[7.141] When the Athenian messengers heard this reply, they were filled with the deepest affliction: whereupon Timon, the son of Androbulus, one of the men of most mark among the Delphians, seeing how utterly cast down they were at the gloomy prophecy, advised them to take an olive-branch, and entering the sanctuary again, consult the oracle as suppliants. The Athenians followed this advice, and going in once more, said - "O king! we pray thee reverence these boughs of supplication which we bear in our hands, and deliver to us something more comforting concerning our country. Else we will not leave thy sanctuary, but will stay here till we die." Upon this the priestess gave them a second answer, which was the following:-
Pallas has not been able to soften the lord of Olympus,
Though she has often prayed him, and urged him with excellent counsel.
Yet once more I address thee in words than adamant firmer.
When the foe shall have taken whatever the limit of Cecrops
Holds within it, and all which divine Cithaeron, shelters,
Then far-seeing Jove grants this to the prayers of Athene;
Safe shall the wooden wall continue for thee and thy children.
Wait not the tramp of the horse, nor the footmen mightily moving
Over the land, but turn your hack to the foe, and retire ye.
Yet shall a day arrive when ye shall meet him in battle.
Holy Salamis, thou shalt destroy the offspring of women,
When men scatter the seed, or when they gather the harvest.
[7.142] This answer seemed, as indeed it was, gentler than the former one; so the envoys wrote it down, and went back with it to Athens. When, however, upon their arrival, they produced it before the people, and inquiry began to be made into its true meaning, many and various were the interpretations which men put on it; two, more especially, seemed to be directly opposed to one another. Certain of the old men were of opinion that the god meant to tell them the citadel would escape; for this was anciently defended by a palisade; and they supposed that barrier to be the "wooden wall" of the oracle. Others maintained that the fleet was what the god pointed at; and their advice was that nothing should be thought of except the ships, which had best be at once got ready. Still such as said the "wooden wall" meant the fleet, were perplexed by the last two lines of the oracle -
Holy Salamis, thou shall destroy the offspring of women,
When men scatter the seed, or when they gather the harvest.
These words caused great disturbance among those who took the wooden wall to be the ships; since the interpreters understood them to mean that, if they made preparations for a sea-fight, they would suffer a defeat off Salamis.
[7.143] Now there was at Athens a man who had lately made his way into the first rank of citizens: his true name was Themistocles; but he was known more generally as the son of Neocles. This man came forward and said that the interpreters had not explained the oracle altogether aright - "for if," he argued, "the clause in question had really respected the Athenians, it would not have been expressed so mildly; the phrase used would have been 'Luckless Salamis,' rather than 'Holy Salamis,' had those to whom the island belonged been about to perish in its neighbourhood. Rightly taken, the response of the god threatened the enemy, much more than the Athenians." He therefore counselled his countrymen to make ready to fight on board their ships, since they were the wooden wall in which the god told them to trust. When Themistocles had thus cleared the matter, the Athenians embraced his view, preferring it to that of the interpreters. The advice of these last had been against engaging in a sea-fight; "all the Athenians could do," they said, "was, without lifting a hand in their defence, to quit Attica, and make a settlement in some other country."
[7.144] Themistocles had before this given a counsel which prevailed very seasonably. The Athenians, having a large sum of money in their treasury, the produce of the mines at Laureium, were about to share it among the full-grown citizens, who would have received ten drachmas apiece, when Themistocles persuaded them to forbear the distribution, and build with the money two hundred ships, to help them in their war against the Eginetans. It was the breaking out of the Eginetan war which was at this time the saving of Greece; for hereby were the Athenians forced to become a maritime power. The new ships were not used for the purpose for which they had been built, but became a help to Greece in her hour of need. And the Athenians had not only these vessels ready before the war, but they likewise set to work to build more; while they determined, in a council which was held after the debate upon the oracle, that, according to the advice of the god, they would embark their whole force aboard their ships, and, with such Greeks as chose to join them, give battle to the barbarian invader. Such, then, were the oracles which had been received by the Athenians.
[7.145] The Greeks who were well affected to the Grecian cause, having assembled in one place, and there consulted together, and interchanged pledges with each other, agreed that, before any other step was taken, the feuds and enmities which existed between the different nations should first of all be appeased. Many such there were; but one was of more importance than the rest, namely, the war which was still going on between the Athenians and the Eginetans. When this business was concluded, understanding that Xerxes had reached Sardis with his army, they resolved to despatch spies into Asia to take note of the king's affairs. At the same time they determined to send ambassadors to the Argives, and conclude a league with them against the Persians; while they likewise despatched messengers to Gelo, the son of Deinomenes, in Sicily, to the people of Corcyra, and to those of Crete, exhorting them to send help to Greece. Their wish was to unite, if possible, the entire Greek name in one, and so to bring all to join in the same plan of defence, inasmuch as the approaching dangers threatened all alike. Now the power of Gelo was said to be very great, far greater than that of any single Grecian people.
[7.146] So when these resolutions had been agreed upon, and the quarrels between the states made up, first of all they sent into Asia three men as spies. These men reached Sardis, and took note of the king's forces, but, being discovered, were examined by order of the generals who commanded the land army, and, having been condemned to suffer death, were led out to execution. Xerxes, however, when the news reached him, disapproving the sentence of the generals, sent some of his bodyguard with instructions, if they found the spies still alive, to bring them into his presence. The messengers found the spies alive, and brought them before the king, who, when he heard the purpose for which they had come, gave orders to his guards to take them round the camp, and show them all the footmen and all the horse, letting them gaze at everything to their hearts' content; then, when they were satisfied, to send them away unharmed to whatever country they desired.
[7.147] For these orders Xerxes gave afterwards the following reasons. "Had the spies been put to death," he said, "the Greeks would have continued ignorant of the vastness of his army, which surpassed the common report of it; while he would have done them a very small injury by killing three of their men. On the other hand, by the return of the spies to Greece, his power would become known; and the Greeks," he expected, "would make surrender of their freedom before he began his march, by which means his troops would be saved all the trouble of an expedition." This reasoning was like to that which he used upon another occasion. While he was staying at Abydos, he saw some corn-ships, which were passing through the Hellespont from the Euxine, on their way to Egina and the Peloponnese. His attendants, hearing that they were the enemy's, were ready to capture them, and looked to see when Xerxes would give the signal. He, however, merely asked "whither the ships were bound?" and when they answered, "For thy foes, master, with corn on board, "We too are bound thither," he rejoined, "laden, among other things, with corn. What harm is it, if they carry our provisions for us?"
So the spies, when they had seen everything, were dismissed, and came back to Europe.
[7.148] The Greeks who had banded themselves together against the Persian king, after despatching the spies into Asia, sent next ambassadors to Argos. The account which the Argives give of their own proceedings is the following. They say that they had information from the very first of the preparations which the barbarians were making against Greece. So, as they expected that the Greeks would come upon them for aid against the assailant, they sent envoys to Delphi to inquire of the god what it would be best for them to do in the matter. They had lost, not long before, six thousand citizens, who had been slain by the Lacedaemonians under Cleomenes the son of Anaxandridas; which was the reason why they now sent to Delphi. When the Pythoness heard their question, she replied -
Hated of all thy neighbors, beloved of the blessed Immortals,
Sit thou still, with thy lance drawn inward, patiently watching;
Warily guard thine head, and the head will take care of the body.
This prophecy had been given them some time before the envoys came; but still, when they afterwards arrived, it was permitted them to enter the council-house, and there deliver their message. And this answer was returned to their demands - "Argos is ready to do as ye require, if the Lacedaemonians will first make a truce for thirty years, and will further divide with Argos the leadership of the allied army. Although in strict right the whole command should be hers, she will be content to have the leadership divided equally."
[7.149] Such, they say, was the reply made by the council, in spite of the oracle which forbade them to enter into a league with the Greeks. For, while not without fear of disobeying the oracle, they were greatly desirous of obtaining a thirty years' truce, to give time for their sons to grow to man's estate. They reflected, that if no such truce were concluded, and it should be their lot to suffer a second calamity at the hands of the Persians, it was likely they would fall hopelessly under the power of Sparta. But to the demands of the Argive council the Lacedaemonian envoys made answer - "They would bring before the people the question of concluding a truce. With regard to the leadership, they had received orders what to say, and the reply was that Sparta had two kings, Argos but one - it was not possible that either of the two Spartans should be stripped of his dignity - but they did not oppose the Argive king having one vote like each of them." The Argives say that they could not brook this arrogance on the part of Sparta, and rather than yield one jot to it, they preferred to be under the rule of the barbarians. So they told the envoys to be gone, before sunset, from their territory, or they should be treated as enemies.
[7.150] Such is the account which is given of these matters by the Argives themselves. There is another story, which is told generally through Greece, of a different tenor. Xerxes, it is said, before he set forth on his expedition against Greece, sent a herald to Argos, who on his arrival spoke as follows: "Men of Argos, King Xerxes speaks thus to you. We Persians deem that the Perses from whom we descend was the child of Perseus the son of Danae, and of Andromeda the daughter of Cepheus. Hereby it would seem that we come of your stock and lineage. So then it neither befits us to make war upon those from whom we spring; nor can it be right for you to fight, on behalf of others, against us. Your place is to keep quiet and hold yourself aloof. Only let matters proceed as I wish, and there is no people whom I shall have in higher esteem than you."
This address, says the story, was highly valued by the Argives, who therefore at the first neither gave a promise to the Greeks nor yet put forward a demand. Afterwards, however, when the Greeks called upon them to give their aid, they made the claim which has been mentioned, because they knew well that the Lacedaemonians would never yield it, and so they would have a pretext for taking no part in the war.
[7.151] Some of the Greeks say that this account agrees remarkably with what happened many years afterwards. Callias, the son of Hipponicus, and certain others with him, had gone up to Susa, the city of Memnon, as ambassadors of the Athenians, upon a business quite distinct from this. While they were there, it happened that the Argives likewise sent ambassadors to Susa, to ask Artaxerxes, the son of Xerxes, "if the friendship which they had formed with his father still continued, or if he looked upon them as his enemies?" - to which King Artaxerxes replied, "Most certainly it continues; and there is no city which I reckon more my friend than Argos."
[7.152] For my own part I cannot positively say whether Xerxes did send the herald to Argos or not; nor whether Argive ambassadors at Susa did really put this question to Artaxerxes about the friendship between them and him; neither do I deliver any opinion hereupon other than that of the Argives themselves. This, however, I know - that if every nation were to bring all its evil deeds to a given place, in order to make an exchange with some other nation, when they had all looked carefully at their neighbours' faults, they would be truly glad to carry their own back again. So, after all, the conduct of the Argives was not perhaps more disgraceful than that of others. For myself, my duty is to report all that is said; but I am not obliged to believe it all alike - a remark which may be understood to apply to my whole History. Some even go so far as to say that the Argives first invited the Persians to invade Greece, because of their ill success in the war with Lacedaemon, since they preferred anything to the smart of their actual sufferings. Thus much concerning the Argives.
[7.153] Other ambassadors, among whom was Syagrus from Lacedaemon, were sent by the allies into Sicily, with instructions to confer with Gelo.
The ancestor of this Gelo, who first settled at Gela, was a native of the isle of Telos, which lies off Triopium. When Gela was colonised by Antiphemus and the Lindians of Rhodes, he likewise took part in the expedition. In course of time his descendants became the high-priests of the gods who dwell below - an office which they held continually, from the time that Telines, one of Gelo's ancestors, obtained it in the way which I will now mention. Certain citizens of Gela, worsted in a sedition, had found a refuge at Mactorium, a town situated on the heights above Gela. Telines reinstated these men, without any human help, solely by means of the sacred rites of these deities. From whom he received them, or how he himself acquired them, I cannot say; but certain it is that relying on their power he brought the exiles back. For this his reward was to be the office of high-priest of those gods for himself and his seed for ever. It surprises me especially that such a feat should have been performed by Telines; for I have always looked upon acts of this nature as beyond the abilities of common men, and only to be achieved by such as are of a bold and manly spirit; whereas Telines is said by those who dwell about Sicily to have been a soft-hearted and womanish person. He however obtained this office in the manner above described.
[7.154] Afterwards, on the death of Cleander the son of Pantares, who was slain by Sabyllus, a citizen of Gela, after he had held the tyranny for seven years, Hippocrates, Cleander's brother, mounted the throne. During his reign, Gelo, a descendant of the high-priest Telines, served with many others - of whom Aenesidemus, son of Pataicus, was one - in the king's bodyguard. Within a little time his merit caused him to be raised to the command of all the horse. For when Hippocrates laid siege to Callipolis, and afterwards to Naxos, to Zancle, to Leontini, and moreover to Syracuse, and many cities of the barbarians, Gelo in every war distinguished himself above all the combatants. Of the various cities above named, there was none but Syracuse which was not reduced to slavery. The Syracusans were saved from this fate, after they had suffered defeat on the river Elorus, by the Corinthians and Corcyraeans, who made peace between them and Hippocrates, on condition of their ceding Camarina to him; for that city anciently belonged to Syracuse.
[7.155] When, however, Hippocrates, after a reign of the same length as that of Cleander his brother, perished near the city Hybla, as he was warring with the native Sicilians, then Gelo, pretending to espouse the cause of the two sons of Hippocrates, Eucleides and Cleander, defeated the citizens who were seeking to recover their freedom, and having so done, set aside the children, and himself took the kingly power. After this piece of good fortune, Gelo likewise became master Syracuse, in the following manner. The Syracusan landholders, as they were called, had been driven from their city by the common people assisted by their own slaves, the Cyllyrians, and had fled to Casmenae. Gelo brought them back to Syracuse, and so got possession of the town; for the people surrendered themselves, and gave up their city on his approach.
[7.156] Being now master of Syracuse, Gelo cared less to govern Gela, which he therefore entrusted to his brother Hiero, while he strengthened the defences of his new city, which indeed was now all in all to him. And Syracuse sprang up rapidly to power and became a flourishing place. For Gelo razed Camarina to the ground, and brought all the inhabitants to Syracuse, and made them citizens; he also brought thither more than half the citizens of Gela, and gave them the same rights as the Camarinaeans. So likewise with the Megarians of Sicily - after besieging their town and forcing them to surrender, he took the rich men, who, having made the war, looked now for nothing less than death at his hands, and carrying them to Syracuse, established them there as citizens; while the common people, who, as they had not taken any share in the struggle, felt secure that no harm would be done to them, he carried likewise to Syracuse, where he sold them all as slaves to be conveyed abroad. He did the like also by the Euboeans of Sicily, making the same difference. His conduct towards both nations arose from his belief that a "people" was a most unpleasant companion. In this way Gelo became a great king.
[7.157] When the Greek envoys reached Syracuse, and were admitted to an audience, they spoke as follows - "We have been sent hither by the Lacedaemonians and Athenians, with their respective allies, to ask thee to join us against the barbarian. Doubtless thou hast heard of his invasion, and art aware that a Persian is about to throw a bridge over the Hellespont, and, bringing with him out of Asia all the forces of the East, to carry war into Greece - professing indeed that he only seeks to attack Athens, but really bent on bringing all the Greeks into subjection. Do thou therefore, we beseech thee, aid those who would maintain the freedom of Greece, and thyself assist to free her; since the power which thou wieldest is great, and thy portion in Greece, as lord of Sicily, is no small one. For if all Greece join together in one, there will be a mighty host collected, and we shall be a match for our assailants; but if some turn traitors, and others refuse their aid, and only a small part of the whole body remains sound, then there is reason to fear that all Greece may perish. For do not thou cherish a hope that the Persian, when he has conquered our country, will be content and not advance against thee. Rather take thy measures beforehand, and consider that thou defendest thyself when thou givest aid to us. Wise counsels, be sure, for the most part have prosperous issues."
[7.158] Thus spake the envoys; and Gelo replied with vehemence:- "Greeks, ye have had the face to come here with selfish words, and exhort me to join in league with you against the barbarian. Yet when I erewhile asked you to join with me in fighting barbarians, what time the quarrel broke out between me and Carthage; and when I earnestly besought you to revenge on the men of Egesta their murder of Dorieus, the son of Anaxandridas, promising to assist you in setting free the trading places from which you receive great profits and advantages, you neither came hither to give me succour, nor yet to revenge Dorieus; but, for any efforts on your part to hinder it, these countries might at this time have been entirely under the barbarians. Now, however, that matters have prospered and gone well with me, while the danger has shifted its ground and at present threatens yourselves, lo! you call Gelo to mind. But though ye slighted me then, I will not imitate you now: I am ready to give you aid, and to furnish as my contribution two hundred triremes, twenty thousand men-at-arms, two thousand cavalry, and an equal number of archers, slingers, and light horsemen, together with corn for the whole Grecian army so long as the war shall last. These services, however, I promise on one condition - that ye appoint me chief captain and commander of the Grecian forces during the war with the barbarian. Unless ye agree to this, I will neither send succours, nor come myself."
[7.159] Syagrus, when he heard these words, was unable to contain himself, and exclaimed:-
"Surely a groan would burst from Pelops' son, Agamemnon, did he hear that her leadership was snatched from Sparta by Gelo and the men of Syracuse. Speak then no more of any such condition, as that we should yield thee the chief command; but if thou art minded to come to the aid of Greece, prepare to serve under Lacedaemonian generals. Wilt thou not serve under a leader? - then, prithee, withhold thy succours."