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from his regal office in the commonwealth, a La- , to fight till the last extremity. Xerxes, notwithcedæmonian, distinguished in action and counsel, standing, in the confidence of his power, sent amand the only king of Sparta, who, by obtaining the bassadors to the Grecians to demand their arms, to Olympic prize in the chariot-race, had increased bid them disperse, and become his friends and the lustre of his country. He went into voluntary allies; which proposals being received with disbanishment, and, retiring to Asia, was there pro- dain, he commanded the Medes and Cissians to tected by Darius; while Leutychides succeeded to seize on the Grecians, and bring them alive into the regal authority in Sparta. Upon the death of his presence. These nations immediately attacked Cleomenes, Leonidas became king, who ruled in the Grecians, and were soon repulsed with great conjunction with this Leutychides, when Xerxes, slaughter; fresh troops still succeeded; but with the sou of Darius, invaded Greece. The number no better fortune than the first, being opposed to of land and naval forces which accompanied that an enemy not only superior in valour and resolumonarch, together with the servants, women, and tion, but who had the advantage of discipline, and other usual attendants on the army of an eastern were furnished with better arms both offensive and prince, amounted to upwards of five millions, as defensive. reported by Herodotus, who wrote within a few Plutarch in his Laconic Apothegms reports, that years after the event, and publicly recited his his- the Persian king offered to invest Leonidas with the tory at the Olympic games. In this general as- sovereignty of Greece, provided he would join bis sembly not only from Greece itself, but from every arms to those of Persia. This ofier was too consipart of the world, wherever a colony of Grecians derable a condescension to have been made before was planted, had he greatly exceeded the truth, he a trial of their force, and must therefore have been must certainly have been detected, and censured proposed by Xerxes after such a series of ill sucby some among so great a multitude; and such a cess, as might probably have depressed the insovoluntary falsehood must have entirely destroyed lence of his temper; and it may be easily adthat merit and authority, which have procured to mitted, that the virtue of Leonidas was proof Herodotus the veneration of all posterity, with the against any temptations of that nature. Whether appellation of the Father of History. On the first this be a fact or not, thus much is certain, that news of this attempt on their liberty, a convention, Xerxes was reduced to extreme difficulties by this composed of deputies from the several states of resolute defence of Thermopylæ; till he was extriGreece, was immediately held at the isthmus of cated from his distress by a Malian, named EpiCorinth to consult on proper measures for the pub- altes, who conducted twenty thousand of the Perlic safety. The Spartans also sent messengers to sian army into Greece through a pass, which lay inquire of the oracle at Delphi into the event of higher up the country among the mountains of the war, who returned with an answer from the Eta: whereas the passage at Thermopylæ was priestess of Apollo, that either a king, descended situated on the sea-shore between those mountains from Hercules, must die, or Lacedæmon would be and the Malian bay. The defence of the upper entirely destroyed. Leonidas immediately offered pass had been committed to a thousand Phocians, to sacrifice his life for the preservation of Lacedæ- who upon the first sight of the enemy inconsidermon; and, marching to Thermopylæ, possessed ately abandoned their station, and put themselves himself of that important pass with three hundred in array upon a neighbouring eminence; but the of his countrymen; who, with the forces of some Persians wisely avoided an engagement, and with other cities in the Peloponnesus, together with the the atmost expedition marched to Thermopylæ. Thebans, Thespians, and the troops of those states Leonidas no sooner received information, that which adjoined to Thermopylæ, composed an army the barbarians had passed the mountains, and of near eight thousand men.
would soon be in a situation to surround him, than Xerxes was now advanced as far as Thessalia; he commanded the allies to retreat, reserving the when hearing, that a small body of Grecians was three hundred Spartans, and four hundred Theassembled at Thermopylæ, with some Lacedæmo- bans, whom, as they followed him with reluctance nians at their head, and among the rest Leonidas, at first, he now compelled to stay. But the Thesa descendant of Hercules, he dispatched a single pians, whose number amounted to seven hundred, horseman before to observe their numbers, and dis- would not be persuaded by Leonidas to forsake cover their designs. When this horseman ap. him. Their commander was Demophilus, and the proached, he could not take a view of the whole most eminent amongst them for his valour was Dicamp, which lay concealed behind a rampart, for-thyrambus, the son of Harmatides. Among the merly raised by the Phocians at the entrance of Lacedæmonians the most conspicuous next to LeoniThermopylæ on the side of Greece; so that his das was Dieneces, who being told, that the multiwbole attention was engaged by those who were tude of Persian arrows would obscure the Sun, reon guard before the wall, and who at that instant plied, “ the battle would then be in the shade." chanced to be the Lacedæmonians. Their manner Two brothers, named Alpheus and Maron, are and gestures greatly astonished the Persian. Some also recorded for their valour, and were Lacedæwere amusing themselves in gymnastic exercises; monians. Megistias a priest, by birth an Acarnaothers were combing their hair; and all discovered nian, and held in high honour at Sparta, refused to a total disregard of him, whom they suffered to desert Leonidas, though entreated by him to condepart, and report to Xerxes what he had seen: sult his safety; but sent away his only son, and which appearing to that prince quite ridiculous, he remained himself behind to die with the Lacedæsent for Demaratus, who was with him in the camp, monians. and required bim to explain this strange bebaviour Herodotus relates, that Leonidas drew up his of his countrymen. Demaratus informed him, that men in the broadest part of Thermopylæ ; where, it was a custom among the Spartans to comb down being encompassed by the Persians, they fell with and adjust their hair, when they were determined great numbers of their enemies: but Plutarch,
Diodorus Siculus, and others, affirm, that the Gre- shall not all posterity reflect on the virtue of these
The isthmian council hath decreed to guard
Thermopylæ, the Locrian gate of Greece.”
Here Alpheus paus'd. Leutychides, who shar'd
With great Leonidas the sway, uprose
Beyond the isthmus? There the gods have plac'd Xerxes, king of Persia, having drawn together the Our native barrier. In this favour'd land,
whole force of his empire, and passed over the which Pelops govern'd, us of Doric blood Hellespont into Thrace with a design to conquer That isthmus inaccessible secures. Greece; the deputies from the several states of There let our standards rest. Your solid strength that country, who had some time before assembled themselves at the isthmus of Corinth to de- Remote and feeble, you betray your own,
If once you scatter in defence of states liberate on proper measures for resisting the in- And merit Jove's derision” With assent vader, were no sooner apprised of his march into The Spartans beard. Leonidas reply'd. Thrace, than they determined without further
“O most ungen'rous counsel! Most unwise! delay to dispute his passage at the straits of Shall we, contining to that isthmian fence Thermopylæ, the most accessible part of Greece Our efforts, leave beyond it ev'ry state on the side of Thrace and Thessaly.. Alpheus, Disowu’d, expos’d? Shall Athens, while her fleets one of the deputies from Sparta, repairs to that Unceasing watch th' innumerable foes, city, and communicates this resolution to his and trust th’impending dangers of the field countrymen ; who chanced that day to be as- To Sparta's well-known valour, shall she hear, sembled in expectation of receiving an answer That to barbarian violence we leave from Apollo, to whom they had sent a messen
Her unprotected walls? Her hvary sires, ger to consult about the event of the war. Leu
Her helpless matrons, and their infant race tychides, one of their two kings, counsels the
To servitude and shame? Her guardian gods people to advance no further than the isthmus Will vet preserve them. Neptune o'er his main of Corinth, which separates the Peloponnesus, With Pallas, pow'r of wisdom, at their helms where Lacedæmon was situated, from the rest will soon transport them to a happier clime, of Greece; but Leonidas, the other king, dis- Safe from insulting foes, from false allies, suades them from it. Agis, the messenger, who And eleutherian Jove will bless their flight. had been deputed to Delphi, and brother to the Then shall we feel the unresisted force queen of Leonidas, returns with the oracle; Of Persia's navy, deluging our plains which denounces ruin to the Lacerdæmonians, with inexhausted numbers. Half the Greeks, unless one of their kings lays down his life for By us betray'd to bondage, will support the public. Leonidas offers himself for the vic
A Persian lord, and lift th' avenging spear tim. Three hupdred more are appointed, all ci
For our destruction. But, my friends, reject tizens of Sparta, and heads of families, to ac
Such mean, such dang`rous counsels, which would company and die with him at Thermopylæ.
blast Alpheus returns to the isthmus. Leonidas, after your long-establish'd honours, and assist an interview with his queen, departs from Lace
The proud invader. O eternal king dæmon. At the end of six days be encamps Of gods and mortals, elevate our minds ! near the isthmus, when he is joined by Alphens; Each low and partial passion thence expe!! ho describes the auxiliaries then waiting at the
Greece is our gen'ral mother. All must join isthmus, those who are already possessed of in her defence, or sep'rate each must fall." Thermopylæ, as also the pass itself; and concludes with relating the captivity of his brother The mute assembly. Agis too appear'd.
This said, authority and shame controllid
He from the Delphian cavern was returnd,
The Pytbian maid unfolded Heav'n's decrees. The virtuous Spartan, who resign'd his life He came; but discontent and grief o'ercast To save his country at th' tæan straits,
His anxious brow. Reluctant was his tongue, Thermopylæ, when all the peopled east
Yet seemd full charg'd to speak. Religious dread In arms with Xerxes fill'd the Grecian plains, Each heart relax'd. On ev'ry visage hung O Muse, record. The fellespont they pass'd, Sad expectation. Not a whisper told O'erpow'ring Thrace. The dreadful tidings swift The silent fear. Intensely all were fix'd, To Corinth flow. Her isthmus was the seat All still, as death, to hear the solemn tale. Of Grecian council. Alpheus thence returns As o'er the western waves, when ev'ry storm To Lacedæmon. In assembly full
Is hush'd within its cavern, and a breeze, He finds the Spartan people with their kings; Soft-breathing, lightly with its wings along Their kings, who boast an origin divine,
The slacken'd codage glides, tise sailor's ear From Hercults descended. They, the sons Perceives no sound throughout the vast expanse; Of Lacedæmon, had consen'd to learn
None, but the murinurs of the sliding prow, The sacred mandates of th' imınortal gods, Wbich slowly parts the smooth and yielding maid: That morn expected from the Delphian dome, So through the wide aud list’ning crowd no sound, But Alpheus sudden their attention drew,
No voice, but thiue, O Agis, broke the air; And thus address'd them. For immediate war, While thus the issue of thy awful charge My countrymen, prepare. Barbarian tents Thy lips deliver'd. “ Spartans, in your name Already fill the trembling bounds of Thrace, I went to Delphi. I inquir'd the doom
Of Lacedæmon from th' impending war,
Your instant march.” His dictates all approve. When in these words the deity reply'd.
Back to the isthmus he unweary'd speeds. • Inhabitants of Sparta, Persia's arms
Now from th' assembly with majesty steps Shall lay your proud and ancient scat in dust; Forth moves their godlike king, with conscious Unless a king, from Hercules deriv'd,
worth Cause Lacedæmon for his death to mourn'."
His gen'rous bosom glowing. Such the port
The triple form of Geryon, or against
The bulk of huge Antæus match his strength. Thus with amazement rooted, where they stood, Say, Muse, what herocs, by example fir'd, In speechless terrour frozen, on their kings Nor less by honour, offer'd now to bleed? The Spartans gazd: but soon their anxious looks Dieneces the foremost, brave and staid, All on the great Leonidas unite,
Of vet'ran skill to range in martial fields Long known his country's refuge. He alone Well-order'd lines of battle. Maron next, Remains unshaken. Rising, he displays
Twin-born with Alpheus, shows his manly frame. His godlike presence. Dignity and grace
Him Agis follow'd, brother to the queen Adorn his frame, where manly beauty joins Of great Leonidas, his friend, in war With strength Herculean. On his aspect shine His try'd companion. Graceful were his steps, Sublimest virtue, and desire of fame,
And gentle his demeanour. Still his soul Where justice gives the laurel, in his eye
Preserv'd the purest virtue, though refin'd
By arts unknown to Lacedæmon's race.
Their mystic will, in oracles declard,
Illustrious fathers all of gen'rous sons, The distant summit; if the fear of death
The future guardians of Laconia's state. Could intercept our passage. But a frown Then rose Megistias, leading forth his son, Of unavailing terrour he assumes
Young Menalippus. Not of Spartan blood
Had left his native Acarnanian shore;
His place of dwelling. For his worth receiv'd,
Pontisic bore in Lacedæmon's camp, And smiles on glorious fate. To live with fame Serene in danger, nor his sacred arm The gods allow to many ; but to die
From warlike toil secluding, nor untaught With equal lustre is a blessing Jove
To wield the sword, and poise the weighty spear. Among the choicest of his boops reserves,
But to his home Leonidas retir'd. Which but on few his sparing hand bestows." There calm in secret thought he thus explor'd Salvation thus to Sparta he proclaim'd.
His mighty soul, while nature in his breast Joy, wrapt awhile in admiration, paus'd,
A short emotion rais'd. “What sudden grief, Suspending praise ; nor praise at last resounds What cold reluctance now unmans my heart, In high acclaim to rend the arch of Heav'n: And whispers, that I fear? Can death dismay A reverential murmur breathes applanse.
Leonidas; death, often seen and scorn'd, So were the pupils of Lycurgus train'd
When clad most dreadful in the battle's front? To bridle Nature. Public fear was dumb
Or to relinquish life in all its pride, Before their senate, Ephori and kings,
With all my honours blooming round my head, Nor exultation into clamour broke.
Repines my soul, or rather to forsake, Amidst them rose Dieneces, and thus.
Eternally forsake my weeping wife, “ Haste to Thermopylæ. To Xerxes show My infant offspring, and my faithful friends? The discipline of Spartans, long renown'd
Leonidas, awake. Shall these withstand
The public safety? Hark! thy country calls.
Fear vanishes before her. Death, receive
Thou too, attendant on my righteous fall, Who with a growing race have bless'd the state. With wings unweary'd wilt protect my tomb." That race, your parents, gen'ral Greece forbid His virtuous soul the hero had confirm’d, Delay. Heav'n summons. Equal to the cause When Agis enter'd. “ If my tardy lips," A chief behold. Can Spartans ask for more?” He thus began, “ have hitherto forborne
Bold Alpheus next. “ Command my swift re- To bring their grateful tribute of applause, Amid the isthmian council, to declare [turn Which, as a Spartan, to thy worth I owe,
Forgive the brother of thy queen. Her grief How strong a parent's feelings, till this hour;
How had the honours of my name been stain'd Amid the gen'ral safety. To assuage
By hesitation? Shameful life preferr'd
By an inglorious colleague would have left
I rush, uncallid, to death. The voice of Fate,
Alas! far heavier misery impends If thou with grateful memory record
O'er thee and these, if, soften'd by thy tears, My name and fate, O Sparta, pass not this I shamefully refuse to yield that breath, Unheeded by. The life, for thee resign'd, Which justice, glory, liberty, and Heav'n Knew not a painful hour to tire my soul,
Claim for my country, for my sons, and thee. Nor were they common joys I left behind.” Think on my long unalter'd love. Reflect
So spake the patriot, and his heart o'erflow'd On my paternal fondness. Hath my heart In tend'rest passion. Then in eager baste
E'er known a pause in love, or pious care ? The faithful partner of his bed he sought.
Now shall that care, that tenderness, be shown Amid her weeping children sat the queen
Most warm, most faithful. When thy husband dies Immoveable and mute. Her swimming eyes For Lacedæmon's safety, thou wilt share, Bent to the earth. Her arms were folded o'er Thou and thy children, the diffusive good. Her lab'ring bosom, blotted with her tears. I am selected by th' immortal gods As, when a dusky mist involves the sky,
To save a people. Should my timid heart The Moon through all the dreary vapours spreads That sacred charge abandon, I should plunge The radiant resture of her silver light
Thee too in shame, in sorrow. Thou wouldst mourn O'er the dull face of Nature ; so the queen, With Lacedæmon ; wouldst with her sustain Divinely graceful shining through her grief, Thy painful portion of oppression's weight. Brighten'd the cloud of woe. Her lord approach'd. Behold thy sons now worthy of their name, (pine Soon, as in gentlest phrase bis well-known voice Their Spartan birth. Their growing bloom would Awak'd her drooping spirit, for a time
Depress'd, dishonour'd, and their youthful hearts Care was appeas'd. She lifts her languid head.' Beat at the sound of liberty no more. She gives this utt'rance to her tender thoughts. On their own merit, on their father's fame,
“O thou, whose presence is my sole delight; When he the Spartan freedom bath confirm'd, If thus, Leonidas, thy looks and words
Before the world illustrious will they rise Can check the rapid current of distress,
Their country's bulwark, and their mother's joy." How am I mark'd for misery! How long !
Here paus'd the patriot. In religious awe When of life's journey less than half is pass'd, Grief heard the voice of Virtue. No complaint And I must hear those calming sounds no more, The solemn silence broke. Tears ceas'd to flow; Nor see that face, which makes affliction smile." Ceas'd for a moment soon again to stream.
This said, returning grief o’erwhelms her breast. Behold, in arms before the palace drawn, Her orphan children, her devoted lord,
His brave companions of the war demand Pale, bleeding, breathless on the field of death, Their leader's presence. Then her griefs renew'd, Her ever-during solitude of woe,
Surpassing utt'rance, intercept her sighs. All rise in mingled horrour to her sight,
Each accent freezes on her falt'ring tongue. When thus in bitt'rest agony she spake.
In speechless anguish on the hero's breast “O whither art thou going from my arms! She sinks. On ev'ry side his children press, Shall I no more behold thee! Oh! no more, Hang on his knees, and kiss his honour'd hand. In conquest clad, o'erspread with glorious dust, His soul no longer struggles to confine Wilt thou return to greet thy native soil,
Her agitation. Down the hero's cheek, And find thy dwelling joyfui! Ah! too brave, Down flows the manly sorrow. Great in woe Why wouldst thou hurry to the dreary gates Amid his children, who enclose him round, Of death, uncallid —Another might have bleu, He stands, indulging tenderness and love Like thee a victim of Alcides' race,
In graceful tears, when thus with lifted eyes Less dear to all, and Sparta been secure.
Address'd to Heav'n. “ Thou ever-living pow'r, Now ev'ry eye with mine is drown'd in tears. Look down propitious, sire of gods and men ! All with these babes lament a father lost.
() to this faithful woman, whose desert Alas! how heavy is our lot of pain !
May claim thy favour, grant the hours of peace! Our sighs must last, when ev'ry other breast And thou, my bright forefather, seed of Jove, Exults in safety, purchas'd by our loss.
O Hercules, neglect not these thy race! Thou didst not heed our anguish-didst not seek But since that spirit I from thee derive One pause for my instruction how to bear Transports me from them to resistless fate, Thy endless absence, or like thee to die.”
Be thou their guardian ! Teach them like thyself Unutterable sorrow here confin'd
By glorious labours to embellish life, Her voice. These words Leonidas return'd. And from their father let them learn to dje," “ I see, I share thy agony. My soul
Here ending, forth he issues, and assumes Ne'er knew, how warın the prevalence of love, Before the ranks his station of command.