The History Of Herodotus Volume 2 of 2

Page: 212

42. When he so expressed his judgment, none opposed him, and thus his opinion prevailed; for he and not Artabazos had the command of the army given him by the king. He summoned therefore the commanders of the divisions and the generals of those Hellenes who were with him, and asked whether they knew of any oracle regarding the Persians, which said that they should be destroyed in Hellas; and when those summoned to council 49 were silent, some not knowing the oracles and others knowing them but not esteeming it safe to speak, Mardonios himself said: "Since then ye either know nothing or do not venture to speak, I will tell you, since I know very well. There is an oracle saying that the Persians are destined when they come to Hellas to plunder the temple at Delphi, and having plundered it to perish every one of them. We therefore, just because we know this, will not go to that temple nor will we attempt to plunder it; and for this cause we shall not perish. So many of you therefore as chance to wish well to the Persians, have joy so far as regards this matter, and be assured that we shall overcome the Hellenes." Having spoken to them thus, he next commanded to prepare everything and to set all in order, since at dawn of the next day a battle would be fought.

43. Now this oracle, which Mardonios said referred to the Persians, I know for my part was composed with reference with the Illyrians and the army of the Enchelians, and not with reference to the Persians at all. However, the oracle which was composed by Bakis with reference to this battle,

 "The gathering of Hellenes together and cry of Barbarian voices,
  Where the Thermodon flows, by the banks of grassy Asopos;
  Here very many shall fall ere destiny gave them to perish,
  Medes bow-bearing in fight, when the fatal day shall approach them,"—

these sayings, and others like them composed by Musaios, I know had reference to the Persians. Now the river Thermodon flows between Tanagra and Glisas.

44. After the inquiry about the oracles and the exhortation given by Mardonios night came on and the guards were set: and when night was far advanced, and it seemed that there was quiet everywhere in the camps, and that the men were in their deepest sleep, then Alexander the son of Amyntas, commander and king of the Macedonians, rode his horse up to the guard-posts of the Athenians and requested that he might have speech with their generals. So while the greater number of the guards stayed at their posts, some ran to the generals, and when they reached them they said that a man had come riding on a horse out of the camp of the Medes, who discovered nothing further, but only named the generals and said that he desired to have speech with them..

45. Having heard this, forthwith they accompanied the men to the guard-posts, and when they had arrived there, Alexander thus spoke to them: "Athenians, I lay up these words of mine as a trust to you, charging you to keep them secret and tell them to no one except only to Pausanias, lest ye bring me to ruin: for I should not utter them if I did not care greatly for the general safety of Hellas, seeing that I am a Hellene myself by original descent and I should not wish to see Hellas enslaved instead of free. I say then that Mardonios and his army cannot get the offerings to be according to their mind, 50 for otherwise ye would long ago have fought. Now however he has resolved to let the offerings alone and to bring on a battle at dawn of day; for, as I conjecture, he fears lest ye should assemble in greater numbers. Therefore prepare yourselves; and if after all Mardonios should put off the battle and not bring it on, stay where ye are and hold out patiently; for they have provisions only for a few days remaining. And if this way shall have its issue according to your mind, then each one of you ought to remember me also concerning liberation, 51 since I have done for the sake of the Hellenes so hazardous a deed by reason of my zeal for you, desiring to show you the design of Mardonios, in order that the Barbarians may not fall upon you when ye are not as yet expecting them: and I am Alexander the Macedonian." Thus having spoken he rode away back to the camp and to his own position.