorable fidelity to fulfill
a trust, but selfish regard in the despot of Miletus to maintain his
power. For this service he was rewarded with a principality on the
Strymon. Exciting, however, the suspicion of Darius, by his intrigues, he
was carried captive to the Persian court, but with every mark of honor.
Darius left his brother Artaphernes as governor of all the cities in
Western Asia Minor.

A few years after this unsuccessful invasion of Scythia by Darius,
a political conflict broke out in Naxos, an island of the Cyclades, B.C.
502, which had not submitted to the Persian yoke, and the oligarchy, which
ruled the island, were expelled. They applied for aid to Aristagoras, the
tyrant of Miletus, the largest of the Ionian cities, who persuaded the
Persian satrap to send an expedition against the island. The expedition
failed, which ruined the credit of Aristagoras, son-in-law to Histiaeus,
who was himself incensed at his detention in Susa, and who sent a trusty
slave with a message urging the Ionians to revolt. Aristagoras, as a means
of success, conciliated popular favor throughout Asiatic Greece, by
putting down the various tyrants--the instruments of Persian ascendency.
The flames of revolt were kindled, the despots were expelled, the revolted
towns were put in a state of defense, and Aristagoras visited Sparta to
invoke its aid, inflaming the mind of the king with the untold wealth of
Asia, which would become his spoil. Sparta was then at war with her
neighbors, and unwilling to become involved in so uncertain a contest.
Rejected at Sparta, Aristagoras proceeded to Athens, then the second power
in Greece, and was favorably received, for the Athenians had a powerful
sympathy with the revolted Ionians; they agreed to send a fleet of twenty
ships. When Aristagoras returned, the Persians had commenced the siege of
Miletus. The twenty ships soon crossed the AEgean, and were joined by five
Eretrian ships coming to the succor of Miletus. An unsuccessful attempt of
Aristagoras on Sardis disgusted the Athenians, who abandoned the alliance.
But the accidental burning of the city, including the temple of the
goddess Cybele, encouraged the revolters, and incensed the Persians. Other
Greek cities on the coast took part in the revolt, including the island of
Cyprus. The revolt now assumed a serious character. The Persians rallied
their allies, among whom were the Phoenicians. An armament of Persians and
Phoenicians sailed against Cyprus, and a victory on the land gave the
Persians the control of the island. A large army of Persians and their
allies collected at Sardis, and, under different divisions reconquered all
their principal Ionian cities, except Miletus; but the Ionian fleet kept
its ascendency at sea. Aristagoras as the Persians advanced, lost courage
and fled to Myrkinus, where he shortly afterward perished.

Meanwhile Histiaeus presented himself at the gates of Miletus,
having procured the consent of Darius to proceed thither to quell the
revolt. He was, however, suspected by the satrap, Artaphernes, and fled to
Chios, whose people he gained over, and who carried him back to Miletus.
On his arrival, he found the citizens averse to his reception, and was
obliged to return to Chios, and then to Lesbos, where he abandoned himself
to piracy.

A vast Persian host, however, had been concentrated near Miletus,
and with the assistance of the Phoenicians, invested the city by sea and
land. The entire force of the confederated cities abandoned the Milesians
to their fate, and took to their ships, three hundred and fifty-three in
number, with a view of fighting the Phoenicians, who had six hundred ships.
But there was a want of union among the Ionian commanders, and the sailors
abandoned themselves to disorder and carelessness; upon which Dionysius,
of Phocaea, which furnished but three ships, rebuked the Ionians for their
neglect of discipline. His rebuke was not thrown away, and the Ionians
having their comfortable tents on shore, submitted themselves to the
nautical labors imposed by Dionysius. At last, after seven days of work,
the Ionian sailors broke out in open mutiny, and refused longer to be
under the discipline of a man whose State furnished the smallest number of
ships. They left their ships, and resumed their pleasures on the shore,
unwilling to endure the discipline so necessary in so great a crisis.
Their camp became a scene of disunion and mistrust. The Samians, in
particular, were discontented, and on the day of battle, which was to
decide the fortunes of Ionia, they deserted with sixty ships, and other
Ionians followed their example. The ships of Chios, one hundred in number,
fought with great fidelity and resolution, and Dionysius captured, with
his three ships, three of the Phoenicians'. But these exceptional examples
of bravery did not compensate the treachery and cowardice of the rest, and
the consequence was a complete defeat of the Ionians at Lade. Dionysius,
seeing the ruin of the Ionian camp, did not return to his own city, and
set sail for the Phoenician coast, doing all he could as a pirate.

This victory of Lade enabled the Persians to attack Miletus by sea
as well as land; the siege was prosecuted with vigor, and the city shortly
fell. The adult male population was slain, while the women and children
were sent as slaves to Susa. The Milesian territory was devastated and
stripped of its inhabitants. The other States hastened to make their
submission, and the revolt was crushed, B.C. 496, five years after its
commencement. The Persian forces reconquered all the Asiatic Greeks,
insular and continental, and the Athenian Miltiades escaped with
difficulty from his command in the Chersonese, to his native city. All the
threats which were made by the Persians were realized. The most beautiful
virgins were distributed among the Persian nobles; the cities were
destroyed; and Samos alone remained, as a reward for desertion at the
battle of Lade.

The reconquest of Ionia being completed, the satrap proceeded to
organize the future government, the inhabitants now being composed of a
great number of Persians. Meanwhile, Darius made preparations for the
complete conquest of Greece. The wisdom of the advice of Miltiades, to
destroy the bridge over the Danube, when Darius and his army would have
been annihilated by the Scythians, was now apparent. Mardonius was sent
with a large army into Ionia, who deposed the despots in the various
cities, whom Artaphernes had reinstated, and left the people to govern
themselves, subject to the Persian dominion and tribute. He did not remain
long in Ionia, but passed with his fleet to the Hellespont, and joined his
land forces. He transported his army to Europe, and began his march
through Thrace. Thence marched into Macedonia, and subdued a part of its
inhabitants. He then sent his fleet around Mount Athos, with a view of
joining it with his army at the Gulf of Therma. But a storm overtook his
fleet near Athos, and destroyed three hundred ships, and drowned twenty
thousand men. This disaster compelled a retreat, and he recrossed the
Hellespont with the shame of failure. He was employed no more by the
Persian king.

Darius, incited by the traitor Hippias, made new preparation for
the invasion of Greece. He sent his heralds in every direction, demanding
the customary token of submission--earth and water. Many of the continental
cities sent in their submission, including the Thebans, Thessalians, and
the island of AEgina, which was on bad terms with Athens. The heralds of
Darius were put to death at Athens and Sparta, which can only be explained
from the fiercest resentment and rage. These two powers made common cause,
and armed all the other States over which they had influence, to resist
the Persian domination. Hellas, headed by Sparta, now resolved to put
forth all its energies, and embarked, in desperate hostility. A war which
Sparta had been waging for several years against Argos crippled that
ancient State, and she was no longer the leading power. The only rival
which Sparta feared was weakened, and full scope was given, for the
prosecution of the Persian war. AEgina, which had submitted to Darius, was
visited by Cleomenes, king of Sparta, and hostages were sent to Athens for
the neutrality of that island. Athens and Sparta suspended their political
jealousies, and acted in concert to resist the common danger.

By the spring of 490 B.C. the preparations of Darius were
completed, and a vast army collected on a plain upon the Cilician shore. A
fleet of six hundred ships convoyed it to the rendezvous at Samos. The
exiled tyrant Hippias was present to guide the forces to the attack of
Attica. The Mede Datis, and Artaphernes, son of the satrap of Sardis,
nephew to Darius, were the Persian generals. They had orders from Darius
to bring the inhabitants of Athens as slaves to his presence.

The Persian fleet, fearing a similar disaster as happened near
Mount Athos, struck directly across the AEgean, from Samos to Euboea,
attacking on the way the intermediate islands. Naxos thus was invaded and
easily subdued. From Naxos, Datis sent his fleet round the other Cyclades
Islands, demanding reinforcements and hostages from all he visited, and
reached the southern extremity of Euboea in safety. Etruria was first
subdued, unable to resist. After halting a few days at this city, he
crossed to Attica, and landed in the bay of Marathon, on the eastern
coast. The despot Hippias, son of Pisistratus, twenty years after his
expulsion from Athens, pointed out the way.

But a great change had taken place at Athens since his expulsion.
The city was now under democratic rule, in its best estate. The ten tribes
had become identified with the government and institutions of the city.
The senate of the areopagus, renovated by the annual archons, was in
sympathy with the people. Great men had arisen under the amazing stimulus
of liberty, among whom Miltiades, Themistocles, and Aristides were the
most distinguished. Miltiades, after an absence of six years in the
Chersonesus of Thrace, returned to the city full of patriotic ardor. He
was brought to trial before the popular assembly on the charge of having
misgoverned the Chersonese; but he was honorably acquitted, and was chosen
one of the ten generals of the republic annually elected. He was not,
however, a politician of the democratic stamp, like Themistocles and
Aristides, being a descendant of an illustrious race, which traced their
lineage to the gods; but he was patriotic, brave, and decided. His advice
to burn the bridge over the Danube illustrates his character--bold and
far-seeing. Moreover, he was peculiarly hostile to Darius, whom he had so
grievously offended.

Themistocles was a man of great native genius and sagacity. He
comprehended all the embarrassments and dangers of the political crisis in
which his city was placed, and saw at a glance the true course to be
pursued. He was also bold and daring. He was not favored by the accidents
of birth, and owed very little to education. He had an unbounded passion
for glory and for display. He had great tact in the management of party,
and was intent on the aggrandizement of his country. His morality was
reckless, but his intelligence was great--a sort of Mirabeau: with his
passion, his eloquence, and his talents. His unfortunate end--a traitor and
an exile--shows how little intellectual pre-eminence will avail, in the
long run, without virtue, although such talents as he exhibited will be
found useful in a crisis.

Aristides was inferior to both Alcibiades and Themistocles in
genius, in resource, in boldness, and in energy; but superior in virtue,
in public fidelity, and moral elevation. He pursued a consistent course,
was no demagogue, unflinching in the discharge of trusts, just, upright,
unspotted. Such a man, of course, in a corrupt society, would be exposed
to many enmities and jealousies. But he was, on the whole, appreciated,
and died, in a period of war and revolution, a poor man, with unbounded
means of becoming rich--one of the few examples which our world affords of
a man who believed in virtue, in God, and a judgment to come, and who
preferred the future and spiritual to the present and material--a fool in
the eyes of the sordid and bad--a wise man according to the eternal
standards.

Aristides, Miltiades, and perhaps Themistocles, were elected among
the ten generals, by the ten tribes, in the year that Datis led his
expedition to Marathon. Each of the ten generals had the supreme command
of the army for a day. Great alarm was felt at Athens as tidings reached
the city of the advancing and conquering Persians. Couriers were sent in
hot haste to the other cities, especially Sparta, and one was found to
make the journey to Sparta on foot--one hundred and fifty miles--in
forty-eight hours. The Spartans agreed to march, without delay, after the
last quarter of the moon, which custom and superstition dictated. This
delay was fraught with danger, but was insisted upon by the Spartans.

Meanwhile the dangers multiplied and thickened, that not a moment
should be lost in bringing the Persians into action. Five of the generals
counseled delay. The polemarch, Calimachus, who then had the casting vote,
decided for immediate action. Themistocles and Aristides had seconded the
advice of Miltiades, to whom the other generals surrendered their days of
command--a rare example of patriotic disinterestedness. The Athenians
marched at once to Marathon to meet their foes, and were joined by the
Plataeans, one thousand warriors, from a little city--the whole armed
population, which had a great moral effect.

The Athenians had only ten thousand hoplites, including the one
thousand from Plataea. The Persian army is variously estimated at from one
hundred and ten thousand to six hundred thousand. The Greeks were encamped
upon the higher ground overlooking the plain which their enemies occupied.
The fleet was ranged along the beach. The Greeks advanced to the combat in
rapid movement, urged on by the war-cry, which ever animated their
charges. The wings of the Persian army were put to flight by the audacity
of the charge, but the centre, where the best troops were posted, resisted
the attack until Miltiades returned from the pursuit of the retreating
soldiers on the wings. The defeat of the Persians was the result. They
fled to their ships, and became involved in the marshes. Six thousand four
hundred men fell on the Persian side, and only one hundred and ninety-two
on the Athenian. The Persians, though defeated, still retained their
ships, and sailed toward Cape Sunium, with a view of another descent upon
Attica. Miltiades, the victor in the most glorious battle ever till then
fought in Greece, penetrated the designs of the Persians, and rapidly
retreated to Athens on the very day of battle. Datis arrived at the port
of Phalerum to discover that his plans were baffled, and that the
Athenians were still ready to oppose him. The energy and promptness of
Miltiades had saved the city. Datis, discouraged, set sail, without
landing, to the Cyclades.

The battle of Marathon, B.C. 490, must be regarded as one of the
great decisive battles of the world, and the first which raised the
political importance of the Greeks in the eyes of foreign powers. It was
fought by Athens twenty years after the expulsion of the tyrants, and as a
democratic State. On the Athenians rest the glory forever. It was not
important for the number of men who fell on either side, but for giving
the first great check to the Persian domination, and preventing their
conquest of Europe. And its moral effect was greater than its political.
It freed the Greeks from that fear of the Persians which was so fatal and
universal, for the tide of Persian conquest had been hitherto
uninterrupted. It animated the Greeks with fresh courage, for the bravery
of the Athenians had been unexampled, as had been the generalship of
Miltiades. Athens was delivered by the almost supernatural bravery of its
warriors, and was then prepared to make those sacrifices which were
necessary in the more desperate struggles which were to come. And it
inspired the people with patriotic ardor, and upheld the new civil
constitution. It gave force and dignity to the democracy, and prepared it
for future and exalted triumphs. It also gave force to the religious
sentiments of the people, for such a victory was regarded as owing to the
special favor of the gods.

The Spartans did not arrive until after the battle had been fought, and
Datis had returned with his Etrurian prisoners to Asia.

The victory of Marathon raised the military fame of Miltiades to
the most exalted height, and there were no bounds to the enthusiasm of the
Athenians. But the victory turned his head, and he lost both prudence and
patriotism. He persuaded his countrymen, in the full tide of his
popularity, to intrust him with seventy ships, with an adequate force,
with powers to direct an expedition according to his pleasure. The
armament was cheerfully granted. But he disgracefully failed in an attack
on the island of Paros, to gratify a private vindictive animosity. He lost
all his eclat and was impeached. He appealed, wounded and disabled from
a fall he had received, to his previous services. He was found guilty, but
escaped the penalty of death, but not of a fine of fifty talents. He did
not live to pay it, or redeem his fame, but died of the injury he had
received. Thus this great man fell from a pinnacle of glory to the deepest
disgrace and ruin--a fate deserved, for he was not true to himself or
country. The Athenians were not to blame, but judged him rightly. It was
not fickleness, but a change in their opinions, founded on sufficient
grounds, from the deep disappointment in finding that their hero was
unworthy of their regards. No man who had rendered a favor has a claim to
pursue a course of selfishness and unlawful ambition. No services can
offset crimes. The Athenians, in their unbounded admiration, had given
unbounded trust, and that trust was abused. And as the greatest despots
who had mounted to power had earned their success by early services, so
had they abused their power by imposing fetters, and the Athenians, just
escaped from the tyranny of these despots, felt a natural jealousy and a
deep repugnance, in spite of their previous admiration. The Athenians, in
their treatment of Miltiades, were neither ungrateful nor fickle, but
acted from a high sense of public morality, and in a stern regard to
justice, without which the new constitution would soon have been
subverted. On the death of Miltiades Themistocles and Aristides became the
two leading men of Athens, and their rivalries composed the domestic
history of the city, until the renewed and vast preparations of the
Persians caused all dissensions to be suspended for the public good.

But the jealousies and rivalries of these great men were not
altogether personal. They were both patriotic, but each had different
views respecting the course which Athens should adopt in the greatness of
the dangers which impended. The policy of Aristides was to strengthen the
army--that of Themistocles, the navy. Both foresaw the national dangers,
but Themistocles felt that the hopes of Greece rested on ships rather than
armies to resist the Persians. And his policy was adopted. As the world
can not have two suns, so Athens could not be prospered by the presence of
two such great men, each advocating different views. One or the other must
succumb to the general good, and Aristides was banished by the power of
ostracism.

The wrath of Darius--a man of great force of character, but haughty
and self-sufficient, was tremendous when he learned the defeat of Datis,
and his retreat into Asia. He resolved to bring the whole force of the
Persian empire together to subdue the Athenians, from whom he had suffered
so great a disgrace. Three years were spent in active preparations for a
new expedition which should be overwhelming. All the allies of Persia were
called upon for men and supplies. Nor was he deterred by a revolt of
Egypt, which broke out about this time, and he was on the point of
carrying two gigantic enterprises--one for the reconquest of Egypt, and the
other for the conquest of Greece--when he died, after a reign of thirty-six
years, B.C. 485.

He was succeeded by his son Xerxes, who was animated by the
animosities, but not the genius of his father. Though beautiful and tall,
he was faint-hearted, vain, blinded by a sense of power, and enslaved by
women. Yet he continued the preparations which Darius projected. Egypt was
first subdued by his generals, and he then turned his undivided attention
to Greece. He convoked the dignitaries of his empire--the princes and
governors of provinces, and announced his resolution to bridge over the
Hellespont and march to the conquest of Europe. Artabanus, his uncle,
dissuaded him from the enterprise, setting forth especially the
probability that the Greeks, if victorious at sea, would destroy the
bridge, and thus prevent his safe return. Mardonius advised differently,
urging ambition and revenge, motives not lost on the Persian monarch. For
four years the preparations went forward from all parts of the empire,
including even the islands in the AEgean. In the autumn of 481 B.C., the
largest army this world has ever seen assembled at Sardis. Besides this, a
powerful fleet of one thousand two hundred and seven ships of war, besides
transports, was collected at the Hellespont. Large magazines of provisions
were formed along the coast of Asia Minor. A double bridge of boats,
extending from Abydos to Sestos--a mile in length across the Hellespont,
was constructed by Phoenicians and Egyptians; but this was destroyed by a
storm. Xerxes, in a transport of fury, caused the heads of the engineers
to be cut off, and the sea itself scourged with three hundred lashes. This
insane wrath being expended, the monarch caused the work to be at once
reconstructed, this time by the aid of Greek engineers. Two bridges were
built side by side upon more than six hundred large ships, moored with
strong anchors, with their heads toward the AEgean. Over each bridge were
sketched six vast cables, which held the ships together, and over these
were laid planks of wood, upon which a causeway was formed of wood and
earth, with a high palisade on each side. To facilitate his march, Xerxes
also constructed a canal across the isthmus which connects Mount Athos
with the main land, on which were employed Phoenician engineers. The men
employed in digging the canal worked under the whip. Bridges were also
thrown across the river Strymon.

These works were completed while Xerxes wintered at Sardis. From
that city he dispatched heralds to all the cities of Greece, except Sparta
and Athens, to demand the usual tokens of submission--earth and water. He
also sent orders to the maritime cities of Thrace and Macedonia to prepare
dinner for himself and hosts, as they passed through. Greece was struck
with consternation as the news reached the various cities of the vast
forces which were on the march to subdue them. The army proceeded from
Sardis, in the spring, in two grand columns, between which was the king
and guards and select troops--all native Persians, ten thousand foot and
ten thousand horse. From Sardis the hosts of Xerxes proceeded to Abydos,
through Ilium, where his two bridges across the Hellespont awaited him.
From a marble throne the proud and vainglorious monarch saw his vast army
defile over the bridges, perfumed with frankincense and strewed with
myrtle boughs. One bridge was devoted to the troops, the other to the
beasts and baggage. The first to cross were the ten thousand household
troops, called Immortals, wearing garlands on their heads; then followed
Xerxes himself in his gilded chariot, and then the rest of the army. It
occupied seven days for the vast hosts to cross the bridge. Xerxes then
directed his march to Doriscus, in Thrace, near the mouth of the Hebrus,
where he joined his fleet. There he took a general review, and never,
probably, was so great an army marshaled before or since, and composed of
so many various nations. There were assembled nations from the Indus, from
the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Levant, the AEgean and the
Euxine--Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Lybian. Forty-six nations were
represented--all that were tributary to Persia. From the estimates made by
Herodotus, there were one million seven hundred thousand foot, eighty
thousand horse, besides a large number of chariots. With the men who
manned the fleet and those he pressed into his service on the march, the
aggregate of his forces was two million six hundred and forty thousand.
Scarcely an inferior number attended the soldiers as slaves, sutlers, and
other persons, swelling the amount of the males to five million two
hundred and eighty-three thousand two hundred and twenty--the whole
available force of the Eastern world--Asia against Europe: as in mediaeval
times it was Europe against Asia. It is, however, impossible for us to
believe in so large a force, since it could not have been supplied with
provisions. But with every deduction, it was still the largest army the
world ever saw.

After the grand enumeration of forces, Xerxes passed in his chariot
to survey separately each body of contingents, to which he put questions.
He then embarked in a gilded galley, and sailed past the prows of the
twelve hundred ships moored four hundred feet from the shore. That such a
vast force could be resisted was not even supposed to be conceivable by
the blinded monarch. But Demaratus, the exiled king of Sparta, told him he
would be resisted unto death, a statement which was received with
derision.

After the review, the grand army pursued its course westward in
three divisions and roads along Thrace, levying enormous contributions on
all the Grecian towns, which submitted as the Persian monarch marched
along, for how could they resist? The mere provisioning this great host
for a single day impoverished the country. But there was no help, for to
mortal eyes the success of Xerxes was certain. At Acanthus, Xerxes
separated from his fleet, which was directed to sail round Mount Athos,
while he pursued his march through Paeonia and Crestonia, and rejoin him at
Therma, on the Thermaic Gulf, in Macedonia, within sight of Mount Olympus.

Meanwhile, the Athenians, fully alive to their danger, strained
every nerve to make preparations to resist the enemy; fortunately, there
was in the treasury a large sum derived from the Lamian mines, and this
they applied, on the urgent representations of Themistocles, to building
ships and refitting their navy. A Panhellenic congress, under the
presidency of Athens and Sparta, assembled at the Isthmus of Corinth.--the
first great league since the Trojan war. The representatives of the
various States buried their dissensions, the most prominent of which were
between Athens and AEgina. In reconciling these feuds, Themistocles took a
pre-eminent part. Indeed, there was need, for the political existence of
Hellas was threatened, and despair was seen in most every city. Even the
Delphic oracle gave out replies discouraging and terrible; intimating,
however, that the safety of Athens lay in the wooden wall, which, with
extraordinary tact, was interpreted by Themistocles to mean that the true
defense lay in the navy. Salamis was the place designated by the oracle
for the retreat, which was now imperative, and thither the Athenians fled,
with their wives and children, guarded by their fleet. It was decided by
the congress that Sparta should command the land forces, and Athens the
united navy of the Greeks; but many States, in deadly fear of the
Persians, persisted in neutrality, among which were Argos, Cretes,
Corcyra. The chief glory of the defense lay with Sparta and Athens. The
united army was sent into Thessaly to defend the defile of Tempe, but
discovering that they were unable to do this, since another pass over
Mount Olympus was open in the summer, they retreated to the isthmus of
Corinth, and left all Greece north of Mount Citheron and the Megarid
territory without defense. Had the Greeks been able to maintain the passes
of Olympus and Ossa, all the northern States would probably have joined in
the confederation against Persia; but, as they were left defenseless, we
can not wonder that they submitted, including even the Achaeans, Borotians,
and Dorians.

The Pass of Thermopylae was now fixed upon as the most convenient
place of resistance, next to the vale of Tempe. Here the main land was
separated from the island of Euboea by a narrow strait two miles wide. On
the northern part of the island, near the town of Histiaea, the coast was
called Artemisium, and here the fleet was mustered, to co-operate with the
land forces, and oppose, in a narrow strait, the progress of the Persian
fleet. The defile of Thermopylae itself, at the south of Thessaly, was
between Mount OEta and an impassable morass on the Maliac Gulf. Nature had
thus provided a double position of defense--a narrow defile on the land,
and a narrow strait on the water, through which the army and the fleet
must need pass if they would co-operate.

While the congress resolved to avail themselves of the double
position, by sea and land, the Olympic games, and the great Dorian, of the
Carneia, were at hand. These could not be dispensed with, even in the most
extraordinary crisis to which the nation could be exposed. While,
therefore, the Greeks assembled to keep the national festivals, probably
from religious and superstitious motives, auguring no good if they were
disregarded, Leonidas, king of Sparta, with three hundred Spartans, two
thousand one hundred and twenty Arcadians, four hundred Corinthians, two
hundred men from Philius, and eighty from Mycenae--in all three thousand one
hundred hoplites, besides Helots and light troops, was sent to defend the
pass against the Persian hosts. On the march through Boeotia one thousand
men from Thebes and Thespiae joined them, though on the point of submission
to Xerxes. The Athenians sent their whole force on board their ships,
joined by the Plataeans.

It was in the summer of 480 B.C. when Xerxes reached Therma, about
which time the Greeks arrived at their allotted posts. Leonidas took his
position in the middle of the Pass--a mile in length, with two narrow
openings. He then repaired the old wall built across the Pass by the
Phocians, and awaited the coming of the enemy, for it was supposed his
force was sufficient to hold it till the games were over. It was also
thought that this narrow pass was the only means of access possible to the
invading army; but it was soon discovered that there was also a narrow
mountain path from the Phocian territory to Thermopylae. The Phocians
agreed to guard this path, and leave the defense of the main pass to the
Peloponnesian troops. But Leonidas painfully felt that his men were
insufficient in number, and found it necessary to send envoys to the
different States for immediate re-enforcements.

The Greek fleet, assembled at Artemisium, was composed of two
hundred and seventy-one triremes and nine penteconters, commanded by
Themistocles, but furnished by the different States. A disaster happened
to the Greeks very early; three triremes were captured by the Persians,
which caused great discouragement, and in a panic the Greeks abandoned
their strong naval position, and sailed up the Euboean Strait to Chalcis.
This was a great misfortune, since the rear of the army of Leonidas was no
longer protected by the fleet. But a destructive storm dispersed the fleet
of the Persians at this imminent crisis, so that it was impossible to lend

aid to their army now arrived at Thermopylae. Four hundred ships of war,
together with a vast number of transports, were thus destroyed. The storm
lasted three days. After this disaster to the Persians, the Greek fleet
returned to Artemisium. Xerxes encamped within sight of Thermopylae four
days, without making an attack, on account of the dangers to which his
fleet were exposed. On the fifth day he became wroth at the impudence and
boldness of the petty force which quietly remained to dispute his passage,
for the Spartans amused themselves with athletic sports and combing their
hair. Nor was it altogether presumption on the part of the Greeks, for
there were four or five thousand heavily-armed men, the bravest in the
land, to defend a passage scarcely wider than a carriage-road--with a wall
and other defenses in front.

The first attack on the Greeks was made by the Medea--the bravest of
the Persian army, but their arrows and short spears were of little avail
against the phalanx which opposed, armed with long spears, and protected
by shields. For two days the attack continued, and was constantly
repulsed, for only a small detachment of Greeks fought at a time. Even the
"Immortals"--the chosen band of Xerxes--were repulsed with a great loss, to
the agony and shame of Xerxes.

On the third day, a Malian revealed to the Persian king the fact
that a narrow path, leading over the mountains, was defended only by
Phocians, and that this path led to the rear of the Spartans. A strong
detachment of Persians was sent in the night to secure this path, and the
Phocian guardians fled. The Persians descended the path, and attacked the
Greeks in their rear. Leonidas soon became apprised of his danger, but in
time to send away his army. It was now clear that Thermopylae could no
longer be defended, but the heroic and self-sacrificing general resolved
to remain, and sell his life as dearly as possible, and retard, if he
could not resist, the march of the enemy. Three hundred Spartans, with
seven hundred Thespians and four hundred Thebans joined him, while the
rest retired to fight another day. It required all the efforts of the
Persian generals, assisted by the whip, to force the men to attack this
devoted band. The Greeks fought with the most desperate bravery, till
their spears were broken, and no weapons remained but their swords and
daggers. At last, exhausted, they died, surrounded by vast forces, after
having made the most heroic defence in the history of the war. Only one
man, Aristodemus, returned to his home of all the three hundred Spartans,
but only to receive scorn and infamy. The Theban band alone yielded to the
Persians, but only at the last hour.

Nothing could exceed the blended anger and admiration of Xerxes as
he beheld this memorable resistance. He now saw, for the first time, the
difficulty of subduing such a people as the Greeks, resolved to resist
unto death. His mind was perplexed, and he did not know what course to
adopt. Had he accepted the advice of Demaratus, to make war on the
southern coast of Laconia, and thus distract the Spartans and prevent
their co-operation with Athens, he would have probably succeeded.

But he followed other councils. Meanwhile, the Persian fleet
rallied after the storm, and was still formidable, in spite of losses. The
Greeks were disposed to retire and leave the strait open to the enemy. The
Euboeans, seeing the evil which would happen to them if their island was
unprotected, sent to Themistocles a present of thirty talents, if he would
keep his position. This money he spent in bribing the different commanders
who wished to retire, and it was resolved to remain. The Persians,
confident of an easy victory, sent round the island of Euboea a detachment
of two hundred ships, to cut off all hopes of escape to the ships which
they expected to capture. A deserter revealed the intelligence to
Themistocles, and it was resolved to fight the Persians, thus weakened, at
once, but at the close of the day, so that the battle would not be
decisive. The battle of Artemisium was a sort of skirmish, to accustom the
Greeks to the Phoenician mode of fighting. It was, however, successful, and
thirty ships of the Persians were taken or disabled.

But the Greeks derived a greater succor than ships and men. Another
storm overtook the Persians, damaged their fleet, and destroyed the
squadron sent round the island of Euboea. Another sea-fight was the result,
since the Greeks were not only aided by the storm, but new
re-enforcements; but this second fight was indecisive. Themistocles now
felt he could not hold the strait against superior numbers, and the
disaster of Thermopylae being also now known, he resolved to retreat
farther into Greece, and sailed for Salamis.

At this period the Greeks generally were filled with consternation
and disappointment. Neither the Pass of Thermopylae, nor the strait which
connected the Malicas Gulf with the AEgean, had been successfully defended.
The army of Xerxes was advancing through Phocis and Boeotia to the Isthmus
of Corinth, while the navy sailed unobstructed through the Euboean Sea. On
the part of the Greeks there had been no preparations commensurate with
the greatness of the crisis, while, had they rallied to Thermopylae,
instead of wasting time at the festivals, they would have saved the pass,
and the army of Xerxes, strained for provisions, would have been compelled
to retreat. The, Lacedaemonians, aroused by the death of their king, at
last made vigorous efforts to fortify the Isthmus of Corinth, too late,
however, to defend Boeotia and Attica. The situation of Athens was now
hopeless, and it was seen what a fatal mistake had been made not to
defend, with the whole force of Greece, the Pass of Thermopylae. There was
no help from the Spartans, for they had all flocked to the Isthmus of
Corinth, as the last chance of protecting the Peloponnesus. In despair,
the Athenians resolved to abandon Athens, with their families, and take
shelter at Salamis. Themistocles alone was undismayed, and sought to
encourage his countrymen that the "wooden wall" would still be their
salvation. The Athenians, if dismayed, did not lose their energies. The
recall of the exiles was decreed by Themistocles' suggestion. With
incredible efforts the whole population of Attica was removed to Salamis,
and the hopes of all were centered in the ships. Xerxes took possession of
the deserted city, but found but five hundred captives. He ravaged the
country, and a detachment of Persians even penetrated to Delphi, to rob
the shrine, but were defeated. Athens was, however, sacked.

The combined fleet of the Greeks now numbered three hundred and
sixty-six ships, more than half of which were Athenian. Many wished to
retreat to the Isthmus of Corinth, and co-operate with the Spartans.
Dissensions came near wrecking the last hopes of Greece, and Themistocles
only prevailed by threatening to withdraw the Athenian ships unless a
battle were at once fought. He resorted to stratagem to compel the fleet
to remain together, with no outlet of escape if conquered. Aristides came
in the night from AEgina, and informed the Greeks that their whole fleet
was surrounded by the Persians--just what Themistocles desired. There was
nothing then left but to fight with desperation, for on the issue of the
battle depended the fortunes of Greece. Both fleets were stationed in the
strait between the bay of Eleusis and the Saronic Gulf, on the west of the
island of Salamis.

Xerxes, seated upon a throne upon one of the declivities of Mount
AEgaleos, surveyed the armaments and the coming battle. Both parties fought
with bravery; but the space was too narrow for the Persians to engage
their whole fleet, and they had not the discipline of the Greeks, schooled
by severe experience. The Persian fleet became unmanageable, and the
victory was gained by the Greeks. Two hundred ships fell into the hands of
the victors. But a sufficient number remained to the Persians to renew the
battle with better hopes. Xerxes, however, was intimidated, and in a
transport of rage, disappointment, and fear, gave the order to retreat. He
distrusted the fidelity of the allies, and feared for his own personal
safety; he feared that the victors would sail to the Hellespont, and
destroy the bridges. Themistocles, on the retreat of the Persians,
employed his fleet in levying fines and contributions upon the islands
which had supported the Persians, while Xerxes made his way back to the
Hellespont, and crossed to Asia, leaving Mardonius in Thessaly, with a
large army, to pursue the conquest on land.

Thus Greece was saved by the battle of Salamis, and the
distinguished services of Themistocles, which can not be too highly
estimated. The terrific cloud was dispersed, the Greeks abandoned
themselves to joy. Unparalleled honors were bestowed upon the victor,
especially in Sparta, and his influence, like that of Alcibiades, after
the battle of Marathon, was unbounded. No man ever merited greater reward.

Though the Persians now abandoned all hopes of any farther maritime
attack, yet still great success was anticipated from the immense army
which Mardonius commanded. The Greeks in the northern parts still adhered
to him, and Thessaly was prostrate at his feet. He sent Alexander, of
Macedon, to Athens to offer honorable terms of peace, which were nobly
rejected, and he was sent back with this message: "Tell Mardonius that as
long as the sun shall continue in his present path we will never contract
alliance with a foe who has shown no reverence to our gods and heroes, and
who has burned their statues and houses." The league was renewed with
Sparta for mutual defense and offense, in spite of seductive offers from
Mardonius; but the Spartans displayed both indifference and selfishness to
any interests outside the Peloponnesus. They fortified the Isthmus of
Corinth, but left Attica undefended. Mardonius accordingly marched to
Athens, and again the city was the spoil of the Persians. The Athenians
again retreated to Salamis, with bitter feelings against Sparta for her
selfishness and ingratitude. Again Mardonius sought to conciliate the
Athenians, and again his overtures were rejected with wrath and defiance.
The Athenians, distressed, sent envoys to Sparta to remonstrate against
her slackness and selfishness, not without effect, for, at last, a large
Spartan force was collected under Pausanias. Meanwhile Mardonius ravaged
Attica and Boeotia, and then fortified his camp near Plataea, ten furlongs
square. Plataea was a plain favorable to the action of the cavalry, not far
from Thebes; but his army was discouraged after so many disasters--in
modern military language, demoralized--while Artabazus, the second in
command, was filled with jealousy. Nor could much be hoped from the
Grecian allies, who secretly were hostile to the invaders. The Thebans and
Boeotians appeared to be zealous, but were governed by fear merely of a
superior power, and hence were unreliable. It can not be supposed that the
Thebans, who sided with the Persians, by compulsion, preferred their cause
to that of their countrymen, great as may have been national jealousy and
rivalries.

The total number of Lacedaemonians, Corinthians, Athenians, and
other Greeks, assembled to meet the Persian army, B.C. 479, was
thirty-eight thousand seven hundred men, heavily armed, and seventy-one
thousand three hundred light armed, without defensive armor; but most of
these were simply in attendance on the hoplites. The Persians, about three
hundred thousand in number, occupied the line of the river Asopus, on a
plain; the Greeks stationed themselves on the mountain declivity near
Erythae. The Persian cavalry charged, to dislodge the Greeks, unwilling to
contend on the plain; but the ground was unfavorable for cavalry
operations, and after a brief success, was driven back, while the general,
Masistias, who commanded it, was slain. His death, and the repulse of the
cavalry, so much encouraged Pausanias, the Spartan general, that he
quitted his ground on the mountain declivity, and took position on the
plain beneath. The Lacedaemonians composed the right wing; the Athenians,
the left; and various other allies, the centre. Mardonius then slightly
changed his position, crossing the Asopus, nearer his own camp, and took
post on the left wing, opposite the right wing of the Greeks, commanded by
Pausanias. Both armies then offered sacrifices to the gods, but Mardonius
was able to give constant annoyance to the Greeks by his cavalry, and the
Thebans gave great assistance. Ten days were thus spent by the two armies,
without coming into general action, until Mardonius, on becoming
impatient, against the advice of Artabazus, second in command, resolved to
commence the attack. The Greeks were forewarned of his intention, by
Alexander of Macedon, who came secretly to the Greek camp at night--a proof
that he, as well as others, were impatient of the Persian yoke. The
Lacedaemonians, posted in the right wing, against the Persians, changed
places with the Athenians, who were more accustomed to Persian warfare;
but this manoeuvre being detected, Mardonius made a corresponding change in
his own army--upon which Pausanias led back again his troops to the right
wing, and a second movement of Mardonius placed the armies in the original
position.

A vigorous attack of the Persian cavalry now followed, which so
annoyed the Greeks, that Pausanias in the night resolved to change once
again his position, and retreated to the hilly ground, north of Plataea,
about twenty furlongs distant, not without confusion and mistrust on the
part of the Athenians. Mardonias, astonished at this movement, pursued,
and a general engagement followed. Both armies fought with desperate
courage, but discipline was on the side of the Greeks, and Mardonius was
slain, fighting gallantly with his guard. Artabazus, with the forty
thousand Persians under his immediate command, had not taken part, and now
gave orders to retreat, and retired from Greece. The main body, however,
of the defeated Persians retired to their fortified camp. This was
attacked by the Lacedaemonians, and carried with immense slaughter, so that
only three thousand men survived out of the army of Mardonius, save the
forty thousand which Artabazus--a more able captain--had led away. The
defeat of the Persians was complete, and the spoils which fell to the
victors was immense--gold and silver, arms, carpets, clothing, horses,
camels, and even the rich tent of Xerxes himself, left with Mardonius. The
booty was distributed among the different contingents of the army. The
real victors were the Lacedaemonians, Athenians, and Tegeans; the
Corinthians did not reach the field till the battle was ended, and thus
missed their share of the spoil.

There was one ally of the Persians which Pausanias resolved to
punish--the city of Thebes when a merited chastisement was inflicted, and
the customary solemnities were observed, and honors decreed for the
greatest and most decisive victory which the Greeks had ever gained. A
confederacy was held at Plataea, in which a permanent league was made
between the leading Grecian States, not to separate until the common foe
was driven back to Asia.

While these great events were transpiring in Boeotia, the fleet of
the Greeks, after the battle of Salamis, undertook to rescue Samos from
the Persians, and secure the independence of the Ionian cities in Asia.
The Persian fleet, now disheartened, abandoned Samos and retired to
Mycale, in Ionia. The Greek fleet followed, but the Persians abandoned or
dismissed their fleet, and joined their forces with those of Tigranes,
who, with an army of sixty thousand men, guarded Ionia. The Greeks
disembarked, and prepared to attack the enemy just as the news reached
them of the battle of Plataea. This attack was successful, partly in
consequence of the revolt of the Ionians in the Persian camp, although the
Persians fought with great bravery. The battle of Mycale was as complete
as that of Plataea and Marathon, and the remnants of the Persian army
retired to Sardis. The Ionian cities were thus, for the time, delivered of
the Persians, as well as Greece itself chiefly by means of the Athenians
and Corinthians. The Spartans, with inconceivable narrowness, were
reluctant to receive the continental Ionians as allies, and proposed to
transport them across the AEgean into Western Greece, which proposal was
most honorably rejected by the Athenians. In every thing, except the
defense of Greece Proper, and especially the Peloponnesus, the Spartans
showed themselves inferior to the Athenians in magnanimity and enlarged
views. After the capture of Sestos, B.C. 478, which relieved the Thracian
Chersonese from the Persians, the fleet of Athens returned home. The
capture of this city concludes the narration of Herodotus, which ended
virtually the Persian war, although hostilities were continued in Asia.
The battle of Marathon had given the first effective resistance to Persian
conquests, and created confidence among the Greeks. The battle of Salamis
had destroyed the power of Persia on the sea, and prevented any
co-operation of land and naval forces. The battle of Plataea freed Greece
altogether of the invaders. The battle of Mycale rescued the Ionian
cities.

Athens had, on the whole, most distinguished herself in this great
and glorious contest, and now stood forth as the guardian of Hellenic
interests on the sea and the leader of the Ionian race. Sparta continued
to take the lead of the military States, to which Athens had generously
submitted. But a serious rivalry now was seen between these leading
States, chiefly through the jealousy of Sparta, which ultimately proved
fatal to that supremacy which the Greeks might have maintained overall the
powers of the world. Sparta wished that Athens might remain unfortified,
in common with all the cities of Northern Greece, while the isthmus should
be the centre of all the works of defense. But Athens, under the sagacious
and crafty management of Themistocles, amused the Spartans by delays,
while the whole population were employed upon restoring its
fortifications.

Although the war against the Persians was virtually concluded by
the capture of Sestos, an expedition was fitted out by Sparta, under
Pausanias, the hero of Plataea, to prosecute hostilities on the shores of
Asia. After liberating most of the cities of Cyprus, and wresting
Byzantium from the Persians, which thus left the Euxine free to Athenian
ships, from which the Greeks derived their chief supplies of foreign corn,
Pausanias, giddy with his victories, unaccountably began a treasonably
correspondence with Xerxes, whose daughter he wished to marry, promising
to bring all Greece again under his sway. He was recalled to Sparta,
before this correspondence was known, having given offense by adopting the
Persian dress, and surrounding himself with Persian and Median guards.
When his treason was at last detected, he attempted to raise a rebellion
among the Helots, but failed, and died miserably by hunger in the temple
in which he had taken sanctuary.

A fall scarcely less melancholy came to the illustrious
Themistocles. In spite of his great services, his popularity began to
decline. He was hated by the Spartans for the part he took in the
fortification of the city, who brought all their influence against him. He
gave umbrage to the citizens by his personal vanity, continually boasting
of his services. He erected a private chapel in honor of Artemis. He
prostituted his great influence for arbitrary and corrupt purposes. He
accepted bribes without scruple, to the detriment of the State, and in
violation of justice and right. And as the Persians could offer the
highest bribes, he was suspected of secretly favoring their interests. The
old rivalries between him and Aristides were renewed; and as Aristides was
no longer opposed to the policy which Athens adopted, of giving its
supreme attention to naval defenses, and, moreover, constantly had gained
the respect of the city by his integrity and patriotism, especially by his
admirable management at Delos, where he cemented the confederacy of the
maritime States, his influence was perhaps greater than that of
Themistocles, stained with the imputation of Medism. Cimon, the son of
Miltiades, also became a strong opponent. Though acquitted of accepting
bribes from Persia, Themistocles was banished by a vote of ostracism, as
Aristides had been before--a kind of exile which was not dishonorable, but
resorted to from regard to public interests, and to which men who became
unpopular were often subjected, whatever may have been their services or
merits. He retired to Argos, and while there the treason of Pausanias was
discovered. Themistocles was involved in it, since the designs of
Pausanias were known by him. Joint envoys from Sparta and Athens were sent
to arrest him, which, when known, he fled to Corcyra, and thence to
Admetus, king of the Molossians. The Epirotic prince shielded him in spite
of his former hostility, and furnished him with guides to Pydna, across
the mountains, from which he succeeded in reaching Ephesus, and then
repaired to the Persian court. At Athens he was proclaimed a traitor, and
his property, amounting to one hundred talents, accumulated by the war,
was confiscated. In Persia, he represented himself as a deserter, and
subsequently acquired influence with Artaxerxes, and devoted his talents
to laying out schemes for the subjugation of Greece. He received the large
sum of fifty talents yearly, and died at sixty-five years of age, with a
blighted reputation, such as no previous services could redeem from
infamy.

Aristides died four years after the ostracism of Themistocles,
universally respected, and he died so poor as not to have enough for his
funeral expenses. Nor did any of his descendants ever become rich.

Xerxes himself, the Ahasuerus of the Scriptures, who commanded the
largest expedition ever recorded in human annals, reached Sardis, eight
months after he had left it, disgusted with active enterprise, and buried
himself amid the intrigues of his court and seraglio, in Susa, as recorded
in the book of Esther. He was not deficient in generous impulses, but
deficient in all those qualities which make men victorious in war. He died
fifteen years after, the victim of a conspiracy, in his palace, B.C.
465--six years after Themistocles had sought his protection.





Next: The Age Of Pericles

Previous: Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 2423