The fleets soon came face to face; and Xerxes took up his post on a mountain, where he sat in state upon a hastily built throne to see his vessels destroy the enemy. He had made very clever plans, and, as his fleet was far larger than that of the Greeks, he had no doubt that he would succeed in defeating them.
His plans, however, had been found out by Aristides, who was in the Island of Aegina; and this noble man rowed over to the fleet, at the risk of being caught by the enemy, to warn his fellow citizens of their danger.
He first spoke to Themistocles, saying, “Rivals we have always been; let us now set all other rivalry aside, and only strive which can best serve his native country.”
Themistocles agreed to this proposal, and managed affairs so wisely and bravely that the Greeks won a great victory. When they came home in triumph with much spoil, the women received them with cries of joy, and strewed flowers under their feet.
From his high position, Xerxes saw his fleet cut to pieces; and he was so discouraged by this check, that he hastened back to Persia, leaving his brother-in-law Mardonius with an army of three hundred thousand men to finish the conquest of Greece.
The Greeks were so happy over their naval victory at Salamis, that they all flew to arms once more; and Pausanias, the Spartan king, the successor of Leonidas, was soon able to lead a large army against Mardonius.
The two forces met at Plataea, and again the Greeks won, although fighting against foes who greatly outnumbered them. Strange to relate, while Pausanias was winning one battle at Plataea, the other Spartan king, Eurybiades, defeated a new Persian fleet at Mycale.
These two victories finished the rout of the greatest army ever seen. Mardonius fled with the remnant of his host, leaving his tents, baggage, and slaves to the Greeks, who thus got much booty.
We are told that the Spartans, entering the Persian camp, were greatly amazed at the luxury of the tents. Pausanias stopped in the one that had been occupied by Mardonius, and bade the slaves prepare a meal such as they had been wont to lay before their master.
Then, calling his own Helots, he gave orders for his usual supper. When both meals were ready, they made the greatest contrast. The Persian tent was all decked with costly hangings, the table was spread with many kinds of rich food served in dishes of solid gold, and soft couches were spread for the guests.
The Spartan supper, on the contrary, was of the plainest description, and was served in ordinary earthenware. Pausanias called his officers and men, and, after pointing out the difference between the Spartan and the Persian style of living, he showed how much he liked plain food by eating his usual supper.
To reward Pausanias for his bravery and for defeating the enemy, the Greeks gave him a part of all that was best in the spoil. Next they set aside one tenth of it for Apollo, and sent it to his priests at Delphi as a token of gratitude for the favor of the god.