The Story of the Greeks
Page: 49When the preparations for this distant war were ended, the Persian army set out for Greece. In order to reach that country, it had to march a long way through the northern part of Asia Minor, cross a narrow strait called the Hel´les-pont, and pass along the coast of the Ægean Sea, through Thrace and Scyth´i-a.
In these countries the Persian army met the fierce and warlike Scyth´i-ans mounted on their fleet-footed horses, and was nearly cut to pieces. The Persians were so frightened by the attack of these foes, that they refused to go any farther, and even beat a hasty retreat.[Pg 110]
The Persian fleet in the mean while had sailed along bravely. It soon came to the promontory formed by Mount A´thos, a tall mountain which sometimes casts a shadow eighty miles long over the sea. Here a terrible tempest overtook the fleet, and the waves rose so high that six hundred vessels were dashed to pieces.
All the rest of the Persian vessels were so damaged by the storm, that it was soon decided that they had better return home. The soldiers of The Great King were of course greatly discouraged by these misfortunes; but Darius was more than ever determined to conquer Greece, and at once began to gather a second army and to build a second fleet.
Darius was very busy preparing this other army to march against Greece. While the men were being drilled, he sent two messengers to the Greek towns and islands, bidding them surrender and give him earth and water.
By demanding "earth and water," Darius meant that he wanted them to recognize him as their king, and as master of all their lands and vessels. The inhabitants of many of the islands and towns were so frightened by the messages sent by The Great King, that they humbly yielded; but when the messengers came to Sparta and Athens, they met with a different reception.[Pg 111]
In both cities the people proudly replied that they were their own masters, and would not yield to the demands of the Persian king. Then, angered by the insolent command to give earth and water, the Spartans entirely forgot that the life of an ambassador is sacred. In their rage, they seized the Persians, flung one into a pit and the other into a well, and told them to take all the earth and water they wanted.
This conduct made Darius all the more angry, and he hastened his preparations as much as he could. He was so active that in a short time he was able to start out again, with an army of a hundred and twenty thousand men.
The generals of this force were Da´tis and Ar-ta-pher´-nes, who were guided and advised by the traitor Hippias. The fleet was to land the army on the plain of Mar´a-thon, close by the sea, and only one day's journey from Athens.