THE GREAT ARMY
XERXES' army marched in various sections across Asia
Minor, and all the forces came together at the
Hellespont. Here the king had ordered the building of
two great bridges,—one for the troops, and the other
for the immense train of baggage which followed him.
These bridges were no sooner finished than a rising
storm entirely destroyed them. When Xerxes heard of the
disaster, he not only condemned the unlucky engineers
to death, but also had the waves flogged with whips,
and ordered chains flung across the strait, to show
that he considered the sea an unruly slave, who should
be taught to obey his master.
Then, undaunted by his misfortune, the King of Persia
gave orders for the building of new bridges; and
 when they were finished, he reviewed his army from
the top of a neighboring mountain.
The sight must have been grand indeed, and the
courtiers standing around were greatly surprised when
they saw their master suddenly burst into tears. When
asked the cause of his sorrow, Xerxes answered, "See
that mighty host spread out as far as eye can reach! I
weep at the thought that a hundred years hence there
will be nothing left of it except, perhaps, a handful
of dust and a few moldering bones!"
Crossing the Hellespont.
The king was soon comforted, however, and crossed the
bridge first, attended by his bodyguard of picked
soldiers, who were called the Immortals because they
had never suffered defeat. All the army followed him,
and during seven days and nights the bridge resounded
with the steady tramp of the armed host; but, even when
the rear guard had passed over the Hellespont, there
were still so many slaves and baggage wagons, that it
took them a whole month to file past.
That was a procession such as has never again been
seen. You can imagine what a sight it was for all the
boys and girls who lived near enough to the Hellespont
to see this mighty parade, which continued night and
They saw not only the sacred chariot drawn by eight
white horses, the glittering array of the Immortals,
the burnished helmets and arms of the foot soldiers,
and the silken canopies and tents over the grandees,
but also countless chariots drawn by four horses, and
provided on either side with sharp scythes, which were
intended to mow down the enemy like ripe grain.
 Besides these strange mowing machines, there were many
other engines of war, which were all made to strike
terror into the hearts of the Greeks, and to subdue
completely the proud people who had so sorely defeated
Darius' troops at Marathon.
To prevent his fleet from being wrecked as his
father's was, Xerxes had given orders to dig a great
canal across the isthmus that connected Mount Athos
with the mainland; and through this the vessels sailed
past the promontory safely.