« AnteriorContinua »
the fires to be extinguished: And Euchidas, a citizen Xerxes. of Platea, having taken upon himself to go and fetch the sacred fire with all possible expedition, made the best of his way to Delphos. On his arrival he purified himself, sprinkled his body with consecrated water, put on a crown of laurel, and then approached the altar, from whence, with great reverence, he took the holy fire, and carried it with him to Platea, where he arrived before the setting of the sun, having travelled a thousand stadia (which make an hundred and twenty-five miles English) in one day. As soon as he came back, he saluted his fellow citizens, delivered the fire to them, fell down at their feet, and died in a moment afterwards. His countrymen carried away his body and buried it in the temple of Diana, surnamed Eucleia, which significs of good renown, and put the following epitaph upon his tomb in the compass of one verse: Here lies Euchidas, who svent from hence to Delphos, and returned back the same day.
. In the next general assembly of Greece, which was held not long after this occurrence, Aristides proposed the following decree: That all the cities of Greece should every year send their respective deputies to Platea, in order to offer sacrifices to Jupiter Liberator, and to the gods of the city; (this assembly was still regularly held in the time of Plutarch;) that every five years there should be games celebrated there, which should be called the games of liberty; that the several states of Greece together should raise a body of troops, consisting of ten thousand foot, and a thousand horse, and should equip a fleet of an hundred ships, which should be constantly maintained for making war against the Barbarians; and that the inhabitants of Platæa, entirely devoted to the service of the gods, should be looked upon as sacred and inviolable, and be concerned in no other function than that of offering prayers and sacrifices for the general preservation and prosperity of Greece.
All these articles being approved of and passed in
Xerxes. to a law, the citizens of Platea took upon them to solemnize every year the anniversary festival in honour of those persons that were slain in the battle. The order and manner of performing this sacrifice was as follows: *The sixteenth day of the month Maimacterion, which answers to our month of December, at the first appearance of day-break, they walked in a solemn procession, which was preceded by a trumpet that sounded to battle. Next to the trumpet marched several chariots, filled with crowns and branches of myrtle. After these chariots was led a black bull, behind which marched a company of young persons, carrying pitchers in their hands full of wine and milk, the ordinary effusions offered to the dead, and vials of oil and essence. All these young persons were freemen; for no slave was allowed to have any part in this ceremony, which was instituted for men who had lost their lives for liberty. In the rear of this pomp followed the Archon, or chief magistrate of the Plateans, for whom it was unlawful at any other time even so much as to touch iron, or to wear any other garment than a white one. But upon this occasion being clad in purple raiment, having a sword by his side, and holding an urn in his hands, which he took from the place where they kept their publick records, he marched quite through the city to the place where the tombs of his memorable countrymen were erected. As soon as he came there, he drew out water with his urn from the fountain, washed with his own hands the little columns that stood by the tombs, rubbed them afterwards with essence, and then killed the bull upon a pile of wood prepared for that purpose. After having offered up certain prayers to the terrestrial † Jupi
Three months after the battle of Platea was fought. Probably these funeral rites were not at first performed, till after the enemies were entirely gone, and the country was free.
The terrestrial Jupiter is no other than Pluto ; and the same epithet of terrestrial was also given to Mercury; because it was believed to be his office to conduct departed souls to the infernal regions.
ter and Mercury, he invited those valiant souls de- Xerxes. ceased to come to their feast, and to partake of their funeral effusions; then taking a cup in his hand, and having filled it with wine, he poured it out on the ground, and said with a loud voice: I present this cup to those valiant men, who died for the liberty of the Grecians. These ceremonies were annually performed even in the time of Plutarch.
b Diodorus adds, that the Athenians in particular embellished the monuments of their citizens, who died in the war with the Persians, with magnificent ornaments, instituted funeral games to their honour, and appointed a solemn panegyrick to be pronounced to the same intent, which in all probability was repeated every year.
The reader will be sensible, without my observing it, how much these solemn testimonies and perpetual demonstrations of honour, esteem, and gratitude for soldiers, who had sacrificed their lives in the defence of liberty, conduced to enhance the merit of valour, and of the services they rendered their country, and to inspire the spectators with emulation and courage: And how exceeding proper all this was for cultivating and perpetuating a spirit of bravery in the people, and for making their troops victorious and invincible.
The reader, no doubt, will be as much surprized, on the other hand, to see how wonderfully careful and exact these people were in acquitting themselves on all occasions of the duties of religion. The great event, which I have just been relating, (viz.) the battle of Platea, affords us very remarkable proofs of this particular, in the annual and perpetual sacrifice they instituted to Jupiter Liberator, which was still continued in the time of Plutarch; in the care they took to consecrate the tenth part of all their spoil to the gods; and in the decree proposed by Aristides to Establish a solemn festival for ever, as an anniversary
Lib. xi. p. 26.
Xerxes. commemoration of that success. It is a delightful thing, methinks, to see pagan and idolatrous nations thus publickly confessing and declaring, that all their expectations center in the Supreme Being; that they think themselves obliged to ascribe the success of all their undertakings to him; that they look upon him as the author of all their victories and prosperities, as the sovereign ruler and disposer of states and empires, as the source from whence all salutary counsels, wisdom, and courage, are derived, and as entitled on all these accounts to the first and best part of their spoils, and to their perpetual acknowledg ments and thanksgivings for such distinguished favours and benefits.
SECT. X. The battle near Mycale. The defeat of the
ON the same day, the Greeks fought the battle
of Platea, their naval forces obtained a memorable victory in Asia over the remainder of the Persian fleet. For whilst that of the Greeks lay at Ægina under the command of Leotychides, one of the kings of Sparta, and of Xanthippus the Athenian, ambassadors came to those generals from the Ionians to invite them into Asia to deliver the Grecian cities from their subjection to the Barbarians. On this invitation they immediately set sail for Asia, and steered their course by Delos; where when they ar rived, other ambassadors arrived from Samos, and brought them intelligence, that the Persian fleet, which had passed the winter at Cuma, was then at Samos, where it would be an easy matter to defeat and destroy it, earnestly pressing them at the same time not to neglect so favourable an opportunity. The Greeks hereupon sailed away directly for Samos. But the Persians receiving intelligence of their ap proach, retired to Mycale, a promontory of the con
Herod. 1. iv. c. 89-105. Diod. 1. xi. p. 26,-28.
tinent of Asia, where their land-army, consisting of Xerxes. an hundred thousand men, who were the remainder of those that Xerxes had carried back from Greece the year before, was encamped. Here they drew their vessels ashore, which was a common practice among the ancients, and encompassed them round with a strong rampart. The Grecians followed them to the very place, and with the help of the Ionians defeated their land-army, forced their rampart, and burnt all their vessels.
The battle of Plataa was fought in the morning, and that of Mycale in the afternoon on the same day: And yet all the Greek writers pretend that the victory of Platea was known at Mycale, before the latter engagement was begun, though the whole Egean sea, which requires several days sailing to cross it, was between those two places. But Diodorus, the Sicilian, explains us this mystery. He tells us, that Leotychides, observing his soldiers to be much dejected for fear their countrymen at Platxa should sink under the numbers of Mardonius's army, contrived a stratagem to re-animate them; and that therefore, when he was just upon the point of making the first attack, he caused a rumour to be spread among his troops, that the Persians were defeated at Platea, though at that time he had no manner of knowledge of the matter.
Xerxes, hearing the news of these two overthrows, left Sardis with as much haste and hurry as he had done Athens before, after the battle of Salamin, and retired with great precipitation into Persia, in order to put himself as far as he possibly could, out of the reach of his victorious enemies. before he set out, he gave orders, that his people should burn and demolish all the temples belonging to the Grecian cities in Asia: Which order was so
d Diod. 1. xi. p. 28.
Strab. 1. i. p. 634.
* What we are told also of Paulus Æmilius's victory over the Macedonians, which was known at Rome the very day it was obtained, without doubt happened in the same manner.