war, sent to consult the oracle concerning it, the answer which they
received from the Pythoness was "that either Sparta must be overthrown
by the barbarians, or one of her kings must perish." The prophecy
was delivered in hexameter verse, and ran thus:-
O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon!
Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of
Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country
Mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles.
He cannot be withstood by the courage of bulls nor of lions,
Strive as they may; he is mighty as Jove; there is nought that
shall stay him,
Till he have got for his prey your king, or your glorious city.
The remembrance of this answer, I think, and the wish to secure the
whole glory for the Spartans, caused Leonidas to send the allies away.
This is more likely than that they quarrelled with him, and took their
departure in such unruly fashion.
To me it seems no small argument in favour of this view, that
the seer also who accompanied the army, Megistias, the Acarnanian-
said to have been of the blood of Melampus, and the same who was led
by the appearance of the victims to warn the Greeks of the danger
which threatened them- received orders to retire (as it is certain
he did) from Leonidas, that he might escape the coming destruction.
Megistias, however, though bidden to depart, refused, and stayed
with the army; but he had an only son present with the expedition,
whom he now sent away.
So the allies, when Leonidas ordered them to retire, obeyed him
and forthwith departed. Only the Thespians and the Thebans remained
with the Spartans; and of these the Thebans were kept back by Leonidas
as hostages, very much against their will. The Thespians, on the
contrary, stayed entirely of their own accord, refusing to retreat,
and declaring that they would not forsake Leonidas and his
followers. So they abode with the Spartans, and died with them.
Their leader was Demophilus, the son of Diadromes.
At sunrise Xerxes made libations, after which he waited until
the time when the forum is wont to fill, and then began his advance.
Ephialtes had instructed him thus, as the descent of the mountain is
much quicker, and the distance much shorter, than the way round the
hills, and the ascent. So the barbarians under Xerxes began to draw
nigh; and the Greeks under Leonidas, as they now went forth determined
to die, advanced much further than on previous days, until they
reached the more open portion of the pass. Hitherto they had held
their station within the wall, and from this had gone forth to fight
at the point where the pass was the narrowest. Now they joined
battle beyond the defile, and carried slaughter among the
barbarians, who fell in heaps. Behind them the captains of the
squadrons, armed with whips, urged their men forward with continual
blows. Many were thrust into the sea, and there perished; a still
greater number were trampled to death by their own soldiers; no one
heeded the dying. For the Greeks, reckless of their own safety and
desperate, since they knew that, as the mountain had been crossed,
their destruction was nigh at hand, exerted themselves with the most
furious valour against the barbarians.
By this time the spears of the greater number were all shivered,
and with their swords they hewed down the ranks of the Persians; and
here, as they strove, Leonidas fell fighting bravely, together with
many other famous Spartans, whose names I have taken care to learn
on account of their great worthiness, as indeed I have those of all
the three hundred. There fell too at the same time very many famous
Persians: among them, two sons of Darius, Abrocomes and Hyperanthes,
his children by Phratagune, the daughter of Artanes. Artanes was
brother of King Darius, being a son of Hystaspes, the son of