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Xerxes Scourges the Hellespont : The Persian King felt that a lord of his majesty should not have to take any nonsense from an overgrown river.
Xerxes Scourges the Hellespont

From ‘The Histories’ Book VII.33.1 by Herodotus, translated by A. D. Godley.

In 483 BC, the Persian King Xerxes (r. 486-465 BC) rallied himself for a second attempted conquest of Greece after the disappointment of Marathon. He planned his route meticulously, throwing two bridges across the Hellespont, the narrow stretch of water between the mainland of Asia Minor and the Gallipoli peninsula in what is now Turkey.

A map of Greece and Asia Minor, showing the location of Xerxes’s bridge over the Hellespont.

MEANWHILE, his men were bridging the Hellespont from Asia to Europe. But no sooner had the strait been bridged than a great storm swept down, breaking and scattering everything.

When Xerxes heard of this, he was very angry and commanded that the Hellespont be whipped with three hundred lashes, and a pair of fetters be thrown into the sea.

I have even heard that he sent branders with them to brand the Hellespont.

He commanded them while they whipped to utter words outlandish and presumptuous, “Bitter water, our master thus punishes you, because you did him wrong though he had done you none.

“Xerxes the king will pass over you, whether you want it or not; in accordance with justice no one offers you sacrifice, for you are a turbid and briny river.”

He commanded that the sea receive these punishments and that the overseers of the bridge over the Hellespont be beheaded.

From ‘The Histories’Book VII.33.1 by Herodotus, translated by A. D. Godley.

For a sharply contrasting tale from English history, see Turning the Tide.

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Classical History (25) Greek History (25) History (405)

Picture: © Jorge Láscar, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
This jetty pokes out into the Hellespont, looking east towards the Gallipoli peninsula on the left (in Europe) and the mainland of Turkey on the right (in Asia). It was at that narrow point in the distance that Xerxes attempted to build his pontoon bridges.

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