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In Athens a few desperate persons seized the Acropolis and determined to

defend it. When Xerxes reached the city he found the stronghold

surrounded by wooden walls, but these he soon fired with burning arrows.

The hill was presently carried and its defenders slaughtered. The temple

and other buildings situated there were sacked and burned. The city was

pillaged and given to the flames. The Persian had remembered Athens; but

it was noticed that in the space of two days the sacred olive-tree on the

Acropolis suddenly thrust forth a green shoot a cubit in length. Athena

saw her city in ashes, but spoke by the olive branch the promise that she

should arise from her despair and ruin.

Meanwhile, the Persian fleet, re-collecting its energies after the

dubious victory of Artemesium, sailed into the bay of Phalerum. There

were still more than a thousand ships spared from the vengeance of the

sea and the prowess of the Greeks. In opposition to this immense squadron

the allies could number but three hundred and sixty-six vessels, of which

two hundred were Athenian galleys, and the rest from the confederate

states. As soon as Xerxes reached the coast he inspected his fleet and

held a council of war. It was determined to make an immediate attack upon

the Greek armament and at the same time to send forward the land forces

towards Peloponnesus. This decision was reached with great unanimity by

the Persian commanders, only Queen Artemesia, of Halicarnassus, opposing

the views of the majority.

On the other side there was dissension among the Greeks. The

Peloponnesian commanders were eager to abandon Salamis and sail southward

for the protection of their own coasts; but Themistocles with great

vehemence urged the necessity of fighting where they were. He showed the

great importance of giving battle in the narrow strait where the superior

numbers of the Persians would give them but little advantage.

Nevertheless, the opposite opinion prevailed and it was voted to retreat.

After the council Themistocles repaired to the ship of Eurybiades, and

succeeded in winning him over to the idea of present battle. The

commanders were again called together, and after some discussion were

ordered by Eurybiades to prepare for action. Later in the night, however,

news arrived from Sparta representing the distress of the people on

account of the absence of the fleet, and begging for its return. The

council was a third time convened, but Themistocles had now determined to

accomplish by a stratagem what he could not effect by argument. He

dispatched a trusted messenger to Xerxes, and informed him that the Greek

fleet was about to sail, and advising the Persian to divide his squadron,

send one-half around the island to the other extremity of the strait and

shut up the Greeks in their present predicament. This advice was acted on

by Xerxes; and before the adjournment of the council Aristides, returning

from his banishment, reached Salamis, came into the assembly, and

informed the body that the Persian fleet now occupied both ends of the

strait, and that they must fight or perish. The scheme of Themistocles

had succeeded.

With the morning Xerxes had a throne erected on Mount AEgaleos, opposite

the bay of Salamis, and from this perch he would view the battle.

Necessity had now brought the Greeks to their work, and with ardor they

prepared for battle. Themistocles was in his glory. The Greek seamen were

early at their posts; nor were the Persians, now under the eye of their

king, slow in preparing for battle. At the sound of the trumpet the

allied fleet moved forward to the attack. Just about to engage the foe,

however, they were seized with alarm and fell back to the beach. But then

appeared above the ships a female figure, perhaps the august Athena

herself, and waved them to the attack. The Athenian vessels thereupon

bravely made the onset, followed by the rest, nor was there any further

wavering. All day long the fight continued. The Persian fleet became more

and more confused in the narrow waters, which afforded no room for

maneuvering. The ships were crowded upon each other and became helpless.

The attacks of the Greeks grew constantly more audacious. The fate of

their country now depended on the blows which