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The professed intent of the king's march was to attack Athens, but in truth all Hellas was his aim. This the Greeks had long since learned, but not all of them regarded the matter alike. Those of them who had paid the tribute of earth and water to the Persian were of good courage, thinking that the foreigner would do them no harm, but they who had refused tribute were afraid, since there were not enough ships in Hellas to do battle with their invader; furthermore, the greater part of them had no stomach for grappling with the war, but were making haste to side with the Persian.
The Athenians had sent messages to Delphi asking that an oracle be given them, and when they had performed all due rites at the temple and sat down in the inner hall, the priestess, whose name was Aristonice, gave them this answer: Wretches, why do you linger here? Rather flee from your houses and city, Flee to the ends of the earth from the circle embattled of Athens! The head will not remain in its place, nor in the body, Nor the feet beneath, nor the hands, nor the parts between; But all is ruined, for fire and the headlong god of war speeding in a Syrian chariot will bring you low. Many a fortress too, not yours alone, will he shatter; Many a shrine of the gods will he give to the flame for devouring; Sweating for fear they stand, and quaking for dread of the enemy, Running with gore are their roofs, foreseeing the stress of their sorrow; Therefore I bid you depart from the sanctuary. Have courage to lighten your evil.Lit. spread courage over your evils. But most commentators
This answer seemed to be and really was more merciful than the first, and the envoys, writing it down, departed for Athens. When the messengers had left Delphi and laid the oracle before the people, there was much inquiry concerning its meaning, and among the many opinions which were uttered, two contrary ones were especially worthy of note. Some of the elder men said that the gods answer signified that the acropolis should be saved, for in old time the acropolis of Athens had been fenced by a Athens had been fenced by a thorn hedge, which, by their interpretation, was the wooden wall. But others supposed that the god was referring to their ships, and they were for doing nothing but equipping these. Those who believed their ships to be the wooden wall were disabled by the two last verses of the oracle: Divine Salamis, you will bring death to women's sons When the corn is scattered, or the harvest gathered in. These verses confounded the opinion of those who said that their ships were the wooden wall, for the
By these means Gelon had grown to greatness as a tyrant, and now, when the Greek envoys had come to Syracuse, they had audience with him and spoke as follows: “The Lacedaemonians and their allies have sent us to win your aid against the foreigner, for it cannot be, we think, that you have no knowledge of the Persian invader of Hellas, how he proposes to bridge the Hellespont and lead all the hosts of the east from Asia against us, making an open show of marching against Athens, but actually with intent to subdue all Hellas to his will. Now you are rich in power, and as lord of Sicily you rule what is not the least part of Hellas; therefore, we beg of you, send help to those who are going to free Hellas, and aid them in so doing. The uniting of all those of Greek stock entails the mustering of a mighty host able to meet our invaders in the field. If, however, some of us play false and others will not come to our aid, while the sound part of Hellas is but small, then it is to be feared
Two of the ships, then, were made captive, and the third trireme, of which Phormus an Athenian was captain, ran aground in her flight at the mouth of the Peneus; the barbarians took her hull but not the crew, for the Athenians, as soon as they had run their craft aground, leapt out and made their way through Thessaly to Athens.
The story is told that because of an oracle the Athenians invoked Boreas, the north wind, to help them, since another oracle told them to summon their son-in-law as an ally. According to the Hellenic story, Boreas had an Attic wife, Orithyia, the daughter of Erechtheus, ancient king of Athens. Because of this connection, so the tale goes, the Athenians considered Boreas to be their son-in-law. They were stationed off Chalcis in Euboea, and when they saw the storm rising, they then, if they had not already, sacrificed to and called upon Boreas and Orithyia to help them by destroying the barbarian fleet, just as before at Athos. I cannot say whether this was the cause of Boreas falling upon the barbarians as they lay at anchor, but the Athenians say that he had come to their aid before and that he was the agent this time. When they went home, they founded a sacred precinct of Boreas beside the Ilissus river.
Passing Parapotamii, the foreigners came to Panopea. There their army parted into two companies. The greater and stronger part of the host marched with Xerxes himself towards Athens and broke into the territory of Orchomenus in Boeotia. Now the whole population of Boeotia took the Persian side, and men of Macedonia sent by Alexander safeguarded their towns, each in his appointed place; the reason of the safeguarding was that Xerxes should see that the Boeotians were on the Persian side.
All of these came to the war providing triremes, except the Melians and Siphnians and Seriphians, who brought fifty-oared boats. The Melians (who are of Lacedaemonian stock) provided two; the Siphnians and Seriphians, who are Ionians from Athens, one each. The total number of ships, besides the fifty-oared boats, was three hundred and seventy-eight.