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nor less ambitious by his ill success, and extremely Xerxes. affecting the command of the army, was the first who gave his opinion. He began by extolling Xerxes above all the kings that had gone before or should succeed him. He endeavoured to shew the indispensable necessity of avenging the dishonour done to the Persian name: He disparaged the Grecians, and represented them as a cowardly, timorous people, without courage, without forces, or experience in war. For a proof of what he said, he mentioned his own conquest of Macedonia, which he exaggerated in a very vain and ostentatious manner, as if that people had submitted to him without any resistance. He presumed even to affirm, that not any of the Grecian nations would venture to come out against Xerxes, who would march with all the forces of Asia; and if they had the temerity to present themselves before him, they would learn to their cost, that the Persians were the bravest and most warlike na. tion in the world.
The rest of the council, perceiving that this flattering discourse extremely pleased the king, were afraid to contradict it, and all kept silence. This was almost an unavoidable consequence of Xerxes's manner of proceeding. A wise prince, when he proposes an affair in council, and really desires that every one should speak his true sentiments, is extremely careful to conceal his own opinion, that he may put no constraint upon that of others, but leave them entirely at liberty. Xerxes, on the contrary, had openly discovered his own inclination, or rather resolution to undertake the war. When a prince acts in this manner, he will always find artful flatterers, who being eager to insinuate themselves and to please, and ever ready to comply with his passions, will not fail to second his opinion with specious and plausible reasons; whilst those that would be capable of giving good counsel are restrained by fear; there being very few courtiers who love their prince well enough, and have sufficient courage to venture to
Xerxes. displease him, by disputing what they know to be
his taste or opinion.
The excessive praises given by Mardonius to Xerxes, which are the usual language of flatterers, ought to have rendered him suspicious to the king, and made him apprehend, that under an appearance of zeal for his glory, that nobleman endeavoured to cloak his own ambition, and the violent desire he had to command the army. But these sweet and flattering words, which glide like a serpent under flowers, are so far from displeasing princes, that they captivate and charm them. They do not cona sider that men flatter and praise them, because they believe them weak and vain enough to suffer them. selves to be deceived by commendations, that bear no proportion to their merits and actions.
This behaviour of the king made the whole council mute. In this general silence, Artabanes, the king's uncle, a prince very venerable for his age and prudence, made the following speech. “Permit me,
great prince," says he, addressing himself tó Xerxes, “ to deliver my sentiments to you on this « occasion with a liberty suitable to my age and to
your interest. When Darius, your father, and my < brother, first thought of making war against the « Scythians, I used all my endeavours to divert him « from it. I need not tell you what that enterprize “ cost, or what was the success of it. The people
you are going to attack are infinitely more formi. « dable than the Scythians. The Grecians are ess teemed the very best troops in the world, either, « by land or sea. If the Athenians alone could de“ feat the numerous ariny commanded by Datis and
Artaphernes, what ought we to expect from all “ the states of Greece united together? You design « to pass from Asia into Europe, by laying a bridge
over the sea. And what will become of us, if the “ Athenians, proving victorious, should advance “ to this bridge with their fleet, and break it down? « I still tremble when I consider, that in the Scy.
“ thian; expedition, the life of the king your father, Xerxes. “ and the safety of all his army, were reduced to “ depend upon the fidelity of one single man; and " that if Hystiæus the Milesian had, in compli“ ance with the strong instances made to him, con. “ sented to break down the bridge which had been “ laid over the Danube, the Persian empire had been “ entirely ruined. Do not expose yourself, Sir, to “ the like danger, especially since you are not ob:
liged to do it. Take time at least to reflect upon
it. When we have maturely deliberated upon an * affair, whatever happens to be the success of it,
we have nothing to impute to ourselves. Preci. “ pitation, besides its being imprudent, is almost al" ways unfortunate, and attended with fatal conse
quences. Above all, do not suffer yourself, great
prince, to be dazzled with the vain splendour of “ imaginary glory, or with the pompous appeare
your troops. The highest and most lofty “ trees have the most reason to dread the thunder. * As God alone is truly great, he is an enemy to “ * pride, and takes pleasure in humbling every " thing that exalteth itself: And very often the most “ numerous armies fly before an handful of men, “ because he inspires these with courage, and scato “ ters terror among the others.”
Artabanes, after having spoke thus to the king, turned himself towards Mardonius, and reproached him with his want of sincerity or judgment, in giving the king a notion of the Grecians so directly contrary to truth; and shewed how extremely he was to blame for desiring rashly to engage the nation in a war, which nothing but his own views of interest and ambition could tempt him to advise. “ If a war be resolved upon,” added he, “ let the
king, whose life is dear to us all, remain in Persia: “And do you, since you so ardently desire it,
φιλεϊ ο θεός τα ευπερέχοντα πάντα κολέειν, ο γαρ έα φρονέειν άλλον μέγα ο θεός, ή έωυτόν.
Xerxes. 66 march at the head of the most numerous army
" that can be assembled. In the mean time, let
your children and mine be given up as a pledge,
to answer for the success of the war. If the " issue of it be favourable, I consent that mine be
put to death *: But if it proves otherwise, as I 4 well foresee it will, then I desire that your chil“ dren, and you yourself, on your return, may be “ treated in such a manner as you deserve, for the “ rash counsel you have given your master.”
Xerxes, who was not accustomed to have his sentiments contradicted in this manner, fell into a rage,
“ Thank the gods," says he to Artabanes, “ that you are my father's brother; were it not for “ that, you should this moment suffer the just re“ ward of your audacious behaviour. But I will
punish you for it in another manner, by leaving
you here among the women, whom you too “ much resemble in your cowardice and fear, whilst " I march at the head of
where “ and glory call me.”
Artabanes had expressed his sentiments in very respectful and inoffensive terms: Xerxes nevertheless was extremely offended. It is thet misfortune of princes, spoiled by flattery, to look upon every thing as dry and austere, that is sincere and ingenuous, and to regard all counsel, delivered with a generous and disinterested freedom, as a seditious presumption. They do not consider, that even a good man never dares to tell them all he thinks, or discover the whole truth ; especially in things that may be disagreeable to their humour: And that what they stand most in need of, is a sincere and faithful friend, that will conceal nothing from them. A prince ought to think himself very happy, if in his whole reign he finds but one man born with
* Why should the children be punished for their father's faults?
+ Ita formatis principum auribus, ut aspera que utilin, nec quicqnam nisi jucundum & lætuin accipiant. Tacit. Hist. 1. iii. c. 56.
that degree of generosity, who certainly ought to Xerzes. -be considered as the most valuable treasure of the state, as he is, if the expression may be admitted, both the most necessary, and at the same time the most rare instrument * of government. · Xerxes himself acknowledged this upon the oca casion we are speaking of. When the first emotions of his anger were over, and he had had time to reflect on his pillow upon the different counsels that were given him, he confessed he had been to blame to give his uncle such harsh language, and was not ashamed to confess his fault the next day in open council, ingenuously owning, that the heat of his youth, and
his want of experience, had made him negligent in paying the regard due to a prince so * worthy of respect as Artabanes, both for his age and wisdom: and declaring at the same time, that he was come over to his opinion, notwithstanding a dream he had had in the night, wherein a vision had appeared to him, and warmly exhorted him to'un. dertake that war. All the lords who composed the council, were ravished to hear the king speak in this manner; and to testify their joy, they fell prostrate before him, striving who should most extol the glory of such a proceeding ; nor could their praises on such an occasion be at all suspected. * For it is no hard matter to discern, whether the praises given to princes proceed from the heatt, and are founded upon truth, or whether they drop from the lips only, as an effect of mere flattery and deceit. “That sina cere and humble declaration of the king's, far from appearing as a weakness in him, was looked upon by them as the effort of a great soul, which rises above its faults, in bravely confessing them, by way of reparation and atonement. They admired the nobleness of this procedure the more, as they knew
Nollum majus boni imperii instrumentum quam bonus amicus. Tacit. Hist. 1. iv. c. 7.
† Nec occultum est quando os deritale, quando adumbrata lætitia fucia imperatorum celebrant ur. Tacit. Annal. I. iv. c. 31.