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The History of the Peloponnesian War

Page: 43

This, then was the curse that the Lacedaemonians ordered them to drive out. They were actuated primarily, as they pretended, by a care for the honour of the gods; but they also know that Pericles, son of Xanthippus, was connected with the curse on his mother's side, and they thought that his banishment would materially advance their designs on Athens. Not that they really hoped to succeed in procuring this; they rather thought to create a prejudice against him in the eyes of his countrymen from the feeling that the war would be partly caused by his misfortune. For being the most powerful man of his time, and the leading Athenian statesman, he opposed the Lacedaemonians in everything, and would have no concessions, but ever urged the Athenians on to war.

The Athenians retorted by ordering the Lacedaemonians to drive out the curse of Taenarus. The Lacedaemonians had once raised up some Helot suppliants from the temple of Poseidon at Taenarus, led them away and slain them; for which they believe the great earthquake at Sparta to have been a retribution. The Athenians also ordered them to drive out the curse of the goddess of the Brazen House; the history of which is as follows. After Pausanias the Lacedaemonian had been recalled by the Spartans from his command in the Hellespont (this is his first recall), and had been tried by them and acquitted, not being again sent out in a public capacity, he took a galley of Hermione on his own responsibility, without the authority of the Lacedaemonians, and arrived as a private person in the Hellespont. He came ostensibly for the Hellenic war, really to carry on his intrigues with the King, which he had begun before his recall, being ambitious of reigning over Hellas. The circumstance which first enabled him to lay the King under an obligation, and to make a beginning of the whole design, was this. Some connections and kinsmen of the King had been taken in Byzantium, on its capture from the Medes, when he was first there, after the return from Cyprus. These captives he sent off to the King without the knowledge of the rest of the allies, the account being that they had escaped from him. He managed this with the help of Gongylus, an Eretrian, whom he had placed in charge of Byzantium and the prisoners. He also gave Gongylus a letter for the King, the contents of which were as follows, as was afterwards discovered: "Pausanias, the general of Sparta, anxious to do you a favour, sends you these his prisoners of war. I propose also, with your approval, to marry your daughter, and to make Sparta and the rest of Hellas subject to you. I may say that I think I am able to do this, with your co-operation. Accordingly if any of this please you, send a safe man to the sea through whom we may in future conduct our correspondence."

This was all that was revealed in the writing, and Xerxes was pleased with the letter. He sent off Artabazus, son of Pharnaces, to the sea with orders to supersede Megabates, the previous governor in the satrapy of Daskylion, and to send over as quickly as possible to Pausanias at Byzantium a letter which he entrusted to him; to show him the royal signet, and to execute any commission which he might receive from Pausanias on the King's matters with all care and fidelity. Artabazus on his arrival carried the King's orders into effect, and sent over the letter, which contained the following answer: "Thus saith King Xerxes to Pausanias. For the men whom you have saved for me across sea from Byzantium, an obligation is laid up for you in our house, recorded for ever; and with your proposals I am well pleased. Let neither night nor day stop you from diligently performing any of your promises to me; neither for cost of gold nor of silver let them be hindered, nor yet for number of troops, wherever it may be that their presence is needed; but with Artabazus, an honourable man whom I send you, boldly advance my objects and yours, as may be most for the honour and interest of us both."


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