363 PERSIA.-CIVIL AND MILITARY ANNALS.
noted both in peace and war as one of the greatest sovereigns of the ancient world.
XERXES was not the king's eldest son, but Artabazanes, the eldest, was not "born in the
purple,"1 and So the crown descended to Xerxes, the son of Atossa, he being born after his
father acceded to the throne. The new sovereign was not slow to take up and prosecute his
father's unfinished work. His preference, however, was to punish Egypt rather than to
conquer Greece. It is not impossible that, if left to himself, he would have abandoned the
Grecian war altogether; but his advisers soon brought him to see that sheer political
necessity and a decent respect for the honor of his country required him to subjugate the
impudent states of Greece. So it was determined to carry forward with all dispatch the
purposes of Darius.
In the meantime, however, in B. C. 485, a revolt broke out in the province of Babylonia,
which had to be suppressed before even Egypt could be reduced to submission. Zopyrus, the
Baby Ionian satrap, in attempting to maintain order, was overthrown and killed by the
insurgent populace; but Megabyzus, his son, was soon restored to authority, and Babylon
paid the penalty by suffering a sack and the plunder of her great temple. The king, as
soon as this insurrection was disposed of, proceeded into Egypt and quickly overthrew his
rebellious subjects, punishing the leaders and increasing the tribute of the country. This
being accomplished, he found himself ready to proceed against the Greeks.
It required four years of preparation, however, before everything was deemed in readiness
for the invasion. The failures of the preceding expeditions had forewarned the Persian
against the dangers that had precipitated them. It was seen that a sufficient force could
not be conveyed directly across the Aegean. Xerxes must rely upon his army rather than his
navy, and yet the latter would be necessary in full force. A land march around the long
1 "Born in the purple" signifies, in the civil polity of ancient Persia, that the prince
to whom the phrase is applied was born after his father's accession to the throne.
coast line of Thrace and Macedonia would be the only feasible method of pouring Persia
upon Greece in overwhelming power. So this route was chosen. All the satraps of the Empire
were ordered to prepare their contingents of men and ships, and were stimulated by
promises of immense rewards to them who sent to the rendezvous the finest and best armed
quotas of troops.
To the states on the coast was committed the work of equipping the navy, which was to
consist of one thousand two hundred triremes and three thousand, galleys of smaller size.
Storehouses were established on the proposed line of march, and these were filled with
untold, supplies of corn. Still greater in magnitude was the work of cutting in twain
with: a ship-canal the isthmus which held Mouht Athos to the mainland, which enterprise
was deemed essential to the passage of the ships from the Strymonic into the Signitic
gulf. Besides this, the Hellespont was to be again spanned with a bridge of boats, as it
had been by Darius in his campaign against the Scyths. The bridge of Xerxes, however, was
much greater than that built by his father. It was built double-that is, of two rows of
boats, over which was laid the immense wooden structure of the bridge proper. The whole
was covered with earth and brush-wood, forming a solid causeway from shore to shore,
defended on each side by bulwarks. When the work was nearly completed a storm arose, broke
the cables, and swept the structure away. For this piece of inefficiency on the part of
the builders and of impudence on the part of the elements, the former were put to death
and the latter, in their representative, the sea, were properly scourged.
At last, in the spring of 481 B. C., the march began. Forty-nine nations were marshaled
under their respective banners. The army numbered eighteen hundred thousand men.1 Of these
there were eighty thousand cavalry and twenty thousand charioteers and camel-riders. Each
1 The method of counting the host, as given by Herodotus, is interesting and amusing. Ten
thousand men were first counted and huddled closely together. Around this compact mass a
wall was built to the height