« VorigeDoorgaan »
Xerxes. for that reason make no scruple of employing bribes and presents to remove his competitor: And having found means to make the ambition of Epicydes amends, by gratifying his avarice, he got himself elected general in his stead. We may here, I think, very justly apply to Themistocles, what Titus Livius says of Fabius on a like occasion. This great commander finding, when Hannibal was in the heart of Italy, that the people were going to make a man of no merit consul, employed all his own credit, as well as that of his friends, to be continued in the consulship, without being concerned at the clamour that might be raised against him; and he succeeded in the attempt. The historian adds, "The conjuncture "of affairs, and the extreme danger the common"wealth was exposed to, were arguments of such "weight, that they prevented any one from being "offended at a conduct, which might appear to be "contrary to rules, and removed all suspicion of "Fabius's having acted upon any motive of interest "or ambition. On the contrary, the publick ad"mired his generosity and greatness of soul, in that, 66 as he knew the commonwealth had occasion for an accomplished general, and could not be ignorant or doubtful of his own singular merit in that respect, he had chosen rather in some sort to hazard "his own reputation, and perhaps expose his character to the reproaches of envious tongues, than "to be wanting in any service he could render his country."
The Athenians also passed a decree to recal home all their people that were in banishment. They were afraid, lest Aristides should join their enemies,
Plut. in Arist. p. 322, 323.
* Χρήμασι τὴν φιλοτιμίαν ἐξωνήσατο ωαρὰ τῇ Ἐπικύδη.
+ Tempus ac necessitas belli, ac discrimen summæ rerum, faciebant ne quis aut in exemplum exquireret, aut suspectum cupiditatis imperii consulem haberet. Quin laudabant potiùs magnitudinem animi, quòd cùm summo imperatore esse opus reip. sciret seque cum haud dubiè esse, minoris invidiam suam, si qua ex re oriretur, quàm utilitatem reip. fecisset. Liv. 1. xxiv. n. 9.
and lest his credit should carry over a great many others to the side of the Barbarians. But they had a very false notion of their citizen, who was infinitely remote from such sentiments. Be that as it would, on this extraordinary juncture they thought fit to recal him, and Themistocles was so far from opposing the decree for that purpose, that he promoted it with all his credit and authority. The hatred and division of these great men had nothing in them of that implacable, bitter, and outrageous spirit, which prevailed among the Romans in the later times of the republick. The danger of the state was the means of thei. reconciliation, and when their service was necessary to the preservation of the publick, they laid aside all their jealousy and rancour: And we shall see by the sequel, that Aristides was so far from secretly thwarting his ancient rival, that he zealously contributed to the success of his enterprizes, and to the advancement of his glory.
The alarm increased in Greece, in proportion as they received advice that the Persian army advanced. If the Athenians and Lacedæmonians had been able to make no other resistance than with their landforces, Greece had been utterly ruined and reduced to slavery. This exigence taught them how to set a right value upon the prudent foresight of Themis tocles, who upon some other pretext had caused an hundred gallies to be built. Instead of judging like the rest of the Athenians, who looked upon the vic tory of Marathon as the end of the war, he on the contrary considered it rather as the beginning, or as the signal of still greater battles, for which it was necessary to prepare the Athenian people: And from that very time he began to think of raising Athens to a superiority over Sparta, which for a long time had been the mistress of all Greece. With this view he judged it expedient to make the Athenian power entirely maritime, perceiving very plainly that as she was so weak by land she had no other way to render herself necessary to her allies, or formidable to her
Xerxes. enemies. His opinion herein prevailed among the people in spite of the opposition of Miltiades, whose difference of opinion undoubtedly arose from the little probability there was, that a people entirely unacquainted with fighting at sea, and that were only capable of fitting out and arming very small vessels, should be able to withstand so formidable a power as that of the Persians, who had both a numerous land-army, and a fleet of above a thousand ships.
The Athenians had some silver mines in a part of Attica, called Laurium, the whole revenues and products of which used to be distributed amongst them. Themistocles had the courage to propose to the people, that they should abolish these distributions, and employ that money in building vessels with three benches of oars, in order to make war upon the people of. Egina, against whom he endeavoured to inflame their ancient jealousy. No people are ever willing to sacrifice their private interests to the general utility of the publick: For they seldom have so much generosity or publick spirit, as to purchase the welfare or preservation of the state at their own expence. The Athenian people, however, did it upon this occasion: Moved by the lively remonstrances of Themistocles, they consented, that the money which arose from the product of the mines, should be employed in the building of an hundred gallies. Against the arrival of Xerxes they doubled the number, and to that fleet Greece owed its preservation.
d When they came to the point of naming a general for the command of the navy, the Athenians, who alone had furnished the two thirds of it, laid claim to that honour, as appertaining to them, and their pretensions were certainly just and well grounded. It happened, however, that the suffrages of the allies all concurred in favour of Eurybiades, a Lacedæmonian. Themistocles, though very aspiring after glory, thought it incumbent upon him on
< Plut. in Themist. p. 113. d Herod. 1. viii. c. 213.
this occasion to neglect his own interests for the Xerxes. common good of the nation: and giving the Athenians to understand, that, provided they behaved themselves with courage and conduct, all the Gre cians would quickly desire to confer the command upon them of their own accord, he persuaded them to consent, as he would do himself, to give up that point at present to the Spartans. It may justly be said, that this prudent moderation in Themistocles was another means of saving the state. For the allies threatened to separate themselves from them, if they refused to comply; and if that had happened, Greece must have been inevitably ruined.
SECT. V. The battle of Thermopyla. The death of
* THE only thing that now remained to be discus- A. M
Ant. J. C.
sed, was to know in what place they should resolve 352. to meet the Persians, in order to dispute their entrance into Greece. The people of Thessaly represented, that as they were the most exposed, and likely to be first attacked by the enemy, it was but reasonable, that their defence and security, on which the safety of all Greece so much depended, should first be provided for; without which they should be obliged to take other measures, that would be contrary to their inclinations, but yet absolutely necessary, in case their country was left unprotected and defenceless. It was hereupon resolved, that ten thousand men should be sent to guard the passage which separates Macedonia from Thessaly, near the river Peneus, between the mountains of Olym pus and Ossa. But Alexander, the son of Amyntas, king of Macedonia, having given them to understand, that if they waited for the Persians in that place they must inevitably be overpowered by their numbers, they retired to Thermopyla. The Thes
Herod, 1. vii. c. 172, 173.
Xerxes. salians finding themselves thus abandoned, without any farther deliberation submitted to the Persians.
Thermopyla is a streight or narrow pass of mount Eta, between Thessaly and Phocis, but twenty-five feet broad, which therefore might be defended by a small number of forces, and which was the only way through which the Persian land. army could enter Achaia, and advance to besiege Athens. This was the place where the Grecian ariny thought fit to wait for the enemy: The person who commanded it was Leonidas, one of the two kings of Sparta.
6 Xerxes in the mean time was upon his march: He had given orders for his fleet to follow him along the coast, and to regulate their motions according to those of the land army. Wherever he came he found provisions and refreshment prepared beforehand pursuant to the orders he had sent; and every city he arrived at gave him a magnificent entertainment, which cost immense sums of money. The vast expence of these treats gave occasion to a witty saying of a certain citizen of Abdera in Thrace, who, when the king was gone, said, they ought to thank the gods, that he eat but one meal a day.
In the same country of Thrace, there was a prince who shewed an extraordinary greatness of soul on this occasion: It was the king of the Bisaltes. Whilst all the other princes ran into servitude, and basely submitted to Xerxes, he bravely refused to receive his yoke or to obey him. Not being in a condition to resist him with open force, he retired to the top of the mountain Rhodope, into an inaccessible place, and forbad all his sons, who were six in number, to carry arms against Greece. But they, either out of fear of Xerxes, or out of a curiosity to sce so important a war, followed the Persians, in contradiction to their father's injunction. On their return home, their father, to punish so direct a dis
Herod. 1. vii. c. 175, 177. Ibid. c. 109. 132.