Now many of the Greece cities fell into alarm, some of them had given the Persians earth and water, and were bold on this account, deeming themselves thereby secured against suffering and hurt from the barbarian army; while others, who had refused compliance, were thrown into extreme alarm. For whereas they considered all the the ships in Greece too few to engage the enemy, it was plain that they greater number of states would take no part in the war, but warmly favoured the Medes.

Athens now, anxious to organise themselves upon the coming for the barbarian force sent envoys to consult the Delphic Oracle, no sooner than entering the chamber and taking their seat than Aristonice, the Pythoness prophesied the doom of Athens {O09}. The Athenians were filled with the deepest affliction when they left the temple. Timon, one of the men of most mark amoung the Delphians, seeing how utterly cast down they were at the gloomy prophecy, advised them to take an olive-branch, and entering the sanctuary again, consult the oracle as suppliants, this they did. Upon this the priestess gave them a second answer {O10}. This answer gentler than the former, so the envoys wrote it down and went back to Athens with it.

Once the prophosie was proclaimed in Athens a great disturbance arose. Many and various were the interpretations which men put on it; two, more especially, seemed to be directly opposed to one another. Certain of the old men were of the opinion that the god meant to tell them the citadel would escape; for this was anciently defended by a palisade; and they supposed that the barrier to be the 'wooden wall' of the oracle. Others maintained that the fleet was what the god poined at; and their advice was that nothing should be thought of except the ships, which had best be at once got ready. Still those that thought of the fleet were perplexed of the line 'Holy Salamis, thou shalt destroy the offspring of women'. This caused disturbance at those who took the wooden wall to mean the ships, since the interpreters understood them to mean, that, if they made preparations for a sea-fight, they would suffer a defeat at Salamis. (The island just off Athens).

Themistocles; now came forward and now made a startling reverlation: If the statement was to mean the defeat of Athens the term 'Holy Salamis' would not have been used! If the Greeks were to perish the phrase used would have been something like 'Luckless Salamis'. He pointed out that the god was threatening the enemy, not the Athenians.

Now many more Athenians embrassed Themistocles' view, that the 'wooden walls' refered to the Athenian ships. He now stood out as the leading statesmen for the Athenian cause. The ships were now readied, and even more ship building was taking place, now that the oracle was proclaimed.

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'Histories' by Herodotus published by Wordsworth 1996



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