Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber




Leonidas at Thermopylae

The Persian army had come to the Pass of Thermopylæ; and Xerxes, seeing that it was guarded by only a few men, sent them a haughty message, bidding them surrender their arms.

Instead of seeing a meek compliance with this request, as they expected, the Persian heralds were amazed to hear Leonidas reply with true laconic brevity, "Come and take them!"

The Spartan king, however, had quickly seen that it would be impossible for him to do much more than stop for a while the advance of this mighty host. As a Spartan never drew back, he made up his mind to die on the field of battle, and bade his warriors comb their hair, don their choicest armor, and dress themselves in their richest attire, as was the custom when some great danger threatened them and they expected to die.

The Persians, seeing this, were greatly surprised, and advanced confidently, for they fancied that men who took so much trouble to curl and perfume their hair would not be hard to conquer. They soon found out their mistake.

As they advanced, the archers shot a volley of arrows, and in such numbers that they fairly darkened the sun. One of the allies, seeing this, ran to warn Leonidas; but he received the startling news with great coolness, and merely said, "Very well; then we can fight in the shade."

When Xerxes saw that the Greeks would not yield without striking a blow, he gave orders for the battle to begin. The Persians pressed forward, under the eye of their king, who sat high up on the rocks to see them conquer; but, to his surprise, they were driven back by that mere handful of men.

Again and again they tried to force the pass, but all their attempts proved vain. The Persian soldiers, amazed at the courage of the Greeks, were filled with superstitious fears, and began to refuse to advance, except when driven onward under the stinging blows of the lash.

The king was furious to see their close ranks give way time after time, and finally ordered his own Immortals to march on and scatter the army, which, although so small, was keeping millions of men at bay. He expected that everything would of course give way at the very first charge of these troops.

Imagine his wrath, therefore, when he saw the Immortals also retreat, after many useless efforts to drive away the enemy. The Persians did not know what to do. They could not advance, and were ashamed to retreat.



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