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could protect his own;' and, just as the Persians reached the ascent to the temple, a thunder-storm burst forth, great rocks rolled down the steep of Parnassus, and the Delphians, assisted by two supernatural warriors, emerged from their hiding-places, and slew their assailants as they fled.
The Greeks might have made a stand in Boeotia, but the Spartans being desirous to sacrifice Athens, in order that they might have the supremacy in Greece, withdrew behind the isthmus of Corinth, whilst the Athenians took refuge in the fleet, which was anchored off the island of Salamis. The Persians, consequently, found the city deserted, and, having plundered and burnt the temple of Minerva, Xerxes sent word home that his vengeance was complete. The panic amongst the Greeks was universal, the enemy's land forces were advancing on the isthmus, and their fleet had weighed anchor for attack. Themistocles eloquently addressed his crews, and Artemisia, Queen of Halicarnassus, encouraged and fought with the Persians. Ships were sunk on both sides, and the fight lasted till midnight, the issue being the total defeat of the Persians, who retreated to Thessaly for the winter, Xerxes himself starting homewards.
The following spring Mardonius advanced again with the remnant of the Persian army. In the first engagement Maxistius, his second in command, was slain, and the Greeks marshalled their combined forces on the plains of Platæa, their total strength being less than one to three of the enemy.
After waiting eleven days for the omens, Mardonius ordered the attack to begin. Herodotus describes the battle with great minuteness, and shows that for some time the Greeks were very hard pressed. At last Pausanias prayed to Juno, the omens became favourable, the Tegeans and Spartans dashed forward, and the battle
Mardonius was the bravest of the brave, but he fell, and, although the Greeks suffered a temporary check, the Athenians, who understood wall-fighting, came up, the enemy's stockade was stormed, and only three thousand of the whole Persian army were left alive. Pausanias was urged to withhold the honour of burial from the body of Mardonius, but he answered, • Would you have me humble my country in the dust, now that I have just raised her?'
On the same day the Greek fleet fell in with a detachment of the Persians, who had disembarked at Mycale, in Ionia, and, landing from their ships, they drove the enemy into their camp, and utterly defeated them.
The historian adds some scandals of the Court at Susa; but the interest of his narrative culminates with the events of the two memorable years in which, by the victories last recorded, the civilisation of Europe established its preponderance over that of Asia for all succeeding generations.
DIED B.C. 406.
URING the long life of Euripides, who commenced
writing tragedies at the age of eighteen, he witnessed
Athens emerge from a cluster of villages, defended merely by a wooden rampart, and almost crushed for a time by the Persian invasion, to the days of Cymon and Pericles, when a new city arose, beautified with the works of artists more talented than those of any other age, and when taste and intellect attained their highest development; until, as he grew older, the luxury and failing energy of the rising generation were slowly but surely undermining her political vigour, her reputation, and her very existence. The listeners to his compositions were of all ranks and ages, representing, besides the various Hellenic races, foreigners from all the neighbouring countries with whom they were in friendly communication, and whose idlers and traders were sojourn. ing in the fair capital, the eye of Greece.
The fates have decreed the death of Admetus, king of
heræ in Thessaly, but Apollo has prevailed on them to accept a substitute. His father and mother decline, but his wife Alcestis is willing to ransom him with her life. The play opens with her doom at hand, and Death is waiting at the palace gate for his victim. She takes leave of her husband, children, and household, amidst tears and wailings, and, just after her decease, Hercules arrives as a guest. Observing the signs of grief in the house, he would pass on to another acquaintance, but Admetus will not hear of such a breach of hospitality, and orders a servant to prepare dinner for him. The slave in attendance is scandalised at his appetite and conviviality at such a time. Hercules rates him for his solemn visage, reminding him that for all to die is nature's due; but, when he learns that his host is mourning for his wife, he is sobered at once, and hurries out to render such service as the strongest of mankind can perform. Alcestis having been laid in her grave, Death is making ready to feast on her corpse, little expecting who is about to intervene. Her noble, and tender, and loving nature is finely told by the poet, and a Chorus of old men express the grief of all who knew her that she is removed from the cheery sunlight, the lucid streams, and the verdant pastures, which gladdened her when alive. The character of Admetus, on the other hand, is weak and selfish, he would not die instead of her, but now he will forego all further enjoyment in life, and evinces neither spirit nor heroism. He even reproaches his old father for not having consented to take the place of Alcestis, and is deservedly rebuked for his want of real affection for his wife in not submitting himself to the summons of the fates. The appearance of Hercules, however, has cast a ray of hope on the general gloom, for he was believed to be as generous and genial as he was valiant and strong A Choral song comments on the relentless power of necessity, and, alluding to Alcestis, they tell the king that nothing can restore her to life, but that her tomb must be honoured, and the passing traveller told,
Within doth lie
Then comes the final scene, in which Hercules has compelled Death to release his prey, and restores the devoted wife to the arms of her astonished husband.
JASON has deserted his wife Medea for the daughter of Creon, King of Corinth, who cannot rest until the Colchian witch is out of his dominions. An old nurse tells a servant of Jason of Medea's sad condition, and her apprehension for the two children, whom she begs may not be brought near their sorrow-frenzied mother, for she fears her wrath will not abate until it has swooped upon some prey. Medea's voice is heard within, exclaiming, —
• Cursed sons Of a loathed mother, die, ye and
sire, And let all our house wane away.
The Chorus of Corinthian women comment on her wild and whirling words; and again is heard the plaint of the indignant princess. The Chorus sympathise, and Medea comes forth, expatiating on the hardship of being a woman, and the few prizes and many blanks in the lottery of marriage. She entreats them to keep her counsel if she should reveal her secret purpose, which they promise to do, admitting her right to avenge herself on her husband, Creon now enters and bids her not linger to quit his realm with her two sons. Speaking aside, she says,
My enemies crowd on all sail,
And there is now no haven from despair ; ' but she kneels to the king, and obtains his consent to delay her departure till the morrow. Then she confides to the Chorus her intention that. The Father, and the girl, and he my husband' shall perish by dagger or drug ere sunset, vowing that none shall wring her heart and still be glad. After an intervening Chorus, Jason enters and assures her he has done his best to avert her banishment, and offers a handsome provision for herself and children. Medea turns upon him with a recapitulation of the services she has rendered him, and scornfully rejects his pretended sympathy. Still he calls the gods to witness his desire to serve her, but she bids him begone to his new bride, and warns him that