Herodotus – The Histories, Book 8, “Urania” [97-144] – Winter

  1. Xerxes saw how badly his side lost. He played through several scenarios in his mind & became determined to leave Greece. He set up movements of the troops that made it look like he was going to go to battle at sea once more. It looked like he was dead set on remaining but Mardonius wasn’t fooled. Xerxes sent work back to Susa about the defeat.
  2. Persian messengers work very quickly. Along the roads are stations with men ready to receive messages to relay to the next station like a baton – & all of this on horseback. Nothing slows them down – not day, night, bad weather, etc.
  3. The series of messages had Xerxes taking Athens (which was the cause of celebrations) but then having his navy destroyed (which caused open mourning). The Persians blamed Mardonius’s zeal for war against Greece.
  4. Mardonius saw the defeated & depressed Xerxes & that he probably wanted to go back home. He also thought that he might be punished for pushing so hard for the war. But he really wanted to continue the war to be the conqueror of Greece or die trying. He said to Xerxes: “Don’t be so sad. The navy was never going to beat the Greeks. Our horses & our infantry will. The Greeks run from our army at first sight of it. We ought to attack the Peloponnese. Waiting – if that’s what you want to do right now – also works. But we ought to press them & eventually they will crack. Most of our army is a joke. Only the Persian troops are any good. So what if the others are bad? Go home if you like & take most of the army with you but leave me with 300000 troops to finish the job in Greece.”
  5. Xerxes was relieved to hear Mardonius say this. He told Mardonius he’d consider it. He consulted with others. He went to Artemisia & told her: “Mardonius wants to say & attack the Peloponnes. He says the Persians weren’t to blame for the loss. He asks me to stay or to let him have 300000 troops to attack the rest of Greece while I go back home. What do you think is best?”
  6. Artemisia responded: “That’s a tricky thing for me to advise you on. As things are now, you ought to go home. If Mardonius wants to stay & fight. If he wins, you’ve conquered Greece. If he loses, as long as you’re safe, there’s no great harm to the country. Either way, the Greeks have a lot of fighting ahead of them. If Mardonius loses, the Greeks will only have defeated your servant. Remember that the main purpose of this campaign – burning Athens – has been done already.”
  7. Xerxes liked this advice because it was exactly what he was thinking. I think he would’ve gone home no matter what his advisors had said. But he trusted Artemisia’s opinions.
  8. He sent a eunuch, Hermotimus, to take care of his sons. He was a Pedasian, near Halicarnassus. In their land, when something bad is about to happen, the priestess of the Temple of Minerva grows a beard.
  9. Hermatimus had a cruel form of revenge he paid someone. He’d been made a prisoner of war. His captors sold him Panionius of Chios. When Panionius found a good-looking boy, he made them into eunuchs & moved them to Sardis or Ephesus to sell for lots of money. Barbarians value eunuchs because they’re seen as trustworthy. Hermotimus was sent to Sardis as a present to the king. It wasn’t long before he became a trusted servant of Xerxes.
  10. When Xerxes made his way to Athens, he stayed a while in Sardis. Hermotimus, on his way to Mysia, he ran into his former owner, Panionius. He recognized him at once & struck up a long conversation with him. He promised Panionius a good life if he moved to Sardis. Once he had Panionius under his control, he spoke to him: “You are a man who made a living off the cruelest means. Now I wish to avenge myself.” He told Panionius to bring his 4 sons & forced him to castrate them & they had to castrate him in return.
  11. Xerxes entrusted his son to Artemisium & sent for Mardonius, telling him to choose his troops. The remains of the navy prepared to go to the Hellespont to secure the bridge so Xerxes could lead his army back into Asia. They sailed by Zoster & mistook the cliffs for vessels. The slowed them down.
  12. The Greeks saw the land forces of the Persians, thinking the navy would still be at Phalerum & expected another attack. News came that the ships had left & they decided to chase them. Themistocles spoke to the captains, saying the Greeks should follow through the islands to get to the Hellespont. But Eurybiades disagreed. He said that they ought to let the Persians go back into Asia. If they were trapped in Europe, they’d be forced to try to survive or maybe even continue fighting. They would even take the Greeks food, which was in short supply. They all agreed to let the army cross the bridge at the Hellespont untouched.
  13. Themistocles knew he was outnumbered & couldn’t change their minds. He spoke to the Athenians who said: “If the others won’t go & do it, we Athenians will go alone. Pushing them too hard would be a disaster. They’re leaving & we should be happy. It might not be entirely our doing. The gods have played their role in this by punishing a man who wasn’t happy enough to rule all of Asia but wanted to rule Europe as well. Let’s stay in Greece to look after ourselves & families. Once the Persians have crossed the bridge we can destroy it.”
  14. The Athenians were persuaded. They were willing to follow any advice he had to give. He chose a slave Sicinnus to send a message to Xerxes, saying he’d been sent by Themistcles who was eager to do the king a favor by restraining the Greeks from pursuing his ships & breaking up the Hellespont bridge. They were free to go home at their leisure.
  15. The Greeks weren’t going to pursue Persians leaving Greece – navy or army, or break up the break up the bridge. But they laid siege to Andros. Themistocles required a ransom from the city & they refused. They were too poor & Athens didn’t need the money by bullying its helpless neighbors.
  16. Themistocles sent demands of money to various islands just as he did to those on Andros. If the money did come in, he would use the fleet on them. He got money out of the Carystians & Parians. The Carystians were still attacked but Themistocles was satisfied with the Parian gift.
  17. Xerxes waited a few day after Salamis to follow the road through Boetia. Mardonius escorted him for a while because the war season was over for the year. He thought he’d stay in Thessaly & wait until spring to attack the Peloponnese. His choice of troops included 10000 Immortals, breast-plated Persians, Medes, Sacans, Bactrians & Indians. From the rest, he took the best soldiers based on appearance or performance of valiant deeds. Most of the 300000 were armored.
  18. As Mardonius was choosing his men, the Spartans consulted the Oracle & were told to avenge the death of Leonidas. They sent a herald to Xerxes in Thessaly, who said: “The Spartans require satisfaction for killing their king.” Xerxes laughed & pointed to Mardonius, saying he would be the one to give them the satisfaction they deserve.
  19. Afterwards, Xerxes left Mardonius in Thessaly to march towards the Hellespont. It took him 45 days & he only had a fraction of the army he had brought with him. His soldiers took whatever good they could get from the locals on the way. If there was no food, they ate grass. Many soldiers got dysentery & plague to go along with the starvation. Many were left behind in Thessaly or Macedonia. Xerxes was unhappy with the treatment they got from locals.
  20. One Thracian king refused to be Xerxes’s servant & ran off to the hills of Rhodope & forbade his sons to fight against Greece. But they wanted to see some action & joined Xerxes. They returned safely but the father gouged their eyes out for disobeying him.
  21. The Persians carried on to Abydos & found the bridges had been destroyed by a storm. They stayed at Abydos to rest. The ships were forced to carry the army across the strait to get to Sardis in the end.
  22. A story said that Xerxes on the march back got to Eion & was tired of travelling by land & boarded a Phoenician ship to go to Asia. A strong wind blew heavily & the ship couldn’t move because it was overladen with soldiers. Xerxes asked what they had to do to keep moving. The captain suggested throwing men overboard to lighten the load. Xerxes told the men & the Persians jumped overboard so the board could move. Once they arrived, Xerxes gave the captain a golden crown for saving his life but cut off his head for killing so many Persians.
  23. I don’t believe he’d do such a thing. Perhaps if he’d kept the high-ranking Persians & had them go below the deck & row while the Phoenicians were thrown overboard, it would be more believable.
  24. Xerxes did pass through Abdera & made friends with locals, giving them a golden scimitar & an embroidered gold tiara. The Abderites (I don’t believe it) said the king hadn’t undone his girdle until he got to Abdera because it was only then that he felt truly safe.
  25. The Greeks gave up on the siege of Androw & went to waste the Carystians’ lands, then went back to Salamis. They had to divide up Persian booty. They gave 3 Phoenician triremes to the gods & sent a bunch more goodies to Delphi.
  26. They asked the god if it was enough. The Greeks did give enough but the Eginetans owed more for the favors showed to them at the Battle of Salamis. They sent in 3 golden stars on a bronze mast.
  27. Once the spoils were divided up, the Greeks went to the Isthmus. A prize to the most valiant men had to be decided. It was put to a vote. Each captain was given 2 votes. Each one voted for himself with the first vote but with the 2nd votes, Themistocles was chosen.
  28. The men were too jealous to allow a full ceremony & sailed away. But Themistocles was considered the wisest man around. He went to Sparta hoping to be honored there. They gave him a lot of respect – an olive crown, nice chariot & loads of praises. He was escorted to the border with Tegea – 1st & only time a non-Spartan enjoyed this.
  29. He returned to Athens where his enemy, Timodemus, only railed against him, saying the praise he got in Sparta wasn’t his but belonged to the whole of Athens.
  30. Artabazus escorted Xerxes to the strait with 60000 of Marodnius’s troops. When the king was in Asia, Artabazus took his time getting back to the camp of Mardonius. Once of the king & his army were Asia, he put down a wild revolt from the Potideans.
  31. He laid siege to Potidaea, suspecting the Olynthians would revolt too. He took the city, marched its inhabitants out of the city into the marsh & killed them. He gave the city to the Chalcideans.
  32. Artabazus pushed on Potidaea harder. Timoxenus joined a plot to betray him to the town. The details are hazy. Whenever they wrote letters to one another they rolled the note around the end of an arrow beneath the feathers & shoot the arrow in some agreed-upon place. Artabazus missed his mark & hit one of the Potidaeans in the shoulder. The arrow was removed & the note was noticed. But the captains didn’t want the reputation of having traitors, so they didn’t charge him with treachery.
  33. The siege continued for 3 months. At this time, the tides were incredibly large. The sea was just a swamp. The barbarians were determined to press across it into Pallene. 2/5 of the troops had crossed with 3/5 remaining. Then the tide came in causing a high flood. Those who couldn’t swim drowned. The rest were killed by the Potidaeans. The flood is said to have been cause by the Persians profaning the sea & the image & the Temple of Neptune. Afterwards, Artabazus took the remains of the force to Thessaly to join Mardonius.
  34. The part of the fleet that survived the Battle of Salamis went to the Asian Coast, carrying the king & his troops across the Hellespont & spent the winter at Cyme. Once spring started, they began to collect at Samos where some had wintered. Most of the sailors were Medes under the command of Mardontes, Artayntes & Ithamitres. They didn’t wander west of the Samos because they didn’t want to test the Greeks again. They stayed at Samos to be safe & to secure it against revolt. They didn’t think the Greeks would try to attack Persian-held Ionia. The navy was upset that Persia was relying solely on its army to defeat the Greeks.
  35. The Greeks sprung into action with the coming of Spring & knowing that Mardonius was in Thessaly. The army hadn’t yet convened but the fleet of 110 ships went to Egina under general/admiral Leotchides. He’d come from a long line of kings. Athenian ships were commanded by Xanthippus.
  36. The fleet met at Egina & Ionian ambassadors arrived. They had just been in Sparta asking them to free them from the Persians. These ambassadors had tried to kill the tyrant of Chios but 2 were caught. The other 5 went to Sparta & were now in Egina. It was hard for them even to get to Delos. Beyond that would be dangerous. They didn’t the areas & the place was swarming with Persians. Samos seemed about as far as Gibraltar to them. Coincidentally, the Persians were afraid of Greeks entering the area. But the Chians could not convince the Greek to free them.
  37. The Greek fleet went to Delos. Mardonius was still in Thessaly. As he was about to leave his winter quarters, he sent a man to different oracles. Maybe he was testing the task at hand. It wasn’t clear.
  38. This man, Mys, went to Lebadeia, Trophonius & Abae. At Thebes he spoke to the god & made a man spend the night at the Temple of Amphiaraus.
  39. After he’d gone to all the Oracles, he went to the sacred precinct of Apollo Ptous on a mountain overlooking Lake Copais. Mys entered the temple with 3 Thebans would record what had been said. The prophet delivered the oracle but the scribes were baffled by the language. But this was in Mys’s language – Carian dialect – & wrote it down himself. He went back to Thessaly afterwards.
  40. Mardonius read the answers & sent Alexander of Macedonia to Athens. Alexander had Persian familial tied, as well as many connections in Athens. Mardonius thought he was the best bet to get the Athenians to come to the Persian side. Their naval strength defeated the Persian fleet. While the Persians had a superior army, Athenians would tip the balance. Maybe the Oracle suggest an alliance with Athens.
  41. Alexander became king over the Macedonians in this way… 3 brothers named Gaunes, Aeropus & Perdiccas from Argos went to Illyria & then on to Upper Macedonia to a town called Lebaea. They became servants of the king. One tended to horses, another cows & the 3rd small cattle. The king was actually quite poor, so poor his wife had to do the cooking. Her bread made Perdiccas double in size but didn’t mention it to the king. But he found out about it eventually, thinking something was supernatural about it. He called them in to banish them. They told him once they’d been paid, they’d leave. The sun came into the room through the chimney & the king flung the money at them – the sun & the 2 elder brothers, Gaunes & Aeropus. The 2 didn’t encircling the sunshine on the floor & said they accepted the payment. Then he “received the light of the sun 3 times into his bosom” & left, followed by his brothers.
  42. After they’d left, one man sitting by the king told him there must be something behind what the youngest one had done. The king sent horsemen to go kill the brothers. The brothers made a sacrifice to a river in Macedonia for letting them cross. As soon as they’d crossed, the river swelled up so the horsemen pursuing them could follow them. The brothers made it up the “Garden of Midas” where there are nice rose gardens. This is where Silenus was imprisoned. From this point the brothers conquered all of Macedonia.
  43. Alexander was descended from Perdiccas a few generations from before.
    1. When Alexander reached Athens as ambassador of Mardonius & said to them: “The king says all past transgressions will be forgiven, your territory will be restored to you & you will be allowed to live freely. We’ll help rebuild your temples & buildings. We’ll do this if you join us to defeat the rest of the Greeks. Why do you fight a king whom you’ll never able to resist. You’ve seen how big & brave Xerxes’s army is. You see how I still have power in my land in league with Persia. It’d be wiser if you don’t continue to fight & just make peace.
    2. “Those words are what Mardonius sent me with. I do think highly of Athens & just want you to listen to the offer they’re making you. You can’t go on forever fighting the Persians & refusing this offer will lead to destruction.”
  44. The words travelled to Sparta that Alexander was asking for Persia & Athens to join up against the rest of Greece. The Spartans thought about a prophecy that said Dorians would be removed from the Peloponnese by the Medes & Persians. The Spartans sent a messenger to Athens about this offer. The messenger was there at the same time as Alexander.
  45. When Alexander had finished, the Spartan envoy spoke: “I came here to be you not to join the Persians. It would be dishonorable beyond words. You were a part of the beginning of this whole war & now the whole fate of Greece rests on you joining Persia. We understand you’ve faced an undue amount of pressure on your city. The Spartans offer food & shelter for your families as long as the war goes on. Don’t be seduced by the words of Alexander. He is a tyrant & this offer only helps his cause.”
  46. The Athenians answered Alexander: “We know Xerxes is much more powerful than we are. But we cling to freedom anyway. Go back & tell Mardonius that as long as the sun goes on shining, we’ll never join his cause. The burnt out houses & temples are a reminder of what’s important.”
  47. The Spartan envoys said: “It’s only natural we Spartans feared such an alliance. We’ll say that no amount of money on earth would cause us to join the Persia & enslave ourselves. We Greeks have a common brotherhood, common language, religion, culture & character. As long as Athens & Athenians are around, we will defend you & ourselves against the Persians. Now we’ll prepare our forces to come into Attic before the Persians arrive.”

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