The tale, woven by classic master storyteller Jacob Abbott is, as usual, free from the dry stuffiness which mars conventional historical accounts. Beginning with Xerxes' family background, the action starts straightaway with his interactions with Egypt and Greece, and the preparations for the invasion of that latter nation.
Abbott's narration, based on meticulous research and primary sources, reveals the immense size of the Persian army, and that their ultimate intention was to conquer all of Europe.
The Greek defensive preparations-spearheaded by the astonishing Spartans-are then reviewed. The mighty clash-and sacrifice-of the main Persian force and the 300 Spartans under Leonidas at Thermopylæ forms one of the centerpieces of the work.
It is followed by the equally important burning of Athens and the Battle of Salamis, where the Persian fleet was destroyed.
Finally, faced with stalemate in Greece and rebellion at home, Xerxes was forced to return to Persia. His army, routed at the Battle of Platæa, followed him home, and the Persian attempt to seize Europe was definitively defeated.
"The name of Xerxes is associated in the minds of men with the idea of the highest attainable elevation of human magnificence and grandeur. This monarch was the sovereign of the ancient Persian Empire when it was at the height of its prosperity and power.
"It is probable, however, that his greatness and fame lose nothing by the manner in which his story comes down to us through the Greek historians. The Greeks conquered Xerxes, and, in relating his history, they magnify the wealth, the power, and the resources of his empire, by way of exalting the greatness and renown of their own exploits in subduing him."
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Counselors of Xerxes. Age and character of Mardonius. Chapter III. Debate On The Proposed Invasion Of Greece. THE two great counselors on whose judgment Xerxes mainly relied, so far as he looked to any other judgment than his own in the formation of his plans, were Artabanus, the uncle by whose decision the throne had been awarded to him, and Mardonius, the command- er-in-chief of his armies. Xerxes himself was quite a young man, of a proud and lofty, yet generous character, and full of self-confidence and hope. Mardonius was much older, but he was a soldier by profession, and was eager to distinguish himself in some great military campaign. It has always been unfortunate for the peace and happiness of mankind, under all monarchical and despotic governments, in every age of the world, that, through some depraved and unaccountable perversion of public sentiment, those who are not born to greatness have had no means of attaining to it except as heroes in war. Many men have, indeed, by their men- The avenues to renown. Blood inherited and blood shed. tal powers or their moral excellences, acquired an extended and lasting posthumous fame ; but in respect to all immediate and exalted distinction and honor, it will be found, on reviewing the history of the human race, that there have generally been but two possible avenues to them: on the one hand, high birth, and on the other, the performance of great deeds of carnage and destruction. There must be, it seems, as the only valid claim to renown, either blood inherited or blood shed. The glory of the latter is second, indeed, to that of the former, but it is only second. He who has sacked a city stands very high in the estimation ofhis fellows. He yields precedence only to him whose grandfather sacked one. This state of...
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