After this, Mardonius made trial of the Hellenes with that arm of his service in which he thought himself most superior. He despatched all his cavalry against them as they lay encamped at the foot of Cithaeron, in positions that were rugged and rocky—all except the Megarians. These, to the number of three thousand, were encamped the rather in open plain. For this reason they suffered severely at the hands of the cavalry, which poured in tides against them, and found access to them on every side.
Accordingly, they sent a messenger in haste to Pausanias, bidding him come to their aid, since they were unable of themselves to withstand the host of the Barbarians. Pausanias, on hearing this, and seeing at once that the camp of the Megarians was as good as hidden from view by the multitude of the enemy's javelins and arrows, and that its defenders were huddled together in narrow quarters, on his own part had no way of rendering them aid against horsemen, since his phalanx of Spartans was full-armored and slow of movement;
but to the rest of the generals and captains of the Hellenes who were about him he proposed, in order to stir up their valor and ambition, that some of them should volunteer to make contention for the succour of the Megarians. The rest all hesitated, but Aristides, in behalf of the Athenians, undertook the task, and despatched his most zealous captain, Olympiodorus, with the three hundred picked men of his command, and archers mingled with them.
These quickly arrayed themselves and advanced to the attack on the run. Masistius, the commander of the Barbarian cavalry, a man of wonderful prowess and of surpassing stature and beauty of person, saw them coming, and at once wheeled his horse to face them and charged down upon them. Then there was a mighty struggle between those who withstood and those who made the charge, since both regarded this as a test of the whole issue between them.
Presently the horse of Masistius was hit with an arrow, and threw his rider, who lay where he fell, unable to raise himself, so heavy was his armour; and yet he was no easy prey to the Athenians, though they pressed upon him and smote him. For not only his chest and head, but also his limbs were encased in gold and bronze and iron. But at last, with the spike of a javelin, through the eye-hole of his helmet, he was smitten to the death, and the rest of the Persians abandoned his body and fled.
The magnitude of their success was known to the Hellenes, not from the multitude of those they slew, for few had fallen, but from the grief of the Barbarians. For they shore their own hair in tribute to Masistius, and that of their horses and mules, and filled the plain with their wailing cries. They felt that they had lost a man who, after Mardonius himself, was by far the first in valor and authority.