Ancient Greeks

The Dareios Vase, Persians with the king Dareios (Darius I of Persia), on the top Hellas (personification of Greece) with Zeus and Athena

Darius (inscribed) is seated on a splendid throne. Behind him stands one of his guards with sword drawn ready for execution ready advisedly, for the old man in the pointed cap and travelling boots, who stands in front of the king with uplifted warning finger, has come on a perilous journey. He is standing on the fatal golden plinth. Aelian tells us that if any one desired to give counsel to the Persian King on very secret and dubious matters, he must do so standing on a plinth of gold; if he was held to have given good advice, he took the plinth away with him as a reward ; but he was scourged all the same, because he had gainsaid the King ' . We are reminded of the warning of Artabanus ; the whole scene signifies that to Darius, as to Xerxes, warning was given, only to be disregarded.

The lowest tier contains a group designed to emphasize the wealth and splendour of the King who is going to his doom. The treasurer, holding his account-book, is receiving the tribute. One tributary pours his gold out on the table, another brings three golden cups, three more prostrate themselves in the oriental manner, abhorred of the Greek. In the uppermost tier is high Olympus, marked by two golden stars ; and here is played out the abstract, mythical counterpart of the human drama. To the right, Asia (inscribed) is seated on the altar basis of her national goddess, Aphrodite Ourania her who at Athens, as Pausanias tells us, was represented in ancient herm-shape, the 'Eldest of the Fates '. In front of Asia, beckoning her to ruin, is Apate ( her own incarnate passion, yet at the same time the minister of Zeus, who himself sits serene with thunderbolt and sceptre. Dress and action of Apate are alike significant. She wears the conventional costume of an Erinys short chiton with a beast's skin over it, and high hunter's boots ; she even has snakes in her hair. Her gesture shows that she is about to perform the ritual act proper to the declaration of war the act of throwing a burning torch between the combatants. Victory is for Greece; Nike, standing at the knee of Zeus, points to Hellas, on whom Athena lays a protecting hand. And since Marathon was fought on the sacred day of Artemis and Apollo, they too are present Apollo with his Delian swan, Artemis mounted on her stag.