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the nation; and giving the Athenians to understand, that, provided they behaved themselves with courage and conduct, all the Grecians would quickly desire to confer the command upon them of their own accord, he persuaded them to consent, as he would do himself, to give up that point at present to the Spartans. It may justly be said, that this prudent moderation in Themistocles was another means of saving the state ; for the allies threatened to separate themselves from them if they refused to comply; and if that had happened, Greece must have been inevitably ruined.
SECTION V. THE BATTLE OF THERMOPYLÆ.—THE DEATH OF LEONIDAS. THE only thing that now remained to be discussed, * was to know in what place they should resolve to meet the Persians, in order to dispute their entrance into Greece. The people of Thessaly represented, that as they were the most exposed, and likely to be first attacked by the enemy, it was but reasonable that their defence and security on which the safety of all Greece so much depended, should first be provided for, without whick they should be obliged to take other measures, that would be contrary to their inclinations, but yet absolutely necessary, in case their country was left unprotected and defenceless. It was hereupon resolved, that 10,000 men should be sent to guard the passage which separates Macedonia from. Thessaly, near the river Peneus, between the mountains of Olympus and
But Alexander, the son of Amyntas, king of Macedonia, having given them to understand, that if they waited for the Persians in that place, they must inevitably be overpowered by their numbers, they retired to Thermopylæ. The Thessalians, finding themselves thus abandoned, without any farther deliberation submitted to the Persiaps.
† Thermopylæ is a strait or narrow pass of mount @ta, between Thessaly and Phocis, but 25 feet broad, which therefore might be defended by a small number of forces, and which was the only way through which the Persian land army could enter Achaia, and advance to besiege Athens. This was the place where the Grecian army thought fit to wait for the enemy: the person who commanded it was Leonidas, one of the two kings of Sparta.
Xerxes in the mean time was upon his march : he had given orders for his feet to follow him along the coast, and to regulate their motions according to those of the land army. Wherever he came, he found provisions and refreshments prepared beforehand, pursuant to the orders he had sent. and every city he arrived at gave him a magnificent entertainment, whicb cost immense sums of money. The vast expence of these treats gave occasion to a witty saying of a certain citizen of Abdera in Thrace, who, when the king was gone, said, they ought to thank the gods, tbat he ate but one meal a-day.
In the same country of Thrace, there was a prince who showed an extraordinary greatness of soul on this occasion : it was the king of the Bisaltes. Whilst all the other princes ran into servitude, and basely submitted to Xerxes, he bravely refused to receive his yoke, or to obey him. Not being in a condition to resist him with open force, he retired to the top of the mountain Rhodope, into an inaccessible place, and forbade all his sons,
* A. M. 3594. Ant. J. C. 480. Herod. I. vii. c. 172, 173.
9 Ibid. I. viit. c. 16, VOL. II.
who were six in number, to carry arms against Greece. But they, either out of fear of Xerxes, or out of a curiosity to see so important a war, followed the Persians, in contradiction to their father's injunction. On their return home, their father, to punish so direct a disobedience, condemned all his sons to have their eyes put out. Xerxes continued his march through Thrace, Macedonia, and Thessaly, every thing giving way before him till he came to the Strait of Thermopylæ.
* One cannot see, without the utmost astonishment, with what an handful of troops the Grecians opposed the innumerable army of Xerxes. find a particular account of their number in Pausanias. All their forces joined together, amounted only to 11,200 men, of which number 4000 only were employed at Thermopylæ to defend the pass. But these soldiers, adds the historian, were all determined to a man either to conquer or die. And what is it that an army of such resolution is not able to effect ?
+ When Xerxes advanced near the Straits of Thermopylæ, he was strangely surprised to find that they were prepared to dispute his passage. He had always flattered himself, that on the first hearing of his arrival, the Grecians would betake themselves to flight: nor could he ever be persuaded to believe, what Demaratus had told him from the beginning of his project, that at the first pass he came to, he would find his whole army stopped by an handful of men. He sent out a spy before him to take a view of the enemy. The spy brought bim word, that he found the Lacedæmonians out of their intrenchments, and that they were diverting themselves with military exercises, and combing their hair : this was the Spartan manner of preparing themselves for battle.
Xerxes, still entertaining some hopes of their flight, waited four days on purpose to give them time to retreat; } and in this interval of time he used bis utmost endeavours to gain Leonidas, by making him magnificent promises, and assuring him, that he would make him master of all Greece if he would come over to bis party. Leonidas rejected his proposal with scorn and indignation. Xerxes, having afterwards wrote to him to deliver up his arms, Leonidas, in a style and spirit truly laconical, answered him in these words, " || Come and take them.". Nothing remained but to prepare themselves to engage the Lacedæmonians. Xerxes first commanded his Median forces to march against them, with orders to take them all alive, and bring them to him. These Medes were not able to stand the charge of the Grecians; and being shamefully put to fight, they showed, says Herodotus, s that Xerxes had a great many men, and but few soldiers. The next that were sent to face the Spartans, were those Persians called the Immortal Band, which consisted of 10,000 men, and were the best troops in the whole army. But these had no better success than the former.
Xerses, out of all hopes of being able to force his way through troops so determined to conquer or die, was extremely perplexed, and could not tell what resolution to take, when an inhabitant of the country came to him, and discovered a secret path to the top of an eminence, which over
* Paus. l. x. p. 645. f Herod. I. vii. c. 207-231. Diod. I. xi. p. 5–10. Plut. in Lacon. Apoph. p. 225. Η 'Αντιραψε, μολών λαβε. και ότι πολλοι μεν ανθρωποι ενεν, ολιγοι δε ανδρες.
Quod multi homines essent, pauci autem viri. 4 When the Gaul: 200 years after this, came to invade Greece, they possessed themselves of the Straits of Thermopylæ by means of the same by-path, which the Grecians bad still neglected to secure. Pausan. I. i. p. 7. et 8.
looked and commanded the Spartan forces. He quickly dispatched a detachment thither; which, marching all night, arrived there at the break of day, and possessed themselves of that advantageous post.
The Greeks were soon apprized of this inisfortune ; and Leonidas, seeing that it was now impossible to repulse the enemy, obliged the rest of the allies to retire, but staid himself with his 300 Lacedæmonians, all resolved to die with their leader; who being told by the oracle, that either Lacedæmon or her king must necessarily perish, determined, without the least difficulty or hesitation, to sacrifice himself for his country. The Spartans lost all hopes either of conquering or escaping, and looked upon Thermopylæ as their burying-place. The king, exhorting his men to take some nourishment, and telling them at the same time, that they should sup together with Pluto, they set up a shout of joy as if they had been invited to a banquet, and full of ardour advanced with their king to battle. The shock was exceedingly violent and bloody. Leonidas himself was one of the first that fell. The endeavours of the Lacedæmonians to defend his dead body were incredible. At length, not vanquished, but oppressed by numbers, they all fell except one man, who escaped to Sparta, where he was treated as a coward and traitor to his country, and nobody would keep company or converse with him. But soon afterwards he made a glorious amend for his fault at the battle of Platæa, where he distinguished himself in an extraordinary manner. * Xerxes, enraged to the last degree against Leonidas for daring to make head against him, caused his dead body to be hung up on a gallows, and made his intended dishonour of his enemy his own immortal shame.
Some time after these transactions, by order of the Amphictyons, a magnificent monument was erected at 'Thermopylæ to the honour of these brave defenders of Greece; and upon the monument were two inscriptions.; one of which was general, and related to all those that died at Thermopylæ, importing, that the Greeks of Peloponnesus, to the number only of 4000, had made head against the Persian army, which consisted of 3,000,000 men: the other related to the Spartans in particular. It was composed by the poet Simonides, and is very remarkable for its simplicity, It is as follows:
+ Ω ξειν, αγιλος Λακεδαιμονίοις, οτι τη δε
Κειμεθα, τοις κειν ων πειθομενοι νομίμοις. That is to say,
“ Go, passenger, and tell at Lacedæmon, that we died here “ in obedience to her sacred laws." Forty years afterwards, Pausanias, who obtained the victory of Platæa, caused the bones of Leonidas to be carried from Thermopylæ to Sparta, and erected a magnificent monument to bis memory ; near which was likewise another erected for Pausanias. Every year at these tombs was a funeral oration pronounced to the honour of these heroes, and a public game, wherein none but Lacedæmonians had a right to partake, in order to show, that they alone were concerned in the glory obtained at Thermopylæ.
| Xerxes in that affair lost above 20,000 men, among whom were two of the king's brothers. He was very sensible, that so great a loss, which was
* Herod. I. vii. c. 338.
Dic, hospes, Spartæ, nos te hic vidisse jacentes,
Cic. Tusc. QUEST. I. i n. 101. # Herod. I. viij. c. 24, 25.
a manifest proof of the courage of their enemies, was capable of alarming and discouraging his soldiers. In order, therefore, to conceal the knowledge of it from them, he caused all his men that were killed in that action, except 1000, whose bodies he ordered to be left upon the field, to be thrown together into large holes, which were secretly made, and covered over afterwards with earth and herbs. This stratagem succeeded very ill; for when the soldiers in his fleet, being curious to see the field of battle, obtained leave to come thither for that purpose, it served rather to discover his own littleness of soul, than to conceal the number of the slain.
* Dismayed with a victory that had cost him so dear, he asked Demaratus, if the Lacedæmonians had many such soldiers. That prince told him, that the Spartan republic had a great many cities belonging to it, of which all the inhabitants were exceeding brave; but that the inhabitants of Lacedæmon, who were properly called Spartans, and who were about 8000 in number, surpassed all the rest in valour, and were all of them such as those who had fought under Leonidas.
I return a little to the battle of Thermopylæ, the issue of which, fatal in appearance, might make an impression upon the minds of the readers to the disadvantage of the Lacedæmonians, and occasion their courage to be fooked upon as the effect of a presumptuous temerity, or a desperate resolution.
That action of Leonidas, with his 300 Spartans, was not the effect of rashness or despair, but was a wise and noble conduct, as t Diodorus Siculus has taken care to observe, in the magnificent encomium upon that famous engagement, to which he ascribes the success of all the ensuing victories and campaigns. Leonidas, knowing that Xerxes marched at the head of all the forces of the east, in order to overwhelm and crush a little country by the dint of his numbers, rightly conceived, from the superiority of his genius and understanding, that if they pretended to make the success of that war consist in opposing force to force, and numbers to numbers, all the Grecian nations together would never be able to equal the Persians, or to dispute the victory with them; that it was therefore neeessary to point out to Greece another means of safety and preservation, whilst she was under these alarms; and that they ought to show the whole universe, who had all their eyes upon them, what glorious things may be done, when greatness of mind is opposed to force of body, true courage and bravery against blind impetuosity, the love of liberty against tyrannical oppression, and a few disciplined veteran troops against a confused multitude, though ever so numerous. These brave Lacedæmonians thought it became them, who were the choicest soldiers of the chief people of Greece, to devote themselves to certain death, in order to make the Persians sensible how difficult it is to reduce free men to slavery, and to teach the rest of Greece, by their example, either to vanquish or to perish.
I do not copy these sentiments from my own invention, or ascribe them to Leonidas without foundation : they are plainly comprised in that short answer which that worthy king of Sparta made a certain Lacedæmonian ; who being astonished at the generous resolution the king had taken, spoke to him in this manner: I " Is it possible then, Sir, that you can think of “ marching with an handful of men against such a mighty and innumerable
army ?” “ If we are to reckon upon numbers,” replied Leonidas, “ all the people of Greece together would not be sufficient, since a small part
* Ibid. ), vii. c. 134-137. Lib. xi. p. 9.
Plut. in Lacon. Apoph. p. 225.
¢ of the Persian army is equal to all her inhabitants ; but if we are to reckson upon valour, my little troop is more than sufficient.”
The event showed the justness of this prince's sentiments. That illustrious example of courage astonished the Persians, and gave new spirit and vigour to the Greeks. The lives then of this heroic leader and his brave troop were not thrown away, but usefully employed; and their death was attended with a double effect, more great and lasting than they themselves had imagined. On one hand, it was in a manner the seed of their ensuing victories, which made the Persians for ever after lay aside all thoughts of attacking Greece; so that, during the seven or eight succeeding reigns, there was neither any prince who durst entertain such a design, nor any flatterer in his court who durst propose the thing to him. On the other hand, such a signal and exemplary instance of intrepidity made an indelible impression upon all the rest of the Grecians, and left a persuasion deeply rooted in their hearts, that they were able to subdue the Persians, and subvert their vast empire. Cimon was the man who made the first attempt of that kind with success. Agesilaus afterwards pushed that design so far, that he made the great monarch tremble in his palace at Susa. Alexander at last accomplished it with incredible facility. He never had the least doubt, no more than the Macedonians who followed him, or the whole country of Greece that chose him general in that expedition, but that with 30,000 men he could reduce the Persian empire, as 300 Spartans had been sufficient to check the united forces of the whole east.
NAVAL BATTLE NEAR ARTEMISA.
THE very same day * on which passed the glorious action at Thermopylæ, there was also an engagement at sea between the two fleets. That of the Grecians, exclusive of the little galleys and small boats, consisted of 271 vessels. This fleet had lain by near Artemisa, a promontory of Eubæa upon the northern coast towards the straits. That of the enemy, which was much more numerous, was near the same place, but had lately suffered in a violent tempest, which had destroyed above 400 of their vessels. Notwithstanding this loss, as it was still vastly superior in number to that of the Grecians, which they were preparing to fall upon, they detached 200 of their vessels, with orders to wait about Eubea, to the end that none of the enemy's vessels might be able to escape them. The Grecians having got intelligence of that separation, immediately set sail in the night, in order to attack that detachment at day-break the next morning. But not meeting with it, they went, towards the evening, and fell upon the bulk of the enemy's fleet, which they treated very roughly. Night coming on, they were obliged to separate, and both parties retired to their post. But the very night that parted them, proved more pernicious to the Persians than the engagement which had preceded, from a violent storm of wind, accompanied with rain and thunder, which distressed and harassed their Fessels till break of day; and the 200 ships also, that had been detached from their fleet, as we mentioned before, were almost all cast away upon the coasts of Eubea: it being the will of the gods, says Herodotus, that the two fleets should become very near equal.
The Athenians having the same day received a reinforcement of 53 vés
* Herod. I. vii, c. 1--18. Diod. l. xi. p, 11. et 12