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GREECE-THE PERSIAN WARS.

dismissed with words to the effect that his personal safety would better

be consulted before he became the bearer of another such a message to the

Athenians. Sparta, however, was anxious, and sent envoys to counteract

the dangerous temptations held out by the Persians. To these messengers

Athens replied that all that was expected of Sparta was that she should

send an army into Attica to help protect the northern frontier against

the coming attack of Mardonius. The envoys promised, then went home, and

then, with their usual perfidy, pleaded adverse omens as a reason for

non-fulfillment.

In May of B. C. 479 Mardonius again advanced into Attica and occupied

Athens. The people of the city retired as before to Salamis. From hence

they sent a hurried embassy to Sparta, imploring aid against the common

foe and intimating (what they never intended) that circumstances might

compel them to accept the overtures of the Persians. No answer was

returned for the space of ten days, and the Athenians were on the edge of

despair, when the aged Chileos in the Spartan council reminded them that

if an alliance should be effected between the Athenians and the Persians,

the ships of the former might easily bring the whole army of the latter

into the heart of Peloponnesus. The Spartans were thrown into the utmost

alarm by the suggestion, and a force of ten thousand men, besides a still

larger body of Perioeci and Helots, was at once dispatched into Central

Greece. The command of this army was given to Pausanias, the Spartan

regent for the son of Leonidas.

Mardonius, seeing that diplomacy was use- less, destroyed what remained

of Athens, and retiring into Boeotia took his station near the little

town of Plataea. Here he laid off a camp a mile and a quarter square, and

fortified it with barricades. The Spartans, advancing by way of the

isthmus, were reinforced by eight thousand Athenians, three thousand

Megarians, and six hundred Plataeans. The total force gathered for the

battle numbered thirty-eight thousand seven hundred heavy-armed soldiers,

seventy thousand Helots and other troops of light armor, and one thousand

eight hundred Thespians- amounting to about one hundred and ten thousand

men.

Crossing the range of Cithaeron, the Greeks came in sight of their foe

drawn up in order of battle. Having no cavalry, Pausanias occupied the

rougher grounds and aimed to draw the Persian from the position which

gave freedom to his horse. Mardonius ordered a charge against his

antagonist, and the same was bravely made. The Greeks suffered not a

little from the onset, but were successful in killing Masistius, the

commander of the cavalry. They threw his body into a cart and exhibited

it along the lines. When the Persians fell back from the onset, Pausanias

descended from the heights for a general battle on the grounds chosen by

the Persians. The right wing, being the post of honor, was held by the

Spartans, and the left by the Athenians. The little river Asopus lay

between the two armies. Mardonius, with the best of the Medes and

Persians, took his position in the left wing, so as to face Pausanias and

his Lacedaemonians, the Persian right, numbering fifty thousand men,

being allotted to the Greek allies of the enemy. Then there was a pause.

Destiny from one side of the river glared in the face of Fate on the

other.

Both armies were reluctant to begin the contest. For eight days each

maintained its position, fearing the awful hazard of the onset. Finally,

Mardonius succeeded in cutting off the supply train of the Greeks, and

captured five hundred of their beasts of burden in defiles of the

Cithaeron. He was then advised to follow up this policy, and at the same

time to try the effect of bribes upon the leaders of the Greeks. But

Mardonius rejected the advice and gave the orders for a general attack.

On the following night an incident occurred highly illustrative of the

spirit and disposition of the age and people. Alexander of Macedon stole

out of the Persian camp in the darkness, rode to the Greek outposts,

called for Aristides, and informed him of the impending attack. As an

excuse for his treachery, he added: "I am myself a Greek by descent, and

with sorrow would I see Hellas enslaved by these Persians."