[8.101] Xerxes, when he heard these words, felt a sense of joy and delight, like a man who is relieved from care. Answering Mardonius, therefore, "that he would consider his counsel, and let him know which course he might prefer," Xerxes proceeded to consult with the chief men among the Persians; and because Artemisia on the former occasion had shown herself the only person who knew what was best to be done, he was pleased to summon her to advise him now. As soon as she arrived, he put forth all the rest, both councillors and bodyguards, and said to her:-
"Mardonius wishes me to stay and attack the Peloponnese. My Persians, he says, and my other land forces, are not to blame for the disasters which have befallen our arms; and of this he declares they would very gladly give me the proof. He therefore exhorts me, either to stay and act as I have said, or to let him choose Out 300,000 of my troops - wherewith he undertakes to reduce Greece beneath my sway - while I myself retire with the rest of my forces, and withdraw into my own country. Do thou, therefore, as thou didst counsel me so wisely to decline the sea-fight, now also advise me in this matter, and say, which course of the twain I ought to take for my own good."
[8.102] Thus did the king ask Artemisia's counsel; and the following are the words wherewith she answered him:-
"'Tis a hard thing, O king! to give the best possible advice to one who asks our counsel. Nevertheless, as thy affairs now stand, it seemeth to me that thou wilt do right to return home. As for Mardonius, if he prefers to remain, and undertakes to do as he has said, leave him behind by all means, with the troops which he desires. If his design succeeds, and he subdues the Greeks, as he promises, thine is the conquest, master; for thy slaves will have accomplished it. If, on the other hand, affairs run counter to his wishes, we can suffer no great loss, so long as thou art safe, and thy house is in no danger. The Greeks, too, while thou livest, and thy house flourishes, must be prepared to fight full many a battle for their freedom; whereas if Mardonius fall, it matters nothing - they will have gained but a poor triumph - a victory over one of thy slaves! Remember also, thou goest home having gained the purpose of thy expedition; for thou hast burnt Athens!"
[8.103] The advice of Artemisia pleased Xerxes well; for she had exactly uttered his own thoughts. I, for my part, do not believe that he would have remained had all his counsellors, both men and women, united to urge his stay, so great was the alarm that he felt. As it was, he gave praise to Artemisia, and entrusted certain of his children to her care, ordering her to convey them to Ephesus; for he had been accompanied on the expedition by some of his natural sons.
[8.104] He likewise sent away at this time one of the principal of his eunuchs, a man named Hermotimus, a Pedasian, who was bidden to take charge of these sons. Now the Pedasians inhabit the region above Halicarnassus; and it is related of them, that in their country the following circumstance happens: when a mischance is about to befall any of their neighbours within a certain time, the priestess of Minerva in their city grows a long beard. This has already taken place on two occasions.
[8.105] The Hermotimus of whom I spoke above was, as I said, a Pedasian; and he, of all men whom we know, took the most cruel vengeance on the person who had done him an injury. He had been made a prisoner of war, and when his captors sold him, he was bought by a certain Panionius, a native of Chios, who made his living by a most nefarious traffic. Whenever he could get any boys of unusual beauty, he made them eunuchs, and, carrying them to Sardis or Ephesus, sold them for large sums of money. For the barbarians value eunuchs more than others, since they regard them as more trustworthy. Many were the slaves that Panionius, who made his living by the practice, had thus treated; and among them was this Hermotimus of whom I have here made mention. However, he was not without his share of good fortune; for after a while he was sent from Sardis, together with other gifts, as a present to the king. Nor was it long before he came to be esteemed by Xerxes more highly than all his eunuchs.
[8.106] When the king was on his way to Athens with the Persian army, and abode for a time at Sardis, Hermotimus happened to make a journey upon business into Mysia; and there, in a district which is called Atarneus, but belongs to Chios, he chanced to fall in with Panionius. Recognising him at once, he entered into a long and friendly talk with him, wherein he counted up the numerous blessings he enjoyed through his means, and promised him all manner of favours in return, if he would bring his household to Sardis and live there. Panionius was overjoyed, and, accepting the offer made him, came presently, and brought with him his wife and children. Then Hermotimus, when he had got Panionius and all his family into his power, addressed him in these words:-
"Thou man, who gettest a living by viler deeds than any one else in the whole world, what wrong to thee or thine had I or any of mine done, that thou shouldst have made me the nothing that I now am? Ah! surely thou thoughtest that the gods took no note of thy crimes. But they in their justice have delivered thee, the doer of unrighteousness, into my hands; and now thou canst not complain of the vengeance which I am resolved to take on thee."
After these reproaches, Hermotimus commanded the four sons of Panionius to be brought, and forced the father to make them eunuchs with his own hand. Unable to resist, he did as Hermotimus required; and then his sons were made to treat him in the self-same way. So in this way there came to Panionius requital at the hands of Hermotimus.
[8.107] Xerxes, after charging Artemisia to convey his sons safe to Ephesus, sent for Mardonius, and bade him choose from all his army such men as he wished, and see that he made his achievements answer to his promises. During this day he did no more; but no sooner was night come, than he issued his orders, and at once the captains of the ships left Phalerum, and bore away for the Hellespont, each making all the speed he could, and hasting to guard the bridges against the king's return. On their way, as they sailed by Zoster, where certain narrow points of land project into the sea, they took the cliffs for vessels, and fled far away in alarm. Discovering their mistake, however, after a time, they joined company once more, and proceeded upon their voyage.
[8.108] Next day the Greeks, seeing the land force of the barbarians encamped in the same place, thought that their ships must still be lying at Phalerum; and, expecting another attack from that quarter, made preparations to defend themselves. Soon however news came that the ships were all departed and gone away; whereupon it was instantly resolved to make sail in pursuit. They went as far as Andros; but, seeing nothing of the Persian fleet, they stopped at that place, and held a council of war. At this council Themistocles advised that the Greeks should follow on through the islands, still pressing the pursuit, and making all haste to the Hellespont, there to break down the bridges. Eurybiades, however, delivered a contrary opinion. "If," he said, "the Greeks should break down the bridges, it would be the worst thing that could possibly happen for Greece. The Persian, supposing that his retreat were cut off, and he compelled to remain in Europe, would be sure never to give them any peace. Inaction on his part would ruin all his affairs, and leave him no chance of ever getting back to Asia - nay, would even cause his army to perish by famine: whereas, if he bestirred himself, and acted vigorously, it was likely that the whole of Europe would in course of time become subject to him; since, by degrees, the various towns and tribes would either fall before his arms, or else agree to terms of submission; and in this way, his troops would find food sufficient for them, since each year the Greek harvest would be theirs. As it was, the Persian, because he had lost the sea-fight, intended evidently to remain no longer in Europe. The Greeks ought to let him depart; and when he was gone from among them, and had returned into his own country, then would be the time for them to contend with him for the possession of that."
The other captains of the Peloponnesians declared themselves of the same mind.
[8.109] Whereupon Themistocles, finding that the majority was against him, and that he could not persuade them to push on to the Hellespont, changed round, and addressing himself to the Athenians, who of all the allies were the most nettled at the enemy's escape, and who eagerly desired, if the other Greeks would not stir, to sail on by themselves to the Hellespont and break the bridges, spake as follows:-
"I have often myself witnessed occasions, and I have heard of many more from others, where men who had been conquered by an enemy, having been driven quite to desperation, have renewed the fight, and retrieved their former disasters. We have now had the great good luck to save both ourselves and all Greece by the repulse of this vast cloud of men; let us then be content and not press them too hard, now that they have begun to fly. Be sure we have not done this by our own might. It is the work of gods and heroes, who were jealous that one man should be king at once of Europe and of Asia - more especially a man like this, unholy and presumptuous - a man who esteems alike things sacred and things profane; who has cast down and burnt the very images of the gods themselves; who even caused the sea to be scourged with rods and commanded fetters to be thrown into it. At present all is well with us - let us then abide in Greece, and look to ourselves and to our families. The barbarian is clean gone - we have driven him off - let each now repair his own house, and sow his land diligently. In the spring we will take ship and sail to the Hellespont and to Ionia!" All this Themistocles said in the hope of establishing a claim upon the king; for he wanted to have a safe retreat in case any mischance should befall him at Athens - which indeed came to pass afterwards.
[8.110] At present, however, he dissembled; and the Athenians were persuaded by his words. For they were ready now to do whatever he advised; since they had always esteemed him a wise man, and he had lately proved himself most truly wise and well-judging. Accordingly, they came in to his views; whereupon he lost no time in sending messengers, on board a light bark, to the king, choosing for this purpose men whom he could trust to keep his instructions secret, even although they should be put to every kind of torture. Among them was the house-slave Sicinnus, the same whom he had made use of previously. When the men reached Attica, all the others stayed with the boat; but Sicinnus went up to the king, and spake to him as follows:-
"I am sent to thee by Themistocles, the son of Neocles, who is the leader of the Athenians, and the wisest and bravest man of all the allies, to bear thee this message: 'Themistocles the Athenian, anxious to render thee a service, has restrained the Greeks, who were impatient to pursue thy ships, and to break up the bridges at the Hellespont. Now, therefore, return home at thy leisure.'"
The messengers, when they had performed their errand, sailed back to the fleet.
[8.111] And the Greeks, having resolved that they would neither proceed further in pursuit of the barbarians, nor push forward to the Hellespont and destroy the passage, laid siege to Andros, intending to take the town by storm. For Themistocles had required the Andrians to pay down a sum of money; and they had refused, being the first of all the islanders who did so. To his declaration, "that the money must needs be paid, as the Athenians had brought with him two mighty gods - Persuasion and Necessity," they made reply, that "Athens might well be a great and glorious city, since she was blest with such excellent gods; but they were wretchedly poor, stinted for land, and cursed with two unprofitable gods, who always dwelt with them and would never quit their island - to wit, Poverty and Helplessness. These were the gods of the Andrians, and therefore they would not pay the money. For the power of Athens could not possibly be stronger than their inability." This reply, coupled with the refusal to pay the sum required, caused their city to be besieged by the Greeks.
[8.112] Meanwhile Themistocles, who never ceased his pursuit of gain, sent threatening messages to the other islanders with demands for different sums, employing the same messengers and the same words as he had used towards the Andrians. "If," he said, "they did not send him the amount required, he would bring the Greek fleet upon them, and besiege them till he took their cities." By these means he collected large sums from the Carystians and the Parians, who, when they heard that Andros was already besieged, and that Themistocles was the best esteemed of all the captains, sent the money through fear. Whether any of the other islanders did the like, I cannot say for certain; but I think some did besides those I have mentioned. However, the Carystians, though they complied, were not spared any the more; but Themistocles was softened by the Parians' gift, and therefore they received no visit from the army. In this way it was that Themistocles, during his stay at Andros, obtained money from the islanders, unbeknown to the other captains.
[8.113] King Xerxes and his army waited but a few days after the sea-fight, and then withdrew into Boeotia by the road which they had followed on their advance. It was the wish of Mardonius to escort the king a part of the way; and as the time of year was no longer suitable for carrying on war, he thought it best to winter in Thessaly, and wait for the spring before he attempted the Peloponnese. After the army was come into Thessaly, Mardonius made choice of the troops that were to stay with him; and, first of all, he took the whole body called the "Immortals," except only their leader, Hydarnes, who refused to quit the person of the king. Next, he chose the Persians who wore breastplates, and the thousand picked horse; likewise the Medes, the Sacans, the Bactrians, and the Indians, foot and horse equally. These nations he took entire: from the rest of the allies he culled a few men, taking either such as were remarkable for their appearance, or else such as had performed, to his knowledge, some valiant deed. The Persians furnished him with the greatest number of troops, men who were adorned with chains and armlets. Next to them were the Medes, who in number equalled the Persians, but in valour fell short of them. The whole army, reckoning the horsemen with the rest, amounted to 300,000 men.
[8.114] At the time when Mardonius was making choice of his troops, and Xerxes still continued in Thessaly, the Lacedaemonians received a message from the Delphic oracle, bidding them seek satisfaction at the hands of Xerxes for the death of Leonidas, and take whatever he chose to give them. So the Spartans sent a herald with all speed into Thessaly, who arrived while the entire Persian army was still there. This man, being brought before the king, spake as follows:-
"King of the Medes, the Lacedaemonians and the Heracleids of Sparta require of thee the satisfaction due for bloodshed, because thou slewest their king, who fell fighting for Greece."
Xerxes laughed, and for a long time spake not a word. At last, however, he pointed to Mardonius, who was standing by him, and said:- "Mardonius here shall give them the satisfaction they deserve to get." And the herald accepted the answer, and forthwith went his way.
[8.115] Xerxes, after this, left Mardonius in Thessaly, and marched away himself, at his best speed, toward the Hellespont. In five-and-forty days he reached the place of passage, where he arrived with scarce a fraction, so to speak, of his former army. All along their line of march, in every country where they chanced to be, his soldiers seized and devoured whatever corn they could find belonging to the inhabitants; while, if no corn was to be found, they gathered the grass that grew in the fields, and stripped the trees, whether cultivated or wild, alike of their bark and of their leaves, and so fed themselves. They left nothing anywhere, so hard were they pressed by hunger. Plague too and dysentery attacked the troops while still upon their march, and greatly thinned their ranks. Many died; others fell sick and were left behind in the different cities that lay upon the route, the inhabitants being strictly charged by Xerxes to tend and feed them. Of these some remained in Thessaly, others in Siris of Paeonia, others again in Macedon. Here Xerxes, on his march into Greece, had left the sacred car and steeds of Jove; which upon his return he was unable to recover; for the Paeonians had disposed of them to the Thracians, and, when Xerxes demanded them back, they said that the Thracian tribes who dwelt about the sources of the Strymon had stolen the mares as they pastured.
[8.116] Here too a Thracian chieftain, king of the Bisaltians and of Crestonia, did a deed which went beyond nature. He had refused to become the willing slave of Xerxes, and had fled before him into the heights of Rhodope, at the same time forbidding his sons to take part in the expedition against Greece. But they, either because they cared little for his orders, or because they wished greatly to see the war, joined the army of Xerxes. At this time they had all returned home to him - the number of the men was six - quite safe and sound. But their father took them, and punished their offence by plucking out their eyes from the sockets. Such was the treatment which these men received.
[8.117] The Persians, having journeyed through Thrace and reached the passage, entered their ships hastily and crossed the Hellespont to Abydos. The bridges were not found stretched across the strait; since a storm had broken and dispersed them. At Abydos the troops halted, and, obtaining more abundant provision than they had yet got upon their march, they fed without stint; from which cause, added to the change in their water, great numbers of those who had hitherto escaped perished. The remainder, together with Xerxes himself, came safe to Sardis.
[8.118] There is likewise another account given of the return of the king. It is said that when Xerxes on his way from Athens arrived at Eion upon the Strymon, he gave up travelling by land, and, intrusting Hydarnes with the conduct of his forces to the Hellespont, embarked himself on board a Phoenician ship, and so crossed into Asia. On his voyage the ship was assailed by a strong wind blowing from the mouth of the Strymon, which caused the sea to run high. As the storm increased, and the ship laboured heavily, because of the number of the Persians who had come in the king's train, and who now crowded the deck, Xerxes was seized with fear, and called out to the helmsman in a loud voice, asking him, if there were any means whereby they might escape the danger. "No means, master," the helmsman answered, "unless we could be quit of these too numerous passengers." Xerxes, they say, on hearing this, addressed the Persians as follows: "Men of Persia," he said, "now is the time for you to show what love ye bear your king. My safety, as it seems, depends wholly upon you." So spake the king; and the Persians instantly made obeisance, and then leapt over into the sea. Thus was the ship lightened, and Xerxes got safe to Asia. As soon as he had reached the shore, he sent for the helmsman, and gave him a golden crown because he had preserved the life of the kings - but because he had caused the death of a number of Persians, he ordered his head to be struck from his shoulders.
[8.119] Such is the other account which is given of the return of Xerxes; but to me it seems quite unworthy of belief, alike in other respects, and in what relates to the Persians. For had the helmsman made any such speech to Xerxes, I suppose there is not one man in ten thousand who will doubt that this is the course which the king would have followed:- he would have made the men upon the ship's deck, who were not only Persians, but Persians of the very highest rank, quit their place and go down below; and would have cast into the sea an equal number of the rowers, who were Phoenicians. But the truth is, that the king, as I have already said, returned into Asia by the same road as the rest of the army.
[8.120] I will add a strong proof of this. It is certain that Xerxes on his way back from Greece passed through Abdera, where he made a contract of friendship with the inhabitants, and presented them with a golden scymitar, and a tiara broidered with gold. The Abderites declare - but I put no faith in this part of their story - that from the time of the king's leaving Athens, he never once loosed his girdle till he came to their city, since it was not till then that he felt himself in safety. Now Abdera is nearer to the Hellespont than Eion and the Strymon, where Xerxes, according to the other tale, took ship.