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VII.175‑239

This webpage reproduces a section of
Herodotus
published in Vol. IV
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,
1925

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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VIII.40‑96

(Vol. IV) Herodotus

 p3  Book VIII: chapters 1‑39

The flags in the text are links to the Greek as printed on facing pages in the Loeb edition.
In the left margin, links to Rawlinson's translation (Vol. IV, with valuable notes),
and to the running commentary by How and Wells.
Cartouches are links to in‑depth articles at Livius.Org or LacusCurtius.

[link to original Greek text] 1 Rawlinson p269 H & W The Greeks appointed to serve in the fleet were these: the Athenians furnished a hundred and twenty-seven ships; the Plataeans manned these ships with the Athenians, not that they had any knowledge of seamanship, but of mere valour and zeal. The Corinthians furnished forty ships, and the Megarians twenty; and the Chalcidians manned twenty, the Athenians furnishing the ships; the Aeginetans eighteen, the Sicyonians twelve, the Lacedaemonians ten, the Epidaurians eight, the Eretrians seven, the Troezenians five, the Styrians two, and the Ceans two, and two fifty-oared barks; and the Opuntian Locrians brought seven fifty-oared barks to their aid.

[link to original Greek text] 2 These were they who came to Artemisium for battle; and I have now shown how they severally furnished the whole sum. The number of ships that mustered at Artemisium was two hundred and seventy‑one, besides the fifty-oared barks. But the admiral who had the chief command was of the Spartans' providing, Eurybiades, son of Euryclides;  p5 for the allies said, that if the Laconian were not their leader they would rather make an end of the fleet that was preparing than be led by the Athenians.

[link to original Greek text] 3 Rawlinson p270 For in the first days, before the sending to Sicily for alliance there, there had been talk of entrusting the command at sea to the Athenians. But when the allies withstood this, the Athenians waived their claim, deeming the safety of Hellas of prime moment, and seeing that if they quarrelled over the leadership Hellas must perish; wherein they judged rightly; for civil strife is as much worse than united war as war is worse than peace. Knowing that, they gave ground and waived their claim, but only so long as they had need of the others, as was shown; for when they had driven the Persian back and the battle was no longer for their territory but for his, they made a pretext of Pausanias' highhandedness and took the command away from the Lacedaemonians. But all that befel later.1

[link to original Greek text] 4 But now, the Greeks who had at last come to Artemisium saw a multitude of ships launched at Aphetae, and armaments everywhere, and contrary to all expectation the foreigner was shown to be in far other case than they had supposed; wherefore they lost heart and began to take counsel for flight from Artemisium homewards into Hellas. Then the Euboeans, seeing them to be thus planning, entreated Eurybiades to wait a little while, till they themselves should have brought away their children and households. But when they could not prevail with him, they essayed another way, and gave Themistocles, the Athenian admiral, a bribe of  p7 thirty talents on the condition that the Greek fleet should remain there and fight, when they fought, to defend Euboea.

[link to original Greek text] 5 H & W This was the way whereby Themistocles made the Greeks to stay where they were: he gave Eurybiades for his share five talents of that money, as though it were of his own that he gave it. Eurybiades thus being won over, none of the rest was of a resisting temper save only Adimantus, son of Ocytus, the Corinthian admiral, who said that he would not remain but sail away from Artemisium; to him said Themistocles, adding an oath thereto: "Nay, you of all men will not desert us; for I will give you a greater gift than the king of Medes would send you for deserting your allies"; and with that saying he sent withal three talents of silver to Adimantus' ship. So these two were won over by gifts, the Euboeans got their desire, and Themistocles himself was the gainer; he kept the rest of the money, none knowing, but they that had received a part of it supposing that it had been sent for that intent by the Athenians.

[link to original Greek text] 6 Rawlinson p272 So the Greeks abode off Euboea and there fought; and it came about as I shall show. Having arrived at Aphetae in the early part of the afternoon, the foreigners saw for themselves the few Greek ships that they had already heard were stationed off Artemisium, and they were eager to attack, that so they might take them. Now they were not yet minded to make an onfall front to front, for fear lest the Greeks should see them coming and take to flight, and night close upon them as they fled; it was their belief that the Greeks would save themselves by flight, and by the  p9 Persian purpose not so much as a firebearer2 of them must be saved alive.

[link to original Greek text] 7 Wherefore this was the plan that they devised. Separating two hundred ships from the whole number, they sent them to cruise outside Sciathus (that so the enemies might not see them sailing round Euboea) and by way of Caphereus round Geraestus to the Euripus, so that they might catch the Greeks between them, the one part holding that course and barring the retreat, and they themselves attacking in front. Thus planning, they sent the appointed ships on their way, purposing for themselves to make no attack upon the Greeks that day, nor before the signal should be seen whereby the ships that sailed round were to declare their coming. So they sent those ships to sail round, and set about numbering the rest at Aphetae.

[link to original Greek text] 8 Now at the time of their numbering the ships, there was in the fleet one Scyllias, a man of Scione; he was the best diver of the time, and in the shipwreck at Pelion he had saved for the Persians much of their possessions and won much withal for himself; this Scyllias had ere now, it would seem, purposed to desert to the Greeks, but he never had had so fair an occasion as now. By what means he did thereafter at last make his way to the Greeks, I cannot with exactness say; but if the story be true it is marvellous indeed; for it is said that he dived into the sea at Aphetae and never rose above it till he came to Artemisium, thus passing underneath the sea for about eighty furlongs.  p11 There are many tales of this man, some like lies and some true; but as concerning the present business it is my opinion, which I hereby declare, that he came to Artemisium in a boat. Having then come, he straightway told the admirals the story of the shipwreck, and of the ships that had been sent round Euboea.

[link to original Greek text] 9 Rawlinson p274 Hearing that, the Greeks took counsel together; there was much speaking, but the opinion prevailed that they should abide and encamp where they were for that day, and thereafter when it should be past midnight put to sea and meet the ships that were sailing round. But presently, none attacking them, they waited for the late afternoon of the day and themselves advanced their ships against the foreigner, desiring to put to the proof his fashion of fighting and the art of breaking the line.3

[link to original Greek text] 10 H & W When Xerxes' men and their generals saw the Greeks bearing down on them with but a few ships, they deemed them assuredly mad, and themselves put out to sea, thinking to win an easy victory; which expectation was very reasonable, as they saw the Greek ships so few, and their own many times more numerous and more seaworthy. With this assurance, they hemmed in the Greeks in their midst. Now as many Ionians as were friendly to the Greeks came unwillingly to the war, and were sore distressed to see the Greeks surrounded, supposing that not one of them would return home; so powerless did the Greek seem to them to be. But those who were glad of the business vied each with each that he might be the first to take an  p13 Attic ship and receive gifts from the king; for it was the Athenians of whom there was most talk in the fleet.

[link to original Greek text] 11 But the Greeks, when the signal was given them, first drew the sterns of their ships together, their prows turned towards the foreigners; then at the second signal they put their hands to the work, albeit they were hemmed in within a narrow space and fought front to front. There they took thirty of the foreigners' ships and the brother of Gorgus king of Salamis withal, even Philaon son of Chersis, a man of note in the fleet. The first Greek to take an enemy ship was an Athenian, Lycomedes, son of Aeschraeus, and he it was who received the prize for valour. They fought that seafight with doubtful issue, and nightfall ended the battle; the Greeks sailed back to Artemisium, and the foreigners to Aphetae, after faring far below their hopes in the fight. In that battle Antidorus of Lemnos deserted to the Greeks, alone of all the Greeks that were with the king; and for that the Athenians gave him lands in Salamis.

[link to original Greek text] 12 Rawlinson p276 When darkness came on, the season then being midsummer, there was abundance of rain all through the night and violent thunderings from Pelion; and the dead and the wrecks were driven towards Aphetae, where they were entangled with the ships' prows and fouled the blades of the oars. The ships' companies that were there were dismayed by the noise of this, and looked in their present evil case for utter destruction; for before they were  p15 recovered after the shipwreck and the storm off Pelion, they next must abide a stubborn sea‑fight, and after the sea‑fight rushing rain and mighty torrents pouring seaward and violent thunderings.

[link to original Greek text] 13 Thus did the night deal with them; but to those that were appointed to sail round Euboea that same night was much crueller yet, inasmuch as it caught them on the open sea; and an evil end they had. For the storm and the rain coming on them in their course off the Hollows of Euboea, they were driven by the wind they knew not whither, and were cast upon the rocks. All this was the work of heaven's providence, that so the Persian power might be more equally matched with the Greek, and not much greater than it.

[link to original Greek text] 14 So these perished at the Hollows of Euboea. But the foreigners at Aphetae, when to their great comfort the day dawned, kept their ships unmoved, being in their evil plight well content to do nothing for the nonce; and fifty-three Attic ships came to aid the Greeks, who were heartened by the ships' coming and the news brought withal that the foreigners sailing round Euboea had all perished in the late storm. They waited then for the same hour as before, and putting to sea fell upon certain Cilician ships; which having destroyed, when darkness came on, they returned back to Artemisium.

[link to original Greek text] 15 But on the third day, the foreign admirals, ill brooking that so few ships should do them hurt, and fearing Xerxes' anger, waited no longer for the  p17 Greeks to begin the fight, but gave the word and put out to sea about midday. And it so fell out that these sea‑battles were fought through the same days as the land-battles at Thermopylae; the seamen's whole endeavour was to hold the Euripus, as Leonidas' men strove to guard the passage; the Greek battle word was to give the foreigner no entry into Hellas, and the Persian to destroy the Greek host and win the strait. So when Xerxes' men ordered their battle and came on, the Greeks abode in their place off Artemisium; and the foreigners made a half circle of their ships, and strove to encircle and enclose them round.

[link to original Greek text] 16 Rawlinson p278 At that the Greeks charged and joined battle. In that sea‑fight both had equal success. For Xerxes' fleet wrought itself harm by its numbers and multitude; the ships were thrown into confusion and ran foul of each other; nevertheless they held fast, nor yielded, for they could not bear to be put to flight by a few ships. Many were the Greek ships and men that there perished, and far more yet of the foreigners' ships and men; thus they battled, till they drew off and parted each from other.

[link to original Greek text] 17 In that sea‑fight of all Xerxes' fighters the Egyptians bore themselves best; besides other great feats of arms that they achieved, they took five Greek ships and their crews withal. Of the Greeks on that day the Athenians bore themselves best;  p19 and of the Athenians Clinias son of Alcibiades; he brought to the war two hundred men and a ship of his own, all at his private charges.

[link to original Greek text] 18 Rawlinson p280 H & W So they parted and each right gladly made haste to his own anchorage. When the Greeks had drawn off and come out of the battle, they were left masters of the dead and the wrecks; but they had had rough handling, and chiefly the Athenians, half of whose ships had suffered hurt; and now their counsel was to flee to the inner waters of Hellas.4

[link to original Greek text] 19 Themistocles bethought him that if the Ionian and Carian nations were rent away from the foreigners, the Greeks might be strong enough to get the upper hand of the rest. Now it was the wont of the Euboeans to drive their flocks down to the sea there. Wherefore gathering the admirals together he told them that he thought he had a device whereby he hoped to draw away the best of the king's allies. So much he revealed for the nonce; but in the present turn of affairs this (he said) they must do: let everyone slay as many as he would from the Euboean flocks; it was better that the fleet should have them, than the enemy. Moreover he counselled them each to bid his men to light a fire; as for the time of their going thence, he would take such thought for that as should bring them scathless to Hellas. All this they agreed to do; and forthwith they lit fires and then laid hands on the flocks.

[link to original Greek text] 20 For the Euboeans had neglected the oracle of Bacis, deeming it void of meaning, and neither by carrying away nor by bringing in anything had  p21 they shown that they feared an enemy's coming; whereby they were the cause of their own destruction; for Bacis' oracle concerning this matter runs thus:

Whenso a strange-tongued man on the waves casts yoke of papyrus,

Then let bleating goats from coasts Euboean be banished."

To these verses the Euboeans gave no heed; but in the evils then present and soon to come they could not but heed their dire calamity.

[link to original Greek text] 21 While the Greeks were doing as I have said, there came to them the watcher from Trachis. For there was a watcher at Artemisium, one Polyas, a native of Anticyra, who was charged (and had a rowing boat standing ready therefor), if the fleet should be at grips, to declare it to the men at Thermopylae; and in like manner, if any ill should befall the land army, Abronichus son of Lysicles, an Athenian, was with Leonidas, ready for his part to bring the news in a thirty-oared bark to the Greeks at Artemisium. So this Abronichus came and declared to them the fate of Leonidas and his army; which when the Greeks learnt, they no longer delayed their departure, but went their ways in their appointed order, the Corinthians first, and last of all the Athenians.

[link to original Greek text] 22 Rawlinson p282 But Themistocles picked out the seaworthiest Athenian ships and went about to the places of drinking water, where he engraved on the rocks writing which the Ionians read on the next day when they came to Artemisium. This was what the writing said: "Men of Ionia, you do wrongly  p23 to fight against the land of your fathers and bring slavery upon Hellas. It were best of all that you should join yourselves to us; but if that be impossible for you, then do you even now withdraw yourselves from the war, and entreat the Carians to do the same as you. If neither of these things may be, and you are fast bound by such constraint that you cannot rebel, yet we pray you not to use your full strength in the day of battle; be mindful that you are our sons and that our quarrel with the foreigner was of your making in the beginning." To my thinking Themistocles thus wrote with a double intent, that if the king knew nought of the writing it might make the Ionians to change sides and join with the Greeks, and that if the writing were maliciously reported to Xerxes he might thereby be led to mistrust the Ionians, and keep them out of the sea‑fights.

[link to original Greek text] 23 Such was Themistocles' writing. Immediately after this there came to the foreigners a man of Histiaea in a boat, telling them of the flight of the Greeks from Artemisium. Not believing this, they kept the bringer of the news in ward, and sent swift ships to spy out the matter; and when the crews of these brought word of the truth, on learning that, the whole armada at the first spreading of sunlight sailed all together to Artemisium, where having waited till midday, they next sailed to Histiaea, and on their coming took possession of the Histiaeans' city, and overran all the villages on the seaboard of the Ellopian5 region, which is the land of Histiaea.

[link to original Greek text] 24 While they were there, Xerxes sent a herald  p25 to the fleet, having first bestowed the fallen men as I shall show. Of all his own soldiers who had fallen at Thermopylae (that is, as many as twenty thousand) he left about a thousand, and the rest he buried in digged trenches, which he covered with leaves and heaped earth, that the men of the fleet might not see them. So when the herald had crossed over to Histiaea, he assembled all the men of the fleet and thus spoke: "Men of our allies, King Xerxes suffers any one of you that will to leave his place and come to see how he fights against those foolish men who thought to overcome the king's power."

[link to original Greek text] 25 Rawlinson p284 After this proclamation, there was nought so hard to get as a boat, so many were they who would see the sight. They crossed over and went about viewing the dead; and all of them supposed that the fallen Greeks were all Lacedaemonians and Thespians, though there were the helots also for them to see. Yet for all that they that crossed over were not deceived by what Xerxes had done with his own dead; for indeed the thing was laughable; of the Persians a thousand lay dead before their eyes, but the Greeks lay all together assembled in one place, to the number of four thousand. All that day they spent in seeing the sight; on the next the shipmen returned to their fleet at Histiaea, and Xerxes' army set forth on its march.

[link to original Greek text] 26 H & W There had come to them some few deserters, men of Arcadia, lacking a livelihood and desirous to find some service. Bringing these men into the king's presence, the presents inquired of them what  p27 the Greeks were doing, there being one who put this question in the name of all. The Arcadians telling them that the Greeks were keeping the Olympic6 festival and viewing sports and horse-races, the Persian asked what was the prize offered, wherefore they contended; and they told him of the crown of olive that was given to the victor. Then Tigranes son of Artabanus uttered a most noble saying (but the king deemed him a coward for it); when he heard that the prize was not money but a crown, he could not hold his peace, but cried, "Zounds, Mardonius, what manner of men are these that you have brought us to fight withal? 'tis not for money they contend but for glory of achievement!" Such was Tigranes' saying.

[link to original Greek text] 27 In the meantime, immediately after the misfortune at Thermopylae, the Thessalians sent a herald to the Phocians, inasmuch as they bore an old grudge against them, and more than ever by reason of their latest disaster. For a few years before the king's expedition the Thessalians and their allies had invaded Phocis with their whole army, but had been worsted and roughly handled by the Phocians. For the Phocians being beleaguered on Parnassus and having with them the diviner Tellias of Elis, Tellias devised a stratagem for them: he covered six hundred of the bravest Phocians with gypsum, themselves and their armour, and led them to attack the Thessalians by night, bidding them  p29 slay whomsoever they should see not whitened. The Thessalian sentinels were the first to see these men and to flee for fear, supposing falsely that it was something beyond nature, and next after the sentinels the whole army fleet likewise; insomuch that the Phocians made themselves masters of four thousand dead, and their shields, whereof they dedicated half at Abae and the rest at Delphi; a tithe of what they won in that fight went to the making of the great statues that stand round the tripod before the shrine at Delphi, and there are others like them dedicated at Abae.

[link to original Greek text] 28 Rawlinson p286 Thus had the beleaguered Phocians dealt with the Thessalian foot; and when the Thessalian horsemen rode into their country the Phocians did them mortal harm; they dug a great pit in the pass near Hyampolis and put empty jars therein, covering which with earth, till all was like the rest of the ground, they awaited the onset of the Thessalians. These rode on thinking to sweep the Phocians before them, and fell in among the jars; whereby their horses' legs were broken.

[link to original Greek text] 29 These two deeds had never been forgiven by the Thessalians; and now they sent a herald with this message: "Men of Phocis, it is time now that you confess yourselves to be no match for us. We were ever formerly preferred before you by the Greeks, as long as we were on their side; and now we are of such weight with the foreigner that it lies in our power to have you deprived of your lands, ay, and yourselves enslaved withal. Nevertheless, though all rests with us, we bear you no ill‑will for the past; pay us fifty talents of silver for what you  p31 did, and we promise to turn aside what threatens your land."

[link to original Greek text] 30 This was the Thessalians' offer. The Phocians, and they alone of all that region, would not take the Persians' part, and that for no other reason (if I argue aright) than their hatred of the Thessalians; had the Thessalians aided the Greek side, then methinks the Phocians would have stood for the Persians. They replied to the offer of the Thessalians that they would give no money; that they could do like the Thessalians and take the Persian part, if for any cause they so wished, but they would not willingly betray the cause of Hellas.

[link to original Greek text] 31 Rawlinson p288 This answer being returned to them, thereat the Thessalians in their wrath against the Phocians began to guide the foreigner on his way. From the lands of Trachis they broke into Doris; for there is a narrow tongue of Dorian land stretching that way, about thirty furlongs wide, between the Malian territory and the Phocian, which in old time was Dryopian; this region is the motherland of the Dorians of the Peloponnese. To this Dorian territory the foreigners did no harm at their invasion; for the people took the Persian part, and the Thessalians would not have them harmed.

[link to original Greek text] 32 H & W When they entered Phocis from Doris, the Phocians themselves they could not catch; for some of the Phocians ascended to the heights of Parnassus; and the peak of Parnassus called Tithorea, which rises by itself near the town Neon, has room enough for a multitude of people; thither they carried up their goods and themselves ascended to it, but the most of them made their way out of the country to  p33 the Ozolian Locrians, where is the town of Amphissa above the Crisaean plain. The foreigners overran the whole of Phocis, the Thessalians so guiding their army; and all that came within their power they burnt and wasted, setting fire to towns and temples.

[link to original Greek text] 33 Marching this way down the river Cephisus they ravaged all before them, burning the towns of Drymus, Charadra, Erochus, Tethronium, Amphicaea, Neon, Pediaea, Tritea, Elatea, Hyampolis, Parapotamii, and Abae, where was a richly endowed temple of Apollo, provided with wealth of treasure and offerings; and there was then as now a place of divination there. This temple, too, they plundered and burnt; and they pursued and caught some of the Phocians near the mountains, and did certain women to death by the multitude of their violators.a

[link to original Greek text] 34 Rawlinson p290 Passing Parapotamii the foreigners came to Panopea; and there their army parted asunder into two companies. The greater and stronger part of the host marched with Xerxes himself towards Athens and broke into the territory of Orchomenus in Boeotia. Now the whole people of Boeotia took the Persian part, and men of Macedonia sent by Alexander safeguarded their towns, each in his appointed place; the reason of the safeguarding being, that Xerxes might understand the Boeotians to be on the Persian side.

[link to original Greek text] 35 So this part of the foreign army marched as aforesaid, and others set forth with guides for the  p35 temple at Delphi, keeping Parnassus on their right. These, too, laid waste whatsoever part of Phocis they occupied, burning the towns of the Panopeans and Daulii and Aeolidae. The purpose of their parting from the rest of the army and marching this way was, that they might plunder the temple at Delphi and lay its wealth before Xerxes; who (as I have been told) knew of all the most notable possessions in the temple better than of what he had left in his own palace, and chiefly the offerings of Croesus son of Alyattes; so many had ever spoken of them.

[link to original Greek text] 36 H & W When the Delphians learnt all this they were sore afraid; and in their great fear they inquired of the oracle whether they should bury the sacred treasure in the ground or convey it away to another country. But the god bade them move nothing, saying that he was able to protect his own. On that hearing, the Delphians took thought for themselves. They sent their children and women oversea to Achaia; of the men, the most went up to the peaks of Parnassus and carried their goods into the Corycian cave,7 and some escaped to Amphissa in Locris; in brief, all the Delphians left the town save sixty men and the prophet.

[link to original Greek text] 37 Rawlinson p293 Now when the foreigners drew nigh in their coming and could see the temple, the prophet, whose name was Aceratus, saw certain sacred arms, that no man might touch without sacrilege, brought out of the chamber within and laid before the shrine. So  p37 he went to tell the Delphians of the miracle; but when the foreigners came with all speed near to the temple of Athene Pronaea, they were visited by miracles yet greater than the aforesaid. Marvellous indeed it is, that weapons of war should of their own motion appear lying outside before the shrine; but the visitation which followed upon that was more wondrous than aught else ever seen. For when the foreigners were near in their coming to the temple of Athene Pronaea, there were they smitten by thunderbolts from heaven, and two peaks brake off from Parnassus and came rushing among them with a mighty noise and overwhelmed many of them; and from the temple of Athene there was heard a shout and a cry of triumph.

[link to original Greek text] 38 Rawlinson p297 All this joining together struck panic into the foreigners; and the Delphians, perceiving that they fled, descended upon them and slew a great number. The survivors fled straight to Boeotia. Those of the foreigners who returned said (as I have been told) that they had seen other signs of heaven's working besides the aforesaid: two men-at‑arms of stature greater than human (they said) had followed hard after them, slaying and pursuing.

[link to original Greek text] 39 These two, say the Delphians, were the native heroes Phylacus and Autonous, whose precincts are near the temple, Phylacus' by the road itself above the shrine of Athene Pronaea, and Autonous' near the Castalian spring, under the Hyampean peak. The rocks that fell8 from Parnassus were yet to be  p39 seen in my day, lying in the precinct of Athene Pronaea, whither their descent through the foreigners' ranks had hurled them. Such, then, was the manner of those men's departure from the temple.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 After the capture of Byzantium in 476 B.C.

2 The πυρφόρος carried the sacred fire which was always kept alight for the sacrifices of the army; his person was supposed to be inviolable.

3 For the διέκπλους see Bk. VI ch. 12.

4 This means, I suppose, to the seas nearer their homes.

5 The northern half of Euboea, including the district of Histiaea.

6 On the hypothesis, usually received till lately, that the games took place at the first full moon after the summer solstice, we should have to adopt some theory such as Stein's, that the conversation here recorded took place in late June, while Xerxes was at Therma; for Thermopylae was fought in late August. But Macan says that the above hypothesis about the date of the games is exploded.

7 In the heights above Delphi and some three hours distant from it, adjacent to Parnassus. The cave is "some 200 feet long, 90 feet broad at the widest point, and 20 to 40 feet high" (How and Wells).

8 "Among the olives in the glen below" the remains of the temple of Athene Pronaea "are some large masses of reddish-grey rock, which might be those said to have come hurtling from the cliffs above" (How and Wells).


Thayer's Note:

a The awkward phrase, in simple modern English, means that some women were gang-raped and died of it.


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Page updated: 8 Nov 18