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

11 [XLI]

BATTLE OF SALAMIS - RETREAT OF XERXÊS

THE sentiment, alike durable and unanimous, with which the Greeks of after-times looked back on the battle of Thermopylæ, and which they have communicated to all subsequent readers, was that of just admiration for the courage and patriotism of Leonidas and his band. But among the contemporary Greeks that sentiment, though doubtless sincerely felt, was by no means predominant. It was overpowered by the more pressing emotions of disappointment and terror. So confident were the Spartans and Peloponnesians in the defensibility of Thermopylae and Artemisium, that when the news of the disaster reached them, not a single soldier had yet been put in motion; the season of the festival-games had passed, but no active step had yet been taken. Meanwhile the invading force, army and fleet, was in its progress towards Attica and Peloponnesus, without the least preparations - and what was still worse, without any combined and concerted plan - for defending the heart of Greece. The loss sustained by Xerxês at Thermopylae, insignificant in proportion to his vast total, was more than compensated by the fresh Grecian auxiliaries which he now acquired. Not merely the Malians, Lokrians and Dorians, but also the great mass of the Bœotians, with their chief town Thebes, all except Thespiæ and Platæa, now joined him. Demaratus, his Spartan companion, moved forward to Thebes to renew an ancient tie of hospitality with the Theban oligarchical leader Attaginus, while small garrisons were sent by Alexander of Macedon to most of the Bœotian towns, 1 as well to protect them from plunder as to ensure their fidelity. The Thespians, on the other hand, abandoned their city and fled into Peloponnesus; while the Platæans, who had been serving aboard the Athenian ships at Artemisium, were disembarked at Chalkis as the fleet retreated, for the purpose of marching by land to their city and removing their families. It was not only the land-force of Xerxês which had been thus strengthened. His fleet also had received some accessions from Karystus in Eubœa, and from several of the Cyclades - so that the losses sustained by the storm at Sêpias and the fights at Artemisium were, at least in part, repaired, while the fleet remained still superior in number to that of the Greeks.

1 Plutarch, De Herodot. Malignit., p. 864; Herodot., viii. 34.

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