A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C

By George Grote; J. M. Mitchell et al. | Go to book overview

8 [XXXVIII]

FROM THE BATTLE OF MARATHON TO THE MARCH OF XERXÊS AGAINST GREECE

I HAVE recounted, in a preceding chapter, the Athenian victory at Marathon, the repulse of the Persian general Datis, and the return of his armament across the Ægean to the Asiatic coast. Far from satiating his revenge upon Athens, the Persian monarch was compelled to listen to the tale of an ignominious defeat. His wrath against the Athenians rose to a higher pitch than ever, and he commenced vigorous preparations for a renewed attack upon them as well as upon Greece generally. Resolved upon assembling the entire force of his empire, he directed the various satraps and sub-governors throughout all Asia to provide troops, horses, and ships both of war and burthen. For no less than three years the empire was agitated by this immense levy, which Darius determined to conduct in person against Greece. Nor was his determination abated by a revolt of the Egyptians, which broke out about the time when his preparations were completed. He was on the point of undertaking simultaneously the two enterprises - the conquest of Greece and the reconquest of Egypt - when he was surprised by death, after a reign of thirty-six years. As a precaution previous to this intended march he had nominated as successor Xerxês, his son by Atossa; for the ascendancy of that queen ensured to Xerxês the preference over his elder brother Artabazanes, son of Darius by a former wife, and born before the latter became king. The choice of the reigning monarch passed unquestioned, and Xerxês succeeded without opposition. It deserves to be remarked, that though we meet with several acts of cruelty and atrocity perpetrated in the Persian regal family, there is nothing like that systematic fratricide which has been considered necessary to guarantee succession in Turkey and other Oriental empires.

The intense wrath against Athens, which had become the predominant sentiment in the mind of Darius, was yet unappeased at the time of his death, and it was fortunate for the Athenians that his crown now passed to a prince less obstinately hostile as well as in every respect inferior. Xerxês, personally the handsomest and most stately man amid the immense crowd which he led against Greece, was in character timid and faint-hearted, over and above those defects of vanity, childish self-conceit, and blindness of appreciation, which he shared more or less with the later Persian kings. Yet we shall see that even

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