translated by Shlomo Felberbaum

Text and photographs Copyright © 1999—2003 Lost Trails
all rights reserved


Installment 40

Then when to Alus in Achaea had come Xerxes, those leading down in the way, wanting to expound the whole, were giving him a native account, the matters concerning the shrine of Laphystian Zeus, that Athamas, Aeolus’ son, had contrived for Phrixus doom, after he had taken counsel with Ino, and thereafter that on the basis of a message of a god the Achaeans put on that one’s descendants contests like this: whoever of that family is oldest, they impose on that one to keep himself away from the leiton and they themselves keep their guards (and leiton, people’s place, the Achaeans call the town-hall) and, if he goes in, there is no way in which he will go out before he should be to be sacrificed and that further in addition to that many by then of those who were to be sacrificed in fear had run away and were gone to another country and, time going forth, after they had gone back down, if they were captured going into the town-hall, that there was sacrificed, they were expounding, everyone thickly covered with wreathes and that with a procession he was led out. Now, that suffer Cytissorus Phrixus’ child’s descendants, on account of that fact that, when as purificatory offering for their country the Achaeans were considering on the basis of a message from a god Athamas, Aeolus’ son, and were to sacrifice him, that Cytissorus came from Colchian Aea and performed a deliverance and, after he had done that, on those who were born afterwards of himself he threw the god’s wrath. So Xerxes, having heard that, when he was coming to be by the grove, himself was keeping himself away from it and made an announcement to all his host; Athamas’ descendants house similarly as the sacred precinct he was reverencing.

Those were the matters in Thessaly and those in Achaea, and from those places he went to Melia alongside a gulf of the sea, in which ebb and flow during every day come to be. And round that gulf is a flat place, here wide and here quite very narrow, and round the place lofty and impassable mountains enclose the whole Melian land and are called Trechinian Rocks. Now, the first city on the gulf for one going from Achaea is Anticyre, alongside which the Spercheius river flows from the Enienians and disembogues into the sea. And from that after an interval of somewhere round twenty stades is another river, to whom as a name is assigned Dyras, which as a comer to Heracles’ rescue, when he was being burnt, there is an account was brought up to light. And from that after an interval of another twenty stades is another river which is called the Black.

Trechis, then, a city, from that Black river five stades is distant. And there also is the widest spot in all that country to the sea from the mountains, at which Trechis is built as a city; for twenty two thousand plethra is the plain’s. Then in the mountain that encloses the Trechinian land there is a chasm towards the south of Trechis and through the chasm the Asopus river flows alongside the foothills of the mountain.

Then there is another river, the Phoenix, not a large one, toward the south of the Asopus, that from those mountains flows and into the Asopus disembogues. And at the Phoenix river is the narrowest spot; for there is built only a road of a cart’s breadth. Then from the Phoenix river it is fifteen stades to Thermopylae and in what’s between the Phoenix river and Thermopylae is a village, to which as a name Anthele is assigned, alongside which indeed flows the Asopus and into the sea disembogues, and there‘s a broad place round it, in which Amphictyonid Demeter’s shrine is set up and there are seats for the Amphictyons and Amphictyon himself’s shrine.

King Xerxes indeed was camping in Melis in theTrechinian land, and the Greeks in the way through. And that place is called by the greater number of the Greeks Thermopylae, but by the natives and those settled round Pylae. Now, they were camping each in those places, and he was master over all that extended towards the north wind up to Trechis and they over what led towards the south wind and the south through what was on the mainland.

Now, these of the Greeks were those who were awaiting the Persian in that place: from the Spartiates three hundred hoplites and from the Tegeans and the Mantinians a thousand, half from each, from Orchomenus in Arcadia a hundred and twenty and from the remaining part of Arcadia a thousand, that many from the Arcadians and from Corinth four hundred as well as from Phleious two hundred and from the Mycenaeans eighty. Those were present from the Peloponnese and from the Boeotians from the Thespians seven hundred and from the Thebans four hundred.

In addition to those there came to be called for the Opountian Locrians with their whole host and from the Phocaeans a thousand. For the Greeks themselves called for them for themselves and were saying through messengers that they themselves were present as forerunners of all the others and the remaining of the allies were expected every day, while the sea was under guard of them, since it was was being kept watch over by the Athenians and the Aeginetians as well as those who had been appointed to the nautical army, and for them there was nothing awful—for the one who was going in opposition to Greece was no god but a human being and there was not any mortal and would not be, with whom evil, from the beginning when he was being born, was not mixed, and with the greatest ones the greatest ones; hence also the one who was driving in opposition ought, on the ground that he is mortal, from pride to fall. So, having learned that by inquiry, they were coming to the rescue to Trechis.

Now, of those there were also other generals for the cities of each group, but he who was wondered at most and of the whole armed force was leader was a Lacedaemonian, Leonides, Anaxandrides’ son, Leon’s son, Eurycratides’ son, Anaxandrus’ son, Eurycrates’ son, Polydorus’ son, Alcamenes’ son, Teleclus’ son, Archeleus’ son, Hegesileus’ son, Doryssus’ son, Leobotes’ son, Echestratus’ son, Egis’ son, Eurysthenes’ son, Aristodemus’ son, Aristomachus’ son, Cleodaeus’ son, Hyllus’ son, Heracles’ son, who had acquired the kingdom in Sparta unexpectedly. For, since his were two older brothers, Cleomenes and Dorieus, he was driven away from thought concerning the kingdom. Yet, since Cleomenes had died childless, without male generation, and Dorieus was no longer, but had met his end, that one too, in Sicily, thus indeed to Leonides the kingdom went up, and on account of the fact that he had been born earlier than Cleombrotus (for that one was the youngest son of Anaxandrides) and, in particular, had as wife Cleomenes’ daughter. He at that time went to Thermopylae, after he had picked out for himself the men who were established as three hundred and whose in fact were sons. And he came, after he had taken over those of the Thebans whom I have reckoned into the number and spoken of, of whom the general was Leontiades, Eurymachus’ son. Now, for the following reason those Leonides exerted eagerness to take over, alone of the Greeks, in that against them greatly medizing had been made as an accusation; hence he was performing a calling near to the war, because he wished to know whether they would join in the sending or maybe would renounce in the open the Greeks’ alliance. But they with other thoughts were performing the sending.

Those with Leonides the Spartiates sent off first, that, seeing those, all the other allies might advance with an army and those not medize too, if they learned by inquiry that they themselves were delaying. Then afterwards—for the Carneia was in their way—they were, having held the festival and left guards in Sparta, with speed to come to the rescue with the whole people. And thus also the remaining of the allies were minded, themselves too, to perform other deeds like that; for there was after the same fashion an Olympiad that with those events coincided, Hence, not thinking that with speed thus the war in Thermopylae would be decided, they were sending forerunners.

Those indeed thus thoroughly were minded to do, but the Greeks in Thermopylae, when the Persian had come to be near the pass, in their utter dreading were taking counsel for themselves concerning departure. Now, to all the other Peloponnesians it seemed good to go to the Peloponnesus and keep the isthmus under guard, but Leonides, the Phocaeans and the Locrians very angered by that opinion, was casting his voting-pebble for remaining right there and for sending messengers to the cities who would bid come to their rescue, on the ground that they were too few to resist the army of the Medes.

While they were taking that counsel, Xerxes was sending as a watcher a horseman to see for himself how many they were and what they were doing. Now, he had heard, while he was still in Thessaly, that a small host was gathered there, and of its leaders that they were the Lacedaemonians and Leonides, who was in family a son of Heracles. Then, when the horseman had driven to the camp, he was beholding and looking over not the whole camp; for those stationed inside the wall that they had made straight again and were keeping under guard it was not possible to look over for oneself. But he was learning of those outside, whose gear were lying in front of the wall, and in fact during that time the Lacedaimonians were stationed outside. Some of the men indeed, he was seeing, were exercising naked for themselves and some were combing their hair for themselves. At his beholding that indeed he was wondering and he was learning their multitude. Then, after he had learned all exactly, he was driving away back at ease; for both no one was in pursuit and he had gotten much disregard. In short, having gone back, he was saying to Xerxes all the very sights that he had seen.

Then in hearing Xerxes was not able to comprehend for himself what was, that they were preparing themselves with the intention that they would be destroyed or destroy according to ability, but, because to him laughable deeds they appeared to perform, he sent for Demaretus, Ariston’s son, who was in the camp. So him, when he had come, Xerxes was asking about each of those matters, since he wished to learn what was being done by the Lacedaemonians. Then he said, “You have heard also before from me, when we were setting off against Greece, about those men and, although you had heard, you made me for yourself a laughingstock, when I was saying precisely which way I was seeing matters there would come out. For for me to practice the truth in your presence, o king, is the greatest aim. Hear then also now. Those men have come to fight with us concerning the way in and are making those preparations. For a law of theirs that is thus there is: whenever they are to run the risk of their soul, at that time they adorn themselves in respect to their heads. Know then: if those and what awaits in Sparta you will subject, there is no other nation among human beings that you, king, will await while it raises hands for itself in opposition; for now against the most beautiful kingdom of those among the Greeks you are approaching and the best men”. Quite very incredible to Xerxes appeared what was being said and next afterwards he was asking in what manner, being that many, they would fight his host. The other then said, “O king, use me as a lying man, unless that for you comes out in that way in which I am saying”. Saying that, he could not persuade Xerxes.

Quite four days he let go by, because he was expecting on each and every occasion that they would run away, and the fifth, when they would not depart, but to him they appeared to thoroughly use lack of shame and lack of counsel and to remain, he sent against them the Medes and the Cissians in anger and gave the injunction to capture alive and to lead them into his sight. Then, when there had fallen in their charging onto the Greeks the Medes, there fell many, but others went in afterwards, and they would not drive away, although they were stumbling greatly. And they were making clear to everyone and not least to the king himself that human beings were many, but men few. And the encounter was happening through the day.

So, when the Medes were being treated harshly, thereupon those went out and off and the Persians, having followed afterwards, went in opposition, whom the king was calling Immortals, of whom the ruler was Hydarnes, with the intention that they there at any rate easily utterly would perform the work. Then, when those too were joining battle with the Greeks, they were winning nothing more than the Median host, but the same gains, seeing that they were fighting in a narrow pass and using shorter lances than the Greeks and were not able to use their multitude. And the Lacedaemonians were fighting in a manner worthy of account, because they were showing forth for themselves other deeds among those who knew not how to fight, as they knew how completely, and whenever they turned about their backs, gathered together they fled forsooth, while the barbarians, seeing they were fleeing, with shouting and noise went in opposition. Then the others, when they were overtaken, turned back to be facing the barbarians and, when they turned themselves round, threw down for multitude innumerable of the Persians, and there fell also of the Spartiates themselves there a few. So, when the Persians were able to take over nothing of the way in, although they were trying by attacking by regiments and in every kind of way, they drove away back.

During those assaults in the battle it is said the king, while he was beholding, thrice jumped up from his seat in fear about his host. Then thus they competed and the next day the barbarians were contending no better; for, seeing that there were few, having supposed that they were utterly wounded and would not be able any longer to raise up for themselves hands in opposition, they gave battle. But the Greeks by lines and by nations were ordered and in turn each group fought, except the Phocaeans; those then were appointed to the mountain to guard the path. So, when the Persians found nothing more of another kind than on the day before they saw, they drove away.

The king being at a loss what use to make of the present matter, Epialtes, Eurydemus’ son, a Melian man, went in speeches with him, on the ground that he was thinking that he would win something great from the king; he pointed out the path that leads through the mountain to Thermopylae and was destroying those who there remained of the Greeks. And later in fear of the Lacedaemonians he fled to Thessaly and on him, after he had fled, by the Pylagorians, while the Amphictyonians were gathering themselves in Pylaee, a price in silver was put and heralded out. Then a time later, because he went back from exile to Anticyre, he died at the hands of Athenades, a Trechinian man. And that Athenades, although he killed Epialtes on account of another reason that I in my future accounts will indicate, he was honored, however, by the Lacedaemonians no less. Epialtes thus later then that died.

And there is another account given, that Onetes, Phanagores’ son, a Carystian man, and Corydallus, an Anticyrian, are those who spoke to the king those accounts and led round the mountain the Persians, although it’s in no way to me at any rate credible. For, on the one hand, by this one must judge, that the Pylagorians of the Greeks put on not Onetes and Corydallus a price in silver and heralded it out but on Epialtes the Trechinian and in every way doubtless they had learned by inquiry what was most exact and, on the other, that Epialtes was fleeing from that charge we know. For Onetes would know, even though he was not a Melian, that path, if he should have visited the country often, but, because Epialtes was the one who was the leader round the mountain along the path, that one’s the cause I write.

Then Xerxes, since it had pleased what Epialtes had promised that he would work out, immediately, having become overjoyed, he was sending Hydarnes and those of whom the general was Hydarnes, and they were setting forth round lamps’ lightings from the camp. That path the Melians discovered and, when they had made the discovery, they led the Thessalians against the Phocaeans at that time when the Phocaeans had fenced with a wall the pass and were in a shelter from the war. And since that long it was shown utterly to be good in no way to the Melians.

And that path is thus: it begins from the Asopus river that flows through the chasm and, as to a name, to that mountain and to the path the same is assigned, Anopeia, and that Anopeia stretches along the ridge of the mountain and comes to an end at Alpenus, a city, which is the first of the Locrian cities towards the Melians, and at a rock that is called Melampygus’ and at the Cecropians’ seats, where in fact is its narrowest spot.

Along that path indeed and that thus was, the Persians, having crossed the Asopus, were making their way the whole night with the mountains of the Oetians on the right and those of the Trechinians on the left. Dawn indeed was bringing light through and they came to be on the summit of the mountain. Now, at that spot on the mountain were keeping guard, as has been made clear by me before too, a thousand hoplites from among the Phocaeans, who were trying to deliver their own country and were keeping watch over the path. For the lower pass was being guarded by those in regard to whom it has been spoken, but over the path through the mountain the Phocaeans voluntarily, having made a promise to Leonides, were keeping guard.

Then the Phocaeans learned that they had gone up this way: for the Persians were escaping notice when they were going up the mountain, because it was all quite full of oaks. Although there was indeed lack of wind, yet, much noise being made, as was reasonable, since leaves were spread under their feet, the Phocaeans jumped up and were putting on their gear, and immediately the barbarians were present. Now, when they had seen that men were putting on themselves gear, they came to be in a state of marvel; for, expecting that nothing would appear opposed to them, they met with an army. Thereupon Hydarnes, in dread lest the Phocaeans be Lacedaemonians, asked Epialtes of what country the army was and, having learned by inquiry exactly, he was drawing up the Persians as for battle. Then the Phocaeans, when they were being hit with many thickset arrows, were fleeing and were gone to the mountain’s peak, because they knew that they had set off against them to begin with, and were preparing themselves with the intention that they would be destroyed. Those indeed were having that in mind, but the Persians round with Epialtes and Hydarnes of the Phocaeans were taking no account and they went down the mountain with speed.

Now, to those of the Greeks who were in Thermopylae first the prophet Megisties, after he had looked into the sacred offerings, pointed out the death that was to be for them together with dawn, and next there were deserters too who announced out the Persians’ going round. Those, when it was still night, made indications, and third the day-watchers did, after they had run down from the heights, by then when day was beginning a thorough bringing forth to light. Thereupon the Greeks were taking counsel, and of them the opinions were split; for some would not allow abandoning their post and some were of the opposite view. Then after that, when they had been divided up, some were departing and, having been dispersed, to their cities each group turned itself, and some of them together with Leonides were preparing to remain there.

Now, it is also said that Leonides himself sent them away, because he was concerned lest they be destroyed, but for him and those of the Spartiates who were present it was not seemly to abandon the post to which they had gone to keep guard in the beginning. Of that following way even more I am most of the opinion, that Leonides, when he had perceived that the allies were lacking in eagerness and not willing to join in thoroughly running risks, bade them depart, but for him to go away was not beautiful. But for him, if he remained there, great renown was being left behind, and Sparta’s happiness would not be wiped out. For it had been given as an oracle by the Pythia to the Spartiates, when they were consulting the oracle about that war immediately at the beginning when it was being stirred up, that either Lacedaemon would be made to migrate by the barbarians or their king would be destroyed. That oracle, then, to them in hexametric epic verses she gave that is this:

Now, for you, o settlers of Sparta of broad places,
Either glorious great town by Perseid men
Is sacked or that is not, but from Heracles’ stock
Will mourn perished king Lacedaemon’s boundary.
For that one not bulls’ might will hold and not lions’
With opposed force—for he holds Zeus’ might—and I say
He’ll not be held till all of one of these he tears.

Since that indeed Leonides was considering and he wanted to put down for himself renown for the Spartiates alone, he sent away the allies rather than that, after they had been made to differ in opinion, so disorderedly those who were gone be gone.

And a piece of evidence for me, not the least, about that also the following has proven, that the prophet too who was following that host, Megisties the Acarnenian, who was said to be by descent from Melampous, that one who had said on the basis of the sacred offerings what was to turn out for them, Leonides was manifest in his sending away, that he might not be destroyed with them. And he, although he was being sent away, himself performed no abandonment, but his child, as he was joining in advancing with the army, because he was his only-begotten, he sent away.

Now, the allies who were sent away went away and were gone and they were obeying Leonides, while the Thespians and the Thebans alone remained behind with the Lacedaemonians. Of those, then, the Thebans unwillingly were remaining and with no wanting—for them Leonides was detaining and in the hostages’ account was considering—while the Thespians were most willingly, who asserted that in an abandoning of Leonides and those with him they would not depart; rather in having remained behind they joined in the dying. And the general of them was Demophilus, Diadromes’ son.

So Xerxes, when at the sun’s having risen up he had made for himself libations, held up a time until somewhere round the public square’s fullness and was beginning to carry out an approach; for in fact he had been enjoined by Epialtes thus. For from the mountain the going down is cut shorter and far briefer’s the place precisely than the way round and the going up. Indeed the barbarians round with Xerxes approached, and the Greeks round with Leonides, on the ground that they were going the way out for death, by then by far more than at the beginning were going on out to the broader part of the neck. For the fence of the wall was being guarded and they during the previous days went out in a sally into the narrow passes and were fighting. Then, however, in joining battle outside of the narrows there fell in multitude many of the barbarians; for behind the leaders of the regiments with whips were striking as with rods every man and on each and every occasion to the farther point were performing an urging on. Many of them indeed were falling into the sea and were being destroyed and by far still more were being trod down by each other, and there was no estimation of him who was being destroyed. For, seeing that they knew of the death that was to be for them at the hands of those who were going round the mountain, they were showing forth for themselves as great an amount of strength as they had, as they were using themselves with disregard and acting demented.

Now, the lances of the greater number of them at that time by then in fact were utterly broken and they with their swords were doing the Persians to death. And Leonides in that toil fell, after he had proven the best man, and with him other named ones among the Spartiates, of whom I, on the ground that they proved worthy men, have learned by inquiry the names, and I have learned by inquiry also all the three hundred together’s. And lo! of the Persians fell there many other named ones and moreover indeed also of Darius two children, Abrocomes and Hyperanthes, of Artanes’ daughter, Phratagoune, born to Darius. And Artanes was Darius the king’s brother and Hystaspes Arsames’ son’s child, who also in giving out in marriage his daughter to Darius all his house gave in addition, on the ground that that one was his only offspring.

Of Xerxes indeed two brothers there fell, while they were fighting, and over the corpse of Leonides of the Persians and of the Lacedaemonians was being made much struggling, until the Greeks dragged that out and away by virtue and routed their opponents four times. And that struggle was being joined until those with Epialtes came to be present. Then, when the Greeks had learned by inquiry that those were present, thereafter by then the quarrel was made of another kind; for into the narrow part of the way they were returning back and, having passed for themselves by the wall, they went and were seating themselves on the hill all gathered together, all the others except the Thebans. And the hill is on the way in, where now the stone lion stands in honor of Leonides. In that place them, while they were defending themselves with daggers, for whom among them they in fact still survived, and with hands and with mouths, the barbarians covered with a heap by their throwing of missiles, some who performed their pursuit from the land opposite and demolished the fence of the wall, some who went round from all sides in a standing round.

Although the Lacedaemonians and the Thespians proved like that, nevertheless it is said that the best man proved a Spartiate, Dieneces, who, they assert, said this following saying before they joined battle with the Medes, after he had learned by inquiry from one of the Trechinians that, whenever the barbarians let their missiles go off, the sun by the multitude of their arrows they concealed—that great a multitude of them there was; that one then was not struck out of himself by that and said, as in lack of account he was considering the Medes’ multitude, that the Trechinian foreigner made an announcement of all good to them, if, the Medes concealing the sun, under shade the battle would be against them and not in sun. That and other sayings of a manner like that they assert Dieneces the Lacedaemonian left for himself as a memorial.

Then after that one to have been the best are said two Lacedaemonian brothers, Alpheus and Maron, Orsiphantus’ children, while of the Thespians he was most well esteemed whose name was Dithyrambus, Harmatides’ son.

Now, on them who were buried right there precisely where they had fallen and on those who met their end before those sent away by Leonides were gone, letters are written that say this:

With three hundred myriads once here were fighting
Out of the Peloponnese four thousands.

Those indeed on all are written, but on the Spartiates privately:

O stranger, tell Lacedaemonians that here
We lie to their speeches in obedience.

On the Lacedaemonians indeed is that, but on the prophet this:

Here’s famed Megisties’ monument, whom once Medes,
Having passed the Spercheius river, killed,
A prophet who then dooms’ going on plainly knew
And dared not Sparta’s leaders abandon.

Now, with inscriptions and pillars, except for the prophet’s inscription, the Amphictyonians are the ones who afterwards adorned them, while that of the prophet Megisties Simonides, Leoprepes’ son, is in accordance with a foreign friendship the one who inscribed.

Further, two of those three hundred, it is said, Eurytus and Aristodemus, it being possible from them both to use a common account and either to be brought away to safety together into Sparta, since they had been released from the camp and were lying down in Alpenoi, because they were suffering with ophthalmia to the extreme, or, if at any rate they wanted not to return, to die together with all the others, it being possible for them to do one of those things, they were not willing to think the same, but they were made to differ and Eurytus for his part, after he had learned by inquiry of the Persians’ way round, when he had demanded and put on his gear, bade his helot to bring him to those fighting and, when he had led him, one, he who had led, fled and was gone and one fell in with the crowd and was destroyed, and Aristodemus for his part was leaving his soul and was left. Now, if Aristodemus alone had been in pain and returned back to Sparta or maybe together a conveying of them both had been made, so far as it seems to me, to them the Spartiates would not have added for themselves any wrath, but as it was, when one of them had been destroyed and one, although he was clinging to the same excuse, yet had not been willing to die, it was necessary for them to be greatly wrathful with Aristodemus.

Now, some say that thus Aristodemus was brought to safety to Sparta and on account of an excuse like this preceding and some that as a mesenger he was sent from the camp and, it being possible for him to take hold down on the battle while it was happening, he was not willing, but he remained behind in the way and came to be a survivor, while his fellow-messenger came to the battle and died.

Then, having returned back to Lacedaemon, Aristodemus had reproach and dishonor and by undergoing sufferings like this he was dishonored: neither to him of fire would any of the Spartiates offer an act of kindling nor talk, and he had a reproach by being called the trembler Aristodemus. But he in the battle in Plataeae took off all the blame brought against him.

Further it is said also another sent away as a messenger to Thessaly from among those three and came to be a survivor, whose name was Pantites, and that one had returned and, when he had been dishonored, he hanged himself.

Now, the Thebans, of whom Leontiades was the general, for a time with the Greeks were and were fighting, because they were held by necessity, against the king’s host, but when they had seen that the Persians’ affairs were becoming superior, thus indeed, when the Greeks with Leonides were hastening towards the hill, they, having been split off from those, were stretching forth hands and went near the barbarians, while they were saying the truest of speeches, that they were medizing and earth and water among the first had given to the king, but because they were held by necessity, to Thermopylae they had come and were not the cause of the blow that had come about to the disadvantage of the king. By saying that, they came to be survivors; for they had the Thessalians also as witnesses of those speeches. However, not in all things at any rate did they have good fortune; for, when the barbarians had taken hold of them in their going, them, some, they also killed as they were going forward and the greater number of them at the bidding of Xerxes they branded with the king’s brands and began from the general Leontiades, whose child Eurymachus a time thereafter the Plataeans killed, when he was general of four hundred Theban men and had gotten hold of the town of the Plataeans.

Indeed the Greeks round Thermopylae thus competed, and Xerxes, having called Demaretus, was asking questions and began from this spot: “Demaretus, you are a good man and I take evidence from the truth; for all that you had said together came out thus. So now speak to me how many ones are the remaining Lacedaemonians and of those how many are like that in the things of war or whether maybe all together”. Then he said, “O king, a large multitude’s of all the Lacedaemonians and many cities, but what you wish to come to learn completely, you will know. There is in Lacedaemon Sparta, a city of eight thousand men approximately. All those are similar to those who fought here; now all the other Lacedaemonians at any rate, although they’re not similar to these, yet are good”. Thereupon said Xerxes, “Demaretus, in what manner with the greatest lack of toil will we gain mastery over those men? Come, expound. For you have hold of the ways through and out of their counsels, seeing that you had become their king”.

Then he replied, “O king, if indeed you are taking counsel with me for yourself eagerly, it is just for me to point out to you what’s best. If of the naval host three hundred ships you should send away to the Laconian country—there is then off it an island lying, whose name is Cythera, regarding which Chilon, a man who had proven the wisest among us, was asserting it was a greater gain for the Spartiates that it was sunk down beneath the sea rather than was projecting, because on each and every occasion he was expecting that something would be from it like that which I am expounding, although he had not any foreknowledge of your expedition, but was fearing alike every expedition of men—let them set off from that island as a base and make the Lacedaemonians fear. And, a neighboring war being theirs at home, in no way will they be awful to you lest, all the rest of Greece being captured by your foot, they come to the rescue of that land; further, all the rest of Greece having been enslaved utterly, by now the Laconian part alone without strength is left. But if you do that not, this for you expect will be: there is the Peloponnese’s narrow isthmus; in that place, all Peloponnesians having sworn together an oath against you, battles more violent than those that have happened have the expectation will be for you. But to one who does that without a fight that isthmus and the cities will come forward”.

Achaemenes, being Xerxes’s brother and general of the nautical army, said after that one, he who was in fact present at the speech and feared lest Xerxes be convinced to do that, “O king, I see you are accepting the speeches of a man who envies you, because you are faring well, or maybe betrays your affairs. For in fact indeed moreover in using manners like that Greeks rejoice: they envy being of good fortune and hate the stronger. And if on top of the fortunes that were at hand, from which four hundred ships have been shipwrecked, another three hundred from the camp you will send away to sail round the Peloponnese, your adversaries become worthy of battling you, but, being gathered together, the nautical army proves hard to be taken with the hands by them and to begin with they will be not worthy of battling you, and the whole nautical army will provide aid to the foot and the foot together with the nautical army as it makes its way, whereas if you will perform a drawing apart, neither will you be useful to those nor those to you. Then make well for yourself your own matters and have as an opinion that the affairs of your opponents in war you should not consider, where they will set up for themselves the war and what they will do and how many in multitude they are. For they themselves at any rate are capable of thinking about themselves and we about us in the same way. And the Lacedaemonians, if they go in opposition to the Persians into battle, in no way the wound that is at hand will heal”.

Xerxes replied with this: “Achaemenes, well to me you seem to speak and I will do that, and Demaretus, although he speaks what he supposes to be best for me, yet in opinion is worsted by you. For indeed I will not accept that thing at any rate, how he is not well-inclined to my affairs, and by what was said previously by that one I judge and by what is, that a fellow-citizen a fellow-citizen who fares well envies and is ill-willed by his silence and, when his fellow-townsman takes joint counsel for himself, a man who’s a fellow-citizen would not suggest what is thought to be best for him, if he should not have come up to a farther point of virtue, and those like that are rare, but a foreign friend to a foreign friend is the most good-willed of all things and, when he takes joint counsel for himself, would give the best counsel. Thus therefore concerning speaking badly against Demaretus, because he is a foreign friend to me, one perform a keeping oneself away the remaining time I bid”.

Having said that, Xerxes went out and through the corpses, and of Leonides, because he had heard that he was king and general of the Lacedaemonians, he bade them cut off the head and impale it. Clear to me by many other pieces of evidence and moreover by this following not least it has proven, that King Xerxes was angry with Leonides, while he was living, most of quite all men; for otherwise never against his corpse would he have committed that transgression of the law, since the Persians are accustomed to honor most of those human beings that I know of men good at the things of war. Those indeed did that above, on whom it had been imposed to do it.

And I will go back to that place in my account where to me previously it performed a leaving out. The Lacedaemonians learned by inquiry that the king was dispatched against Greece first, and thus indeed to the oracle to Delphi they sent away, right where to them was given as an oracle what a little before I spoke, and they learned by inquiry in a marvellous way. For Demaretus, Ariston’s son, having been exiled to the Medes, as for my part I think (and what’s reasonable is an ally of mine), was not well-inclined to the Lacedaemonians, and it is possible to conjecture about whether with a good inclination he performed that following action or maybe while he was rejoicing maliciously; for, when it had seemed good to Xerxes to drive an army against Greece, Demaretus, being in Susa and having learned that by inquiry, wished off to the Lacedaemonians to make an announcement. As in another way he was not able to give an indication, because it was dangerous lest he be taken, so he made a contrivance like this: having taken hold of a double-folded small tablet, its wax he scratched off and thereafter in the wood of the small tablet wrote the king’s opinion, that, since it was being carried empty, the small tablet might furnish no trouble on the part of the ways’ guardians. But when in fact it had come to Lacedaemon, the Lacedaemonians, at any rate until indeed to them, as I have learned by inquiry, Cleomenes’ daughter and Leonides’ wife, Gorgo made a suggestion, after she had pointed it out to herself by herself, by bidding scratch off the wax and they would find letters in the wood. Then, obeying, they made a discovery and read, and thereafter to all the other Greeks they sent a letter. That indeed thus is said to have happened.


end of Book 7

(to be continued)


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