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Enter a band of Elders, guardians of the Persian Empire Chorus Here we are, the faithful Council of the Persians, who have gone to the land of Hellas, we who serve as warders of the royal abode, rich in bountiful store of gold,we whom Xerxes, our King, Darius' royal son, himself selected, by virtue of our rank and years, to be the guardians of his realm. Yet as regards the return of our King and of his host, so richly decked out in gold,the soul within my breast is distressed and presages disaster. For the whole populace of the Asian nation has come and murmurs against its youthful King, nor does any courier or horsemanarrive at the city of the Persians, who left behind them the walled defence of Susa and Agbatana and Cissa's ancient ramparts, and went forth, some on horseback, some in galleys, others on footpresenting a dense array of war. Such are Amistres and Artaphrenes and Megabates and Astaspes, marshals of the Persians; kings themselves, yet vassals of the Great King,they p
Chorus Far from here, to the west where the last rays of our Lord the Sun set. Atossa Can it then really be that my son had the keen desire to make this city his prey? Chorus Yes, for then all Hellas would be subject to the King. Atossa Does their army have such a multitude of men? Chorus Yes, it is an army of such magnitude that it has caused great disaster for the Medes. Atossa And what else have they besides? Do they have sufficient wealth in their homes? Chorus Of silver they possess a veritable fountain, a treasure chest in their soil. Atossa Is the bow-stretching arrow particularly suited to their hands? Chorus Far from it; they have lances for close fight and shields that serve them for armor. Atossa And who is set over them as shepherd and is master of their host? Chorus Of no man are they called the slaves or vassals. Atossa How then can they withstand the attack of an invading foe? Chorus So well as to have destroyed Darius' great and courageous host. Atossa I
Chorus Alas, alas! In vain did our vast and variously armed hostgo forth from the land of Asia against the hostile soil of Hellas.
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: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,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?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
Behind them follows a throng of luxurious Lydians and thoseA covert reference to the Ionians, kinsmen of the Athenians, who served under compulsion in the expedition against Greece.who hold in subjection all the people of the mainland, whom Metrogathes and brave Arcteus, their regal commanders,and Sardis rich in gold sent forth, riding in many a chariot, in ranks with three and four steeds abreast, a spectacle terrible to behold. They too who live by sacred Tmolus pledge themselvesto cast the yoke of slavery upon Hellas—Mardon, Tharybis, anvils of the lance, and the Mysians, hurlers of the javelin. Babylon, also, teeming with gold, sends a mixed host arrayed in a long line, both mariners borne in galleysand those who rely on their skill in archery. The nation too which wears the sabre follows from every part of Asia in the fearful procession of the King. Such are the warriors, the flower of the Persian land,who have departed, and in fierce longing for them the whole land of Asia, th
Chorus What then, O king Darius? What is the intention of your words? How, after this reverse, may we, the people of Persia, best prosper in time to come? Darius If you do not take the field against the Hellenes' land, even if the forces of the Medes outnumber theirs. The land itself is their ally. Chorus What do you mean? In what way “their ally”? Darius It wastes with famine an enemy force which is too large. Chorus But we will dispatch a force of select and easily managed troops. Darius Not even the host which now remains in Hellas will be able to return to safety. Chorus How is that? Will not the whole barbarian army cross from Europe over the Hellesp