Monday, April 23, 2018

First Paragraph

The date is 480 B.C.E. The place is Abydos, the town on the Asian side of the Hellespont where it narrows to just over a mile in width. The scene is worthy of Hollywood in its heyday. Xerxes, Persia's King of Kings, ascends a throne on a promontory from which he can see armies assembled, the historian Herodotus tells us, of over a million and a half men. Had the number been only a tenth of that, as is more likely, it would still have approximated the size of Eisenhower's forces on D-Day in 1944. The Hellespont has no bridge now, but Xerxes had two then: one rested on 360 boats lashed together, the other on 314, both curved to accommodate winds and currents. For after an earlier bridge had broken apart in a storm, the furious king beheaded the builders and ordered the waters themselves whipped and branded. Somewhere on the bottom there presumably lie, to this day, the iron fetters he had thrown in for good measure.

- From On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis

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