The Ancient Library

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of Themistocles saved Greece. Either at this time or somewhat later he persuaded the Athenians to pass a decree that twenty new ships should be built every year.

When news arrived of the immense armament of Xerxes, the Athenians deliberated about choosing a commander. Themistocles had no rival at Athens except Epicydes, who was strong with his tongue, but weak in spirit. Themistocles, fearing that matters would go ill if this incompetent man was elected commander-in-chief, bought off his opposition and was elected himself (Plut. Themist. 6). There can be no doubt that Themistocles was ambitious to have the command, and his ambition was justified by his talents. A body of men was sent by sea to Alus in Achaea, whence they marched to the pass of Tempe, under the command of Themistocles and Euaenetos, a Spartan, to make a stand against the army of Xerxes ; but after a few days this force retreated to their ships in alarm before Xerxes had crossed over to Europe from Abydos (Herod, vii. 173 ; Plut. Themist. 7). The Thessalians being thus deserted, joined the Persians, and all Greece as far south as Boeotia also went over to them. Upon this the Greek confederates held a council at the isthmus of Corinth, in which it was resolved to make a stand against the Persians at Thermopylae, and to send the fleet to Artemisium on the north­west coast of Euboea, where it could watch the operations of the forces at Thermopylae. Themis­tocles showed his magnanimity by offering to serve under Eurybiades, the Spartan, though the Athe­nians furnished a greater number of ships than the Spartans. The Persian fleet sustained great loss on the coast of Thessaly from bad weather (Herod, vii. 190), but at last it reached Aphetae. Eury­biades being alarmed at the approach of this great force meditated a retreat to Southern Greece (He­rod, viii. 4 ; Plut. Themist. 7); but the Euboeans, who were afraid of being deserted at this critical time, before they should be able to put their women and children in a place of safety, gave Themistocles thirty talents, part of which he gave to Eurybiades and to Adimantus, the Corinthian commander, and thus induced them to stay and hazard a battle. The Greeks had the advantage in the naval engage­ments off Artemisium, and the Persian fleet was damaged by another storm ; but the Greek fleet also suffered in the battle, and half of the Athenian ships were disabled (Herod, viii. 18). The fights off Artemisium took place on the same days on which Leonidas and his little band fought with the Persians at Thermopylae. The Greek fleet retired to Salamis opposite the south-western coast of Attica. Before leaving Artemisium Themistocles cut on the rocks and on pieces of stone an address to the lonians, who were in the fleet of Xerxes, hoping that either the lonians might be detached from the cause of Xerxes, if what he had written should not become known to the king, or that if the king should be informed of what was written, he might suspect the fidelity of the lonians and not let them engage in the sea-fights. (Herod, viii. 22.)

It was the plan of the Peloponnesians to retire within the peninsula, and to build a wall across the isthmus,and the fleet had withdrawn to Salamis only at the entreaty of the Athenians to allow them time to remove their women and children from Attica. An answer of the oracle of Delphi had advised the Athenians to defend themselves with



wooden walls, and Themistocles, who may have suggested the answer of the oracle, also gave it an interpretation, saying that they must take refuge in their fleet. Accordingly he recommended th?t Athens should be left to the care of its tutelary deity, and that the women, children, and infirm persons should be removed to Salamis, A egina, and Troezen, which was done. The people of Troezen received most hospitably the fugitives, and provided for their maintenance at the public expense. The united fleet of the Greeks was now assembled at Salamis, consisting both of ships from Artemisium and the navy which was stationed at Troezen ; in al1 three hundred and seventy-eight ships, besides penteconters (Herod, viii. 48). In the mean time the Persian army advanced through Boeotia, and entered Attica, destroying all before them. Athens also was occupied by them, and the Acropolis was burnt. The Greek confederates assembled at Sa­lamis were alarmed, and many of them were preparing to escape in their vessels. In this emergency Mnesiphilus, a friend of Themistocles, hearing from him that the Greeks had resolved in council to withdraw to the Isthmus, and fight a naval battle there, urged him to prevent so fatal a step,, and to induce Eurybiades to stay. Themis­tocles, who was of the same opinion as Mnesiphilus, prevailed on Eurybiades to hold a fresh council of war, in which Themistocles showed the conse­quences of the intended movement. Adimantus the Corinthian insolently told Themistocles to be silent, and said that a man who had no city ought not to speak in the council. Themistocles rated him soundly and his countrymen of Corinth too ; and added, that the Athenians had a larger country and city than the Corinthians, inasmuch as they had two hundred vessels, and that no Greek state could resist such a force if attacked by it. Then turning to Eurybiades, he told him that if he did not stay there, he would cause the ruin of Greece, for that all the power of the Greeks was in their fleet; and that if they would not fight at Salamis, the Athenians would sail off to Italy, and the Greeks being left alone would then remember what he had said. Eurybiades at last yielded, and it was determined to stay at Salamis.

On the arrival of the huge armament of Xerxes, consisting of twelve hundred vessels, in the Saronic gulf, the fears of the Greeks were renewed, and a fresh council was held, in which it was proposed by the rest of the Greeks to sail off to the Pelo­ponnesus, while the Athenians, Aeginetae, and people of Megaris, still urged that they should keep their position (Herod, viii. 74). Themistocles, however, frustrated the plan of the dissentient Greeks. He sent a faith ul slave, named Sicinnus, in a boat to the Persian commanders, with a mes­sage to this effect: that the Athenian commander, without the knowledge of the other commanders, inasmuch as he wished success to the king's cause, had sent him to say that the Greeks were alarmed, and intended to make their escape, and that the Persians had now the opportunity of accomplishing a noble enterprise, if they would only cut off the retreat of the Greeks. The Persians believed what they were told, and took their measures accordingly. They landed a large force on Psyttaleia, a little island in the channel which separates Salamis from the Attic coast, and about midnight the Persian fleet occupied the whole of the channel oetween Salamis and the mainland as far as Muuychia,

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