King Xerxes, then, lay encamped in that part of Malis which belongs to Trachis, and the Greeks in the midst of the pass: the place where they were is called by most of the Greeks Thermopylae, but by the people of the country and their neighbours Pylae. In these places, then, they lay encamped, Xerxes being master of all that was north out of Trachis, and the Greeks of all that lay southward towards this part of the mainland. The Greeks that awaited the Persian in that place were these: Of the Spartans, three hundred men-at‑arms; a thousand Tegeans and Mantineans, half from each place; from Orchomenus in Arcadia a hundred and twenty, and a thousand from the rest of Arcadia; besides these Arcadians, four hundred from Corinth, two hundred from Phlius, and eighty Mycenaeans. These were they who had come from Peloponnesus: from Boeotia, seven hundred Thespians and four hundred Thebans. Besides these the whole power of the Opuntian Locrians and a thousand Phocians had been summoned, and came. The Greeks had of their own motion summoned these to their aid, telling them by their messengers that they themselves had come for an advance guard of the rest, that the coming of the remnant of the allies was to be looked for every day, and that the sea was strictly watched by them, being guarded by the Athenians and Aeginetans and all that were enrolled in the fleet; there was nought (they said) for them to fear; for the invader of Hellas was no god, but a mortal man, and there was no mortal, nor ever would be, to whom at birth some admixture of misfortune was not allotted; the greater the man, the greater the misfortune; most surely then he that marched against them, being but mortal, would be disappointed of his hope. Hearing that, the Locrians and Phocians marched to aid the Greeks at Trachis. All these had their generals, each city its own; but he that was most regarded and was leader of the whole army was Leonidas of Lacedaemon, whose descent was from Anaxandrides, Leon, Eurycratides, Polydorus, Alcamenes, Teleclus, Archelaus, Hegesilaus, Doryssus, Leobotes, Echestratus, Agis, Eurysthenes, Aristodemus, Aristomachus, Cleodaeus, Hyllus, Heracles; who was king at Sparta, yet had not looked to be such.....
While they thus debated, Xerxes sent a mounted watcher to see how many they were and what they had in hand; for while he was yet in Thessaly, he had heard that some small army was here gathered, and that its leaders were Lacedaemonians, Leonidas a descendant of Heracles among them. The horsemen rode up to the camp and viewed and overlooked it, yet not the whole; for it was not possible to see those that were posted within the wall which they had restored and now guarded; but he took note of those that were without, whose arms were piled outside the wall, and it chanced that at that time the Lacedaemonians were posted there. There he saw some of the men at exercise, and others combing their hair. Marvelling at the sight, and taking exact note of their numbers, he rode back unmolested, none pursuing nor at all regarding him; so he returned and told Xerxes all that he had seen. When Xerxes heard that, he could not understand the truth, namely, that the Lacedaemonians were preparing to slay to the best of their power or be slain; what they did appeared to him laughable; wherefore he sent for Demaratus the son of Ariston, who was in his camp, and when he came questioned him of all these matters, that he might understand what it was that the Lacedaemonians were about. "I have told you already," said Demaratus, "of these men, when we were setting out for Hellas; but when you heard, you mocked me, albeit I told you of this which I saw plainly would be the outcome; for it is my greatest endeavour, O king, to speak truth in your presence. Now hear me once more: these men are come to fight with us for the passage, and for that they are preparing; for it is their custom to p527 dress their hair whensoever they are about to put their lives in jeopardy. Moreover I tell you, that if you overcome these and what remains behind at Sparta, there is no other nation among men, O king! that will abide and withstand you; now are you face to face with the noblest royalty and city and the most valiant men in Hellas." Xerxes deemed what was said to be wholly incredible, and further enquired of him how they would fight against his army, being so few. "O king," Demaratus answered, "use me as a liar, if the event of this be not what I tell you." Yet for all that Xerxes would not believe him.
For the space of four days the king waited, ever expecting that the Greeks would take to flight; but on the fifth, seeing them not withdrawing and deeming that their remaining there was but shamelessness and folly, he was angered, and sent the Medes and Cissians against them, bidding them take the Greeks alive and bring them into his presence. The Medes bore down upon the Greeks and charged them; many fell, but others attacked in turn; and though they suffered grievous defeat yet they were not driven off. But they made it plain to all and chiefly to the king himself that for all their number of human creatures there were few men among them. This battle lasted all the day. The Medes being so roughly handled, they were then withdrawn from the fight, and the Persians whom the king called Immortals attacked in their turn, led by Hydarnes. It was thought that they at least would make short and easy work of the Greeks; but when they joined battle, they fared neither better nor worse than the Median soldiery, fighting as they were in a narrow space and with shorter spears than the Greeks, where they could make no use of their numbers. But the Lacedaemonians fought memorably. They were skilled warriors against unskilled; and it was among their many feats of arms, that they would turn their backs and feign flight; seeing which, the foreigners would pursue after them with shouting and noise; but when the Lacedaemonians were like to be overtaken they turned upon the foreigners, and so rallying overthrew Persians innumerable; wherein some few of the Spartans themselves were slain. So when the Persians, attacking by companies and in every other fashion, could yet gain no inch of the approach, they drew off out of the fight. During these onsets the king (it is said) thrice sprang up in fear for his army from the throne where he sat to view them. Such was then the fortune of the fight, and on the next day the foreigners had no better luck at the game. They joined battle, supposing that their enemies, being so few, were now disabled by wounds and could no longer withstand them.But the Greeks stood arrayed by battalions and nations, and each of these fought in its turn, save the Phocians, who were posted on the mountains to guard the path. So when the Persians found the Greeks in no way different from what the day before had shown them to be, they drew off from the fight.
The king being at a loss how to deal with the present difficulty, Epialtes son of Eurydemus, a Malian, came to speak with him, thinking so to receive a great reward from Xerxes, and told him of the path leading over the mountain to Thermopylae; whereby he was the undoing of the Greeks who had been left there. This Epialtes afterwards fled into Thessaly, for fear of the Lacedaemonians; and he being so banished a price was put on his head by the Pylagori when the Amphictyons sat together in their council at Thermopylae; and a long time after that, having returned to Anticyra, he was slain by Athenades, a man of Trachis. It was for another cause (which I will tell in the latter part of my history) that this Athenades slew Epialtes, but he was none the less honoured for it by the Lacedaemonians. Such was the end of Epialtes at a later day, There is another story current, that it was Onetes son of Phanagoras, a Carystian, and Corydallus of Anticyra, who spoke to the king to this effect and guided the Persians round the mountain; but I wholly disbelieve it. For firstly, we must draw conclusion from what the Pylagori did; they set a price on the head of the Trachinian Epialtes, not of Onetes and Corydallus; and it must be supposed that they used all means to learn the truth; and secondly, we know that Epialtes was for this cause banished. I do not deny that Onetes might know the path, even though not a Malian, if he had many times been in that country; but the man who guided them by that path round the mountain was Epialtes, and on him I here fix the guilt. Xerxes was satisfied with what Epialtes promised to accomplish; much rejoicing thereat, he sent Hydarnes forthwith and Hydarnes' following; and they set forth from the camp about the hour when lamps are lit. Now this path had been discovered by the Malians of the country, who guided the Thessalians thereby into Phocis, at the time when the Phocians sheltered themselves from attack by fencing the pass with a wall; thus early had the Malians shown that the pass could avail nothing. Now the path runs thuswise. It begins at the river Asopus which flows through the ravine; the mountain there and the path have the same name, Anopaea; this Anopaea crosses the ridge of the mountain and ends at the town of Alpenus, the Locrian town nearest to Malis, where is the rock called Blackbuttock and the seats of the Cercopes; and this is its narrowest part.
Of such nature is the path; by this, when they had crossed the Asopus, the Persians marched all night, the Oetean mountains being on their right hand and the Trachinian on their left. At dawn of day they came to the summit of the pass. Now in this part of the mountain‑way a thousand Phocians were posted, as I have already shown, to defend their own cocu and guard the path; for the lower pass was held by those of whom I have spoken, but the path over the mountains by the Phocians, according to the promise that they had of their own motion given to Leonidas. Now the mountain-side where the Persians ascended was all covered by oak woods, and the Phocians knew nothing of their coming till they were warned of it, in the still weather, by the much noise of the enemy's tread on the leaves that lay strewn underfoot whereupon they sprang up and began to arm, and in a moment the foreigners were upon them. These were amazed at the sight of men putting on armour for they had supposed that no one would withstand them, and now they fell in with an army. Hydarnes feared that the Phocians might be Lacedaemonians, and asked Epialtes of what country they were; being informed of the truth he arrayed the Persians for battle; and the Phocians, assailed by showers of arrows, and supposing that it was they whom the Persians had meant from the first to attack, fled away up to the top of the mountain and prepared there to perish. Such was their thought; but the Persians with Epialtes and Hydarnes paid no regard to the Phocians, but descended from the mountain with all speed. The Greeks at Thermopylae were warned first by Megistias the seer; who, having examined the offerings, advised them of the death that awaited them in the morning; and presently came deserters, while it was yet night, with news of the circuit made by the Persians; which was lastly brought also by the watchers running down from the heights when day was now dawning. Thereupon the Greeks held a council, and their opinions were divided, some advising that they should not leave their post, and some being contrariwise minded; and presently they parted asunder, these taking their departure and dispersing each to their own cities, and those resolving to remain where they were with Leonidas.....
In which matter I hold it for one of my strongest proofs, that Megistias the Acarnanian (reputed a descendant of Melampus), who advised the Greeks from the offerings of what should befal them, was past all doubt bidden by Leonidas to depart, lest he should perish with the rest. Yet though thus bidden Megistias himself would not go; he had an only son in the army, and him he sent away instead. So those of the allies who were bidden to go went their ways in obedience to Leonidas, and the Thespians and Thebans alone stayed by the Lacedaemonians; the Thebes indeed against their will and desire, and kept there by Leonidas as hostages; but the Thespians remained with great goodwill. They refused to depart and leave Leonidas and his comrades, but remained there and died with him. Their general was Demophilus son of Diadromes. Xerxes, having at sunrise offered libations, waited till about the hour of marketing and then made his assault, having been so advised by Epialtes; for the descent from the mountain is more direct and the way is much shorter than the circuit and the ascent. So the foreigners that were with Xerxes attacked; but the Greeks with Leonidas, knowing p541 that they went to their death, advanced now much farther than before into the wider part of the strait. For ere now it was the wall of defence that they had guarded, and all the former days they had withdrawn themselves into the narrow way and fought there; but now they met their enemies outside the narrows, and many of the foreigners were there slain; for their captains came behind the companies with scourges and drove all the men forward with lashes. Many of them were thrust into the sea and there drowned, and more by far were trodden down bodily by each other, none regarding who it was that perished; for inasmuch ass the Greeks knew that they must die by the hands of those who came round the mountain, they put forth the very utmost of their strength against the foreigners, in their recklessness and frenzy. By this time the spears of most of them were broken, and they were slaying the Persians with their swords. There in that travail fell Leonidas, fighting most gallantly, and with him other famous Spartans, whose names I have learnt for their great worth and desert, as I have learnt besides the names of all the three hundred. There too fell, among other famous Persians, Abrocomes and Hyperanthes, two sons of Darius by Phratagune daughter of Artanes. This Artanes was brother to king Darius, and son of Hystaspes who was the son of Arsames; and when he gave his daughter in marriage to Darius he dowered her with the whole wealth of his house, she being his only child. So two brothers of Xerxes fell there in the battle; and there was a great struggle between the Persians and Lacedaemonians over Leonidas' body, till the Greeks of their valour dragged it away and four times put their enemies to flight. Nor was there an end of this mellay till the men with Epialtes came up. When the Greeks were aware of their coming, from that moment the face of the battle was changed; for they withdrew themselves back to the narrow part of the way, and passing within the wall they took post, all save the Thebans, upon the hillock that is in the mouth of the pass, where now stands the stone lion in honour of Leonidas. In that place they defended themselves with their swords, as many as yet had such, ay and with fists and teeth; till the foreigners overwhelmed them with missile weapons, some attacking them in front and throwing down the wall of defence, and others standing around them in a ring.
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