Thus invited to speak, one of them replied, “King of Persia, some years ago our people killed two of your father’s messengers. It was wrong to touch an ambassador, we know. You are about to visit our country to seek revenge for this crime. Desist, O king! for we have come hither, my friend and I, to offer our lives in exchange for those our people have taken. Here we are! Do with us as you will.”
Xerxes was filled with admiration when he heard this speech, and saw the handsome youths standing quietly before him, ready to die to atone for their country’s wrong. Instead of accepting their offer, he loaded them with rich gifts, and sent them home unharmed, telling them he would not injure the innocent, for he was more just than the Lacedaemonians.
But a few months later, when his preparations were complete, Xerxes set out with an army which is said to have numbered more than two million fighting men. As they were attended by slaves and servants of all kinds, some of the old historians say that ten millions of human beings were included in this mighty host.