[8.41] So while the rest of the fleet lay to off this island, the Athenians cast anchor along their own coast. Immediately upon their arrival, proclamation was made that every Athenian should save his children and household as he best could; whereupon some sent their families to Egina, some to Salamis, but the greater number to Troezen. This removal was made with all possible haste, partly from a desire to obey the advice of the oracle, but still more for another reason. The Athenians say that they have in their Acropolis a huge serpent, which lives in the temple, and is the guardian of the whole place. Nor do they only say this, but, as if the serpent really dwelt there, every month they lay out its food, which consists of a honey-cake. Up to this time the honey-cake had always been consumed; but now it remained untouched. So the priestess told the people what had happened; whereupon they left Athens the more readily, since they believed that the goddess had already abandoned the citadel. As soon as all was removed, the Athenians sailed back to their station.
[8.42] And now, the remainder of the Grecian sea-force, hearing that the fleet which had been at Artemisium, was come to Salamis, joined it at that island from Troezen - orders having been issued previously that the ships should muster at Pogon, the port of the Troezenians. The vessels collected were many more in number than those which had fought at Artemisium, and were furnished by more cities. The admiral was the same who had commanded before, to wit, Eurybiades, the son of Eurycleides, who was a Spartan, but not of the family of the kings: the city, however, which sent by far the greatest number of ships, and the best sailers, was Athens.
[8.43] Now these were the nations who composed the Grecian fleet. From the Peloponnese, the following - the Lacedaemonians with sixteen ships; the Corinthians with the same number as at Artemisium; the Sicyonians with fifteen; the Epidaurians with ten; the Troezenians with five; and the Hermionians with three. These were Dorians and Macedonians all of them (except those from Hermione), and had emigrated last from Erineus, Pindus, and Dryopis. The Hermionians were Dryopians, of the race which Hercules and the Malians drove out of the land now called Doris. Such were the Peloponnesian nations.
[8.44] From the mainland of Greece beyond the Peloponnese, came the Athenians with a hundred and eighty ships, a greater number than that furnished by any other people; and these were now manned wholly by themselves; for the Plataeans did not serve aboard the Athenian ships at Salamis, owing to the following reason. When the Greeks, on their withdrawal from Artemisium, arrived off Chalcis, the Plataeans disembarked upon the opposite shore of Boeotia, and set to work to remove their households, whereby it happened that they were left behind. (The Athenians, when the region which is now called Greece was held by the Pelasgi, were Pelasgians, and bore the name of Cranaans; but under their king Cecrops, they were called Cecropidae; when Erechtheus got the sovereignty, they changed their name to Athenians; and when Ion, the son of Xuthus, became their general, they were named after him Ionians.)
[8.45] The Megarians served with the same number of ships as at Artemisium; the Ambraciots came with seven; the Leucadians (who were Dorians from Corinth) with three.
[8.46] Of the islanders, the Eginetans furnished thirty ships - they had a larger number equipped; but some were kept back to guard their own coasts, and only thirty, which however were their best sailers, took part in the fight at Salamis. (The Eginetans are Dorians from Epidaurus; their island was called formerly Oenone). The Chalcideans came next in order; they furnished the twenty ships with which they had served at Artemisium. The Eretrians likewise furnished their seven. These races are Ionian. Ceos gave its old number - the Ceans are Ionians from Attica. Naxos furnished four: this detachment, like those from the other islands, had been sent by the citizens at home to join the Medes; but they made light of the orders given them, and joined the Greeks, at the instigation of Democritus, a citizen of good report, who was at that time captain of a trireme. The Naxians are Ionians, of the Athenian stock. The Styreans served with the same ships as before; the Cythnians contributed one, and likewise a penteconter - these two nations are Dryopians: the Seriphians, Siphnians, and Melians, also served; they were the only islanders who had not given earth and water to the barbarian.
[8.47] All these nations dwelt inside the river Acheron and the country inhabited by the Thesprotians; for that people borders on the Ambraciots and Leucadians, who are the most remote of all those by whom the fleet was furnished. From the countries beyond, there was only one people which gave help to the Greeks in their danger. This was the people of Crotona, who contributed a single ship, under the command of Phayllus, a man who had thrice carried off the prize at the Pythian Games. The Crotoniats are, by descent, Achaeans.
[8.48] Most of the allies came with triremes; but the Melians, Siphnians, and Seriphians, brought penteconters. The Melians, who draw their race from Lacedaemon, furnished two; the Siphnians and Seriphians, who are Ionians of the Athenian stock, one each. The whole number of the ships, without counting the penteconters, was three hundred and seventy-eight.
[8.49] When the captains from these various nations were come together at Salamis, a council of war was summoned; and Eurybiades proposed that any one who liked to advise, should say which place seemed to him the fittest, among those still in the possession of the Greeks, to be the scene of a naval combat. Attica, he said, was not to be thought of now; but he desired their counsel as to the remainder. The speakers mostly advised that the fleet should sail away to the Isthmus, and there give battle in defence of the Peloponnese; and they urged as a reason for this, that if they were worsted in a sea-fight at Salamis, they would be shut up in an island where they could get no help; but if they were beaten near the Isthmus, they could escape to their homes.
[8.50] As the captains from the Peloponnese were thus advising, there came an Athenian to the camp, who brought word that the barbarians had entered Attica, and were ravaging and burning everything. For the division of the army under Xerxes was just arrived at Athens from its march through Boeotia, where it had burnt Thespiae and Plataea - both which cities were forsaken by their inhabitants, who had fled to the Peloponnese - and now it was laying waste all the possessions of the Athenians. Thespiae and Plataea had been burnt by the Persians, because they knew from the Thebans that neither of those cities had espoused their side.
[8.51] Since the passage of the Hellespont and the commencement of the march upon Greece, a space of four months had gone by; one, while the army made the crossing, and delayed about the region of the Hellespont; and three while they proceeded thence to Attica, which they entered in the archonship of Calliades. They found the city forsaken; a few people only remained in the temple, either keepers of the treasures, or men of the poorer sort. These persons having fortified the citadel with planks and boards, held out against the enemy. It was in some measure their poverty which had prevented them from seeking shelter in Salamis; but there was likewise another reason which in part induced them to remain. They imagined themselves to have discovered the true meaning of the oracle uttered by the Pythoness, which promised that "the wooden wall" should never be taken - the wooden wall, they thought, did not mean the ships, but the place where they had taken refuge.
[8.52] The Persians encamped upon the hill over against the citadel, which is called Mars' hill by the Athenians, and began the siege of the place, attacking the Greeks with arrows whereto pieces of lighted tow were attached, which they shot at the barricade. And now those who were within the citadel found themselves in a most woeful case; for their wooden rampart betrayed them; still, however, they continued to resist. It was in vain that the Pisistratidae came to them and offered terms of surrender - they stoutly refused all parley, and among their other modes of defence, rolled down huge masses of stone upon the barbarians as they were mounting up to the gates: so that Xerxes was for a long time very greatly perplexed, and could not contrive any way to take them.
[8.53] At last, however, in the midst of these many difficulties, the barbarians made discovery of an access. For verily the oracle had spoken truth; and it was fated that the whole mainland of Attica should fall beneath the sway of the Persians. Right in front of the citadel, but behind the gates and the common ascent - where no watch was kept, and no one would have thought it possible that any foot of man could climb - a few soldiers mounted from the sanctuary of Aglaurus, Cecrops' daughter, notwithstanding the steepness of the precipice. As soon as the Athenians saw them upon the summit, some threw themselves headlong from the wall, and so perished; while others fled for refuge to the inner part of the temple. The Persians rushed to the gates and opened them, after which they massacred the suppliants, When all were slain, they plundered the temple, and fired every part of the citadel.
[8.54] Xerxes, thus completely master of Athens, despatched a horseman to Susa, with a message to Artabanus, informing him of his success hitherto. The day after, he collected together all the Athenian exiles who had come into Greece in his train, and bade them go up into the citadel, and there offer sacrifice after their own fashion. I know not whether he had had a dream which made him give this order, or whether he felt some remorse on account of having set the temple on fire. However this may have been, the exiles were not slow to obey the command given them.
[8.55] I will now explain why I have made mention of this circumstance: there is a temple of Erechtheus the Earth-born, as he is called, in this citadel, containing within it an olive-tree and a sea. The tale goes among the Athenians, that they were placed there as witnesses by Neptune and Minerva, when they had their contention about the country. Now this olive-tree had been burnt with the rest of the temple when the barbarians took the place. But when the Athenians, whom the king had commanded to offer sacrifice, went up into the temple for the purpose, they found a fresh shoot, as much as a cubit in length, thrown out from the old trunk. Such at least was the account which these persons gave.
[8.56] Meanwhile, at Salamis, the Greeks no sooner heard what had befallen the Athenian citadel, than they fell into such alarm that some of the captains did not even wait for the council to come to a vote, but embarked hastily on board their vessels, and hoisted sail as though they would take to flight immediately. The rest, who stayed at the council board, came to a vote that the fleet should give battle at the Isthmus. Night now drew on; and the captains, dispersing from the meeting, proceeded on board their respective ships.
[8.57] Themistocles, as he entered his own vessel, was met by Mnesiphilus, an Athenian, who asked him what the council had resolved to do. On learning that the resolve was to stand away for the Isthmus, and there give battle on behalf of the Peloponnese, Mnesiphilus exclaimed:-
"If these men sail away from Salamis, thou wilt have no fight at all for the one fatherland; for they will all scatter themselves to their own homes; and neither Eurybiades nor any one else will be able to hinder them, nor to stop the breaking up of the armament. Thus will Greece be brought to ruin through evil counsels. But haste thee now; and, if there be any possible way, seek to unsettle these resolves - mayhap thou mightest persuade Eurybiades to change his mind, and continue here."
[8.58] The suggestion greatly pleased Themistocles; and without answering a word, he went straight to the vessel of Eurybiades. Arrived there, he let him know that he wanted to speak with him on a matter touching the public service. So Eurybiades bade him come on board, and say whatever he wished. Then Themistocles, seating himself at his side, went over all the arguments which he had heard from Mnesiphilus, pretending as if they were his own, and added to them many new ones besides; until at last he persuaded Eurybiades, by his importunity, to quit his ship and again collect the captains to council.
[8.59] As soon as they were come, and before Eurybiades had opened to them his purpose in assembling them together, Themistocles, as men are wont to do when they are very anxious, spoke much to divers of them; whereupon the Corinthian captain, Adeimantus, the son of Ocytus, observed - "Themistocles, at the Games they who start too soon are scourged." "True," rejoined the other in his excuse, "but they who wait too late are not crowned."
[8.60] Thus he gave the Corinthian at this time a mild answer; and towards Eurybiades himself he did not now use any of those arguments which he had urged before, or say aught of the allies betaking themselves to flight if once they broke up from Salamis; it would have been ungraceful for him, when the confederates were present, to make accusation against any: but he had recourse to quite a new sort of reasoning, and addressed him as follows:-
"With thee it rests, O Eurybiades! to save Greece, if thou wilt only hearken unto me, and give the enemy battle here, rather than yield to the advice of those among us, who would have the fleet withdrawn to the Isthmus. Hear now, I beseech thee, and judge between the two courses. At the Isthmus thou wilt fight in an open sea, which is greatly to our disadvantage, since our ships are heavier and fewer in number than the enemy's; and further, thou wilt in any case lose Salamis, Megara, and Egina, even if all the rest goes well with us. The land and sea force of the Persians will advance together; and thy retreat will but draw them towards the Peloponnese, and so bring all Greece into peril. If, on the other hand, thou doest as I advise, these are the advantages which thou wilt so secure: in the first place, as we shall fight in a narrow sea with few ships against many, if the war follows the common course, we shall gain a great victory; for to fight in a narrow space is favourable to us - in an open sea, to them. Again, Salamis will in this case be preserved, where we have placed our wives and children. Nay, that very point by which ye set most store, is secured as much by this course as by the other; for whether we fight here or at the Isthmus, we shall equally give battle in defence of the Peloponnese. Assuredly ye will not do wisely to draw the Persians upon that region. For if things turn out as I anticipate, and we beat them by sea, then we shall have kept your Isthmus free from the barbarians, and they will have advanced no further than Attica, but from thence have fled back in disorder; and we shall, moreover, have saved Megara, Egina, and Salamis itself, where an oracle has said that we are to overcome our enemies. When men counsel reasonably, reasonable success ensues; but when in their counsels they reject reason, God does not choose to follow the wanderings of human fancies."