300 (contcult)

We’ll be talking about music on Wednesday and with any luck we’ll get started on 300. Here’s an older map of Greece at the time. If you’ve not read Herodotus’s account of the Battle of Thermopylae you might glance at the following passages.

201. King Xerxes, I say, was encamped within the region of Trachis in

the land of the Malians, and the Hellenes within the pass. This place

is called by the Hellenes in general Thermopylai, but by the natives

of the place and those who dwell in the country round it is called

Pylai. Both sides then were encamped hereabout, and the one had

command of all that lies beyond Trachis[208] in the direction of the

North Wind, and the others of that which tends towards the South Wind

and the mid-day on this side of the continent.[209]202. These were the Hellenes who awaited the attack of the Persian in

this place:–of the Spartans three hundred hoplites; of the men of

Tegea and Mantineia a thousand, half from each place, from Orchomenos

in Arcadia a hundred and twenty, and from the rest of Arcadia a

thousand,–of the Arcadians so many; from Corinth four hundred, from

Phlius two hundred, and of the men of Mykene eighty: these were they

who came from the Peloponnese; and from the Bœotians seven hundred of

the Thespians, and of the Thebans four hundred. 203. In addition to

these the Locrians of Opus had been summoned to come in their full

force, and of the Phokians a thousand: for the Hellenes had of

themselves sent a summons to them, saying by messengers that they had

come as forerunners of the others, that the rest of the allies were to

be expected every day, that their sea was safely guarded, being

watched by the Athenians and the Eginetans and by those who had been

appointed to serve in the fleet, and that they need fear nothing: for

he was not a god, they said, who was coming to attack Hellas, but a

man; and there was no mortal, nor would be any, with those fortunes

evil had not been mingled at his very birth, and the greatest evils

for the greatest men; therefore he also who was marching against them,

being mortal, would be destined to fail of his expectation. They

accordingly, hearing this, came to the assistance of the others at



204. Of these troops, although there were other commanders also

according to the State to which each belonged, yet he who was most

held in regard and who was leader of the whole army was the

Lacedemonian Leonidas son of Anaxandrides, son of Leon, son of

Eurycratides, son of Anaxander, son of Eurycrates, son of Polydoros,

son of Alcamenes, son of Teleclos, son of Archelaos, son of

Hegesilaos, son of Doryssos, son of Leobotes, son of Echestratos, son

of Agis, son of Eurysthenes, son of Aristodemos, son of Aristomachos,

son of Cleodaios, son of Hyllos, son of Heracles; who had obtained the

kingdom of Sparta contrary to expectation. 205. For as he had two

brothers each older than himself, namely Cleomenes and Dorieos, he had

been far removed from the thought of becoming king. Since however

Cleomenes had died without male child, and Dorieos was then no longer

alive, but he also had brought his life to an end in Sicily,[210] thus

the kingdom came to Leonidas, both because was of elder birth than

Cleombrotos (for Cleombrotos was the youngest of the sons of

Anaxandrides) and also because he had in marriage the daughter of

Cleomenes. He then at this time went to Thermopylai, having chosen the

three hundred who were appointed by law[211] and men who chanced to

have sons; and he took with him besides, before he arrived, those

Thebans whom I mentioned when I reckoned them in the number of the

troops, of whom the commander was Leontiades the son of Eurymachos:

and for this reason Leonidas was anxious to take up these with him of

all the Hellenes, namely because accusations had been strongly brought

against them that they were taking the side of the Medes; therefore he

summoned them to the war, desiring to know whether they would send

troops with them or whether they would openly renounce the alliance of

the Hellenes; and they sent men, having other thoughts in their mind

the while.


206. These with Leonidas the Spartans had sent out first, in order

that seeing them the other allies might join in the campaign, and for

fear that they also might take the side of the Medes, if they heard

that the Spartans were putting off their action. Afterwards, however,

when they had kept the festival, (for the festival of the Carneia

stood in their way), they intended then to leave a garrison in Sparta

and to come to help in full force with speed: and just so also the

rest of the allies had thought of doing themselves; for it chanced

that the Olympic festival fell at the same time as these events.

Accordingly, since they did not suppose that the fighting in

Thermopylai would so soon be decided, they sent only the forerunners

of their force. 207. These, I say, had intended to do thus: and

meanwhile the Hellenes at Thermopylai, when the Persian had come near

to the pass, were in dread, and deliberated about making retreat from

their position. To the rest of the Peloponnesians then it seemed best

that they should go to the Peloponnese and hold the Isthmus in guard;

but Leonidas, when the Phokians and Locrians were indignant at this

opinion, gave his vote for remaining there, and for sending at the

same time messengers to the several States bidding them to come up to

help them, since they were but few to repel the army of the Medes.


208. As they were thus deliberating, Xerxes sent a scout on horseback

to see how many they were in number and what they were doing; for he

had heard while he was yet in Thessaly that there had been assembled

in this place a small force, and that the leaders of it were

Lacedemonians together with Leonidas, who was of the race of Heracles.

And when the horseman had ridden up towards their camp, he looked upon

them and had a view not indeed of the whole of their army, for of

those which were posted within the wall, which they had repaired and

were keeping a guard, it was not possible to have a view, but he

observed those who were outside, whose station was in front of the

wall; and it chanced at that time that the Lacedemonians were they who

were posted outside. So then he saw some of the men practising

athletic exercises and some combing their long hair: and as he looked

upon these things he marvelled, and at the same time he observed their

number: and when he had observed all exactly, he rode back unmolested,

for no one attempted to pursue him and he found himself treated with

much indifference. And when he returned he reported to Xerxes all that

which he had seen. 209. Hearing this Xerxes was not able to conjecture

the truth about the matter, namely that they were preparing themselves

to die and to deal death to the enemy so far as they might; but it

seemed to him that they were acting in a manner merely ridiculous; and

therefore he sent for Demaratos the son of Ariston, who was in his

camp, and when he came, Xerxes asked him of these things severally,

desiring to discover what this was which the Lacedemonians were doing:

and he said: “Thou didst hear from my mouth at a former time, when we

were setting forth to go against Hellas, the things concerning these

men; and having heard them thou madest me an object of laughter,

because I told thee of these things which I perceived would come to

pass; for to me it is the greatest of all ends to speak the truth

continually before thee, O king. Hear then now also: these men have

come to fight with us for the passage, and this is it that they are

preparing to do; for they have a custom which is as follows;–whenever

they are about to put their lives in peril, then they attend to the

arrangement of their hair. Be assured however, that if thou shalt

subdue these and the rest of them which remain behind in Sparta, there

is no other race of men which will await thy onset, O king, or will

raise hands against thee: for now thou art about to fight against the

noblest kingdom and city of those which are among the Hellenes, and

the best men.” To Xerxes that which was said seemed to be utterly

incredible, and he asked again a second time in what manner being so

few they would fight with his host. He said; “O king, deal with me as

with a liar, if thou find not that these things come to pass as I



210. Thus saying he did not convince Xerxes, who let four days go by,

expecting always that they would take to flight; but on the fifth day,

when they did not depart but remained, being obstinate, as he thought,

in impudence and folly, he was enraged and sent against them the Medes

and the Kissians, charging them to take the men alive and bring them

into his presence. Then when the Medes moved forward and attacked the

Hellenes, there fell many of them, and others kept coming up

continually, and they were not driven back, though suffering great

loss: and they made it evident to every man, and to the king himself

not least of all, that human beings are many but men are few. This

combat went on throughout the day: 211, and when the Medes were being

roughly handled, then these retired from the battle, and the Persians,

those namely whom the king called “Immortals,” of whom Hydarnes was

commander, took their place and came to the attack, supposing that

they at least would easily overcome the enemy. When however these also

engaged in combat with the Hellenes, they gained no more success than

the Median troops but the same as they, seeing that they were fighting

in a place with a narrow passage, using shorter spears than the

Hellenes, and not being able to take advantage of their superior

numbers. The Lacedemonians meanwhile were fighting in a memorable

fashion, and besides other things of which they made display, being

men perfectly skilled in fighting opposed to men who were unskilled,

they would turn their backs to the enemy and make a pretence of taking

to flight; and the Barbarians, seeing them thus taking a flight, would

follow after them with shouting and clashing of arms: then the

Lacedemonians, when they were being caught up, turned and faced the

Barbarians; and thus turning round they would slay innumerable

multitudes of the Persians; and there fell also at these times a few

of the Spartans themselves. So, as the Persians were not able to

obtain any success by making trial of the entrance and attacking it by

divisions and every way, they retired back. 212. And during these

onsets it is said that the king, looking on, three times leapt up from

his seat, struck with fear for his army. Thus they contended then: and

on the following day the Barbarians strove with no better success; for

because the men opposed to them were few in number, they engaged in

battle with the expectation that they would be found to be disabled

and would not be capable any longer of raising their hands against

them in fight. The Hellenes however were ordered by companies as well

as by nations, and they fought successively each in turn, excepting

the Phokians, for these were posted upon the mountain to guard the

path. So the Persians, finding nothing different from that which they

had seen on the former day, retired back from the fight.


213. Then when the king was in a strait as to what he should do in the

matter before him, Epialtes the son of Eurydemos, a Malian, came to

speech with him, supposing that he would win a very great reward from

the king; and this man told him of the path which leads over the

mountain to Thermopylai, and brought about the destruction of those

Hellenes who remained in that place. Afterwards from fear of the

Lacedemonians he fled to Thessaly, and when he had fled, a price was

proclaimed for his life by the Deputies,[212] when the Amphictyons met

for their assembly at Pylai.[213] Then some time afterwards having

returned to Antikyra he was slain by Athenades a man of Trachis. Now

this Athenades killed Epialtes for another cause, which I shall set

forth in the following part of the history,[214] but he was honoured

for it none the less by the Lacedemonians. 214. Thus Epialtes after

these events was slain: there is however another tale told, that

Onetes the son of Phanagoras, a man of Carystos, and Corydallos of

Antikyra were those who showed the Persians the way round the

mountain; but this I can by no means accept: for first we must judge

by this fact, namely that the Deputies of the Hellenes did not

proclaim a price for the lives of Onetes and Corydallos, but for that

of Epialtes the Trachinian, having surely obtained the most exact

information of the matter; and secondly we know that Epialtes was an

exile from his country to avoid this charge. True it is indeed that

Onetes might know of this path, even though he were not a Malian, if

he had had much intercourse with the country; but Epialtes it was who

led them round the mountain by the path, and him therefore I write

down as the guilty man.


215. Xerxes accordingly, being pleased by that which Epialtes engaged

to accomplish, at once with great joy proceeded to send Hydarnes and

the men of whom Hydarnes was commander;[215] and they set forth from

the camp about the time when the lamps are lit. This path of which we

speak had been discovered by the Malians who dwell in that land, and

having discovered it they led the Thessalians by it against the

Phokians, at the time when the Phokians had fenced the pass with a

wall and thus were sheltered from the attacks upon them: so long ago

as this had the pass been proved by the Malians to be of no

value.[216] And this path lies as follows:–it begins from the river

Asopos, which flows through the cleft, and the name of this mountain

and of the path is the same, namely Anopaia; and this Anopaia

stretches over the ridge of the mountain and ends by the town of

Alpenos, which is the first town of the Locrians towards Malis, and by

the stone called Black Buttocks[217] and the seats of the Kercopes,

where is the very narrowest part. 217. By this path thus situated the

Persians after crossing over the Asopos proceeded all through the

night, having on their right hand the mountains of the Oitaians and on

the left those of the Trachinians: and when dawn appeared, they had

reached the summit of the mountain. In this part of the mountain there

were, as I have before shown, a thousand hoplites of the Phokians

keeping guard, to protect their own country and to keep the path: for

while the pass below was guarded by those whom I have mentioned, the

path over the mountain was guarded by the Phokians, who had undertaken

the business for Leonidas by their own offer. 218. While the Persians

were ascending they were concealed from these, since all the mountain

was covered with oak-trees; and the Phokians became aware of them

after they had made the ascent as follows:–the day was calm, and not

a little noise was made by the Persians, as was likely when leaves

were lying spread upon the ground under their feet; upon which the

Phokians started up and began to put on their arms, and by this time

the Barbarians were close upon them. These, when they saw men arming

themselves, fell into wonder, for they were expecting that no one

would appear to oppose them, and instead of that they had met with an

armed force. Then Hydarnes, seized with fear lest the Phokians should

be Lacedemonians, asked Epialtes of what people the force was; and

being accurately informed he set the Persians in order for battle. The

Phokians however, when they were hit by the arrows of the enemy, which

flew thickly, fled and got away at once to the topmost peak of the

mountain, fully assured that it was against them that the enemy had

designed to come,[218] and here they were ready to meet death. These,

I say, were in this mind; but the Persians meanwhile with Epialtes and

Hydarnes made no account of the Phokians, but descended the mountain

with all speed.


219. To the Hellenes who were in Thermopylai first the soothsayer

Megistias, after looking into the victims which were sacrificed,

declared the death which was to come to them at dawn of day; and

afterwards deserters brought the report[219] of the Persians having

gone round. These signified it to them while it was yet night, and

thirdly came the day-watchers, who had run down from the heights when

day was already dawning. Then the Hellenes deliberated, and their

opinions were divided; for some urged that they should not desert

their post, while others opposed this counsel. After this they

departed from their assembly,[220] and some went away and dispersed

each to their several cities, while others of them were ready to

remain there together with Leonidas. 220. However it is reported also

that Leonidas himself sent them away, having a care that they might

not perish, but thinking that it was not seemly for himself and for

the Spartans who were present to leave the post to which they had come

at first to keep guard there. I am inclined rather to be of this

latter opinion,[221] namely that because Leonidas perceived that the

allies were out of heart and did not desire to face the danger with

him to the end, he ordered them to depart, but held that for himself

to go away was not honourable, whereas if he remained, a great fame of

him would be left behind, and the prosperity of Sparta would not be

blotted out: for an oracle had been given by the Pythian prophetess to

the Spartans, when they consulted about this war at the time when it

was being first set on foot, to the effect that either Lacedemon must

be destroyed by the Barbarians, or their king must lose his life. This

reply the prophetess gave them in hexameter verses, and it ran thus:



 “But as for you, ye men who in wide-spaced Sparta inhabit,

  Either your glorious city is sacked by the children of Perses,

  Or, if it be not so, then a king of the stock Heracleian

  Dead shall be mourned for by all in the boundaries of broad Lacedemon.

  Him[222] nor the might of bulls nor the raging of lions shall hinder;

  For he hath might as of Zeus; and I say he shall not be restrained,

  Till one of the other of these he have utterly torn and divided.”[223]


I am of opinion that Leonidas considering these things and desiring to

lay up for himself glory above all the other Spartans,[224] dismissed

the allies, rather than that those who departed did so in such

disorderly fashion, because they were divided in opinion. 221. Of this

the following has been to my mind a proof as convincing as any other,

namely that Leonidas is known to have endeavoured to dismiss the

soothsayer also who accompanied this army, Megistias the Acarnanian,

who was said to be descended from Melampus, that he might not perish

with them after he had declared from the victims that which was about

to come to pass for them. He however when he was bidden to go would

not himself depart, but sent away his son who was with him in the

army, besides whom he had no other child.


222. The allies then who were dismissed departed and went away,

obeying the word of Leonidas, and only the Thespians and the Thebans

remained behind with the Lacedemonians. Of these the Thebans stayed

against their will and not because they desired it, for Leonidas kept

them, counting them as hostages; but the Thespians very willingly, for

they said that they would not depart and leave Leonidas and those with

him, but they stayed behind and died with them. The commander of these

was Demophilos the son of Diadromes.


223. Xerxes meanwhile, having made libations at sunrise, stayed for

some time, until about the hour when the market fills, and then made

an advance upon them; for thus it had been enjoined by Epialtes,

seeing that the descent of the mountain is shorter and the space to be

passed over much less than the going round and the ascent. The

Barbarians accordingly with Xerxes were advancing to the attack; and

the Hellenes with Leonidas, feeling that they were going forth to

death, now advanced out much further than at first into the broader

part of the defile; for when the fence of the wall was being

guarded,[225] they on the former days fought retiring before the enemy

into the narrow part of the pass; but now they engaged with them

outside the narrows, and very many of the Barbarians fell: for behind

them the leaders of the divisions with scourges in their hands were

striking each man, ever urging them on to the front. Many of them then

were driven into the sea and perished, and many more still were

trodden down while yet alive by one another, and there was no

reckoning of the number that perished: for knowing the death which was

about to come upon them by reason of those who were going round the

mountain, they[226] displayed upon the Barbarians all the strength

which they had, to its greatest extent, disregarding danger and acting

as if possessed by a spirit of recklessness. 224. Now by this time the

spears of the greater number of them were broken, so it chanced, in

this combat, and they were slaying the Persians with their swords; and

in this fighting fell Leonidas, having proved himself a very good man,

and others also of the Spartans with him, men of note, of whose names

I was informed as of men who had proved themselves worthy, and indeed

I was told also the names of all the three hundred. Moreover of the

Persians there fell here, besides many others of note, especially two

sons of Dareios, Abrocomes and Hyperanthes, born to Dareios of

Phratagune the daughter of Artanes: now Artanes was the brother of

king Dareios and the son of Hystaspes, the son of Arsames; and he in

giving his daughter in marriage to Dareios gave also with her all his

substance, because she was his only child. 225. Two brothers of

Xerxes, I say, fell here fighting; and meanwhile over the body of

Leonidas there arose a great struggle between the Persians and the

Lacedemonians, until the Hellenes by valour dragged this away from the

enemy and turned their opponents to flight four times. This conflict

continued until those who had gone with Epialtes came up; and when the

Hellenes learnt that these had come, from that moment the nature of

the combat was changed; for they retired backwards to the narrow part

of the way, and having passed by the wall they went and placed

themselves upon the hillock,[227] all in a body together except only

the Thebans: now this hillock is in the entrance, where now the stone

lion is placed for Leonidas. On this spot while defending themselves

with daggers, that is those who still had them left, and also with

hands and with teeth, they were overwhelmed by the missiles of the

Barbarians, some of these having followed directly after them and

destroyed the fence of the wall, while others had come round and stood

about them on all sides.


226. Such were the proofs of valour given by the Lacedemonians and

Thespians; yet the Spartan Dienekes is said to have proved himself the

best man of all, the same who, as they report, uttered this saying

before they engaged battle with the Medes:–being informed by one of

the men of Trachis that when the Barbarians discharged their arrows

they obscured the light of the sun by the multitude of the arrows, so

great was the number of their host, he was not dismayed by this, but

making small account of the number of the Medes, he said that their

guest from Trachis brought them very good news, for if the Medes

obscured the light of the sun, the battle against them would be in the

shade and not in the sun. 227. This and other sayings of this kind

they report that Dienekes the Lacedemonian left as memorials of

himself; and after him the bravest they say of the Lacedemonians were

two brothers Alpheos and Maron, sons of Orsiphantos. Of the Thespians

the man who gained most honour was named Dithyrambos son of



228. The men were buried were they fell; and for these, as well as for

those who were slain before being sent away[228] by Leonidas, there is

an inscription which runs thus:


 “Here once, facing in fight three hundred myriads of foemen,

    Thousands four did contend, men of the Peloponnese.”


This is the inscription for the whole body; and for the Spartans

separately there is this:


 “Stranger, report this word, we pray, to the Spartans, that lying

    Here in this spot we remain, faithfully keeping their laws.”[229]


This, I say, for the Lacedemonians; and for the soothsayer as follows:


 “This is the tomb of Megistias renowned, whom the Median foemen,

    Where Sperchios doth flow, slew when they forded the stream;

  Soothsayer he, who then knowing clearly the fates that were coming,

    Did not endure in the fray Sparta’s good leaders to leave.”


The Amphictyons it was who honoured them with inscriptions and

memorial pillars, excepting only in the case of the inscription to the

soothsayer; but that of the soothsayer Megistias was inscribed by

Simonides the son of Leoprepes on account of guest-friendship.


229. Two of these three hundred, it is said, namely Eurystos and

Aristodemos, who, if they had made agreement with one another, might

either have come safe home to Sparta together (seeing that they had

been dismissed from the camp by Leonidas and were lying at Alpenoi

with disease of the eyes, suffering extremely), or again, if they had

not wished to return home, they might have been slain together with

the rest,–when they might, I say, have done either one of these two

things, would not agree together; but the two being divided in

opinion, Eurystos, it is said, when he was informed that the Persians

had gone round, asked for his arms and having put them on ordered his

Helot to lead him to those who were fighting; and after he had led him

thither, the man who had led him ran away and departed, but Eurystos

plunged into the thick of the fighting, and so lost his life: but

Aristodemos was left behind fainting.[230] Now if either Aristodemos

had been ill[231] alone, and so had returned home to Sparta, or the

men had both of them come back together, I do not suppose that the

Spartans would have displayed any anger against them; but in this

case, as the one of them had lost his life and the other, clinging to

an excuse which the first also might have used,[232] had not been

willing to die, it necessarily happened that the Spartans had great

indignation against Aristodemos. 230. Some say that Aristodemos came

safe to Sparta in this manner, and on a pretext such as I have said;

but others, that he had been sent as a messenger from the camp, and

when he might have come up in time to find the battle going on, was

not willing to do so, but stayed upon the road and so saved his life,

while his fellow-messenger reached the battle and was slain. 213. When

Aristodemos, I say, had returned home to Lacedemon, he had reproach

and dishonour;[233] and that which he suffered by way of dishonour was

this,–no one of the Spartans would either give him light for a fire

or speak with him, and he had reproach in that he was called

Aristodemos the coward.[234] 232. He however in the battle at Plataia

repaired all the guilt that was charged against him: but it is

reported that another man also survived of these three hundred, whose

name was Pantites, having been sent as a messenger to Thessaly, and

this man, when he returned back to Sparta and found himself

dishonoured, is said to have strangled himself.


233. The Thebans however, of whom the commander was Leontiades, being

with the Hellenes had continued for some time to fight against the

king’s army, constrained by necessity; but when they saw that the

fortunes of the Persians were prevailing, then and not before, while

the Hellenes with Leonidas were making their way with speed to the

hillock, they separated from these and holding out their hands came

near to the Barbarians, saying at the same time that which was most

true, namely that they were on the side of the Medes and that they had

been among the first to give earth and water to the king; and moreover

that they had come to Thermopylai constrained by necessity, and were

blameless for the loss which had been inflicted upon the king: so that

thus saying they preserved their lives, for they had also the

Thessalians to bear witness to these words. However, they did not

altogether meet with good fortune, for some had even been slain as

they had been approaching, and when they had come and the Barbarians

had them in their power, the greater number of them were branded by

command of Xerxes with the royal marks, beginning with their leader

Leontiades, the same whose son Eurymachos was afterwards slain by the

Plataians, when he had been made commander of four hundred Thebans and

had seized the city of the Plataians.[235]


234. Thus did the Hellenes at Thermopylai contend in fight; and Xerxes

summoned Demaratos and inquired of him, having first said this:

“Demaratos, thou art a good man; and this I conclude by the truth of

thy words, for all that thou saidest turned out so as thou didst say.

Now, however, tell me how many in number are the remaining

Lacedemonians, and of them how many are like these in matters of war;

or are they so even all of them?” He said: “O king, the number of all

the Lacedemonians is great and their cities are many, but that which

thou desirest to learn, thou shalt know. There is in Lacedemon the

city of Sparta, having about eight thousand men; and these are all

equal to those who fought here: the other Lacedemonians are not equal

to these, but they are good men too.” To this Xerxes said: “Demaratos,

in what manner shall we with least labour get the better of these men?

Come set forth to us this; for thou knowest the courses of their

counsels,[236] seeing that thou wert once their king.” 235. He made

answer: “O king, if thou dost in very earnest take counsel with me, it

is right that I declare to thee the best thing. What if thou shouldest

send three hundred ships from thy fleet to attack the Laconian land?

Now there is lying near it an island named Kythera, about which

Chilon, who was a very wise man among us, said that it would be a

greater gain for the Spartans that it should be sunk under the sea

than that it should remain above it; for he always anticipated that

something would happen from it of such a kind as I am now setting

forth to thee: not that he knew of thy armament beforehand, but that

he feared equally every armament of men. Let thy forces then set forth

from this island and keep the Lacedemonians in fear; and while they

have a war of their own close at their doors, there will be no fear

for thee from them that when the remainder of Hellas is being

conquered by the land-army, they will come to the rescue there. Then

after the remainder of Hellas has been reduced to subjection, from

that moment the Lacedemonian power will be left alone and therefore

feeble. If however thou shalt not do this, I will tell thee what thou

must look for. There is a narrow isthmus leading to the Peloponnese,

and in this place thou must look that other battles will be fought

more severe than those which have taken place, seeing that all the

Peloponnesians have sworn to a league against thee: but if thou shalt

do the other thing of which I spoke, this isthmus and the cities

within it will come over to thy side without a battle.” 236. After him

spoke Achaimenes, brother of Xerxes and also commander of the fleet,

who chanced to have been present at this discourse and was afraid lest

Xerxes should be persuaded to do this: “O king,” he said, “I see that

thou art admitting the speech of a man who envies thy good fortune, or

is even a traitor to thy cause: for in truth the Hellenes delight in

such a temper as this; they envy a man for his good luck, and they

hate that which is stronger than themselves. And if, besides other

misfortunes which we have upon us, seeing that four hundred of our

ships[237] have suffered wreck, thou shalt send away another three

hundred from the station of the fleet to sail round Peloponnese, then

thy antagonists become a match for thee in fight; whereas while it is

all assembled together our fleet is hard for them to deal with, and

they will not be at all a match for thee: and moreover the whole sea-

force will support the land-force and be supported by it, if they

proceed onwards together; but if thou shalt divide them, neither wilt

thou be of service to them nor they to thee. My determination is

rather to set thy affairs in good order[238] and not to consider the

affairs of the enemy, either where they will set on foot the war or

what they will do or how many in number they are; for it is sufficient

that they should themselves take thought for themselves, and we for

ourselves likewise: and if the Lacedemonians come to stand against the

Persians in fight, they will assuredly not heal the wound from which

they are now suffering.”[239] 237. To him Xerxes made answer as

follows: “Achaimenes, I think that thou speakest well, and so will I

do; but Demaratos speaks that which he believes to be best for me,

though his opinion is defeated by thine: for I will not certainly

admit that which thou saidest, namely that he is not well-disposed to

my cause, judging both by what was said by him before this, and also

by that which is the truth, namely that though one citizen envies

another for his good fortune and shows enmity to him by his

silence,[240] nor would a citizen when a fellow-citizen consulted him

suggest that which seemed to him the best, unless he had attained to a

great height of virtue, and such men doubtless are few; yet guest-

friend to guest-friend in prosperity is well-disposed as nothing else

on earth, and if his friend should consult him, he would give him the

best counsel. Thus then as regards the evil-speaking against

Demaratos, that is to say about one who is my guest-friend, I bid

every one abstain from it in the future.”


238. Having thus said Xerxes passed in review the bodies of the dead;

and as for Leonidas, hearing that he had been the king and commander

of the Lacedemonians he bade them cut off his head and crucify him.

And it has been made plain to me by many proofs besides, but by none

more strongly than by this, that king Xerxes was enraged with Leonidas

while alive more than with any other man on earth; for otherwise he

would never have done this outrage to his corpse; since of all the men

whom I know, the Persians are accustomed most to honour those who are

good men in war. They then to whom it was appointed to do these

things, proceeded to do so.


239. I will return now to that point of my narrative where it remained

unfinished.[241] The Lacedemonians had been informed before all others

that the king was preparing an expedition against Hellas; and thus it

happened that they sent to the Oracle at Delphi, where that reply was

given them which I reported shortly before this. And they got this

information in a strange manner; for Demaratos the son of Ariston

after he had fled for refuge to the Medes was not friendly to the

Lacedemonians, as I am of opinion and as likelihood suggests

supporting my opinion; but it is open to any man to make conjecture

whether he did this thing which follows in a friendly spirit or in

malicious triumph over them. When Xerxes had resolved to make a

campaign against Hellas, Demaratos, being in Susa and having been

informed of this, had a desire to report it to the Lacedemonians. Now

in no other way was he able to signify it, for there was danger that

he should be discovered, but he contrived thus, that is to say, he

took a folding tablet and scraped off the wax which was upon it, and

then he wrote the design of the king upon the wood of the tablet, and

having done so he melted the wax and poured it over the writing, so

that the tablet (being carried without writing upon it) might not

cause any trouble to be given by the keepers of the road. Then when it

had arrived at Lacedemon, the Lacedemonians were not able to make

conjecture of the matter; until at last, as I am informed, Gorgo, the

daughter of Cleomenes and wife of Leonidas, suggested a plan of which

she had herself thought, bidding them scrape the wax and they would

find writing upon the wood; and doing as she said they found the

writing and read it, and after that they sent notice to the other

Hellenes. These things are said to have come to pass in this


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