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The Story of Greece by  Mary Macgregor

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DARIUS DEMANDS EARTH AND WATER

[131] THE Ionian revolt was ended, but Darius had yet to punish the Athenians for burning the city of Sardis. Eight years had now passed since she had been destroyed, yet his anger against the Greeks was as fierce as ever.

Daily during all these years a slave had said to him as he sat at dinner, "Sire, remember the Athenians." And now, at length, his vengeance was at hand.

Mardonius, one of the king's generals, was ordered to invade Greece and to bring back with him to Susa the Athenians who had dared to destroy Sardis.

So Mardonius crossed the Hellespont, and began to march through Thrace and Macedonia. His fleet, with part of his army, was to meet him later, beyond the perilous promontory of Mount Athos.

The country through which Mardonius marched was wild, and inhabited by rough and savage tribes. These tribes attacked the Persian troops so fiercely that more than half of them were slain. Meanwhile the fleet had encountered a terrible storm, and three hundred ships were dashed to pieces upon the rocks near Mount Athos, while twenty thousand were drowned.

When Mardonius heard of this terrible disaster he knew that his troops would not now be strong enough to invade Greece. So he went back to Persia.

But Darius was as determined as ever to punish the Athenians. He spent two years in preparations, and then, [132] before he set out for Greece, he sent heralds to the different states, demanding from each earth and water. To give earth to the great king was to acknowledge him as ruler of their land, to give water was to own that he was monarch of the sea.

Many of the states were afraid to refuse, and sent the earth and water which Darius demanded, but among these was neither Athens nor Sparta.

So indignant were these two cities that a barbarian, as they called Darius, should send such a demand to the free States of Greece, that they treated his heralds with scant courtesy. The Athenians flung the messenger who came to their city into a deep pit, while he who went to Sparta was tossed into a well and told that there he would find the earth and water that his king desired.

In the spring of 490 B.C. Darius sent the army and fleet that he had assembled, across the Ægean Sea to the island of Euboea. Here there was a city named Eretria, whose inhabitants had shared in the destruction of Sardis. The Persians plundered the city and took its chief citizens prisoners, loading them with chains.

Flushed with victory, the army then crossed over to Attica and landed near the plain of Marathon. There where

"The mountains look on Marathon,

And Marathon looks on the sea,"

a great battle was fought between the Greeks and the Persians.

Hippias, the tyrant who had fled from Athens many years before, had been living under the protection of Darius and was now with the Persian army. It is said that it was he who had advised the enemy to land at Marathon.

The army of Darius was much larger than that of the Athenians, for it was one hundred thousand strong, while the Greeks numbered only about ten thousand trained soldiers.

[133] The Greeks were commanded by ten generals. If they did not agree how to attack the enemy or how to defend themselves, they consulted one of the archons called the polemarch, or commander-in-chief. The polemarch at this time was Callimachus. But the glory of the victory of Marathon belongs not to Callimachus but to the general Miltiades.

It was Miltiades who had urged the Greeks to break up the bridge of boats at the Danube and to leave Darius to his fate, and he had ever rebelled against the lordship of the Persian king. He had done all he could to encourage the Ionian revolt, and when it was crushed he fled to Athens, to which city he belonged.

When the Persians landed at Marathon the ten Greek generals met together to decide how best they might defend their country. Five of them, among whom Miltiades was the most urgent, wished to march at once to Marathon to attack the enemy. But the other five were more timid, and said that it would be better to wait until they were joined by the other Greek States before they risked a battle.

Then Miltiades rose in the council of war to beg Callimachus to give his vote for war without delay. So sure was he of success that his eagerness decided the polemarch to give his vote as Miltiades wished. Thus it was settled that the army should march to Marathon without delay.

At this time an army was usually drawn up for battle in three divisions—the right wing, the left wing, and the centre.

On the field of Marathon, Miltiades made his wings as deep as possible, but as his army was small, this left his centre less strong than that of the enemy.


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