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Messenger

Messenger
My Queen, some destructive power or evil spirit, appearing from somewhere or other, caused the beginning of our utter rout. [355] A Hellene, from the Athenian host, came to your son Xerxes and told this tale: that, when the gloom of black night should set in, the Hellenes would not remain in place, but, springing upon the rowing benches of their ships, would seek, some here, some there, [360] to preserve their lives by stealthy flight. But Xerxes, when he heard this, comprehending neither the cleverness of the Greek nor that the gods grudged him success, straightway gave all his captains orders to this effect—that, when the sun had ceased to illumine the earth with his beams, [365] and darkness had covered the region of the sky, they should bring up in a tight group the main body of the fleet, disposed in triple line, to bar the exits and the sounding straits, and station other ships in a circle around the island of Ajax. He gave them a warning too that, should the Hellenes escape an evil doom, [370] finding by stealth some means of flight for their fleet, it had been decreed that every captain should lose his head. These commands he made with complete confidence of heart, since he knew not the issue intended by the gods. Our crews then, with no lack of order but with an obedient spirit, [375] prepared their evening meal, while each sailor looped his oar about its thole-pin so that it fitted well. But when the light of the sun had faded and night drew on, each master of an oar and each man versed in arms went on board. [380] The long galleys cheered each other, line by line; and they held their course as each captain had been ordered, and all through the night the commanders of the fleet kept their whole force cruising to and fro across the strait. Night began to wane, [385] yet the fleet of the Hellenes in no way attempted to put forth by stealth. When, however, radiant Day with her white horses shone over all the land, a loud cheer like a song of triumph first rang out from the Hellenes, and, at the same instant, [390] clear from the island crags, an echo returned an answering cry. Terror fell on all the barbarians, balked of their purpose; for then the Hellenes chanted their solemn paean, not as in flight, but as men rushing to the onset with the courage of gallant hearts.

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 432
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 8.75
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