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Thus it fared with the fleet; as for Mardonius and his land army, while they were encamped in Macedonia, the Brygi of Thrace attacked them by night and killed many of them, wounding Mardonius himself. But not even these could escape being enslaved by the Persians; Mardonius did not depart from those lands before he had subjugated them. After conquering them, he led his army away homewards, since the Brygi had dealt a heavy blow to his army and Athos an even heavier blow to his fleet. This expedition after an inglorious adventure returned back to Asia.
When these appointed generals on their way from the king reached the Aleian plain in Cilicia, bringing with them a great and well-furnished army, they camped there and were overtaken by all the fleet that was assigned to each; there also arrived the transports for horses, which in the previous year Darius had bidden his tributary subjects to make ready. Having loaded the horses into these, and embarked the land army in the ships, they sailed to Ionia with six hundred triremes. From there they held their course not by the mainland and straight towards the Hellespont and Thrace, but setting forth from Samos they sailed by the Icarian sea and from island to island; this, to my thinking, was because they feared above all the voyage around Athos, seeing that in the previous year they had come to great disaster by holding their course that way; moreover, Naxos was still unconquered and constrained them.
Since those who had earlier attempted to sail around Athos had suffered shipwreck, for about three years preparations had been underway there. Triremes were anchored off Elaeus in the Chersonese; wi
y were compelled by whippings to dig a canal, coming by turns to the work; the inhabitants about Athos also dug.
Bubares son of Megabazus and Artachaees son of Artaeus, both Persians, were the overseers of the workmen. Athos is a great and famous mountain, running out into the sea and inhabited by men. At the mountain's landward end it is in the form of a peninsula, and there is an isthmus abou lls, from the sea by Acanthus to the sea opposite Torone.
On this isthmus which is at the end of Athos, there stands a Greek town, Sane; there are others situated seaward of Sane and landward of Athoe are others situated seaward of Sane and landward of Athos, and the Persian now intended to make them into island and not mainland towns; they are Dion, Olophyxus, Acrothoum, Thyssus, and Cleonae.
These are the towns situated on Athos. The foreigners dug as follows,In spite of the incredulity of antiquity the canal was no doubt actually made and used. Traces of it are said to exist. See, e.g. How and Wells, ad loc. dividing up the ground by nation: they made a straight line near the town of Sane; when the channel had been dug to some depth, some men stood at the bottom of it and dug, others took the dirt as it was dug out and delivered it to yet others that stood higher on stages, and they again to others as they received it, until they came to those that were highest; these carried it out and threw it away. For all except the Phoenicians, the steep sides of the canal caved in, doubling their labor; since they made the span the same breadth at its mouth and at the bottom, this was bound to happen. But the Phoenicians showed the same skill in this as in all else they do; taking in hand the portion that fell to them, they dug by making the topmost span of the canal as wide again
When the bridges and the work at Athos were ready, and both the dikes at the canal's entrances, built to prevent the surf from silting up the entrances of the dug passage, and the canal itself were reported to be now completely finished, the army then wintered. At the beginning of springProbably about the middle of April 480. the army made ready and set forth from Sardis to march to Abydos. As it was setting out, the sun left his place in the heaven and was invisible, although the sky was without clouds and very clear, and the day turned into night. When Xerxes saw and took note of that, he was concerned and asked the Magi what the vision might signify. They declared to him that the god was showing the Greeks the abandonment of their cities; for the sun (they said) was the prophet of the Greeks, as the moon was their own. Xerxes rejoiced exceedingly to hear that and continued on his march.
Now when the fleet had left Xerxes, it sailed through the Athos canal which reached to the gulf in which are located the towns of Assa, Pilorus, Singus, and Sarte. The fleet took on board troops from all these cities and then headed for the Thermaic gulf. Then rounding Ampelus, the headland of Torone, it passed the Greek towns of Torone, Galepsus, Sermyle, Mecyberna, and Olynthus, all of which gave them ships and men.
The story is told that because of an oracle the Athenians invoked Boreas, the north wind, to help them, since another oracle told them to summon their son-in-law as an ally. According to the Hellenic story, Boreas had an Attic wife, Orithyia, the daughter of Erechtheus, ancient king of Athens. Because of this connection, so the tale goes, the Athenians considered Boreas to be their son-in-law. They were stationed off Chalcis in Euboea, and when they saw the storm rising, they then, if they had not already, sacrificed to and called upon Boreas and Orithyia to help them by destroying the barbarian fleet, just as before at Athos. I cannot say whether this was the cause of Boreas falling upon the barbarians as they lay at anchor, but the Athenians say that he had come to their aid before and that he was the agent this time. When they went home, they founded a sacred precinct of Boreas beside the Ilissus river.