from Aftermath: Battle of Plataea (Out of Herodotus)

by A.E. Stallings

The Generals

After the blood-brimmed field, we were amazed to stride into those empty
silken tents – bright tapestries, wrought silver ornaments, the furnishings of
solid gold. Eyes glazed at all the untold booty: gods be praised! Our king bid
foreign cooks spare no expense to make the meal our foes would eat, prepare
their pastries, spices, wine. Such slowly-braised flesh melting off the bone!
Such colours, scents! Our king laughed as he laid out on the cloth, beside the
feast, our ration of black broth: “Behold! They came to rob us of our fare!” We
also laughed, though fed up with that food, the soldier’s mess, the black broth
of blood.


The Concubines

We heard the Greeks had won. At once I went and decked myself with every
bracelet, ring, gold necklace that I owned, and rouged my cheeks, and hastily
had my maids arrange my hair. The other concubines slumped in despair; but
I’d been snatched from Kos; my people, Greeks! Dressed in white robes of silk,
we fled the tent, and drove through corpses, far as the eye could see, until I saw
Pausanias, the king. I stepped with golden sandals through the gore, the lady
that I was, and not the whore, and knelt, a supplicant, Please set me free. The
roar of blood like silence in my ear, until: Lady, arise, be of good cheer.”
Lampon the Aeginite

“Your glory after this victory is sealed,” I told Pausanias to please him,
“Now crown it with revenge for Leonidas beheaded at Thermopylae. Remember the
restitution that Xerxes denied us, and how he said Mardonius would pay it?
Well, here is the cadaver – you just say it – and we’ll impale Mardonius’s head.”
He stood in silence as his face went sombre. “Stranger,” he addressed me, “On
this field the crime was well avenged.” As for that corpse, who knows what
happened to it? There are versions – the truth is not so straight it never warps.
Someone interred it – so I’ve heard it said – and reaped a handsome bounty
from the Persians.