Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Herodotus
Pages of Polymnia

Previous | Next


themselves valiant in fight more highly than any nation that I know.
They, however, to whom the orders were given, did according to the
commands of the king.
I return now to a point in my History, which at the time I left
incomplete. The Lacedaemonians were the first of the Greeks to hear of
the king's design against their country; and it was at this time
that they sent to consult the Delphic oracle, and received the
answer of which I spoke a while ago. The discovery was made to them in
a very strange way. Demaratus, the son of Ariston, after he took
refuge with the Medes, was not, in my judgment, which is supported
by probability, a well-wisher to the Lacedaemonians. It may be
questioned, therefore, whether he did what I am about to mention
from good-will or from insolent triumph. It happened that he was at
Susa at the time when Xerxes determined to lead his army into
Greece; and in this way becoming acquainted with his design, he
resolved to send tidings of it to Sparta. So as there was no other way
of effecting his purpose, since the danger of being discovered was
great, Demaratus framed the following contrivance. He took a pair of
tablets, and, clearing the wax away from them, wrote what the king was
purposing to do upon the wood whereof the tablets were made; having
done this, he spread the wax once more over the writing, and so sent
it. By these means, the guards placed to watch the roads, observing
nothing but a blank tablet, were sure to give no trouble to the
bearer. When the tablet reached Lacedaemon, there was no one, I
understand, who could find out the secret, till Gorgo, the daughter of
Cleomenes and wife of Leonidas, discovered it, and told the others.
"If they would scrape the wax off the tablet," she said, "they would
be sure to find the writing upon the wood." The Lacedaemonians took
her advice, found the writing, and read it; after which they sent it
round to the other Greeks. Such then is the account which is given
of this matter.

Previous | Next
Site Search