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Marcus Junianus Justinus
Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.
translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson.
London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden (1853).


Table of contents


Book II

Account of the Scythians and their actions, I., II., III.—The Amazons, IV.—The war of the Scythians with their slaves; the expeditions of Darius against the Scythians and Ionians, V.—The Athenians, and Solon, VI., VII.—Pisistratus, VIII.—Hippias, being exiled, brings the Persians against Greece; the battle of Marathon; Miltiades, IX.—The sons of Darius; Xerxes invades Greece, X.—Leonidas at Thermopylae, XI.—The battle of Salamis, XII.—Mardonius; the flight of Xerxes, XIII.—The battle of Plataeae, XIV.—The walls of Athens; Pausanias; Aristides; Cimon, XV.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

1 IN narrating the acts of the Scythians, which were very great and glorious, we must commence from their origin; for they had a rise not less illustrious than their empire; nor were they more famous for the government of their men than for the brave actions of their women. As the men were founders of the Parthians and Bactrians, the women settled the kingdom of the Amazons; so that to those who compare the deeds of their males and females, it is difficult to decide which of the sexes was more distinguished.

The nation of the Scythians was always regarded as very ancient; though there was long a dispute between them and the Egyptians concerning the antiquity of their respective races; the Egyptians alleging that, “In the beginning of things, when some countries were parched with the excessive heat of the sun, and others frozen with extremity of cold, so that, in their early condition, they were not only unable to produce human beings, but were incapable even of receiving and supporting such as came from other parts (before coverings for the body were found out against heat and cold, or the inconveniences of countries corrected by artificial remedies), Egypt was always so temperate, that neither the cold in winter nor the sun’s heat in summer, incommoded its inhabitants; and its soil so fertile, that no land was ever more productive of food for the use of man; and that, consequently, men must reasonably be considered to have been first produced in that country,1 where they could most easily be nourished."

The Scythians, on the other hand, thought that the temperateness of the air was no argument of antiquity; “because Nature, when she first distributed to different countries degrees of heat and cold, immediately produced in them animals fitted to endure the several climates, and generated also numerous sorts of trees and herbs, happily varied according to the condition of the places in which they grew; and that, as the Scythians have a sharper air than the Egyptians, so are their bodies and constitutions in proportion more hardy. But that if the world, which is now distinguished into parts of a different nature, was once uniform throughout; whether a deluge of waters originally kept the earth buried under it; or whether fire, which also produced the world,2 had possession of all the parts of it, the Scythians, under either supposition as to the primordial state of things, had the advantage as to origin. For if fire was at first predominant over all things, and, being gradually extinguished, gave place to the earth, no part of it would be sooner separated from the fire, by the severity of winter cold, than the northern, since even now no part is more frozen with cold; but Egypt and all the east must have been the latest to cool, as being now burnt up with the parching heat of the sun. But if originally all the earth were sunk under water, assuredly the highest parts would be first uncovered when the waters decreased, and the water must have remained longest in the lowest grounds; while the sooner any portion of the earth was dry, the sooner it must have begun to produce animals; but Scythia was so much higher than all other countries, that all the rivers which rise in it run down into the Maeotis, and then into the Pontic and Egyptian seas; whereas Egypt, (which, though it had been fenced by the care and expense of so many princes and generations, and furnished with such strong mounds against the violence of the encroaching waters, and though it had been intersected also by so many canals, the waters being kept out by the one, and retained by the other, was yet uninhabitable, unless the Nile were excluded,3) could not be thought to have been the most anciently peopled;4 being a land, which, whether from the accessions of soil collected by its kings, or those from the Nile, bringing mud with it, must appear to have been the most recently formed of all lands.” The Egyptians being confounded with these arguments, the Scythians were always accounted the more ancient.

2 Scythia, which stretches towards the east, is bounded on one side by the Pontus Euxinus; on the other, by the Rhipaean Mountains; at the back,5 by Asia6 and the river Phasis. It extends to a vast distance, both in length and breadth. The people have no landmarks, for they neither cultivate the soil, nor have they any house, dwelling, or settled place of abode, but are always engaged in feeding herds and flocks, and wandering through uncultivated deserts. They carry their wives and children with them in waggons,7 which, as they are covered with hides against the rain and cold, they use instead of houses. Justice is observed among them, more from the temper of the people, than from the influence of laws. No crime in their opinion is more heinous than theft; for, among people that keep their flocks and herds without fence or shelter in the woods, what would be safe, if stealing were permitted? Gold and silver they despise, as much as other men covet them. They live on milk and honey. The use of wool and clothes is unknown among them, although they are pinched by perpetual cold; they wear, however, the skins of wild animals, great and small.8 Such abstemiousness has caused justice to be observed among them, as they covet nothing belonging to their neighbours; for it is only where riches are of use, that the desire of them prevails. And would that other men had like temperance, and like freedom from desire for the goods of others! There would then assuredly be fewer wars in all ages and countries, and the sword would not destroy more than the natural course of destiny. And it appears extremely wonderful, that nature should grant that to them which the Greeks cannot attain by long instruction from their wise men and the precepts of their philosophers; and that cultivated morals should have the disadvantage in a comparison with those of unpolished barbarians. So much better effect has the ignorance of vice in the one people than the knowledge of virtue in the other.

3 They thrice9 aspired to the supreme command in Asia; while they themselves remained always either unmolested or unconquered by any foreign power. Darius, king of the Persians, they forced to quit Scythia in disgraceful flight. They slew Cyrus with his whole army. They cut off in like manner Zopyrion, a general of Alexander the Great, with all his forces. Of the arms of the Romans they have heard, but never felt them. They founded the Parthian and Bactrian powers. They are a nation hardy in toils and warfare; their strength of body is extraordinary; they take possession of nothing which they fear to lose, and covet, when they are conquerors, nothing but glory.

The first that proclaimed war against the Scythians was Sesostris, king of Egypt, previously sending messengers10 to announce conditions on which they might become his subjects. But the Scythians, who were already apprized by their neighbours of the king’s approach, made answer to the deputies, that the prince of so rich a people had been foolish in commencing a war with a poor one (for war was more to be dreaded by himself at home), as the result of the contest was uncertain, prizes of victory there were none, and the ill consequences of defeat were apparent; and that the Scythians, therefore, would not wait till he came to them, since there was so much more to be desired in the hands of the enemy, but would proceed of their own accord to seek the spoil.” Nor were their deeds slower than their words; and the king, hearing that they were advancing with such speed, took to flight,11 and leaving behind him his army and all his military stores, returned in consternation to his own kingdom. The morasses prevented the Scythians from invading Egypt; in their retreat from which they subdued Asia, and made it tributary, imposing, however, only a moderate tribute, rather as a token of their power over it, than as a recompence for their victory. After spending fifteen years in the reduction of Asia, they were called home by the importunity of their wives, who sent them word that “unless their husbands returned, they would seek issue from their neighbours, and not suffer the race of the Scythians to fail of posterity through the fault of their women.” Asia was tributary to them for fifteen hundred years; and it was Ninus, king of Assyria, that put a stop to the payment of the tribute.

4 Among the Scythians, in the meantime, two youths12 of royal extraction, Ylinos and Scolopitus, being driven from their country by a faction of the nobility, took with them a numerous band of young men, and found a settlement on the coast of Cappadocia, near the river Thermodon, occupying the Themiscyrian plains that border on it. Here, making it their practice for several years to rob their neighbours, they were at last, by a combination of the surrounding people, cut to pieces in an ambuscade. Their wives, when they found that to exile was added the loss of their husbands, took arms themselves, and maintained their position, repelling the attacks of their enemies at first, and afterwards assailing them in return. They relinquished all thoughts of marrying with their neighbours, saying that it would be slavery, not matrimony. Venturing to set an example unimitated through all generations, they established their government without the aid of men, and soon maintained their power in defiance of them. And that none of their females might seem more fortunate than others, they put to death all the men who had remained at home. They also took revenge for their husbands that were killed in war, by a great slaughter of their neighbours.

Having thus secured peace by means of their arms, they proceeded, in order that their race might not fail, to form connexions with the men of the adjacent nations. If any male children were born, they put them to death. The girls they bred up to the same mode of life with themselves, not consigning them to idleness, or working in wool, but training them to arms, the management of horses, and hunting; burning their right breasts in infancy, that their use of the bow might not be obstructed by them; and hence they were called Amazons.13 They had two queens, Marpesia and Lampedo, who, dividing their forces into two bodies (after they were grown famous for their power), conducted their wars, and defended their borders separately and by turns. And that a reason for their success might not be wanting, they spread a report that they were the daughters of Mars.

After subduing the greater part of Europe, they possessed themselves also of some cities in Asia.14 Having then founded Ephesus and several other towns there, they sent a detachment of their army home, laden with a vast quantity of spoil. The rest, who remained to secure their power in Asia, were cut to pieces, together with their queen Marpesia, by a combination of the barbarous tribes. Orithya, the daughter of Marpesia, succeeded to the government in her room, and has attracted extraordinary admiration, not only for her eminent skill in war, but for having preserved her virginity to the end of her life. So much was added by her valour and conduct to the fame and glory of the Amazons, that the king, for whom Hercules was bound to perform twelve labours, ordered him, as if it were a thing impossible, to bring him the arms of the queen of the Amazons. Hercules. accordingly, having proceeded thither with nine ships of war, the principal young men of Greece accompanying him, attacked the Amazons unawares. Two sisters at this time held the government, Antiope and Orithya; but Orithya was engaged in a war abroad. When Hercules, therefore, landed on the coast of the Amazons, there was but a small number of them there with their queen Antiope, free from all apprehension of hostilities. Hence it happened that a few only, roused by the sudden alarm, took up arms, and these afforded an easy conquest to the enemy. Many were slain, and many taken prisoners; among the latter were two sisters of Antiope, Menalippe being taken by Hercules, and Hippolyte by Theseus. Theseus, having received his prisoner as his share of the spoil, took her to wife, and had by her his son Hippolytus. Hercules, after his victory, restored his captive Menalippe to her sister, receiving the arms of the queen as a recompence; and having thus executed what was imposed on him, he returned to the king.

But Orithya, when she found that war had been made upon her sister, and that the assailant was a chief of the Athenians, exhorted her followers to revenge the affront, saying that the “coast of the Pontus, and Asia, had been conquered in vain, if they were still exposed, not merely to the wars, but to the marauding invasions, of the Greeks.” She then solicited aid from Sagillus, king of Scythia; representing to him “their Scythian descent, the loss of their husbands, their obligation to take arms, and their reasons for making war;” adding, “that they had proved by their valour, that the Scythians must be thought to have women not less spirited than their men.” Sagillus, alive to the glory of his nation, sent his son Panasagoras, with a numerous body of cavalry, to their aid. But some disagreement having occurred before the battle, they were deserted by their auxiliaries, and worsted in the conflict by the Athenians. They had, however, the camp of their allies as a place of refuge, under whose protection they returned to their kingdom unmolested by other nations.

After Orithya, Penthesilea occupied the throne, of whose valour there were seen great proofs among the bravest heroes in the Trojan war, when she led an auxiliary force thither against the Greeks. But Penthesilea being at last killed, and her army destroyed, a few only of the Amazons, who had remained at home in their own country, established a power that continued (defending itself with difficulty against its neighbours), to the time of Alexander the Great. Their queen Minithya, or Thalestris, after obtaining from Alexander the enjoyment of his society for thirteen days, in order to have issue by him, returned into her kingdom, and soon after died, together with the whole name of the Amazons.

5 The Scythians, in their Asiatic expedition, having been absent from their wives and children eight years, were met on their return home by a war raised by their slaves. For their wives, weary of waiting so long for their husbands, and thinking that they were not detained by war, but had perished in the field, married their slaves that had been left at home to take care of the cattle; who, taking up arms, repelled their masters, returning with victory, from the borders of their country, as if they had been strangers. Success against them being uncertain, the Scythians were advised to change their method of attack, remembering that they were not to fight with soldiers, but with slaves, who were to be conquered, not by means of arms, but of magisterial authority; that whips, not weapons, were to be used in the field; and that, swords being laid aside, rods and scourges, and other instruments of terror to slaves, were to be provided. This suggestion being approved, and all being equipped as was prescribed, the Scythians, as soon as they drew near the enemy, held out scourges towards them unexpectedly, and struck them such terror, that they conquered with the dread of stripes those whom they could not conquer with the sword, and who took to flight, not as defeated enemies, but as fugitive slaves. As many as could be taken, paid the penalty for their rebellion on the cross. The women too, conscious of their ill conduct, put all end to their lives partly by the sword and partly by hanging.

After this occurrence, there was peace among the Scythians till the time of king Jancyrus, on whom Darius, king of Persia, as was said above, made war, because he could not obtain his daughter in marriage. Darius, having entered Scythia with seven hundred thousand armed men, and the enemy allowing him no opportunity of fighting, dreading lest, if the bridge over the Ister were broken down, his retreat should be cut off, hurried back in alarm, with the loss of eighty thousand men; which loss, however, out of so vast a number, was scarcely accounted a disaster. Darius afterwards subdued Asia and Macedonia, and defeated the Ionians in a fight at sea. Then, learning that the Athenians had given aid to the Ionians against him, he turned all his warlike fury upon them.

6 Since we have now come to the wars of the Athenians, which were carried on, not only beyond expectation as to what could be done, but even beyond belief as to what was done, the efforts of that people having been successful beyond their hopes, the origin of their city must be briefly set forth; for they did not, like other nations, rise to eminence from a mean commencement, but are the only people that can boast, not only of their rise, but also of their birth. It was not a concourse of foreigners, or a rabble of people collected from different parts, that raised their city, but men who were born on the same ground which they inhabit; and the country which is their place of abode, was also their birthplace. It was they who first taught15 the art of working in wool, and the use of oil and wine. They also showed men, who had previously fed on acorns, how to plough and sow. Literature and eloquence, it is certain, and the state of civil discipline which we enjoy, had Athens as their temple. Before Deucalion’s time, they had a king named Cecrops, whom, as all antiquity is full of fables, they represented to have been of both sexes, because he was the first to join male and female in marriage. To him succeeded Cranaus, whose daughter Atthis gave name to the country. After him reigned Amphictyon, who first consecrated the city to Minerva, and gave it the name of Athens. In his days, a deluge swept away the greater part of the inhabitants of Greece. Those only escaped, whom a refuge on the mountains protected, or who went off in ships to Deucalion, king of Thessaly, by whom, from this circumstance, the human race is said to have been restored. The crown then descended, in the course of succession, to Erectheus, in whose reign the sowing of corn was commenced by Triptolemus at Eleusis; in commemoration of which benefit the nights sacred to the mysteries of Ceres were appointed. Aegeus also, the father of Theseus, was king of Athens, from whom Medea divorcing herself, on account of the adult age of her step-son, returned to Colchis with her son Medus, whom she had had by Aegeus. After Aegeus reigned Theseus, and after Theseus his son Demophoon, who afforded aid to the Greeks against the Trojans. Between the Athenians and Dorians there had been animosities of long standing, which the Dorians, intending to revenge in war, consulted the oracle about the event of the contest. The answer was, that the “Dorians would have the advantage, if they did not kill the king of the Athenians.” When they came into the field, the Doric soldiers were charged above all things to take care not to attack the king. At that time the king of the Athenians was Codrus, who, learning the answer of the god and the directions of the enemy, laid aside his royal dress, and entered the camp of the enemy in rags, with a bundle of sticks on his back. Here, among a crowd of people that stood in his way, he was killed by a soldier whom he had purposely wounded with a pruning knife. His body being recognized as that of the king, the Dorians went off without coming to battle; and thus the Athenians, through the bravery of a prince who submitted to death for the safety of his country, were relieved from war.

7 After Codrus there was no king at Athens; a circumstance which is attributed to the respect paid to his memory. The government of the state was placed in the hands of magistrates elected annually. At this period the people had no laws, for the wills of their princes had always been received instead of laws. Solon, a man of eminent integrity, was in consequence chosen to found the state, as it were afresh, by the establishment of laws. This man acted with such judicious moderation between the commons and the senate (though whatever he proposed in favour of one class, seemed likely to displease the other), that he received equal thanks from both parties. Among many illustrious acts of Solon, the following is eminently worthy of record. A war had been carried on between the Athenians and Megarians, concerning their respective claims to the island of Salamis, almost to the utter destruction of both. After many defeats, it was made a capital offence at Athens to propose a law for the recovery of the island. Solon, anxious lest he should injure his country by keeping silence, or himself by expressing his opinion, pretended to be suddenly seized with madness, under cover of which he might not only say, but do, what was prohibited. In a strange garb, like an insane person, he rushed forth into the public streets, where, having collected a crowd about him, he began, that he might the better conceal his design, to urge the people in verse (which he was unaccustomed to make), to do what was forbidden, and produced such an effect on the minds of all, that war was instantly decreed against the Megarians; and the enemy being defeated, the island became subject to the Athenians.

8 After a time, the Megarians, cherishing the remembrance of the war made upon them by the Athenians, and fearing that they might be said to have taken up arms to no purpose, went on board a fleet with a design to seize the Athenian matrons as they were celebrating the Eleusinian mysteries during the night. Their intention becoming known, Pisistratus, the Athenian general, placed a body of young men in ambush to receive them, directing the matrons, at the same time, to continue the celebration of the sacred rites with their usual cries and noise, even while the enemy were approaching, in order that they might not know that their coming was expected; and thus attacking the Megarians unawares, just as they were leaving their ships, he put them all to the sword. Immediately after, having taken some women with his men on board the fleet which he had seized, to appear like captured matrons of the Athenians, he set sail for Megara. The Megarians, seeing ships of their own build approaching, apparently with the desired prey on board, went out to the harbour to meet them. Pisistratus cut them to pieces, and almost succeeded in taking their city. Thus the Megarians, having their own stratagem turned against them, afforded their enemies a triumph.

But Pisistratus, as if he had conquered for himself and not for his country, possessed himself of the sovereign authority by a subtle contrivance. Having undergone a voluntary scourging in his own house, he ran out, with his body lacerated, into the open street, and, having summoned an assembly of the people, showed them his wounds, complaining of the cruelty of the great men of the city, from whom he pretended to have received this treatment. Tears were joined to his words, and the credulous mob was easily inflamed by a calumnious speech, in which he affirmed that he had incurred the hatred of the senate by showing his love for the common people. He thus obtained a guard for the protection of his person, by the aid of which he got the sovereign power into his hands, and reigned thirty-three years.

9 After his death Diocles,16 one of his sons, having offered violence to a maiden, was slain by her brother. His other son, whose name was Hippias, taking upon him the authority of his father, ordered the murderer of his brother to be apprehended; who, being forced by torture to name those that were privy to the murder, named all the intimate friends of the tyrant. These being put to death, and Hippias asking him “whether any of the guilty still survived,” he replied, that “there was no one surviving whom he should more rejoice to see die than the tyrant himself.” By which answer he proved himself superior to the tyrant, after having avenged, too, the violated honour of his sister.

The city being animated, through his spirited conduct, with a desire for liberty, Hippias was at last deprived of his power, and driven into exile. Setting out for Persia, he offered himself as a leader to Darius against his own country; Darius being then, as has been said before, ready to make war on the Athenians. The Athenians, hearing of Darius’s approach, requested assistance from the Lacedaemonians, who were then in alliance with them. But finding that they delayed at home four days, in consequence of some religious scruple, they did not wait for their help, but, having mustered ten thousand of their own citizens, and a thousand auxiliaries from Plataeae, went out to battle in the plain of Marathon, against six hundred thousand of the enemy. Miltiades was both their general in the field, and the person who advised them not to wait for assistance, being possessed with such confidence of success, that he thought there was more trust to be placed in expedition than in their allies. Great, therefore, was their spirit as they proceeded to battle; so that, though there were a thousand paces between the two armies, they came full speed upon the enemy before their arrows were discharged. Nor did the result fall short of their daring; for such was the courage with which they fought, that you might have supposed there were men on one side and a herd of cattle on the other. The Persians, utterly defeated, fled to their ships, of which many were sunk and many taken. In this battle, the bravery of every individual was such, that it was difficult to determine to whom the highest praise was due. Amongst others, however, the heroism of Themistocles, then a young man, was greatly distinguished; in whom, even then, appeared a genius indicative of his future eminence as a general. The merit of Cynaegirus, too, an Athenian soldier, has met with great commendation from historians; for, after having slain a great number in the battle, and having chased the fleeing enemy to their ships, he seized a crowded vessel with his right hand, and would not let it go till he had lost his hand; and even then, when his right hand was cut off, he took hold of the ship with his left, and having lost this hand also, he at last seized the ship with his teeth. So undaunted was his spirit, that neither being weary with killing so many, nor disheartened with the loss of his hands, he fought to the last, maimed as he was, with his teeth, like a wild beast. The Persians lost two thousand men in the battle or by shipwreck. Hippias also, the Athenian tyrant, who was the promoter and encourager of the war, was killed on the occasion; the gods, the avengers of his country, inflicting on him the penalty of his perfidy.

10 Some time after, Darius, when he was going to renew the war, died in the midst of his preparations for it, leaving behind him several sons, some born before his accession to the crown, and others after it. Artemenes, the eldest of them, claimed the kingdom by the law of primogeniture, a law which he said that both order of birth and nature herself had prescribed to all nations. Xerxes, however, alleged, that the dispute was not so much about the order as the good fortune of their birth; for that “Artemenes was born first indeed to Darius, but while he was in a private station; that he himself was born to him first after he was king; and that, consequently, such of his brothers as were born before him might claim the private estate which Darius then possessed, but could have no claim to the kingdom; he himself being the first-born whom his father, when king, had bred up to succeed him on the throne.17 In addition to this,” he said, “Artemenes was sprung, not only from a father but from a mother in a private condition, and from a maternal grandfather of similar station; but he himself was both sprung from a mother who was a queen, and had never known his father except as a king; he had also for his maternal grandfather king Cyrus, not the heir, but the founder of so great an empire; and even if their father had left both brothers with equal claims, yet he himself ought to have the advantage in right of his mother and grandfather.” The settlement of the controversy they left, with mutual consent, to their uncle Artaphernes, as the fittest judge of their family differences; who, having heard their pleas in his own house, decided in favour of Xerxes. But the contest was conducted in so brotherly a way, that neither did he who gained the cause show any unseemly triumph, nor did he who lost it express dissatisfaction ; and, during the very time of the contention, they sent presents to one another, and gave such entertainments, as showed not only mutual confidence, but pleasure in each other’s society. The judgment, too, was pronounced without witnesses, and heard without a murmur. So much more contentedly did brothers then share the greatest kingdoms, than they now divide the smallest estates!

Xerxes then proceeded, during five years, with his preparations for the war against Greece, which his father had commenced. As soon as Demaratus, king of the Lacedaemonians, who was then an exile at the court of Xerxes, understood his intentions, he, feeling more regard for his country, notwithstanding his banishment, than for the king in return for his favours, sent full intelligence of the matter to the magistrates of the Lacedaemonians, that they might not be surprised by an unexpected attack; writing the account on wooden tablets, and hiding the writing with wax spread over it; taking care, however, not merely that writing without a cover might not give proof against him, but that too fresh wax might not betray the contrivance. These tablets he committed to a trusty slave, who was ordered to deliver them into the hands of the authorities at Sparta. When they were received, the object of them was long a matter of inquiry, because the magistrates could see nothing written on them, and yet could not imagine that they were sent to no purpose; and they thought the matter must be momentous in proportion to its mysteriousness. While the men were still engaged in conjecture, the sister of king Leonidas surmised the writer’s intention. The wax being accordingly scraped off, the account of the warlike preparations appeared. Xerxes had already armed seven hundred thousand men of his own kingdom, and three hundred thousand of his auxiliaries; so that there was some ground for the assertion that rivers were drunk up by his army, and that all Greece could scarcely contain it. He is also said to have had a fleet of twelve hundred ships. But for this vast army a general was wanting; for if you contemplate its king, you could not commend his capacity as a leader, however you might extol his wealth, of which there was such abundance in his realm, that, while rivers were drained by his forces, his treasury was still unexhausted. He was always seen foremost in flight, and hindmost in battle; he was a coward in danger, and when danger was away, a boaster; and, in fine, before he made trial of war, elated with confidence in his strength (as if he had been lord of nature itself), he levelled mountains, filled up valleys, covered some seas with bridges, and contracted others, for the convenience of navigation, into shorter channels.

11 In proportion to the terror of his entrance into Greece, was the shame and dishonour of his retreat from it. Leonidas, king of the Spartans, having occupied the straits of Thermopylae with four thousand men, Xerxes, in contempt of so small a number, ordered such of the Persians as had lost relatives in the battle of Marathon, to commence an attack upon them; who, while they endeavoured to avenge their friends, were the first to be slaughtered, and a useless multitude taking their place, the havoc became still greater. For three days was the struggle maintained, to the grief and indignation of the Persians. On the fourth, it being told Leonidas that the summit of the mountain was occupied by twenty thousand of the enemy, he exhorted the allies “to retire, and reserve themselves to their country for better times;” saying, that “he himself would try his fortune with the Spartans; that he ought to care more for his country than for his life, and that others should be preserved for the defence of Greece.” On hearing the king’s resolution, the rest retired, the Lacedaemonians alone remaining.

At the beginning of the war, when the Spartans consulted the oracle at Delphi, they had received the answer, that “either the king or their city must fall.” King Leonidas, accordingly, when he proceeded to battle, had so fixed the resolution of his men, that they felt they must go to the field with minds prepared for death. He had posted himself in a narrow pass, too, that he might either conquer more gloriously with a few, or fall with less damage to his country. The allies being therefore sent away, he exhorted his Spartans “to remember that, however they struggled, they must expect to perish; to take care not to show more resolution to stay than to fight;” adding that, “they must not wait till they were surrounded by the enemy, but when night afforded them opportunity, must surprise them in security and at their ease; as conquerors could die nowhere more honourably than in the camp of the foe.” There was no difficulty in stimulating men determined to die. They immediately seized their arms, and six hundred men rushed into the camp of five hundred thousand, making directly for the king’s tent, and resolving either to die with him, or, if they should be overpowered, at least in his quarters. An alarm spread through the whole Persian army. The Spartans being unable to find the king, marched uncontrolled through the whole camp, killing and overthrowing all that stood in their way, like men who knew that they fought, not with the hope of victory, but to avenge their own deaths. The contest was protracted from the beginning of the night through the greater part of the following day. At last, not conquered, but exhausted with conquering, they fell amidst vast heaps of slaughtered enemies. Xerxes, having thus met with two defeats by land, resolved next to try his fortune by sea.

12 Themistocles, the general of the Athenians, having discovered that the Ionians, on whose account they had undertaken this war with the Persians, were come to the assistance of the king with a fleet, resolved to draw them over to his own side. Being unable to find any opportunity of speaking with them, he caused placards to be fixed, and inscriptions to be written, on the rocks where they were to land, to the following effect; “What madness possesses you, O Ionians? What evil are you going to do? Do you intend to make war on those who were formerly your founders, and lately your avengers? Did we build your cities that a people might arise from them to destroy ours? Was it not Darius’s reason18 for attacking us before, and is it not now that of Xerxes, that we did not desert you when yon rebelled against them? But pass over from your place of confinement19 to our camp; or, if this course is unsafe, withdraw when the battle begins; keep back your vessels with your oars, and retire from the engagement.” Before this encounter at sea, Xerxes had sent four thousand armed men to plunder the temple of Apollo, as if he had been at war, not with the Greeks only, but with the immortal gods; but the whole of this detachment was destroyed by a storm of rain and thunder, that he might be convinced how feeble human strength is against the powers of heaven. Afterwards he burnt Thespiae, Plataeae, and Athens, all abandoned by their inhabitants; venting his rage on the buildings by fire, since he could not destroy the people by the sword. For the Athenians, after the battle of Marathon, because Themistocles forewarned them that their victory would not be the termination of the war, but the cause of a greater one, had built two hundred ships; and when, at the approach of Xerxes, he consulted the oracle at Delphi, they were answered, that “they must provide for their safety with wooden walls.” Themistocles, thinking that defence with shipping was meant, persuaded them all, that “the citizens, not the walls, constituted their country; that a city consisted, not of its buildings, but of its inhabitants; that it would be better for them, therefore, to trust their safety to their ships than to their city; and that the god was the adviser of this course.” The counsel being approved, they committed their wives and children, with their most valuable property, to certain islands out of the way;20 while the men went in arms on board the ships. Other cities also followed the example of the Athenians. But when the whole fleet of the allies was assembled, ready for an engagement, and had posted itself in the narrow strait of Salamis, that it might not be overwhelmed by superior numbers, a dissension arose among the leading men of the different cities, who were disposed to relinquish the plan of a general war, and go off each to defend his own country. Themistocles, fearing that the strength of his countrymen would be too much weakened by such desertion of their allies, sent intimation to Xerxes by a trusty slave, that “he might now easily make himself master of all Greece, when it was collected in one place; but that if the several states which were inclined to go away should once be dispersed, he would have to pursue each of them singly with far greater trouble.” By this stratagem he induced the king to give the signal for battle. The Greeks, at the same time, taken by surprise by the enemy’s attack, proceeded to oppose them with their united force. The king, meantime, remained on shore as a spectator of the combat, with part of the ships near him; while Artemisia, queen of Halicarnassus, who had come to the assistance of Xerxes, was fighting with the greatest gallantry among the foremost leaders; so that you might have seen womanish fear in a man,21 and manly boldness in a woman. While the result of the battle was still doubtful, the Ionians, according to the admonition of Themistocles, began gradually to withdraw from the contest; and their desertion broke the courage of the rest. The Persians, as they were considering in which direction they might flee, suffered a repulse, and were soon after utterly defeated, and put to flight. In the confusion, many ships were taken, and many sunk; but the greater number, fearing the king’s cruelty not less than the enemy, went off to their respective homes.

13 While Xerxes was confounded at his disaster, and doubtful what course to pursue, Mardonius addressed him, advising him “to return home to his kingdom, lest fame, carrying the news of his defeat, and exaggerating every thing according to her custom, should occasion any sedition in his absence; and to leave with him three hundred thousand men-at-arms, chosen from the whole army, with which force he would either subdue Greece to the king’s glory, or, if the result should prove unfavourable, would retire before the enemy without dishonour to him.” Mardonius’s suggestion being approved, the force which he requested was given him, and the king prepared to return home with the rest of the army. The Greeks, hearing of his flight, formed a design to break down the bridge, which, as conqueror of the sea, he had made at Abydos; so that, his retreat being cut off, he might either be destroyed with his army, or might be forced, by the desperate state of his affairs, to sue for peace. But Themistocles, fearing that the enemy, if they were stopped, might take courage from despair, and open by their swords a passage not to be opened by other means, and observing that “there were enemies enough left in Greece, and that the number ought not to be increased by preventing their escape,” but finding that he was unable to move his countrymen by his admonitions, despatched the same slave as before to Xerxes, acquainting him of the intention of the Greeks to break down the bridge, and urging him to secure a passage by a speedy flight. Xerxes, alarmed at the message, left his army to be conducted by his generals, and hurried away himself, with a few attendants, to Abydos; where, having found the bridge broken down by the winter storms, he crossed in the utmost trepidation in a fishing-boat. It was a sight worth contemplation for judging of the condition of man,22 so wonderful for its vicissitudes, to see him shrinking down in a little boat, whom shortly before the whole ocean could scarcely contain; to behold him wanting servants to attend him, whose armies had burdened the earth with their numbers! Nor had the land-forces, which he had committed to his generals, it more fortunate retreat; for to their daily fatigue (and there is no rest to men in fear) was added the want of provisions. A famine of several days produced also a pestilential distemper; and so dire was the mortality, that the roads were filled with dead bodies; and birds and beasts of prey, allured by the attraction of food, followed close upon the army.

14 In Greece, in the meantime, Mardonius took Olynthus by storm. He also invited the Athenians to listen to offers of peace, and of the king’s friendship; promising to rebuild their city, which had been burnt, in greater splendour than before. But when he saw that they would not sell their liberty at any rate, he set fire to what they had begun to rebuild, and led off his army into Boeotia. Thither the army of the Greeks, which consisted of a hundred thousand men, followed him, and there a battle was fought. But the fortune of the king was not changed with the general; for Mardonius, being defeated, escaped, as it were from a shipwreck, with but a small number of followers. His camp, which was filled with the king’s treasures, was taken; and hence it was, on the division of the Persian gold among them, that the charms of wealth first attracted the Greeks. By chance, on the same day on which the army of Mardonius was defeated, an engagement was fought by sea near the mountain Mycale, on the coast of Asia. Before the encounter began, and whilst the fleets stood opposite one another, a rumour spread through both parties, that the Greeks had gained a victory, and that the army of Mardonius was utterly destroyed. It is said that so great was the speed of this report, that when the battle was fought in Boeotia in the morning, the news of the victory arrived in Asia by noon, passing over so much sea, and so large a space of ground, in so very short a time. When the war was over, and they proceeded to consider the respective merits of the cities that had been engaged in it, the bravery of the Athenians was praised above that of any other people. Among the leaders too, Themistocles, being pronounced the most meritorious by the judgment of the several states, added greatly to the glory of his country.

15 The Athenians, then, being enriched by the spoils of war, as well as in glory, applied themselves to rebuild their city. Having enlarged the compass of their walls, they became an object of suspicion to the Lacedaemonians, naturally reflecting how great power a city, when fortified, might secure to a people for whom it had done so much when in a state of ruin. They therefore sent ambassadors to admonish them that “they should not build what might prove a stronghold for the enemy, and a place of shelter for them ill a future war.” Themistocles, seeing that envy was entertained towards the rising hopes of his city, but not thinking it prudent to deal abruptly with the Spartans, made answer to the ambassadors, that “deputies should be sent to Lacedaemon to confer with them about the matter.” After thus dismissing the messengers, he exhorted his countrymen “to expedite the work.” Allowing some time to elapse, he set out, with some others, as an embassy to Sparta; but sometimes pretending ill health on the road, sometimes complaining of the tardiness of his colleagues, without whom nothing could be properly done, and thus putting off from day to day, he endeavoured to gain time for his countrymen to finish the erection of their walls. In the meanwhile, word was brought to the Spartans that the work was advancing at Athens with great speed; and they accordingly sent ambassadors a second time to ascertain the truth. Themistocles then sent a letter by the hand of a slave, to the magistrates of the Athenians, desiring them “to take the ambassadors into custody, and keep them as hostages, lest any violent measures should be adopted against himself at Sparta.” He then went to the public assembly of the Lacedaemonians, and told them that “Athens was now well fortified, and could sustain a war, if any should be made upon it, not only with arms, but with walls; and that their ambassadors were detained by way of hostages at Athens, in case they should on that account resolve on anything injurious towards himself.” He then upbraided them severely “for seeking to increase their power, not by their own valour, but by weakening their allies." Being then permitted to depart, he was received by his countrymen as if he had triumphed over Sparta.

After this occurrence, the Spartans, that they might not impair their strength in idleness, and that they might take vengeance for the war which had been twice made upon Greece by the Persians, proceeded to lay waste the Persian territories. They chose Pausanias to be general of their army, and that of their allies, who, coveting, instead of the mere office of general, the entire sovereignty of Greece, treated with Xerxes for a marriage with his daughter, as a reward for betraying his country, restoring him, at the same time, his prisoners, that the good feeling of the king might be secured by such an obligation. He wrote also to Xerxes, “to put to death whatever messengers he sent to him, lest the negociation should be betrayed by their babbling.” But Aristides, the general of the Athenians, and his associate in the command, by traversing the attempts of his colleague, and taking prudent precautions on the occasion, defeated his treasonable designs. Not long after, Pausanias was brought to trial and condemned.

Xerxes, when he found that this perfidious scheme was discovered, made fresh preparations for war. The Greeks nominated as their general Cimon the Athenian, the son of Miltiades, under whose command the battle of Marathon was fought; a young man whose future greatness his manifestations of affection towards his father foretold. For he redeemed the body of his father (who had been thrown into prison on a charge of embezzling the public money, and had died there), taking his fetters on himself,23 that it might receive the rites of sepulture. Nor did he, in his conduct of the war, disappoint the opinion of those who chose him; for, not falling in merit below his father, he forced Xerxes, defeated both by land and sea, to retreat in trepidation to his own dominions.


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1 On the supposition that men sprung out of the ground. See Lucretius, v. 803; Ovid. Met. i. 80; Diod. Sic. i. 10.

2 Ignis, qui et mundum genuit.] This was the opinion of Heraclitus and some other philosophers. See Lucretius, i. 636.

3 Nisi excluso Nilo.] Excluded from the land, or confined to its channel.—Wetzel.

4 Hominum vetustate ultimam.] “The farthest back in the antiquity of its inhabitants."

5 A tergo.] i. e. towards the west.

6 Asia Minor.—Wetzel.

7 In plaustris.] See Hor. Od. iii. 24, 9.

8 Ferinis aut murinis.] By mures is to be understood small animals in general, as cats, weasels, badgers, rabbits, hares, foxes. Thus Hesychius says that the SI/MWR is a MUO\S A)GRI/ON EI)=DOS among the Parthians, the skin of which they use for garments. So Ammianus Marcellinus, xxxi. 2, says of the Huns, that they wear garments ex pellibus silvestrium murium consarcinatis.—Wetzel. By mus Ponticus, Plin. H. N. x. 73, is generally understood the ermine or squirrel. Seneca, Ep. 90, says, that the Scythians wear skins vulpium ac murium. See also Plin. H. N. xxx. 6.

9 One expedition only is mentioned by Herodotus.—Wetzel.

10 Lenonibus.] Messenger, mediator, or conciliator, seems to have been the primary meaning of the word leno. Priscian derives it from lenio. Maxima lena mora est, says Ovid; and vox sua lena fuit, A. Am. iii. 316.

11 Herodotus, on the contrary, with Diodorus Siculus, and Dicaearchus, say, that the Scythians were put to flight by Sesostris, who conquered every nation that he attacked.—Wetzel.

12 Herodotus, iv. 110, 117, gives a different account; and another is given by Diod. Siculus, ii. 45. Compare Orosius, i. 15; Ammian. Marcellinus, lib. xxii.; Eustath. on Dionysius; Strabo, lib, ii. says much on this subject, deeming all the accounts fabulous.—Lemaire.

13 From A) privative, and MAZO/S, breast.

14 Asia Minor.

15 See, on the praise of Athens, Lucret. vi. 1; Aelian. Var. Hist. iii. 38; Strabo, lib. xix.; Thucyd. lib. i.; Diod. Sic. lib. i.

16 All other historians call him Hipparchus. See Thucyd. i. 20.

17 In regnum.] Wetzel, with most editors, has in regno, but in regnum is much more to the purpose.

18 Quid? si non haec et Dario prius, et nunc Xerxes, belli causa nobiscum foret, &c.] I have not attempted to translate the commencement of this sentence literally. Some editions have a note of interrogation after quid, and others not, and some have quod si; but, as Scheffer says, no one of these readings is satisfactory. Lemaire plausibly conjectures Quasi non haec, &c.

19 Ex ista obsidione.] They being hemmed in by the Persian fleet like enemies.—Wetzel.

20 Abditis insulis.] He calls the islands abditae because they were situated in the innermost recess of the [Saronic] gulf.—Vossius. We may suppose Salamis and Aegina to be meant.—Vorstius. See Corn. Nep. Them. 2, 8; Herod. viii. 41.

21 Xerxes himself.

22 Erat res spectaculo digna, et aestimatione sortis humanae, rerum varietate mirandae.] Such is the reading of Wetzel and Gronovius. Some editions omit the et. Wetzel gives this comment: “It was a spectacle deserving of attentive contemplation, and one from which you might judge of the lot of man; of the wonderful changeableness of which Xerxes was an example.”

23 Translatis in se vinculis.] Whether this act was altogether voluntary is discussed by J. A. Bos on Corn. Nep. Cim. c. 1.


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The English translation of Justin's Epitome was entered by David Camden (2003) from Watson's 1853 edition. This text is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed for private and educational use, provided this original notice is kept intact. Any commercial use of this text, including print-publication and inclusion in subscription-based archives, is prohibited.

The Latin text and French translation, along with the secondary material written in French, are copyright © Marie-Pierre Arnaud-Lindet 2003, and are NOT in the public domain.

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