Greek History Greek

Document Sample
Greek History Greek Powered By Docstoc
					                          Greek History: Lecture 1
                                Prof. Michael Arnush
                             Friday, February 7, 2003
              Please print out this file and bring it to class on Friday.

The following pages contain five sets of passages, one from Homer’s Iliad and the
others from Herodotus’ Histories. Each passage has an introduction which often
includes a question for you to consider, and the texts point to some of the central
issues that defined Greek history in the Homeric and archaic periods. In order:

   1. Herodotus Histories 8.144, outlining his conception of community
   2. Homer Iliad 18.468-560 (excerpts), on the polis of the Homeric age
   3. Herodotus Prooimion (“introduction”) to his Histories, on the subject matter
      of his inquiry; Histories 1.1-1.5 on the causes of the war between Europe
      and Asia
   4. Herodotus 2.19-40 (excerpts), part of Herodotus’ examination of Egypt
   5. Herodotus 7.184-187, 201-234, 238 on the Battle of Thermopylae and the
      arete or “excellence” of the Spartan hoplites.

As you read these passages, keep in mind the material culture of the Homeric
and archaic worlds presented by Prof. Mechem and the types of cultural values
emphasized by Homer. Herodotus is a very different source from Homer, living in
the 5th century BCE rather than the 8th and writing prose rather than poetry. A
few brief biographical items for Herodotus, the world’s first historian:

      Born c. 484 in Halikarnassos in Asia Minor, died c. 425 in Thurii in S. Italy
      Son of Lyxos, a Carian (non-Greek); relative of the late epic poet Panyassis
      City of birth on the fringe of the Greek world, under Persian rule in 480s
      Family was involved in insurrection in Halikarnassos, from which he
       departed in the 450’s to travel to widely: to Egypt; Babylon in
       Mesopotamia; Scythia north of the Black Sea, to conduct research
      Began his work c. 450, finished c. 430; read his work aloud in Athens in
       the 440’s
      Wrote in the Ionic dialect, the dialect of Ionian Greek cities in Asia Minor,
       the home to some of the most prominent pre-Socratic philosophers

For additional clarification, look at the links from the course webpage to the map,
the timeline and the images from the comic book The 300, about the battle of

1. Greek notions of excellence, reputation and honor were defined within the
   context of community. What did community (something that was considered
   koinon - "in common") mean to the Greeks? Consider this sentence from the
   first history every composed – the Histories by Herodotus of Halicarnassus ca.
   450-430 BCE:

   "…There is the Greek nation - the community of blood and language, temples
   and ritual, and our common customs …" (Hdt. 8.144).

2. Community and excellence go hand in hand from the beginning of Greek
   culture. In book 18 of Homer's Iliad, which dates some 300 years earlier than
   Herodotus' Histories, Homer describes the shield carved by the god
   Hephaistos for the hero Achilles, a shield which Achilles will use in battle
   against the great Trojan prince Hector. What kind of community does Homer
   describe, and how does he define excellence?

   "So saying he left her there and went to his bellows, and he turned these
   toward the fire and bade them work. [470] And the bellows, twenty in all, blew
   upon the melting-vats, sending forth a ready blast of every force, now to
   further him as he laboured hard, and again in whatsoever way Hephaestus
   might wish and his work go on. And on the fire he put stubborn bronze and
   tin [475] and precious gold and silver; and thereafter he set on the anvil-block
   a great anvil, and took in one hand a massive hammer, and in the other took
   he the tongs. First fashioned he a shield, great and sturdy, adorning it
   cunningly in every part, and round about it set a bright rim, [480] threefold
   and glittering, and from there made fast a silver baldric. Five were the layers
   of the shield itself; and on it he wrought many curious devices with cunning
   skill .....................

   [490] There he fashioned also two cities of mortal men exceeding fair. In the
   one there were marriages and feastings, and by the light of the blazing torches
   they were leading the brides from their homes through the city, and loud rose
   the bridal song. And young men were whirling in the dance, and in their midst
   [495] flutes and lyres sounded continually; and there the women stood each
   before her door and marvelled. But the folk were gathered in the place of
   assembly; for there a strife had arisen, and two men were striving about the
   blood-price of a man slain; the one avowed that he had paid all, [500]
   declaring his cause to the people, but the other refused to accept it at all; and
   each was refusing to win the issue on the word of another. Moreover, the folk
   were cheering both, showing favour to this side and to that. And heralds held
   back the folk, and the elders were sitting upon polished stones in the sacred
   circle, [505] holding in their hands the staves of the loud-voiced heralds. From
   there then would they spring up and give judgment, each in turn. And in the

   midst lay two talents of gold, to be given to him who among them should utter
   the most righteous judgment .....................

   [550] Then he set also a king's workable-land, where labourers were reaping,
   bearing sharp sickles in their hands. Some handfuls were falling in rows to
   the ground along the swath, while others the binders of sheaves were binding
   with twisted ropes of straw. Three binders stood hard by them, while behind
   them [555] boys would gather the handfuls, and bearing them in their arms
   would busily give them to the binders; and among them the king, staff in
   hand, was standing in silence at the swath, joyous in his heart. And heralds
   apart beneath an oak were making ready a feast, and were dressing a great ox
   they had slain for sacrifice; and the women [560] sprinkled the flesh with
   white barley in abundance, for the workers' mid-day meal.

3. Let’s shift from early Greek notions of excellence to the earliest attempts to
   capture the Greek experience as a set of historical events. So, we turn back to
   Herodotus. Here are the opening paragraphs of his work, which include the
   Prooimion (pronounced pro-OY-mee-on) or “prologue” and the first five
   chapters of book 1. As Herodotus creates the new genre of historie - "inquiry" -
   and as it unfolds on the first few rolls of papyrus, what strike you as the
   essential issues he wishes to explore?

   "This is the display of the inquiry of Herodotus of Halicar nassus, so that
   things done by man not be forgotten in time, and that great and marvelous
   deeds, some displayed by the Hellenes, some by the barbarians, not lose their
   glory, including among others what was the cause of their waging war on each

   Hdt. 1.1
   [1] The Persian learned men say that the Phoenicians were the cause of the
   dispute. These (they say) came to our seas from the sea which is called Red,
   and having settled in the country which they still occupy, at once began to
   make long voyages. Among other places to which they carried Egyptian and
   Assyrian merchandise, they came to Argos, [2] which was at that time
   preeminent in every way among the people of what is now called Hellas. The
   Phoenicians came to Argos, and set out their cargo. [3] On the fifth or sixth
   day after their arrival, when their wares were almost all sold, many women
   came to the shore and among them especially the daughter of the king, whose
   name was Io (according to Persians and Greeks alike), the daughter of
   Inachus. [4] As these stood about the stern of the ship bargaining for the
   wares they liked, the Phoenicians incited one another to set upon them. Most
   of the women escaped: Io and others were seized and thrown into the ship,
   which then sailed away for Egypt.

Hdt. 1.2
[1] In this way, the Persians say (and not as the Greeks), was how Io came to
Egypt, and this, according to them, was the first wrong that was done. Next,
according to their story, some Greeks (they cannot say who) landed at Tyre in
Phoenicia and carried off the king's daughter Europa. These Greeks must, I
suppose, have been Cretans. So far, then, the account between them was
balanced. But after this (they say), it was the Greeks who were guilty of the
second wrong. [2] They sailed in a long ship to Aea, a city of the Colchians,
and to the river Phasis:1 and when they had done the business for which they
came, they carried off the king's daughter Medea. [3] When the Colchian king
sent a herald to demand reparation for the robbery and restitution of his
daughter, the Greeks replied that, as they had been refused reparation for the
abduction of the Argive Io, they would not make any to the Colchians.

Hdt. 1.3
[1] Then (they say), in the second generation after this, Alexandrus, son of
Priam, who had heard this tale, decided to get himself a wife from Hellas by
capture; for he was confident that he would not suffer punishment. [2] So he
carried off Helen. The Greeks first resolved to send messengers demanding
that Helen be restored and atonement made for the seizure; but when this
proposal was made, the Trojans pleaded the seizure of Medea, and reminded
the Greeks that they asked reparation from others, yet made none themselves,
nor gave up the booty when asked.

Hdt. 1.4
[1] So far it was a matter of mere seizure on both sides. But after this (the
Persians say), the Greeks were very much to blame; for they invaded Asia
before the Persians attacked Europe. [2] “We think,” they say, “that it is
unjust to carry women off. But to be anxious to avenge rape is foolish: wise
men take no notice of such things. For plainly the women would never have
been carried away, had they not wanted it themselves. [3] We of Asia did not
deign to notice the seizure of our women; but the Greeks, for the sake of a
Lacedaemonian woman, recruited a great armada, came to Asia, and
destroyed the power of Priam. [4] Ever since then we have regarded Greeks as
our enemies.” For the Persians claim Asia for their own, and the foreign
peoples that inhabit it; Europe and the Greek people they consider to be
separate from them.

Hdt. 1.5
[1] Such is the Persian account; in their opinion, it was the taking of Troy
which began their hatred of the Greeks. [2] But the Phoenicians do not tell the
same story about Io as the Persians. They say that they did not carry her off
to Egypt by force. She had intercourse in Argos with the captain of the ship.
Then, finding herself pregnant, she was ashamed to have her parents know it,
and so, lest they discover her condition, she sailed away with the Phoenicians
of her own accord. [3] These are the stories of the Persians and the

   Phoenicians. For my part, I shall not say that this or that story is true, but I
   shall identify the one who I myself know did the Greeks unjust deeds, and
   thus proceed with my history, and speak of small and great cities of men
   alike. [4] For many states that were once great have now become small; and
   those that were great in my time were small before. Knowing therefore that
   human prosperity never continues in the same place, I shall mention both

4. The rest of book 1 of Herodotus' Histories focuses on the rise of the Persian
   empire, which will eventually come into conflict with the Greeks from 499-479
   during the "Persian Wars." This is the conflict which Herodotus equates in
   importance with the Trojan War, and so books 1-5 are used to establish the
   greatness of Persia. Book 2 (excerpted below) is a digression, examining the
   culture of the Egyptians (conquered by the Persians). What do you think of
   Herodotus' methods, his scientific inquiry, and his perspective?

   Hdt. 2.19-30
   [1] When the Nile is in flood, it overflows not only the Delta but also the lands
   called Libyan and Arabian, as far as two days' journey from either bank in
   places, and sometimes more than this, sometimes less. Concerning its nature,
   I could not learn anything either from the priests or from any others. [2] Yet I
   was anxious to learn from them why the Nile comes down with a rising flood
   for a hundred days from the summer solstice; and when this number of days
   is passed, sinks again with a diminishing stream, so that the river is low for
   the whole winter until the summer solstice again. [3] I was not able to get any
   information from any of the Egyptians regarding this, when I asked them what
   power the Nile has to be contrary in nature to all other rivers. I wished to
   know this, and asked; also, why no breezes blew from it as from every other
   [1] But some of the Greeks, wishing to be notable for cleverness, put forward
   three opinions about this river, two of which I would not even mention except
   just to show what they are. [2] One of them maintains that the Etesian winds
   are the cause of the river being in flood, because they hinder the Nile from
   emptying into the sea. But there are many times when the Etesian winds do
   not blow, yet the Nile does the same as before. [3] And further, if the Etesian
   winds were the cause, then the other rivers which flow contrary to those
   winds should be affected like the Nile, and even more so, since being smaller
   they have a weaker current. Yet there are many rivers in Syria and many in
   Libya, and they behave nothing like the Nile.

   [1] The second opinion is less grounded on knowledge than the previous,
   though it is more marvellous to the ear: according to it, the river effects what
   it does because it flows from Ocean, which flows around the whole world.
   [1] The third opinion is by far the most plausible, yet the most erroneous of
   all. It has no more truth in it than the others. According to this, the Nile flows
   from where snows melt; but it flows from Libya through the midst of Ethiopia,

and comes out into Egypt. [2] How can it flow from snow, then, seeing that it
comes from the hottest places to lands that are for the most part cooler? In
fact, for a man who can reason about such things, the principal and strongest
evidence that the river is unlikely to flow from snows is that the winds blowing
from Libya and Ethiopia are hot. [3] In the second place, the country is
rainless and frostless; but after snow has fallen, it has to rain within five days;
so that if it snowed, it would rain in these lands. And thirdly, the men of the
country are black because of the heat. [4] Moreover, kites and swallows live
there all year round, and cranes come every year to these places to winter
there, flying from the wintry weather of Scythia. Now, were there but the least
fall of snow in this country through which the Nile flows and where it rises,
none of these things would happen, as necessity proves.
[1] The opinion about Ocean is grounded in obscurity and needs no disproof;
for I know of no Ocean river; and I suppose that Homer or some older poet
invented this name and brought it into his poetry .....................
[1] Let this be, then, as it is and as it was in the beginning. But as to the
sources of the Nile, no one that conversed with me, Egyptian, Libyan, or
Greek, professed to know them, except the recorder of the sacred treasures of
Athena in the Egyptian city of Saïs. [2] I thought he was joking when he said
that he had exact knowledge, but this was his story .....................
[1] I was unable to learn anything from anyone else, but this much further I
did learn by the most extensive investigation that I could make, going as far
as the city of Elephantine to look myself, and beyond that by question and
hearsay .....................

Hdt. 2.35-40
[1] It is sufficient to say this much concerning the Nile. But concerning Egypt,
I am going to speak at length, because it has the most wonders, and
everywhere presents works beyond description; therefore, I shall say the more
concerning Egypt. [2] Just as the Egyptians have a climate peculiar to
themselves, and their river is different in its nature from all other rivers, so,
too, have they instituted customs and laws contrary for the most part to those
of the rest of mankind. Among them, the women buy and sell, the men stay at
home and weave; and whereas in weaving all others push the woof upwards,
the Egyptians push it downwards. [3] Men carry burdens on their heads,
women on their shoulders. Women pass water standing, men sitting. They
ease their bowels indoors, and eat out of doors in the streets, explaining that
things unseemly but necessary should be done alone in private, things not
unseemly should be done openly. [4] No woman is dedicated to the service of
any god or goddess; men are dedicated to all deities male or female. Sons are
not compelled against their will to support their parents, but daughters must
do so though they be unwilling.

[1] Everywhere else, priests of the gods wear their hair long; in Egypt, they are
shaven. For all other men, the rule in mourning for the dead is that those
most nearly concerned have their heads shaven; Egyptians are shaven at

   other times, but after a death they let their hair and beard grow. [2] The
   Egyptians are the only people who keep their animals with them in the house.
   Whereas all others live on wheat and barley, it is the greatest disgrace for an
   Egyptian to live so; they make food from a coarse grain which some call spelt.
   [3] They knead dough with their feet, and gather mud and dung with their
   hands. The Egyptians and those who have learned it from them are the only
   people who practise circumcision. Every man has two garments, every woman
   only one. [4] The rings and sheets of sails are made fast outside the boat
   elsewhere, but inside it in Egypt. The Greeks write and calculate from left to
   right; the Egyptians do the opposite; yet they say that their way of writing is
   towards the right, and the Greek way towards the left. They employ two kinds
   of writing; one is called sacred, the other demotic.

5. Cultural identity, community and excellence went hand in hand for the
   Greeks, perhaps never more so when they faced seemingly overwhelming odds
   in battle. The following two sets of excerpts detail the battle of Thermopylae of
   480 BCE. Thermopylae, located in north-central Greece, was the only pass
   through which an army could proceed from Asia and then through the
   European continent before arriving in Attica (where Athens was located) and
   the Peloponnese (which housed such important locations as Corinth,
   Olympia, Argos and Sparta). In 480 the Persians, under the leadership of their
   king Xerxes, invaded Greece with the intention of conquest. The first major
   conflict was at Thermopylae, where the Spartans led a Greek contingent
   against overwhelming odds. These passages detail first the Persian
   preparation for the battle, and then the battle itself. What are the essential
   qualities that characterize the Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae, and how
   do they exemplify the notions of arete ("excellence"), kleos ("glory" or "fame"),
   and time ("honor") that you have learned about?

   Hdt. 7.184-187
   [1] Until the whole [Persian] host reached this place and Thermopylae it
   suffered no hurt, and calculation proves to me that its numbers were still
   such as I will now show. The ships from Asia were twelve hundred and seven
   in number, and including the entire host of nations involved, there were a
   total of two hundred and forty-one thousand and four hundred men, two
   hundred being reckoned for each ship. [2] On board all these ships were thirty
   fighting men of the Persians and Medes and Sacae in addition to the company
   which each had of native fighters; the number of this added contingent is
   thirty-six thousand, two hundred and ten. [3] To this and to the first number I
   add the crews of the ships of fifty oars, calculating eighty men for each,
   whether there were actually more or fewer. Now seeing that, as has already
   been said, three thousand of these vessels were assembled, the number of
   men in them must have been two hundred and forty thousand. [4] These,
   then, were the ships' companies from Asia, and the total number of them was
   five hundred and seventeen thousand, six hundred and ten. There were seven
   hundred thousand and one hundred footsoldiers and eighty thousand

cavalrymen; to these I add the Arabian camel-riders and Libyan charioteers,
estimating them to have been twenty thousand in number. [5] The forces of
sea and land added together would consist of two million, three hundred and
seventeen thousand, six hundred and ten men. So far I have spoken of the
force which came from Asia itself, without the train of servants which followed
it and the companies of the grain-bearing craft.
[1] I must, however, also take into account the force brought from Europe,
and I will rely on my best judgment in doing so. The Greeks of Thrace and the
islands off Thrace furnished one hundred and twenty ships, and the
companies of these ships must then have consisted of twenty-four thousand
men. [2] As regards the land army supplied by all the nations--Thracians,
Paeonians, Eordi, Bottiaei, Chalcidians, Brygi, Pierians, Macedonians,
Perrhaebi, Enienes, Dolopes, Magnesians, Achaeans, dwellers on the coast of
Thrace--of all these I suppose the number to have been three hundred
thousand. [3] When these numbers are added to the numbers from Asia, the
sum total of fighting men is two million, six hundred and forty-one thousand,
six hundred and ten.
[1] This then is the number of soldiers. As for the service-train which followed
them and the crews of the light corn-bearing vessels and all the other vessels
besides which came by sea with the force, these I believe to have been not
fewer but more than the fighting men. [2] Suppose, however, that they were
equal in number, neither more nor fewer. If they were equal to the fighting
contingent, they made up as many tens of thousands as the others. The
number, then, of those whom Xerxes son of Darius led as far as the Sepiad
headland and Thermopylae was five million, two hundred and eighty-three
thousand, two hundred and twenty.
[1] That is the number of Xerxes' whole force. No one, however, can say what
the exact number of cooking women, and concubines, and eunuchs was, nor
can one determine the number of the beasts of draught and burden, and the
Indian dogs which accompanied the host; so many of them were there. It is
accordingly not surprising to me that some of the streams of water ran dry. I
do, however, wonder how there were provisions sufficient for so many tens of
thousands, [2] for calculation shows me, that if each man received one
choenix of wheat a day and no more, eleven hundred thousand and three
hundred and forty bushels would be required every day. In this calculation I
take no account of the provisions for the women, eunuchs, beasts of burden
and dogs. Of all those tens of thousands of men, there was not one, as regards
looks and grandeur, worthier than Xerxes himself to hold that command.

[1] King Xerxes lay encamped in Trachis in Malis and the Hellenes in the pass.
This place is called Thermopylae by most of the Hellenes, but by the natives
and their neighbors Pylae. Each lay encamped in these places. Xerxes was
master of everything to the north from Trachis, and the Hellenes of all that lay
toward the south on the mainland.

[1] The Hellenes who awaited the Persians in that place were these: three
hundred Spartan armed men; one thousand from Tegea and Mantinea, half
from each place; one hundred and twenty from Orchomenus in Arcadia and
one thousand from the rest of Arcadia; that many Arcadians, four hundred
from Corinth, two hundred from Phlius, and eighty Mycenaeans. These were
the Peloponnesians present; from Boeotia there were seven hundred
Thespians and four hundred Thebans.
[1] In addition, the Opuntian Locrians in full force and one thousand Phocians
came at the summons. The Hellenes had called upon them through
messengers who told them that this was only the advance guard, that the rest
of the allies were expected any day now, and that the sea was being watched,
with the Athenians and Aeginetans and all those enrolled in the fleet on
guard. There was nothing for them to be afraid of. [2] The invader of Hellas
was not a god but a human being, and there was not, and never would be,
any mortal on whom some amount of evil was not bestowed at birth, with the
greatest men receiving the largest share. The one marching against them was
certain to fall from pride, since he was a mortal. When they heard this, the
Locrians and Phocians marched to Trachis to help.
[1] Each city had its own general, but the one most admired and the leader of
the whole army was a Lacedaemonian, Leonidas, son of Anaxandrides, son of
Leon, son of Eurycratides, son of Anaxandrus, son of Eurycrates, son of
Polydorus, son of Alcamenes, son of Teleclus, son of Archelaus, son of
Hegesilaus, son of Doryssus, son of Leobotes, son of Echestratus, son of Agis,
son of Eurysthenes, son of Aristodemus, son of Aristomachus, son of
Cleodaeus, son of Hyllus, son of Heracles. Leonidas had gained the kingship
at Sparta unexpectedly.
[1] Since he had two older brothers, Cleomenes and Dorieus, he had
renounced all thought of the kingship. Cleomenes, however, died without male
offspring, and Dorieus, who had met his end in Sicily, was also no longer
alive. The succession therefore fell to Leonidas since he was older than
Anaxandrides' youngest son Cleombrotus and had married Cleomenes'
daughter. [2] He now came to Thermopylae with the appointed three hundred
he had selected, all of whom had sons. He also brought those Thebans whom I
counted among the number and whose general was Leontiades son of
Eurymachus. [3] Leonidas took pains to bring only the Thebans among the
Hellenes, because they were accused of medizing; he summoned them to the
war wishing to know whether they would send their men with him or openly
refuse the Hellenic alliance. They sent the men but intended something quite
[1] The Spartans sent the men with Leonidas on ahead so that the rest of the
allies would see them and march, instead of medizing like the others if they
learned that the Spartans were delaying. At present the Carneia was in their
way, but once they had completed the festival, they intended to leave a
garrison at Sparta and march out in full force with all speed. [2] The rest of
the allies planned to do likewise, for the Olympiad coincided with these

events. They accordingly sent their advance guard, not expecting the war at
Thermopylae to be decided so quickly.
[1] This is what they intended, but the Hellenes at Thermopylae, when the
Persians drew near the pass, fearfully took counsel whether to depart. The
rest of the Peloponnesians were for returning to the Peloponnese and guarding
the isthmus, but the Phocians and Locrians were greatly angered by this
counsel. Leonidas voted to remain where they were and send messengers to
the cities bidding them to send help, since they were too few to ward off the
army of the Medes.
[1] While they debated in this way, Xerxes sent a mounted scout to see how
many there were and what they were doing. While he was still in Thessaly, he
had heard that a small army was gathered there and that its leaders were
Lacedaemonians, including Leonidas, who was of the Heracleid clan. [2]
Riding up to the camp, the horseman watched and spied out the place. He
could, however, not see the whole camp, for it was impossible to see those
posted inside the wall which they had rebuilt and were guarding. He did take
note of those outside, whose arms lay in front of the wall, and it chanced that
at that time the Lacedaemonians were posted there. [3] He saw some of the
men exercising naked and others combing their hair. He marvelled at the
sight and took note of their numbers. When he had observed it all carefully,
he rode back in leisure, since no one pursued him or paid him any attention
at all. So he returned and told Xerxes all that he had seen.
[1] When Xerxes heard that, he could not comprehend the fact that the
Lacedaemonians were actually, to the best of their ability, preparing to kill or
be killed. What they did appeared laughable to him, so he sent for Demaratus
the son of Ariston, who was in his camp. [2] When this man arrived, he asked
him about each of these matters, wanting to understand what it was that the
Lacedaemonians were doing. Demaratus said, “You have already heard about
these men from me, when we were setting out for Hellas, but when you heard,
you mocked me, although I told you how I expected things to turn out. It is
my greatest aim, O King, to be truthful in your presence. [3] So hear me now.
These men have come to fight us for the pass, and it for this that they are
preparing. This is their custom: when they are about to risk their lives, they
arrange their hair. [4] Rest assured that if you overcome these men and those
remaining behind at Sparta, there is no one else on earth who will raise his
hands to withstand you, my King. You are now attacking the fairest kingdom
in Hellas and men who are the very best.” [5] What he said seemed completely
incredible to Xerxes, so he then asked how they, who were so few in number,
would fight against his army. Demaratus answered, “My King, take me for a
liar if this does not turn out as I say.” So he spoke, but he did not persuade
[1] He let four days go by, expecting them to run away at any minute. They did
not leave, and it seemed to him that they stayed out of folly and lack of due
respect. On the fifth day he became angry and sent the Medes and Cissians
against them, bidding them take them prisoner and bring them into his
presence. [2] The Medes bore down upon the Hellenes and attacked. Many fell,

but others attacked in turn, and they made it clear to everyone, especially to
the king himself, that among so many people there were few real men. The
battle lasted all day.
[1] When the Medes had been roughly handled, they retired, and the Persians
whom the king called Immortals, led by Hydarnes, attacked in turn. It was
thought that they would easily accomplish the task. [2] When they joined
battle with the Hellenes, they fared neither better nor worse than the Median
army, since they used shorter spears than the Hellenes and could not use
their numbers fighting in a narrow space. [3] The Lacedaemonians fought
memorably, showing themselves skilled fighters amidst unskilled on many
occasions, as when they would turn their backs and feign flight. The
barbarians would see them fleeing and give chase with shouting and noise,
but when the Lacedaemonians were overtaken, they would turn to face the
barbarians and overthrow innumerable Persians. A few of the Spartans
themselves were also slain. When the Persians could gain no inch of the pass,
attacking by companies and in every other fashion, they withdrew.
[1] It is said that during these assaults in the battle the king, as he watched,
jumped up three times from the throne in fear for his army. This, then, is how
the fighting progressed, and on the next day the barbarians fought no better.
They joined battle supposing that their enemies, being so few, were now
disabled by wounds and could no longer resist. [2] The Hellenes, however,
stood ordered in ranks by nation, and each of them fought in turn, except the
Phocians, who were posted on the mountain to guard the path. When the
Persians found nothing different from what they saw the day before, they
[1] The king was at a loss as to how to deal with the present difficulty. Epialtes
son of Eurydemus, a Malian, thinking he would get a great reward from the
king, came to speak with him and told him of the path leading over the
mountain to Thermopylae. In so doing he caused the destruction of the
Hellenes remaining there. [2] Later he fled into Thessaly in fear of the
Lacedaemonians, and while he was in exile, a price was put on his head by
the Pylagori when the Amphictyons assembled at Pylae. Still later he returned
from exile to Anticyra and was killed by Athenades, a Trachinian. [3]
Athenades slew Epialtes for a different reason, which I will tell later in my
history, but he was given no less honor by the Lacedaemonians. It was in this
way, then, that Epialtes was later killed.
[1] There is another story told, namely that Onetes son of Phanagoras, a
Carystian, and Corydallus of Anticyra are the ones who gave the king this
information and guided the Persians around the mountain, but I find it totally
incredible. [2] One must judge by the fact that the Pylagori set a price not on
Onetes and Corydallus but on Epialtes the Trachinian, and I suppose they
had exact knowledge; furthermore, we know that Epialtes was banished on
this charge. [3] Onetes might have known the path, although he was not a
Malian, if he had often come to that country, but Epialtes was the one who
guided them along the path around the mountain. It is he whom I put on
record as guilty.

[1] Xerxes was pleased by what Epialtes promised to accomplish. He
immediately became overjoyed and sent out Hydarnes and the men under
Hydarnes command, who set forth from the camp at about lamp-lighting time.
This path had been discovered by the native Malians, who used it to guide the
Thessalians into Phocis when the Phocians had fenced off the pass with a wall
and were sheltered from the war. So long ago the Malians had discovered that
the pass was in no way a good thing.
[1] The course of the path is as follows: it begins at the river Asopus as it flows
through the ravine, and this mountain and the path have the same name,
Anopaea. This Anopaea stretches along the ridge of the mountain and ends at
Alpenus, the Locrian city nearest to Malis, near the rock called Blackbuttock
and the seats of the Cercopes, where it is narrowest.
[1] This, then, was the nature of the pass. The Persians crossed the Asopus
and travelled all night along this path, with the Oetaean mountains on their
right and the Trachinian on their left. At dawn they came to the summit of the
pass. [2] In this part of the mountain one thousand armed men of the
Phocians were on watch, as I have already shown, defending their own
country and guarding the path. The lower pass was held by those I have
mentioned, but the Phocians had voluntarily promised Leonidas to guard the
path over the mountain.
[1] The Phocians learned in the following way that the Persians had climbed
up: they had ascended without the Phocians' notice because the mountain
was entirely covered with oak trees. Although there was no wind, a great noise
arose like leaves being trodden underfoot. The Phocians jumped up and began
to put on their weapons, and in a moment the barbarians were there. [2]
When they saw the men arming themselves, they were amazed, for they had
supposed that no opposition would appear, but they had now met with an
army. Hydarnes feared that the Phocians might be Lacedaemonians and
asked Epialtes what country the army was from. When he had established
what he wanted to know with certainty, he arrayed the Persians for battle. [3]
The Phocians, assailed by thick showers of arrows and supposing that the
Persians had set out against them from the start, fled to the top of the
mountain and prepared to meet their destruction. This is what they intended,
but the Persians with Epialtes and Hydarnes paid no attention to the
Phocians and went down the mountain as fast as possible.
[1] The seer Megistias, examining the sacrifices, first told the Hellenes at
Thermopylae that death was coming to them with the dawn. Then deserters
came who announced the circuit made by the Persians. These gave their
signals while it was still night; a third report came from the watchers running
down from the heights at dawn. [2] The Hellenes then took counsel, but their
opinions were divided. Some advised not to leave their post, but others spoke
against them. They eventually parted, some departing and dispersing each to
their own cities, others preparing to remain there with Leonidas.
[1] It is said that Leonidas himself sent them away because he was concerned
that they would be killed, but felt it not fitting for himself and the Spartans to
desert that post which they had come to defend at the beginning. [2] I,

however, tend to believe that when Leonidas perceived that the allies were
dispirited and unwilling to run all risks with him, he told then to depart. For
himself, however, it was not good to leave; if he remained, he would leave a
name of great fame, and the prosperity of Sparta would not be blotted out. [3]
When the Spartans asked the oracle about this war when it broke out, the
Pythia had foretold that either Lacedaemon would be destroyed by the
barbarians or their king would be killed. She gave them this answer in
hexameter verses running as follows:

[4]For you, inhabitants of wide-wayed Sparta,
 Either your great and glorious city must be wasted by Persian men,
 Or if not that, then the bound of Lacedaemon must mourn a dead king, from
Heracles' line.
 The might of bulls or lions will not restrain him with opposing strength; for
he has the might of Zeus.
 I declare that he will not be restrained until he utterly tears apart one of

Considering this and wishing to win distinction for the Spartans alone, he
sent away the allies rather than have them leave in disorder because of a
difference of opinion.
[1] Not the least proof I have of this is the fact that Leonidas publicly
dismissed the seer who attended the expedition, for fear that he might die
with them. This was Megistias the Acarnanian, said to be descended from
Melampus, the one who told from the sacrifices what was going to happen to
them. He was dismissed but did not leave; instead he sent away his only son
who was also with the army.
[1] Those allies who were dismissed went off in obedience to Leonidas, only
the Thespians and Thebans remaining with the Lacedaemonians. The
Thebans remained against their will and desire, for Leonidas kept them as
hostages. The Thespians very gladly remained, saying they would not
abandon Leonidas and those with him by leaving; instead they would stay and
die with them. Their general was Demophilus son of Diadromes.
[1] Xerxes made libations at sunrise and waiting till about mid-morning, made
his assault. Epialtes had advised this, for the descent from the mountain is
more direct, and the way is much shorter than the circuit and ascent. [2]
Xerxes and his barbarians attacked, but Leonidas and his Hellenes, knowing
they were going to their deaths, advanced now much farther than before into
the wider part of the pass. In all the previous days they had sallied out into
the narrow way and fought there, guarding the defensive wall. [3] Now,
however, they joined battle outside the narrows and many of the barbarians
fell, for the leaders of the companies beat everyone with whips from behind,
urging them ever forward. Many of them were pushed into the sea and
drowned; far more were trampled alive by each other, with no regard for who
perished. [4] Since the Hellenes knew that they must die at the hands of those

who had come around the mountain, they displayed the greatest strength
they had against the barbarians, fighting recklessly and desperately.
[1] By this time most of them had had their spears broken and were killing the
Persians with swords. Leonidas, proving himself extremely valiant, fell in that
struggle and with him other famous Spartans, whose names I have learned by
inquiry since they were worthy men. Indeed, I have learned by inquiry the
names of all three hundred. [2] Many famous Persians also fell there,
including two sons of Darius, Abrocomes and Hyperanthes, born to Darius by
Phratagune daughter of Artanes. Artanes was the brother of king Darius and
son of Hystaspes son of Arsames. When he gave his daughter in marriage to
Darius, he gave his whole house as dowry, since she was his only child.
[1] Two brothers of Xerxes accordingly fought and fell there. There was a great
struggle between the Persians and Lacedaemonians over Leonidas' body, until
the Hellenes by their courageous prowess dragged it away and routed their
enemies four times. The battle went on until the men with Epialtes arrived. [2]
When the Hellenes saw that they had come, the contest turned, for they
retired to the narrow part of the way, passed behind the wall, and took their
position crowded together on the hill, all except the Thebans. This hill is at the
mouth of the pass, where the stone lion in honor of Leonidas now stands. [3]
In that place they defended themselves with swords, if they still had them,
and with hands and teeth. The barbarians buried them with missiles, some
attacking from the front and throwing down the defensive wall, others
surrounding them on all sides.
[1] This then is how the Lacedaemonians and Thespians conducted
themselves, but the Spartan Dieneces is said to have exhibited the greatest
courage of all. They say that he made the following speech before they joined
battle with the Medes: he had learned from a Trachinian that there were so
many of the barbarians that when they shot their missiles, the sun was
hidden by the multitude of their arrows. [2] He was not at all disturbed by this
and made light of the multitude of the Medes, saying that their Trachinian
foreigner brought them good news. If the Medes hid the sun, they could fight
them in the shade instead of in the sun. This saying and others like it, they
claim, Dieneces the Lacedaemonian left behind as a memorial.
[1] Next after him two Lacedaemonian brothers, Alpheus and Maron, sons of
Orsiphantus, are said to have been most courageous. The Thespian who
gained most renown was one whose name was Dithyrambus son of
[1] There is an inscription written over these men, who were buried where they
fell, and over those who died before the others went away, dismissed by
Leonidas. It reads as follows:

Here four thousand from the Peloponnese once fought three million.

[2] That inscription is for them all, but the Spartans have their own:

Foreigner, go tell the Spartans that we lie here obedient to their commands.

[3] That one is to the Lacedaemonians, this one to the seer:

This is a monument to the renowned Megistias,
Slain by the Medes who crossed the Spercheius river.
The seer knew well his coming doom,
But endured not to abandon the leaders of Sparta.

[4] Except for the seer's inscription, the Amphictyons are the ones who
honored them by erecting inscriptions and pillars. That of the seer Megistias
was inscribed by Simonides son of Leoprepes because of his tie of guest-
friendship with the man.
[1] It is said that two of these three hundred, Eurytus and Aristodemus, could
have agreed with each other either to come home safely together to Sparta,
since Leonidas had dismissed them from the camp and they were lying at
Alpeni very sick of ophthalmia, or to die with the others, if they were unwilling
to return home. They could have done either of these things, but they could
not agree and had different intentions. When Eurytus learned of the Persians
circuit, he demanded his armor and put it on, bidding his helot to lead him to
the fighting. The helot led him there and fled, but he rushed into the fray and
was killed. Aristodemus, however, lost his strength and stayed behind. [2]
Now if Aristodemus alone had been sick and returned to Sparta, or if they had
both made the trip, I think the Spartans would not have been angry with
them. When, however, one of them died, and the other had the same excuse
but was unwilling to die, the Spartans had no choice but to display great
anger towards Aristodemus.
[1] Some say that Aristodemus came home safely to Sparta in this way and by
this excuse. Others say that he had been sent out of the camp as a messenger
and could have gotten back in time for the battle but chose not to, staying
behind on the road and so surviving, while his fellow-messenger arrived at the
battle and was killed.
[1] When Aristodemus returned to Lacedaemon, he was disgraced and without
honor. He was deprived of his honor in this way: no Spartan would give him
fire or speak with him, and they taunted him by calling him Aristodemus the
Trembler. In the battle at Plataea, however, he made up for all the blame
brought against him.
[1] It is said that another of the three hundred survived because he was sent
as a messenger to Thessaly. His name was Pantites. When he returned to
Sparta, he was dishonored and hanged himself.
[1] The Thebans, whose general was Leontiades, fought against the king's
army as long as they were with the Hellenes and under compulsion. When,
however, they saw the Persian side prevailing and the Hellenes with Leonidas
hurrying toward the hill, they split off and approached the barbarians, holding
out their hands. With the most truthful words ever spoken, they explained
that they were Medizers, had been among the first to give earth and water to
the king, had come to Thermopylae under constraint, and were guiltless of the

harm done to the king. [2] By this plea they saved their lives, and the
Thessalians bore witness to their words. They were not, however, completely
lucky. When the barbarians took hold of them as they approached, they killed
some of them even as they drew near. Most of them were branded by Xerxes
command with the kings marks, starting with the general Leontiades. His son
Eurymachus long afterwards was murdered by the Plataeans when, as general
of four hundred Thebans, he seized the town of Plataea.
[1] This, then, is how the Greeks fought at Thermopylae.

Hdt. 7.238
[1] Having spoken in this way, Xerxes passed over the place where the dead
lay and hearing that Leonidas had been king and general of the
Lacedaemonians, he gave orders to cut off his head and impale it. [2] It is
plain to me by this piece of evidence among many others, that while Leonidas
lived, king Xerxes was more incensed against him than against all others;
otherwise he would never have dealt so outrageously with his dead body, for
the Persians are beyond all men known in the habit of honoring valiant
warriors. They, then, who received these orders did as I have said.