Xerxes of Persia tries to Conquer Greece
XERXES OF PERSIA TRIES TO CONQUER GREECE
XERXES, who followed Darius as king of Persia, would much rather have stayed at home and enjoyed himself; but his
counselors insisted that it would never do not to punish those insolent Greeks who had beaten his father's forces at
Marathon. When once he had yielded, he set to work with energy to make ready for an invasion. He cut a canal across the
promontory of Mount Athos, and he built two bridges of boats across the Hel'les-pont. He put up great storehouses
along his proposed line of march and filled them with food. Then he fell into a fury, for a storm had swept away his
bridges. Not even the Hellespont had any right to oppose the king of Persia, he thought, and as a punishment for this
impertinence he bade his men give the waters three hundred lashes.
The mighty Persian army marched to the Hellespont. A
 marble throne was built for Xerxes on a hilltop, and there he sat gazing at the hundreds of thousands of men encamped
below him. Suddenly he began to weep, because the thought had struck him that a hundred years from then not one of those
men would be alive. This was undoubtedly true, but no able commander would have had time to think of it on the eve of an
THE SO-CALLED "THRONE OF XERXES".
On the following day came the crossing of the bridges, and the most superb procession that the world has ever seen.
There was Xerxes himself in a magnificent war-chariot, and there was the even more magnificent chariot of the sun-god
 with its eight white horses. There were the Ten Thousand Immortals, the special guard of the king, who marched gravely
and steadily with crowns on their heads. There were troops from the many nations subject to Xerxes. Some of them wore
coats of mail, some wore linen corselets, and some wore long cloaks. They carried all sorts of weapons; spears, daggers,
bows, and arrows, and even heavy clubs knotted with iron, according to the customs of their countries. There were long
lines of camels and servants with provisions. There were also more than four thousand ships gathered together in the
waters. Fortunately for all folk who like to hear a good story, there was a little four-year old boy then living in Asia
Minor named He-rod'o-tus. When he grew up, he traveled to many places where interesting things had happened, learned
all that he could about them, and wrote what he had learned. It is he who tells us about the expeditions of the Persians
and this crossing of the bridges of boats by the greatest army that was ever brought together.
HERODOTUS AND THUCYDIDES
(FROM A DOUBLE BUST IN THE MUSEUM AT NAPLES.)
The Greeks were in so great anxiety that some of them were ready to send earth and water at once. Others were
 determined to resist even the mighty Persian sovereign. But they were so jealous of one another that even in their
trouble they quarreled about the leadership. At length Athens, Sparta, and a few other states agreed to stand together,
and the command was given to Le-on'i-das, the Spartan king.
The Persians were marching nearer and nearer, keeping close to the shore. Xerxes heard that a few of the Greeks were at
the Pass of Ther-mop'y-lę, but with his hundreds of thousands of men that was a small matter, and he marched on. He
had just lost four hundred ships in a storm, and the Greeks were guarding the Eu-ri'pus, the strait between the
island of Eu-b'a and the mainland, or else he might have carried his men to Attica by water — if he had thought it
was worth while.
At Thermopylę the mountains jut out into the sea and leave only a narrow passage between them and the water. Here
Leonidas with three hundred Spartans and about six thousand men from other tribes took their stand against the enormous
numbers of the Persians. There were two days of terrible fighting. Then a traitor, who hoped for a great reward, told
Xerxes that there was a footpath by which his men could go over the mountains and around the Pass.
When Leonidas found that the path had been discovered, he knew that he could not hold Thermopylę. Nevertheless, he would
not withdraw. "The laws of our country forbid that we should leave the place that we have been sent to guard," he said.
The others made their way to their homes; but the Spartans and also the Thes'pi-ans refused to retreat. The
Persians came upon them from above and from below. They
 fought with their weapons, then with their teeth, with their fists, with stones, with anything that would make a wound
or strike a blow, until every man of them was slain. The Persians had won the Pass of Thermopylę, and they set out for
GREEK WRITING ON STONE.
There was now no reason for guarding the Euripus, and the Greek warships sailed through it toward the south. The
commander of the Athenian vessels was The-mis'to-cles, a man who had fought at Marathon. He was a far-seeing man,
and at the time when the Greeks were rejoicing because they had driven away Darius, he was serious and grave. "The
Persians will come again," he declared, "and we must learn to defend ourselves on the water as well as on the land." His
constant cry was, "Build ships, build ships." The Athenians were slow to yield, but finally a fleet was built. This was
the fleet which Themistocles was bringing down the Euripus. This commander never overlooked any chances. He knew that
there must be Ionians, who were of Greek descent, in the army of Xerxes, and he cut messages for them on the rocks along
the way. "Men of Ionia," these inscriptions 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."
The Persians were aiming first at Athens; and the other kingdoms had abandoned her to her fate. The states lying to the
south of the Isthmus of Cor'inth, the Pel-o-pon-ne'sus,
 as that part of the country was called, were working night and day to build a high wall across the Isthmus to protect
themselves and their own cities; and the Persians swept down upon Athens. They plundered and burned and destroyed till
there was hardly one stone left standing upon another. The people of the city were saved; for just before the coming of
the Persians they had been crowded into boats and carried to safe places.
Long before this, the Athenians had sent to the oracle at Delphi for advice. One line of it was, "Holy Salamis, thou
shalt destroy the offspring of women." but who could say whether the "offspring of women" meant Greeks or Persians?
Themistocles believed that it meant the Persians, and that a naval victory at Salamis was the only hope of the Greeks.
The men of the Peloponnesus who were building the wall objected. "We will fight at the Isthmus," they said, "and then if
we are defeated, we can retreat to our homes; but we will not go out to fight on the water." Themistocles believed that
the oracle had promised a victory at Salamis and nowhere else, and he resolved to make the objectors fight, whether they
would or not. He sent a faithful slave to Xerxes to say that the Greeks were divided, that some were for him and some
were against him. "Now is your chance to win a glorious victory," the message ended. The Persians were made to think
that this message was sent by some Greek commander who favored their side.
The envoys of the states met again and talked far into the night. While they debated, a message was brought to
 Themistocles: "There is one without who would speak to you." It was an Athenian named Ar-is-ti'des. He, too, had
been at Marathon. He was so upright and honorable that he was known as "the Just." He had believed that Themistocles was
entirely in the wrong in urging the building of ships. He had opposed the course of his rival so strongly that at length
the matter was brought to the test of ostracism. This was a peculiar custom of the Athenians. If it was thought that any
one man was gaining too much power, the citizens were called together, and each was requested to write on a shell
(os'tra-kon) the name of any one who he thought might endanger the liberty of the state. If any one person received
six thousand votes, he was banished for ten years. It was in this way that Aristides had been banished. The Greeks had
permitted all those to return who had been sent away, lest they should join the Persians; and here was Aristides in the
darkness of the night, bringing a message to his old opponent Themistocles.
Aristides was so earnest a patriot that he was perfectly willing to help even Themistocles to win glory if by so doing
he could save his country, and he whispered, "The Persian ships are at the entrance of the strait." Then Themistocles
was delighted. He saw that his trick had deceived the enemy and that now the Greeks would have to fight on the water.
THE VICTORS OF SALAMIS.
So it was that the battle of Salamis came about. The Greek ships formed in a line extending from Attica to Salamis. The
Persian vessels lay to the south of them. Then the conflict began. All day long the battle raged. Both sides fought with
the utmost courage. Indeed, the Persians would have done better if their commanders had not been quite so fearless.
 Every one of them was eager to do some brave deed under the eye of the king, have his name set down by the royal
secretaries as one of the king's "benefactors," and win the reward and honors that would await him. The result of this
was that when the foremost Persian ships were put to flight, the vessels coming up behind them pressed on so zealously
that they knocked against them and against one another. Rudders were destroyed, oars were snapped off, and the ships of
the invaders drifted about helplessly, were rammed by the Greeks, and sank by the score. The Greeks were here, there,
and everywhere; and wherever a Grecian vessel went, it ran its sharp prow into the sides of the Persian ships. The
Greeks even sailed around the Persian fleet and attacked it from the rear. When night came, they had won the victory.
 started for home, sailing as fast as a ship would carry him for he was terribly alarmed lest the Greeks should destroy
the bridges over the Hellespont before his troops could march across them. Herodotus says that if all the men and women
in the world had advised him to stay, he would not have done it. One of his generals was eager to try again, and he
remained with three hundred thousand men. By this time the states had learned that they must unite. There was a savage
battle at Pla-tę'a. The Greeks were victorious, and this ended the attempt of the great king of Persia to overpower
the little country of Greece.
Xerxes prepares to invade Greece. — The crossing of the Hellespont. — Herodotus. — Leonidas commands the Greek forces. —
Thermopylę. — The inscription on the rocks. — The destruction of Athens. — The advice of the oracle. — Themistocles
tricks the Persians. — Ostracism. — The battle of Salamis.