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Xerxes. that princes educated like Xerxes, in a vain haughtiness and false glory, are never disposed to own themselves in the wrong, and generally make use of their authority to justify, with pride and obstinacy, whatever faults they have committed through ignorance or imprudence. We may venture, I think, to say, that it is more glorious to rise in this manner, than it would be never to have fallen. Certainly there is nothing greater, and at the same time more rare and uncommon, than to see a mighty and powerful prince, and that in the time of his greatest prosperity, acknowledge his faults, when he happens to commit any, without seeking pretexts or excuses to cover them; pay homage to truth, even when it is against him and condemns him; and leave other princes, who have a false delicacy con- ✦ cerning their grandeur, the shame of always abounding with errors and defects, and of never owning that they have any.
The night following, the same phantom, if we may believe Herodotus, appeared again to the king, and repeated the same solicitations with new menaces and threatenings. Xerxes communicated what passed to his uncle, and, in order to find out whether this vision was divine or not, entreated him earnestly to put on the royal robes, to ascend the throne, and afterwards to take his place in his bed for the night. Artabanes hereupon discoursed very sensibly and rationally with the king upon the vanity of dreams; and then coming to what personally regarded him: "I look upon it," says he, " almost "equally commendable to think well one's self, or "to hearken with docility to the good counsels of "others, You have both these qualities, great "prince; and if you followed the natural bent of
*This thought is in Hesiod. Opera & dies, v. 293. Cic. pro Cluent. n. 84. & Tit. Liv. l. xxii. n. 19. Sæve ego audivi, milites, eum primum esse virum, qui ipse consulat quid in rem sit; secundum cum, qui benè momenti obediat ; qui nec ipse consulere, nec alteri parere sciat, eum extremi ingeni esse,
your own temper, it would lead you entirely to Xerxes. "sentiments of wisdom and moderation. You "never take any violent measures or resolutions, "but when the arts of evil counsellors draw you ❝into them, or the poison of flattery misleads you; " in the same manner as the ocean, which of itself "is calm and serene, and never disturbed but by "the extraneous impulse of other bodies. What "afflicted me in the answer you made me the other
day, when I delivered my sentiments freely in "council, was not the personal affront to me, but "the injury you did yourself, by making so wrong "a choice between the different counsels that were "offered; rejecting that which led you to senti"ments of moderation and equity; and embracing "the other, which, on the contrary, tended only "to nourish pride, and to enflame ambition."
Artabanes, through complaisance, passed the night in the king's bed, and had the same vision which Xerxes had before; that is, in his sleep he saw a man, who made him severe reproaches, and threatened him with the greatest misfortunes, if he continued to oppose the king's intentions. This so much affected him, that he came over to the king's first opinion, believing that there was something divine in these repeated visions; and the war against the Grecians was resolved upon. These circumstances I relate, as I find them in Herodotus.
Xerxes in the sequel did but ill support this character of moderation. We shall find, that he had but very short intervals of wisdom and reason, which shone out only for a moment, and then gave way to the most culpable and extravagant excesses. We may judge however even from thence, that he had very good natural parts and inclinations. But the most excellent qualities are soon spoiled and corrupted by the poison of flattery, and the possession of absolute and unlimited power: * Vi dominationis convulsus.
It is a fine sentiment in a minister of state, to be less affected with an affront to himself, than with the wrong done his master by giving him evil and pernicious counsel.
Mardonius's counsel was pernicious; because, as Artabanes observes, it tended only to nourish and increase that spirit of haughtiness and violence in the prince, which was but too prevalent in him already, ὕβριν αὐξούσης; and tin that it disposed and accustomed his mind still to carry his views and desires beyond his present fortune, still to be aiming at something farther, and to set no bounds to his ambition. This is the predominant passion of those men, whom we usually call conquerors, and whom, according to the language of the holy scripture, we might call, with greater propriety, robbers of nations. If you consider and examine the whole succession of Persian kings, says Seneca, will του find any one of them that ever stopped his ca reer of his own accord; that was ever satisfied with his past conquests; or that was not forming some new project or enterprise, when death surprised him? Nor ought we to be astonished at such a disposition, adds the same author: For ambition is gulph and a bottomless abyss, wherein every thing is lost that is thrown in, and where, though you were to heap province upon province, and kingdom upon kingdom, you would never be able to fill up the mighty void.
f Jer. iv. 7.
† Ως κακὺν διδάσκειν τὴν ψυχὴν πλέον τι δίζεσθαι αἴει ἔχειν τοῦ παρέσης
Nec hoc Alexandri tantùm vitium fuit, quem per Liberi Herculisque vestigia felix temeritas egit; sed omnium, quos fortuna irritavit inplendo. Totum regni Persici stemma percense: quem invenies, cui modum imperii satietas fecerit? qui non vitam in aliqua ulteriùs procedendi cogitatione finierit? Nec id mirum est. Quicquid cupiditati contigit, peni ùs hauritur & conditur : nec interest quantum eo, quod inexplebile est, congeras. Senec. 1, vii. de benes. c. 3.
SECT. II. Xerxes begins his march, and passes from Asia into Europe, by crossing the streights of the Hellespont upon a bridge of boats.
THE war being resolved upon, Xerxes, that he might omit nothing which might contribute to the success of his undertaking, entered into a confederacy with the Carthaginians, who were at that time the most potent people of the west, and made an agreement with them, that whilst the Persian forces should attack Greece, the Carthaginians should fall upon the Grecian colonies that were settled in Sicily and Italy, in order to hinder them from coming to the aid of the other Grecians. The Carthaginians made Amilcar their general, who did not content himself with raising as many troops as he could in Africa, but with the money that Xerxes had sent him, engaged a great number of soldiers out of Spain, Gaul, and Italy, in his service; so that he collected an army of three hundred thousand men, and a proportionate number of ships, in order to execute the projects and stipulations of the league.
Thus Xerxes, agreeably to the prophet 5 Daniel's prediction, having through his great power and his great riches stirred up all the nations of the then known world against the realm of Greece, that is to say, of all the west under the command of Amilcar, and of all the east, that was under his own banner, set out from Susa, in order to enter upon this war, in the fifth year of his reign, which was the tenth after the battle of Marathon, and marched towards Sardis, the place of rendezvous for the whole land-army, whilst the fleet advanced along the coasts of Asia Minor towards the Hellespont.
Xerxes had given orders to have a passage cut through Mount Athos. This is a mountain in Macedonia, now a province of Turkey in Europe, which
• Dan. xi. 2.
h Herod. 1. vii. c. 26.
Ibid. c. 21, 24.
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Xerxes. extends a great way into the Archipelago, in the form of a peninsula. It is joined to the land only by an isthmus of about half a league over. We have already taken notice, that the sea in this place was very tempestuous, and occasioned frequent shipwrecks. Xerxes made this his pretext for the orders he gave for cutting through the mountain : But the true reason was the vanity of signalizing himself by an extraordinary enterprize, and by doing a thing that was extremely difficult; as Tacitus says of Nero: Erat incredibilium cupitor. Accordingly Herodotus observes, that this undertaking was more vain-glorious than useful, since he might with less trouble and expence have had his vessels carried over the isthmus, as was the practice in those days. The passage he caused to be cut through the mountain was broad enough to let two gallies with three banks of oars each pass through it abreast. This prince, who was extravagant enough to believe, that all nature and the very elements were under his command, in consequence of that opinion, writ a letter to mount Athos in the fol lowing terms: Athos, thou proud and aspiring mountain, that liftest up thy head unto the heavens, I advise thee not to be so audacious, as to put rocks and stones, which cannot be cut, in the way of my workmen. If thou givest them that opposition, I shall cut thee entirely down, and throw thee headlong into the sea. 'At the same time he ordered his labourers to be whipt, in order to make them carry on the work the faster.
mA traveller who lived in the time of Francis the first, and who wrote a book in Latin concerning the singular and remarkable things he had seen in his travels, doubts the truth of this fact; and takes notice, that as he passed near mount Athos, he could perceive no traces or footsteps of the work we have been speaking of.
"Xerxes, as we have already related, advanced
Plut. de irâ cohib. p. 455. I Plut. de anim. tranq. p. 470. m Bellon. singul. rer. observ. p. 78. Herod. 1. vii. c. 26, 29.