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While Xerxes was at Acanthus, it happened that Artachaees, overseer of the digging of the canal, died of an illness. He was high in Xerxes' favor, an Achaemenid by lineage, and the tallest man in Persia, lacking four finger-breadths of five royal cubitsThis would make Artachaees eight feet high. in stature, and his voice was the loudest on earth. For this reason Xerxes mourned him greatly and gave him a funeral and burial of great pomp, and the whole army poured libations on his tomb. The Acanthians hold Artachaees a hero, and sacrifice to him, calling upon his name. This they do at the command of an oracle.
When Xerxes understood the calamity which had taken place, he feared that some of the Ionians might advise the Hellenes, if they did not think of it themselves, to sail to the Hellespont and destroy the bridges. He would be trapped in Europe in danger of destruction, so he resolved on flight. He did not want to be detected either by the Hellenes or by his own men, so he attempted to build a dike across to Salamis, and joined together Phoenician cargo ships to be both a bridge and a wall, making preparations as if to fight another sea battle. All who saw him doing this confidently supposed that he fully intended to stay and fight there, but none of this eluded Mardonius, who had the most experience of the king's intentions. While doing all this, Xerxes sent a messenger to Persia to announce the disaster.
While Xerxes did thus, he sent a messenger to Persia with news of his present misfortune. Now there is nothing mortal that accomplishes a course more swiftly than do these messengers, by the Persians' skillful contrivance. It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day's journey. These are stopped neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointedere are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day's journey. These are stopped neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed. The first rider delivers his charge to the second, the second to the third, and thence it passes on from hand to hand, even as in the Greek torch-bearers' race in honor of Hephaestus. This riding-post is called in Persia, angareion.
This is the other tale of Xerxes' return; but I for my part believe neither the story of the Persians' fate nor any other part of it. For if indeed the pilot had spoken to Xerxes in this way, I think that there is not one in ten thousand who would not say that the king would have bidden the men on deck (who were Persians and of the best blood of Persia) descend into the ship's hold, and would have taken from the Phoenician rowers a number equal to the number of the Persians and cast them into the sea. No, the truth is that Xerxes did as I have already said, and returned to Asia with his army by road.
When the cavalry returned to camp, Mardonius and the whole army mourned deeply for Masistius, cutting their own hair and the hair of their horses and beasts of burden, and lamenting loudly; the sound of this was heard over all Boeotia, for a man was dead who, next to Mardonius, was most esteemed by all Persia and the king.
Having brought all the loot together, they set apart a tithe for the god of Delphi. From this was made and dedicated that tripod which rests upon the bronze three-headed serpent,The bronze three-headed serpent supporting the cauldron was intended apparently to commemorate the whole Greek alliance against Persia. The serpent pedestal still exists, in the Atmeidan (formerly Hippodrome) at Constantinople, whither it was transported by Constantine; it has been fully exposed and its inscription deciphered since 1856. The names of thirty-one Greek states are incised on eleven spirals, from the third to the thirteenth. For a fuller account see How and Wells' note ad loc. nearest to the altar; another they set apart for the god of Olympia, from which was made and dedicated a bronze figure of Zeus, ten cubits high; and another for the god of the Isthmus, from which was fashioned a bronze Poseidon seven cubits high. When they had set all this apart, they divided what remained, and each received
Nevertheless, since Amestris was insistent and the law compelled him (for at this royal banquet in Persia every request must of necessity be granted), he unwillingly consented, and delivered the woman to Amestris. Then, bidding her do what she wanted, he sent for his brother and spoke as follows: “Masistes, you are Darius' son and my brother, and a good man; hear me then. You must no longer live with her who is now your wife. I give you my daughter in her place. Take her for your own, but do away with the wife that you have, for it is not my will that you should have her.” At that Masistes was amazed; “Sire,” he said, “what is this evil command that you lay upon me, telling me to deal with my wife in this way? I have by her young sons and daughters, of whom you have taken a wife for your own son, and I am very content with her herself. Yet you are asking me to get rid of my wife and wed your daughter? Truly, O king, I consider it a great honor to be accounted worthy of your daught