Herodotus – The Histories, Book 7, “Polymnia” [138-239] – Battle of Thermopylae

  1. This expedition against Athens threatened all of Greece. While they all knew it was coming, they didn’t see it in the same way. Some submitted to Persia thinking they wouldn’t get hurt. Others refused to comply. These felt if they bonded together & combined forces, they would stand a chance.
  2. I’ll give an opinion. Had the Athenians decided to leave their city, or submitted to Xerxes nobody would’ve resisted the power of Persia, especially at sea. What would’ve happened on land would be that the Spartans would be alone to defend themselves – not out of desertion but because the Persian would’ve picked off town by town until just the Persian remained. Some would see Greek cities crumble & eventually give up so as not to be crushed. The Athenians were the saviors of Greece – whatever they decided would happen. & when they decided to defend Greek freedom, enough Greeks decided to follow suit.
  3. The Athenians consulted the Oracle, they got an answer to run as far as they could from impending doom.
  4. When the messengers heard that, they decided to go back into the temple as suppliants & ask again, this time wanting more comforting news. So the priestess answered that Athena couldn’t soften the other gods’ hard hearts, but recommended building a wooden wall to keep themselves safe.
  5. They liked this answer more, wrote it down & went back to Athens. Many people tried to decipher its meaning. 2 main interpretations arose. One thought the citadel, when defended by a wooden palisade, would survive. Others thought the “wooden wall” was referring to building a fleet to challenge the Persian fleet, with a face-off at Salamis.
  6. Athenians Themistocles rose to military power. He claimed the interpreters had not done a good job – The god was promising defeat for the enemy, not Athens. He advised preparations for a fleet to make “a wooden wall”.
  7. Since the Athenians had a decent amount of money lying around, especially from mines at Laureium, Themistocles suggested they spend it on 200 ships in their war against Egina, forcing Athens to become a maritime power. These vessels were ready & many more were on their way. Now they had materials & experience to fight the Persians.
  8. Greeks pushing the cause got together to discuss the matter. They exchanged pledges but decided before they formed alliance, they ought to end old hatreds. There was still a war between Athens & Egina. They had heard Xerxes had arrived in Sardis. So they sent spies to see what the king was up to. They also sent ambassadors to Argos to get them involved. They sent messengers to Gelo in Sicily, Corcyra & Crete to bring as many Greeks together the common causes.
  9. Resolutions had been agreed upon. Disputes were made. The 3 spies had reached Asia to spy on the king’s forces but got caught & were sentenced to death. Xerxes questioned them, & even gave them a tour of the army & let them go home.
  10. Xerxes explained, if he had killed the spies, the Greeks would have had no idea how large the army was. Now they know, they are probably less likely to fight. He did something similar at the Hellespont. 2 supply ships were going from the Euxine to Egina & the Peloponnese. Hearing where they were headed, he let them go, figuring their provisions would eventually be theirs.
  11. The Greeks then sent messengers to Argos, who told them the Persians were headed to Greece. The Argives sent a messenger to Delphi. They had been at war with the Spartans & weren’t ready to forgive them. The Oracle told them earlier & now Argos was ready to fight along with Sparta, agreeing on a 30 year truce & a piece of Greek leadership.
  12. The Oracle had told them not to make league with the Greeks but they wanted a truce so badly, they would join the rest of Greece. The Spartans said they had 2 kings, & couldn’t provide a 50/50 split of power but would allow him equal seat. Argos decided it would prefer the rule of Persia.
  13. Another version of the story said Xerxes sent a messenger to Argos who told them Persians see themselves as coming from Perseus, son of Danae, & didn’t want to make war with their brethren. Argos ought to stay out of it. The Argives made a demand they knew Sparta would never agree to stay out of the war.
  14. Many years later, Callias went to Susa as an Athenian ambassadors. While he was there, the Argives sent messengers to Susa to ask Xerxes’s son, Artaxerxes, if their friendship still continued or if they were enemies. He answered that there’s no city greater friends than Argos.
  15. I can’t say if Xerxes sent a messenger to Argos or not, or if Argo sent one to Artaxerxes or not. I do know each nation would prefer to have all its own evil deeds & problems that to trade them with another country. While I don’t entirely blame Argos for stepping aside, I don’t think they invited the Persians in because their war with Sparta was going badly.
  16. Other messengers were sent to Sicily to speak with Gelo. His ancestor was from Telos & settled in Gela. Gela was colonized by Antiphemus & the Lindians of Rhodes. His descendants were priests of the underworld gods. People from Gela were kicked & went to Mactorium above Gea. The exile were allowed to come back by the priests convincing those in power to allow it. For this he & his family would be high priests forevers.
  17. When Cleander was killed by Sabyllus, after ruling for 7 years, Cleander’s brother, Hippocrates became tyrant. During his reign, Gelo was in the king’s bodyguard. Within some time, he became cavalry commander due to brave & effective behavior in war. The Corinthians & Corcyraeans saved the Syracusans from slavery in this war.
  18. Hipporates died near Hybla while fighting, native Sicilians. Gelo fought the Sicilians supposedly on behalf of Hippocrates’s children but took the throne for himself Syracusan landowners had fled to Casmenae under Hippocrates’s rule. Gelo brough them back & got possession of the town.
  19. Gelo, now in control of Syracuse, stopped caring for Gela, giving it to his brother, Hiero. Syracuse rose to power & prominence. He burned the city of Camarina & brought its inhabitants to Syracuse, making them citizens. He brought over most people of Gela & made them citizens too. After besieging Megara in Siciliy, he made their rich men citizens. The commoners he made into slaves to be sold abroad. He did the same with the Euboeans of Sicily.
  20. The Greeks sent messengers to Syracuse & spoke: “We’ve been sent by Athens & Sparta to ask you to fight the Persians. Xerxes is building a bridge over the Hellespont & bringing all the forces of Asia to enslave Greece. Since you are powerful, we ask for your help. No single Greek city can resist them but together we can do it. Don’t think once he’s conquered us he won’t come for you afterwards.”
  21. Gelo replied: “Well, you come here to ask for help against the Persian but you didn’t lift a finger in my fight against Carthage or to avenge the death of Dorieus (which would have had lucrative results). Now that things are going well for me & you’re in trouble, you come crawling to me for help. Even though you ignored me before, I won’t be as terrible as you. I’ll put in 200 ships, 20000 men, 2000 cavalry, & 2000 each of archers, slingers & light horsemen, as well as a load of food. BUT! I want to be commander of the army.”
  22. The Spartan messenger told him: “No one in Sparta would agree to let you lead either them or the Greeks. If you want to help, it would be to serve under Spartan leadership.”
  23. Gelo replied: “I’m too polite to tell you what I think of what you’ve said. If you want to be childish about it, let the Spartans have command. But now I want to be either naval or land commander. Take your pick.”
  24. The Athenian messenger spoke up: “Greece sent us to get an army not a general. You are promising to withhold troops unless you lead of all Greece. The leadership belongs to Athens & we won’t give it up. No one would follow any other arrangement.”
  25. Gelo answered: “It seems you have no lack of leaders but it seems you lack men to take orders. You seem unwilling to give in to anything. You should go back to Greece & say you’ve been deprived of an alliance.”
  26. The messengers went home empty-handed. Gelo was afraid the Greeks wouldn’t be able to resist the Persians but he didn’t want to change his mind & serve under the Spartans. He came up with another plan. He sent Cadmus with 3 ships to go to Delphi with a ton of money. If asked what they were up to, he’d say they were giving money to the Oracle. If the Persians won, he’d use the money to bribe the Persians to leave Syracuse alone. If the Greeks won, Cadmus was to come back with the money.
  27. Cadmus had gained power in Cos after his father’s death but allowed the people to take over. He left for Siciliy. He helped in the Samian take over & settlement of Zancle/Messana. Gelo sent him to Greece because of his honesty which he proved when the Greeks defeated Xerxes, & he came home with the money.
  28. Some say Gelo would never have let the Greeks lose to Xerxes without stepping into help. But really, Gelo wouldn’t participate because there was too much going on militarily in Sicily. So, he sent money to Delphi.
  29. Delo & Thero fighting Hamilcar of Carthage happened at the same day as the Battle of Salamis. Hamilcar, half Syracusan, half Carthaginian disappeared after the loss.
  30. The Carthaginians tell the story like this… During the battle between the Greeks & the barbarians, Hamilcar remined in camp & sacrificed. But this army was routed & jumped into the fire & was burnt to cinders. Phoenicians say the Carthaginians offered him as a sacrifice.
  31. The Corcyraeans who were visited after Greek envoys were sent away by Gelo. They promised the Greeks help because they knew they’d be next in Persia’s targets. But when the actual time to send help, they were thinking about it in a different way. Although they sent 60 ships, they were so slow in sending them that they sent them around the Peloponnese & they sat there watching to see how the war was going. They didn’t want to fight & have the Greeks win. They preferred to see Persia win & then they’d tell the king they withheld support for the Greeks, all in order to get better treatment. They also had an excuse ready for the Greeks if they won – that the winds between Sicily & Greece were so bad that they got lost & delayed in their arrival.
  32. When messengers went to Crete, the Cretans checked in with the Oracle of Delphi to ask for advice. She mentioned how the Greeks had screwed them over in the time of Menelaus & Minos. They declined to help out.
  33. Minos went to Sicily looking for Daedalus & died there. The Cretans wen there & besieged Camicus for 5 years & failed to take it. They left & reached Iapygia & were shipwrecked by a storm. Without a way to go back to Crete, they stayed & set up a town, Hyria, & became known as Messapian Iapygians. They founded other towns that fought with the Tarentines & thousands died. Also Rhegium suffered, causing some to leave & move back to Greece in Arcadia in Tegea.
  34. The Praesians say people from all over went to Crete, mostly Greeks. 3 generations after Minos’s death, the Trojan War occurred & the Cretans were big players for Menelaus & co. When the Cretans came back from the war, a plague & famine took over killing people & animals. New settlers came & became “Cretans”. The Pythoness reminded them that helping Greeks fighting wars with Asians leads to bad things at home, so they refused to participate.
  35. Thessaly did not come into the Medes’ army until they were forced to. When the Persians came over to Europe, the Thessalians sent envoys to the Greeks who were meeting at the Isthmus. The envoys spoke: “Hey Greeks, you ought to protect Mt. Olympus. We are willing to participate. There’s a Persian force on its way & if you don’t come & help us deal with them, we’ll be forced to come to terms with them.”
  36. The Greeks determined to send ships to Thessaly. They sailed up there. 10000 Greeks soldiers were there with the Thessalian cavalry. However, they stayed there for just a few days. Alexander of Macedonian came down & convinced them to move from their station because they were extremely vulnerable where they were. The Greeks left based on this warning.
  37. This all happened when Xerxes was at Abydos. When the Greeks allies had left, Thessaly was forced to come to terms with the Medes & Xerxes.
  38. The Greeks went back to the Isthmus & began to strategize on how the war with the Persians would play out. They thought that the pass at Thermopylae that many of whom had no idea existed. They also thought the best place for the fleet was at Artemisium.
  39. Artemisium is where the Sea of Thrace contracts into a channel between the island Sciathus & the mainland at Magnesia. Where this strait passes a part of the island of Euboea. There sits a temple to Artemis. At this strait’s narrowest part, it is only 50 feet wide. By Thermopylae, the passage is only as wide as a carriage. West of Thermopylae is a precipitous hill, impossible to climb. To the east is a road closed in by the sea & by marshes. A long time ago, Phocians built a gateway because they feared Thessaly coming into their territory. The Greeks were now trying to rebuild the gate to prevent the Persians from coming.
  40. These places were chosen for their fitness of purpose, so that the Persians would not be able to take advantage of their numbers & their cavalry would be useless. When news came to them that the Persians were in Pieria, the Greeks broke up their meeting. The army went to Thermopylae & the navy to Artemisium.
  41. The Greeks hauled ass to their places. The Delphians consulted the Oracle & the answer, telling them to pray to the winds to help Greece. They sent this order to the other Greeks. They raised an altar to Thyia for winds in their favor.
  42. The Persians sent the fleet from Thera. 10 of the fastest ships were sent to Sciathus, & Greek look-outs saw them & ran off to report to others.
  43. The Persians caught up with them. They took the best looking Greek man on board & sacrificed him because they thought he was a good omen for them – as their first captive, named Leo.
  44. The Eginetan trireme posed no threat at all. But one of the crew continued to resist & was badly wounded. The Persians admired the guy & admonished the rest of the crew for behaving cowardly, & then treated them poorly.
  45. So the Persians took 2 Greek ships. The 3rd took off & ran aground. The Persians took the ship but not the men. The men made their way to Athens. The Greek ships at Artemisium left to Chalcis out of fear.
  46. 3 of 10 ships sent by the Persians made it to the sunken rock in the strait, named “The Ant”, about a day’s travel from Sepias in Magnesia.
  47. Up until Thermopylae, Xerxes hadn’t had any trouble. With 1207 ships & ship men aboard each, his sailors numbered 241400 total. Each ship had native soldiers but also had to have Persians, Medes or Sacans, adding 36210 soldiers. All told, there were 2317610 men, not including camp followers & provision ships.
  48. Greeks in Thrace gave them 120 ships, with crews of 24000 & 300000 infantry.
  49. When you add up all the attendants & supply ships’ crews & put them with the fighting men of the army, Xerxes brought 5283220 people to Europe.
  50. There were also concubines & eunuchs, as well as animals brought with them. It’s hardly surprising that they’ve drunk rivers entirely dry.
  51. The fleet left Therma for Magnesia between Casthanaea & Cape Sepias. The first row of ships were moored to the land & the rest were anchored off the shore. However, at dawn, a storm raged & a strong wind came from the east. Some ships were anchored to withstand the storm. These ships & their ships were saved. Most ships were dashed against the rocks on the shore.
  52. It was said that the Greeks asked Boreas (northern wind God) to help out, since his wife was Attic & this made him sympathetic to Athenian causes. They even asked him to do something to the Persian fleet earlier & it was he who sunk their ships at Mt. Athos.
  53. Anyway, 400 Persian ships were lost & countless men were killed. A farmer, Ameinocles from Magnesia found a ton of Persian shipwrecks & made a fortune pillaging them. While he made a lot of money off of this, he suffered a loss of his kids to offset his gain.
  54. We don’t know how many provision ships were lost. The storm lasted 3 days during which the Magi sacrificed for the wind & the sea gods. So, on the 4th day, the wind died out – maybe it did so on its own.
  55. The Greek scouts in the Euboean highlands came down to warn the Greek army what had happened to the Persian fleet. They made their way to Artemisium, not expecting to see any opposition.
  56. After the storm ended, the Persians took their ships to the water & sailed down the coast of the mainland. They passed the extreme point of Magnesia & up the bay that runs to Pagasae & dropped anchor.
  57. 15 Persian ships lagged behind & caught sight of the Greek fleet at Artemisium & mistook it for its own fleet & landed into the power of the enemy fleet. The Persian commander was sentenced to crucifixion from Darius earlier for taking bribes but was taken down before he died.
  58. Tyrant of Caria, Alabanda, was on board one of those ships & was taken prisoner. The prisoners were chained, questioned & sent off to the Isthmus of Corinth.
  59. Except those 15 captured ships, the Persian fleet arrived safely to Aphetae. Xerxes & his army moved through Thessaly & Achaea to Malian territory. The Rivers of the region could water the army.
  60. At Alus, his guides told him of local history, involving a story where the eldest of the Achaeans wouldn’t be allowed into a courthouse. Those caught violating this rule would be sacrificed. Xerxes avoided this area…
  61. Xerxes moved into Malis along the bay’s shore, which had a flat area with large tides. Another part of the bay had hills that enclosed Malis. The first city on the bay is Anticyra on the River Spercheius. 2.5 miles away is the River Dyras. 2.5 miles from that is a stream Metas & 5/8 mile from that is the city Trachis.
  62. Trachis is built on a plain between the hills & the sea, about 5000 acres wide. South of the city is a mountain range closing the area off, with the river Asopus running through it.
  63. Further south is the River Phoenix flowing from the hills into the Asopus. From here, Thermopylae is nearly 2 miles.
  64. Xerxes set up camp in the area of Malis called Trachinia. The Greeks occupied the straits, called Thermopylae, “Hot Gates”. This is where the armies met up.
  65. Here the Greeks waited for Xerxes & his army to show up. The Greek numbers were: Spartans – 300, Tegeans – 500, Mantineans – 500, Orchomenians – 120, other Arcadians – 1000, Corinthians – 400, Phlius – 200, Mycenae – 80, Thespians – 700, Thebans – 400
  66. The Locrians of Opus & the Phocians – 1000. Greek envoys went to them asking for help & these men were sent in response. The envoys told them every man counts & the enemy is not a god but a man. He is defeatable & we must defeat him.
  67. Each nation had its captains. The commander of the Spartans was Leonidas, Spartan king, who traced his roots back to Hercules.
  68. Leonidas had 2 older brothers, Cleomenes & Dorieus. Cleomenes had died without a male heir. Dorieus had already died before Cleomenes. So when Cleomenes died, the throne passed to Leonidas. He’d come to Thermopylae with 300 of his bodyguard. On his way up, he picked up Theban troops to be put under his watch because they’d been suspected of in league with the Medes or at least sympathetic to their cause.
  69. Leonidas’s group was sent in advance to encourage the allies to fight & to prevent them from changing sides. The Spartans were in the middle of a festival & afterwards rushed to Thermopylae. The other allies were also on their way from the Olympic Games which were going on.
  70. As the Persians approached, the Greeks were taken with feat. They held a council to discuss a retreat to protect the Isthmus. Leonidas was convinced they ought to stay & send for help while they held off the enemy.
  71. Xerxes sent a spy to observe Greeks activity. He had heard that a small number of men led by Leonidas were there. The horsemen could not see all the men, as they were partially hidden behind a wall. The spy saw what he could & went back to report to Xerxes.
  72. Xerxes took this report to mean that the Spartans were preparing to do or die. But he thought exercising & grooming before a battle was quite silly. He asked Demaratus what that was all about. Demaratus explained: “I tried to tell you but you only laughed. Spartan custom has it that when the army is about to risk itself in battle, they want to look good & feel good. I’ll say that if you can defeat these Spartans & those back in Sparta, nobody else in the world would lift a finger against you.” Xerxes asked if such a small force could contend with his. Demaratus said that’s what will try to do anyway.
  73. Xerxes didn’t believe it but he let the Greeks alone for 4 days, hoping that they’d run away. Seeing that weren’t going to run away, he thought them remaining amounted to recklessness. He sent the Medes & Cissians to take them alive. The Medes attacked but died in great numbers. The replacements for the dead continued the attack & also died. It was clear that while the Persian army was massive, there weren’t many warriors in it. The battle continued throughout the day.
  74. The Medes withdrew & were replaced by a force led by Hydarnes, known as the “Immortals”. They thought they’d make quick work of the Greeks but did no better than the Medes. Fighting in a narrow space & using shorter spears than the Greeks, the Persians could not use their numbers to their advantage. The Greeks could fight back-to-back & use feigned retreats to trick the Persians. Only a few Spartans fell in this day’s battle.
  75. Xerxes watched the battle, pulling his hair out at what he saw. The next day, the battle resumed & the result was more or less the same. The Phocians were placed on the mountain to guard the pathway down to where the Spartans were. The Persians called it a day & went back to their camp.
  76. The king didn’t know what to do. Ephialtes, a Malian, was hoping for a big reward & told Xerxes about a pathway around the mountain to Thermopylae. After the battle, he ran off to Thessaly & even had a bounty put on his head. He was eventually killed.
  77. I’ll tell a story I don’t believe. Onetas & Carydallus were the ones who spoke to the king about the pathway & the Greeks didn’t put a bounty on their heads. I really do believe that the Malian, Ephialtes was the one who told Xerxes about the path.
  78. Xerxes was glad to hear about this path & sent Hydarnes & his men around evening time. The Phocians had built a wall along the path & hid themselves in the woods.
  79. The path goes from the Asopus where the stream runs through the hills & runs along the mountain ride, & ends at Alpenus, the first city in Locris.
  80. The Persians took the path, crossed the Asopus & marched all night. They reached the summit by dawn. The path was being guarded by 1000 Phocians who had pledged to Leonidas to protect the path.
  81. The Phocians became aware that the Persians were on their way when the leaves on the hills started rustling as the army marched along the path. Hydarnes expected the guards on the path to be Spartans but Ephialtes saw them & correctly identified them as Phocians. Once the Phocians were rained on by Persian arrows, they ran down the mountain crest & the Persians followed them as quickly as possible.
  82. The Greeks at Thermopylae were warned of the impending doom by a seer, Megistias. Deserters from the path came down to tell the Spartans that the Persians were on their way down. The Greeks held a council on what to do – either leave the area while they could, or stay. Those who wanted to leave left & those who wanted to stay stayed. The Spartans stayed.
  83. Leonidas was happy to get rid of those who wanted to leave. It was unthinkable to the Spartans to leave. Furthermore, staying would give them eternal glory, allowing Sparta to be saved. The Oracle of Delphi had said that either Sparta would be conquered or Sparta would lose a king. Here, it seemed to him that the Oracle was going to pan out. He sent off his allies to fulfill the prophecy.
  84. The other Greeks were likely to have run off in hearing what the seer said & what the Oracle had said. But the seer himself decided to stay with the army.
  85. The allies obeyed when Leonidas had sent them away. The Thespians & Thebans stayed with the Spartans. The Thespians as hostages & the Thebans out of honor.
  86. At sunrise, Xerxes poured libations & started another advance. Ephialtes had instructed him in quicker & shorter paths from camp to the pass. The Greeks remaining were ready to fight & prepared to die. The Greeks had been able to hold their line by the wall. The Persian onslaught was met by the Greeks & the Persian dead began to pile up. Persian captains whipped their men to push them forward. The dead began to fall into the sea because there was nowhere else to fall. Some Persians were trampled to death by their own men. But the Greeks knew their end would come once the mountain had been crossed by the Persians.
  87. At this point, the Greeks’ swords were worn down from killing so many Persians. Leonidas died in the middle of all this fighting. Other famous Greeks & Persians also died.
  88. 2 of Xerxes brothers died in the battle. There was a huge fight between the Persians & the Spartans over the body of Leonidas which the Spartans won. When this was over, the Spartans drew back into the narrowest part of the pass & up to a small hill. The Greeks resisted until the Persians were able to tear down the wall. Now the Greeks were surrounded & were being fired upon by missile weapons.
  89. While the Spartans & the Thespians fought bravely, Dieneces the Sparta fought the best. He was able to make light of the Median shower of arrows blocking out the sun by remarking that it gave them a chance to fight in the shade.
  90. 2 Spartan brothers, Alpheus & Mano were also brave. Thespian Dithyrambus was too.
  91. The dead were buried where they fell. Inscriptions & pillars were later placed by the Amphictyons to commemorate the battle.
  92. 2 Spartans had gone blind before the battle & had been ordered by Leonidas to leave with the rest of the Greeks. Eurytus strapped on his armor & fought anyway, guided by his helot slave. Aristodemus stayed at Alpeni. The Spartans would have forgiven him for this is Eurytus hadn’t fought so well as a blind man.
  93. Some sat Aristodemus sat out & dawdled during the battle but Eurytus didn’t.
  94. When Aristodemus went back home, he was disgraced as a coward. But he made up for it in the Battle of Platea.
  95. Another Spartan, Pantites, survived as he was sent away as a messenger by Leonidas. He was so ashamed that he later hanged himself.
  96. When the Thebans saw the battle was going the way of the Persians, they ran off, exclaiming they wished the Medes well & that they were the first to submit to Xerxes. Many were killed as they approached the Persians to surrender.
  97. Xerxes turned to Demaratus afterwards & told him he was absolutely right. He asked what the number of warriors who fought such as these Spartans was. Demaratus told him 8000 of them were still in Sparta. Xerxes asked how the Persians might be able to defeat them with the least amount of trouble.
  98. Demaratus told him to take 300 ships down to Laconia & stir up a distraction on the island of Cythera, close to Sparta, to occupy the Spartans so much with the safety of their own city that they’d ignore the rest of Greece. Then he could make short work of the other Greeks. If Xerxes tried to go straight through Greece, it would end even worse than Thermopylae.
  99. Achaemenes, Xerxes’s brother spoke: “Don’t listen to him…. He’s jealous of your power & is trying to sink our navy to improve Greece’s chances. Let’s keep the fleet together to use it more effectively. Let’s draw out the Spartans from their home & fight them where we have an advantage. Then our army can crush them.”
  100. Xerxes liked Achaemenes’s advice. He trusted Demaratus but felt that he would always be loyal to Sparta in some way no matter what he said.
  101. Xerxes found Leonidas’s body, had his head removed & his body nailed to a cross. Xerxes had been angry with him while he was alive. But now that Leonidas was dead, he respected him for how he fought.
  102. It’s said that when Demaratus had gone to Susa & had heard the king’s plans to invade Greece that he sent a secret message on a tablet covered in waxes that Gorgo figured out how to read. The tablet told of Xerxes’s plan & this news got passed around.
Here did four thousand men from Pelops’ land
Against three hundred myriads bravely stand.

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