Literature Study GuidesHistoriesBook 8 The Aftermath And The Macedonians Summary

Histories | Study Guide

Herodotus

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Histories | Book 8, The Aftermath and the Macedonians | Summary

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Summary

Xerxes, chastened by defeat, begins a retreat. He orders a causeway to be built heading toward Salamis, but this is a ruse to cover his escape. Mardonius decides that he is likely to be blamed for urging the expedition in the first place. As a result, he convinces Xerxes to let him stay behind with an army in Macedonia to either achieve victory or grant himself a glorious death. Xerxes asks Artemisia what she thinks of the plan, and she concludes that it is a good idea to retreat and leave Mardonius behind.

The Greeks, at Eurybiades's command, decide not to pursue the fleeing Persians. Themistocles, realizing his fleet is a major asset, begins to try to blackmail rival islands, threatening them with blockade if they don't pay up. Themistocles is further hurt when the gathered Greeks do not grant him the accolades he feels he deserves for the victory at Salamis. He receives a much warmer welcome in Sparta.

Mardonius sends Alexander of Macedon to Athens as an envoy. He aims to win the Athenians over to the Persian cause, for he sees that there can be no victory while the Athenian navy opposes them. The Athenians know that the Spartans will learn of Alexander's visit and probably draw conclusions about Athenian trustworthiness. Therefore, the Athenians make sure that Spartan envoys are present to see the Athenians refuse Alexander's offers. After Alexander's offer of peace, the Spartans are annoyed by Alexander's words. They point out that the Persian war has become a war for the liberty of all Greece. The Athenians very publicly and pointedly refuse Alexander's offer.

Analysis

Xerxes's retreat is a sensible strategic move, as is the decision to leave an army under Mardonius in the country over the winter. In reality, it was not likely that Mardonius sought a glorious death.

Themistocles was famous in his day for his self-regard. His use of the Athenian fleet to extort rival cities shows that arrogance and the lust for power is something few can resist.

Herodotus deals in some detail with the Macedonians, the Greeks' northern neighbors. Alexander of Macedon should not be mistaken for Alexander the Great (356–23 BCE), who lived a century after Herodotus died. The episode of Alexander of Macedon and the peace offer shows the delicate and high-stakes diplomacy of the era. The Athenians play the situation well, but the trap Mardonius sets is a clever one.

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