The Ancient Library

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human life and human labour to gratify the caprice and magnify the power of an Eastern despot, than simply a military force collected for the conquest of a formidable enemy. The cutting of the canal through Mount Athos has been rejected as a false­hood by numerous writers both ancient and modern. Juvenal speaks of it (x. 174) as a specimen of Greek mendacity,

" creditur olim

Velificatus Athos, et quidquid Graecia mendax Audet in historia,"

and Niebuhr denies it most positively as a thing quite incomprehensible. ( Vortr'dge tiler alte Ges-chicJite, vol. i. p. 403.) But since it is evident that Herodotus \vent in person over the whole ground traversed by the Persian army, the mere fact that he gives a most minute description of this canal (vii. 37) ought to convince every one of its exist­ence even without any further evidence, since he certainly never said that he saw what he did not see. There are, however, the most distinct traces of it at the present day, as,is shown by Lieutenant Wolfe, who has given an account of its present condition in the article " Athos " which he wrote in the " Penny Cyclopaedia."

In the autumn of b.c. 481 Xerxes arrived at Sardis, and early in the spring of the following year commenced his march towards the Helles­pont. So great" was the number of the army that it was seven days and seven nights in crossing the bridges without a moment of intermission. The march was continued through the Thracian Cher­sonese till it reached the plain of Doriscus, which is near the sea, and is traversed by the river Hebrus. The army was here joined by the fleet, which had not entered the Hellespont, but had sailed westward round the southernmost promon­tory of the Thracian Chersonese. At this plain Xerxes resolved to number both his land and naval forces. The mode employed for numbering the foot soldiers was remarkable. Ten thousand men were first numbered and packed together as closely as they could stand ; a line was drawn and a wall built round the place they had occupied, into which all the soldiers entered successively, till the whole army was thus measured. There were found to be a hundred and seventy of these divisions, thus making a total of 1,700,000 foot. Besides these there were 80,000 horse, and many war-chariots and camels, with about 20,000 men. Herodotus has left us a most minute and interesting catalogue of the nations comprising this mighty army with their various military equipments and different modes of fighting. The land forces contained forty-six nations. (Herod, vii. 61, foil.) The fleet consisted of 1207 triremes, and 3000 smaller vessels. Each trireme was manned by 200 rowers and 30 fighting men ; and each of the accompanying vessels carried 80 men according to the calculation of Herodotus. Thus the naval force would amount to 517,610. The whole armament, both military and naval, which passed over from Asia to Doriscus, would accordingly amount to 2,317,610 men. Nor was this all. In his march from Doriscus to Ther­mopylae, Xerxes received a still further accession of strength. The Thracian tribes, the Macedonians, and the other nations in Europe whose territories he traversed supplied 300,000 men, and 120,tri­remes containing an aggregate of 24,000 men. Thus when he reached Thermopylae the land and



sea forces amounted to 2,641,610 fighting men. This does not include the attendants, the slaves, the crews of the provision ships, &c., which accord­ing to the supposition of Herodotus were more in number than the fighting men ; but supposing them to have been equal, the total number of male persons who accompanied Xerxes to Thermopylae reach the astounding figure of 5,28^2^! In addition to this, there were the eur-Tj^Ks, concubines and female cooks, of whom no one could telfthe amount, nor that of the beasts of burthen, cattle and Indian dogs. (Herod, vii. 184—187.) *

Such vast numbers seem incredible, and have led many writers to impeach either the veracity or the good sense of the historian. They are rejected altogether by Niebuhr in his Lectures on Ancient History, who asserts that it is impossible that the seventh book of Herodotus can be an historical relation, and considers it as founded on the epic poem of Choerilus. On the other hand, Heeren is disposed to receive the numerical totals of Hero­dotus without question. The view which Mr. Grote takes is more cautious and is characterized by his usual good sense- and critical acumen. As the subject has occasioned so much controversy, his remarks deserve to be quoted at length. " To admit this overwhelming total, or anything near to it, is obviously impossible: yet the disparaging-remarks which it has drawn down upon Herodotus are no way merited. He takes pains to distinguish that which informants told him, from that which he merely guessed. His description of the review at Doriscus is so detailed, that he had evidently conversed with persons who were present at it, and had learnt the separate totals promulgated by the enumerators — infantry, cavalry, and ships of war, great and small. As to the number of triremes, his statement seems beneath the truth, as we may judge from the contemporary authority of Aeschylus, who in the " Persae " gives the exact number of 1207 Persian ships as having fought at Salamis : but between Doriscus and Salamis Hero­dotus has himself enumerated 647 ships as lost or destroyed, and only 120 as added. N& exaggera­tion therefore can well be suspected in this state­ment, which would imply about 276,000 as the number of the crews, though there is here a con-fuson or omission in the narrative which we can­not clear up. But the aggregate of 3000 smaller ships, and still more that of 1,700,000 infantry, are far less trustworthy. There would be little or no motive for the enumerators to be exact, and every motive for them to exaggerate—an immense nominal total would be no less pleasing to the army than to the monarch himself— so that the military total of land-force and ships' crews which Herodotus gives as 2,641,000 on the arrival at Thermopylae, may be dismissed as unwarrantable and incredible..... Weighing the circumstances of the case well, and considering that this army was the result of a maximum of effort throughout the vast empire — that a great numerical total was the thing chiefly demanded — and that prayers for exemption were regarded by the great king as a capital offence — and that provisions had been collected for three years before along the line of march — we may well believe that the numbers of Xerxes were greater than were ever assembled in ancient times, or perhaps at any known epoch of history. But it would be rash to pretend to guess at any positive number, in the entire absence of

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