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saly from Greece, not more than twenty-five feet broad, the only path by which the Persians could enter Attica by land, the battle was to be given, that decided the precedence not of Greece over Persia only, but of Europe over Asia; for the latter were never permanently successful against the former.

Xerxes advanced towards these straits, and was much surprised to find an opposition from an enemy he supposed would fly at his approach. Their whole collected forces were not more than 11,000-at this place were assembled only 4,000. He sent scouts to observe their position and how they were employed—these brought him word that the Lacedæmonians were putting their hair in order-for it was their custom to comb and arrange their hair whenever they were going to expose themselves to extraordinary danger. Xerxes waited four days in expectation of their retreat—he then summoned them to give up their arms—Leonidas bade him come and take them-he tried to corrupt them with bribes, but this too failed. Enraged, he commanded the Medes to attack this contemptible band and bring them to him in fetters. The Medes could not stand the first shock and betook themselves to flight. Hydarnes was next ordered to advance with 10,000 chosen men, the band termed Immortal. They succeeded no better, and returned with great loss. The Persians, considering how small their numbers were at first, and supposing many must be disabled, the next day advanced again; but were resisted and put to disgraceful flight, Xerxes three times leaping from his throne, in terror, as it is said, lest his whole army should be destroyed. He was now in extreme perplexity, and doubtful what measure next to try with this extraordinary foe, when a Greek came to him, and in expectation of reward, offered to conduct him by a secret passage to the summit of the hill that overlooked the Spartan forces. The Phocians who defended that pass were soon overpowered. Leonidas, perceiving that the enemy could be no more resisted, persuaded his allies to retire, except the Thebans, whom he kept against their will, suspecting their fidelity, and the Thespians, who refused to leave him, and with his three hundred Lacedæmonians prepared to die at their post. Xerxes poured a libation to the rising sun and advanced, while others of his troops descended from the mountain to attack them in the other direction: the Persian officers being obliged to stand behind the divisions they commanded, to prevent their men from flying. Numbers were killed by the Greeks, some fell into the sea and were drowned, others were trampled to death by the crowding of their own troops. Four times Xerxes was repulsed, his two brothers and many of his commanders killed-but so surrounded, the Greeks could not escape. Leonidas fell, and all his band, excepting one individual, who escaped to tell the story of the Lacedæmonians in this battle, we shall have occasion to speak more particularly in their own history. Xerxes lost 20,000 men: sensible of the alarm and discourage ment the first loss would occasion among his allies, he left about a thousand bodies on the field, and privately buried the remainder: thence proceeding on his march, arrived in Attica four months after he had crossed the Hellespont.

An engagement had taken place between the fleets at sea, on the same day that the battle of Thermopylæ was fought. Here the forces were less unequal, and the victory of the Athenian fleet less decisive; but it was sufficient to encourage them against the overwhelming forces of Asia.

The Persians marched towards Athens unopposed, wasting the country with fire and sword. A detachment was sent to plunder the temple of Apollo at Delphos, of the immense wealth accumulated there from the offerings of the pious. If the Greek authors are to be credited, as these invaders approached the temple of Minerva, a violent storm arose, with thunder and lightning and tremendous winds, by which two enormous rocks were

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rolled from the summit of Parnassas, and crushed be. neath their weight that whole detachment. On the arrival of the main body at Athens, they found the city deserted and without inhabitants, excepting a small body, who were cut to pieces in an impotent attempt to defend it: the whole body of inhabitants having embarked on board the fleet for safety. Xerxes burned the city to the ground, and dispatched the news of his success to his uncle Artabanus, left to govern Asia in his absence.

Meantime the Grecian fleet under command of Themistocles had been reinforced, and was stationed in the straits of Salamis, waiting to give battle to the Persian fleet. A council of war was held on the part of the Persians to consider if it was prudent to engage. All the officers gave the advice they knew to be acceptable to the king, excepting Artemisia, queen of Halicarnassus, a heroine who had accompanied Xerxes to the war with five ships, the best of his fleet. This female warrior was distinguished on all occasions by courage and prudence. In this council she alone endeavoured to dissuade the king from risking a naval engagement against a more experienced enemy. Her advice was not followed, and a battle was determined on. Xerxes, the better to encourage his men, caused a throne to be erected on an eminence whence he could see the engagement, and had scribes about him to write down the names of those who should distinguish themselves. Themistocles, finding his allies determined to fly at the approach of the enemy, sent private notice of the intention to the Persian commander, that he might surround them and prevent their escape. The allies thus prevented from forsaking the Athenians, and inclosed by the fleet of Xerxes, were compelled to fight. The Greeks had 380 vessels, the Persians 2000—but in narrow seas, with a wind favourable to the enemy, their numbers but embarrassed them the more-they were quickly disordered and defeated by the superior skill of Themistocles. Artemisia dis


tinguished herself above the rest; her ships were the last that fled: but all were at length dispersed or destroyed. This defeat was fatal. The allies of Persia, little interested in the war themselves, betook themselves to their respective countries. Xerxes, in alarm lest the conquerors should sail to the Hellespont, and intercept his passage, left his general, Mardonius, in Greece, with 200,000 men, and marched with all haste towards Thrace, intending to cross by the way he came. No provisions being provided, great hardships were suffered by his men during a march of five and forty days, in which they were compelled to live on herbs and the bark and leaves of trees—great numbers consequently perished by disease. When he reached the Hellespont, he found his bridges destroyed by the violence of the waves, and was compelled to cross the straits in a small fishing-boat, with a few attendants, whence he fled to his own city of Sardis. A return strikingly indeed contrasted with the manner in which he had left the shores of Asia.

Meantime his Carthaginian allies had been entirely defeated in Sicily-and the battle of Platæa, which took place shortly afterwards between the Greek forces and the Persian army remaining with Mardonius, of which we shall speak more particularly in the history of Greece, with forces scarce less unequal than before, decided the contest for ever-the Persians fled, as many as could escape, and never again appeared as enemies in Europe. A second defeat by sea had been suffered on the same day at Mycale ; and of the millions that had crossed the Hellespont with Xerxes, a very small number returned. That king, upon the news of these last battles, retired in haste from Sardis towards Persia, to be beyond the reach of the triumphant enemy; giving orders by the way that all the Greek cities and temples in Asia Minor, of which there were many, should be destroyed—not one was left standing but the temple of Diana at Ephesus. The consequence of this defeat was the loss of the Islands, and of the Ionian cities previously possessed by

Persia, taking this opportunity to resume their liberty,
Despair and disappointment decided the character of
Xerxes, which had never shown any disposition to good

-he resigned all endeavour or desire for conquest, and gave himself to an idle and vicious course of life. After many acts of most excessive cruelty, hated and despised by his people, he was murdered while sleeping by a eunuch of his palace, in the 21st year of his reign. B.C. 464.

The assassin placed Artaxerxes, the third son of Xerxes, on the throne, after persuading him to murder his elder brother. This Artaxerxes, surnamed Longimanus, from the unusual length of his hands, is the Ahasuerus of Scripture, who married the Jewish Esther. He had yet another brother with whom he had to contest the succession; but finally prevailed, and being settled in peaceable possession of the throne of Persia, he held feasts and rejoicings at Susa for 180 days. It was during this time that the story of Esther and Mordecai took place, for which we need but refer our readers to Holy Writ; as told in the book of Esther it is already familiar to them.

Another revolt in Egypt now claimed the king's attention: a large army was dispatched thither, but meeting their invincible enemies, the Athenians, who had repaired to the assistance of Egypt, they had small chance of suc

It was at this time that Themistocles, disgraced and banished from his country, came to the Persian court, was most generously supported by the prince, and finally poisoned himself, to avoid being sent by his tector with the command of an army against his native country--as we shall more particularly relate in the history of Athens. Artaxerxes repaired in person with a second force to Egypt, and was eventually successful—though six years elapsed before the Athenians could be driven out of that country, then again submitting to the Persians. The Persians had next to encounter the Athenians in the island of Cyprus, hitherto pertaining to

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