Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | May 7, 2017

What Would Winston Churchill Do? (Chapter 3)

DELPHIC DREAMS 

Today there are more than 500 historically recorded Delphic Oracular statements which have survived the scourge of time, and the loss of oral traditions, and have come down to us from various historical and anecdotal sources — and they are all referring to the Oracle’s vast prophetic wisdom and it’s power to precipitate events that it decreed. Many of these Oracular statements, are apocryphal and anecdotal, and thus they have survived as proverbs and axioms for Life to this day. Several others are ambiguously phrased, and have survived as riddles — apparently given to ‘Questors’ in order to show the Oracle in a good light; regardless of the specific outcome of the ‘Quest’ and the associated course of Action undertaken by the Leader.
Such Oracular Prophecies were admired for their dexterity of phrasing and unorthodox syntax and grammar — but they are admired to this day as turns of phrase and Winston Churchill studied all of these, and learned from them to deliver his own famous turns of phrase and ‘double entendres.’

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Many times young Winston Churchill called himself “The Oracle” because he was able to see things and events that other men — mere mortals — could not have foreseen through their own mental capacities unaided by Winston’s glorious intellect and intuitive resourceful mind. Winston Churchill always loved the Oracle’s best known riddles such as the one that led the young prince to war, and back… or not; through a famous prediction that was built into the ‘double entendre.’

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This famous prediction was the answer to this hitherto unknown prince, whose Guardian was inquiring as to whether it would be safe for him to join a military campaign? The answer was: “Go, return not die in war” which can have two entirely opposite meanings, depending on where a missing comma is supposed to be – before or after the word “not.” Nevertheless, the Oracle seems consistent in its long practice, to have generally advocated peaceful, and not violent courses of conduct for the Leaders who were asking for its divination, about their course of Action.

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The following list presents some of the most prominent and historically significant prophecies of the Delphic Oracle, from the earlier historical period to the time the Christians destroyed it in a fit of Religious Exuberance.

The early period of the Oracle of Delphi, is measured in a Thousand years timeline, even before the time of Lycurgus the lawgiver.

Circa after 800 BC
Time of Lycurgus 800 – 730 BC
Some early oracular statements from Delphi may have been delivered to Lycurgus, the legendary Spartan lawgiver (8th century BC). According to the report by Herodotus (Histories), Lycurgus visited and consulted the oracle before he applied his new laws to Sparta. Lycurgus, a man of great reputation among the Spartans, went to the oracle at Delphi. As soon as he entered the hall, the priestess said in hexameter: ‘You have come to my rich temple, Lycurgus,/ A man dear to Zeus and to all who have Olympian homes./ I am in doubt whether to pronounce you man or god,/ But I think rather you are a god, Lycurgus.’

Some say that the Pythia also declared to him the constitution that now exists at Sparta, but the Lacedaemonians themselves say that Lycurgus brought it from Crete when he was guardian of his nephew Leobetes, the Spartan king.
Lycurgus built a constitution for the Spartans that combined features of a republican monarchy with two annually elected kings, a free population that owned equal shares of land, all applied through the elements of an electoral democracy.
Both Xenophon and Plutarch also attribute to Lycurgus the introduction of a very cumbersome coinage made from iron (in order to prevent attachment to wealth). In the account of Plutarch and Diodorus, this was also based on an oracular statement: ‘Love of money and nothing else will ruin Sparta.’
The supposed oracular statement in retrospect was interpreted as being fulfilled as the gold and silver Spartan soldiers sent home after the Peloponnesian War were to prove to be Sparta’s undoing, according to Plutarch.

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Circa 630 BC
In 630 BC, the king of the island of Thera went to Delphi to offer a gift on behalf of his native city, and was told by the oracle: ‘He should found a city in Libya.’
Because the King did not know where Libya was, he did nothing. Later it did not rain on Thera for a considerable period, and to find out what could be done, the Therans again approached the Oracle. The Pythia had this to say: ‘If they … would make a settlement at Cyrene in Libya, things would go better with them.’
To relieve the pressure from the drought, and following the advice of the Oracle of Delphi, the Therans sought advice from the Cretans as to where Libya was, and a colony of Thera was established at Platea. But bad luck still followed them for another two years, so they visited the oracle a third time.
The Pythia said: ‘Know you better than I, fair Libya abounding in fleeces? Better the stranger than he who has trod it? Oh! Clever Therans!’
The Therans sought advice from the local Libyans who gave them a new site, and the colony prospered.

Circa 595 BC
In 595 BC, the affairs of the Oracle were felt too important to be left to the Delphians alone, and the sanctity of the site came to be protected by the Amphictyonic League, a league of 12 cities in existence since 1100 BC. The league had been named after Amphictyon of Thermopylae, brother of ‘Ellen’ the first Greek (non-Pelasgian) King of Athens. In that year, nearby Kirra levied a toll on pilgrims, which ushered in the First Sacred War. After 5 years of struggle, the Oracle decreed that the site of Kirra be left fallow, sacred to Apollo. This ushered in a period of great prosperity.

Circa 594 BC
In 594 BC, Solon, the Athenian lawgiver, seeking to capture the island of Salamis from Megara and Cirrha was told by the Delphic Oracle:
‘First sacrifice to the warriors who once had their home in this island;
Whom now the rolling plain of fair Asopia covers;
Laid in the tombs of heroes with their faces turned to the sunset.’
Solon did this, and taking as volunteers 500 young Athenians whose ancestors came from Salamis, was successful in capturing the island that was to prove so important in later Athenian history. Solon never ceased to support and give credit to the Oracle for its support in declaring the island was originally Ionian.
In framing his famous constitutional reforms for Athens, Solon again sought the advice of the Oracle who told him:‘Seat yourself now amidships, for you are the pilot of Athens. Grasp the helm fast in your hands; you have many allies in your city’.
As a result, Solon refused the opportunity to become a revolutionary tyrant, and created a constitution for which he, and Athens, were justly honoured. Through trial by jury, a graduated tax system and the forgiveness of debts he prevented a growing gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. But he refused to accept the confiscations of the property of the rich, so creating an Athenian middle class. He secured an Oath from the Athenian Council of Magistrates that if they violated these laws they would dedicate a gold statue to the Oracle of Delphi of equal weight to themselves.

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Circa 560 BC
In 560 BC, Croesus of Lydia, in a trial of oracles, consulted all the famous oracles as to what he was doing on an appointed day. According to Herodotus, the oracle proclaimed:
‘οἶδα δ’ἐγὼ ψάμμου τ᾽ ἀριθμὸν καὶ μέτρα θαλάσσης, καὶ κωφοῦ συνίημι, καὶ οὐ φωνεῦντος ἀκούω. ὀδμή μ᾽ ἐς φρένας ἦλθε κραταιρίνοιο χελώνης ἑψομένης ἐν χαλκῷ ἅμ᾽ ἀρνείοισι κρέεσσιν, ᾗ χαλκὸς μὲν ὑπέστρωται, χαλκὸν δ᾽ ἐπιέσται.’ Translation: I count the grains of sand on the beach and measure the sea; I understand the speech of the dumb and hear the voiceless. The smell has come to my sense of a hard shelled tortoise boiling and bubbling with a lamb’s flesh in a bronze pot: the cauldron underneath it is of bronze, and bronze is the lid.
Delphi was declared the winner. Croesus then asked if he should make war on the Persians and if he should take to himself any allied force. The oracles to whom he sent this question included those at Delphi and Thebes. Both oracles gave the same response, that if Croesus made war on the Persians, he would destroy a mighty empire. They further advised him to seek out the most powerful Greek peoples and make alliance with them.

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Croesus paid a high fee to the Delphians and then sent to the oracle asking “Would his monarchy last long?” The Pythia answered: ‘ἀλλ᾽ ὅταν ἡμίονος βασιλεὺς Μήδοισι γένηται, καὶ τότε, Λυδὲ ποδαβρέ, πολυψήφιδα παρ᾽ Ἕρμον φεύγειν μηδὲ μένειν μηδ᾽ αἰδεῖσθαι κακὸς εἶναι.’ Translation: Whenever a mule shall become sovereign king of the Medians, then, Lydian Delicate-Foot, flee by the stone-strewn Hermus, flee, and think not to stand fast, nor shame to be chicken-hearted.
Croesus thought it impossible that a mule should be king of the Medes and thus believed that he and his issue would never be out of power. He thus decided to make common cause with certain Greek city states and attack Persia.
However, it was he, not the Persians, who was defeated, fulfilling the prophecy but not his interpretation of it. He apparently forgot that Cyrus, the victor, was half Mede (by his mother), half Persian (by his father) and therefore could be considered a mule.
In Bacchylides’ ode, composed for King Hiero of Syracuse, who won the chariot race at Olympia in 468, Croesus with his wife and family mounted the funeral pyre, but before the flames could envelop the king, he was snatched up by Apollo and spirited away to the Hyperboreans. Herodotus’ version includes Apollo in more “realistic” mode: Cyrus, repenting of the immolation of Croesus, could not put out the flames until Apollo intervened.
Circa 550 BC
In 550 BC, In his biography of Pythagoras in his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laërtius (3rd century AD) cites the statement of Aristoxenus (4th century BC) that Themistoclea taught Pythagoras his moral doctrines: ‘Aristoxenus says that Pythagoras got most of his moral doctrines from the Delphic priestess Themistoclea.’
Porphyry (233-305 AD) calls her Aristoclea (Aristokleia), although there is little doubt that he is referring to the same person. Porphyry repeats the claim that she was the teacher of Pythagoras: ‘He (Pythagoras) taught much else, which he claimed to have learned from Aristoclea at Delphi.’
Circa 525 BC
In 525 BC, Herodotus states that during the time of the founding of the Siphnian Treasury, the Siphnians were told: “… When the Prytanies’ seat shines white in the island of Siphnos, White-browed all the forum – need then of a true seer’s wisdom – Danger will threat from a wooden boat, and a herald in scarlet …
Classical Period
Circa 480 BC
In 480 BC, when Xerxes, the son of Darius the Great of Persia, returned to finish the job of conquering the Greeks in which his father had failed, the Athenians consulted the oracle. They were told: ‘Now your statues are standing and pouring sweat. They shiver with dread. The black blood drips from the highest rooftops. They have seen the necessity of evil. Get out, get out of my sanctum and drown your spirits in woe.’
It was unambiguous. When persuaded to seek advice a second time, the oracle gave a way for the Athenians to escape their doom. When Athena approached her father to help her city, Zeus responded that he would grant that ‘a wall of wood alone shall be uncaptured, a boon to you and your children.’
The Delphic Oracle, again advised the Athenians to flee: ‘Await not in quiet the coming of the horses, the marching feet, the armed host upon the land. Slip away. Turn your back. You will meet in battle anyway. O holy Salamis, you will be the death of many a woman’s son between the seedtime and the harvest of the grain.’
Meanwhile, the Spartans also consulted the Oracle at Delphi and were told: ‘The strength of bulls or lions cannot stop the foe. No, he will not leave off, I say, until he tears the city or the king limb from limb.’

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or in a version according to Herodotus: ‘Hear your fate, O dwellers in Sparta of the wide spaces; Either your famed, great town must be sacked by Perseus’ sons; Or, if that be not, the whole land of Lacedaemon; Shall mourn the death of a king of the house of Heracles; For not the strength of lions or of bulls shall hold him; Strength against strength; for he has the power of Zeus; And will not be checked until one of these two he has consumed.’
The Spartans withdrew in consternation, wondering which fate was worse. The Delphians themselves then asked how Persia could be defeated. The Delphi Oracle replied: ‘Pray to the Winds. They will prove to be mighty allies of Greece.’

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Events overtook the prophecy when the Persian army assaulted Thermopylae, where a Spartan-led coalition popularly called the “300” after the number of Spartans made their last stand and were killed to the last man. The Spartans fought bravely under King Leonidas (The Lion) and resisted the Persian advance at Thermopylae until they were betrayed by treachery; and the Persians had them surrounded, and after a brief siege, attacked their flank and front at the same time while raining down a veritable sheet of rain made up of arrows, against them from up above. Refusing to retreat, the entire Spartan contingent, including their King (as foretold), lost their lives, but in so doing they gave time to the Athenians and the Spartans to prepare for pitched battle and they themselves earned immortal fame for the ages. The killing, the dismemberment, and the impalment of Leonidas head, and its exhibition by the Persians, aroused the anger of all the Greeks who at long last came solidly together to fight the Persian host.

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It was then that the vast Persian armada sailed to nearby Cape Artemisium, where they were met by the waiting Athenian fleet. The Athenian ships fought against great odds, but in three successive battles managed to hold their own, against the numerically far superior enemy.
It was then that a tremendous storm arose at Artemisium, with the most violent winds attacking the ships for three days. The Persians were exposed to the fierce winds and were heavily buffeted. They lost about 20% of their warships, and perhaps the same number of transport vessels, due to the storm. The stormy winds and the huge waves did not harm the Athenian ships, because they were strategically protected by the wind shadow of the nearby landmass, as well by knowing the topography, and the geography of their weather systems. Further, the Athenian expertise at coastal moorage assisted them in keeping their battle formation.

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Back in Athens Themistocles argued that the meaning of the Delphic Oracle’s prophesy that the city of Athens will be protected by a ‘wall of wood’ referred to the Athenian navy, and thus he persuaded the Athenians to pursue their policy of using all their wealth from the Attic silver mines at Laurium to continue building and outfitting their naval battle fleet. When Themistocles chose Salamis as the place of battle on the basis that the Delphic Oracle referred to the nearby island of Salamis as “holy”, he claimed that those slain would be Greece’s enemies, not the Athenians, because if it were otherwise, the Oracle would have said “O cruel Salamis.” Thankfully his stentorian voice carried the day at the assembly, and all of the population of Athens was evacuated to Salamis. As history was writ large that day — the Salamis naval battle took place and in a swift yet decisive action, the Athenian fleet lured the Persians into the narrows, and rammed the heavy and difficult to maneuver Persian ships, sinking the whole lot of them in the narrow straits. That’s how Themistocles  and the Athenian fleet carried the day, and completely destroyed the Persian fleet at the straits of Salamis. Despite the fact that Athens was burned and destroyed by the Persians, her citizens were saved, the Persian threat of invasion ended for good, and the Athenians returned to recoup and rebuild their city, thus ushering a new age.

Themistocles fame, and especially the glory and the authority of the Oracle were never higher.

This is how History captures the Battle of Salamis: The Battle of Salamis was a naval battle between the Greek city-states and Persia, fought in September, 480 BC in the straits between Piraeus and Salamis, a small island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens, Greece. The Athenians had fled to Salamis after the Battle of Thermopylae in August, 480 BC, while the Persians occupied and burned their city. The Greek fleet joined them there in August after the indecisive Battle of Artemisium. The Spartans wanted to return to the Peloponnese, seal off the Isthmus of Corinth with a wall, and prevent the Persians from defeating them on land, but the Athenian commander Themistocles persuaded them to remain at Salamis, arguing that a wall across the Isthmus was pointless as long as the Persian army could be transported and supplied by the Persian navy. His argument depended on a particular interpretation of the oracle at Delphi, which, in typical Delphic ambiguity, prophesized that Salamis would “bring death to women’s sons,” but also that the Greeks would be saved by a “wooden wall”. Themistocles interpreted the wooden wall as the fleet of ships, and argued that Salamis would bring death to the Persians, not the Greeks. Furthermore some Athenians who chose not to flee Athens, interpreted the prophecy literally, barricaded the entrance to the Acropolis with a wooden wall, and fenced themselves in. The wooden wall was overrun, they were all killed, and the Acropolis was burned down by the Persians.

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The Greeks had 371 triremes, and pentekonters (smaller fifty-oared ships), effectively under Themistocles, but nominally led by the Spartan Eurybiades. The Spartans had very few ships to contribute, but they regarded themselves the natural leaders of any joint Greek military expedition, and always insisted that the Spartan general would be given command on such occasions. There were 180 ships from Athens, 40 from Corinth, 30 from Aegina, 20 from Chalcis, 20 from Megara, 16 from Sparta, 15 from Sicyon, 10 from Epidaurus, 7 from Eretria, 7 from Ambracia, 5 from Troizen, 4 from Naxos, 3 from Leucas, 3 from Hermione, 2 from Styra, 2 from Cythnus, 2 from Ceos, 2 from Melos, one from Siphnus, one from Seriphus, and one from Croton.
The much larger Persian fleet consisted of 1207 ships, although their original invasion force consisted of many more ships that had since been lost due to storms in the Aegean Sea and at Artemisium. The Persians, led by Xerxes, decided to meet the Athenian fleet off the coast of Salamis Island, and were so confident of their victory that Xerxes set up a throne on the shore, on the slopes of Mount Aegaleus, to watch the battle in style and record the names of commanders who performed particularly well.
Eurybiades and the Spartans continued to argue with Themistocles about the necessity of fighting at Salamis. They still wanted to fight the battle closer to Corinth, so that they could retreat to the mainland in case of a defeat, or withdraw completely and let the Persians attack them by land. Themistocles argued in favor of fighting at Salamis, as the Persian fleet would be able to continually supply their army no matter how many defensive walls Eurybiades built. At one point during the debate, spirits flared so badly that Eurybiades raised his staff of office and threatened to strike Themistocles with it. Themistocles responded calmly “Strike, but also listen”. His eloquence was matched by his cunning. Afraid that he would be overruled by Eurybiades despite the Spartan’s total lack of naval expertise, Themistocles sent an informer, a slave named Sicinnus, to Xerxes to make the Persian king believe that the Greeks had in fact not been able to agree on a location for battle, and would be stealthily retreating during the night. Xerxes believed Sicinnus and had his fleet blockade the western outlet of the straits, which also served to block any Greek ships who might be planning to escape. Sicinnus was later rewarded with emancipation and Greek citizenship.

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Artemisia, the queen of Halicarnassus in Asia Minor and an ally of Xerxes, supposedly tried to convince him to wait for the Greeks to surrender, as a battle in the straits of Salamis would be deadly to the large Persian ships, but Xerxes and his chief advisor Mardonius pressed for an attack.

Throughout the night the Persian ships searched the gulf for the Greek retreat, while in fact the Greeks remained on their ships, asleep. During the night Aristides, formerly a political opponent of Themistocles, arrived to report that Themistocles’ plan had worked, and he allied with the Athenian commander to strengthen the Greek force.

The battle unfolded as follows: The next morning (possibly September 28, but the exact date is unknown), the Persians were exhausted from searching for the Greeks all night, but they sailed in to the straits anyway to attack the Greek fleet.

The Corinthian ships under Adeimantus immediately retreated, drawing the Persians further into the straits after them; although the Athenians later felt this was due to cowardice, the Corinthians had most likely been instructed to feign a retreat by Themistocles.

Nevertheless none of the other Greek ships dared to attack, until one Greek trireme quickly rammed the lead Persian ship. At this, the rest of the Greeks joined the attack. The Greek ship T-boned the Persian ship which sunk immediately with complete loss of of crew and oarsmen who were tied to their oar station as slaves with chains. That is the pivotal difference between the Persians being vassals to their King,a and the Greeks fighting as free people and volunteer warriors, like all of the Greek oarsmen and the mariners and their men of war.

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And again we see here in Salmis that same as at the battle of Artemisium, the much larger Persian fleet made up of gigantic and almost titanic sized boats, could not manoeuvre in the straits or in the narrows of the gulf of Salamis, whereas the smaller contingent of Athenian and Aeginan triremes flanked the Persian navy and T-boned many of their ships. The Persians tried to turn back, but a strong wind sprang up and trapped them; while those that were able to turn around, were also trapped by the rest of the Persian fleet that had jammed the strait. The Greek and Persian ships rammed each other and something similar to a land battle ensued. Both sides had marines on their ships, but the Greek ships were laden with fully armed hoplites, and their arrows and javelins started flying across the narrow strait. The chief Persian admiral Ariamenes rammed Themistocles’ ship, but in the hand-to-hand combat that followed Ariamenes was killed by a Greek foot soldier.
Only about 100 of the heavier Persian triremes could fit into the gulf at a time, and each successive wave was disabled or destroyed by the lighter Greek triremes. At least 200 Persian ships were sunk, including one by Artemisia, who apparently switched sides in the middle of the battle to avoid being captured and ransomed by the Athenians. Aristides also took another small contingent of ships and recaptured Psyttaleia, a nearby island that the Persians had occupied a few days earlier. It is said that it was the Immortals, the elite Persian Royal Guard, who during the battle had to evacuate to Psyttaleia after their ships sank: they were slaughtered to a man. According to Herodotus, the Persians suffered many more casualties than the Greeks because the Persians did not know how to swim. And indeed, one of the Persian casualties was one of the brothers of Xerxes. Those Persians who survived and ended up on shore were killed by the Greeks who found them there.
Xerxes, sitting ashore upon his golden throne, witnessed the horror.

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He remarked that Artemisia was the only general to show any productive bravery ramming and destroying nine Athenian triremes, saying, “My female general has become a man, and my male generals all become women.”
The victory of the Greeks marked the turning point in the Persian Wars. Xerxes and most of his army retreated to the Hellespont, where Xerxes wanted to march his army back over the bridge of ships he had created before the Greeks arrived to destroy it. Xerxes returned to Persia, leaving Mardonius and a small force to attempt to control the conquered areas of Greece. Mardonius recaptured Athens, but the Greek city-states joined together once more to fight him at the battles of Plataea on the Greek mainland and Mycale upon Ionia on the Asian minor side, both taking place at approximately the same time in 479 BC.

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Because the Battle of Salamis saved Greece from being absorbed into the Persian Empire, it essentially ensured the emergence of Western civilization as a major force in the world. Many historians have therefore ranked the Battle of Salamis as the most decisive military engagement of all time.

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We ought to recall that the earlier sea-battle of Artemisium, showed the strategic and tactical skills of Themistocles, and thus was crowned the Leader of the Greek opponents to the Persian million men host and their king, Xerxes.

Themistocles, is the Athenian statesman, general & admiral — who when placed in the proper historical context of the Greco-Persian Wars (490-479 BC), was known to have fought during the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) and historians have recorded that he was the Strategist behind the Thermopylae-Artemisium line of defense, having designed the two battles, one on land, one at sea, to be fought concurrently. By linking the two Strategic elements, he diverted the strength of the enemy and threatened the integrity of the Persian leadership that was resting one one man — the King Xerxes. Naturally this confused and distracted the enemy and thus the Persians won the land battle against the 300, but lost the sea battle because the Persian King could only focus on Thermopylae and neglected the other.  He lost the battle at sea, in Artemisium. It was a marginal loss, but not decisive enough to stop his fleet from continuing to be a massive threat and an aid to his vast army. The Persian king also saw the fleet as his ticket home, should things go completely pear-shaped in the battle field against those crazy Greeks. These were significant developments, that solidified the Leadership of Themistocles, because he had the foresight and the Strategic nous, to organize these military engagements in tandem and in succession, in order to divide the enemy’s forces and to win time, for the preparation of a United Greek Force, amongst all the City States, and their Allies. And this is the Themistoclean Strategy which prove to be integral to the success of the War, although many more battles were declared loses, rather than victories… We can see that playing out in the Churchillian Strategy in the first two years of the Second World War were he sustained an epidemic of terrible defeats and losses with enthusiasm keeping his eyes squarely focused on the long term Strategy of eventual success in prosecuting the War against the German NAZI armies and their fascist Allies.

With the Persian victory at Thermopylae (480 BC), the naval campaign at Artemisium was abandoned, and considered undecided after the Greeks left the area, having heard of the annihilation of Leonidas, with the remaining 300 Spartans, which had been preceded by the withdrawal of the rest of the Greek forces from the ‘Hot Gates’ of Thermopylae.

While Themistocles agitated and spoke brilliantly, and quite often, in the preceding years, to the annoyance of his compatriots, about the need of Athens for a strong Navy, and a Great Fleet to repel the long awaited Persian invasion — he was just as often berated at the Athenian Assembly by the pacifists and the peaceniks as a warmonger.

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For his troubles and for his insistence on a strong navy — Themistocles was removed as the First Admiral of the fleet, and yet later when the threat of the Persian invasion became the reality, and the Persian host started marching into Greece — he given the leadership again, charged to repel the invaders.

Does that remind you of the life of Winston Churchill?

Yet as history played out and validated Themistocles’ point of view, the Athenians came to recognize his genius, and indeed placed him at the helm of their defensive campaign and of their battle plans. And since he was the man responsible over the years for all naval preparations, for the expansion of the fighting fleet of the Athenian navy — which fought winningly at Artemisium — hence, he was never disputed as the Supreme Commander. Yet his fame was not fully secured until such time, that the vessels which survived the naval battle of Artemisium, sailed back to Athens, reconstituted themselves as a fighting fleet, practiced their battle plans daily, and waited in formation in the gulf of Salamis straits across from Eleusis. Soon enough the Persians sailed south, and found the Athenians waiting for them between Salamis and Eleusis. By using his servant as a double spy, Themistocles was able to send a message that convinced the Persian King that the Greeks were going to retreat. The Persian King reacted badly, fearing that he will miss his chance, for an easy victory, ordered his admirals to encircle the Greek fleet in the night and then attack in the morning.

Alas this was the Salamis straight in the Attic sea, and the Greeks knew it like their birthplace, ostensibly having salt water in their veins. Therefore being in their watery element they went on to fight like the God of the sea Poseidon and his warriors. The fact that they had practiced this maneuver many times before at this exact location, in the same way this battle formation was unfolding, while waiting to spring the trap for the Persian fleets, must have surely helped. At daybreak, it all went as planned and the Greek tactics worked well. The Persians simply put everything on the line and attacked with overwhelming force across the sea. Yet as soon as the Athenian battle ships were engaged by the Persian fleet, they contracted luring the Persian deeper in to the narrow straits, and then sprung upon them fighting like a cornered badger, or maybe a porcupine extending it’s needles, in a ramming rod formation.

They used their underwater horns, as battering rams that made large holes to the enemy’s hulls. The fact that they managed to sink the battered Persian vessels, one after another, and destroyed  systematically all the Persian ships that had encircled them, and then went after the remaining Persian fleet and that of the Persian allies — speaks volumes of the discipline and preparation they had beforehand. The Athenians fought exceedingly well that day under Themistocles, and this time, they totally destroyed the Persian fleet and that of all the Asiatics. This was less than three weeks after Artemisium, when the historic Battle of Salamis, took place and the Athenians completely routed the Persian fleet and sank almost 90% of her vessels. The carnage was such that Xerxes who was watching from atop Mt Hymetus saw the sea turning to red and cried in despair. Immediately he fled back to his country; to wither from depression, and he got assassinated by the chief of his royal guard and his eunuch, in a bid to replace his failed leadership with that of another more testosterone enhanced or at least optimistic Leader.

Today the battle of Salamis along with that of Marathon, are the only absolutely required primary case studies of Strategy and Tactics, in all the War colleges across the world today. From Westpoint and the War College of the United States, to Sandhurst of the United Kingdom, and all the way to the Russian Military Academy, and the Chinese People’s army — they all study these pivotal battles before anything else — as the best brain software for the education of their leading officer and the incoming class of Leaders of Men.

And even though, Themistocles leadership and his overall Strategy during the simultaneous land and sea battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium, was considered a brilliant yet strategic defeat — it gave the length of time necessary for the Greeks to prepare. And in preparations for the battle of Salamis further proof of his brilliance was that he used subterfuge to lure the enemy to engage in battle when he had chosen the terrain, the weather, the battle formation, and even the time of the engagement.

This of course led to a resounding victory for the Greeks, and that is when the high esteem in which Themistocles was regarded, came to be fully validated. And that is why the Spartans, anointed him as the Supreme Commander of all Greeks the eve of the battle of Salamis.

History has recognized Themistocles’ achievements in repelling the Persian invasion, which ultimately led to the ‘Golden Age of Greece’

This was the man Winston Churchill modeled himself after; when he served as the First Lord of the Admiralty, and he followed some of his strategies to the letter… but his obsession with the battle of Salamis had started years earlier when as a young child had a contoured map of the sea battle built into his bedroom with a real water feature where he would enact the sea battle of Salamis in real water with small sailing craft… And that is why when he was a parliamentarian, always agitated and spoke about the need for the best fleet the world had ever known…

Circa 440 BC
Circa 440 BC the Oracle is also said to have answered that there was no one wiser than Socrates, when it was asked the question of ‘Who is the wisest person amongst men?’ to which Socrates said that either all were equally ignorant, or that he was wiser in that he alone was aware of his own ignorance “what I do not know I do not think I know.” This claim is related to one of the most famous mottos of Delphi, which Socrates said he learned there, Gnothi Seauton (γνῶθι σεαυτόν): “know thyself”. Another famous motto of Delphi is Meden agan (μηδὲν ἄγαν): “nothing in excess” (literally, “nothing excessively”). Socrates was perhaps only about 30 years old at the time, and his ‘fame’ as a philosopher was yet to come…
One version of the claim stated that a friend of Socrates, Chaerephon, went before Pythia asking, “Is there any man alive wiser than Socrates?” The answer that he received was simply, “None.” Another version is: ‘Sophocles is wise, Euripides is wiser, but of all men Socrates is wisest.’

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Circa 431 BC
In 431 BC, At the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War the Spartans send a delegation to Delphi inquire whether it would be wise to go to war against Athens. According to Thucydides, “It is said that the god replied that if they fought with all their might, victory would be theirs, and that he himself would be on their side, whether they invoked him or not.”
Circa 403 BC
In 403 BC, Lysander, the Spartan victor of the Peloponnesian War was warned to beware: ‘Also the dragon (serpent), earthborn, in craftiness coming behind thee.’
He was slain from behind in 395 BC by Neachorus, who had a serpent painted upon his shield.

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Circa 401 BC
In 401 BC, Sparta was warned: ‘Sure though thy feet, proud Sparta, have a care; A lame king’s reign may see thee trip — Beware!; Troubles unlooked for long shall vex thy shore; And rolling Time his tide of carnage pour.’
Agesilaus, the lame king of Sparta, who acceded to the Spartan throne at the time of Lysander, through attacking enemies in every quarter, lost control of the seas to the Persians who attacked Spartan coastal locations. In his obsession with Thebes, he incited the Thebans under Epaminondas to fight back. The Spartans were defeated for the first time by the Thebans in the battle of Leuctra in 371 BC; this led to the invasion of Sparta itself and its defeat at the battle of Mantinea in 362 BC.
In 359 BC, Philip II of Macedon consulted the Oracle and was told: ‘With silver spears you may conquer the world.’
The king then sought to control the silver mines in the neighbouring Thracian and Illyrian kingdom, and using them to bribe his way to early victories, playing one Greek state off against the others, and isolating his enemies by bribes to potential allies.
In 353 BC, a third Sacred War broke out when Thebes had placed a fine upon Phocis, and Phocis, to pay for the war, heavily taxed the people of nearby Delphi and seized the Treasury of Delphi. The Amphictyonic League led by Philip declared war against Phocis. Philip sought to unite all Greece with Macedon in the Amphictyonic League to attack Persia.

In 343 BC, Philip who had a most highly spirited thoroughbred black colt with a big head; a gelding sired from winners of the Olympic Games’ horse races. This was truly a wild horse that no one could take for a ride, and yet it was obviously the most beautiful yet wilful animal. Philip went so far as to ask the Oracle of Delphi ‘How to dispose of this Black Horse?’ and the Oracle answered thus: ‘Whoever could ride this horse — would conquer the World.’

Immediately Philip and all his racing men, and horse jockeys, tried; but despite the many attempts, neither Philip, nor any of his riders, even generals, or officers of the cavalry, could subdue and mount this wild black horse, let alone ride him. Philip gave up on the horse and left it outside the paddock for the wolves to attack and kill at night. Yet his son, Alexander, who at the time was 12 years old, was very observant, tenacious, and persistent, and by seeing the cause of the horse’s angst — he tried a stratagem. Alex turned the horse towards the sun, so he couldn’t see his shadow and thus avoid getting spooked.

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This is how Alexander succeeded to tame and ride this horse easily as he turned the face of the horse towards the sun and kept him there, because he realized that the horse was afraid of his own shadow, and was spooked by it. Alexander was the only person observant and smart enough, to figure this out, and Philip gave this horse now named ‘Bucephalus’ to Alexander, who made this beautiful horse, his constant riding companion and trained daily for battle. Eight long years later, he took this fighting steed, his war horse, on his campaigns against Persia and the whole of Asia, and his subsequent conquest of all the then known World.

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This is how the prophesy was fulfilled, as the Oracle had forecast many years earlier. This is also how Alexander earned for himself the title of ‘Alexander the GREAT’ the forger of Empires, and for his horse ‘Bucephalus’ the title of the best and most spirited fighting horse in history — Invictus.

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Young Winston Churchill who himself was a great lover of horses, and was a great horseman, riding ‘professionally’ as a junior officer and member of the Cavalry of the Queen’s Own Hussars — was  also as one of the best polo players of his time — made his mark for bravery at the battle of Omdurman with his own spirited white Charger flying at full speed against the enemy’s far greater numbers of cavalry who were hidden from view and ambushed Winston and his riding men.

That is the famous Battle of Omdurman where Winston Churchill as a second Lieutenant, fighting fiercely in the brave and numerically uneven conflict — he led the Cavalry Charge that turned upset the battle’s end. Winston indeed turned around the tables during this ambush and completely routed the enemy, in what was destined to be the last Major Cavalry Charge of the British Empire. And it was a winsome campaign at that. Winston Churchill of course fought with the South African Light Horse brigade as a Lieutenant, and also with the Oxfordshire Hussars again as a mounted Lieutenant, yet he also fought in the trenches and just about everywhere else. Yet he always said that ‘He Loved’ the feeling of leading a charge on a horse more than anything else in Life is what he confessed to his friends and subordinates in a rare form of exhibiting his enthusiastic leadership skills and courage during the heat of the Battle.

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Winston always loved Alexander the Great and in some measure made himself a comparison of achievements always feeling slighted by history when recalling that at 20 years of age Alexander set out to conquer the whole world — and sadly in Winston’s time such possibility for advancement did not exist for the ‘secret son’ of an Emperor as he knew himself to be.

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And he was even further piqued always thereafter, because Alexander had succeeded in defeating the greatest Empire of his day, by the age of 23, thus earning himself the title ‘Alexander the Great’ whereas Winston was barely known, let alone being ‘famous’ at that ripe early age in his time.

But that was soon to change…

Because at the age of 23 Winston Churchill himself fought bravely as Lieutenant in the British Army forces at the Mohmand campaign under General Jeffery, scouting and pacifying the Pashtun tribes in today’s Afghanistan. The 23 year old Winston Churchill in 1897, first attempted to travel to volunteer, report on, and fight in the Greco-Turkish War, on the side of the heroic Greeks — like another young Alexander — but this conflict effectively ended before he could see any fighting. His visions of earning Greek glory like that of Lord Byron’s were dashed. Yet just a few weeks later, while preparing for a leave in England, he heard that three brigades of the British Army were going to fight against a Pashtun tribe in the North West Frontier of India, and he asked his superior officer if he could join the fight. He was accepted and was chosen to serve with distinction in the Mohmand campaign of 1897–98, under the command of General Jeffery, the commander of the second brigade operating in Malakand, in the Frontier region of British India. General Jeffery sent Winston out with fifteen other scouts, to explore the Mamund Valley.This was the very place where Alexander had established his farthest Greek City in Asia as seen here in this British Museum video about the archeological treasures found there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9mBLNOr8rw
And this place can also be seen here in the upper farthest Eastern corner of what is the topographical map of Alexander the Great’s military campaigns, battlefields, and cities inaugurated during his Life and during his Empire’s expansionary period under his command:

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It was at this valley’s narrow point of the defile that Winston Churchill and the scouts, while on reconnaissance, they fell upon and ‘engaged’ an ‘entrenched’ enemy tribe that was firing at them. In turn they hastily dismounted from their horses and returned fire joining the skirmishers in battle. After an hour of much shooting, they called for reinforcements, and when their reinforcements, the 35th ‘Sikhs’ arrived; the firing gradually ceased, and the scouts, the Sikhs, and the brigade, marched on. However at the narrowing of the valley, many hundreds of tribesmen had lain waiting, and thus effectively ambushed the British force, when suddenly they opened fire, forcing Winston to take cover and his men to retreat. As it became evident that they had been led into the ambush with ill intent, and as they were hastily retreating, while taking tremendous volleys of bullet fire — four men who were carrying the injured Superior Officer of Winston, were forced to leave him behind, because of the fierceness of the fight. Suddenly, the superior ‘brother’ Officer of Winston who was left behind, was attacked as he lay on the floor of the valley unguarded and unarmed and was repeatedly slashed to death, and dismembered and beheaded, before Churchill’s eyes. Afterwards Winston wrote of the killer, “I forgot everything else at this moment except the desire to kill this man.”

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And this he surely did — by dispatching this undisciplined militant and vengeful tribal, who did not offer ‘quarter’ to a fallen and heavily injured man as military convention would dictate. In his turn Winston shot once and dispatched the militant Islamist, sending him back securely to whatever place he came from. He accomplished this in a humane way, with a well aimed bullet to the head, steadying his hand with a certain measure of accurate marksmanship and with the emotional detachment required for true aim; steeling his heart with plenty of modern day compassion, but also saving it with a sure aim and a courageous abandonment of self at the moment — totally untroubled by anger or clouded by fear, uncertainty, or doubt. He simply shot the bastard in the noggin… as Winston would later put it — when he gave his American speaking tour.
Of course, once that was done, he kept on fighting, and choosing targets aiming carefully for maximum effect on the heads; however, his ‘Sikh’ troops’ numbers were being depleted, so the next commanding officer asked the young lieutenant Winston Churchill to get the rest of the men and lead them to find the other brigade that was traveling nearby, alert them, and guide them back to the battle, so that they can join the fight.
However the ever mindful, cool-headed, and rather careful about protocol Winston — in the heat of the battle, and before he left; asked for an official Officer’s order-note commanding him to go away from the fight; so that nobody could even hint at him being derelict, or scared during the fight, or even worse deserting his fellow soldiers. Having an order note — he could never of course be accused by anyone ‘of turning yellow’ when smiling officers would be retelling the story of the battle during drinks at the Officers Club at any later time. The fact that he was thinking of these things in the midst of battle proves his coolness under fire. So he persisted and waited until he received the quickly written and signed Superior Officer order-note, and then collected his own men who were still alive, and swiftly headed uphill to first find, and then alert and summon, the other British brigade, whereupon they would unite and return to engage with the enemy. It was a fierce fight. And indeed they kept fighting in this narrow valley region for two weeks day and night — non stop. At times the firefight was so fierce, that it overheated their long rifles, and this contest of will — dragged on for a full two weeks before they beat back the militant Pathans far enough, so they could enter the ‘narrows’ in order to retrieve the bodies of their fallen comrades, that could still be found and recovered…

Winston Churchill then wrote in his journal: ‘Whether it was worth it — I cannot tell.’

However during the lull after the battle, at the end of the Mohmand campaign, he found the time to collect all his memories into notes, collate those into articles, and turn them over to a publisher. This he did so that he can pull together a book, because he wrote these articles for the newspapers ‘The Pioneer’ and ‘The Daily Telegraph’ and they were well received. After that he reckoned to recycle the articles into one long form. That’s how he came to write his first book — hoping to find his “voice” and a following of readers for himself. To accomplish this Winston Churchill drew on all of his vivid experiences and used his mighty pen, but the book rests upon the strength of the stories, and the expectation from the articles that he had earlier used for publication. These stark — just the facts — articles, he enhanced with detail contour and color. Book writing is different than journalism and you have much more space to expand. Brevity is not needed, nor the power of immediacy. Indeed, in order to pull together all of the memories, the notes, and the prevailing ‘mood’ of the story — one has to avoid writing in the journalistic style, but best focus in writing as an authoritative author. This is long form style writing, and to accomplish this Winnie, had to use all of his experiences as well as those of his fellow soldiers. Because the necessary original material is the resource, and the people’s stories constitute the ingredients, used in order to write his first book titled aptly: ‘The Story of the Malakand Field Force.’ This book was published the following year 1898 — a mere 7 months after the battle-weary brigade ended their campaign in the Northwest of India, in what is considered today’s Afghanistan.

Guided by the historical accounts of Alexander the Great and his campaigns when conquering the Parthian empire — Winston Churchill sought to write an equally epic story and he succeeded.

 

 

To be continued…


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