Hippias was led by one of the officers of the king’s household past all the guards, who respectfully made way for him, and was brought into the most magnificent dwelling he had ever seen. All the walls were covered with silken hangings of the richest dyes, and the furniture sparkled with gold and precious stones.
After passing through many rooms, where he saw richly dressed courtiers, and guards with jeweled weapons, Hippias was finally brought into a great audience chamber, at one end of which hung a heavy curtain of royal purple.
Here all the courtiers knelt, bending over to touch the floor with their foreheads, in token of homage to The Great King. The officer now bade Hippias do likewise; and when the Athenian raised his head, after reluctantly going through this performance, he saw that the curtain had been quietly pulled aside.
On a beautiful throne of ivory and gold, all overshadowed by a golden vine bearing clusters of jeweled grapes, sat the Persian king. He was clad in superbly embroidered robes, wore a diamond crown or tiara, held a scepter of pure gold, and was surrounded by his officers, who were almost as richly dressed as he.
As the Athenians were plain people, Hippias had never seen such a sight before, and stared at the garments, which were far handsomer than those which the Greek gods were given to wear.
Invited to speak freely and make his errand known, Hippias now told Darius that he had come to ask his aid against the revolted Athenians. Darius listened politely to all he had to say, and then sent him away, graciously promising to think the matter over, and giving orders that Hippias should be royally entertained in the mean while.
Among Darius’ numerous slaves, most of whom were captives of war, there was a learned Greek doctor called Democedes. This man, hoping soon to recover his freedom by paying a sum of money, was very careful to hide his name, and not to tell any one how much he knew.
It happened, however, that the king hurt his foot; and after the Persian doctors had all vainly tried to cure him, he sent for Democedes, saying that he would put him to death if he did not speedily help him.
Thus forced to use his knowledge, Democedes did all he could for the king, and treated the wound so skillfully that the monarch was soon cured. The king, who had found out from the other captives that the man was a doctor, now named him court physician, and even had him attend his wives.
One of these women was Atossa, the favorite queen; and when she became ill, Democedes was fortunate enough to save her life. The king was so delighted with this cure, that he bade Democedes choose any reward he pleased except his freedom.
Democedes, after a few moments’ thought, asked permission to visit his native land once more; and Darius let him go under the escort of fifteen officers, who had orders not to lose sight of the doctor for a moment, to bring him back by force if necessary, and to spy out the land.