THE GREAT PERSIAN INVASION (CONTINUED)
AND now Xerxes was well on his way. The Thracians knew that he would pass through their country first, and they
sent messengers to the council at the Isthmus to say, "Men of Greece, we
 ought not to be left to die in your defense alone and unassisted. Send us troops to guard the Pass of Tempe, or
we shall make terms with the Persians." An army was sent, but when they learned that there was another pass
through which the enemy might enter, they abandoned Tempe and returned to the Isthmus.
The stand against the Persians must be made somewhere, but where was the best place? Of course Xerxes would
keep as near the sea as possible. They must, then, find a pass near the coast through which he would be obliged to march, and so narrow that only a
few of his men could fight at a time. They decided upon Thermopylę because there the mountains jutted
out so boldly into the sea that only a narrow roadway was left between them and the water. Here the Greeks took
their stand. Leonidas, king of Sparta, was in command. With him were three hundred Spartans whom he had
chosen one by one for their courage and patriotism. There were also about six thousand men from different
tribes. This was an absurdly small force to send against the hundreds of thousands of Xerxes; but it was the
time of the Olympian games and also of a festival in honor of Apollo. As soon as the festival was over, more
men would be sent. No one supposed the struggle at Thermopylę would come so soon; and in any case the state
 neglected to honor the gods could expect no good fortune in war.
Xerxes would perhaps have put his men on shipboard and landed them below Thermopylę; but four hundred of his
warships had just been wrecked in a storm, and the fleet of the Greeks was guarding the strait at
Artemisium against the others. If he was to enter Greece, he must pass Thermopylae. This seemed to him a
small matter. He had heard that a few men were at the Pass, but he supposed they would soon run away. Indeed,
some of them were talking of doing that very thing. "Let us go back to the Isthmus," they urged. "The most we
can do is to defend the Peloponnesus." "No," cried Leonidas, "do those of you retreat who wish to retreat; but
as for me and my Spartans, we have been sent to guard this Pass, and here we remain."
LEONIDAS AT THERMOPYLĘ
(AN IDEALIZED PICTURE IN THE LOUVRE)
There was as terrible fighting as the world has ever seen. From morning till night it lasted, and from morning
till night of the second day. Then came treachery. A Malian told Xerxes of a footpath leading over the
mountains and around the Pass; and just as it was growing dark this traitor led the Persians out of the camp,
across the little river, and up the mountain. The Greek guard at the summit could not see them, as the
mountain-side was so thickly covered with oak trees; and they knew nothing of the coming of the enemy until in
the silence of the early morning they heard the tramping of thousands of feet. The little force could only
prepare to die; but the enemy rushed by them eager to surround the Greeks at the Pass.
When Leonidas learned that the path had been discovered, he knew that there was no hope of holding Thermopylę.
"Do you return to the Isthmus if you will," he said to his allies, but for me and my Spartans, the laws of our
country forbid that we
 should leave the place that we have been sent to guard." The Thespians, too, refused to retreat. The
fighting went on, more furiously if possible than before. The Spartans and the Thespians rushed forward into
the very midst of the Persian forces. Men were thrust into the sea, were trampled to death by scores and by
hundreds. The spears broke, they fought with swords; the swords gave out, they fought with their teeth, with
their fists, with stones, with anything that would strike a blow, until they lay dead, buried under heaps of
Persian missiles. At this battle, too, the slain were buried where they fell. In memory of the bravery of
Leonidas, a marble lion was reared at the entrance of the Pass. Pillars were set up in honor of the soldiers.
Upon one was written:—
"Here did four thousand men from Pelop's land
Against three hundred myriads bravely stand."
Another was in honor of the Spartans alone. Its inscription was,—
"Go, stranger, and to Lacedęmon tell
That here, obeying her behests, we fell."
This was written by Simonides, a poet of Ceos, one of the Cyclades. He could write such
strong lines as these, in which every word counts, and he could also write so gracefully and tenderly that his
friends used to call him the sweet poet. One of his sayings seemed to people so true that it has been
famous through all the centuries since he died. It is: "Poetry is vocal painting, as painting is silent
While the famous little band of Greeks were doing their best to hold back the Persian forces at Thermopylę, the
Greek ships were also at work. They were keeping the Persian fleet from entering the Euripus, the strait
that lies between Euba and the mainland. The Persians thought it would be a good move to send two hundred of
their ships around Euba and up the Euripus from the south. "Then we shall have the Greek ships shut into the
strait," they said, "and with our great fleet it will be easy to destroy them all." They sent the two hundred
ships, but soon a storm wrecked every one of them. For one day, two days, three days, the naval battle went on,
the Persians trying to press through the strait at Artemisium, and the Greeks holding them back. Just at
evening of the third day there came a swiftly sailing vessel that had been watching affairs at Thermopylę; and
now the men on board the Greek ships learned that the Pass was lost, and that the Persians were marching on
toward Athens. There was no reason then for guarding the strait; it
 was far better to sail through the Euripus toward the south. The Greek admiral was a Spartan, but Themistocles
commanded the ships of Athens. The winds had fought for the Greeks, and now he meant to make the earth speak
for them. Wherever there was a good chance, he sent men to cut on the rocks inscriptions which would be read by
the Ionians in Xerxes' army. "Men of Ionia," they said, "come over to our side if possible; if you cannot do
this, we pray you stand aloof from the contest, or at least fight backwardly." Themistocles thought that, even
if the Ionians did not see these inscriptions, they would surely be read by some of the Persians, and that
Xerxes would not venture to use the Ionian aid in the sea-fights. The Greek fleet then sailed around
Sunium, the southern point of Attica, and anchored between Athens and the island of Salamis.
GREEK WRITING ON STONE.
The Persians were aiming at Athens, but a little west of their line of march lay Delphi, and there was the
temple of Apollo, fairly crowded with treasures. They could not pass that by; so part of the army left the
coast and turned to the westward. The Delphians were in despair. "O Apollo," they prayed, "tell us, we beseech
thee, what shall we do with thy holy treasures! Shall we bury them in the ground, or carry them away to some
other country?" "Fear not," was the reply, "Apollo needs no help to protect his own." Then most of the
Delphians departed from the city with the women and children. It was reported by those who remained that the
sacred armor of Apollo was moved, but by no man's hands, from the inner shrine and laid in front of the temple.
However that may be, there was certainly a terrific thunderstorm. From Mount Parnassus two immense crags split
 off and rolled down upon the Persian hosts, and by their weight many were crushed. It is no wonder that the
barbarians fled in terror from this and the resistance of even the few Delphians, or that in their alarm they
told marvelous tales of what had happened to them. "They with whom we fought were not mortal," they declared;
"they were armed warriors with stature more than human, who burst upon us and slew some of us."
These men hastened into Botia to join the rest of the army and march upon Athens; and Athens was helpless, for
the Greeks of the Peloponnesus had quietly abandoned her to her fate and were working night and day to build a
high wall across the Isthmus to keep the Persians from attacking their own cities.
SALAMIS FROM ACROSS THE BAY.
Athens had done all that she could to unite the Grecian states. She had planned the council at the Isthmus; she
had not asked for control of the army; and although she had many more ships than all the other states, she had
allowed the command of the fleet to go into the hands of the Spartans. Now she was abandoned by the rest of
Greece. Her only encouragement lay in the one line of the oracle, "Safe shall the wooden walls continue for
thee and thy children"; and the citizens could not agree upon the meaning of that. Another line that puzzled
them greatly was this: "Holy Salamis, thou shalt destroy the offspring of women." Themistocles insisted that
the "offspring of women" meant the
 Persians. "If it had meant the Greeks," he urged, "the oracle would not have called Salamis 'holy,' but rather
'luckless'; and surely it must mean that at Salamis the Persians will meet some terrible disaster." Whatever
the oracle might mean, it was plain that the city could not be saved. Then began a rushing to and fro, a
crowding of the women and children into the boats, and a hurrying over the water to safer places. They were
hardly out of sight of Athens before the Persians swept down upon it. They overthrew and plundered and burned,
till little remained but piles of smoking ruins.
The only hope of the Greeks lay in Salamis and in Themistocles. "We will fight the enemy at the Isthmus,"
declared the men of the Peloponnesus, "and then if we are defeated, we can retreat to our homes." Themistocles
pleaded with them to alter their decision. "We can meet the Persians in the narrow strait at Salamis," he said,
"and then it will not matter how many ships they have, for there will be room for them to use only a few. A
victory here will defend the Peloponnesus as much as one at the Isthmus; and it is at Salamis that the god has
promised us a victory." Here a Corinthian broke in upon him exclaiming, "You are only a man without a city!
Show us of what state you are an envoy." Themistocles had kept his temper through other provoking speeches, but
now he burst out against his opponents. "No country!" he exclaimed. "I have two hundred ships at my command all
ready for battle. What state of Greece can resist me if I choose to make a descent upon it? Be persuaded by my
words. If not, we will take our families and make homes for ourselves in Italy. When you have lost us as
allies, you will remember what I have said."
BATTLE OF SALAMIS.
The states were beginning to recognize the strength of the
 Athenians, and had no wish to lose them. They finally voted to meet the Persians at Salamis; but the men of the
Peloponnesus still objected. "That is good for the Athenians," they grumbled, "but no gain to us." They
succeeded in having another council called, and Themistocles saw that the vote would be changed. He made up his
mind to use a trick. He sent to the Persians a faithful slave, who was to say, "An Athenian commander who
wishes you well sends you this message: 'The Greeks are divided. Some will oppose you and some will join your
side. Now is your chance to win a glorious victory.'" Then he slipped back into the council room. The
discussion went on till long after midnight. In the midst of it a message was brought to Themistocles: "There
is one without who would speak to you." It was Aristides, returned from banishment, for all those who were
banished had been recalled lest they should join the Persians. He was eager to help his rival win glory and
honor if only Greece might be saved. "The Persian ships are at the entrance of the strait," he whispered.
Themistocles saw that the enemy had fallen into his trap and that now the Greeks would be forced to fight,
whether they wished it or not.
THE VICTORS OF SALAMIS.
In the morning the battle of Salamis began. The line of Greek ships stretched across from Salamis to Attica.
Farther south, at the entrance of the strait, lay the Persian vessels. Over on the Attic shore, high up on a
hill that overlooked the strait, sat Xerxes on his throne, ready to watch every movement. All day long the
battle raged. The Persians had so many ships that they, got into one another's way. They drifted helplessly
broken oars and rudders gone. The Greeks sank one after another; they chased the enemy out of the strait; they
even sailed around the Persian ships and attacked them from the other side. When
 night came, the Greeks had won the victory. They had won more than a single naval battle, for Xerxes had
already started for home, sailing as fast as a ship could carry him, for fear the Greeks should break down the
bridges over the Hellespont before his troops could march across it. He was disappointed and tired of the whole
undertaking and was quite ready to listen to his general Mardonius. "You have done what you wished," Mardonius
declared, "you have punished Athens, and may well return to Persia. Leave me with three hundred thousand men,
and I can soon conquer the rest of Greece."
The way that Mardonius set about this conquest was by trying to bribe Athens to join with him. "Xerxes will
forgive what is past," he said. "He will build you temples, help you to win lands
 and leave you free, if you will become our allies." And the Athenians replied, "So long as the sun holds on his
way in the heavens, the Athenians will never come to terms with Xerxes." Then Mardonius marched straight to
Athens. The land was there and the partially rebuilt houses; but a second time the Athenians had fled from the
city; they were all at Salamis.
For some time the states of the Peloponnesus seemed to care for nothing but their own safety; but at last they
saw that even to save themselves they must help to oppose Mardonius. They pursued him into Botia. Then came a
furious battle at Platęa, and Mardonius was slain. What were left of the Persian ships had gone to Samos and
were keeping close watch of the Ionian colonies, for it was plain that they meant to free themselves as soon as
they were able. The Greek ships were at Delos. To them
 three men came secretly from Samos. "Come and help the Ionians to become free," they pleaded. "You can easily
drive back the barbarians, for their ships are no match for yours. The moment you are in sight, the Ionians
will revolt." The Greeks decided to sail for Ionia. They expected a naval battle, but they found it would have
to be fought on dry land, for the Persians had drawn their ships up on the beach near Mycale in Ionia
and built around them a wall of logs and stones. When the Greeks saw this, they went ashore. The barbarians
were soon routed, and the Ionian colonies joined the league of Grecian states. This was the battle of Mycale,
and it was fought on the same day as the battle of Platęea. So it was that Greece was freed from the fear of
the Persians; for never again did a Persian army set foot on Grecian soil.
Thermopylę was chosen as the place to oppose the Persians, and there a terrible battle took place. The dead
were buried where they fell. Simonides wrote the inscription on the pillar raised in honor of the Spartans.
The Greek ships defended the Euripus till Thermopylę was lost. Themistocles left messages on the rocks to the
The Persians marched to Delphi, but were driven away by a thunderstorm.
Athens was abandoned by the other Greeks to her fate. The Athenians had to flee from their city, which was
burned by the Persians.
After much discussion the Greeks agreed to meet the Persians at Salamis. Themistocles tricked the Persians into
making an attack. The Greeks were victorious, and Xerxes started for home.
Mardonius failed to win the Athenians by bribes, and again they were driven from their city.
 A fierce battle was fought at Platęa, and Mardonius was slain.
The Persian ships retreated to Samos. At the request of the Samians the Greek ships sailed to Ionia and routed
the Persians at Mycale.
SUGGESTIONS FOR WRITTEN WORK
Xerxes tells what he expects to do at Thermopylae.
One of Themistocles's men tells about cutting the inscriptions on the rocks.
A Persian soldier describes what happened at Delphi.
VICTORS RETURNING FROM WAR.