The Library of History

Page 221

Page 221 breaking into his Pavilion, cut off the Heads almost of all they found there, and diligently sought for Xerxes (while the Night favour'd them) in all parts of the Camp.

But when the Day brake, and Light began to make a Discovery, the Persians then perceiving the Grecians to be very few, began to despise them, but durst not make strait upon them, being terrify'd by their amazing Courage.

Therefore they compass'd them round, and gauling them every way, both in the Flank and Rear, they were all destroy'd with Darts and Arrows. And this was the end of those sent with Leonidas to guard the Passes in Thermopyle, whose Valour who can sufficiently admire? who were also unanimous not to desert their Post assigned them, but undauntedly sacrific'd their Lives for the common safety of Greece, and chose rather to dye valiantly and in Honour, than to live as Slaves and in Disgrace.

On the other hand, this Terror and Amazement of the Persians, cannot but be very probable; for which of the Barbarians could ever suspect so incredible an Attempt? Who could have imagin'd, that Five Hundred should have that Confidence, as without Fear to set upon a Hundred Myriads? So that we may conclude that Posterity cannot but fix upon these Men as a Pattern and Example of Valour for ever; who though compassed about with inextricable Dangers, and wearied out in their Bodies with overcoming, yet in their Minds were unconquerable. These therefore are the only Men (we read of) that became more famous by their being overcome, than others by their most glorious Victories; for we ought not to make a Judgment of Mens Virtues by the Event, but by their solid and well-grounded Resolutions: For Fortune is the Mistress of the First, but every Man's Reason is the Advocate for the other.

For who can judge there were ever braver Men than these? who though they were not the Thousandth part of their Enemies, yet were acted with such brave Spirits, as to dare to try their Courage with an incredible Multitude; not that they had the least hope or expectation of overcoming upon so unequal Terms, but resolving with undaunted Resolutions and noble Souls to surpass all that ever was done in former Ages. They knew indeed they were then to fight with Barbarians: But yet they concluded, that thereby they should be sharers in Fame and Glory with all that ever were before them. For they were the only Men (since the Memory of Man) that chose rather to defend the Laws of their Country, than to preserve their own Lives, even with a Contempt of Dangers that were insuperable; judging it more desirable for Men of Valour so to signalize themselves.

To these the common Liberty of Greece ows more than to those that afterwards overcame Xerxes in following Battels; for the Barbarians being astonished with such an extraordinary and unheard of Attempt, were afterwards much discourag'd, and had little heart to Fight. The Spirits of the Grecians on the other side, were inflamed with the desire of gaining the like honour with their Countrymen. To conclude, these alone seem'd to have born away with them the immortal Memory of an unparallell'd Valour, above all before them: And therefore their Praises have been set forth not only by Historians, but by many Poets, amongst whom, that famous Milean Poet Simonides has described this noble Action, with high Strains of Commendation worthy of their Valour, thus—

At fam'd Thermopyle these brave Souls got,
An honourable Death, and Noble Lot;
Their Tomb an Altar bears, which doth record
Their Ancestors; and Death doth Life afford
Ʋnto their Fame, nor Rust, nor Times Teeth shall
Devour the Trophies of their Funeral,
The Praise of Grecian Heroes to maintain,
Their Countrys Freedom that were Slain,
This Chappel doth contain.
Leonidas above the rest,
The Spartan King will this attest;
Who gave proof to Posterity,
That real Valour cannot dye.

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books