Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber

The Great Army

Xerxes' army marched in various sections across Asia Minor, and all the forces came together at the Hellespont. Here the king had ordered the building of two great bridges,—one for the troops, and the other for the immense train of baggage which followed him.

These bridges were no sooner finished than a rising storm entirely destroyed them. When Xerxes heard of the disaster, he not only condemned the unlucky engineers to death, but also had the waves flogged with whips, and ordered chains flung across the strait, to show that he considered the sea an unruly slave, who should be taught to obey his master.

Then, undaunted by his misfortune, the King of Persia gave orders for the building of new bridges; and when they were finished, he reviewed his army from the top of a neighboring mountain.

The sight must have been grand indeed, and the courtiers standing around were greatly surprised when they saw their master suddenly burst into tears. When asked the cause of his sorrow, Xerxes answered, "See that mighty host spread out as far as eye can reach! I weep at the thought that a hundred years hence there will be nothing left of it except, perhaps, a handful of dust and a few moldering bones!"

Crossing the Hellespont.

The king was soon comforted, however, and crossed the bridge first, attended by his bodyguard of picked soldiers, who were called the Immortals because they had never suffered defeat. All the army followed him, and during seven days and nights the bridge resounded with the steady tramp of the armed host; but, even when the rear guard had passed over the Hellespont, there were still so many slaves and baggage wagons, that it took them a whole month to file past.

That was a procession such as has never again been seen. You can imagine what a sight it was for all the boys and girls who lived near enough to the Hellespont to see this mighty parade, which continued night and day.

They saw not only the sacred chariot drawn by eight white horses, the glittering array of the Immortals, the burnished helmets and arms of the foot soldiers, and the silken canopies and tents over the grandees, but also countless chariots drawn by four horses, and provided on either side with sharp scythes, which were intended to mow down the enemy like ripe grain.

Besides these strange mowing machines, there were many other engines of war, which were all made to strike terror into the hearts of the Greeks, and to subdue completely the proud people who had so sorely defeated Darius' troops at Marathon.

To prevent his fleet from being wrecked as his father's was, Xerxes had given orders to dig a great canal across the isthmus that connected Mount Athos with the mainland; and through this the vessels sailed past the promontory safely.


Front Matter

Early Inhabitants of Greece
The Deluge of Ogyges
Founding of Important Cities
Story of Deucalion
Daedalus and Icarus
The Adventures of Jason
Theseus Visits the Labyrinth
The Terrible Prophecy
The Sphinx's Riddle
Death of Oedipus
The Brothers' Quarrel
The Taking of Thebes
The Childhood of Paris
Muster of the Troops
Sacrifice of Iphigenia
The Wrath of Achilles
Death of Hector and Achilles
The Burning of Troy
Heroic Death of Codrus
The Blind Poet
The Rise of Sparta
The Spartan Training
The Brave Spartan Boy
Public Tables in Sparta
Laws of Lycurgus
The Messenian War
The Music of Tyrtaeus
Aristomenes' Escape
The Olympic Games
Milo of Croton
The Jealous Athlete
The Girls' Games
The Bloody Laws of Draco
The Laws of Solon
The First Plays
The Tyrant Pisistratus
The Tyrant's Insult
Death of the Conspirators
Hippias Driven out of Athens
The Great King
Hippias Visits Darius
Destruction of the Persian Host
Advance of the Second Host
The Battle of Marathon
Miltiades' Disgrace
Aristides the Just
Two Noble Spartan Youths
The Great Army
Preparations for Defense
Leonidas at Thermopylae
Death of Leonidas
The Burning of Athens
Battles of Salamis and Plataea
The Rebuilding of Athens
Death of Pausanias
Cimon Improves Athens
The Earthquake
The Age of Pericles
Teachings of Anaxagoras
Peloponnesian War Begins
Death of Pericles
The Philosopher Socrates
Socrates' Favorite Pupil
Youth of Alcibiades
Greek Colonies in Italy
Alcibiades in Disgrace
Death of Alcibiades
Overthrow of Thirty Tyrants
Accusation of Socrates
Death of Socrates
The Defeat of Cyrus
Retreat of the Ten Thousand
Agesilaus in Asia
A Strange Interview
The Peace of Antalcidas
The Theban Friends
Thebes Free Once More
The Battle of Leuctra
Death of Pelopidas
The Battle of Mantinea
The Tyrant of Syracuse
Damon and Pythias
The Sword of Damocles
Dion and Dionysius
Civil War in Syracuse
Death of Dion
Philip of Macedon
Philip Begins His Conquests
The Orator Demosthenes
Philip Masters Greece
Birth of Alexander
The Steed Bucephalus
Alexander as King
Alexander and Diogenes
Alexander's Beginning
The Gordian Knot
Alexander's Royal Captives
Alexander at Jerusalem
The African Desert
Death of Darius
Defeat of Porus
Return to Babylon
Death of Alexander
Division of the Realm
Death of Demosthenes
Last of the Athenians
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Battle of Ipsus
Demetrius and the Athenians
The Achaean League
Division in Sparta
Death of Agis
War of the Two Leagues
The Last of the Greeks
Greece a Roman Province