Herodotus – The Histories, Book 7, “Polymnia” [56-137] – Persians Cross into Europe

  1. Once the 7 process of crossing over into Europe was over, Xerxes looked at his army. A Hellespontian looked at it & said: “Jove, you’ve taken on the form of a Persian named Xerxes to lead the entire human race to destroy Greece. It would have been easier if you had done it alone.”
  2. On their march, there was an omen – a mare brought forth a mare. They thought it was a sign they’d win but they’d have to run. Another omen happened Sardis where a mule gave birth to a foul, neither male nor female.
  3. Xerxes ignored the omens & carried on. The fleet sailed to the mouth of the Hellespont & along the shore heading toward Cape Sarpedon where they’d meet the troops. The army marched through the Chersonese by the tomb of Hellé & on to Cardia, & the city of Agora on the River Melas, then Aenos & Doriscus.
  4. Doriscus had a royal fort that Darius had kept a garrison in, during the campaign against the Scythians. Here Xerxes reviewed his soldiers. The ships’ captains lived their ships up by the beach to be re-hauled while Xerxes counted soldiers.
  5. It’s difficult to say how many soldiers there were from each nation but the total was 1.7 million. They counted them by groups of 10000.
  6. The Persians wore tiaras & tunics of various colors, with iron scales like fish (chain mail?). They wore trousers, had wicker shields, quivers, short spears, a large bow & reed arrows. They had daggers strapped to their legs. Their leader was Otanes, Xerxes’s father-in-law. The Persians were once called Caphenians by the Greeks & Artaeans by themselves. Perseus visited Cephus, married his daughter, Andromeda, & had a son Perses, where they go their name.
  7. The Medes had the same equipment & dress. Their leader was Tigranes. They were once called Arians. But when Medea the Colchiancame to them form Athens. They charged their names. The Cissian had Persian dress except they have different hats. Their leader was Otanes’s son, Anaphes. The Hyrcanians were armed like the Persians. They were led by Meganpanus.
  8. Assyrians had barss helmets, carried lances, shields & daggers like the Egyptians. They also had wooden clubs knotted with iron. The Greeks called them Syrians while they called themselves Assyrians. They had Chladaeans in their body & were led by Otaspes.
  9. Bactrians had the same headdress as the Medes but had cane bows. The Sacae or Scyths had trousers & had a pointy hats. They had special bows & daggers, & carried battle-axes. They were Amyrgian Scythians but were called Sacae by the Persians who called every type of Scyths. The Bactrains & Sacae were led by Darius’s son, Hystaspes.
  10. The Indians were cotton clothes, carried can bows & cane arrows with an iron points. They were led by Pharnazathres.
  11. The Arians had Median bows but dressed like Bactrians & were led by Sisamnes. The Parthians & Chorasmians, Sogdians, Gandarians & Dadicae, all had Bactrian equipment. The Parthians & Chorasmians were led by Artabazus, Sogdians by Azanes, & Gardarians & Dadicae by Artyphius.
  12. The Caspians had skin cloaks, had bows & Scymitars – they were led by Ariomardus. The Sarangians had dyed clothes & knee-high buskins, with Median bows & lances, led by Pherendates, Megabazus’s son.
  13. The Utians, Mycians, Paricanians were equipped like the Pactyans & Siromitres, led by Arsamenes.
  14. Arabians wove a long cloak held together with a girdle, with long bows, the bent backwards. The Ethiopians had lion & leopard skin clothes, long bows of the stems of palm leaf. They had short, stone tipped arrows, spears with antelope horns & knotted clubs. They painted themselves with chalk & vermilion. They were led by Darius’s son Arsames.
  15. Eastern Ethiopians were bunched in with the Indians. They were like the other Ethiopians, except language & hair. They had straight hair, while the others had woolly hair. They had equipment like the Indians but wove horse heads on their heads.
  16. Libyans wore leather clothes & had tempered javelins. They were led by Massages (his actual name, not a typo).
  17. The Paphlagonians wore plaited helmets, small shield, small spears, javelins & daggers. They wore buskins going up halfway up the leg. They were equipped like the Ligyans, Matienians, Mariandynians & Syrians. They were led by Dotus & Gobryas.
  18. The Phrygians looked like the Paphlagonians with minor differences. When they used to live in Europe – in Macedonia – they were called Brigians & renamed themselves. Once they were forced to move to Asia. The Armenians were Phrygian colonists. They were armed as the Phrygians were – led by Artochmes, Darius’s son-in-law.
  19. The Lydians were armed like the Greeks. They were once called Maeonians but charged their names & took their new on from Lydus. The Mysians had their own style of helmet, had a smalled shield, & javelins. The Mysians & Lydian colonists from the mountain chain of Olympus were called Olympieni. They were all under Artaphernes – who had fought at Marathon.
  20. Thracians wore fox skins on their heads & colored tunics. They wore fawn skin buskins. They were armed with daggers, shield & javelins. When they moved to Asia, they changed from being called Strymonians to Bithynians, led by Bassaces.
  21. Another group (unnamed) had shields of oxhide, 2 spears, brass helmets with ox ears & horns. Their legs were bound with purple bands. They have an oracle of Mars in the country of these people.
  22. The Cabalians are Maeonians but are called Lasonians & were equipped like the Cilicians. The Milyans had short spears & their clothes were held together with buckles. Some had Lycian bows & leather skull caps. Both were led by Badnes.
  23. The Moscians had wooden helmets, & small spears & shields. Moschian equipment was like that of Tibarenians, Macronians & Mosynoecians. They were led by Ariomardus & Sestos’s governor, Artgyctes.
  24. The Mares had plaited helmets, small leather shields, & javelins. The Colchians had wooden helmets, small raw hide shield, small spears & swords. Both of them were led by Pharandantes. Alarodians & Saspirians were armed like the Colchians & led by Masistes.
  25. Islanders from the Erythraean Sea had been sent there by the king as a form of banishment. They wore Median dress & arms, led by Mardontes.
  26. These groups made up the infantry. Captains were appointed over groups of 10, 100, 1000 & 10000 – all called “captains”.
  27. The Persians had 6 generals – Mardonius, Tritantaechimes, Smerdomenes, Masistes, Gergis & Megabyzus.
  28. The infantry were under those generals except the Ten Thousand. The Ten Thousand were all Persians hand-picked by Hydsnes & were called the “Immortals” because if one died, another would fill his place so there’d always be exactly 10000. They were dressed the best because they were valiant. They were flittered with gold, followed by litters that their concubines rode in. They had many servants & tons of animals for carrying their provisions.
  29. All the nations fought on horseback but not all supplied horsemen. The Persian horsemen were dressed like the infantry but with different helmets of steel or brass.
  30. The nomadic tribe, the Sagartians, were dressed half Persian & half Pactyan & supplied 8000 horses. They were armed with daggers & lassoes. They would chase enemies & lasso them, & drag them towards them & kill them.
  31. The Medes & Cissians were equipped like their foot soldiers. The Indians were equipped like their foot soldiers & the cavalry rode on horseback & chariots, dawn by horses or wild asses. Bactrians & Caspians were kitted out like their infantry. Libyans were like their foot soldiers but ride in chariots. Caspeirians & Paricanians are dressed like their infantry. Arabians are like the rest of their soldiers but ride camels.
  32. There were 80000 horses, not including camels or chariots. They were put into squadrons except the Arabians because the camels frightened the horses & were put in the back.
  33. The cavalry was led by Armaminthras & Tithaeus. Pharnuches stayed in Sardis because he was sick from consumption after being thrown from a horse. The horse was later killed for this.
  34. The triremes added up 1207. The Phoenicians gave 300, Egyptians 200,
  35. Cyprians 150
  36. Cilicians 100, Pamphylians 30
  37. Lycians 50
  38. Asian Dorians 30, Carias 70
  39. Ionians 100
  40. Islanders 17, Aeolians 60, Ionians & Dorian colonists in the Hellespont 100
  41. On board each ship were Persians, Medes or Sacans. The Sidon Phoenicians were the best sailors. Each contingent had a leader native to the nation of the soldiers – most aren’t historically significant.
  42. The fleet was commanded by Ariabignes, Prexaspes, Megabazus & Achaemenes. There were also 3000 ships to transport horses.
  43. Other sailors of note were Tetramnestus, Mapen, Merbal, Syennesis, Cyberniscus, Gorgus, Timonax, Histiaeus, Pigres & Damasithymus.
  44. Lower officers aren’t of any significance. But I will speak of Artemisia. She’s interesting because she’s a woman. Also, she had gotten power after the death of her husband, despite having a fully grown son. She was the daughter of Lygdamis from Halicarnassus & a mother from Crete. She ruled over Halicarnassus, Cos, Nisyrus & Calydna. She gave 5 triremes to the Persian cause & gave Xerxes a lot of advice.
  45. Once the counting had finished, Xerxes wanted to walk through & have a thorough inspection. He did this on both land & sea, asking questions as he passed by.
  46. After Xerxes was done looking at his troops, he sent for Demaratus & spoke to him: “I’ve got a couple of questions for you about your native country. Will the Greeks actually fight us? I’m of the opinion that the Greeks won’t be able to defend themselves because they can’t agree on anything. What do you think?” Demaratus answered: “I’ll answer but do you want me to say nice things? Or true things?” Xerxes wanted the truth.
  47. Demaratus: “We’ve had hard times in Greece. But valor is something we’ve gained through wisdom & strict laws. It’s allowed us to drive out want & avoid enslavement. I can at least say that all Dorian Greeks are brave. But just to focus purely on Spartans… They will never accept your terms because that would essentially enslave them. They will do battle with you even though most of the rest of Greece won’t & would submit. But don’t ask how many of them there are or if they would be able to resist you. Even if just 1000 of them were to take the field, they’d fight you.”
  48. Xerxes laughed & answer: “1000 would fight us? Even if one of them could take on 10 of my soldiers, we’d still destroy them. Even 20:1. How can I think of what you’ve said as anything other than empty bragging? How could 1000 or 10000 or even 50000 be enough? We’d out match them 1000-fold. Even if they were driven by their leader out of fear to fight like superheroes, I wouldn’t believe it. But as freemen? Never. I doubt they could go against us man for man. The soldiers of my bodyguard could take on 3 each.”
  49. Demaratus: “I told you that you wouldn’t like what I’d have to say. But you asked me for the truth & I’ve done just that. I didn’t say any of that out of love because they’ve stolen my position from me & exiled me. When the Spartans fight man to man, they are the equal to any other man. But when they fight together, they are the bravest men in the world. Although they are free men, they aren’t completely free. The law is the master who rules over them. They always fear & obey it even more than your subjects obey & fear you. It forbids them to flee a battle, no matter how big the enemy is. They have to stand firm & either conquer or die. I just wanted you to know that. I’ll be quiet until I’m called upon again.”
  50. Xerxes wasn’t angry. He laughed & sent him away with kindness. Afterwards he made Mascames governor of Doriscus. Xerxes took his army to Thrace to Greece.
  51. Mascames was so trusted by the king he sent him special gifts every year because he was the best governor of the whole empire. Even later, Mascames’s descendants received gifts from Xerxes’s son, Artaxerxes. The establishment of the Persians in Thrace was only down to Mascames holding on to Doriscus.
  52. All the other Persian governors proved to be cowards, except Boges, governor of Eion. Xerxes had high praise for him because he held on to the city when he was besieged by Cimon & the Athenians. He even refused to leave when he could for fear of being seen as a coward. When the food ran out, he killed his family & slaves. He threw any & all gold & silver into the River Strymon to deprive the attackers.
  53. Xerxes marched on towards Thessaly, which had been subdued by Megabazus & Mardionius. He moved to the city Stryme which belonged to Thasas. The River Lissus wasn’t enough to refresh the army, which drank it dry.
  54. After crossing the dry channel of Lissus, Xerxes passed through the Greek cities of Maroneia, Dicaea & Abdera & the lakes of Theorea – Ismanis & Bistonis. They crossed the River Nestus by the sea, & the city of Pistyrus.
  55. He passed through the area of Thracian tribes: The Paeti, Ciconians, Bistonians, Sapaeans, Dersaeans, Edonians & Satrae. They furnished the Persians with ships & soldiers.
  56. The Satrae have never been subdued by anyone & continue to be free to this day. They live in the mountains & are tremendous soldiers. They have an oracle to Bacchus on their highest mountain. The Bessi deliver the Oracles but the Delphians provide the priestesses.
  57. Xerxes came to the fortresses called Phogres & Pergamus. They mached between the walls & the mountains. The area is rich with gold & silver.
  58. They marched through the area of Paeonian tribes, north of Pangaeum & moved west & reached the River Strymon & the city of Eion where Boges was governor. The area around Mr. Pangaeum is called Phyllis near the confluence of the Strymon & Angites where the Magi sacrificed white houses to make the crossing go well.
  59. The bridges crossing over the Strymon were built in advance, called “The 9 ways”. When they heard the name, the Persians buried 9 boys & 9 girls. Burying people alive is a favorite pastime of the Persians.
  60. The army moved on to the Greek town of Argilus & the area of Bisaltia. & from there, they crossed the Sylean Plain & the cities, Stagirus & Acanthus. The people here lived on Mt. Pangaeum & were forced to join the army.
  61. Arriving at Acanthus, Xerxes saw that the Acanthians were excited about the March. Xerxes dressed them as Medes & commended them highly.
  62. While he was here, Artachaes, who had built the canal, died. Xerxes was broken up about the death & gave him a terrific funeral for him.
  63. The Greeks who had to feed the Persian army were very put upon. It got so bad that they were eaten out of house & home. Antipater of the Thasians figured that one meal for the Persians cost him 400 talents of silver.
  64. Estimates of the same level were tallied in other cities. To entertain the army involved the following… Heralds arrived in town, well in advance of the army, requiring locals to start making flour, fattening cattle, poultry & water foul. They had to provide gold & silver vases, cups & cutlery for Xerxes & those who sat with him at his table. A tent was put up for him while the soldiers had to sleep rough. Those who fed & cleaned up after the army had a ton of work to do.
  65. Megacreon of Abdera suggested his countrymen go to the temples & beg the gods that Xerxes & co. would only stay one night. If breakfast had been included, most hosts would have been ruined.
  66. At Acnathus, Xerxes & the fleet parted ways. The ships sailed ahead to meet him in Therma. On land, this route would be the shortest. Previously he had ordered a march from Doriscus to Acanthus & the land force would split into 3. 1 followed the fleet on the shoreline led by Mardonius & Masistes. Another went on an inland track. A 3rd led by Xerxes marched between the 2.
  67. The fleet sailed through the channel cut by Mt. Athos & sailed to the bay Assa, Pilorus, Singus & Sarta sat on. It met with its travel partner group of soldiers. It rounded Cape Ampelus, Torone, Galupsus, Sermyla, Mecyaberna & Olynthus. This area is called Sithonia.
  68. From Cape Ampelus, the fleet moved to Cape Canastraeum where the peninsula of Pallene juts out into the sea & picked up fresh supplies. This area is called Crossaea. They finally reached Therma on the River Axius, separating Bottiaea from Mygdonia.
  69. The fleet was anchored off Axius. Xerxes with his land forces from Acanthus for Therma by land. The road led through Paeonia & Crestonia to the River Echeidorus, which flows to the sea near the River Axius.
  70. The camels of the army carrying provisions were attacked by lions in the middle of the night. However, they spared the men.
  71. The whole area is littered with lions & wild bulls. The lions are usually found between the Rivers Nestus & Achelous. Lions aren’t seen anywhere else.
  72. Once Xerxes arrived at Therma, he stopped to supply his troops with fresh water from the Rivers Lydias & Haliacmon.
  73. Xerxes saw the Thessalian Mountains – Olympus & Ossa. He heard that a narrow gorge the River Peneus ran through led straight to Thessaly. This made him want to go to the sea & see the mouth of the river. He wanted to lead the army through Macedonia because he was the surest way. He boarded a Sidonian vessel to signal to the rest of the fleet to go to the Peneus to behold it in all its glory.
  74. It’s said that Thessaly was originally a lake shut in by the hills. Ossa & Pelion join below. Olympus is to the north. Pindus is to the west. Othrys is to the south. In the deep basin in the middle is Thessaly. Many rivers pour into it, mix there & then flow to the sea. Thessalians saw the gorge was forged by Neptune through earthquakes.
  75. Xerxes asked his guides if there was another outlet to the sea. One answered that the only way the stream flowed to the sea is the way you see it. Thessaly is a girt with a circle of Hills. Xerxes told the Thessalians they ought to be careful because a single embankment in the river could flood the city. The sons of the leaders of Thessaly were the one pushing for submission to the Persians.
  76. Xerxes stayed in Pieria for several days. 1/3 of his army cut down the woods on the Macedonian mountain ranges to allow easy passage through the army. Meanwhile the heralds sent into Greece to demand submission had come back. Some came back successful & some unsuccessful.
  77. Those submitting were Thessalians, Dolopians, Enianians, Perrhaebians, Locrians, Magnetians, Malians, Achaeans of Phthiotis, Thebans & Boetians, except the Plataeans & Thespiae.
  78. Xerxes hadn’t sent heralds to Sparta of Athens. When Darius had sent messengers to Athens, they were thrown into a bit of punishment. The Spartans threw them into a well to get the earth & water themselves.
  79. Agamemnon’s herald had a temple from what the Spartans had done to him back in the day. 2 Spartans offered themselves to Xerxes for atonement.
  80. They gave speeches on their way to Susa to Hydarnes. He hosted them & spoke to them: “Why won’t you be friendly with the King? Look at me – I am living proof that the King awards those with merit. If you were to submit, you would have your own government in Greece. They answered the Hydarnes was a one-sided advisor. He’d only seen half the story. He was ignorant of the other side. He’d always been a slave & didn’t know what life was like to be free. If he’d known what it was like, he would fight too.
  81. They then went to Susa. They were forced to drop to their knees & do obeisance. They were forced when they refused. Heads were pressed to the ground. They tried to fight it off & spoke: “We’ve been sent by the Spartans as an atonement for the dead Persian messengers. Xerxes said he wouldn’t do as the Spartans would do. He himself wouldn’t be guilty of the same crimes.”
  82. This caused the anger of the Spartan heralds’ family shrine to die down but rose again many years later during the Peloponnesian War. These messengers’ sons were sent to Asia as ambassadors & were betrayed by Sitacles, king of Thrace, & Nymphordorus, & made prisoners at Bisanthe & taken to Attica & put to death by the Athenians.

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