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THE DREAM OF XERXES
 XERXES, the new ruler of Persia, looked every inch a king. He was
tall and handsome, standing head and shoulders above the
great warriors he led to battle. But although he looked a
king among men, in character he was most unkingly, for he
was both weak and foolish. It is true that he was sometimes
good-natured, but it was not wise for his people to trust
his temper, for he was often seized by sudden fits of rage,
when he would do deeds of terrible cruelty.
In 483 B.C. Xerxes put down a revolt in Egypt. Then his
captain and kinsman, Mardonius, begged the king to go to
Greece to avenge the Persian defeat at Marathon.
"O king," said Mardonius, "it is not seemly that the
Athenians, who have done much wrong to the Persians, should
not suffer for their doings. . . . And now, will any one
dare to face thee, O king, with thy great army from Asia and
all thy ships? Sure I am that the Greeks are not so
desperate. But if I am wrong and in their rash folly they
come out to battle, they will find that of all men we are
To tempt Xerxes yet further to do as he wished, Mardonius
told him how fair a country Europe was, how rich in fruit
and trees. "Such a country," said the subtle flatterer,
"should belong to none save to thee, O king." Mardonius
hoped that if Greece was made a province of Persia, he
himself would become her ruler.
But while Mardonius urged one thing, Artabanus the king's
uncle urged another.
 "Thou, O king," said Artabanus,
"art going against men . . . who are said
to be most brave and strong both by sea and
land. And it is right I should say why we ought to fear
them. Thou sayest that thou wilt make a bridge over the
Hellespont and carry thine army through Europe against
Hellas: and so we may be beaten either by land or by sea or
by both; for the men are said to be strong, and it would
seem that they are, if by themselves alone the Athenians
destroyed the great host that landed at Marathon."
Now Xerxes was, as I told you, a timid king. So as he
listened now to one, now to another of his counsellors, he
did not know what to do. First he thought that he would go
to Greece, then he thought that he would not go. One night,
while he still hesitated, the king had a strange dream. In
his dream a man fair and tall stood over him, who said,
"Dost thou repent, O Persian, from leading an army against
Hellas, when thou hast charged thy people to gather their
hosts together? Thou doest not well in thy change of
counsel, neither is there any one who will forgive thee. Go
thou on the road in which thou didst purpose to walk on the
day that is past."
When Xerxes awoke he tried to thrust away the memory of his
dream, for he now wished to follow the advice of Artabanus
and stay at home.
But the next night, as he slept, he saw the same fair, tall
man, who chided him for putting aside his words, "as though
they had never been spoken." "But be thou sure," he said,
"that if thou set not out forthwith, as thou hast become
great and mighty in a little while, so in a little while
shalt thou be made low."
The king awoke from this second dream in sudden fear, and
springing from his bed, he bade his servants bring Artabanus
to him without delay.
When his uncle stood before him, Xerxes told his vision in
"Now if it be a god who sends it," said the king,
"and if it
 must be that an army go against Hellas, then the same vision
will come to thee."
The foolish king then begged Artabanus to put on his
clothes, to sit upon his throne, and afterwards to lie down
upon his bed.
At first Artabanus refused to do as the king wished. For he
said, "If the vision must come, it ought to come to me no
more if I put on thy dress than if I wear my own, and if I
rest on thy couch than if I sleep on my own. For that which
comes to thee in thy sleep, whatever it be, is surely not so
silly as to think on seeing me that it looks upon thee,
judging by thy vesture."
But at length Artabanus was persuaded to do as the king
wished, and lo! when he had lain down on the royal couch,
"the dream of Xerxes came and stood over him, saying
'Neither now nor hereafter shalt thou go unscathed, if thou
seekest to turn aside that which must be.' " Then the dream
appeared as though it were about to sear out his eyes with
Artabanus awoke in great fear, and leaping from the couch he
told Xerxes what he had seen and heard. From that night
Artabanus was as ready as Mardonius to urge the king to