Story of the Persian War - Alfred J. Church

Of the Battle at Mycale

While these things were being done in the land of Bœotia, the fleet of the Greeks lay at Delos, Leotychides of Sparta being its chief captain; but the fleet of the Persians was at Samos. And there came from Samos three men whom the people of the land sent to the captains of the Greeks; but neither did the Persians know of their going, nor Theomestor the lord of the land, for the Persians had made him lord.

When these men were come into the presence of the captains, they were very urgent with them, saying, "If the Ionians do but see you, they will revolt from the Persians; nor will these abide your coming; or, if they abide it, ye will find such a prey as ye could not find elsewhere. It is right that ye should help men that are Greeks and worship the same gods. Right is it and easy withal, for the ships of the Persians are no match for yours. And if ye doubt whether we come in good faith, take us with you in your ships as hostages."

Then Leotychides asked the chief speaker of the three, "Man of Samos, what is thy name?" asking either because he sought for a sign or by chance and by inspiration of God. And the man said, "Hegesistratus," which is by interpretation "Leader of armies." Then said Leotychides, "I accept the sign of this word—leader of armies. Only you must pledge your word, you and these others, that the men of Samos will be zealous and true." Then the three pledged their word with an oath. And the Greeks sailed to Samos, taking with them Hegesistratus, for they took his name for a good sign. Also they had with them a soothsayer, one Deiphonus, the son of Evenius of Apollonia. Of Evenius they tell this story. The men of Apollonia have a flock of sheep that are sacred to the sun. And these feed by day by the river that flows from Mount Lacmon, and by night they are kept by men wealthy and noble, chosen from among the citizens, each man keeping them a year; for the men of Apollonia by reason of a certain oracle make much account of these sheep. They are folded by night in a cave that is far distant from the city; and it chanced that this Evenius, having the charge of them on a certain night, fell asleep, and that while he slept wolves entered into the caves and devoured sixty of them. Evenius indeed sought to keep the matter secret, purposing to put another sixty in the place of these, but it came to the knowledge of the people; and they brought him to judgment for his misdeed and condemned him to lose his eyes. But lo! after they had blinded him, the sheep bare no more any young, nor the land its wonted increase. And when the men of Apollonia inquired the cause of the oracle of Dodona, the prophet answered them, "Ye have done wickedly, blinding Evenius, the keeper of the sheep. The Gods sent these wolves; nor will they cease to avenge the man's cause till ye shall make him such satisfaction as he shall himself demand of you. And when ye have done this, then will the Gods themselves give him such a gift that all men shall call him blessed."

When this oracle came to them, the men of Apollonia kept the matter close, and sent certain citizens to make an agreement with Evenius. This agreement they made in this wise. They found Evenius sitting on a bench. Then they sat down by him, and when they had spoken of other things, came at the last to condole with him for his mishap. And they asked him, saying, "Evenius, if the men of Apollonia were minded to give thee satisfaction for this injury, what wouldst thou demand?" Now Evenius had not heard of the oracle, and he said, "If they will give me such and such lands," and he named the two citizens that he knew to have the best lands in the country, "and such a house," and he named a house that he knew to be the fairest in the whole city, "I will lay aside my wrath, holding that I have had due satisfaction." Then they that sat by him answered, "Evenius, the men of Apollonia give thee the satisfaction that thou demandest, according to the words of the oracle." Evenius, indeed, was very wroth when he heard the whole matter, and knew how he had been deceived; but the men of Apollonia bought the lands and the house from them that possessed them and gave to Evenius the things which he had desired. Immediately after this there fell upon him a gift of prophecy, so that he became famous throughout Greece. Deiphonus, son of this Evenius, was now soothsayer to the Greeks. But some say that Deiphonus was not truly his son, but had taken his name and plied the trade of a soothsayer for hire.

The Greeks, finding the signs to be good, sailed to Samos; but when the Persians knew of their coming they left their place and sailed to the mainland, having first sent away the ships of the Phœnicians, for they judged that they could not meet the Greeks in battle, and they desired to have the help of their army that was on the mainland; for Xerxes had left at Mycale, that is over against Samos, sixty thousand men, under Tigranes, a Persian of notable beauty and stature, to keep guard over Ionia.

So the captains of the Persian ships came to Mycale, and drew their ships up on the shore and made a fence round them of stones and wood, cutting down the fruit trees that were in the place, and setting stakes in the ground about the fence.

When the Greeks knew that the barbarians had fled to the mainland, they were greatly troubled that the men had escaped out of their hands, and doubted whether they should go home or sail to the Hellespont. But in the end they did neither the one thing nor the other, but sailed to the mainland, having got ready boarding bridges and other things needful for a sea-fight. But when they were come to the place, there were none to meet them, but they saw the ships drawn up within the ramparts, and a great army sat in array along the shore. First of all Leotychides sailed in his ship along the shore, keeping as close to the shore as might be, and crying with a loud voice, "Men of Ionia that chance to hear me, listen to that which I now say, for the Persians will understand none of my words. When we join battle, remember all of you first Freedom, and then our watchword, and this is Hebe. And if there are any that chance not to hear me, let others tell my words to them." Now the purpose of these words was the same as of the words which Themistocles wrote upon the rocks at Artemisium. If they came not to the knowledge of the Persians, then they might persuade the Ionians; but if they came to their knowledge they would cause the Persians to put no trust in their allies. When Leotychides had ended speaking these words, the allies brought their ships to the land and disembarked, and set themselves in array for the battle.

But the Persians, when they saw how the Greeks set themselves in array, considered the words which had been spoken to the Ionians. And first of all they took away from the men of Samos their arms, suspecting that they favored the Greeks. This they did because the men of Samos had paid the ransom of five hundred Athenians whom the armies of the King had found lingering in the land of Attica, and had carried away captive into Asia. Next after this they sent the men of Miletus to keep the ways that led to the heights of Mycale, for they knew the country. This they said, but in truth they desired to keep them outside the camp. Thus did the Persians seek to guard themselves against the Ionians, if these were minded to help the Greeks; and after this they made a rampart of wicker shields to be a defense against the enemy.

And now the Greeks, all things being ready, began to go forward against the barbarians. And lo! as they went there ran a rumor through the whole army and at the same time they saw a herald's staff lying on the sea-shore. And the rumor was this, that the Greeks were doing battle in the land of Bœotia with the army of Mardonius, and were prevailing over it. And this is one of the many proofs that the gods have a thought for the affairs of men; for how else, when it had chanced that this battle at Mycale and the ruin that fell on the Persians at Platæa should fall out on the selfsame day, came this rumor to the Greeks making them to be of a good courage and willing to put their lives in jeopardy? At Platæa the battle was in the morning, and at Mycale it was toward evening. And before the rumor came they had been fearful, not so much for themselves as for the Greeks, lest they should flee before Mardonius. But now their fear ceased, and they ran forward both quicker and with better courage. And indeed both the barbarians and the Greeks had much eagerness for the battle, whereof the prize was the Hellespont and the islands.

Now the Athenians and they that were with them, being altogether one-half the army, marched along the shore where the way was level, but the Lacedæmonians with the rest of the army marched over hills and the channel of a stream. And thus it came to pass that while these were making their compass the Athenians had now joined battle. So long as the wicker rampart was standing the Persians held their own and were not worsted in the fight; but when the Athenians and their fellows, desiring to have the victory for themselves, encouraged each other and attacked the Persians more fiercely, things went otherwise. For the Greeks burst through the rampart and fell in one body upon the Persians. These indeed awaited their coming and held out for a time, but at last fled into the fort. And the Athenians with the men of Corinth and of Sicyon and of Trœzen—for these had been set next to the Athenians—entered into the fort along with them. And now when their fort was taken, the barbarians made no more resistance, but fled all of them, save the Persians only. But while these still held out against the Greeks, a few fighting together, there came up the Lacedæmonians and the others, and slew them all. Not a few of the Greeks fell in this battle, especially among the men of Sicyon.

The men of Samos, from whom the Persians had taken their arms, did good service to the Greeks while they were fighting. As for the men of Miletus, they did not what had been commanded them, but led the Persians astray, so that they went into the hands of the enemy, and at last fell upon them with their own hands. Thus did Ionia revolt that day a second time from the King.