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Atossa
Alas! The words I hear put the very crown upon our woes; a disgrace to the Persians and cause for shrill lament. But retrace your tale and tell me this clearly: [335] how great was the number of the Greek ships which gave them confidence enough to go into battle with their armed prows against the Persian army?

Messenger
If numbers had been the only factor, be assured that the barbarians would have gained the victory with their fleet. For the whole number of the ships of Hellas amounted to ten times thirty, [340] and, in addition to these, there was a chosen squadron of ten. But Xerxes, this I know, had under his command a thousand, while those excelling in speed were twice a hundred, and seven more. This is the total of their respective numbers. Do you think that we were simply outnumbered in this contest? [345] No, it was some divine power that tipped the scale of fortune with unequal weight and thus destroyed our host. The gods preserve the city of the goddess Pallas.

Atossa
Is then the city of Athens not yet despoiled?

Messenger
No, while her men still live, her ramparts are impregnable. [350]

Atossa
But the beginning of the encounter of the fleets, tell me about it. Who began the onset? Was it the Hellenes? Or my son, exulting in the multitude of his ships?

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Ajax, 1244
    • E.C. Marchant, Commentary on Thucydides Book 1, 1.74
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