Xerxes, after having enumerated his armaments, pushed on with the entire army, and the
whole fleet accompanied the land forces in their advance as far as the city of Acanthus, and
from there the ships passed through the place where the canal had been dug into the other sea
expeditiously and without loss.
But when Xerxes arrived at the
Gulf of Melis,1
learned that the enemy had already seized the passes. Consequently, having joined to his forces
the armament there, he summoned his allies from Europe
, a little less than two hundred thousand men; so that he now possessed in
all not less than one million soldiers exclusive of the naval contingent.2
And the sum total of the masses who served on the ships of war
and who transported the food and general equipment was not less than that of those we have
mentioned, so that the account usually given of the multitude of the men gathered together by
Xerxes need cause no amazement; for men say that the unfailing rivers ran dry because of the
unending stream of the multitude, and that the seas were hidden by the sails of the ships.
However this may be, the greatest forces of which any historical record has been left were
those which accompanied Xerxes.
After the Persians had encamped on the Spercheius River, Xerxes dispatched envoys to
to discover, among other things,
how the Greeks felt about the war with him; and he commanded them to make this proclamation:
"King Xerxes orders all to give up their arms, to depart unharmed to their native lands, and to
be allies of the Persians; and to all Greeks who do this he will give more and better lands
than they now possess."
But when Leonidas heard the commands
of the envoys, he replied to them: "If we should be allies of the king we should be more useful
if we kept our arms, and if we should have to wage war against him, we should fight the better
for our freedom if we kept them; and as for the lands which he promises to give, the Greeks
have learned from their fathers to gain lands, not by cowardice, but by valour."