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The Story of Greece by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

MILTIADES SAILS TO THE ISLAND OF PAROS

[137] the Greeks won their great victory at Marathon, in 490 B.C., they had always feared the Persians. Now their fear was forgotten. They had still a long struggle before the Persians were banished from their land, but, inspired by the memory of Marathon, the Greeks fought bravely and were sure always that they would be the victors. "It was as though on the day of Marathon the gods had said to the Athenians, 'Go on and prosper.' "

Among those who fought on this famous field was Themistocles. He was young then and fought in the ranks, but he was yet to become one of the greatest men that Athens ever knew. Aristides too was there, of whom as of Themistocles there are many things to tell; Æschylus, the great tragic poet, also bore arms at Marathon.

When the battle was over, it was found that the Athenians had lost only one hundred and ninety-two men, while of the Persians six thousand four hundred lay dead upon the field. In spite of this the army of the Persians was still large enough to attack the unwalled city of Athens.

Soon after the battle a bright shield was hung on one of the heights of the city, and it was said that a traitor had signalled to the enemy that now was the time to attack her. But Miltiades saw the light as well as the Persians, and guessing what it meant, he took his army back to Athens by a forced march. He arrived in time to see the fleet of the enemy as it approached the harbour.

But when the Persian general saw that he need not hope [138] to take the city unawares, he did not venture to risk another battle. An army already flushed with victory would soon scatter his dejected troops. So he ordered the fleet to sail for Asia.

While Miltiades was making a forced march back to Athens, Aristides was left at Marathon with a band of soldiers to guard the prisoners and the plunder, for his honesty was already well known.

Neither he himself touched any of the treasures of the Persian camp, nor did he allow his followers to plunder. Callias, the torchbearer, "most cruel and impious of men," did, it is true, seize a treasure, but he did so unknown to Aristides. For one of the Persians, thinking Callias was of noble rank and hoping to win his favour, fell at his feet, and then, rising, took his hand and led him to a ditch in which a large quantity of gold had been hidden.

Callias seized the treasure, then lest the Persian should tell what had happened, he slew him.

The Spartans who had promised to help to fight against their country's foe did not forget to march to Marathon when the moon was full. They even marched one hundred and fifty miles in three days, but in spite of this they reached the battlefield too late to share in the victory.

A mound was raised over the Athenians who had perished, about half a mile from the sea. If you go to where

"The mountains look on Marathon,

And Marathon looks on the sea,"

you may see it still.

After the victory, Miltiades was the hero of Athens. He knew that the citizens would grant what he chose to ask, so he begged for a fleet of seventy ships. He knew of a land where gold and treasures were to be had in abundance. Thither would he sail and return to enrich the city.

The fleet was entrusted to him, but Miltiades did not sail to the wonderful land of which he had told, but, so it is said, [139] to the island of Paros. Here in the capital city, which was also called Paros, dwelt a citizen with whom the Athenian had a quarrel. To punish him, Miltiades laid siege to the town, but again and again his attacks were repulsed. Then one day as he was on his way to the temple of Demeter, Miltiades was seized with sudden panic. In his haste to leave the sacred grove he leaped over a fence, and in doing so he hurt his thigh.

When he returned to Athens he was no longer in favour with the people whom he had deceived. Wounded as he was, he was carried into court on a couch and was condemned to pay a heavy fine. But he died before he had collected the money.

Meanwhile Darius heard how his army had been defeated at Marathon. In his wrath he vowed that he would never rest until he had conquered Greece.

Three years he spent, preparing once again to invade Europe. His heralds were sent all over his wide dominions to gather together a great army. Horses and corn too the king demanded should be sent "much more than before."

But the great king never carried out his plan of again attacking Greece, for he died in 485 B.C., after having reigned for thirty-six years. His son Xerxes succeeded to the throne of Persia.


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