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NICIAS

VAGrr

NICIAS
AND

THE

SICILIAN EXPEDITION

BY THE

Rev.

/$J.if%HURCH, M.A.

Formerly Professor of Latin

in

University College, London

LONDON

SEELEY AND

CO.

LIMITED

38 Great Russell Street


1899

PREFACE
The

ultimate,

it

might be

the only authority for

said,

the military and political facts given in this narrative,


is

These

Thucydides.

facts

have been admirably ex-

pounded and arranged by Grote,


terested in

whom

to

knowledge specially

accompany the
book

my

sixth
I

have to

volume of

his history.

have also had before

plan of Syracuse (executed

found

it

in

In writing

me Mr

relief),

Haver-

and have

very helpful.

A. C.
February 1899.

ac-

indebtedness to the maps which

field's

yd

in-

Greek history must be under obligations

which cannot be adequately expressed.

this little

everyone

CONTENTS
CHAP.
I.

Statesman

and Citizen,

PLAN
OF THE SIEGE
OF

SYRACUSE

AAA Original wall of the outer city.


BBB Wall built by the Syracusans in
CCC Investing wall built
D The Circular Fort.

autumn and winter of siege.


by the Athenians.

EEE Investing wall (unfinished) built

by the Athenians.
wall (i) built by the Syracusans.
the
by
Syracusans.
Forts protecting intercepting wall (2).
Naval Station of the Athenians.
Boom closing the mouth of the Great Harbour.

FFF Intercepting

GGG Intercepting wall (2) built

HHH

K-

NICIAS
AND THE SICILIAN EXPEDITION

CHAPTER

STATESMAN AND CITIZEN


Three men,' says Aristotle, as quoted byPlutarch in his Life of Nicias,
I rank
first
'

'

Thucydides, TheraTheramenes
below the other
put
two.'
That the philosopher should have mentioned Theramenes at all is incomprehensible.
We know him only as an unscrupulous oligarch,
who became on occasion an equally unscrupu-

among
menes

lous

patriots

but

Nicias,

democrat.

Thucydides, who must be


his
namesake and con-

from

distinguished
temporary the historian, was a respectable ?nd
consistent, but not very able, leader of the
aristocratic party in Athens,
in point of cleverness and

whose limitations

eloquence were

made

NIC/AS

more conspicuous by
the

as

shall

his
having to stand forth
of
Pericles.
opponent
Nicias, as we

had many

see,

qualities

that

made him

he would have
worthy of Aristotle's praise
added to them the distinction of a uniform
;

success

war, if an evil fortune, taking


of his weakness, had not
put into
hands a most formidable enterprise, one
in

occasion
his

which, we may well believe, no mortal man


could have carried out, and to which he certainly was not equal.
Nicias, son of Niceratus, came of one of
the noblest and wealthiest families in Athens.

We
it

know

was such

nothing of his descent, except that


as to rank him as an aristocrat of

the very bluest blood

of his wealth various

It was indeed so
particulars are given.
great
as
to make him one of the most famous

millionaires of Greece.

Athenasus, who is the


of
great gossip-monger
antiquity, singles him
out for mention together with the wealthiest

Romans.
from the

part at least of his income

silver

came
mines of Laurium, which the

State used to lease out to


private citizens for

long periods,

and,

doubtless,

on terms more

He

had so
profitable to them than to itself.
vast an army of slaves that after
providing for
his

own works he could supply

master miner

STATESMAN AND CITIZEN


in

Thrace

with a thousand

an obol apiece daily.

men

at a

charge of

At Athens it was a great thing for a statesman to be rich. Ways were open to him of
using his wealth in such a manner as to make
impression on his fellowcitizens, and that without laying himself open
to the charge of ostentation.
Among ourselves
a

very favourable

no one knows anything about the large cheque


which the wealthy noble or merchant pays over
The Athenian
to the collector of income-tax.
millionaire paid his income-tax in a manner which
could not but bring him under public notice.
In times of peace, he had to furnish the means

upon the stage at the great


to
festivals,
provide performers at the
public games, to entertain his tribe at the great
yearly feasts, and to equip the embassies which

for putting a play

dramatic

were

sent,

from time to time, to the sacred

island

There
of Delos, or to the oracle of Delphi.
would seldom be a year in which one or other
of these duties would not be imposed upon him.
In the course of time he would be called upon
1
Possibly at Amphipolis, which was near a rich
mining country, and belonged to Athens between the
years 437"4 2 42 An
obol was equivalent to five farthings, but five

would go much further in buying necessaries


than they would now.
farthings

NICIAS

to discharge them all.


But, of course, there
different ways of
discharging them.

would be

Some men, whose income brought them within


the class that was liable to these duties, would
be unable or unwilling to spend more than the

Some,
necessary sum.
be anxious to

would

on

the

other

hand,

do

everything in as
splendid a style as possible, and for such the reward of popular favour was immediate. It was
an expenditure which everyone
enjoyed, and for

which everyone was grateful. A still more imposing form of patriotic generosity could be displayed in times of war, for then the wealthier
were called upon to furnish a ship for

citizens

the public service, or, to put it more


exactly, to
what
the
State
supplement
supplied, this

being

the

bare

wages

ship,

the

necessary

equipment,

and

at the lowest rate. 1

Plutarch

has

given us an account of the


magnificence with which Nicias performed one
of these public services the sacred
embassy to

the shrine of the

and Artemis.

Twin

Deities of Delos, Apollo


Part of the ceremonial of the

It is mentioned as a
specially creditable act on the
part of a certain Cleinias, in the Persian war, that he paid
the whole cost of a ship.

This was on occasion of the greater festival, celebrated


every fourth, or, according to the Greek method of reckoning, every fifth year.

STATESMAN AND CITIZEN

to the Temple from the


day was the procession
a
chorus, brought for the purpose from
shore,
Athens, singing, as it marched, a hymn in
honour of the Twins. This might have been

an imposing spectacle, but its effect was greatly


marred by the confusion which prevailed. The
crowd of
always a disturbing element
spectators,

thronged round the landing-place


which the singers disembarked. These had to
don their robes and chaplets in the midst of the
in such scenes,

at

make

multitude, and to
crush, singing
Nicias,

when

their

way through

the

the while as best they could.


fell to his lot to conduct the

all
it

He
better.
embassy, changed all this for the
at
the
the
on
landed the chorus,
previous day,
During the
neighbouring island of Rheneia.
night, a bridge,

which had been constructed

at

Athens, and was profusely decorated with gildacross the strait


ing and tapestry, was thrown
At the
Delos.
from
Rheneia
which separated

unappointed time the chorus crossed by this,


Nicias further
disturbed and in orderly array.

commemorated

the occasion by consecrating a


brazen palm-tree to Apollo, and by buying, at
1

the cost of 10,000 drachmas, a piece of land, the


rent of which was to be expended in sacrifices

and

feasts,

on the condition that prayers should


1

About 400.

NICIAS

be offered up for the founder.


minor instance of the same pious munificence is also

At one of the dramatic


supplied by Plutarch.
a
festivals,
youth, who represented in the chorus
the god Dionysus, excited universal admiration
his grace

and beauty.

When

the applause had


ceased, Nicias rose in his place and said that

by

was manifestly wrong that one whom the


general voice had declared to bear a close resemit

blance to the

god should be kept

in slavery,

and set him free on the spot.


Another characteristic that gave Nicias a
high place in popular esteem was his absolute
And here, too, his wealth was a help
integrity.
to him.

Rich men are not of necessity better


Rich but honest describes a not

common

very

as truly as

just
honest.'
a

of

'

'

than poor.

Yet

combination

it

Greek statesman

money

of

circumstances

does the proverbial

'

poor but

was a great advantage for

be put out of the reach


The public men of
temptations.
to

Athens yielded to these temptations with lamentable frequency, from Themistocles onwards
against Nicias no one ever breathed any reproach
;

of the kind.

He

was personally courageous in a very high


degree.
Courage was not conspicuous among
the virtues of the Greek character. When Aris-

STATESMAN AND CITIZEN

an instance of recklessness he

totle has to find

looks for

it,

not

among

his

own countrymen but

of Northern Europe.
whether
or not he puts into
Thucydides, who,
the mouths of his characters what they actually-did
barbarians

the

among

we may be sure, puts into them what


not
have said, attributes to Nicias the
could
they
remarkable words, I have less fear than other
say, never,

'

men

for

which

is

my own

There is no quality
more generally and ungrudgingly ad-

mired than

safety.'

this.

As to his temperance and chastity, virtues


much more thought of by ourselves than they were
by the Greeks, we have only negative evidence.
Not a word of scandal against him in these
respects has come down to us, and this may be
fairly

taken as conclusive in his favour.

His

piety was conspicuous.

The two

instances

given above of his munificence in the discharge


of public duties are both concerned with religion.

This

is

rich citizen,

to

religion,

not in

itself a

positive proof.

who was

personally indifferent
have gladly seized either

might

opportunity of commending himself to


But respect
favour of his countrymen.

Divine Powers was

mind of
his

Nicias.

He

dominant influence
sacrificed daily,

the
for

in the

he kept in

establishment a soothsayer whose business

NICIAS

it was to ascertain
the pleasure of the gods.
These religious feelings, associated as they were

in his case with a

respect.

pure morality,

Nor must we

command our

harshly condemn

if

they

were largely mingled with superstition. St Paul,


when he visited the native city of Nicias,
described

religious condition by a word which


to speak, between a good and bad

its

hovers, so

'

I
meaning.
perceive ye are,' he said to his
audience on the Areopagus, in all things,' according to the Authorised Version, somewhat
'

'

'

too
according to the Revised,
in the margin.
superstitious,' with
religious

superstitious,'

'

Nor
since

in the eighteen centuries that

have passed

then has the teaching of the apostle or


greater than he sufficed to

One that was


make men clearly

of

'

the two.

see the border line

between

CHAPTER

II

SOLDIER
The command

of

the

fleets

and armies of

the hands of a college of ten


members, bearing the title of Generals {strategi),
Nicias is said to have
and annually elected.

Athens was

held

this

in

office

more than once during

lifetime of Pericles.

Its duties

administration as well as

included

command

the

home

in the field,

to the
possible that the former fell
share of Nicias on the earlier occasions of his

and

it

is

Anyhow, we do
being elected to the office.
not hear of him as conducting any operation
of either army or fleet before the year 427 b.c.

He

(the fifth year of the Peloponnesian war).


then distinguished himself by a success which

must have been highly gratifying to his countrymen. There was no state in the Lacedaemonian
alliance that was more hated by the Athenians
than Megara.

It

had been under their power,

and had successfully

rebelled,
9

slaughtering at

NICIAS

to

the same time the Athenian garrison.


It was
close at hand, the mouth of its harbour being
little

more than

fifteen miles

series

of mutual

long

from the
injuries

Peiraeus.

had

em-

the feelings of the two cities to the


uttermost.
Athens, on losing her dependency,
had retaliated by forbidding the Megarians to use
bittered

her markets or harbours, a measure which had

been one of the provocations that resulted in


the Peloponnesian

War.

Compelled to

see her

own territory ravaged by the superior forces


of Sparta, she had taken the revenge of invading once, or even twice, a year the territory
of Megara, and Megara, on the other hand,
was always on the watch to do what injury
she could to the commerce of her powerneighbour.
Freebooting ships issued from
her harbour, seized Athenian merchantmen,
and even committed ravages on unprotected
ful

An Athenian squadron
points of the coast.
was sent to blockade the harbour, but could
not do this effectually because it had no
Nicias saw an
anchorage nearer than Salamis.
a
of
opportunity
heavy blow at this
striking

mouth of the harbour was


a rocky island, Minoa by name
legend connected the famous Minos of Crete with the
enemy.

In

the

history of the city

which

was occupied by

SOLDIER

1 1

on one side by
towers and walls extending from Nisasa, the
port of Megara, and on the other by a
Nicias
lagoon bridged over by a causeway.
embarked some battering-rams on his ships of
fort,

and

further

protected

war, knocked the towers to pieces, captured the


fort, and made the island, which he strongly

on the side of the lagoon, into a convenient base for the blockading fleet.
This was the earliest operation of the year.
fortified

Later on, he sailed with sixty ships of war to


Melos, an island in the south-west of the
in former days by a colony
had always declined to
which
Sparta,
He called upon the
itself with Athens.
to submit and receive a garrison within

iEgean,

from
ally

city
its

settled

walls,

and on

its

refusal ravaged the sur-

rounding country. This done, as he was not


prepared to undertake a siege, he sailed away
to the point where the frontier between Bceotia
and Attica touched the coast. Here he was
joined by some troops from Athens, and with
the combined forces ravaged
part of the
Boeotian

Re-embarking

his

army,
he sailed northwards, wasting the country as
he went, where there this could be done without
territory.

when

the season for operations drew


to an end, returned to Athens.
risk, and,

NICIAS

i2

During the next year he seems not

to have

been employed, but in that which followed


he was in chief comthe seventh of the war

mand

an expedition which was directed


It helps us
the
territory of Corinth.
against
to realise the smallness of the scene on which
of

these operations were carried on to note that,


he
starting from the Peiraeus in the evening

arrived at his destination, a point seven miles


No very
south of Corinth, before sunrise.

the
great success was gained, possibly because

Corinthians had been warned of what was in-

but after a brisk engagement, in which


the fortune of the day varied from time to
time, the Athenians were left in possession of

tended

the field of battle.

They had

adversaries

lost

forty-seven

more than four times

men,

their

as

Technically, however, Nicias had to


He discovered, when the
to a defeat.

many.

own

it
increasing forces of the enemy had made
prudent to retreat, that he had left two of his

This compelled him to


a truce, and to send a
herald was to confess that he had been worsted.

own dead on

the

field.

send a herald to ask for

In the eighth year of the war, Nicias conducted with success an operation of more importance, and likely to have a more permanent
This was the occupation of the island
effect.

SOLDIER

13

of Cythera, off the southern coast of Laconia.


Cythera was the most vulnerable point of the
Spartan

Chilon, one

territory.

of the

Seven

Wise Men, himself

a Spartan, had said that it


would be well for his country if Cythera could
be sunk to the bottom of the sea.
If we

imagine the Isle of Wight in the possession of


French, we have an idea of what Sparta
would feel with Cythera occupied by a hostile
force.
Nicias, who had been in communicathe

some time with an anti-Spartan party

tion for
this

in

island,

about 4000.
unprepared.

sailed

thither

with a force

of

This time he caught the enemy


The two towns of the island

were simultaneously attacked. One made no


the other surrendered after a brief

resistance

few prominent members of the


pro-Spartan party were carried away, but the
remainder of the inhabitants were leniently

struggle.

treated,

becoming

a tribute

Athenian

allies

of four
garrison

in

days
ravaging
the mainland.

On

of Athens, and paying


Nicias, leaving an

talents.

in

the

Cythera,

spent

neighbouring

some

coast

of

way home he

gratified another longof


his
standing grudge
countrymen against an
ancient enemy.
In the days when Athens was
still

his

feeble

state,

she

had had two

hostile

NICIAS

neighbours against
to hold up.

whom she had hardly been


Of one of these Megara

able

have

already

spoken

After various

other.

JEgina was the


of fortune,

fluctuations

iEgina had become (in 456 B.C.) a dependency


of Athens.
When, a quarter of a century
Peloponnesian War broke out, the
Athenians regarded with apprehension the possibility of a revolt.
.ZEgina,' said the great
later,

the

'

'

Pericles,

is

the eye-sore of the Peirasus,' from


it
was but some twelve miles

which indeed

The Athenians proceeded

distant.

to expel the

whole population, and to fill their place with


settlers of their own nationality.
The Spartans
gave the

exiles

home

at

Thyrea, a

district

in the eastern part of their own territory.


The
far
too
from
the
itself
was
sea
town
to suit

the tastes of
a race

its

new

inhabitants,

famous for seamanship.

who came of
They were

at

time engaged, with the help of a contingent of Lacedaemonian troops, in building

this

This they abandoned


when the Athenian squadron came in sight,
a fort

upon

the

coast.

Thyrea consisted
retreating inland to Thyrea.
of an upper and a lower town.
The iEginThey were held to have distinguished themselves beyond
other Greeks at the battle of Salamis, to which they had
sent a squadron of twenty-five ships.
1

all

SOLDIER
etans resolved to hold

not

persuade

their

the former,

allies

declared

to

that

but could

The

remain.
the

Lacedaemonians
untenable, and retreated to the

was
Their

place

hills.

to be right, for the


judgment was proved
the
Athenians stormed
place with but little
These
its defenders.
difficulty, and captured
and
there
Athens
to
carried
were
put to

Mercy was never shown to prisoners


of war except their captors believed that some
them
advantage might be gained by keeping
death.

alive.

now

necessary to turn back to an event


which had an important bearing on the fortunes
of Athens in general, and of Nicias in par
It is

In the earlier part of the seventh year


the same as that in which Nicias had con-

ticular.

ducted his operations against Corinth Athens


had secured a signal advantage over its great
powerful force under the comenemy.

mand
ablest

of Demosthenes,
soldier

in

the

who was
Athenian

probably the
service,

had

landed on the western coast of Laconia, and,


after a series of operations which it is not
necessary to describe in detail, had succeeded
It is interesting to note that at the end of the war the
surviving iEginetans were restored by the Spartans to their
1

own

country.

NICIAS

16

shutting up in the island of Sphacteria


of about 460 Peloponnesian heavyarmed troops, of whom more than 120 were
in

force

pure-blood Spartans
families of the city.

was so affected by
envoys to Athens to

to

belonging

The

first

Spartan Government
disaster

this

the

that

sent

it

This mission
The terms demanded

solicit peace.

accomplished nothing.
were such as it was impossible to grant, and
Then affairs took
the envoys went home.

The

another turn.

siege of the Spartans in the

seem to make any progress the


besiegers were in as bad a plight as the besieged,
it
may be in a worse, as they were actively

island did not

employed in the blockade, while the besieged


had only to sit still. Provisions they had, but
they were very short of water, for there was
but one spring available, and that was quite
insufficient

an

supply the

to

armament.

fared

pretty

As

well.

for

needs
the

of so large

besieged,
not to

They seem

they

have

wanted water, and there were plenty of Helots x


ready to run cargoes of food, tempted by the
offers of reward, in the shape of pay
and freedom, which the government offered.
Demosthenes determined to make an assault in
force, and for this purpose collected troops

handsome

The

slave population of the Spartan country.

SOLDIER
from friendly

cities

17

Western Greece, and

in

home a request for reinforcements.


The disappointment at Athens was intense,

sent

and the reaction of feeling against the politicians


who had spoken against peace proportionately
great. Of these politicians, Cleon was the leader,
and Cleon felt that his popularity was in imminent danger. He began by declaring that the
envoys from Demosthenes had exaggerated the
difficulties of the enterprise.
The answer to
this was simple.
Send commissioners to examine the state of things.' This suggestion was
'

approved, and Cleon and another were actually


named. Cleon did not like the prospect of

and altered his tone.


Don't waste
he
in
Sail to
time,'
cried,
sending envoys.
Sphacteria and capture the soldiers that have
'

going,

'

been shut up there.

and he pointed
'

Nicias,

this

proper

force.

their

place.'

as he

If our generals were men,''


spoke contemptuously to

would easily do with a


I would do, if I were in
There was a hostile murmur

they

This

from part of the assembly.


it

is

so easy.'

idea.

It

dilemma.

and

my

seemed
c

Nicias

'

not go, if
caught eagerly at the

Why

to put

his adversary into a


he
and do it
Go, Cleon,'
said,
'

colleagues will put at your dissuch


as you may think
forces
posal
necessary.'
I

NICIAS

At first Cleon accepted, not thinking for a


moment that the offer was serious. When he
It was
perceived his mistake, he drew back.
to
direct
Nicias's business, not his,' he said,
'

'

the campaign.'
Instantly there arose a great
shout from the assembly, which doubtless
They
enjoyed the humour of the situation.

shouted to Nicias to make over the


to Cleon

it.

accept
to yield.

command

they shouted to Cleon that he must


There was nothing for the two but

formally resigned the command ; Cleon, so to speak, took the bull by


Give
I am not afraid,' he said.
the horns.
Nicias

'

'

me some heavy-armed men


from our own muster
and, say,

400

archers,

roll

don't want them


some light-armed,
I

and

will

bring

the

Spartans, dead or alive, within twenty days.'


And, not to lengthen the story, he did it.

impossible to say that the conduct of


It may
Nicias in this matter was patriotic.
It

is

have been a telling party-stroke to take Cleon


at his word, and to commit him to an undertaking
failure,

which
but

Athens.
braggart,
lives

Nicias
it

If

why
and

the

at

in

of

expense
incompetent
should he be trusted with the

the

man was

of Athenian soldiers?

for Nicias

must end

believed

was made

an

It

his friends not

was impossible

to wish that he

SOLDIER

19

might fail, and his failure meant, not only an


immediate loss of men, but the missing of such
an opportunity of bringing Sparta to terms as
the other
If, on
might never occur again.
hand, Cleon succeeded, a result which Nicias
clearly never expected for a moment, this meant
another spell of power to a politician whom he
be unprincipled

and mischievous.

believed

to

And

was the result which actually followed.

this

CHAPTER

111

PEACE-MAKER
success at Sphacteria put an

Cleon's

end for the

Athens, now enhopes of peace.


fresh
and
to
ambitions,
began the
hopes
couraged
new
of the war with
attempts to carry-

time to

all

eighth year

hostilities into the country of her adversaries.


She made an attack on Megara, and, though

failing to capture

of the harbour.

the city

itself,

got possession

This was followed up by the

Thirty-three years before


Athens had acquired, and had retained for nine
This
over this country.
years, an ascendency

invasion of Bceotia.

ascendency she had never given up the hope of


it must be
regaining, a hope that was built,

remembered, not so much on superiority of


force as on the enmity of the Boeotian towns
to Thebes.
Here, as almost everywhere else
in Greece, party divisions counted for much.

Thebes was governed by an oligarchy in each


dependent town there was a democratic party
anxious for its downfall, and looking to Athens
;

to effect

it.

It

is

not within
20

my

province to

PEA CE- MAKER

It will suffice
the story of the campaign.
to say that the attempt failed, and failed distell

The
astrously.
great battle at

Athenians were defeated in a

Delium, with the loss of the


general in command and a thousand heavyarmed troops. Later on in the same year they
suffered greatly in Thrace, where, through the
energetic action of Brasidas, by far the ablest

Spartan of the time, they lost

many

valuable

dependencies, the most important of which was


x

Amphipolis.
be easily imagined that a year which
had opened with such high hopes found the
It

will

Athenians

at its close in a

very different temper

The war party was greatly disthe


friends of peace, of whom, it
couraged ;
will be remembered, Nicias was the leader,
of mind.

were proportionately strengthened. Sparta was


Its
anxious to bring the war to an end.

still

government had sanctioned the expedition of


in
against the Athenian dominion

Brasidas

Thrace

in

the hope that

if it

should be suc-

it
might work for peace. Its dominant
motive was the desire to recover the Spartan
Many of these belonged
prisoners at Athens.

cessful

It may be mentioned that the


who was one of the generals for the

historian Thucydides,
year, was banished for

alleged neglect in failing to relieve Amphipolis.

NICIAS

22

to the

first

ful friends,

families in the state, and

who were

had power-

ready to use every means

to bring about their release.

Brasidas, on the
other hand, full as he was of ambitious schemes,

and Cleon, who may possibly have hoped, on


the strength of his success at
Sphacteria, for
distinctions
in the future, were
military
strongly
to
opposed
peace.

Grote thinks,
that

thinking,

and very likely is right


both the political leaders

in
at

Athens were wrong


Cleon in advising the
to
insist
on
terms
which it was impeople
;

possible
to urge

for Sparta to grant, Nicias in


failing
to make a vigorous effort to save

them

what remained, and to recover what had been


The terrible
lost, of their dominion in Thrace.
Delium, falling largely, as it did, on
Athenian citizens, made vigorous counsels unwelcome, and Nicias, who, though personally
brave, had but little moral courage, was not the
loss

at

man to give them.


The immediate

result

was a compromise.

It

was not found possible, at least for the time, to


agree upon terms of peace, but a truce for a
This was sworn in what in our
year was made.
calendar
1

is

March.

14th of Elaphebolion

Sparta.

Two
at

days afterwards the

Athens, 12 th of Gerastius at

PEACE- MAKER

23

Athenian dependency of Scione in Thrace reThis general had just made


volted to Brasidas.
to
secure
his new ally, when comarrangements
missioners arrived to announce to him the conclusion

of

unwelcome
fused

the

truce.

to him.

to surrender,

The news was most


he aboslutely re-

Scione

and, to justify his refusal,


it
had revolted before

positively asserted that


the truce was sworn.

missioner, however, had

The Athenian comno

difficulty in satisfy-

ing himself of the real facts of the case, and


he sent home a despatch in which he stated
them.

fierce and,

justifiable-

it

must be allowed,

outburst

There was no

of anger

a perfectly

was the

desire to disturb the

result.

working of

the truce elsewhere, but at the same time there

was a resolute determination to recover Scione,


and to punish it severely for its revolt, Cleon
proposing that, in the event of its recapture,
all the male inhabitants should be
put to death.
further
was
exasperated by
Popular feeling

news of the revolt of another town in


Thrace, Mende by name. The recovery of these
towns was a matter on which all parties were

the

bound to agree. Nicias was for the time on the


same side as Cleon, and went out in command
of the expedition, a certain Nicostratus being

NICIAS

24
his

They had with them

fifty ships of
war, iooo heavy-armed troops, about as many
light-armed, and iooo Thracian mercenaries.

colleague.

Mende was
Nicias, who

An

recovered.

assault

failed,

one of the attacking parties,


wounded
but, soon afterwards, a popular
being
movement put the place into the hands of the
Athenians.
The majority of the inhabitants
had been adverse to the revolt.
Scione was
led
;

closely invested, and Nicias, leaving a division


to guard the lines, returned with the armament
to Athens.

In

The

March 421

the

year's

truce

condition of affairs in Thrace

impossible,

but

there

expired.

made peace

was no immediate

re-

In August, however,
sumption of hostilities.
Cleon prevailed upon the Athenians to make
a vigorous effort to recover
in Thrace.

Nicias,

what had been

we may be

lost

sure, led the

Grote supposes, he
was one of the generals of the year, and refused to serve when the
Assembly resolved on
opposition.

Whether,

as

It
sending an expedition, is more doubtful.
can hardly be supposed that the
generals had
it in their
power to go or not to go as they

pleased.

The

case of Sphacteria

was evidently

exceptional, something, we may almost say, of


a huge practical
It is more
joke.
likely that

PEACE-MAKER

25

Cleon was

in office, and that he hoped, though


should
hardly,
suppose, without misgivings,
that he might be victorious.
It is not
part
I

of

my

The

task to give the details of the campaign.


was that the Athenians suffered a

result

crushing

On

defeat,

losing

600 heavy-armed

in

Cleon was among them.


the other side there were but seven men

killed

killed,

and missing.

but one of the seven was Brasidas.

The

death of these two

men removed

the

peace.
Sparta was still
as anxious as ever for it, and Athens, after
this second disaster, which was scarcely less
principal obstacles

to

damaging than the defeat


begun to look upon it as
conference of the

at

Delium, had
necessity.

of Sparta was held at


was attended by envoys

allies

that city, and this


from Athens, among whom Nicias was the
most important and influential.
The disAt first both sides
cussion was prolonged.

made impossible demands, and


the

so small
or,

at

that

one time

least,

the

Spartan government made,


threatened to make, prepara-

tions for an invasion of Attica

The

at

prospects of a successful conclusion were

point chiefly in dispute

acquired

agreed

during

that each

the

war.

in the

spring.

was the territory


Finally, it was

party should surrender what

NICIAS

26

On the term
by force.
narrow interpretation was put.
Plataea, which had surrendered, was not given
back to Athens
Athens, on the other hand,
the
kept
Megarian and Corinthian towns
had

it
'

acquired

'

force

A peace for
which had capitulated to her.
was concluded in March 421.
fifty
years
Nicias was one of the Athenian commissioners
who swore
as the

'

to

and

it,

it

was generally known

Peace of Nicias.'

Some of

the

allies

of Sparta were discontented

with the terms agreed upon, and refused to


For this and
accept the vote of the majority.
for other reasons

the

it

arrangement

Difficulties started

was soon made evident that


far
from satisfactory.

was

up

at

decide

to

had been
which of the two

once.

It

by lot
contracting parties should be the first to fulfil
Athens gained the
its part of the conditions.
agreed

choice, an advantage so great that Nicias is


1
of having secured
accused by Theophrastus

the result by a bribe. The Spartans immediately


released all the Athenian prisoners in their
possession,

commander

and sent envoys to Clearidas,

their

Thrace, with directions that

Am-

in

phipolis and the other revolted dependencies


of Athens should be delivered up to that state.
1

Greek

historian,

380-295

b.c.

PEACE-MAKER
Clearidas declared that

it

was not

27

in his

power
and
went
back
with
stipulation,
He was
the envoys to explain the situation.
to

this

fulfil

sent again with peremptory orders to carry out


his instructions.
If the towns still refused to

submit, he was to remove the Lacedasmonian


This he did, but Athens did not
garrisons.
recover her Thracian possessions.
At the same
time the dissatisfied allies of Sparta came back

with fresh instructions from

home

to

protest

against the peace.

Sparta was
tion.

now

in

a very embarrassing posi-

She could not

fulfil

her

part

of the

terms, and consequently she could not ask for


the prisoners.
At the same time she dreaded
a new combination of parties.
Argos had
from
the
and
was
stood aloof
war,
now, with

her strength unimpaired, a formidable power.


thirty years' truce that she had concluded

with Sparta was drawing to an end.


If she was
to ally herself with Athens, the consequences
The Spartan government
might be serious.

now proposed

new arrangement

to Nicias and
in Sparta,
had
remained
colleagues (they
for
the
fulfilment of the
waiting, it would seem,
Let
Athens
and
conditions).
Sparta come closer
in
allies.
And this was
become,
fact,
together
a

his

done.

defensive alliance was formed

each

NICIAS

23

party bound itself to assist the other in case it


should be attacked.
This was the single
provision of the
It was
treaty.
specified, however,
as a case

coming under

Athenians should

this provision, that the


give their most energetic help

in

repressing any insurrection of the Helots


further
might take place in Laconia.
condition, not expressed in the
but

that

treaty,

was that the Sphacterian


This
prisoners should be at once given up.
last was
carried
out.
immediately
secretly agreed upon,

Nicias has been severely criticised for


having
been a party to the conclusion of a
peace so
little

advantageous

to

must be confessed

He

and

his

that

country.
the criticism

And
is

it

just.

his

colleagues ought to have insisted,


as a
necessary preliminary, on the restoration of
the Thracian towns.
It
be true that the

might

Spartan force in those regions was not strong


enough to compel the towns to return to their

Athenian allegiance
but if, as Grote
urges,
and
Athens
had
combined in an energetic
Sparta
;

effort to
compel submission, the towns could
not have long resisted.
From this point of
the
withdrawal
of
the garrisons was a
view,

mistake.
With a besieging force outside, and
a garrison within, under
peremptory orders to
assist not the defence but the
attack, surrender

PEA CE-MAKER
would

have

been

inevitable.

that Nicias

and

29

We

can

only

his friends fairly lost

suppose
their heads when they saw a chance of what
an actual
they had never ventured to hope for

with Sparta.
After this, they may well
have thought, perpetual peace was almost assured.
As a matter of fact, the peace and the treaty
which followed it were doomed from the beginalliance

ning to a speedy end.


It is needless to describe the obscure and
perverse politics which occupied the Greek States
during the period that followed the conclusion

There was little or no


Athens or Sparta honestly

of the peace of Nicias.


inclination in either

If there had been, it


fulfil their
obligations.
would probably have been defeated by the

to

action of statesmen seeking to


advance personal or party aims.
It is possible,
for instance, that Sparta intended to do right

unprincipled

when

she sent envoys to Athens to discuss, and,


to arrange the matters in dispute,

if possible,

though one

at least of their

unreasonable. 1

But

they

demands was highly


were

shamefully

tricked by Alcibiades, with the result of mak1 This was that the site of the Fort Panactum should
be considered a fair equivalent for the position which the
Athenians had occupied near Sphacteria.
Panactum ought
to have

been given up

razed

to the ground,

it

stood by the Bceotians.


and offered the site.

as it

They

NICIAS

3o

ing them seem absolutely unworthy of trust.


Nicias had introduced them to the Senate.

There they had declared

that they

came with

and had made

powers to

a very
settle,
favourable impression by their moderation and
full

Alcibiades, whose object it was


Athens with Argos, began to fear that
an arrangement might be made with Sparta.
Accordingly, he went to one of the envoys,
with whose family he had an hereditary friend-

reasonableness.
to ally

You

'

ship.
far less

known

will find,'

reasonable than
that

you have

'

he

said,

the

the Assembly
If it is

Senate.

powers to treat, it will


seek to intimidate you, and to extort, by fear or
force, concessions which you are not authorised

make.

full

be better, therefore, to say


that you have come with no powers, but only
to

will

It

The

to explain and discuss.

calmly and quietly.


as strongly as

be

shall

able

myself will support you


and have no doubt that I
I

can,

to

people will listen

obtain

the

Assembly on the doubtful point

The envoys
saying

naturally

word

about

fell

into

of

the

matter

the

of

consent

the

Pylos.'

trap,

to

not

Nicias,

though he was certainly the foremost friend


of Sparta in Athens, and was probably, as Grote
suggests, their
'

Do

own

host.

The Assembly

you come with powers

'

to treat

met.

asked

PEACE-MAKER

31

They answered

Alcibiades of the envoys.

as

they had been instructed, No ; only to discuss


Nicias, the Senate which had
explain.'
'

and

heard from the men's


trary

statement, and

which had

in fact

own

lips

an exactly con-

the

Assembly generally,
met under the impression that

the affair could be settled then and there, were

Alcibiades himself
astonished and indignant.
made a furious speech denouncing Spartan
duplicity, and seized the opportunity of proposing that the envoys from Argos should be

This would have been done, had there


moment the shock of an earth-

called in.

not occurred at the

On

quake.

dismissed.

this the

Of

Assembly was,

as

usual,

the conduct of Alcibiades

needless to speak.

more sinned

The

it

is

Spartans, though, per-

than sinning, gave


faith which was
of
the
bad
proof
As for
of their
characteristic
diplomacy.
haps,

against

another

Nicias, his reputation as a sagacious politician


was disgraced
must have suffered greatly.
whose
cause
he had
the
clients
along with

He

espoused.

With

unpopularity may be connected a


curious incident which occurred about this time.
this

The demagogue Hyperbolus,

a feeble successor

of Cleon, conceived the idea that one or other


of the two politicians with whom he contended

NICIAS

32

on unequal terms might be got


method of ostracism. But he was
1

rid
'

of by the

hoist with his

The persons threatened combined


petard.'
against their adversary, and when the votes were
counted it was found that the person named
own

was Hyperbolus himself.


He was banished
but
it
was
felt
that he was too
accordingly,
insignificant a person to

have so formidable an

The engine itself


engine directed against him.
was discredited, and was never again employed
Athenian

in

politics.

Anyone might be banished, without accusation made


or reason given, if five thousand citizens voted for it (inscribing the name of the obnoxious person on a potsherd

A citizen who was felt to be growing too


powerful for the peace of the country, but against whom it
might not be easy to formulate any precise charge, might
thus be got rid of.
Cleisthenes the legislator, Aristides,
ostrakori).

Thucydides (see p. i), Alcibiades and Megacles, the


paternal and maternal grandfathers of Alcibiades, were
among the more eminent of the victims of ostracism.

CHAPTER

IV

THE GREAT SCHEME

We

have already seen an instance of the vivacity


and recuperative power of the Athenian people.
Their country had been desolated by repeated

had more than decimated


an
population ; they had suffered from
and
treasure
blood
of
incessant drain
during
seven years of warfare, and yet in the eighth we
invasions

a plague

their

find

them undertaking the conquest of

The attempt ends


which

is

Bceotia.

in a disastrous loss (p.

followed in

little

more than

21),

year

by another grave calamity (p. 25). And yet,


in the course of a few years more, we find
a still more magnificent
than the conquest of Sicily,
view to the great cities in

them eagerly accepting


scheme nothing
with an

ulterior

Southern

Italy,

less

and possibly to Carthage

Athens had already


earlier

interfered,

itself.

during the

years of the war, in Sicilian affairs, her


c

NICIAS

34

aim,

real

or

nominal,

being

to

protect

the

The first
against 'the Dorian cities.
was to be politely told that Sicily, having
arrived, at a general pacification, did not need
Ionian

result

her services any more.


proved to be delusive.
Leontini,

in

by

particular,

But

this

pacification

The
had

Ionian city of
been actually de-

its

powerful neighbour, Syracuse,


dispossessed inhabitants had naturally
turned in their extremity to their old protectors
Their first application for help
the Athenians.
stroyed

and

its

was made

in the year of truce.

Various circum-

stances hindered the giving of any effectual help.

But in 417 b.c. their chances of being heard


were materially improved. Athens was less preoccupied with other matters, and fresh troubles
had occurred

in

Sicily to give

additional force

to their representations.
Selinus, a Greek city
in the west of the island, had quarrelled with its
which was inhabited by a

neighbour Egesta,
people of Italian race.

Syracuse came to the

which had be
help of Selinus, and Egesta,
active on the side of Athens on the occasion
of her

first

interference in Sicilian affairs, no..

to her old
applied for assistance

ally.

The envoys from Egesta arrived in


They made their appeal
spring of 416 B.C.

to

the fears as well as to the hopes of the Athenian

THE GREAT SCHEME

35

'is destroying,
'Syracuse,' they said,
are
that
cities
the
one by one,
friendly to you ;
will follow. When she
Leontini is
; Egesta

people.

gone

has accomplished this and united all the strength


of Sicily in her own hands, she will combine

fellow Dorians of the

her

with

Peloponnesus
been a potent
have
must
This
you
it
was adargument, even if those to whom
'

to crush

Tacitus
dressed only half believed in its truth.
at
throne
the
to
a
of
imperial
pretender
says
that
himself
Rome that he sought to persuade

danger as an excuse tor his


his ambition he even prewhet
schemes.
The envoys added that they
tended to fear.'
could do their part in a war; if they had not

his

life

was
'

in

To

men enough

for their

own

defence,

they had

Send a squadron to help us,' they


money.
will furnish its pay.'
we
and
said,
The feeling of the Assembly was not unanimous. Finally it was agreed that commissioners
k

'

hould

be sent to Kgcsta

who should

see

for

themselves whether the city really possessed the

means which it represented itselt as having.


The commissioners went, and were egregious! v
They saw jars which they supposed
duped.
to be full of gold coin, but which had but a
thin

layer

Temple

oi

at

the top.

The treasures of the

Eryx were displayed

before

them

NICIAS

36
as

they belonged to the

if

city.

They were

entertained at banquets where the same plate,


really silver gilt, but said to be gold, did duty

The result was that they


a
back
brought
glowing report of the wealth
of the city, and, as an earnest of treasure to
in house after house.

come, sixty talents

in

uncoined

silver.

Mean-

while the crew of the galley which had carried


them, having had its share of Egestaean hospitalked with enthusiasm of the wealth of
tality,

These representations, formal

entertainers.

its

and informal, practically decided the matter.


have no record of the proceedings in the
Assembly which followed, but only of the
It was voted that sixty
result.
ships-of-war

We

should

command
and Lamachus.
The

be sent to Sicily under the

of Alcibiades, Nicias,
business of the Generals was to relieve Egesta,
refound Leontini, and further Athenian interests generally.

A few days

afterwards another Assembly was


held, for the purpose of voting such supplies as
the Generals might deem to be necessary.

opportunity to reopen the


whole question, and entreated the Athenians to
You are met,' he
reconsider their decision.
Nicias

seized

the

'

to consider ways and means ; I implore


to think, while there is yet time, whether
'

said,

you

THE GREAT SCHEME

37

you ought not to abandon the scheme altogether.


It is much more formidable than it seems, and
you are undertaking it on the persuasion of
I have
always been wont to tell you
strangers.
the truth, and I shall not change my habit now.

You

are

make

fresh enemies there.

you
that

leaving enemies behind you here to


Do not suppose that

by the peace, or rather truce,


with
the Spartans.
have
They made it
you
are protected

on compulsion there are many disputed points


in it
their most powerful allies have never
Divide your forces and they will
accepted it.
;

be sure to attack you, helped by these very


Sicilian cities,

whose

alliance, indeed,

they have

Your subjects in Thrace are still


long coveted.
in revolt and you do not reduce them ; you are
going to champion Egesta and leave your own
injuries unredressed.

Thrace you

will be able to

over Sicily your sway,


you conquer
even should you establish it, could not possibly
hold, if

it

the island, and so powerful.


matter to you if Syracuse should
rule over the rest of Sicily ?
It will

last,

so distant

And

what does

establish its

is

it

be even less likely to attack you in that case than


it is

now, for why should

it

risk its

You are just recovering from


from the exhaustion of ten years
husband your strength don't waste it

to assail yours?

the plague, and

of war

own empire

NICIAS

38

on the impracticable schemes which some ruined


exiles are

'

suggesting to you

Then, turning to Alcibiades, he went on,


'

And

if

there

is

put into such a

he

is

far too

a man who is
command for

young

undertaking, a

on the score of

and

man who

delighted to be

which, indeed,
so urges you to this
looks for admiration

racing chariots, and hopes to


repair the ruin of his fortunes out of the profits

of his

his

do not let him gain his ends at the


of
his
He and his fellows are
expense
country.
as wasteful of the
public means as they are of
their own.
I tremble to see this reckless band
office,

where they

sit

riper years,

by

who

their leader.

are near

Do

them,

you,

refuse

men of
to

be

shamed out of your opposition because they may


call
you cowards. Leave them their fatal passion
for the impossible ; it is
foresight, not reckless
that
commands
success.
Vote against
impulse,
this

scheme.

Keep undisturbed our present

lations with the cities

of

Sicily,

re-

and bid Egesta

without us the quarrel with Selinus that


she began without us.
Do not hesitate, Mr
finish

An act
President, to put this question again.
which so many share is no real breach of the
law.
What you will really do will be to give
the Assembly a chance of
correcting a perilous
mistake.'
in

THE GREAT SCHEME

39

He

AJcibiades

began by

immediately rose to reply.


a personal vindication.
What the illblamed as extravagances were really

disposed
proofs of the national resources.

Who,

for in-

stance, could suppose that Athens was exhausted,


when one of its citizens did what no private

start
person had ever done before at Olympia
seven chariots in the lists, win the first prize,
and also secure the second and fourth places ?

He
tion.

then proceeded to argue the general quesThe Sicilian cities were not really for-

they were populous, indeed, but their


populations were neither united nor patriotic.

midable

And

the native population was universally hos-

tile.

Our

bound

to help

'

allies

there,'

he went on,

they will help us

'

we

in return

are

by

Generally it is
keeping our enemies employed.
adventure
to
decline
for
an
imperial city
folly
;

the necessity of her


nature and position to advance, otherwise her
The
energies will be wasted in internal strife.

she cannot stand

only safeguard

still

against

it is

this

danger

is

enter-

prise abroad.'

The envoys from Egesta and

Leontini made

Assembly not to go back


engagements, and Nicias, finding that
the general sympathy was with them, could see
no other chance of carrying his point than by

fresh appeals to the

from

its

NICIAS

40
insisting

on the magnitude of the forces that

would be necessary
'

said,

the

to employ.

Ionian

join us, there will


to deal with.

it

Supposing,' he

Naxos

cities
still

'

and

Catana

be seven powerful

They have soldiers,


You must have

treasure in abundance.

cities

ships,
a great

both of horse and

force,

more than

foot, if you would be


and you must take with
the way of stores, and not

their match,

you all you want in


depend on Sicily for anything.' And he went
on to set forth a formidable catalogue of
what would be required. This kind of argument was a fatal mistake. Discredited as a politician, Nicias had still a high reputation as a
soldier.
In the field he had always been successful.
His name was a guarantee for skill and
prudence.
By what he now said he gave his
case

away.

He

was practicable
quate means.

from

conceded

that

the

enterprise

Athens would only use adeNor was he allowed to retreat


if

One

this position.

of the advocates of the

expedition stood up in the Assembly and said,

Let us have no more talk and delay. Let


tell us
plainly what he thinks will be
wanted in the way of ships and men.' To this
'

Nicias

Nicias could

not refuse to reply.


must talk over these matters quietly with

appeal

colleagues,' he said,

'

but generally,

'

my

should say,

THE GREAT SCHEME


we must have

41

hundred ships of war and transports, either of our own or from the allies, as
of heavy-armed troops we
may be wanted
must have 5000 at least, more if we can. Then
we must have archers from here and from Crete,
and slingers, and other troops as may be wanted.'
a

The Assembly gave

the Generals absolute power

to settle the strength of the expedition at their


discretion.
Nicias was now committed to the

enterprise as deeply as Alcibiades.

CHAPTER

AN ILL-OMENED START
Preparations

for the expedition went briskly


not
far from their completion,
and
were
on,
when Athens was shocked by an extraordinary

outrage.

Among

the multiplicity of religious

images and symbols which so struck the attention of St Paul when he traversed the streets
These
of Athens, the Herm<e were conspicuous.
were four-sided pillars of stone surmounted by a
human head, neck and bust, and stood in the
doorways of many private homes and of the
All these, with a few exceptions,
temples.
to
one account, with but one accordaccording
ing to another, were mutilated in a single night.

The

city

terror.

was thrown into a frenzy of rage and


That the religious feelings of the people

were deeply wounded it is easy to understand.


We can imagine what the feelings of London
would be if every church and chapel within
its

borders were simultaneously disfigured.


42

We

AN ILL-OMENED START
all

can also

realise,

less vividly,

though

43

the fear

would be felt of divine anger, of the


vengeance which the tutelary dieties thus inBut the
sulted would take upon a guilty city.
most general and the strongest apprehension
was one into which we are but little capable
of entering.
This outrage seemed to threaten
There was, it seemed, a party,
revolution.
it could not but be such
active and numerous
in
a single night
which
if so much was done
was hostile to the established order of things.
that

might be expected at any time to break out


into open violence.
If the act was anything beyond a piece of
reckless folly, there are two objects which it may
it is
be supposed to have had
probable that it
It

was intended to delay, or even altogether to preit is certain that it was


vent, the expedition
;

His notorious
specially aimed at illcibiades.
recklessness of demeanour at once suggested his
name as one of the guilty parties, and he lost no
time in endeavouring to free himself from the
He demanded that he should be put on
charge.
trial at once, not only for this but for a
kindred accusation that he had, in company with
some of his friends, celebrated a profane travesty

his

of the mysteries. His enemies demurred. Their


reason was that the popular feeling ran

real

NICIAS

44

The

strongly in favour of the accused.

reason

which they alleged, putting it into the mouths


of speakers whom they employed for the occasion, and on whom they enjoined a studied
moderation of tone, was that the trial which
Alcibiades

demanded could not

fail

to delay the

starting of the expedition and greatly diminish


This argument prevailed
chances of success.

its

and the trial was postponed. That


we shall
was unjust, is manifest
its effects were fatal.
that
proceed,
;

It

The

this course
see,

as

we

was midsummer when the start took place.


gathering place of the whole armament had

been fixed

at

Corcyra, but the contingent that

from Athens was imposingly great and


There were a hundred ships-of-war,
splendid.
sixty of which were equipped for naval action,
The
while forty were to be used as transports.
numbered
close
soldiers
upon 3000
heavy-armed
1
500 of these were from the muster-roll of
sailed

Athenian citizens 700 were of the poorer class,


whose arms and armour were furnished by the
state, and 750 were a contingent from Argos and
Mantinea.
(These last served for pay but were
;

attracted by the personal influence of Alcibiades.)


The force of cavalry was but weak, for it
But it was
required only a single transport.

not only the number of the ships and the men,

AN ILL-OMENED START
it

was

also the splendour of the

45

equipment that

Never before had the wealthy


was remarkable.
citizens of Athens shown their patriotism more
conspicuously.

They

supplementing to

means the

vied with each other in

the

utmost

out

of

their

state allowances, in

providing
the ships, and attractgorgeous figure-heads for
rowers for what may be
ing by extra pay strong
1
As it was the greatest
called the labour-oars.
private

had ever sent out, and


expedition that Athens
its aims the most ambitious, so it was the most
splendidly equipped.
At dawn on the appointed day, the whole
native and foreign,
population of the city,
flocked down to the Peirseus, to see the em-

barkation of the troops.


with friends and kinsfolk

were parting
were attracted by

Many
;

all

The embarkthe magnificence of the spectacle.


ation concluded, a trumpet gave the signal for
herald then pronounced the prayers
silence.

that were customarily offered before setting out


to sea, and the whole armament repeated the

words

after him.

The

crews, the soldiers, and

the officers offered libations out of cups of gold


and silver. The crowd on the shore joined in

The rowers on the topmost of the three benches had to


work the longest oars. They corresponded, only with a
1

from the lower benches,


and 6 in an eight-oar.

far greater difference


4, 5

to the

Nos.

NICLIS

46

Then

these acts of devotion.

song was sung

the paean or war-

finally the ships

Once

out of harbour.

moved

in

line

outside, they raced to

/Egina.

At Corcyra

the

organised

carefully

force
in

special view to making

Three

vision.

swift

was

it

ships

more

and

reviewed

three divisions,
easy

with
to

pro-

were also sent

in

advance to arrange for such friendly accommoda-

Greek

might be disThe total numbers were now


posed to afford.
and
two fifty-oared ships from
triremes
134
tion as the

cities

in

Italy

Corcyra (the 34 being furnished by Chios and


other independent allies); 5100 heavy-armed
80 being from
soldiers ; 480 archers
(the

120
700 slingers from Rhodes
from
armed
troops (exiles
Megara).
light
There were also 30 store ships carrying
them bakers,
cargoes of provisions, and with
masons and carpenters, and 100 smaller vessels
attending on them, besides a larger number
owned by traders, who followed the expedition
Crete)

in

hopes of

profit.

The armament

sailed across to the coast

of

met with a discouraging reception.


Italy.
Not one of the cities would admit the newcomers
within its walls, or allow them to buy food.
Tarentum and Locri would not even allow them
It

AN ILL-OMENED START

47

to anchor off their shore, or supply themselves


Rhegium, the nearest point to Sicily,

with water.

was somewhat more hospitable. It allowed them


to buy food and to beach their ships. Here t;
received the unwelcome news that the reported

council of war
wealth of Lgesta was a fraud.
followed. The opinions given were as follows

Nicias.
our

main

'

Let us

sail

If

business.

to

Selinus.

This

can

Lgesta

is

furnish

armament, we will repay


if not, we will demand the
consider our action
pay for the sixty ships tor which they asked,
and, on receiving it, either compel or persu.
That done, we will
Selinus to make restitution.
make a demonstration of our force. Should,
for

whole

the

Lcontini by any chance give us any


then
itself,

however,

help or any new alliance present


again we will consider the case.'

ALCIBIADES.

we have

'

would be disgraceful when


such a force to go back

It

collected

Let us approach the


without doing anything.
other cities in Sicily, and see which will range
themselves

oil

our

side.

If

we

can

secure

would be

Messene,
specially convenient both
tor our army and our fleet.
Let us see also
what we can do with the native tribes.
If they
it

are

friendly,

provisions.

we

shall

This done,

be well

supplied

we should

at

with

once attack

NICIAS

48

Syracuse.

Of

Syracuse will restore


come to terms with

if

course,

Leontini, and Selinus


Egesta, the objects of our expedition will have
been obtained.'

Lamachus.
Syracuse

and

at

'

My

once,

voice

while

panic-stricken.

is
it

The

for
is

first

attacking

unprepared
impression

made by a great armament is the strongest


If we go now, we shall
so we shall find it.
citizens still outside the
find many of the
a
secure
and
walls,
great amount of property
and Megara, which is now deserted, and is
;

close to Syracuse,

As

the

will

be a convenient

head-

town and harbour.'


opinion of Lamachus found

quarters with

its

no

favour with either of his colleagues, he withdrew


There can be
it and voted with Alcibiades.
but

little

doubt that here

a great opportunity

It is highly
was lost.
probable that if the
Athenians had attacked Syracuse at once they
would have captured it, just as the allied armies
in the Crimea would have been spared the long
and tedious siege, costly both in lives and
money, if they had marched on Sebastopol

immediately after the victory of the Alma/


Alcibiades now began to put the plan which
He sailed to
he had proposed into operation.
allowed
to
address the
Messene, but, though

AN ILL-OMENED START

49

Assembly, he could not obtain anything beyond


permission to buy provisions,

etc.,

outside the

Naxos accepted

the proposal of alliance ;


While
by an accident.

walls.

Catana was gained


Alcibiades was addressing the Assembly, some
soldiers broke open an unguarded postern gate,

and entered the town. The leaders of the antiAthenian party were glad to escape, and Catana
became an ally. Camarina preferred to remain
neutral.
Meanwhile a squadron of ten ships
had been sent into the great harbour of Syracuse.
From the deck of one of them a herald pro'

claimed,

All citizens of Leontini that are in

may come

out without fear and join


their friends and benefactors, the Athenians.'
Syracuse

On

to Catana they

the return of the fleet

found one of the

summons

state ships awaiting

them with

and some others to


trial on
charges of having profaned the mysteries and

to Alcibiades

go back to Athens and stand their

The

mutilated the Hernias.

accused appeared

to obey, and started, Alcibiades travelling with


his friends in his own
the officers had
ship

been instructed not to arrest him.

When

they

arrived at Thurii, they left the ship and went


into hiding.
Shortly after, Alcibiades betook

He

himself to Sparta.
in his absence.

'

was condemned to death

will

show them

that

am

NICIAS

5o
alive,'

he

sentence

remarked, when he heard


and he set himself with

powers and with

a fatal success to

of the
all

his

make good

his threat.

Nothing more of importance was done during


what remained of the usual season for campaignFruitless attempts were made to gain
ing.
over Himera and Hybla, and a native
Hyccara by name, was captured, and

town,
its

in-

habitants sold as slaves, realising 120 talents.


1

By

origin.

is meant of Italian as opposed to Greek


There were Sicani and Siceli in the island before

'native'

the Greeks came, the former having immigrated,


posed, from Spain, the latter from Italy.

it is

sup-

CHAPTER

VI

AT SYRACUSE
It will be as well, before I proceed any further,
to give a brief description of Syracuse, and of
the surrounding localities.
Syracuse itself consisted of an Inner and an
Outer City. The Inner City occupied an island,
or rather what had been an island, for, as

Thucy-

was no longer surrounded by water.


This bore the name of Ortygia. The Outer
It was built
City was called Achradina.
partly
on some level ground, separated from the island
by what was called the Inner Harbour (to be dedides says,

it

scribed hereafter), partly on the southern portion

of a plateau which came

from the

down with

interior to the sea.

a gradual slope

This plateau was

triangular in shape, the base being occupied


by the Outer City, the apex, about four miles
and a half westward from the sea, being at a

point

called

Euryalus, where
5i

narrow ridge

NICIAS

52

connected

with the high land of the interior.

it

The Outer

City was protected by a wall, built


by Gelon, which ran from the Bay of Thapsus
on the north to a point on the coast not far

from the

Harbour. Outside the wall


of Gelon, which seems to have been built
a
two
declivity,
separating
along
slight
the
portions of the plateau, was
region of
This
had
to a
been,
probably
Epipolas.
Little

Here, we
by houses.
may suppose, would have been found the inhabitants and the property on which Lamachus
certain extent, occupied

hoped to lay hands when he proposed an


immediate movement on Syracuse. The Great
Harbour was a natural bay, sheltered from
the open sea by the island of Ortygia on the
one side, and by the promontory of PlemmyThe entrance between
rium on the other.
these two was somewhat less than a mile broad,
and the bay made consequently a well-sheltered
harbour.
in

Sicily.

To

this

The

day

it

is

one of the best

Inner Harbour

included

the

between Ortygia and the mainland,


and adjacent spaces of water, some of them
channel

probably excavations.
protected by
hostile attack.

its

It

situation

The

river

was small, but so


as

to be safe

Anapus flowed

from
into

the Great Harbour, after skirting the southern

AT SYRACUSE
side

of the

53

On some

high ground
about
half-a-mile
overhanging
right bank,
from its mouth, was a temple of Olympian
plateau.

its

Zeus, from which the whole ridge got its name


of Olympieion.
Three months had now been passed either
in

inaction

or in

enterprises,

trifling

and, as

has been said, the usual season for campaign-

But Nicias, who was now

was closed.

ing

command

practically in

colleague

of the expedition, his

Lamachus being

a far less influential

personage, could not for very shame allow the


whole year to pass without some more serious

The

Syracusans, at first terrified at


the imposing force of the invaders, began to
The citizen army clamoured to
despise them.
effort.

be led against them, if, as appeared, they were


not disposed themselves to commence an attack.

Horsemen would
Catana, and
to

put

know why

ride

up

to

their

insulting questions,

had come.

they

lines

at

wanting

Was

it

to

peaceably or to restore Leontini ?


Nicias now devised and put in practice a

settle

stratagem, which would


not, however, have been possible but for the
discreditable fact that there was scarcely a
sufficiently

Greek

ingenious

which some citizens


might not be found who were ready to play

community

in

NICIAS

54

the traitor to serve a party end.


His object
was to make a demonstration in force which

would have the


cusans
able

that

than

of proving to the Syrawere more formid-

effect

the

invaders

But to do

seemed.

they

this

he

wanted to transport the army to the neighbourhood of the city unopposed. If he went
by sea, he would have to disembark on a
shore occupied by the

enemy if he went by
numerous cavalry of the enemy, to
which he had none of his own to oppose,
would certainly do much damage. The problem was, to get the Syracusans out of the
;

land, the

way, and

A
who
with

it

was managed thus.

of Catana, friendly to Athens,


contrived
to keep on good terms
yet
the other side, went to
Syracuse with
citizen

what purported to be
in

that

pathisers
of the Athenian

message from sym-

ran thus,
Many
soldiers are in the habit of
city.

'

It

leaving their camp, and passing the night in


the city without their arms.
If
come at

daybreak with
prise

them

into

the

we

strong
will

force

you
you will sur-

do our

part, closing the


gates, assailing the Athenians, and setting fire
to their ships.'
The Syracusan
fell
;

generals

trap.

They made

whole force of the

city,

levy

of

and marched out

the
in

AT SYRACUSE
the

55

of Catana, encamping for the


a spot about eight miles from that

direction

night at

That same night Nicias embarked


whole army, and sailing southward, made

town.

his
his

way round Ortygia into the Great Harbour. At


break of day he disembarked his men, unopposed, as he had hoped, a little to the
south of where the Anapus flows into the
He broke down the bridge by which
sea.
The
the road to Helorus crossed the river.
of the

ridge

wing

right

walls,

Olympieion protected his left


some marshy ground by the sea his
in front the ground was broken with
He made a palisade
houses, gardens.

to protect the ships, and constructed a

rough

breastwork of timber and stone which touched


the sea at a spot called Dascon, where there
No
were small indentations on the shore.

attempt to hinder these

from the
troops.

city,

Late

Syracusans,
practised
followed.

operations was

made

which was, indeed, denuded of


in the

who had

cavalry of the
discovered the
fraud

day the

upon them, came back the infantry


Wearied as they must have been, for
;

they had marched, going and returning, between forty and fifty miles, they offered battle.
As Nicias did not accept the challenge, they

bivouacked for the night outside the

city.

NICIAS

56

The

next day Nicias marshalled his troops


in front of his
position, arranging them in
two divisions, one of which was kept in reserve,

in

the

eight

of a

formation

with the baggage


files

deep.
ranged in sixteen

in

The

hollow square,
Both were

middle.

the

Syracusan troops were

files.
They were superior in
and
had
some
1200
number,
cavalry, an arm
in which their adversaries were
wholly wantBut
were
ing.
they
Many had
ill-disciplined.

straggled into the city, not from any desire of


shirking the fight, for they were conspicuously
brave, but from the indifference which the
citizen soldier feels for discipline till a sharp exSome of
perience has taught him its value.
these,

battle

when they came

back, found

had begun, and joined

it

that

the

where they

could.
Nicias, according to Greek custom, made an
The best
encouraging speech to his men.
'

'

encouragement,' he said, is the certainty of our


This is far better
superiority over the enemy.
than fine words and a feeble force.

And how

can we, men of Argos and Mantinea, Athenians


and the flower of the island peoples, fai4 to be
superior to this indiscriminate levy, a Sicilian
rabble which looks

down upon

as

rash.

ignorant as

it is

But

us because
if

it is

you need any

AT SYRACUSE
other thought,
far

remember

that

away from your home.

57

you are fighting


You must make

yourselves masters of the country, or you will


find it hard to escape from it.
The enemy has

multitude of cavalry which will not fail to


trouble you if you give way.
Your position is
one such as to make victory a necessity
a

'

Such language, whatever effect it might have


moment, was of ill omen for the future.
An invading army, which had to fight for its
at the

life

the very

first

time that

met the enemy,

it

was clearly in its wrong place. The best thing


that could have happened to it, as Grote points
Success for the
out, would have been a defeat.
present

implied

overwhelming

disaster

in

the

future.

Nicias at once took the offensive, charging


This was obviously the
with his first division.
It was the action of an
right course to follow.
army that felt itself superior in morale to its

enemies

was a

and

who, with all his faults,


had expected, it found the

as Nicias,

skilful soldier,

enemy unprepared.

The

battle that followed

was stubbornly fought.


occurred in the course of

it

in favour of the Athenians.

taught them
the season

that

it

was

thunderstorm that
helped to decide

it

Their experience

common

incident of

the Syracusans, on the contrary, re-

NICIAS

58

garded

it

as a sign

of divine displeasure.

The

wing, attacked by the Argive heavy-armed,


was the first to yield, the centre was broken by

left

the Athenians, and before long the whole army


was in retreat. The conquerors did not pursue

them

checked

far,

as

they were by the hostile

Nor were

the Syracusans so shattered


cavalry.
as to forget to detach a force for the protection
of the temple on the Olympieion, which had a

The Athenians, after burning


rich treasury.
their dead, fifty in number, bivouacked for the
night.

herald

On
to

the following day the enemy sent a


ask for the bodies of those who

on
hundred and
had

fallen

their side.

These numbered two

Nicias attempted nothing


sixty.
further, but re-embarking his army, returned to
Catana.
The campaign for that year was over.

He must have
thing was clear to him.
some cavalry if he was to hold the field at
One

Accordingly he
sent home a requisition for this, and for a
fresh supply of money, while he set himself to
all

against

much
When we

get as

the

Syracusans.

both on the spot.


take stock of the results of four

as he could of

months' operations, we see that next to nothing


had been effected. In the way of local help

Some of the cities,


had been obtained.
which had been expected to be friendly, had

little

AT SYRACUSE

59

not one of those that were


aloof;
doubtful had come over.
Nothing had been
done towards the investment of Syracuse. One

stood

success in the field was

Five

months

of

all

probably an inevitable

loss

now

followed,

of time, but one

most damaging to the invading


Nicias received, indeed, the reinforceof cavalry for which he had asked.

was

that
force.

ment
(It

had been gained.

that

inaction

will

hereafter have

to be

considered

how

was that they started without this necessary


The omission is all the more strange
arm.
Nicias and his colleagues had only to
that
seeing

it

what they wanted.) He attempted to


win over Messene, but failed. A democratic
revolution had been plotted, but Alcibiades,
who was of course in the secret, had put the

requisition

aristocrats

on

their

and the

guard,

attempt

This was the beginning of the


the
damage that Alcibiades was to do to
which he had persuaded
to
undertaking
At Camarina a formal argument was
Athens.
and
held, Hermocrates representing Syracuse,

was crushed.

Euphemus, whose name,

if

we

translate

it

by
was
pleadappropriate,
curiously
fair-spoken,'
The point debated was
ing for Athens.
Is Syracuse or Athens more
this
'

practically
likely to interfere

with

the

independence

of

NICIAS

6o

Camarina

Their

epitomised

Hermocrates.

may

arguments

The

'

be

thus

professions of the
is it that
they

How

Athenians are a sham.

are so anxious to befriend

Leontini, a colony
of Chalcis in Euboea, while they keep Chalcis
can they pretend to
itself in slavery ?

How

champion Ionians against Dorians here, when


Their
they tyrannise over Ionians in Asia ?
claims

are

theirs

does

ambition

its

which

has

already

enslaved

their

home and now seeks to add Sicily


victims.
Show them that you are not

kinsmen
to

This scheme of
obviously false.
but come from that insatiable

at

handed over from one

Ionians, only fit to be


master to another, but

Dorians with a birth-

Perhaps you think that it


right of freedom.
would be well that Syracuse should be humbled.
Yes but remember that whatever she suffers
;

will suffer next, for

you

You

are

say that

you are her neighbours.


bound to the Athenians

you
the alliance is
But
by
So much I have
not aggression.
alliance.

why you

should not help them.

to stand neutral

if

we

take care that


if

we

fall,

inaction

defence,

Do

shall

not

rewarded

slaves.'

show

not think

are victorious,

that policy
you will be

by being made

for

said to

we

will

answer
for

your

AT SYRACUSE
Euphemus.

'Between

61

Ionians and Dorians

We

found it to
there has always been enmity.
be so, and we seized the opportunity of the
victory over the Persians to rid ourselves of
At the
the unjust predominance of Sparta.

same time we established our own supremacy


This was in their
over the island states.
interest, for we were their best protectors
and it was in our interest also, for had they
This
not aided the Persians in attacking us ?
;

latter reason
it

our own

safety

brings

acts differently here and there.


to make these states subject

Only
we had
You we

desire

to

make

us here.

There
to us.

independent.

It

would not answer our purpose to weaken you.


The stronger you are, the better for us, because
For it is Syracuse that
the worse for Syracuse.
both we and you have reason to fear. We,
because she will ally herself with our enemies
at home ; you, because she desires to establish
It was the fear
an imperial sway over Sicily.
of this that made you seek our alliance in past"

You
not reject this alliance now.
years.
Athenian
no
are
will surely miss it when there

Do

hand to help you against a powerand ambitious neighbour.'


The Athenian pleader was right so far

auxiliaries at
ful

of
Syracuse was dangerous to the smaller states

NICIAS

62

Sicily.

He

there was

was

less successful in

showing that

good reason for the interference of

The

Athens.

plea of self-preservation, protection against a possible alliance of Dorians from


Sicily with Dorians of the Peloponnesus, was a

sham.

Every one must have known that


Athens could best protect herself by keeping
her forces at home.
In the face of this conflict of
probabilities

and

Camarina

interests,

declare her neutrality.


With the tribes of

the

centre

of the

it

thought

best

to

independent natives in

was

Nicias

island,

more

was their obvious interest to


off
Athens
Of the
play
against Syracuse.
two Athens could certainly harm them less,
because she was further away.
They sent
and
to
the
provisions
money
camp at Naxos.
Envoys were sent to Carthage to invite help,
successful.

but

It

without

success.

Some

obtained from the maritime

The
in

their

petition

Syracusans

were

application

was

naturally

for
to

far

auxiliaries

of Etruria.

cities

more

help.
their

were

successful

Their

first

own mother

The envoys were received in


city, Corinth.
the
most friendly manner, the
Assembly

Syracuse was founded by Archias, an


Corinth, about the year 733 b.c.

Heraclid of

AT SYRACUSE

63

own

deciding to send commissioners of their

accompany them

to

their

plea

with

to

found

of

support

At

energy.

assistance.

unexpected

Sparta
they
Alcibiades was there.
invitation

Sparta

utmost

the

and

He

had come by the


government, sent, doubt-

the

reply to a suggestion of his own,


and protected by a safe-conduct. His policy
had been so strongly anti-Spartan that he
less,

in

before

hesitated

naturally
the

but

that

taking

this

dominated

him

feeling
passionate desire to revenge himself

own

countrymen

prevailed.

The

step,

upon

the
his

Syracusan

envoys had made their petition for help, and


The
found but an indifferent response.

government was ready with advice Syracuse


had better not make terms with the Athenians
but it was disinclined to send troops.
It
that
this
Alcibiades
was at
intervened
point
Here it is
with a most persuasive speech.

an abbreviated form,

in
'

Let

with

my
I

me

set myself personally right


the friendship which
renewed
you.
I did all that
ancestors had repudiated.
first
I

could for your countrymen

prisoners

Then and

you
then

requited
only did

Doubtless you suspect

me

me
I

as

when they were


with
act

hostility.

against you.
being a partisan

NICIAS

64

That

of democracy.

am, so far as opposiBut of democracy itself

tion to tyrants goes.


I

am no

to

'

do.
I

our

change

we were

system

Now
No

war with you ?


let me tell
you what we hoped to
one

knows

helped to plan

we were
most

great

it,

host

after

We

should

of Sicilian

of barbarian

disputed

masters

scheme,

and

generals

that

it

out.

carry
If Syracuse

and

Italy,
is

and,

what

may

falls,

is

would

become unThis was our

be

sure

will

do

alone

can

left

You

Greeks,

fleet

to

Greece.

nothing

or, indeed,

this

fore,

you

us

our armies would take

of

are

Italian

Our

Then we were

cities.

with

bring

and

tribes.

blockade your coasts

your

for

Peloponnesus.

and

I,

were to begin by
this
we were to

from Italy
Greeks in Italy
on
to
This, or
go
Carthage.
done, we were to attack the

to

of

We

than

better

this

it.

Sicily

the

attack

I
attempt
of government when

at

conquering

But how could

friend.

their

best

to

hinder

them.

save

Sicily

can

My

the

that

advice, there-

you.
send an army to help Syracuse,
still
more important than an

Regeneral to take the command.


new your war with Athens, and so prevent

army,
her

from

sending

reinforcements

to

Sicily.

AT SYRACUSE
Occupy and

fortify

Deceleia.

65

This

will

in-

tercept a large part of the revenues of Athens.'


Alcibiades ended by attempting to vindicate

conduct in thus acting against his country.


This argument I may omit.
The speech
convinced its audience.
It was resolved to
send an army in the spring.
This was to
his

commanded by

be

proved

himself,

as

certain

we

shall

Gylippus,
see,

who

eminently

worthy of the choice.


1

This was the fort which the Peloponnesians had


occupied and fortified when they invaded Attica in the
earlier years of the war.
It was fourteen miles from
Athens.

CHAPTER

VII

ENERGY OF THE ATHENIANS

The

cavalry which was dispatched from Athens


early in the year was to be horsed in Sicily.
Attica was too hilly a region, and had, for the

most

part, too light a soil, to be suitable for the

breeding of horses.

We

may

be certain, there-

times, when any large number


was wanted, they would have to be procured
elsewhere.
After the beginning of the war the
native supply must have ceased altogether, nor

fore, that at all

could

it

have had time to be renewed in the

few years that had elapsed since the peace.


is difficult

to suppose that a

man

It

so experienced

Nicias could have forgotten this necessary


his requisitions for the ex-

as

arm when making

pedition.
Probably it had always been intended
to find horses in the island, which, indeed, was

famous for
1

its

breed,

and one of the

of

iii.
704) mentions the horses of AgrigenIn the CEdipus Coloneus of Sophocles, Ismene rides

Virgil {^En.

tum.

results

a Sicilian horse.

66

ENERGY OF THE ATHENIANS

67

the unfriendly reception given to the expedition


was the disappointment of this expectation.

This

important defect was


1
remedied, and the generals
campaign with energy.

now,

however,

began the new

This campaign it was possible to carry on in


one way only. The city had to be invested.
During the winter the Syracusans had been busy

on

work which rendered

laborious and difficult.

this operation

more

This was a new

wall,

built about a

thousand yards in advance of the


wall of Gelon, and reaching from the cliffs on
the southern side of the Bay of Thapsus down
to the Great

Harbour.

This wall had to be

matched, so to speak, by an Athenian wall of

I
might say greater length,
had
to
cover
more ground. So far
seeing
the attacking side was at a great disadvantage

equal

length
it

compared with the position which it might


if the advice of Lamachus,
given
If
in the previous summer, had been followed.
the Syracusan generals had followed up this
measure of defence with another, and had occu-

as

have occupied

pied the high ground of Epipolas, first with an


armed force, and then with a fort, a siege would

have been rendered almost impossible.


1

We

shall find,

This

however, that the cavalry took very

part in the operations that followed.

little

NICIAS

68

precaution they neglected, nor did Nicias think


this point of
vantage till he was on

of seizing
the

of beginning his operations.

point

He

anticipated, indeed, the Syracusan generals, but


he anticipated them by but a very short time.

detachment of six hundred picked troops


from the city had been told off to occupy
Epipolas, and were about to march for that
purpose when intelligence reached the officer
in command that the Athenians had taken possession of

On

it.

the preceding night, so long

had the step been delayed, Nicias and Lamachus


had embarked a force at Catana, landed them
on the south side of the Bay of Thapsus, and,
marching up the north-eastern slope by which
Epipolae

was

approached from

the

sea,

had

The Syracusans
occupied the position in force.
were not disposed to acquiesce without a struggle
in the loss

of this commanding position.

The

detachment spoken of was led by the officer in


command to the attack. But it had to march
in haste nearly three miles,

it

had to breast the

found the enemy strongly posted.

hill,

and

The

assault failed, with the loss of the leader

and half

it

men.

The

besiegers were able to


erect forts without molestation at a spot called
his

Labdalum, situated on the southern cliffs of the


Bay of Thapsus, and at Tyke, a commanding

ENERGY OF THE ATHENIANS

69

position in the Epipolas region, including one


1
to be called the Circle.
This last was to be,

seemed, the central point from which the investing lines were to start, being drawn northward to the Bay of Thapsus, southward to the
it

Great Harbour.

The Athenians had

always enjoyed, and appear


have deserved, a high reputation for the
celerity and skill with which they conducted

to

siege

operations.

Their vigour now

terrified

the Syracusans, who saw the lines which were


to shut them in pushed forward with an astonishing speed.
They approached with the intention of delivering an attack, but the Athenians

promptly accepted the challenge, and presented


so orderly and imposing an array that the Syracusan generals, contrasting it with the disorder
in their

own

to give

undisciplined ranks, did not venture


They retired, but left some

battle.

These brought
troopers to harass the besiegers.
out their own cavalry, and in the skirmish which
followed the latter had the advantage.
This is
the first and last appearance of the Athenian
cavalry in the story of the siege.
1

Some

taking the

writers

word

doubt whether
kuklos to

tion generally.
2
So at Platasa the

camp of Mardonius

mean

this fort ever existed,


the line of circumvalla-

Greeks delayed to attack the


the Athenians came up.

till

fortified

NICIAS

7o

The

Circle Fort

fort

if

it

was

was

next

This done, the investing line was


northward
towards the shore at Tropushed
one
of
the
soldiers building the wall,
part
gilus,
finished.

another carrying timber and stone, which they


deposited according as materials would be re-

Though

quired.

put them

at

these occupations must have


in the face of a

a disadvantage

vigilant enemy,
to risk a battle.

Hermocrates did not venture


A defeat would have caused

such

discouragement
of the city, and he

more prudent

to a

as

to

felt

imperil the safety


compelled to adhere

His plan was

policy.

to

push an intercepting wall from the Syracusan


across the line of circumvallafortification
tion

this,

or

at

which
palisade,
purpose for a time, he

least

would serve the same

before the Athenians could


This intercepting wall was to be
between the Circle Fort and the southern end
of the Outer City, at a spot where there was

hoped

to

finish

hinder him.

of Apollo surrounded by a grove


of
olive trees, and known accordingly
{temenos)
Hermocrates succeeded in
as Apollo Teminites.

temple

work; perhaps I should rather say,


was allowed to finish it without interruption.
The heavy-armed soldiers belonging to one of

finishing this

the city tribes were told off to guard

it,

and the

ENERGY OF THE ATHENIANS

71

remainder of the army retired within their own


line.

Nicias, however,

had no intention of allowing

this interruption to continue.

While the enemy-

was busy with the work, he could pursue his


own operations undisturbed, nor did he care to
challenge a conflict for which he could detach
but a portion of his forces, the other portion beAn
ing wanted to protect the circumvallation.

opportunity was sure, he thought, to occur of


Nor was
attacking the new wall with success.
he disappointed.
relax

its

vigilance.

The garrison soon began to


The inaction of the Atheni-

It seemed as if it
ans had put it off its guard.
would be allowed to keep the position, just as

had been allowed to occupy it, without interBy degrees the customary watches
ruption.

it

The

ceased.

soldiers of the garrison, instead of

manning the wall, took their ease in tents which


they set up behind it to shelter them from the

Some even

away at mid-day to take


their meal and the siesta which followed it at
1
Here was the opportunity
their own homes.
for which the Athenian generals had been waitThey selected three hundred heavy-armed
ing.

sun.

stole

Syracusans justified the reputation which the


generally enjoyed of being a luxurious and
pleasure-loving race.
1

The

Sicilians

NICIAS

72

soldiers,

with a number of light-armed similarly

for the occasion, and sent them to


attack the wall, covering the movement
by a
demonstration of their whole force, one half

accoutred

to watch the postern gate at


intercepting wall began, the other

being

detached

which

the

being ready to check any sally that might be


The
attempted from other parts of the city.
assault, delivered as it was with the rapidity for
which the Athenians were famous, was com-

The garrison, taken by surpletely successful.


fled
in
hot
haste
prise,
along the inner side of
the wall towards the postern gate.
The storming

party

followed

in

pursuit,

and overtook

Some were adventurous enough

them.

to press

through the postern gates along with the fugitives ; some soldiers from the main division,

which had reached the gate at the same time,


Here, however, they met with
doing the same.
a check.
The Syracusans were in force inside
the wall, and drove out the intruders with some
loss.

But the wall and the stockade which


it were
destroyed, the Athenians carry-

covered

ing off the materials to be used for their own


The same day an aqueduct which

walls.

partially supplied the city

with water was de-

stroyed.
But the plan of the intercepting wall was not

ENERGY OF THE ATHENIANS


to

be

73

was a necessity to the


besieged, if they were to save the city from
being blockaded, and another attempt was made
to construct one.
The first had been pushed
given

up.

across Epipolae

It

the cliffs in which


These cliffs were now
strongly occupied by Nicias, and another direction had to be taken.
This time the building
as
before
from
the wall, but from
party, starting
as

as

far

that region terminated.

a lower point, traversed the


low-lying ground
of the city till they reached the River

west

Again they were allowed to complete


work without interruption, and again they

Anapus.
their

had the mortification of seeing it destroyed.


On the former occasion the attack had been
timed for the noonday meal and rest on this
it was made before dawn.
Lamachus was in
;

command,

Nicias,

as

we

shall

see

hereafter,

Lamachus came down


being on the sick-list.
from the fort which commanded the cliffs of
Epipolas into the low ground, his men carrying
planks and door panels to help them across
It had been
impassable portions of the marsh.
arranged that the fleet should have its anchorage
in the Bay of Thapsus, and sail round into the
Great Harbour.
This movement had a twofold purpose

to divert the

attention of the

Syracusan army, and to threaten the defenders

NICIAS

74

of the new wall on the flank.

was on

fleet

was attacked and


Syracusan army sallied from the
to retake it, and a general action followed.

carried.
city

While the

its

way,

the

wall

The

Once more

the superiority of the Athenians,

a well-disciplined force,
strongly leavened with
the veterans of many campaigns, asserted itself.

The

right wing of the Syracusans was driven to


take refuge within the line; the left, including the
cavalry, retreated along the river bank towards

the bridge by which, as has been already mentioned, the road to Helorus was carried across

on the

body of Athenian heavy-armed,


initiative, it would seem, of the subor-

the stream. 1

dinate officer in

command, hurried

to intercept

But the Athenians became disordered by


the rapidity of their movement, and the hostile

them.

cavalry, seizing the opportunity, charged with


such energy as to drive them back on the right
This also was diswing of the main army.

ordered by the impact of the fugitives, and the


fortune of the day seemed about to change when

Lamachus, who was in command on the left


wing, came to the rescue with the Argive heavyarmed and as many archers as he could collect
The action was fought between the river and the city.
The cavalry were retreating away from the city, seeking the
protection of the fortified fort on the Olympieion.

ENERGY OF THE ATHENIANS

75

on the spur of the moment. His arrival restored the Athenian superiority, but the help
he

cost

countrymen dear.
characteristic imPressing
petuosity, he found himself with but a few
1
followers on the further side of a dyke.
There
he was slain by a Syracusan horseman. A few
moments afterwards the Athenians came up, but
that

brought
to

his

the front with

time crossed the bridge,


carrying the dead body of Lamachus along with
them.

the

enemy had by

this

The
Fighting was not yet over for the day.
Syracusans, encouraged by the check administered
to the Athenian right, made a sally against the
The movement was unexpected,
Circle Fort.
and the garrison was probably weaker than

some of the troops serving for the day in


The outworks of
the ranks of the main army.
usual,

the fort were carried, and the fort itself might


have been captured but for the presence of mind
of Nicias, who happened to be on the spot, an
attack of illness

the

field.

some

By

preventing him

his orders a pile

battering-rams

which

lay

from taking
of timber and
in

front

of

1
It is a curious coincidence that in Aristophanes's play
of The Acharnians, Lamachus, whose martial ardour is
ridiculed in a fairly good-humoured way, is represented as
meeting with an accident in leaping a ditch. Doubtless

he had a character for personal activity and courage.

NICIAS

76

the

were

walls

on

set

The

fire.

flames

checked the advance of the enemy, and served


also as a signal of help
required to the army
in

engaged

the lower ground.


At the same
fleet was seen to sail into

time the Athenian

This diversion was im-

Great Harbour.

the

effective.

The

mediately
Syracusan generals,
anticipating an attack on their quarters, recalled
all
their troops, and retreated within their
lines.
It

is

difficult

to

Athens suffered by

estimate

the

the

loss

which

death of Lamachus.

The

extraordinary change in the prospects


of the enterprise which took place between
the beginning of the campaign and the battle

which he met with

in

some three

his

months was

end a
largely

period

due to

of
his

When he died, Athens


energy and enterprise.
was within a measurable distance of success.

We

affair

no

permanent occupation of the island


possible, and yet feel that if Lamachus

that

was
had
he
a

been permitted to have his way when


advised an immediate attack on Syracuse,

great

That
it

be entirely convinced that the whole


was a piece of madness, on the ground

may

might well have been won.


chance was missed, and now when

victory

first

seemed

possible

that

the

mistake

might

ENERGY OF THE ATHENIANS


have been

the

retrieved,

lost

army

77

most

its

There is something else to


vigorous leader.
a fortunate thing for the
It was
be said.

moment
Circle

that

Fort

experience
useful.

had kept Nicias

illness

when

just

were found
But the cause

from the

field

his

We

particularly

most

know from

the

himself the nature of his disease.

There

some trouble

may

be

of

this

found the

kind,

him

detained

that

affection of the kidneys.


that is more apt to cloud

and

sagacity

be

to

of battle had the

trous consequences.
happen to

the

at

is

the

sufferer

was an
no ailment
It

In

brain.
is

it

mysterious

disas-

believed,

cause

which

from time to time in Napoleon's latter days


seemed to paralyse the great soldier's energies.
Nicias was
no Napoleon, and was wholly
unequal to the conduct of the great enterprise
which was forced upon him, but there were
occasions on which he would not have failed
so

disastrously as he

command of

did

his mental

if

he had had

full

and bodily energies.

For the moment, however, the fortunes


The
in
the ascendant.
of Athens were
Syracusan forces had been proved to be
manifestly

unequal,

unequal
indeed,

to

their

that for

antagonists

time

their

so

com-

NICIAS

78

manders did not venture to risk an engagement.


The investing wall was not wholly
the
finished
northern
from the
portion,

Circle

to

the

Bay
completed but not

of

Thapsus, never was


remained to be

much

It
to
reached, or was soon about
from
the
Circle
to
the
down
Great
reach,
Harbour.
Four-fifths, we may say, of the
land circuit of Syracuse was blockaded
the
fifth
in
a
But
was,
remaining
way, open.
the egress and ingress thus left was not by
any means easy or convenient.
Everything
had to pass by the narrow neck of ground
which connected Epipolas with the high lands
of the interior.
It only remained for Nicias
to occupy this by a fort
and it is impossible
to imagine why he did not
and Syracuse
would have been practically cut off from
communication with the outer world.

done.

CHAPTER

VIII

SPARTA TO THE RESCUE


Syracuse had enjoyed

a period of almost un-

broken peace for nearly fifty


difficulties with other Greek

years.
cities,

She had had

and had been

threatened at one time by the ambitious schemes


of a native prince, 1 but had never actually felt
the privations of a siege, or, indeed, any of the
This accounts for
inconveniences of warfare.
the

want of

discipline that

we have observed

in

her citizen soldiers, and even for the profound

discouragement which prevailed. The question


of surrender began to be discussed, and informal negotiations were opened with the

Athenian commanders through persons whose


politics led

them

to

submission without

regard the
abhorrence.

possibility

The

of

peacethe demowhile
but
was
indeed
small,
party
1

Dacetius, 455

79

b.c.

NICIAS

So

which was opposed to surrender, was


1
Hence there was no
overpoweringly strong.

cracy,

serious division to interfere with the defence.

the hope of making successful


was rapidly growing weaker. The
on the other
prospects of the besiegers,
Most of the
were
hand,
daily brightening.
their
abandoned
South
Greek cities of
Italy
attitude of indifference or hostility, and fur-

Nevertheless,
resistance

nished

supplies in

maritime
three

they
the

But

cities

abundance.
sent, in

actually

The

Etrurian

the

shape

of

ships-of-war, the help which


promised at an earlier time, while

fifty-oared

had

native
Nicias,

Lamachus

tribes

no
at

gave
side,

adherence.

their

having

longer
his

in

the

neither

energetic

considered

seriously the willingness of the Syracusans


to treat nor pushed the siege with vigour.
At Sparta and Corinth the cause of the
It was
besieged city was given up as lost.
was
complete, and
reported that the investment
that surrender was now merely a question of time.

Gylippus, the Spartan,


in vain to overcome

countrymen, was
1

The government

still

who had been


the
(in

struggling
of his

indifference

June 414) waiting

of Syracuse,

after

485

B.C.,

was

either in the hands of the people or of a tyrant, never in

those of an oligarchy.

SPARTA TO THE RESCUE

81

for the complete equipment of the Corinthian


fleet
for it was to Corinth, rather than to

Sparta, that he looked for help.

He

had,

how-

four ships ready, two of them Spartan,


two Corinthian, and with these he resolved

ever,

to start.

was too

late, he "feared, to help


but
the
Greek
cities in
Syracuse,
Italy, which
would be the next to be attacked, might yet be

saved.

It

Crossing the sea without misadventure,


ships being otherwise engaged,

the Athenian

he put into Tarentum.

This

city

was a Spartan

colony, and for this reason, and also because


Gylippus had many personal friends in it, it

welcomed him with enthusiasm.


At Thurii
he met with a very different reception.
The
pro-Athenian party in this city was now
dominant, and Gylippus could make no imAfter leaving
pression on the government.
Thurii, he encountered a violent storm which
drove him far to the south.
Narrowly escaping

shipwreck, he made his way back to Tarentum.


Here he had to beach and refit his ships. This
loss

of time might well have proved

the enterprise.

But Nicias, by

his

fatal to

negligence

and supineness, let slip the opportunity that


fortune had put in his hands.
It seems that
both he and the government of Thurii, from

whom

he

heard that Gylippus was approachF

NICIAS

82

ining, failed to appreciate the gravity of the


adventurer who had no more than
cident.

An

four ships with

him seemed

little

better than a

It was not worth while to take precautions against any mischief that he might do.
The more acute Alcibiades had seen what

pirate.

help there would be


name and presence of a Spartan

powerful

Gylippus now

in

the

mere

general.
learnt that the danger threaten-

ing Syracuse had been exaggerated.

The

city

was not completely invested, and might still


be entered by way of Epipolae and the ridge
that

with the high lands of the


course it was open to him still,

connected

interior.

Of

it

had always been, to run the blockade of


the Athenian ships and to make his way into
the city by sea.
Probably this seemed too
as

it

Spartan was naturally more at


home on land, and it was by land that he resolved to make the attempt. He sailed through

hazardous.

the Strait of Messene.

Even

Athenian ships on guard.


of four arrived, indeed, at
afterwards,

but he was

here he found no

small squadron

Rhegium

shortly

then out of reach of

pursuit.
Shortly afterwards he sailed along
the north coast of the island, his destination

being Himera, the only city of importance on


that side of Sicily.
There he hoped to levy a

SPARTA TO THE RESCUE

83

enough to give him a chance of


way into Syracuse, even against the
making
resistance of the besiegers.
Nor was he disThe
announcement
that he was a
appointed.
Spartan and came on behalf of his country
obtained for him a hearty welcome.
Himera
force strong
his

consented to join him with a muster of her own


citizens, and to furnish with arms and armour

such of his sailors and marines as wanted them.

summons was

sent

to Selinus to

send her

whole available force to a specified spot on the


A small contingent came in
line of march.

from Gel a, and

the native tribes,

men from some of


among whom, owing to the

thousand

death of a friendly chief, Athens had lately lost


The whole force amounted to about
ground.

With this he marched across the island,


3000.
and making his way along the ridge that led
into

Epipolas,

effected

unopposed

junction

with the Syracusan army.

The

besieged had received notice of his


coming from the captain of one of the ships
It had
belonging to the Corinthian squadron.

behind to repair an accident when the


set sail, but contrived,

been

left

rest

of the squadron

escaping

Syracuse

The

the
in

Athenian

advance.

Syracusans

It

blockade,

to

reach

arrived just in time.

were deliberating

in

public

NICIAS

84

assembly on the question


were inclined to consent to

of
it.

surrender,

and

The news

that

Gylippus was on his way to relieve the city


made a complete change in their feeling. They
now determined to resist to the last. It was
not

long

before

approaching.
city

Gylippus was

The whole armed

seen

to

force

of the

be

marched out to meet him.


speculate on the causes which

It is useless to

permit these operations to be


conducted without any attempt at resistance.

led

Nicias

to

Nothing, indeed, can be suggested

as probable,

except the inertia produced by the disease from


which we know him to have been suffering.

He knew

he must
of the mission of Gylippus
have heard from the commander of the small
;

squadron sent to the Strait of Messene that he


was on his way, and he must have been able to
the route that
conjecture, almost with certainty,

He

was not taken by surprise,


for Gylippus must have spent some time in colAnd yet he made no effort
lecting his troops.
he would take.

to stop his advance.

No

made upon
Himera was

attack was

him during

his march, although, as


than a hundred miles from Syracuse, 1
there must have been many opportunities. Nor

not

less

We

shall see (p. 103) that

something might have been

effected in this direction by timely action.

SPARTA TO THE RESCUE

85

was there any attempt to block the one road,


narrow and difficult though it was, by which
Syracuse

could

be

approached.
stranger
instance of negligence in an experienced soldier

cannot be found in the whole history of warfare.


The Spartan general, who at once took over

command

the supreme
lost

no time

strength.

in

of all the Syracusan forces,


making a demonstration of his

He

with his army

in

approached the Athenian line


order of battle. The besiegers,

astonished though they were for a time by his


unexpected appearance, did not refuse the challenge, but took
wall.
Gylippus

up

a position in front of the


sent a herald with the

then

proposition that if the Athenians would evacuate


Sicily within five days, they would be allowed
to do so without molestation.
To this Nicias

make any reply. This


took
some
time, and gave the
proceeding
up
an
Spartan what he probably wished to have
did not condescend to

opportunity of estimating the quality of the


This did not
troops under his command.
satisfy

him,

and

he

accordingly

retired

to

some more open ground nearer the Syracusan


lines.
Here he could more easily manoeuvre
his inexperienced
infantry and have the help of
his cavalry.

him.

Nicias did not venture to follow

This was

really to

acknowledge

defeat.

NICIAS

86

The

garrison of the city had come outside the


and he declined to engage it the capture
of the city itself was plainly impossible.
The

walls,

inaction of the besiegers seems to have so improved the morale of the Syracusan troops that

on the following day Gylippus made another


demonstration in front of the line of investment.

The

besieging

army made no movement

While

thus occupied, the


it was
attacked
and
Spartan general
captured the fort
of Labdalum, putting all the garrison to the

in

return.

The same day there happened another


ominous of the end. One of the ships
of the blockading squadron was captured.

sword.

incident

CHAPTER

IX

DECLINE OF THE ATHENIANS

have
made by
I

already related how two attempts were


the Syracusans to cut off the investing

line

of the besiegers by a cross wall and

had

failed.

how both

third attempt was now made by


From the Circle Fort southward to

Gylippus.
the Great Harbour the Athenian wall was complete ; of the northern portion,
to the Bay of Thapsus, much

done.

was here, then,

It

He

to work.

began

at

from the Circle


remained to be

that
a

Gylippus

set

point some 500

yards south of the northern end of Epipolas,


and succeeded in carrying it beyond the
Not only did his
Athenian fortifications.

men work

untiring energy, but their


kept the besiegers employed by

with

general
constant

also

Within

against their works.


or so of the arrival of the

demonstrations

month

Spartan commander, the prospect of capturing


Syracuse was practically
87

lost.

NICIAS

88

Nicias acknowledged so much by the next


He fortified the promonstep that he took.

tory of Plemmyrium,
the Great Harbour.

Athenian

had

ships

the

southern

Up

to

been

arm

of

time the

this

stationed

the

at

point where the blockading wall touched the


Great Harbour.
From this spot they had
their
watch
over the Inner Harkept up
bour with its two entrances. The new station
was much more convenient.
It gave more

and

accommodation,
but

occupied,

investment

no longer

it

more

was

practically

of the city on

And

possible.

disadvantage

conveniently
that the

meant

the land side was

had this positive


no water supply,

it

there was
and there was no wood at hand.
For both
of these necessaries the crews had to range
for considerable distances inland, and were,

consequently, exposed to incessant attack from


the force which occupied the Olympieion.
At

same

the

The

time

ships

These

had

escaping,

and

safely,

desertion

were
never

except
this

became more

largely

manned

had

any reason

the

difficulty

difficulty

was

Besides the slaves there were


in

the

their

crews.

service as

These would

by

easy.
slaves.

for

not

of

doing it
now removed.

many
be

foreigners
to

faithful

long as they were paid, and

DECLINE OF THE ATHENIANS

89

long as they saw a prospect of success.


Their pay was still regular, but success was
as

evidently becoming to
more doubtful.

how

these

causes

effectiveness of the

gleam

of

observers

all

We

shall

operated

Athenian

now

success

more and

see

before

to

destroy

the

brightened

the

long

fleet.

of the Athenians.

Gylippus, after
several times to no

prospects
challenging an engagement
purpose, ventured to attack the Athenian lines.

He

met with

was

ill

a severe repulse.
chosen, for it did not

utilised.

He

Assembly

next

for

ing
its

battlefield

give space enough


arms in which he was especially strong
to be properly
cavalry and skirmishers

for the

The

his

confessed

his

day, and

defeat

did

mistake
thus

by
away with

in

the

account-

much

of

'

It is monstrous,' he said
injurious effect.
to suppose that we, men of the

in conclusion,

'

we are, should
not be able to drive out of the country this
rabble of Ionians and islanders.'
Peloponnesus and

Dorians

as

few days afterwards he did something towards making his boast good. This time it
was Nicias who attacked, encouraged, doubt-

by his former success. But Gylippus had


chosen his ground better.
He had plenty of
room for the movements of the skirmishers and
less,

NICIAS

90

The

charged and broke the


left
wing of the Athenians, and the engagement
ended in the hurried retreat of the whole army.
the cavalry.

On
wall

latter

the night of this same day the intercepting


was carried beyond the Athenian line.

Practically the

investment was

at

an end

the

had not been able to hinder the comit was not


likely that
would
it when it was
they
capture
completed.
besiegers

pleting of the wall, and

The remainder
now arrived the

of the Corinthian squadron

crews were disembarked, and


helped in completing the defences of the city.
The most important of the new works was the
;

construction of a fort at Euryalus, the western

Communication with
extremity of Epipolas.
the interior was thus secured, while, at the
same time, the Athenians were cut off from

Bay of Thapsus. Gylippus felt confidence


enough in the position of affairs to quit the
the

city for a time, in order to visit various cities

from which he hoped to obtain reinforcements.


Meanwhile, at his suggestion, the Syracusan
ships were manned, and daily practised in naval
manoeuvres.

Already able to hold

their

own

on land, the Syracusans now hoped to meet


enemy successfully on his own element

the

the sea.
See

p. 81.

DECLINE OF THE ATHENIANS

91

on the other hand, was profoundly


His army was shut up within
discouraged.
Nicias,

the lines, for it could not venture forth in the


of the enemy.
It
was even doubtful
whether, should that enemy receive any con-

face

siderable
resist

would be able to
fleet, it was true, still

reinforcements,

an attack.

commanded

the

The
sea,

but,

it

as

been before

has

was deteriorating in efficiency.


mentioned,
The crews were growing weaker
the ships,
which had to be kept continually afloat, were
it

from want of cleaning and repair.


strong man, so circumstanced, would pro-

suffering

bably have given up the enterprise as hopeless,


and evacuated his position while it was still

But Nicias was


possible to do so in safety.
not a strong man; he feared responsibility.
left, as we shall see, the Assembly to make a

He

decision which he ought to have


One thing, however, was evident.
stay,

he

made

himself.

If he was to

must have reinforcements.

This he

put plainly to the people.


Thucydides has preserved the dispatch which he sent him when
the second
It is

The

campaign was drawing to an end.

doubtless a verbatim copy of the original.


speeches with which Thucydides inter-

sperses

his

narrative

sufficient fidelity the

probably represent with


thoughts of the speakers.

NICIAS

92

Possibly they do not all stand on the same level


of probability.
Some of the debates the historian

must have himself heard. Of others that, for


instance, which took place in the Syracusan
he must have had but a general
Assembly

All are greatly shortened, unless poli-

report.

were much more given


to brevity than they have been in any other
1
But the dispatch of Nicias
age or country.
ticians in

Greek

cities

probably exactly as he wrote it, and is, from


every point of view, a highly interesting docuis

ment.

It

runs thus

Of what has happened up to this time you


have been kept informed, men of Athens, by
The present crisis is such
frequent dispatches.
1

as to

told

need on your part, when you have been


how matters stand, a not less full delibera-

We

tion.

the

forces

defeated in

of

frequent

Syracuse,

we were

and

it

engagements
was against

and we constructed
we now occupy. Then
Gylippus, the Spartan, came with an army raised
partly in the Peloponnesus, partly in some of the
Sicilian cities.
Him, too, we conquered in our
Syracuse that

sent,

the fortified lines which

Alcibiades' speech, summarised on p.

take

more than

gives

it.

eight

minutes to deliver,

39,
as

would not
Thucydides

DECLINE OF THE ATHENIANS


first

engagement;

in the

93

second we were so over-

a multitude of cavalry and javelinthrowers that we had to retreat within our lines.

whelmed by

We

have been thus constrained, by the superior


enemy, to suspend our investment

forces of the

of the city and indeed all action.


Having to
to
of
some
heavy-armed
guard our lines,
keep

we cannot bring our whole force into


Meanwhile, the enemy have carried a
across

wall

tercepting

our

line

In

line.

field.

single in-

of investment.

Unless we can attack and storm


cannot finish our

the

this wall,

we

have

fact,

things
we profess to be besieging
to this pass
we are in fact besieged ourselves. By
others
land we are certainly so, for the cavalry do

come

More

not leave us free to move.

enemy has

sent

to ask

more

for

than

this,

the

envoys to the Peloponnesus


help, and Gylippus himself

He is
going on a tour of the Sicilian cities.
the
to
over
and
obtain
to
neutral,
bring
trying

is

additional help in soldiers and ships from the


It is, I understand, the purpose of the
friendly.

enemy not only

to assail our lines, but to attack

our ships.
'

You must

not think

they are actually going

even by

sea.

strange to hear that


to take the offensive

it

When we

in excellent condition.

came, our

Our

fleet

was

ships were dry

NICIAS

94

Now

the crews were excellent.

leaky, having remained too long


our crews greatly depreciated.
'

We

our ships.

First, as to

them ashore to

refit

our ships are


at sea, and

can never haul

for the

enemy's

fleet,

not superior, in numbers, is always


They can keep their ships
ready to attack.
and
for
dry,
high
they are not maintaining a
equal,

if

blockade
always

we

are

bound

to have

our

all

fleet

only a vast superiority of


that could enable us to keep one fleet

afloat.

It

is

numbers
on guard and another under

If

repair.

we

relax our vigilance in the least, we risk losing


our supplies, which are already brought close
under the walls of the city, and, therefore, with

no

little
'

difficulty.

Second, as to the crews.

still are,

our

They have

wasting away from various

citizen

seamen,

many

have been cut

by the enemy's cavalry, either


fetching wood and water, or
pillaging.

The

been, and

causes.

slaves desert

Of
off

when they were


when they were
now that we are

no longer superior to the enemy

the foreigners

whom we have induced to enter our service


leave us to make their way to one or other of
Those who joined us,
the neighbouring cities.
tempted by high pay to make a profit rather
than

to

fight,

change

our service

for

that

DECLINE OF THE ATHENIANS


of the enemy,

or

stray

the wide area of Sicily.

95

away somewhere

in

Others, again, while

they busy themselves in trafficking on their own


account, bribe their captains to take slaves for

You know

substitutes.

as

well

as

that

crew never remains for long in a really


condition ; of the first-class seamen, the

who

good

men

take the time from the stroke-oar, there

are but few.


'

Of all

these troubles the worst

that

is,

I,

as

your general, can find no remedy for the misAthenians are not easy to manage ; nor
chief.
can I find, as the enemy can easily do, recruits
to

fill

the vacant

places.

We

have only the

we brought with us at the first


from which to make good our losses and to
Naxos and Catana, our
supply present needs.
that

force

only

are but insignificant places.


If the
secure one further advantage, if the cities

allies,

enemy

in Italy,

from which we now draw our

supplies,

turn against us, in the conviction that our condition is hopeless, and no reinforcement comes

from you, we
will gain a

shall

be starved out

the

enemy

complete victory without even hav-

ing to fight for it.


I could
easily have sent you a more agreeable account of our fortunes, but not a more
'

useful.

It

is

absolutely necessary,

if

you

are

NICIAS

96
to

to any good purpose, that you


a full knowledge of the state of

deliberate

should have

our

affairs.

And

it is, I feel,

the safer policy to

you the undisguised truth, for I am well


You hate, inacquainted with your temper.
to
hear
but
the most favourable
deed,
any

tell

accounts, but you are furious


the results are not favourable.

if,

in

Do

the end,
not doubt

but that the force which you sent out at the


has done itself credit as to both officers

first

But now

and men.

all

is

Sicily

united against

and fresh forces are coming from the Peloponnesus this is the prospect before us, and
remember that we are no match even for those
whom we now have against us. Either tell us

us,

to

come home

or send us a reinforcement of

as ships, equal to our present


it a
with
and
strength,
large supply of money.
And send a successor to myself I am incapable

men,

as

well

of service, suffering as I am from a disease of


I think that I have a
the kidneys.
right to
ask this favour of you ; while my health lasted,
I did
you much service in various commands.

And

whatever you do, do

it

without delay, as
help which the

The

soon the spring begins.

enemy is expecting from Sicily, or which will


come from the Peloponnesus, will not be here,
indeed, as

soon as that

yet,

unless

you

are

DECLINE OF THE ATHENIANS


on the watch, it will
has done already.'
Athens was,

it

forestall

your action,

97
as

it

seems, too deeply committed

to the Sicilian undertaking to draw back.


To
in
the
face
of
such
a
as
Nicias
persist
story
had told them in the dispatch given above

seems to

us,

who

without

can view the

circumstances

than

madness.
passion,
was passion that distorted the popular
The pride and the anger of the
judgment.

But

better

little

it

people forbade them to draw back.


They did
as
other
nations
have
done
in
a similar
exactly
situation

as

we

did

when

American
independence, and
the

colonies struggled for their


we persisted in the conflict

long

after

it

had become absolutely hopeless


as Spain did
a
on
war
for
recently, carrying
years in Cuba
which was as hopeless as it was ruinous both
to herself and to her colony.
The Assembly
;

refused to supersede Nicias in the


but named two subordinate officers,

command,

who were

already serving in the expedition, to assist him


in his duties.
Reinforcements to the full extent

demanded were
sible

to be sent out as soon as posin the


Two fresh commanders
spring.

were named

Eurymedon

and Demosthenes

the latter being, perhaps, the most


distinguished

N1CIAS

98

soldier

that

medon was
mid-winter
talents of

the
to

city

go

with

money.

then

out

at

possessed.

once

it

Eury-

was then

twelve ships of war and 120

CHAPTER

HELP FROM ATHENS


Early

in the spring the

promised
of sixty
war, of

The

help.

Athenian

Athenians sent out the

reinforcement

and

five

Chian

consisted
ships-of-

200 heavy-armed soldiers from the


citizen roll, and a number, not given by the
historian, of troops furnished by the subject
allies and by
Light-armed troops were
Argos.
to

be

levied

Acarnania,

engaged

among

and

for

the

1500
same

arrived too late to

the

friendly

service.

tribes

were

Thracians

These

of
also

latter

accompany the expedition,

and when they came, it was found impossible,


so exhausted was the treasury, to pay them.
They were therefore sent home. It was a
stupendous

effort,

all

the

more

wonderful

pressure of war, withdrawn for a


time by the peace of Nicias, was now renewed,
and the Peloponnesian forces had again invaded

because

the

Attica, while they fortified the fort of Deceleia


99

NICIAS

ioo
(p. 6$).

tended for

Yet, in addition to the armament inSicily, another squadron was ravaging

the coasts of the Peloponnesus, and yet another


was watching the exit from the Gulf of Corinth.
there was not a ship or a man more than was
wanted. Not only were reinforcements from the
Still

Peloponnesus and elsewhere on their way to


Syracuse, but the besiegers had suffered a great
entailing losses
to call irreparable.

disaster,

much

which

it

is

not

too

Gylippus, who had been busy during the


winter raising troops in Sicily, had returned to

He counselled a
Syracuse early in the spring.
It is by boldness,' he told the
bold policy.
'

'

Syracusans,
successes
;

it

that your enemies have won their


is in boldness that
you will find

method of dealing with them.' By


argument he prevailed upon them to

the best
this

make

land

simultaneous

and

attack on the

besiegers

The Small Harbour had


From one of these forty-five,

sea.

by
two divisions.
from the other

thirty-five, ships-of-war sailed


out to engage the Athenian fleet.
This, which
had not expected to be so challenged, was

taken

Nevertheless, the ships


by surprise.
were hastily manned, and went to meet the
enemy. There were sixty in all as against the

enemy's eighty.

For

a time the fortune of the

HELP FROM ATHENS


seemed

day

to

with

go

the

ans

practice, and
The Atheni-

from the contusion

recovered

prepared, and
the

have

inflicted

enemy, who

lost

destroyed.
counterbalanced

first

defeat

upon

eleven ships, with most of

the

by

loss

This

Cape Plemmyrium,
a
way that makes us think
badly served by

sons crowded

had

the

Athenian men-of-war being


But this victory was more than

also

left

of

they were not

crews, three

their

the

said,

serious

but

Syracusans,

they were wanting in skill and


they were demoralised by success.

shock, for which, as

roi

his

down

Athenian

of the

that Nicias

oi

was but

edge when
manned, and

the water's

to

were

Gylippus

some such detect of


and made arrangements to take

observed

discipline before,

advantage

in

The garri-

subordinates.

ships
being
the forts insufficiently guarded.

probably

on

torts

came about

loss

it.

le

attacked

the

forts

at

daybreak, and captured the largest with ease.


The other two were deserted by their garrisons.
\

vast

not
sails

amount

the
of

least

of

stores was taken

with them,

the

being
ships-ot-war, and

important

forty
three ships which had been

masts

the

and

hulls

drawn up on

of

land,

The historian distinctly


probably for repairs.
doubtless
ou
the authority of* persons
asserts,

who had

served

in

the

expedition,

that

no

NICIAS

102

incident in the war was

more

disastrous to the

Athenian fortunes, or caused more profound


The actual loss in stores and
discouragement.
money must have caused great inconvenience.

What was

with Ortygia on
yet worse was this
the
entrance
to
the
side
of
Great Harbour,
one
:

and Plemmyrium on the other, in the enemy's


hand, no supplies could be brought in without
Yet the Athenians
at least the risk of a fight.
and the time
end in
fight
The Athenians were
a defeat as in a victory.
now hemmed in within a very narrow space,
all

got

their supplies in this way,

was come when a

was

as likely to

position being bounded by the river


Anapus on the south, and their own wall of
The shore of the
investment on the north.

their

Great Harbour between these two points could


not have been more than 1200 yards in length.

Here

all

the

ships-of-war

were drawn

up.

Their rear seems to have been protected.


These
Small skirmishing operations went on.
not necessary to describe in detail, especially as the losses and gains were almost equally
It must be remembered, however,
balanced.
that for an invading force, so far away from

it is

its

base as was the Athenian armament, merely

to

One

hold

its

own

considerable

practically

meant

advantage,

however,

defeat.

the

HELP FR OM A THENS
Athenians gained,

or,

rather,

escaped

they
enfeebled

danger which, in their


might have caused their

About

03
a

condition,

immediate

ruin.

month

before, envoys had been sent


from Syracuse to invite help from the other
These had been well received
Sicilian cities.
a

in
Catana and Naxos,
except
which they probably did not visit, and in
Agrigentum, which adhered to a policy of

everywhere,

body of more than 2000 heavycollected, and began its march to SyraBut Nicias was on the alert
he precuse.
vailed upon the native tribes, through whose
territory the force had to pass, to lay an ambush
neutrality.

armed

The

was the loss of about


number. Demosthenes, with
the relieving force, was now well on his way.
Gylippus had all along intended to make a
the
Athenian
concerted effort to
destroy

for them.

result

two-fifths of the

armament before the

reinforcements

The discouragement produced by

arrived.

the loss

first

mentioned induced him to postpone the execution of his plan for a short time

but

when he

heard that Demosthenes was but two or three

must be no
days' sail distant, he felt that there
The time, however, had not
further delay.
been

lost.

Corinthian

Ariston
practical skill,

seaman,

of

great

by name, had suggested

NICIAS

104

an important change in the equipment of the


ships belonging to the Syracusans and their

The

allies.

conditions of a sea fight

in

the

Harbour were very


different from those which
prevailed when two
fleets met in the
sea.
Put briefly, in the
open
limited area of the Great

former case
latter

it

trial

was
of

trial

of strength, in the

The Athenian

skill.

ships

were built for rapid manoeuvring.


It was no
part of naval tactics, as their skilful seamen
understood them, to meet an enemy's vessel
beak to beak.
direct

They

did not seek to

make

and they evaded it from an


Well-trained rowers and experienced

impact,

adversary.

helmsmen enabled the

captain

to

avoid

an

and then by some rapid evoluadvancing


tion to take him on the flank,
striking him on
foe,

some weak spot, or crashing into his banks of


For this purpose the prow of the ship
was made narrow, with a long, projecting beak,
oars.

very sharp, but hollow and thin, calculated to


pierce, but only where the timbers were comBut this mode of fighting, of
paratively weak.

which an admirable example may be found

in

the victory won by Phormio in the early years


of the war, 1 was impracticable in the narrow
space within which the approaching battle would
1

Thucydidcs

ii.

83-4

Grote

v.

120, seq.

HELP FROM ATHENS

105

It was to this situation of


have to be fought.
affairs that Ariston addressed himself. The long,

so as to strike the
light beak, elevated

enemy

for one
high above water-mark, was exchanged
much shorter, heavier, and stronger, and placed

much

The opposing

lower.

must,

ships

he

foresaw, meet directly, and the victory would


but
go, not to the more skilfully manoeuvred,

more strongly built.


These preparations completed, Gylippus proHe marched out
ceeded to deliver his attack.
of the city at the head of the whole available
force and threatened the rear of the Athenian

to the

At

the same time, the garrison of the


Olympieion made a demonstration on their

lines.

right

While

flank.

their

attention was

thus

come

occupied, they saw the Syracusan


out of the Inner Harbour, eighty strong, and
fleet

ready

for

action.

They manned

their

own

meet them. That day


ships and went out to
decisive
occurred, but the Syracusans
nothing
had a
advantage in the desultory
slight

fighting.

Prudence

would

have

to

suggested

the

conflict
Athenians that they should decline
to which, enfeebled as they were, they were
But national pride was
unequal.
terribly

against

such

cautious

counsels.

Nicias,

who

NICIAS

106

by Plutarch to have argued for this


course, was overruled by his two colleagues.

is

said

The

next day passed without any movement,


but on the third the Syracusan fleet repeated
the proceedings of the first.
Nicias, meanwhile,

had done what he could

in

the

way

of preparation.
One precaution which he took
turned out to be very useful.
He protected
the approach to the mooring ground of his
ships by stationing some merchant vessels at
intervals of 200 feet.
These were provided

heavy beams armed with massive iron


heads, which could be dropped on any hostile

with

ship that attempted to pass.


At first it seemed as if the Syracusan captains intended nothing beyond making a de-

monstration.

They avoided anything

like

general engagement, retiring to the city


the Athenians advanced to meet them.

when
But

arrangements had been made to give the crews


This was taken in haste,
a meal on the shore.

and the ships were then manned apart, and


moved forward to the attack. The Athenians,
who seem to have been very badly provisioned,
for

many of them were still fasting, hurried


Even then the enemy avoided a

on board.
decisive

losing

conflict,
all

till

patience,

the Athenian captains,


assumed the offensive.

HELP FR OM A THENS

What

Ariston had anticipated took place.


heavier prows and beaks broke down
In

weaker.

another

the advantage.

way
They had

the
a

o7

The
the

Syracusans had

number of

dart-

throwers on their ships, and these kept up a


destructive discharge of missiles on the Athenian

decks.

number of

little

boats,

too,

took

men who manned them


part in the action, the
darts
their
through the port-holes.
throwing
In the end the Athenians had to give way.
seven

and would have

They

lost

more

but for the protection

merchant

And

ships,

afforded

lost

by the

vessels.

now, just when things were

very worst, help arrived.

at

their

CHAPTER

XI

THE NEW ARMAMENT


Nothing

could

have exceeded the astonish-

ment, one might almost say the dismay, with


which the Syracusans and their allies beheld the
entrance

of Demosthenes

with

his

fleet

into

The new armament came


pomp of war. The ships were

the Great Harbour.

with

all

the

handsomely adorned, the armour glittered in


the sun, the flute-players gave time to the
rowers with

an

inspiriting

tune.

And,

in-

was a magnificent effort. There were


deed,
seventy-three ships of war, and these carried
5000 heavy-armed, besides a great number of
it

light

troops,

archers,

slingers

and

javelin-

engines of war.
That Athens beset with foes, with an invading
army actually within sight of her walls, should
send such a force on so distant an expedition
throwers, with

the

requisite

was indeed astonishing.

The encouragement given


108

to the

besieging

THE

NEW ARMAMENT

109

term of what W as
was
practically besieged,
proportionately
- comers were
But
the
new
dismayed
great.
at the condition of
things which they saw.
army,

we may

if

use

the

itself

was almost desperate if it was to be retrieved at all, it must be retrieved by an


immediate effort. Demosthenes realised how
It

terrible

was the mistake which

had made
first

the

in not attacking the city

arrived and while they

still

generals

when they

possessed their
he must not

That mistake
strike at once, before his
must
repeat.
resources had begun to waste, and while the
full

strength.

He

enemy were

still

of

magnitude

therefore, at

impressed by the unexpected

his

armament.

once to attack, and

to raise the siege and

He

resolved,

if

he failed

go home.

One

the
thing was distinctly encouraging
Athenians had, for the time at least, recovered
their superiority.

Neither by sea nor by land

did the Syracusans venture to encounter them.


Demosthenes accordingly took the offensive.

The
or

necessity was obviously to beat down


capture the intercepting wall which the
first

besieged had
attacking

of a siege

it

built

Demosthenes

began by

in front, using the usual

methods

the battering-ram and other engines.


could
be effected in this way.
The
Nothing

no

NICIAS

engines were burnt by the

the storming
other alternative

enemy

The
were repulsed.
was to turn the position by attacking the fortiwestern extremity where it
fication
at
its
parties

with which the Syrathe


neck of land so often
cusans had occupied
mentioned in this narrative. This was a dif-

terminated in the fort

operation, almost impossible, in the face


of the enemy, to be effected, if effected at

ficult

by

all,

on

He

surprise.

night
consented.

attack

He

resolved

therefore

to

this

took the

his

colleagues

command

Nicias remaining within the lines.


very considerable force of heavy

himself,

Besides a

and lightarmed troops, he had with him some masons


and carpenters, as it would be necessary, should
he

make himself master of


it

the

position,

to

Starting not long after

permanently.
occupy
sunset on a moonlight night, and making a long
circuit that his movements might be neither
seen nor heard, he reached Euryalus, the fort
The surprise was complete.
on the ridge.

The

garrison, after a very feeble resistance,


Some were slain, the
evacuated the position.
rest succeeded in escaping to three redoubts

which had been erected

in

rear

of the

wall.

Shortly after a battalion of heavy-armed, under


the command of Hermocrates, whose special

THE NE W ARMAMENT
it

duty

1 1 1

was to be ready for all emergencies,


it was
charged and routed by

came up, but

the Athenians.

The

wall was

now

of Demosthenes, and the artisans


brought with him began to pull
he

have

could

maintained

in possession

whom

his

it

he had

down.

position

If
till

operation was completed, the object of


his
movement would have been attained.
Unfortunately he was not content with this
success.
Anxious to complete the rout of
this

the enemy, he pressed forward with an eagerness that threw his troops into confusion.

For

a time, indeed, all

hurried

up

from the

went
city

well.

with

Gylippus

some

fresh

troops, but could not withstand the impetuous


It was the Boeotians,
charge of the Athenians.
says Thucydides, with marked emphasis,
1
gested doubtless by earlier events, who

checked

the

Athenian advance.

sugfirst

forward

movement

followed, and the Athenian van was


hurled back upon the troops that were coming

up from behind, and communicated to them


and terror. A scene of wild

their confusion

confusion followed.
success if

it

ruinous.

is
1

The

p. 21).

night attack is a great


succeeds, but, if it fails, the failure

This was attempted on a

battles of

Coronea

(b.c.

scale

452) and Delium (see

NICIAS

ii2

which

far

in the war,

exceeded

any previous experiences


and the disaster in which it ended

was proportionately great. The night, as has


been said, was moonlight, and the combatants
could, in a way, see both each other and the
locality in which the battle was being fought.
deceptive, and is far more
useful to those who know the ground than to

But moonlight

is

who do not. Then, again, the loud and


incessant shouting of the Syracusans made it
impossible for their adversaries to hear the

those

words of command, and without direction they


could not act with any effect. Then the watchword of each army became known to the other.

Here, again, the Syracusans had the advantage.


Being at home they had a better chance of
learning the watchword of the Athenians than
When
the Athenians had of learning theirs.

they challenged, they often found the enemy


answer; challenged themselves, they
to escape.
Another fertile
contrived
frequently
at a loss to

cause of terror and loss was the battle-cry. There


were not a few Dorians in the Athenian army,
men from Argos, Corcyra and other countries,

and these used a battle-cry closely resembling


that of the enemy.
The Athenians hearing it
raised,

it

might

be,

close

to

much confused and alarmed

as

them,
if the

were

as

enemy

THE

NEW ARMAMENT

113

Not unfrequentJy
blows with their own

himself had been at hand.

they actually came


friends and allies.
a general

rout.

to

The result of all this was


The path by which the at-

tacking force had

reached the battlefield was

steep and narrow, and the hurrying crowd


of fugitives choked it completely.
Many
the
cliffs and were killed,
from
down
leaped
others lost their way and were killed next

day by the Syracusan cavalry. One historian


the Athenian loss at a total not

estimates

short of

two thousand.

The

victorious army, their confidence now


fully restored, entertained no doubt of being
But they thought
able to destroy the invaders.
best to spare no pains to ensure the result.
Gylippus started on another tour to solicit

it

and an envoy was sent to Agrigentum,


which, it was hoped, was about to renounce

help,

its

neutrality.

Meanwhile,

in the

Athenian camp, Demos-

thenes was urging with all his powers the adoption of the second of the two alternatives which

he had set before them immediately on his arrival.


The first had been attempted, and had failed.

An

assault

which he had made with

all

his

available strength, and which he could not hope


to repeat under circumstances equally favour-

NICIAS

ii4

had been repulsed with loss. The second


remained to be tried.
For the present it was
still
The
new
practicable.
ships had restored
able,

them the command of the

sea,

and the season

August was

was now probably


not too
advanced for a prosperous voyage. On
the other hand, it was useless and even perilous
it

far

The army was


sickness
and
was rife
utterly
discouraged,
among them, for they had come to the most
the

in

extreme to remain.

At home, where
unhealthy season of the year.
had
established
a fortified fort
the invaders
in Attica itself,

they were sorely wanted.

Nicias

He

vehemently opposed this proposal.


acknowledged, and indeed he could not

deny, the deplorable state of the armament,


but he maintained that the enemy was not
better

off.

They were

sorely pressed for

want

of money, and must give in sooner or later


if the Athenians firmly persisted in their pur-

He

had received assurances from the


pro-Athenian party in Syracuse which did not
pose.

permit him to doubt that


under these circumstances

this
it

was the

fact

would be bad

would be perilous, for the


purpose, once adopted, would soon become
generally known, and at Athens such a step
would excite the greatest anger.
Those who
policy

to

go

it

'

THE NE W ARMAMENT

1 1

have to decide,' he went on, will look at


the matter from a point of view very different
know the circumstances of
from ours.
'

will

We

do

Yes, and the very


out
the loudest about
crying
which they stand will then

the case, and they

men who
the

are

in

danger
their

alter

now

my

and

cry

betrayed their

not.

declare

country

countrymen

for

would

that
a

far

the

bribe.

general
I

know

sooner die here

with credit by the hand of the enemy than meet


a criminal's doom at Athens.'
Nicias was doubtless right in his anticipations

of what would happen at home, and he was


in possession of facts that proved the financial

His friends in the


exhaustion of Syracuse.
furnished
him
with
these.
He could
had
city
had already spent 2000 talents and
These things
large sum in addition.
no
is
answer
to the imtrue,
were, it
adequate
which
necessities
Demosthenes
perious
urged
but they seem to have convinced the generals
assert that

owed

it

who had

been commissioned to act before the

of Demosthenes, for though Eurymedon


supported Demosthenes, Nicias had a majority
in the council of war.
arrival

Demosthenes then fell back on another proposal


let them at least leave their
present position

on the Great Harbour, and return to Catana

NICIAS

n6

'

and the Bay of Thapsus.


1

are

We

now.

We

shall not be shut

which we
have the enemy's country
our pleasure, and we shall have the

up,' he said,

'

to ravage at
open sea in

in the close quarters in

shall

which to manceuvre our ships.'


Nicias again opposed, and again carried the

He

majority with him.

saw,

doubtless,

that

to abandon their present position was virtually


to raise the siege.

And

so

was, doing

the

armament remained where

nothing,

it

but

gradually losing its


Nicias probably per-

strength and energy.


suaded himself that

anticipations of a
financial crisis in Syracuse were well founded.
To us such hopes seem ridiculous history
his

teaches us

that

command money
with
of his
at

for

But the
conduct was

it.

home.

Brave

victorious state

can

always

necessities, or dispense

its

really overpowering motive


his dread of public opinion
in

the

field,

he

was timid

in the Assembly, and he did not dare to conHe had


front his angry countrymen at home.

responsible for the expedition, and


the charge of mismanaging it, whether true or
untrue, would be held to have been proved.

made himself

Results were against him, and it is by results,


as he well knew, that a popular assembly is

accustomed to judge.

There was,

it

is

pro-

THE NE V A RATA ME NT

1 1

bable, scarcely a man in the army but was eager


to go, but Nicias went on hoping against hope
and refused to give the word.
Perhaps he
'

had a

plan,'

such as General Trochu secretly


of Paris, possibly

cherished during the Siege


as
this plan was the hope

been

in

said

is

it

Trochu

of General

the case

have

to

of

Divine interposition in favour of a person so


eminent for piety as himself.
So things went on for nearly another month.

Then Gylippus
considerable

returned

to

reinforcement,

Syracuse

with

partly

consisting

of contingents sent by Sicilian cities, partly of


a body of Peloponnesian heavy-armed which

had come by the roundabout way of Cyrene


and the North African coast. His arrival
settled
the disputed question of retreat in
Nicias
favour of the counsel of Demosthenes.
still

clung to his hopes or his

had nothing to urge

'

plan,'

but he

of them and

in support

No council was
he could not but give way.
held, but it was unanimously agreed to go.
Preparations
secrecy

and

ready when

moon.
It

the

for

departure

were

speed, and things were nearly


there occurred an eclipse of the

The day was August 28th


would

made with

be

superstitious

mistake
fears

to

(b.c.

412).

suppose

of Nicias

availed

that

on

n8

NICIAS

the

to overrule a general

occasion

this

to depart.

army

anxiety in

had come

Possibly, if it

to a question, he would have positively refused


to move in the face of what seemed to him

so direct

prohibition.

any means alone

But he was not by

in his feeling.

On

the con-

trary, he had the majority of the army with


him.
Indeed, there seems to have been no

Whatever Demosthenes

difference of opinion.

and Eurymedon may have thought, they did


not attempt to go against the general feeling.
It was decided on the advice of the soothsayers to make a delay of twenty-seven days,
and to perform during that interval various

expiatory sacrifices.
The irony of the

situation

lies

in

the

opinion on
according
the subject, Nicias and the army were wrong.
An eminent soothsayer, Philochorus by name,
fact

who

to

that,

flourished

at

the

Athens

best

about

century

opinion that for an engave


terprise requiring secrecy an eclipse was of the
happiest significance.
Possibly, if the adviser
it

later,

to

whom

years

to

as

his

Nicias had been accustomed for

go

for

advice

had

been

many
1

still

alive,

1
Nicias's 'domestic soothsayer,' if we may so describe
He
him, died a short time before the Sicilian expedition.
seems to have fallen into less skilful hands.

THE NE W ARMAMENT
this

interpretation,

so

convenient,

If

it

had,

so

might

Nicias,

rational,

or

have been

we may be

1 1

at

least

suggested.

sure,

would

have had no difficulty in inducing his country-

men

to accept

it.

CHAPTER

XII

THE LAST STRUGGLE


The
aware

Syracusans,
that the

we may be
invading

were

sure,

force

had delayed the execution


Such an intention was a
purpose.
fession of defeat and
inferiority,

go

but

the

encouraged

naturally

push
Athenians

to

success

their

must

not

be

of

their

and

to

it

side

furthest.

allowed

to

clear con-

victorious

the

well

intended

take

to

The
up

position where they could be more


to do mischief
on the contrary, they

another
free

must

be

attacked

destroyed.

where

thev

were,

and
the
till

Gylippus

accordingly

had

exercised

for

few

days

ships-of-war
the crews were, he

thought, sufficiently perThis done, he made a


demonstration of his land forces against the
fect

their

in

Athenian
aiming

day

lines,

at,

after,

duties.

but without obtaining, or indeed

any
a

important

great

and
120

result.

practically

On

the

decisive

THE LAST STRUGGLE


battle

was

cusan

lines

marched

army

took up

whole of the
stockade

the

of

out

of the
the

threatening

position

the

outside

The whole

fought.

121

Syra-

city

and

Athenian

the

ranged itself
which was the

fleet

within

In numbers there
ships of- war.
considerable
the Syradifference,
very
the
triremes,
seventy-six
having

Athenian

was no
cusans

Athenians

largely on
The crews were

vantage
former.
plement,

by

In

eighty-six.

was

fresh,

mand

of
to

at

their

and

of
full

made

the

adthe

com-

efficient

Eurymedon, who was

practice.

oured

vigorous,

the

efficiency
the side

in

com-

Athenian right wing, endeav-

outflank

the squadron opposed to


This was doubtless a favourite manoeuvre
with Athenian seamen, but it required more

him.

Harbour

space than the Great

enemy, who had by

afForded.

time broken

this

the Athenians' centre, replied by a


directed against Eurymedon's own
ultimately hemmed
a recess of the

him

and

his

The

through

movement
left,

and

squadron

harbour, known by the


name of Dascon.
Eurymedon was slain
and his squadron destroyed. The same fate
in

nearly

overtook

whole,

of

the

ships were able

the

whole,

Athenian
to get

fleet.

or

nearly

Few

of

the
the

back to the stockade;

NICIAS

122

by
or

the

far

greater

grounded by
in

points

were

own

Great

the

to attack

liable

were

part

their

Harbour,
by

ashore

driven

crews

where

they

forces of

land

the

various

at

Gylippus saw his opportunity and


hurried down with his troops to the water's

the enemy.

edge, his object being to prevent the escape


of the crews of the stranded ships, and at

same time to give the Syracusan captains


But
to secure the ships themselves.
haste with which
the
the
troops moved
threw them into confusion. Some Etrurians, 1
who were on guard along the Athenian lines,

the

time

out

sallied

against

the

foremost

as

they

As others arrived
passed and routed them.
the men
from within the line came out
A general battle
numbers.
in
greater
and
the
followed,
victory remained with the
Athenians,

who were able to save the ships


As it was, eighteen vessels

and the crews.


were

lost,

either

whole

the

slain

the

or

of

the

An

captured.

Athenian

station

crews

being

attempt

to

fireship
by
was made the same day, but failed.
The Athenians were now almost in despair,
for they had been conclusively beaten on their

destroy

own

element.

They now
1

recognised

See page 80.

how

in-

THE LAST STR UGGLE

23

was the enterprise on which they were


embarked. It was not only the strength of
sane

the cities which they had attacked that made


them fee] how hopeless was the undertaking,
there
a

was

political

On

the fact

also

constitution

this fact

that these

cities

resembling their

Thucydides

insists,

and

it

is,

had

own.
as I

have pointed out before, a significant comment


on the average morality of Greek politics.

democratic

state

attacking

one

that

count

an

was
with

oligarchy might
governed by
certainty on finding allies in the party that
was out of power. The experience was too

common

comment. But in Syracuse the democracy was all powerful, and the
democracy was fiercely hostile to Athens. The
Syracusans, on the other hand, were full of exultation and pride.
They began actually to take
to call for

that wider outlook into the general affairs of

Greece with which the Athenians had credited,


or

them when they reWe must attack


expedition.

pretended to

solved on

and

the

disable

credit,

them,'

'

had

been

his

come

and, by

over

here,

the
'

of Alcibiades and

friends,

or

siding

argument
they will
with our

enemies, turn the scale of power greatly against


In all probability the Sicilian cities had
us.'

never

entertained

any

such

purpose,

though

NICIAS

i2 4

the thought

may have

statesman

crossed the

such

as

mind of

was

Brasidas.

far-seeing
But the unprovoked attack that had been

made

upon them
felt

Syracuse
inevitably suggested it.
had earned the gratitude of the
she
that

Greek

cities,

which her victory would most


from Athenian domination

liberate

certainly
that Athens should

still

own

hold her

the destruction of the Sicilian

and
impossible

after

armament seemed

her ambition was flattered by


the thought that hereafter she would share with
of Greece.
Sparta and Athens the leadership
the
of
heard
have already
magnificent

We

conquest which Alcibiades enterwith which, anyhow, he credited


when he proposed the expedition

scheme of
tained,

himself,

or

to the Athenian Assembly.


against Syracuse
The actual scale of this conflict was scarcely
inferior in magnitude.
able than the number

And

not

less

remark-

was the variety of the


the tribes engaged
were
combatants, so many
in the struggle, and so great the confusion of
I
have relegated to a
kinship among them.
note the remarkable passage in which Thucydides sets forth this state of things
would
it
interesting to omit, but

narrative.
terrupt the sequence of the
i

See pp. 33, 6+.

it

is

here

too
in-

THE LAST STR UGGLE


The

now

Svracusans

that

felt

Athenian force was practically


and they proceeded to secure

1 2

whole

the

in their

power,

it

by blocking
to
the
the
entrance
Great
a space
Harbour,
up
of about 1600 yards, with a small islet about

half way.

line

of ships-of-war, merchant
of various kind, anchored

and craft
and chained together, was constructed obliquely
The work took three days to
across it.
vessels

complete,

made by
was

and

no

apparently

was

attempt

the Athenians to interrupt


the necessity for
finished

When

it.

immediate
became imperative. Only a small quanof provisions was in
stock.
Further
tity
supplies had been countermanded in view of
their intended departure.
Countermanded or
it

action

not,

with

they could hardly have been


the entrance to the harbour

Two

alternatives

their

ships and retreat

were

before

them

introduced
blockaded.

to

burn

by land, or to make

an attempt to break the blockading line.


first
approved itself to many, but it
reserved for the last effort

be

tried

contract

compass.
necessary

The

once
their

Only
to

The

more.

hold

object was,

much
the

to

as

troops

make

was

the ships were to


first
step was to

within

lines

so

The

as

the

was
was

narrowest
absolutely
retained.

many men

as

NICIAS

i26

manning the ships ; the


detailed for guarding the walls being
reduced to a very small amount. Every ship
that was in any sense serviceable was to be
available for

possible

numbers

and men of

utilised,

compelled to

all

man them.

ranks and arms were

Each

had a

vessel

double complement, one being its usual crew


and the other consisting of heavy-armed

bowmen
armed

and

javelin-throwers ;
stationed on the

being

the

heavywith

prow

These they were to throw


grappling-irons.
on to the enemy's ships as soon as collision
had taken
ing
blow.

them

with the intention of hold-

place,

and

so preventing a second
reviewed his forces when they

fast,

Nicias

were prepared for action.


He saw that they
were eager to fight
they must either fight
;

be

or

starved

was

but

it

was too evident that

eagerness of despair, not of


He did his best to enconfidence or hope.

theirs

the

courage them.
You,' he said,
'

'

are fighting for your lives


and your country, as really as are the enemy.
Unless you conquer you cannot see your

Yet do not despair. You know


You have
the changes and chances of war.
had many of its evil turns look now for the

homes

again.

good.

We

have

provided against the advan-

THE LAST STR UGGLE


possessed

tage

You are to
fought.
shipboard rather than sailors.

on

be

change for Athenians, but you


You, heavy-armed
adapt yourselves to it.

is

27

by your enemies in their


and in the narrow space where

stronger ships,
the battle will
soldiers

a sad

be
It

must

men,
and
hold
them
enemy's ships
grapple
fast till they have been boarded and captured.
You, seamen and oarsmen, do your best.
You are more numerous and you are better
defended on deck than you were in the last
the

battle.

Allies,

fight

made you

has

share

for
all

the
the

country

which

benefits

of

its

Athenians, remember that this is the


hope of your country. Here is its all.

empire.
last

Win

this

battle,

return, either for

for

the

occasion

can

never

Athens or for you.'

very probably received a reof


this
oration
from one of those who
port
heard it delivered.
It is less
easy to imagine

Thucydides

how he became

acquainted with the substance

of what Gylippus, in Syracuse, said to his men.


The topics on which he enlarged were such as

would occur to a speaker on such an occasion.


Former successes were a pledge of victory.
They had vanquished the enemy when he was
in

the

full

easily will

tide

of confidence

they repeat the success

much more
when he

is

NICTAS

128

Now was the time


only thinking of escape.
to take a just revenge for a most wanton
attack, and to ensure for the future that such
an attack would never be repeated.
Nicias took command of the forces that were

The fleet he
garrison the lines.
handed over to his colleagues Demosthenes,
Menander, Euthydemus. But before it started
retained

to

he made a special appeal to the captains.

knew

that

all

that

depended
and
struggle,

on

the

he

felt

He

result

of

that

no

day's
preparation could be sufficient, no exhortation to energy too urgent, when the issue

was of so transcendent an importance.


the officers and citizens of high birth
were

station

knew
the

known

personally

the

the

parentage,
personal record of

recalled their

him.

circumstances,

each.

own achievements

of the

to

achievements

To
;

All

and

He
and

some

he

to others he

of

their fathers
spoke
To all he appealed by the
and ancestors.
memory of family, home and country, by all

sacred associations,

The

battle

both

that

human and

followed

was

divine.
fiercely

numbers of the opposing fleets


fought
were much the same as they had been in
;

the

last

the

conflict.

troops were told

Some of
off to

guard

the
the

Syracusan
line
of

THE LAST STRUGGLE

129

were stationed
others
blockading vessels
about the harbour to act where they might
Volunteers from the city manned
be wanted.
;

number of

and

craft

smaller

took

their

useful

the

in

share

conflict, being especially


saving or destroying the crews of disabled triremes, according as they belonged
The shore and the
to friends or enemies.

in

were lined with crowds of specwatched the varying


tators,
eagerly
The Athenian ships
the
of
fortunes
fight.
walls

city

who

steered

straight

for

the

bour.

There

was

an

barrier,

left,

doubtless,

mouth of
open
for

this
they
Against
So energetic was it

ships.

attack.

the

har-

the
space
the passage of
their
directed
in

the

that

line

of ships set to guard the barrier was broken


through, and the Athenian crews began to

But the other squadrons crowded


in upon them, and compelled them to deFor a
sist in order to defend themselves.
destroy

time

it.

the

struggle

was

something

which was usually seen in


The oarsmen rowed with

like

that

naval

battle.

all

their

might,

But it
seldom happened that when one ship met
another in conflict that they became separWhile they were approaching
ated again.
the

steersmen

used

all

their

skill.

NICIAS

3o

each

the

other

and

slingers

archers

were

the

once locked

grappltogether by
that took
was
the
heavy-armed
ing
up the struggle. Sometimes one ship would
be engaged with a single adversary, some-

busy

it

irons,

Sometimes the
two or more.
was of her own choosing, sometimes it
It was a sailor's
came about by accident.
There was no
or rather a soldier's battle.
with

times

conflict

room for the skill of the


who commanded the squadron, or the
who had the single ship in charge. All
no

manoeuvring,
officer

captain
over the harbour there were
in

miles

narrow

space

ships engaged

scarcely two square


furious struggles, each

of

number of

200

like a small pitched battle, were taking place.


battle in which the combatants were so

which

numerous,
small

were

so

distance,

momentous,
on the shore

terest.

With

of

and

spectacle,
interest ;

pended
certainly

us

how

of

was

spectators

life

and

with

Had

from

so

which the issues


watched by the

the Athenians
death.

seen

be

could

it
it

breathless

in-

was a matter
been

mere

it
would have had an entrancing
what it was to men whose all de-

upon
not

they

it,

can

described.

shouted

hardly

The

be

imagined,

historian

tells

encouragement when

THE LAST STRUGGLE


saw

they

own

their

side

131

how

victorious,

they cried aloud and wailed when they witnessed the defeat of countrymen and friends
;

they watched some struggle not


yet decided, they showed, by swaying their
bodies to and fro, how intensely they sym-

how, while

pathised with each variation of the


At last it became evident with
victory was to remain.
ships were beaten back

to

get

them

reached

The
of

were

others

it

loss

56

were

able

which

captured

protected
before they

many had already been sunk.


on the Athenian side was a loss

ships

of

out

Syracusans had

was

whelming

the

Athenian

the

some

stockade

the

to

All

strife.

whom

50

left

the

total

of

out of 76.

blow

that

the

116;

the

So overdefeated

did not even beg a truce for the burial of


their dead.
Even the pious Nicias had no

thoughts to spare for this duty, one of the


most solemn obligations that the Greek mind
recognised.

Demosthenes,

however,

had

not

lost

his

He

proposed to Nicias that with the


sixty ships remaining they should make another
efFort to break the barrier.
Nicias consented,
energy.

but the soldiers

flatly

refused to

embark

again.

Their one hope now was to escape by land.

CHAPTER

XIII

THE END
Escape might

still

have been possible,

if

all

beaten,
speak,
energy had
out of the defeated army.
Once again the
want of discipline which was so conspicuous

been

not

so

to

might have
Hermocrates, who
of remarkable ability,

in the citizen soldiers of Syracuse

served the Athenians well.

was

evidently

saw

how

army

man

inexpedient it was to allow an


had done, and might do yet

which

much damage

again, so

to Syracuse, to escape

and renew the war from a position of greater


advantage, say from the country of the independent

native

presented

this

tribes.

view

command, urging
on
have
that

the
to

route
take

he was

them

which
in

right,

to

to

the

He

strongly

re-

the

generals

in

occupy positions
Athenians would

escaping.

but

were

plan could not be carried out.

They
sure

thought
that

the

They might

THE END

133

order their troops to march, but the troops


would certainly not obey.
great victory
had been gained, finally delivering the city

from

hanging
that

danger which had been long


The occasion was one

terrible

over

it.

It hapjoyous celebration.
pened also to coincide with the great festival
of Heracles, and the combined attraction to

called

revelry

for

was such

contend against.
started

that

time

least,

at

Hermocrates

as

it

If the

night,

would be useless to
Athenian army had

they

might,

for

the

But
have made their escape.
had recourse to a stratagem

which, thanks to the credulity of Nicias,


He sent some friends of his own
succeeded.

Athenian generals,
their
correspondents
purporting to come from
This was to the effect that
within the city.
with

message

the Syracusan
points on the

to

the

army had occupied some strong

route, and that the Athenians


had better make proper preparations for overNicias,
coming this obstacle to their escape.
who had always been too ready to give credto
communications proceeding from
ence
this

and
if

quarter, took the message as genuine,


The order to march,
acted upon it.

indeed

manded.

had been
Such delays,

it

given,

once

was

counter-

permitted,

are

NJ CIAS

134

be

to

apt

The

extended.

next

day

was

much

There was indeed


to be
was only natural that the soldiers
should try to select their most valuable and
most portable property to take with them,
and they had also to provision themselves for
the march.
At the same time the pitiable
also

lost.

done.

It

necessities

of

the

The dead had

and wounded had to be


mercy, or rather the

Such

resolutions,

think

about

moment.

if

them,
If

tended

situation

to be left unburied

cruelty,
is

not

to

of the

once

the

enemy.

taken

to

out

in

carried

on the night of the

delay.

the sick

abandoned

time
are

to

battle

in

Harbour all the able-bodied men


had hurriedly crammed into their haversacks
such food as came to their hands, and left
the

Great

except their arms behind, the


starting might have been effected in an hour.
As it was, it did not take place till the

everything

else

morning of the second day after the battle.


Thucydides draws a harrowing picture of
the scene of departure.
To leave the body
of friend or comrade without due rites of
sepulture was shocking to the best sentiments
of the Greek.
But when he had to desert
the sick and the wounded, all of them bound
to him by the associations of a common service,

THE END
some of them

friends,

135

among them,

it

might

well be, a kinsman, or a brother, even a father,


or a son, it was a blow that struck deeper

Those who were being left behind


still.
seemed to themselves to be losing a last hope
The
It was not so in reality.
of safety.
doom of such as were able to go was not less
terrible or less instant

than the

who were compelled

to

doom

remain.

of those

But

these

made
more vigorous com-

helpless ones did not think so, and they

piteous appeals to their


rades not to desert them.

any
possessed
followed their

feeble

Such

remnant

departing

of

friends

as

still

strength

as

far

as

they could, and only dropped behind when


If this was a
they were utterly exhausted.
deplorable

spectacle,

that

marched was not hopeful.


of

forty

thousand

of the

struggled

army

as

it

mixed multitude
along,

loaded,

them, to the utmost capacity of


many
their strength with the property from which
themselves to part.
they could not bring
of

These encumbrances diminished their fighting


So also did the necessary burden of
power.
food which the horse soldiers and the heavyarmed were forced, contrary to habit, to carry
forced, because the slaves who usually were
;

charged with

this

duty could not be trusted.

NICIAS

136

was a lamentable contrast between all this


misery and the splendid, even boastful, promise
with which, little more than two years before,
It

the

armament had

sailed

out of the Peirasus.

All that was best and noblest in the character

of Nicias made him

rise to the occasion.

He

addressed the soldiers in words of sympathy,


'
comfort and encouragement.
Do not despair,'

he said

men have

'

been saved out of circum-

even worse than these.


You see to
what a condition my disease has reduced me

stances

deprived though I am of all the advantages of prosperous fortune, and on a level


yet

I,

with

And

one of

failed
I

meanest

the

in

my

my

soldier,

reasons

yet
this

is

still

duty to the gods, and therefore

dangers of the situation

fear the

hope.

have never
less

than

magnitude might seem to warrant.


Surely our enemies have had their full turn
of good fortune, and we have suffered enough
to have satisfied the jealous wrath of heaven.
their

too

Remember,

how many
cellent

is

speak to the heavy-armed


there are of you, and how exI

your quality

as

soldiers.

There

is

can repulse your


no city
island
attack, or drive you away if you are bent on
remaining.
Keep your firmness and order ;
let
every man remember that the spot on
in

this

that

THE END
which
but

he

small

stands
store

is

his

137

We

fortress.

of food,

therefore

have

we must

day and night till we reach the


the friendly natives
of
country
friendly to
us because thev are bound to be enemies of
We have sent a message to them,
Syracuse.

on

press

begging them to meet us with a supply of


And now, bear yourselves like
provisions.
men if you would save your own lives and
the falling fortunes of your country.
There is no state to which you can flee for

restore

shelter

but the real essence of a state

is

not

to be found in walls or ships, but in men.'


The order of march was in squares, the

heavy-armed enclosing the camp-followers and


the rest of the multitude.
Nicias led the
The first incident
van, Demosthenes the rear.

was the passage of the Anapus.


Here they
found a force of Syracusans and allies posted,
but were able to dislodge it and cross the
Continuously attacked

river.

and

skirmishers,

slowly,
in the

on,

the

they

by the cavalry

moved

whole distance

slowly,

very

accomplished

day being but five miles.


Starting
early next day they marched about two miles
and a half.
They had now but little food
and
as
their
march would be for some
left,
time to come over a country without springs

NICIAS

138

or

they were
with water.

streams,

themselves

to

obliged

While

provide

they

were

necessaries, the Syracusans

searching for these


occupied in force a pass through which they
The road
would have to make their way.

was over a steep

here

on

either

made no

hill,

That

side.

day

with

precipices

the

Athenians

On

further advance.

the morning

of the third they attempted to move forward,


but were so harassed by the cavalry and the
light-armed troops of the enemy
a day of incessant fighting they

nothing
the

did

return

but

to

night before.
succeed in, at

fortified

found
that

in

up

heavy-armed
cessantly

upon

in

of

do

encampment

of

day they
approaching the
above.
But they

of

it.

many
It

files

was

to

force

the

enemy formed

their

harassed

them

could

the fourth

force,

front

tried

from

after

least,

Syracusan

they

obstacle

On

mentioned

pass
a

drawn

their

that

their

in

deep,
vain

The

way.
a

solid

front, and they were inby the missiles showered

the

javelin-throwers,

who

rising ground on either side.


occupied
Frequent thunderstorms completed their conTwo years before, as
fusion and dismay.
this
viewed
had
Grote
remarks,
they

the

phenomenon

with

indifference.

Now,

such

THE END

i39
a

they regarded it as
heaven.
They defeated,
sign of the anger of
their retreat,
block
to
an
indeed,
attempt

was

their

depression,

and made their way back again to the


ground on which they had encamped.

level

The

to
day, the fifth, they again attempted
inthe
from
much
suffered
so
march, but

next

of the enemy that they could


accomplish even a mile, and returned

cessant attacks

not

to their

encampment.
That night Nicias and Demosthenes resolved

on a change of plan. Their purpose hitherto


had been to reach the interior, where they
hoped to get help from the independent native
tribes.

They now

altered the direction of their

march, which was to be the southern coast of


the island, to the neighbourhood of Camarina
and Gela.
Employing the familiar device of

leaving their

same night.

camp

The

fires

burning, they started that


was not made without

start

The van, under


panic and disturbance.
Nicias, was the more successful of the two
much

divisions of the

making
Arrived

army

keeping together and in


dawn they reached the sea.

in

At
progress.
at the river Cacyparis they found the

guarded by some Syracusan


troops, but forced their way over, and reached

ford staked and

another

stream named the Erineus.

Nicias's

NICIAS

4o

now

division had

got a start of about six miles


over that of Demosthenes'. The latter had been

overtaken by the Syracusans, who had started


in pursuit of the Athenian army immediately
on discovering the change of route.
(Their
impulse had been to accuse Gylippus of
a treacherous understanding with the enemy.)
first

The Athenians

When

they did

hurried

turned

to defend

themselves.

detachment of the enemy


and got between the two

so, a

forward

divisions of the retreating army.

Demosthenes

and his troops found


shelter in an orchard

by

a wall.

what seemed a temporary


of olive trees surrounded
But the spot afforded no real pro-

light-armed troops of the


the
walls and poured showers
enemy occupied
of missiles into the crowded ranks.
When
tection,

for

the

they sought to leave the enclosure, they found


the exit

Gylippus

strongly guarded.

and

his

any islander in the

colleagues

Late

the day
proclaimed that

Athenian army surrendering

himself would be allowed to go

few accepted the


capitulation took

in

offer.

place,

free.

Some

Afterwards a general
terms being that

the

no prisoners should be executed or done to


death by intolerable conditions of imprisonment
Six thousand surrendered on
or by starvation.
The prisoners gave up their
these conditions.

THE END

141

had so much as to fill


the hollows of four shields, and were escorted
back to the city.
The next day the Syracusan forces came up
with Nicias, and summoned him to surrender
on the terms which Demosthenes had accepted.

money, of which they

He

still

what they told him,


sending, by permission, a horseman to
ascertain the fact, found that it was true.
He
then offered, on behalf of Athens, to pay the
whole expense of the war, and to leave, as a
refused

to

believe

but

guarantee for payment, a number of hostages


one for each talent of the indemnity.
These

terms were refused, and an attack was commenced and continued till evening. The
fugitives endeavoured to renew their retreat
during the night, but, finding that the enemy
had discovered their purpose, they, abandoned
it.

Three hundred men, however, neglecting

the

order to

stop, forced their

way through

The

next day at dawn Nicias


altered his route somewhat so as to reach the

and escaped.

river Assinarus.

The

thirst

of the troops was

it had to be satisfied at
any cost. The
once
became
a
scene
of frightriver,
reached,
ful confusion.
The men rushed pell-mell into

such that

the stream, heedless of everything, so that they


could get to the water.
Many were slain by

NICIAS

142

the enemy,
river

who

some were

followed them even into the

by the spears of their


which
against
they fell or were
others were carried down by the
killed

own comrades,
pushed

Even when

stream.

and

blood

sought

dirt,

to relieve

the water was fouled with

the
their

wretched fugitives still


thirst with, and even

fought with each other for, the nauseous draught.


Nicias
Nothing was left but to surrender.

gave himself up to Gylippus, begging that

his

The Spartan
helpless soldiers might be spared.
issued
an
order
the
that
massacre
should
general
cease,

but

many were

slain before it

reached the

Few of the beaten army


troops.
the
mentioned
above being soon300
escaped,
captured. Of Nicias's division only a thousand
Syracusan

prisoners were saved for the state, the greater


part were seized by private persons and sold for
their

own

profit.

not easy to estimate the Athenian loss


the two words mean
in killed and wounded
It

is

much

where we

are

The

the same in ancient warfare,


thinking of the defeated side.

state

secured 7000 prisoners, private persons, perhaps,


3000 or 4000 more (chiefly, it would seem,

from the detachment of Nicias). Few of those


who remained with the main bodies till the end
escaped, but

many of

those

who had

straggled

THE END

143

away on the march were more fortunate. It is


not improbable that half of the 40,000 perished
during the six miserable days of this most
disastrous retreat.

The

fate

the extreme.
the

lives

of the survivors was wretched in

Gylippus made an

effort to save

He

of the two captive

would dearly have

liked,

to exhibit at Sparta the

of Athenian soldiers

we

generals.
may well imagine,

two most distinguished

one

notorious as Sparta's

But this was


friend, the other as her enemy.
The
not permitted.
Syracusans insisted on
their execution,

and

all

that the liberal-minded

Spartan could do was to give his prisoners an


opportunity of putting an end to their own

The

lives.

other prisoners were confined

in

certain stone quarries excavated in the southern


cliffs

of the Epipolas.

One pound of wheaten

bread and half-a-pint of water was all the proThere they were
vision furnished to them.

kept for seventy days, and there they died in


Released when the place became an
crowds.
intolerable nuisance and danger to the city, the
few only,
survivors were sold for slaves.
we may well believe, a very few got back to

won the
Some of them, we
favour of their masters by reciting the verses of
Euripides, a favourite poet among cultured
Athens.

are told,

NICIAS

i44

This

Sicilians.

is

the one

bright

spot in a

story of unequalled gloom.

Plutarch,

Men

in

who

pairs,

the

Crassus,

writes his Lives of Illustrious

gives

third

First Triumvirate.
are

parallel

member of
Some points

to

the

Nicias

in

so-called

of resemblance

Both led invading


obvious.
both had some reputation for military
both showed themselves incompetent, and

sufficiently

armies
skill;

both perished miserably, involving thousands of


their

countrymen

in their fall.

ence between the two


responsible

largely

for

is

But the

differ-

Crassus was
war which he had

great.

wantonly provoked; Nicias did

his best to stop


the fatal expedition, but used a method which
had the effect of committing him hopelessly to

As

worth there is no comparison.


most blameless as he is the most
pathetic figure in the long list of Greek states-

it.

Nicias

to private

is

men and

the

soldiers.

NOTE ON PAGE
(THUCYDIDES,

124.

III., 57-58).

After remarking

that the struggle at Syracuse involved a variety and number of combatants, surpassed
only by the great catalogue of tribes and states that
took part in the Peloponnesian war itself, Thucydides
goes on to say
*
These many races that came to share in the conquest or in the defence of Syracuse ranged themselves
on one side or the other, not from the sense of right
or obligation of kinship, but from the accident of
private interest or the constraint of superior force.
That the Athenians, being of Ionic race, should
attack Syracuse, a Dorian state, was natural enough,
and with the Athenians, as using the same speech and
institutions, came the men of Lemnos, of Imbros, of
j^Egina (as it then was), and of Histiasa in Euboea, all
of them Athenian colonists.
Of the other combatants on this side, some were subjects, others selfgoverning allies, and others, again, mercenaries.
Among the subjects and tributaries murt be
reckoned the men of the Euboean cities, Eretria,
:

and

islanders from Ceos,


Carystus
Ionians from Miletus, Samos and
Chios.
The Chians, however, were not tributaries
they furnished ships, and served as self-governing allies.

Chalcis,

Styria

Andros and Tenos

Generally speaking, these were Ionic (with the


exception of Carystus, which is .^Eolic) and of Athenian

NOTE ON PAGE

46

origin.

Subjects

they

were,

it

is

124
true,

and acting

under constraint, but still Ionians, fighting against a


With these were iEolic contingents
Dorian foe.
from Methymna (which furnished ships but did not
from iEnos, tributary
pay tribute), from Tenedos and
It was under constraint that these
cities both of them.
iEolic peoples fought against their own founders,
iEolic state of Boeotia, which was on the side

the
ot

One

Boeotian city, however, Plataea, ranged


Syracuse.
of an ancient feud, against its
itself, in pursuance
Boeotian kinsmen.
contingents,

the

Then there were two Dorian


men of Rhodes and of Cythera.

The Cythereans were Lacedaemonian

but

colonists,

bore arms on the Athenian side against the Lacethe Rhodians,


daemonians serving with Gylippus
descent, were now constrained to
;

though Argive by
the Dorian
fight against
their

own

state of Syracuse,

and against

colonists of Gela, who were serving in the


With Athens also were continranks.

Syracusan
near the Peloponnese, Cephalonia
gents from the islands
and Zacynthus, both independent states, but practias
compelled so to act by their position
of the
command
Athenian
of
the
in
view
islanders,

cally

With the Corcyreans it was otherwise.


Dorians as they were, and not only Dorians but
their
Corinthians, they openly bore arms against
their kinsfolk of Syracuse.
and
of
Corinth
mother-city

sea.

constraint a pretext, but their action was


The
for they hated the Corinthians.
really voluntary,
then
Messenians, as the dwellers in Naupactus were
was then held by
called, and from Pylos, which
so
were enlisted on the Athenian side

They made

Athens,

from Megara, who


thus found themselves opposed to fellow Megarians in
As to the other Dorian allies,
the people of Selinus.
There
their service was more entirely voluntary.

was

a small

company of

exiles

NOTE ON PAGE

124

147

were the Argives, for instance they were allies of


Athens, it is true, but their real motive was either
their enmity to Sparta or considerations of private
So, Dorians as they were, they fought, side by
gain.
The
side with Ionians, against a Dorian antagonist.
Mantineans and the other Arcadian mercenaries fought,
as is their habit, against those whom they were instructed for the time to regard as enemies, and were
ready, on this occasion, so to regard the other ArIt was for
cadians who were in the pay of Corinth.
The
hire also that the Cretans and ./Etolians served.
Cretans found themselves paid to fight against the men
of Rhodes, a state associated with their own in the
;

As for the Acarnanians, some


indeed served for pay, but most of them were brought
by their regard for Demosthenes and their goodwill
So much for the nations that border the
to Athens.
Of the Italian Greeks came the men of
Ionian Sea.
Thurii and Metapontum, acting under the necessities
of domestic revolution.
Of the Sicilian Greeks there
were the inhabitants of Naxos and Catana. The barit was at
their
barians of Egesta also were there
and the
invitation that the expedition had come
majority of the Sicel tribes. From outside Sicily there

founding of Gela.

were some Etrurians, always on bad terms with Syracuse, and some Iapygian mercenaries.
These, then,
were the people that fought for Athens.
On the side of Syracuse was Camarina, its next
neighbour, Gela, the nearest state beyond Camarina,
Agrigentum, the next in order, being neutral
Selinus.
These cities are on that coast of the island
that faces Africa.
From the coast facing the Etrurian
Sea came the men of Himera, the only Greek city and
All these cities
only ally of Syracuse in that region.

and

were Dorian, and all independent. Of the native


Sicels they were but the few who did not
ally them-

NOTE ON PAGE

148

124

Of the Greeks
with the Athenian invader.
from outside Sicily there were the Lacedaemonians,
who supplied a Spartan general and troops, both slave
and freedmen.
Corinth was the only state that furWith these came
nished both a fleet and an army.
Corinth also paid some
Leucadians and Ambraciots
Arcadian mercenaries, and compelled some natives of
From Greece outside the PeloponSicyon to serve.

selves

nese

came the

Boeotians.'

be observed that the Syracusan catalogue is


But the historian
shorter than the Athenian.

It will

much

us that any inferiority in this respect was made up


by the wealth and populousness of the Sicilian cities.
tells

INDEX
in the

Acarnanians, serving

expedi-

tion, 99.

Achradina, 51.

enemy of Athens, 14.


/Eginetans, at Thyrea, captured and
executed, 14, 15.
Alcibiades deceives the Spartan envoys,
.^Egina, old

29-31
36-41
of the

the expedition,
of the mutilation

promotes

accused

Herma; 43-44

campaign, 47-48
his trial, 49
at Messene,

is

his plan

of

recalled to stand

betrays the democrats


59 ; his counsel to the

Spartans, 63-65.

Amphipolis,

lost to

Athens, 21

not

Corcyra, meeting place of the armament, 44-46, 112.


Crassus, Nicias compared to, 144.
Crete, archers from, 41, 46.
Cyrene, 1 17.
Cythera gained by Athens, 13.

Dascon, 55, 121.


Deceleia, 65, 99.

Delium, battle of, 21, 25.


Delos, sacred embassy to,

Nicias

at, 4-5.

Demosthenes

17 ; in comreinforcement, 108 ;

at Pylos,

mand

of the

leads

night

111-13; pro-

attack,

restored at the peace, 27.


Anapus R., 52, 55, 73, 102, 137.

poses departure, 115 5 proposes return to Catana, 115-16; in joint

Argos, her neutrality, 27 ; possible


ally of Athens, 30, 31 ; mercenaries
from, 44, 56, 99, 112.
Attica, invasion of, threatened, 25 ;

command of fleet, 128


commands rear in
131

137

surrenders, 140

his energy,
the retreat,

condemned

to death, 143.

carried out, 99.

Egesta
Bceotia ravaged by Nicias,
vaded by Athenians, 20

1 1
5

in-

troops

from, their firmness, ill.


Brasidas, his campaign in Thrace, 21 ;
opposed to peace, 22 ; refuses to
give up Scione, 23 ; his death, 25.

invites

neutral,

49

discussion at,

of,

help,

Euphemus, Athenian
Camarina, 59-61.

Eurymedon

spokesman

no.
command

in joint

forcements, 97 ; his death, 121.


Euthydemus, 128.

33,62.
Catana gained by an accident, 49
Athenians at, 53-58, 68, 115.

Gela, 83, 139.

Chalcis, 60.

Chilon, his saying about Cythera, 13.


Chios, independent ally, 46, 99.
Circle Fort, 69, 75.
Clearidas, Spartan general in Thrace,

26-27.
Cleon, his mission to Pylos, 17-19 ;
advocates war, 22, 23 5 his command in Thrace, 24 ; death, 25.

at

of rein-

59-62, 139.
Carthage, ultimate aim of expedition,

34

36-39.

Epipolae, 67, 73, 78, 82, 87, 90.


Erineus R., 139.
Etrurians, 62, 122.

Euryalus, 51, 90,

Camarina,

Athenian

fraudulent conduct

Gelon, wall of, 52, 67.


Gylippus appointed to command of
Spartans, 65 ; delayed, 80 ; perilous
journey, 81 ; marches across Sicily,
83 ; takes supreme command, 85 ;
his leadership of Syracusan army,
86-127 j attempts to save Nicias
and Demosthenes, 143.

Helots,

16, 28.

INDEX

Hermae, 42-49.

paign, 47

Helorus, 55, 74.


Hermocrates, spokesman of Syracuse

53

59-60 ; commands
deceives
70 5
Syracusan
forces,
Nicias, 132-33.
Himera, 50, 82, 83, 84.
Hybla, 50.
Hyccara taken by Athenians, 50.
Hyperbolus, 31-32.
at

Camarina,

Labdalum,

86.

Lacedaemonians, peace negotiations


with, 16 ; broken off, 20 ; renewed,
21 5 truce with, 22 ; peace with,
26 ; at Syracuse, 83, 49.

commander

Lamachus, joint
36

pedition,

his

plan

has

little

paign, 48, 67

of ex-

cam-

of

influence,
his death disastrous to Athens,
;

53 ;
73-76.
Locri, 46.

44, 56.
to

hostility

from

exiles

in

virtually

command,

62 ; successful operations, 7073 ; ill-health, 77 ; his supineness,


81-83 5 fortifies Plemmyrium, 88 ;
discouragement, 91 5 despatch to
Athens, 91-97 ; refuses to raise the
siege, 1 14-17; postpones departing
on account of eclipse, 1 17-19 ; speech
to the troops, 126 ; deceived by Hermocrates, 133; commands the van
in
the retreat, 137 ; surrenders,
142 ; death, 144.

tribes,

Nisaea, part of Megara,

Olympia,

1 1

39.

Olympieion, 53, 55,88, 105.


Ortygia, 51-53, 55, 102.

Peir^us, 10, 12. 14, 45, 136.


Philochorus, 118.
Phormio, 104.

attacked by Nicias,

20

plans surprise, 53-55 ; speech to


army, 56 ; Nicias with Sicel

Pericles, 2, 9.

Mantinea,
Megara,

the

in

Athens,

1.0-1

1
;

Plataea, 26.

attacked,

Athenian army,

Plemmyrium,
Plutarch,

52, 81, 101.

1, 4, 6,

106, 144.

Rhegium, 47, 82.

46.

Megara

Rheneia, 5.
Rhodes, 1 16.

(Sicilian), 48.

Melos, attack on by Nicias, 11.

Menander, Athenian general, 128.


Mende, 23.
Messene, 47, 48, 59, 82.

Salamis, 10.
Scione, revolt of, 23.
Selinus, 34, 47, 48.

Naxos, 40, 49, 62, 95, 103.

Sphacteria, operations at, 15-22.

Niceratus, 2.

Tarentum,

Nicias, birth, parentage, circumstances,

Thapsus, 52, 67, 63, 73, 78, 87, 116.


Thebes, 20.
Theophrastus, 26.
Themistocles, 6.

1-4

envoy

acter, 6-8

to

4-6

elected general, 9

Delos,

charattack

on Megara, 10 ; on Melos, 11 ; on
Corinth, 12-13 5 on ^ginetans at
Thyrea, 13-15 ; conduct of the
affair of Pylos, 17-19 ; command
in Thrace, 23, 24 5 concludes peace,
26 ; opposes the expedition, 36-38 ;
consents by giving estimate of forces
required, 39-41 ; his plan of cam-

46, 81.

Theramenes,

1.

Thrace, operations in, 13, 21-24.


Thracian mercenaries, 99.
Thurii, 49, 81.

Thyrea,

14.

Trogilus, 70.
Tyke, 68.

Colston & Coy. Limited, Printers, Edinburgh

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