Story of the Persian War - Alfred J. Church

Of the First War Against Greece

Mardonius, the son of Gobryas, came down from Susa, and he had a great army and many ships. He was a young man, and he had newly married the daughter of King Darius. When he was come to the land of Cilicia, he took ship and sailed to the coast of Ionia, the other ships following him. And being in Ionia he did this thing (a marvelous thing, doubtless, in the eyes of them that believe not the story of Otanes, how he would have set up among the Persians the rule of the people); he cast down from their place all the lords of the Ionians, setting up in every city the rule of the people. When he had done this he went with all haste to the Hellespont, whither was gathered together a great multitude of ships and many thousands of men. These crossed the Hellespont in the ships, and so marched through the land of Europe. And their purpose was, as they said, to have vengeance on the cities of Athens and Eretria; but in truth they had it in their minds to subdue as many as they should be able of the cities of the Greeks. First, then, they subdued the Thrasians. These did not so much as lift a hand against the Persians, and so were added to the nations whom they had in slavery. From Thasos they went to Acanthus, and leaving Acanthus they sought to pass round Mount Athos, which is a great promontory, running far out into the sea. Here there fell upon the ships a very mighty wind, such as they could in nowise bear up against, and did them much damage. Men say indeed that there perished of the ships three hundred, and of men more than twenty thousand. For the sea in these parts is full of great monsters, which laid hold on many of the men; many also were dashed against the rocks, and were so destroyed; and some perished because they could not swim, and some from cold. Thus it fared with the ships. As for Mardonius and his army, the Brygi, that are a tribe of Thracians, assailed him in his camp by night and slew many of his men, and wounded Mardonius himself. Notwithstanding, the Brygi escaped not the doom of slavery, for Mardonius left not this region till he had utterly subdued them. But when he had done this he went back to Asia, for his army had suffered much from the Thracians, and his ships from the storm at Mount Athos. Thus did this great undertaking come to an end with little honor.

For all this Darius changed not his purpose concerning Athens and the other cities of Greece. For every day, at his bidding, did his servant say to him, "O King, remember the Athenians." Also the children of Pisistratus ceased not to speak against the city. The King indeed desired, having for a pretense his quarrel against the Athenians, to subdue all the Greeks that would not give him earth and water; for the giving of these things is to the Persians a token of submission. Mardonius, seeing that he had fared badly in his undertaking, the King discharged of his office, appointing thereto Datis, that was a Mede, and Artaphernes his brother's son. These then he sent on the same errand on which he had sent Mardonius, saying to them, "Make slaves of the men of Eretria and of the men of Athens, and bring them to me that I may see them." So these two went down from the city of Susa to Cilicia, having with them a very great army and well-appointed; and while they were encamped here in a plain that is called the Aleian plain, there came also to that country the whole array of ships as had been commanded, and with the rest ships designed for the carriage of horses, for in the year before the King had commanded the inhabitants that such should be built. On these ships, therefore, they embarked their horses, and on the other ships the rest of the army, and so set sail to Ionia, having in all six hundred ships of war.

But they sailed not along the coast after the former manner, going northwards to the Hellespont and to Thrace, but voyaged through the islands, beginning with Samos; and this they did, as it seems, because they feared the going round Mount Athos, remembering what loss and damage they had suffered at this place in the former expedition. Also they had Naxos in their mind, for this had not as yet been conquered. They sailed, therefore, first to Naxos, and the people of the island did not abide their coming, but fled forthwith to the mountains. And the Persians made slaves of all on whom they could lay their hands, and burned the temples and the city with fire, and so departed. While they were doing these things the men of Delos left their island of Delos and fled to Tenos. But Datis suffered not the ships of the Persians to come to anchor at Delos, but bade them tarry over against it in Rhenea; and having heard where the men of Delos had bestowed themselves, he sent an herald, saying, "Holy men, why have ye fled from your dwelling-place, and have thought that which is not fitting concerning me? For indeed my own purpose and the commandment also which has been laid upon me by the King is this, that we should do no harm to the land in which the two Great Ones, Apollo and Artemis, were born, neither to it nor to the inhabitants thereof. Return ye therefore to your own dwellings and inhabit your island." This was the message which Datis sent to the men of Delos; and afterward he burned three hundred talents' weight of frankincense upon the altar of their temple. And it came to pass that when he had departed from Delos, the island was shaken by an earthquake. Now it had never been so shaken before, nor hath been since. This thing, without doubt, happened for a sign to the sons of men of the evils that were coming upon them. And indeed, in the days of Darius the son of Hystaspes, and Xerxes the son of Darius, and Artaxerxes the son of Xerxes, that were kings of Persia, the one after the other, there befell the Greeks worse evils than had befallen them for twenty generations before the days of Darius, of which evils some indeed came from the Persians and some from the chief among themselves when they contended together for the pre-eminence. Therefore it may well be believed that Delos had never been shaken before as it was shaken in these days.

From Delos the barbarians sailed to the other islands of that sea. And whithersoever they came they took some of the islanders to serve in the army and the ships, and of their children some to be hostages. But when they came to Carystus, the people of the land would not give hostages, neither were they willing to help in making war upon the cities of their neighbors, meaning thereby Eretria and Athens. Then the Persians besieged their town and laid waste their country till the men of Carystus agreed to do as had been required of them.

When the Eretrians heard that the Persians were coming against them with a great host and many ships, they sent to the Athenians praying for help. This the Athenians refused not to give, but sent to such of their citizens as had had land allotted to them in the country of the horse-breeding Chalcidians that they should go to the help of the men of Eretria. But these, though they sent this message to the Athenians, had no steadfast or worthy purpose in the matter. Some of them indeed were for leaving the city, that they might flee to the hill country of Eubœa, but others, looking only to their own gain, and thinking that they should best get this from the Persians, made ready to betray their country. This, when Æschines the son of Nothus, than whom there was none greater in Eretria, heard, he told to the Athenians that had come the whole matter, and said to them: "Depart ye straightway to your own country, lest ye also perish." And the Athenians hearkened to the counsel of Æschines and departed, crossing the Oropus, and so got safe away. After this the ships of the Persians came to the land of Eretria, and put out the horses that they carried, and made ready as if they would fight with the enemy. But the Eretrians had no mind to come out of their walls and fight; only they hoped that they might perchance keep these against the enemy, for as to the counsel of leaving their city and fleeing to the hills, this they had given up. Then the Persians attacked the wall with great fury; and for six days they fought, many being slain on both sides; but on the seventh day, two men, of good repute among the citizens, whose names were Euphorbus and Philagrus, betrayed Eretria to the Persians; and these, entering into the city, first burned the temples, thereby revenging the burning of the temples of Sardis, and next made slaves of all the people, according as King Darius had given them commandment.

When they had thus dealt with Eretria, they sailed against Athens, having no doubt that they should speedily deal with this also after the same fashion. And seeing that Marathon was the most convenient for their purpose, and nearest also to Eretria, thither did Hippias the son of Pisistratus lead them. And the Athenians, so soon as they heard of their coming, marched with their whole force to Marathon. Ten generals they had, of whom the tenth was Miltiades the son of Cimon, the son of Stesagoras.

This Cimon had been banished from Athens by Pisistratus. And it chanced to him that as he went into banishment he won the prize at Olympia for the race of four-horse chariots. This same prize his half-brother Miltiades had also won. And in the next games at Olympia, being five years afterwards, he won again with the same mares; but granted to Pisistratus that his name should be proclaimed as the winner. Because he did this he came back to Athens under safe-conduct. And yet again he won the same prize with the same mares at the games next following; and having done this he was slain by the sons of Pisistratus, for Pisistratus himself was not yet alive. In the commonhall was he slain by men that were sent against him at night. He is buried before the City, beyond the road that is called the Hollow Road; and over against him are buried the mares that won for him these prizes. This same thing was done by other four mares, belonging to Evagoras the Lacedæmonian, but besides these none other have done it. This Cimon had two sons, of whom the elder, Stesagoras, was brought up by his friends in the Chersonese, and the younger, being named Miltiades, after this same uncle, was with his father in Athens.

Chariot Race


This Miltiades then the Athenians had chosen with nine others to be general. But before this he had but narrowly escaped death. For first the Phœnicians pursued him so far as Imbros, being very desirous to lay hands upon him and to take him to the King. And when he had escaped from these, and, coming to his own country, believed that he was now in safety, his enemies brought him into judgment by reason of the lordship which he had had in the Chersonese. But these, too, he escaped, and the people chose him for their general.