The Library of History

Page 220

Page 220 use very well known) came to Xerxes, and promis'd him to lead the Persians through a certain straight and difficult Pass, that the Troops sent along with him might come upon the Backs of Leonidas his Soldiers, and by this means the Grecians being fought both behind and before, might easily be cut off.

At the hearing of this, the King greatly rejoyc'd, and amply rewarded the Trachinian, and forthwith sent along with him in the Night Twenty Thousand Men. But one Tyrastiades of Cuma in the Persian Army, an upright Man of honest Principles, in the Night privately convey'd himself from the Watch or Centinels of the Persians, and came to Leonidas, and discover'd what the Trachinian had contriv'd; which being known, a Council of War was call'd at Midnight, where they advised together what was to be done in the present imminent danger and state of Affairs. There were some that were of Opinion, That it was best forthwith to leave the Passages, and to return to the rest of their Associates while it was yet well with them, for that there was no hopes of safety if they continu'd there.

But Leonidas the Lacedemonian General minding to appropriate Immortal Honour to himself and his Spartans, commanded all the rest to depart, and reserve themselves for better Times, and for further help to the Greeks hereafter; enjoyning only the Lacedemonians to stay, and not to desert the defence of the Straights, for that it became the Generals and Commanders of Greece resolvedly to be victorious, or to dye valiantly upon the Spot.

The Council then breaking up, all the rest presently march'd away: And Leonidas being now left upon the Place only with his Citizens, was resolved with them to perform wonderful and Heroical Actions: For the Lacedemonians being but very few (for he kept the Thespians only with him, so that all of them together did not exceed Five Hundred Men) he prepar'd himself bravely to dye for the Liberty and Glory of Greece.

In the mean time, they that were sent with Trachinius, led about through the steep Passes, had beset those with Leonidas on every side: But the Grecians who had before cast off all Thoughts of Deliverance, and had preferr'd Honour before Life, with one Voice desir'd their General that he would lead them out against the Enemy before it were known to the Persians that they were surrounded.

Leonidas hereupon commending the Courage of his Soldiers, commanded them that they would with all speed go to their Dinners with that chearfulness as those that must be with the Gods at Supper: And he himself presently commanded Meat to be brought to him, and fell to eating: For by this means he said they would be more able to endure, and longer to abide the Dangers and Toyls of such an Ingagement.

After they had all refresh'd themselves, and were ready attending upon their General, he commanded them to follow him, and break into the Enemies Camp to kill all that they met, and make to the King's Pavilion: At which word of Command, in one Body in the Night under their General Leonidas, they should rush into the Camp of the Persians.

The Barbarians being amaz'd at so suddain and unexpected an Alarum, every where run out of their Tents in great disorder and confusion. And supposing that all those that were sent with the Trachinian were cut off, and that all the Grecian Forces were amongst them, they were every where seiz'd with fear and astonishment: A great Slaughter therefore was made amongst them by the Soldiers of Leonidas, but much more by the Persians among themselves, they not knowing who was Friend or Foe: The Mistake likewise being advanced by the Darkness of the Night, in which none could be distinguish'd, dread and horrour prevail'd all over the Camp, so that it was no wonder that a terrible Slaughter was made among them: For they killed one another, since now there was neither Time nor Place to be at any certainty, for that none knew whose Commands, or what Captain to follow, or what Colours or Ensigns to hasten to: But their Minds were in a continual Distraction. And if the King had then been in his Pavilion, he had been easily destroy'd amongst the rest by the Grecians, and in that moment had an end been put to so great a War: But Xerxes presently at the beginning of the Tumult, hasten'd, and speedily got out of harms way. The Grecians

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books