Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber




Death of Leonidas

While the Persians were hesitating thus, a Greek shepherd, Ephialtes, stole into their camp, and, vile traitor that he was, offered to show them another way to get into Greece, if they would pay him well. This man was led into the tent of a Persian general, where he explained that he could easily lead a troop of Persians over the mountains.

By a goat path known to the Greeks only, it was possible not only to cross the mountains, but also to come down upon the small Greek force guarding the pass of Thermopylæ.

His offer as guide was accepted. Ephialtes, true to his promise, if not to his country, led the Persian Immortals along this narrow way. Leonidas, who could not imagine that any one of the Greeks would be base enough to sell his country and honor for gold, had placed only a few of the allies at this spot.

The Immortals followed Ephialtes, easily cut these few men down, and came unperceived behind the Spartan troops. It was only when he heard the tramp of horses behind him and on the mountain above him, that Leonidas found out that he had been betrayed.

Mardonius
A Fighting Persian.


Hastily calling his allies, he gave them permission to save themselves by flight, declaring, however, that he and his companions would never leave their post, and that, since they could not conquer, they were ready to die.

Some of the allies took advantage of this permission to escape, but seven hundred Thespians nobly chose to remain with the Spartans. With the courage of despair, these men now fought against the Persians before and behind them, selling their lives as dearly as possible. In spite of the odds against them, they refused to surrender, and finally fell, one after another, on the spot which they had undertaken to guard.

Their bodies, which were found almost in a heap,—for they had scorned to fly,—were honorably buried in a single mound, over which rose a monument with this modest inscription,—

"Go, passer-by, at Sparta tell,

Obedient to her law we fell."

The Persians had forced their way into Greece. No king could check their further advance, so the mighty army swept southward. The first place of note on their way to Athens was Delphi, the site of the sacred temple, where great treasures were stored.

The Greeks knew that the Persians did not worship the same gods, and feared that they might rob the temple: so they now eagerly questioned the oracle, to find out whether they should not all assemble there in its defense.

To their surprise, the oracle proudly replied, "The gods will take care of their own," and bade them rather use their strength to defend their own homes.

The Persians marched into the rocky gorge leading to the temple at Delphi, but just as they were entering the valley a terrible thunderstorm broke forth. The darkness became so great that the soldiers lost their way. The rocks rolled and crashed down upon them; and the soldiers, filled with dread, beat a hasty retreat, and never again dared venture into this valley.

In the mean while the Greek fleet at Artemisium had held the Persian vessels at bay, until news was brought of the death of Leonidas, and the passage of Thermopylæ. Then the Greeks sailed as fast as they could toward Athens, knowing that they would be needed there to defend the city.

The various allies, sure that it would be quite useless to try to defend the northern part of Greece any longer, retreated into the Peloponnesus, and, hoping to prevent the Persians from entering there, hastily began to build a huge wall all across the Isthmus of Corinth, which is only about five miles wide.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Inhabitants of Greece
The Deluge of Ogyges
Founding of Important Cities
Story of Deucalion
Daedalus and Icarus
The Adventures of Jason
Theseus Visits the Labyrinth
The Terrible Prophecy
The Sphinx's Riddle
Death of Oedipus
The Brothers' Quarrel
The Taking of Thebes
The Childhood of Paris
Muster of the Troops
Sacrifice of Iphigenia
The Wrath of Achilles
Death of Hector and Achilles
The Burning of Troy
Heroic Death of Codrus
The Blind Poet
The Rise of Sparta
The Spartan Training
The Brave Spartan Boy
Public Tables in Sparta
Laws of Lycurgus
The Messenian War
The Music of Tyrtaeus
Aristomenes' Escape
The Olympic Games
Milo of Croton
The Jealous Athlete
The Girls' Games
The Bloody Laws of Draco
The Laws of Solon
The First Plays
The Tyrant Pisistratus
The Tyrant's Insult
Death of the Conspirators
Hippias Driven out of Athens
The Great King
Hippias Visits Darius
Destruction of the Persian Host
Advance of the Second Host
The Battle of Marathon
Miltiades' Disgrace
Aristides the Just
Two Noble Spartan Youths
The Great Army
Preparations for Defense
Leonidas at Thermopylae
Death of Leonidas
The Burning of Athens
Battles of Salamis and Plataea
The Rebuilding of Athens
Death of Pausanias
Cimon Improves Athens
The Earthquake
The Age of Pericles
Teachings of Anaxagoras
Peloponnesian War Begins
Death of Pericles
The Philosopher Socrates
Socrates' Favorite Pupil
Youth of Alcibiades
Greek Colonies in Italy
Alcibiades in Disgrace
Death of Alcibiades
Overthrow of Thirty Tyrants
Accusation of Socrates
Death of Socrates
The Defeat of Cyrus
Retreat of the Ten Thousand
Agesilaus in Asia
A Strange Interview
The Peace of Antalcidas
The Theban Friends
Thebes Free Once More
The Battle of Leuctra
Death of Pelopidas
The Battle of Mantinea
The Tyrant of Syracuse
Damon and Pythias
The Sword of Damocles
Dion and Dionysius
Civil War in Syracuse
Death of Dion
Philip of Macedon
Philip Begins His Conquests
The Orator Demosthenes
Philip Masters Greece
Birth of Alexander
The Steed Bucephalus
Alexander as King
Alexander and Diogenes
Alexander's Beginning
The Gordian Knot
Alexander's Royal Captives
Alexander at Jerusalem
The African Desert
Death of Darius
Defeat of Porus
Return to Babylon
Death of Alexander
Division of the Realm
Death of Demosthenes
Last of the Athenians
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Battle of Ipsus
Demetrius and the Athenians
The Achaean League
Division in Sparta
Death of Agis
War of the Two Leagues
The Last of the Greeks
Greece a Roman Province