The Greek fleet advanced to Delos, but would
go no further. Now during the winter months Mardonius
sent Alexander I to be the envoy to Athens. On his arrival, they made
him wait a few days to be able to tell the Lacedaemonians of his arrival.
Hastilly, they too send envoys to Athens.
After they heard Alexander I, telling them
the terms of surrender that Mardonius
had ask him to offer. The Spartan ambassadors then counter replied.
Telling them not to take up the terms of surrender offered by the
Persians, after all it was Athens' fault for the war taking place
to begin with, they, not Sparta took up the offer to sail away to
Asia Minor and freed the Greek cities their, incurring the wraith
of King Darius, just so you could
extend your empire, now the fate of Greece is involved in it. It was
also Athens that was built on as a city of free men, only to now bring
all other Greeks into slavery. We can offer you sustenance for your
women and for the unwarlike portion of your households, so long as
the war endures, we feel for your loss of your city and crops. Be
not seduced by Alexander I, who softens down the rough words of Mardonius,
which is only natural to do. For with barbarians there is neight faith
The answer was always pre-ordained, the Athenians
sat patiently and heard all that spoke, when it was time for them
to reply, they spoke.
We know the power of the Medes is many times
greater than our own; nevertheless we cling to freedom that we shall
offer resistance where we may. Seek not to persuade us into making
terms with the barbarian. Return at once and tell Mardonius
that our answer to him is this; so long as the sun keeps its present
course, we will never join alliance with Xerxes. We shall oppose him,
trusting our aid to those gods and heroes whom he has burnt with fire.
With that, Alexander I made his way back to deliver the message.
To the Spartans the Athenians replied; It was
natural that you should be afraid we might make terms with the barbarian;
not for the all the gold in the world or the most fertile of all lands
would bribe us to take part with the Medes and help enslave our countrymen.
There are powerful motives to make such a thing impossible, first
the burning of our temples and images of our gods, our common language,
the altars and the sacrifices of which we all partake, the Athenians
will not betray all these. Know it now if you have not known it before,
that while one Athenian remains alive, we will never join alliance
with Xerxes. We thank you for your forethought on behalf of our families.
Now if you let it be to lead your army out with all speed, for if
we surmise alright; the barbarian will not wait long to invade our
territory again. As soon as he learns our answer he will again enter
Attica. Let us go forth ourselves and give battle in Boeotia. With
this the Spartan ambassadors departed, and returned back to their
As predicted, when Mardonius
heard Alexander I, he broke up his army from Thessaly and Macedonia
and marched on through to Boeotia. Spurred on by the men of Thessaly,
far from repenting of the part which they had taken in the war, they
now urged on the Persians to the attack, more earnestly than ever.
The Thebans sought to induce Mardonius
to make a halt and camp in Boeotia and to send gifts to the influencial
men in the surrounding cities to win them over and so make a division
amoungst them. Mardonius
did not follow this advice, a strong desire to take Athens a second
time possessed him, in part due to his stubbornness, in part to also
to inform the King. However, he did not find the Athenians in the
country, they had again withdrawn to their ships, most returning to
Salamis, he only gained a deserted town. The Athenians this time,
much more quicker in evacuating their city. It was now ten months
from the previous time Athens was sacked.
again sent a envoy to Salamis, to once more offer the same terms of
surrender to the Athenians. When the Athenian council heard what the
envoy had to say, one of the councilmen, Lycidas gave his opionon
that the best course would be, to admit the proposals to the people.
It is not clear if he said these words because he had been brided
by Mardonius or because
he really truely throught this idea was for the best, but it would
not matter. For the Athenians, both in the council and outside when
they had heard of his feelings subsoquently, full of wrath surrounded
him and stoned him to death, they then sent the envoy away unharmed.
Later on the Athenian women surrounded Lycidas' house and stoned his
wife and children.
Again, Athenian ambassadors were sent to the
Lacedaemonians to remind them that the barbarian had entered Attica
and they should have joined the Athenians in meeting him in Boeotia.
They likewise reminded them of the offer the Persians had given them,
and that if no help came they would have to look after their own safety.
The Ephors on hearing this gave no answer; for days. They were stalling
for time for the wall across the Isthmus
to be completed, battlements and all. In the meantime arrivals from
Megara and Platea arrived, with Athenian blessing to put forward their
case. They stated that their country had been overrun by Persians
but they had been offered their own country back, plus any other country
they wish if only they would surrender. But as they rever the Hellenic
Zeus and thought it shamefull to betray Greece, they refused. Even
though they had been wronged and betrayed by other Greeks and that
it would be to their advantge to agree to their terms. At this time,
therefore, the Athenians are angered with you, and justly, for you
have not done what was right. We bid you to make haste to send forth
your army, that we may yet meet Mardonius
in Attica, now that Boeotia is lost to us.
The Ephors on hearing this delayed their answer
for a day, then another, and another further day, meanwhile the Pelopennisians
worked on the wall with great zeal. The Ephors were fully aware that
if the Athenians were to join with the Persians, there would be no
wall high enough to stop the Persians crossing the Isthmus.
The following day when the ambassadors again
met with the Ephors, again they said that if they did not stir from
their homes and kept amusing themselves by the deserting of the cause
of the confederates, they would have no other allies, and will make
terms with the Persians as they shall find possible. The Ephors now
replied that their troops must be nearly half way there by now. At
this the ambassadors questioned them what that meant. There were now
told the truth, during the night the order had gone out and the army
was marching towards the Isthmus,
on their way to meet the barbarians. The ambassadors forthwith set
off, at their best speed, to overtake the Spartan army. At the same
time a body of five thousand Lacedaemonians Perioeci, all picked men
and fully armed, set forth from Sparta, in the company of the ambassadors.
The troops were lead by the regent Pausanias,
as King Pleistarchus was still but a child. Meanwhile the Argives,
who had promised Mardonius
that they would stop the Spartans from crossing their borders, as
as soon as they learnt that Pausanias
with his army had started from Sparta, took the swifest courier they
could find, and sent him off to Attica. The message which he delivered
to Athens was said "the Lacedaemonians youth are gone forth from
their city, and that the Argives are too weak to hinder them. Take
good heed therefore to thyself at this time" and with that the
messanger returned home.
had kept quite in Athens, neither ravaging their territory or doing
it any harm, for he wished to see what the Athenians were going to
do. Now that their intentions were now clear and with the threat of
the Spartans coming down on them from the north, cutting off any retreat
they might need. The Persians couldn't afford to do battle in a city
while they held superiour cavalry numbers. Orders went out to burn
anything that was still standing and destroy anything left of their
walls. With this done the Persians left Athens, before the Spartan
army had even made it to the Isthmus.
After quitting Attica and now ready for his
march, Mardonius now got
word that seperate from the Spartan army making its way to the Isthmus,
an advance guard of 1,000 Spartans were at Megara . Being eager to
win any easy battles, Mardonius
divered his army towards to city to take on these Spartans before
any reinforcements arrived. The cavalry pushed ahead and began to
ravage the Megara countryside. Mardonius
received a message that the Greeks were collected together at the
Isthmus and were ready to march.
On hearing this and not wanting to do battle there, Mardonius
gave orders for all to retreat back towards Theban territory. The
Megara countryside would be the furthest the Persian army would ever
get in Europe.
The Lacedaemonians, when they reached the Isthmus,
pitched there camp there; and the other Peloponnesians who had embraced
the good side, hearing or else seeing that they were upon the march,
thought it not right to remain behind when the Spartans were going
forth to war. So the Peloponnesians went out in one body from the
Isthmus, where they were soon joined
up with the Athenians who had come over from Salamis. They soon got
word that the Persian army were encamped at Asopus, after considering
how they should dispose their forces opposite to the enemy upon the
slopes of Mount Citheron.
'Histories' by Herodotus published by Wordsworth