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FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY
FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY
Chambers's London Journal
Chambers's London Journal of History, Literature, Poetry, Biography, and Adventure, v. 2, no. 50, Ma...
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Chambers's London Journal of History, Literature, Poetry, Biography, and Adventure, v. 2, no. 50, May 7, 1842.
Blanchard, Edward Litt Leman.
8 October 2015
London: W. Strange ... W. Clements ... and G. Berger
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4 NUMBER 50. The Retreat of Xerxes. Tm: Persian horde, while pouring itself through the heroically defended pass of TlIe)'l110pfl)'iiY, had little cause to boast of honour or success. On the day when the Spartan ami had withered, and its valour and devotion were trodden beneath the feet of an imperious invader, the fleets of Persia and Greece met in their progress through thelnarroiv seas; nor were the former permitted to voyage on to the succour of the army with stores and provi- sions until thirty vessels had been sunk by the Greeks, and a hundred and seventy others driven out to se where they perished in conflict with the elements. Such defeats as these, altlmugli evidencing the bravery and exertions of the invaded, effected little towards a re- duction of the far-spri-zulinp: embattled lines and columns which overrun Attica, and by royal command proceeded to Athens, on which to wreak the vengeance of hitherto bellied ambition. The oracle had assisted the policy of Themistocles, by declaring that to its wooden wall alone, would Athens one its safety; and after much debate, in which all the earnest eloquence of pa- triotism dimitied by danger, all the persuasion of courage tempered by discretion, and all the hopes of victory chastened by a rellcctiiig policy, were urged by t general, the sorrowful conclusion was at length agreed to, that Athens should be given up in trust to the im- mortal govcrnors of fate, and the whole population con- veyed on board the Hunt. The young and active, all whose hearts glowed with indignation at the peril of their country, all who determined to exert them- selves in its delivery, proceeded to Salamis. The infirm, the women, and children, sought an asylum in I-Lgina and Trezercne, and there awaited in the condicting turmoil of throbbing doubt the issue ofthe war. In the midst of the inipend' g havoc and desolation, while Xerxes proceeded with his locust band, and the in- habitants of Phocia shrunk affriglited to every recess which promised safety, the Olympian games proceeded with their wonti-d brilliaiicy and order. Ere the invader turned round to enter the peninsula in which were con- gregated the bravest of his foes, he paused by the hill of Delphi, and pondered on the remarkable phenomena of a people coiitinuing the solemn festivals dedicated to their gods, and witnessing with unalarmed serenity and delight the skill of the CiI(ll'lDl8“I', tho prowess of the wrestler, liearkening to the rlinpsodies ofthe poet or the dechimation of the scholastic orator. To the iuere animal propensities of his froward spirit, this miracle of calm resolution spoke intclligibly how much they despised him, how much they depended on the right arms of those who had gone forth at the call of honour, and how much more necessary they considered it to refrain from disturbing the sacredness of the proceedings hallowed from mystic antiquity to the worship ol the the divine founders of their race, than to flee to the rocks and caverns for iguoble safety. It is mentioned in contempomrydiistory, as in tribute to the influence of this cool appreciation of their dangerous position, that Xerxes was more iilfectud by it than by all the martial ardourclisplayed against them-that it spoke more elo- quently to his stubborn heart than did the loss of his choicest cohort.-5, and made him think more seriously of the didiculties which such a people could oppose to his progress than evciitliesix days halt at Thermopylae. To us, in our modern estiinate ofinon and war, such fog-ti. tude appears to border on the ridiculous, and almost gives token that a vein of insaiuiy had been running through the entire rocceding ; yet more than once‘ was a like contempt o consequences the only way.to victory. The astonishment of Xerxes and us army at gms moral wonder was now attracted to one of a different nature. In his line of march lav the town of Dolph’ the country around which had been entirely desolated. The temple of Apollo, and the shrine of the oracle, that divinity which had so often proclaimed encouragement to his cnemiea, lay directly in his way, nml the rich treasures gathered thcre for ages from the offerings of the devout, even to his legions presented an object “9 U4 :- ta ‘:1 ' No.18. Vnhll. ER 9 a ,,%SS SATURDAY, 1tIAYi7,W1874r2. worthy of plunder. While the inhabitants of the town, by order of the priests, sccri-ted themselves in the caverns which abound in the mountains of that classic spot-while the retreat of the Muses, and the haunt of Apollo, became a refuge for the trembling crowd-the authorities of the temple by a stratagcm, wondrous in the eyes of the bzubarians, saved their territory from des- truction. As the maraildiiig host began to approach the sacred precincts, rnunnurs, gradually increasing to thunder, issued from the recesses of the rocks, dazz ing lightnings flashed across the. peak and down the steep sides of the holy mount, and gruinblings from the deep bosom of the earth appeared to shake huge fragments from their lofty height until they rolled down in im- petuous haste to the plain below. To an uninstructed people, as well as to a barbaric enemy, these mar- vels appeared the handiwork of the divinity, who, in the awakened energy of its wrath, had come forth to protect the sanctuary of its believers. A sudden terror, therefore, seized upon the l’t-rsiaii army, and it fled in all the cowardice of dismay from a place so ter- rible-so full of unknown dangers, so surrounded b horrors beyond the compass of their belief. Yet was all this but a display of that natural magic for which the gyptinns were remarkable, and which their disciples of Delphi thus turned to good account in the defence of their treasures, and to sustain nmong the Greeks them- selves that character for supcrpatural power and know- ledge on which alone their priestly inlluence depended. Driven by fear, therefore, from the rock of Delphi, and charm:-d by admiration from interfering with the national festivals then in progress of celebration, Xerxes poured his whole strength upon Attica, laying waste with prodigal severity the whole country as he passed. When he approached the first object of his hatre<l-- Athens, Lloouied from the beginning to the sword -he found it almost entirely deserted. A few only, who had interpreted in 11 literal sense the declara- tion of the Pythoness, had remained in the citadel, and erected around them a defensive wall of wood, which they vainly supposed would be to them in pro- tection against the enemy. Refusing to surrender at the summons of the invader, the place was assaulted on all sides. The gates were spcedily thrown down, in rushed crowd upon crowd of the assnilaiits, glutton- ous of blood, and anxious by the immolation ofa de- fenceless few to retrieve some poition of their shattered honour. The aged, the helpless, the mother with a babe upon her am, and the strong man with a award on his, were butchered, mangled, ll'I(l defaced-trodden beneath the heel of usurping violence, and consumed in the flame which now consigned to ashes the last exist- ing remnant of once-populous Athens. The streets which had been thronged by all the pomp of art, and excited by the troubled movements of political strife, were now still and desolate-ruin lay prostraieia the lap of murder, nnil silence wakened only in its echos to the shouts of a foreign soldiery. The wail of those who had departed to the fleet-the npbraidings of such as had remained, werepassed away, while Xerxes smiled to hear his troops vocift-rate their joy in the first cxtscies of victory. I ’ Yet what was Ii!‘ value‘! They could proceed no further, foracross the isthmus of the Peloponnesus the in- domitable Greeks had built a wall from sea to sea, and committed its defence to Cleombrotus, brother to the royal hero of Thermopylx. llalting, therefore, in their course, it becaine necessary to call the fleet into opera- tion, a proceeding for .Whl?h Tliernistoclcs was as well repared as the vast inferiority ofhis vessels in point of number would allow. Eur-ybiadcs, the Spiirtaii to whom its operations had been confided, with the usual unrellecting daringncss of his countrymen, desired to leave the shelter of the straits and to attack the enemy where the army could best assist its inovvments. Against thisintention Themistocles vehemently contended, and in terms perhaps more warm than prudent hinted at the danger of having their last hope in the keeping of rashness. Eurybiiidcs, having his wrath kindled at this re :1 9- PRICE Tiinrzia HALFPENCE. inuendo, was about to indict a blow on the Athenian- Themistocles, in the impulse of the moment uttered that celebrated saying, which will be quoted with admiration so long as a knowledge ofhis history remains ext:int-- "Strike me!" exclaimed the, fervent leader, "Strike, but hear me!” Tl)E.l)0ll1SpCIl'l3ll was vanquished: he stood abashed in the presence of true and intellectual greatness, and patiently listened to the arguments ad- uced against his roposal. With a iuagnaniniity which true courage coul alone displav, he at once yielilul to the better judgment of his ri , and resolved to await the approach of the hostile lleet at Srilamis. e more speedily to ensure this event, T ht-niistocles circulated the reportthat the Greeks were about to fly, and that unless Xerxes adopted decisive measures the objects of his vengeance would escape. The whole armada was soon cong-regat in the narrow Wllll‘l‘S, an the Greeks completely blockadeil in. At this time Aristides was stationed at Egina with a small force, and he, hearing the report which had run through the l‘er- sian camp, without knowing its origin, hastened to ap- prise Tliernistocles of his danger. Forgi-ttiiig alike his rivalry and his wrongs, Aristides proceeded in an open boat, and alone, through the enemy's lleet, and, seekiu Thcmistoclcs, informed him of the blockade, bcsought him by all the ties of country and of honour to forget their mutual ditlerences, to assume the active charge ofthe operations, and, by assigning to him the hum- blest and mostldangerous post he chose, (to command his services to the utmost ie inipetuoua temper of Thernistocles, overcome b this generosity and confi- dence of his long-dreaded rival, warmed into gratitude; he explained to himhis scheme, and expressed his satisfac- tion at its success. With a prudent calculation, how- ever, ha resolved to wait yet a few days longer, as he knew that a periodical wind would then spring up, by which his vessels could sail directly on the enemy, and aid him in his method ofattack. Never since that day, and certainly not of an anterior date, have those quiet waters been disturbed by the presence of so iniiny war- like lleys. ‘welvs hundred vessels, laden with u hostie force, lay around and in the bay of Salamis, watching for their prey; the Greek fleet amounted to three hundre and eighty sail, ready to issue forth under the able guidance of Eurybiades, so soon as the signal should be given by Thernistocles, to whom, at this moment, all eyes were directed, and in whose skill and acuteness they had every confidence. Commanding a view of the watery plain below, -' A king at an the rocky bro: hVhii:h loolu o'er Io:-born Salami.-, and from that majestic promontory did Xerxes behold the issue of the fight. No sooner had the'expt-cted reeze sprung up than the Grecian nails were in motion: on enc eck at the slingers and the throwers of the deadly javelin, singing in liarnionious unison a martial melody, with their swords ready to board and attack the enemy on his own encumbered deck. The Persians, compelled to employ a great num- ber of their men at the oar, had their etlcctire force thus greatly reduced, while the little space left to each vessel for motion speedily causedthewholetocominingls in inextricable confusion. The Grecian ships had now caught the breeze, gathering speed at every moment of their course, and proceeding in admirable ordcr, they were Llirown i i direct collision with the enemy; their brazen bows struck forcibly upon the sides of the Per. sian vessels, and shattered them to pieces. The la laden to inconvenience, and inconimoded still more than before by the present-eofan active anddangcrous enemy, soon rendered unmanageable, and the battle thickened in wild clusters as the vessels bee.-nu locked with each other. Thcn gleanied the trait; sword, and ilashed the deuthful spear I Hand to hand did the Greek struggle with his hated foe ; and drowning heaps and burning masses soon told “-1,0” sonar] would sound of triumph. The Q,,,.(.., Ar. ‘P . . temisia, of llallicarnassns, who had come in the train 1 as ofxerxes, with her llect of live ships, to share the spoils -.,. ,.......;.' - -....‘.‘..... -1.‘,-3-r‘xv-'-ru-44.4.4 - x ...‘...-...u.. % , . . -.-........ ........ . .......‘........n...7.-