[9.1] Mardonius, when Alexander upon his return made known to him the answer of the Athenians, forthwith broke up from Thessaly, and led his army with all speed against Athens; forcing the several nations through whose land he passed to furnish him with additional troops. The chief men of Thessaly, far from repenting of the part which they had taken in the war hitherto, urged on the Persians to the attack more earnestly than ever. Thorax of Larissa in particular, who had helped to escort Xerxes on his flight to Asia, now openly encouraged Mardonius in his march upon Greece.
[9.2] When the army reached Boeotia, the Thebans sought to induce Mardonius to make a halt: "He would not," they told him, "find anywhere a more convenient place in which to pitch his camp; and their advice to him was, that he should go no further, but fix himself there, and thence take measures to subdue all Greece without striking a blow. If the Greeks, who had held together hitherto, still continued united among themselves, it would be difficult for the whole world to overcome them by force of arms. But if thou wilt do as we advise," they went on to say, "thou mayest easily obtain the direction of all their counsels. Send presents to the men of most weight in the several states, and by so doing thou wilt sow division among them. After that, it will be a light task, with the help of such as side with thee, to bring under all thy adversaries."
[9.3] Such was the advice of the Thebans: but Mardonius did not follow it. A strong desire of taking Athens a second time possessed him, in part arising from his inborn stubbornness, in part from a wish to inform the king at Sardis, by fire-signals along the islands, that he was master of the place. However, he did not on his arrival in Attica find the Athenians in their country - they had again withdrawn, some to their ships, but the greater part to Salamis - and he only gained possession of a deserted town. It was ten months after the taking of the city by the king that Mardonius came against it for the second time.
[9.4] Mardonius, being now in Athens, sent an envoy to Salamis, one Murychides, a Hellespontine Greek, to offer the Athenians once more the same terms which had been conveyed to them by Alexander. The reason for his sending a second time, though he knew beforehand their unfriendly feelings towards him, was, - that he hoped, when they saw the whole land of Attica conquered and in his power, their stubbornness would begin to give way. On this account, therefore, he dispatched Murychides to Salamis.
[9.5] Now, when Murychides came before the council, and delivered his message, one of the councillors, named Lycidas, gave it as his opinion - "that the best course would be, to admit the proposals brought by Murychides, and lay them before the assembly of the people." This he stated to be his opinion, perhaps because he had been bribed by Mardonius, or it may be because that course really appeared to him the most expedient. However, the Athenians - both those in the council, and those who stood without, when they heard of the advice - were full of wrath, and forthwith surrounded Lycidas, and stoned him to death. As for Murychides, the Hellespontine Greek, him they sent away unharmed. Now there was a stir in the island about Lycidas, and the Athenian women learnt what had happened. Then each exhorted her fellow, and one brought another to take part in the deed; and they all flocked of their own accord to the house of Lycidas, and stoned to death his wife and his children.
[9.6] The circumstances under which the Athenians had sought refuge in Salamis were the following. So long as any hope remained that a Peloponnesian army would come to give them aid, they abode still in Attica; but when it appeared that the allies were slack and slow to move, while the invader was reported to be pressing forward and to have already entered Boeotia, then they proceeded to remove their goods and chattels from the mainland, and themselves again crossed the strait to Salamis. At the same time they sent ambassadors to Lacedaemon, who were to reproach the Lacedaemonians for having allowed the barbarian to advance into Attica, instead of joining them and going out to meet him in Boeotia. They were likewise to remind the Lacedaemonians of the offers by which the Persian had sought to win Athens over to his side, and to warn them, that no aid came from Sparta, the Athenians must consult for their own safety.
[9.7] The truth was, the Lacedaemonians were keeping holiday at that time; for it was the feast of the Hyacinthia, and they thought nothing of so much moment as to perform the service of the god. They were also engaged in building their wall across the Isthmus, which was now so far advanced that the battlements had begun to be placed upon it.
When the envoys of the Athenians, accompanied by ambassadors from Megara and Plataea, reached Lacedaemon, they came before the Ephors, and spoke as follows:-
"The Athenians have sent us to you to say, - the king of the Medes offers to give us back our country, and wishes to conclude an alliance with us on fair and equal terms, without fraud or deceit. He is willing likewise to bestow on us another country besides our own, and bids us choose any land that we like. But we, because we reverenced Hellenic Jupiter, and thought it a shameful act to betray Greece, instead of consenting to these terms, refused them; notwithstanding that we have been wronged and deserted by the other Greeks, and are fully aware that it is far more for our advantage to make peace with the Persian than to prolong the war with him. Still we shall not, of our own free will, consent to any terms of peace. Thus do we, in all our dealings with the Greeks, avoid what is base and counterfeit: while contrariwise, ye, who were but now so full of fear least we should make terms with the enemy, having learnt of what temper we are, and assured yourselves that we shall not prove traitors to our country - having brought moreover your wall across the Isthmus to an advanced state - cease altogether to have any care for us. Ye covenanted with us to go out and meet the Persian in Boeotia; but when the time came, ye were false to your word, and looked on while the barbarian host advanced into Attica. At this time, therefore, the Athenians are angered with you; and justly, - for ye have not done what was right. They bid you, however, make haste to send forth your army, that we may even yet meet Mardonius in Attica. Now that Boeotia is lost to us, the best place for the fight within our country, will be the plain of Thria."
[9.8] The Ephors, when they had heard this speech, delayed their answer till the morrow; and when the morrow came, till the day following. And thus they acted for ten days, continually putting off the ambassadors from one day to the next. Meanwhile the Peloponnesians generally were labouring with great zeal at the wall, and the work nearly approached completion. I can give no other reason for the conduct of the Lacedaemonians in showing themselves so anxious, at the time when Alexander came, that the Athenians should not join the Medes, and now being quite careless about it, except that at the former time the wall across the Isthmus was not complete, and they worked at it in great fear of the Persians, whereas now the bulwark had been raised, and so they imagined that they had no further need of the Athenians.
[9.9] At last the ambassadors got an answer, and the troops marched forth from Sparta, under the following circumstances. The last audience had been fixed for the ambassadors, when, the very day before it was to be given, a certain Tegean, named Chileus, a man who had more influence at Sparta than any other foreigner, learning from the Ephors exactly what the Athenians had said, addressed these words to them - "The case stands thus, O ye Ephors! If the Athenians are not our friends, but league themselves with the barbarians, however strong our wall across the Isthmus may be, there will be doors enough, and wide enough open too, by which the Persian may gain entrance to the Peloponnese. Grant their request then, before they make any fresh resolve, which may bring Greece to ruin."
[9.10] Such was the counsel which Chileus gave: and the Ephors, taking the advice into consideration, determined forthwith, without speaking a word to the ambassadors from the three cities, to despatch to the Isthmus a body of five thousand Spartans; and accordingly they sent them forth the same night, appointing to each Spartan a retinue of seven Helots, and giving the command of the expedition to Pausanias the son of Cleombrotus. The chief power belonged of right at this time to Pleistarchus, the son of Leonidas; but as he was still a child Pausanias, his cousin, was regent in his room. For the father of Pausanias, Cleombrotus, the son of Anaxandridas, no longer lived; he had died a short time after bringing back from the Isthmus the troops who had been employed in building the wall. A prodigy had caused him to bring his army home; for while he was offering sacrifice to know if he should march out against the Persian, the sun was suddenly darkened in mid sky. Pausanias took with him, as joint-leader of the army, Euryanax, the son of Dorieus, a member of his own family.
[9.11] The army accordingly had marched out from Sparta with Pausanias: while the ambassadors, when day came, appeared before the Ephors, knowing nothing of the march of the troops, and purposing themselves to leave Sparta forthwith, and return each man to his own country. They therefore addressed the Ephors in these words:- "Lacedaemonians, as you do not stir from home, but keep the Hyacinthian festival, and amuse yourselves, deserting the cause of your confederates, the Athenians, whom your behaviour wrongs, and who have no other allies, will make such terms with the Persians as they shall find possible. Now when terms are once made, it is plain that, having become the king's allies, we shall march with the barbarians whithersoever they choose to lead. Then at length you will perceive what the consequences will be to yourselves." When the envoys had spoken, the Ephors declared to them with an oath:- "Our troops must be at Oresteum by this time, on their march against the strangers." (The Spartans say "strangers" for "barbarians.") At this the ambassadors, quite ignorant of what had happened, questioned them concerning their meaning; and when, by much questioning, they had discovered the truth, they were greatly astonished thereat, and forthwith set off, at their best speed, to overtake the Spartan army. At the same time a body of five thousand Lacedaemonian Perioeci, all picked men and fully armed, set forth from Sparta, in the company of the ambassadors.
[9.12] So these troops marched in haste towards the Isthmus. Meanwhile the Argives, who had promised Mardonius that they would stop the Spartans from crossing their borders, as soon as they learnt that Pausanias with his army had started from Sparta, took the swiftest courier they could find, and sent him off to Attica. The message which he delivered, on his arrival at Athens, was the following: "Mardonius," he said, "the Argives have sent me to tell thee that the Lacedaemonian youth are gone forth from their city, and that the Argives are too weak to hinder them. Take good heed therefore to thyself at this time." After thus speaking, without a word more, he returned home.
[9.13] When Mardonius learnt that the Spartans were on their march, he no longer cared to remain in Attica. Hitherto he had kept quiet, wishing to see what the Athenians would do, and had neither ravaged their territory, nor done it any the least harm; for till now he had cherished the hope that the Athenians would come to terms with him. As, however, he found that his persuasions were of no avail, and as their whole policy was now clear to him, he determined to withdraw from Attica before Pausanias with his army reached the Isthmus; first, however, he resolved to burn Athens, and to cast down and level with the ground whatever remained standing of the walls, temples, and other buildings. His reason for retreating was, that Attica was not a country where horse could act with advantage; and further, that if he suffered defeat in a battle, no way of escape was open to him, except through defiles, where a handful of troops might stop all his army. So he determined to withdraw to Thebes, and give the Greeks battle in the neighbourhood of a friendly city, and on ground well suited for cavalry.
[9.14] After he had quitted Attica and was already upon his march, news reached him that a body of a thousand Lacedaemonians, distinct from the army of Pausanias, and sent on in advance, had arrived in the Megarid. When he heard it, wishing, if possible, to destroy this detachment first, Mardonius considered with himself how he might compass their ruin. With a sudden change of march he made for Megara, while the horse, pushing on in advance, entered and ravaged the Megarid. (Here was the furthest point in Europe towards the setting sun to which this Persian army ever penetrated.)
[9.15] After this, Mardonius received another message, whereby he learnt that the forces of the Greeks were collected together at the Isthmus; which tidings caused him to draw back, and leave Attica by the way of Deceleia. The Boeotarchs had sent for some of the neighbours of the Asopians; and these persons served as guides to the army, and led them first to Sphendale, and from thence to Tanagra, where Mardonius rested a night; after which, upon the morrow, he bent his course to Scolus, which brought him into the territory of the Thebans. And now, although the Thebans had espoused the cause of the Medes, yet Mardonius cut down all the trees in these parts; not however from any enmity towards the Thebans, but on account of his own urgent needs; for he wanted a rampart to protect his army from attack, and he likewise desired to have a place of refuge, whither his troops might flee, in case the battle should go contrary to his wishes. His army at this time lay on the Asopus, and stretched from Erythrae, along by Hysiae, to the territory of the Plataeans. The wall, however, was not made to extend so far, but formed a square of about ten furlongs each way.
While the barbarians were employed in this work, a certain citizen of Thebes, Attaginus by name, the son of Phrynon, having made great preparations, gave a banquet, and invited Mardonius thereto, together with fifty of the noblest Persians. Now the banquet was held at Thebes; and all the guests who were invited came to it.
[9.16] What follows was recounted to me by Thersander, a native of Orchomenus, a man of the first rank in that city. Thersander told me that he was himself among those invited to the feast, and that besides the Persians fifty Thebans were asked; and the two nations were not arranged separately, but a Persian and a Theban were set side by side upon each couch. After the feast was ended, and the drinking had begun, the Persian who shared Thersander's couch addressed him in the Greek tongue, and inquired of him from what city he came. He answered, that he was of Orchomenus; whereupon the other said -
"Since thou hast eaten with me at one table, and poured libation from one cup, I would fain leave with thee a memorial of the belief I hold - the rather that thou mayest have timely warning thyself, and so be able to provide for thy own safety. Seest thou these Persians here feasting, and the army which we left encamped yonder by the river-side? Yet a little while, and of all this number thou wilt behold but a few surviving!"
As he spake, the Persian let fall a flood of tears: whereon Thersander, who was astonished at his words, replied - "Surely thou shouldest say all this to Mardonius, and the Persians who are next him in honour" - but the other rejoined - "Dear friend, it is not possible for man to avert that which God has decreed shall happen. No one believes warnings, however true. Many of us Persians know our danger, but we are constrained by necessity to do as our leader bids us. Verily 'tis the sorest of all human ills, to abound in knowledge and yet have no power over action." All this I heard myself from Thersander the Orchomenian; who told me further, that he mentioned what had happened to divers persons, before the battle was fought at Plataea.
[9.17] When Mardonius formerly held his camp in Boeotia, all the Greeks of those parts who were friendly to the Medes sent troops to join his army, and these troops accompanied him in his attack upon Athens. The Phocians alone abstained, and took no part in the invasion; for, though they had espoused the Median cause warmly, it was very much against their will, and only because they were compelled so to do. However, a few days after the arrival of the Persian army at Thebes, a thousand of their heavy-armed soldiers came up, under the command of Harmocydes, one of their most distinguished citizens. No sooner had these troops reached Thebes, than some horsemen came to them from Mardonius, with orders that they should take up a position upon the plain, away from the rest of the army. The Phocians did so, and forthwith the entire Persian cavalry drew nigh to them: whereupon there went a rumour through the whole of the Greek force encamped with the Medes, that Mardonius was about to destroy the Phocians with missiles. The same conviction ran through the Phocian troops themselves; and Harmocydes, their leader, addressed them thus with words of encouragement - "Phocians" said he, "'tis plain that these men have resolved beforehand to take our lives, because of the accusations of the Thessalians, as I imagine. Now, then, is the time for you all to show yourselves brave men. 'Tis better to die fighting and defending our lives, than tamely to allow them to slay us in this shameful fashion. Let them learn that they are barbarians, and that the men whose death they have plotted are Greeks!"
[9.18] Thus spake Harmocydes; and the Persian horse, having encircled the Phocians, charged towards them, as if about to deal out death, with bows bent, and arrows ready to be let fly; nay, here and there some did even discharge their weapons. But the Phocians stood firm, keeping close one to another, and serrying their ranks as much as possible: whereupon the horse suddenly wheeled round and rode off. I cannot say with certainty whether they came, at the prayer of the Thessalians, to destroy the Phocians, but seeing them prepared to stand on their defence, and fearing to suffer damage at their hands, on that account beat a retreat, having orders from Mardonius so to act; or whether his sole intent was to try the temper of the Phocians and see whether they had any courage or no. However this may have been, when the horsemen retired, Mardonius sent a herald to the Phocians, saying - "Fear not, Phocians - ye have shown yourselves valiant men - much unlike the report I had heard of you. Now therefore be forward in the coming war. Ye will not readily outdo either the king or myself in services." Thus ended the affair of the Phocians.
[9.19] The Lacedaemonians, when they reached the Isthmus, pitched their camp there; and the other Peloponnesians who had embraced the good side, hearing or else seeing that they were upon the march, thought it not right to remain behind when the Spartans were going forth to the war. So the Peloponnesians went out in one body from the Isthmus, the victims being favourable for setting forth; and marched as far as Eleusis, where again they offered sacrifices, and, finding the omens still encouraging, advanced further. At Eleusis they were joined by the Athenians, who had come across from Salamis, and now accompanied the main army. On reaching Erythrae in Boeotia, they learnt that the barbarians were encamped upon the Asopus; wherefore they themselves, after considering how they should act, disposed their forces opposite to the enemy upon the slopes of Mount Cithaeron.
[9.20] Mardonius, when he saw that the Greeks would not come down into the plain, sent all his cavalry, under Masistius (or Macistius, as the Greeks call him), to attack them where they were. Now Masistius was a man of much repute among the Persians, and rode a Nisaean charger with a golden bit, and otherwise magnificently caparisoned. So the horse advanced against the Greeks, and made attacks upon them in divisions, doing them great damage at each charge, and insulting them by calling them women.