|The Story of the Greeks|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Greece, made up principally of stories about persons, giving at the same time a clear idea of the most important events in the ancient world and calculated to enforce the lessons of perseverance, courage, patriotism, and virtue that are taught by the noble lives described. Beginning with the legends of Jason, Theseus, and events surrounding the Trojan War, the narrative moves on to present the contrasting city-states of Sparta and Athens, the war against Persia, their conflicts with each other, the feats of Alexander the Great, and annexation by Rome. Ages 10-14 |
DEATH OF LEONIDAS
WHILE the Persians were hesitating thus, a Greek
shepherd, Ephialtes, stole into their camp, and,
vile traitor that he was, offered to show them another
way to get into Greece, if they would pay him well.
This man was led into the tent of a Persian general,
where he explained that he could easily lead a troop of
Persians over the mountains.
 By a goat path known to the Greeks only, it was
possible not only to cross the mountains, but also to
come down upon the small Greek force guarding the pass
His offer as guide was accepted.
Ephialtes, true to his promise, if not to his country,
led the Persian Immortals along this narrow way.
Leonidas, who could not imagine that any one of the
Greeks would be base enough to sell his country and
honor for gold, had placed only a few of the allies at
The Immortals followed Ephialtes, easily cut these few
men down, and came unperceived behind the Spartan
troops. It was only when he heard the tramp of horses
behind him and on the mountain above him, that Leonidas
found out that he had been betrayed.
A Fighting Persian.
Hastily calling his allies, he gave them permission to
save themselves by flight, declaring, however, that he
and his companions would never leave their post, and
that, since they could not conquer, they were ready to
 Some of the allies took advantage of this permission to
escape, but seven hundred Thespians nobly chose to
remain with the Spartans. With the courage of despair,
these men now fought against the Persians before and
behind them, selling their lives as dearly as possible.
In spite of the odds against them, they refused to
surrender, and finally fell, one after another, on the
spot which they had undertaken to guard.
Their bodies, which were found almost in a heap,—for
they had scorned to fly,—were honorably buried in a
single mound, over which rose a monument with this
"Go, passer-by, at Sparta tell,
Obedient to her law we fell."
The Persians had forced their way into Greece. No king
could check their further advance, so the mighty army
swept southward. The first place of note on their way
to Athens was Delphi, the site of the sacred temple,
where great treasures were stored.
The Greeks knew that the Persians did not worship the
same gods, and feared that they might rob the temple:
so they now eagerly questioned the oracle, to find out
whether they should not all assemble there in its
To their surprise, the oracle proudly replied, "The
gods will take care of their own," and bade them rather
use their strength to defend their own homes.
The Persians marched into the rocky gorge leading to
the temple at Delphi, but just as they were entering
the valley a terrible thunderstorm broke forth. The
 darkness became so great that the soldiers lost their
way. The rocks rolled and crashed down upon them; and
the soldiers, filled with dread, beat a hasty retreat,
and never again dared venture into this valley.
In the mean while the Greek fleet at Artemisium had
held the Persian vessels at bay, until news was brought
of the death of Leonidas, and the passage of
Thermopylæ. Then the Greeks sailed as fast as they
could toward Athens, knowing that they would be needed
there to defend the city.
The various allies, sure that it would be quite useless
to try to defend the northern part of Greece any
longer, retreated into the Peloponnesus, and, hoping to
prevent the Persians from entering there, hastily began
to build a huge wall all across the Isthmus of Corinth,
which is only about five miles wide.
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