George Grote.

A history of Greece: from the earliest period to the close of the generation contemporary with Alexander the Great online

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bour. We are told, too, that Nikias had recently lost by death
Stilbides, the ablest prophet in his service, and that he was thus

1 The moon was totally eclipsed on insisted on thrte days, while he resolved

this night, August 27, 413 B.C., from 27 on remaining for an entire lunar period

minutes past 9 to 84 minutes oast 10 (Plutarch, iHldas, c. 28).
P.M. (Wurm, De Ponderib. Or»oor. I follow the statement of nmcy-

sect. xci¥. p. 184), speaking with refe- did6s : there is no reason to beUsTe

rence to an obserrer m Sicily. that Nikias would lengthen the

Thucydidte states that Nikias time beyond what the prophets pre-

adopted the injunction of the pro- scribed.

phets to tarry thriee nim days (vii. 60). The erroneous statement respeetiog

Dioddrus says thrte days. Plutarch this memorable erent, in so respectable

intimates that Nikias went beyond the an author as Polybius, is not a littto

injunction of the prophets, who only surprising (Polyb. ix. 19).

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forced to have recourse to prophets of inferior ability.^ His
piety left no means untried of appeasing the gods, by prayer,
aacrifice, and expiatory ceremonies, continued until the necessity
of actual conflict arrived.'

The impediment thus finally and irreparably intercepting the
Athenian departure was the direct, though unintended, con-
sequence of the delay previously caused by Nikias. We cannot
doubt, however, that, when the eclipse first happened, he
regarded it as a sign confirmatory of the opinion which he had
himself before delivered, and that he congratulated himself
upon having so lung resisted the proposition for going away.
Let us add, that all those Athenians who were predisposed
to look upon eclipses as signs from heaven of calamity about
to come, would find themselves strengthened in that belief by
the unparalleled woes even now impending over this unhappy

What interpretation the Syracusans, confident and victorious,
put on the eclipse we are not told. But they knew Benewed
weU how to interpret the fact, which speedily came *J*^*
to their knowledge, that the Athenians had fully SyracoBaiiB
resolved to make a furtive escape, and had only been Zr^e^
prevented by the eclipse. Such a resolution, amount- ^****P^^?
ing to an unequivocal confession of helplessness, Gimt
emboldened the Syracusans yet further to crush them ***'^'"'-
as they were in the harbour, and never to permit them to
occupy even any other post in Sicily. Accordingly, Qylippus
caused bis triremes to be manned and practised for several days :
he then drew out his land force and made a demonstration of no
great significance against the Athenian lines. On the morrow
he brought out all his forces, both land and naval, with the
former of which he beset the Athenian lines, while the fleet, 76
triremes in number, was directed to sail up to the Athenian
naval station. The Athenian fleet, 86 triremes strong, sailed
out to meet it, aud a close, general, and desperate action took

1 Plutarch, Nikias, o. 22: Diod6r. Compara the deacriptioD of the

zfiL 12; Thacyd. rii. 60. 8tilbid«« was effect produced by the eclipee of the

eminent in his prof e«don of a prophet: son at Thdbes. immediately prior to

see Aristophan. Pac. 1029. with the the last expedition of Pelopidas into

dtations from Bnpolis and Philochoma Thessaly (Plutarch, Pelopidas, c. 81).
In the Scholia. * Plntarch, Nikias, c. 24.

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place. The fortune of Athens had fled. The Syracusans first
beat the centre division of the Athenians; next, the right
division under Eurjmedon, who, in attempting an evolution to
outflank the enemy's left» forgot those narrow limits of the
harbour which were at every turn the ruin of the Athenian
mariner, neared the land too much, and was pinned up against
it) in the recess of Daskon, by the vigorous attack of the
Syracusans. He was here slain, and his division destroyed:
successively, the entire Athenian fleet was beaten and driven

Few of the defeated ships could get into their own station.
Pf^j^^ Most of them were forced ashore or grounded on
TOcceM points without those limits; upon which Qylippus
apinst marched down his land force to the water's edge, in
Oylippoi. order to prevent the retreat of the crews, as well as
to assist the Syiacusan seamen in hauling off the ships as prizes.
His march, however, was so hurried and disorderly that the
Tyrrhenian troops, on guard at the flank of the Athenian
station, sallied out against them as they approached, beat the
foremost of them, and drove them away from the shore into the
marsh called Lysimeleia. More Syracusan troops came to their
aid ; but the Athenians also, anxious above all things for the
protection of their ships, came forth in greater numbers ; and a
general battle ensued, in which the latter were victorious.
Though they did not inflict much loss upon the enemy, yet
they saved most of their own triremes which had been driven
ashore, together with the crews, and carried them into the naval
station. Except for this success on land, the entire Athenian
fleet would have been destroyed : as it was, the defeat was still
complete, and eighteen triremes were lost, all their crews being
slain. This was probably the division of Eurymedon, which,
having been driven ashore in the recess of DaidLon, was too far
off from the Athenian station to receive any land assistance. As
the Athenians were hauling in their disabled triremes, the
Syracusans made a last effort to destroy them by means of a
lireship, for which the wind happened to be favourable. But
the Athenians found means to prevent her approach, and to
extinguish the flames.^

1 Thnc TlL 62, 5S ; DiodOr. xiii. U.

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Here was a complete victory gained over Athens on her own

element — gained with inferior numbers — gained even

OTer the fresh and yet formidable fleet recently SyneoBaiis

brought by Demosthenes. It told but too plainly on 2? bl^k^Sp

which side the superiority now lay — ^how well the themouthof
« ^ , . / .1 . ■» . ., i. the harbour,

Syracusans had organized their naval strength for and destroy

the specialties of their own harbour— how ruinous ^^^^

had been the folly of Nikias in retaining his excellent Athenian
,.,. , , ,. armaments

seamen imprisoned within that petty and unwhole-
some lake, where land and water alike did the work of their
enemies. It not only disheartened the Athenians, but belied all
their past exi>erience, and utterly confounded them. Sickness
of the whole enterprise and repentance for having undertaken
it now became uppermost in their minds ; yet it is remarkable
that we hear of no complaints against Nikias separately.' But
repentance came too late. The Syracusans, fully alive to the
importance of their victory, sailed round the harbour in triumph
as again their own,' and already looked on the enemy within it
as their prisoners. They determined to close up and guard the
mouth of it, from Plemmyrium to Ortjgia, so as to leave no
further liberty of exit

Nor were they insensible how vastly the scope of the contest
was now widened and the value of the stake before
them enhanced. It was not merely to rescue their __ _

own city from siege, nor even to repel and destroy aigatoatthe
the besieging army, that they were now contending. Kh«i^
It was to extinguish the entire power of Athens, and ^^^^^^^""^
liberate the half of Greece from dependence ; for to eada^w
Athens could never be expected to survive so terrific t*»t power,
a loss as that of the entire double armament before Syracuse.*
The Syracusans exulted in the thought that this great achieve-
ment would be theirs ; that their city was the field, and their
navy the chief instrument, of victory ; a lasting source of glory
to Uiem, not merely in the eyes of contemporaries, but even in
those of posterity. Their pride swelled when they reflected on
the Pan-hellenic importance which the siege of Syracuse had

1 Thuoyd. tU. 66. oliikr *A^atot i¥ * Thncyd. tIL 6S. ot M J.vp«uc6oxot,

vavrl til ii0wiums ^ear, koI 6 vopoXoyov rtfr r« Jufjuitm, «v#i^ wapiwknv «5«wf,

«VTO*c Ifty^ 4*^} wokv a luifmv Irt riff Ao.
•Tpcrttat i imtamcAm. > Thooyd. viL 66.

Laige Tiews
of the

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now aoqniied, and when they coimted op the number and
variety of Ghreek warriors who were now fighting, on one aide
or the other, between EmyMiiB and Flenimjriam. With the
exception of the great stn^ggle between Athena and the Pelo-
ponnedan confederacy, never before had eombaUnts so many

and so misoellaneons been engaged under the same
muniMn banners. Greeks continental and insular — Ionic,
Siii^l ^ Boric, and .£olic — antonomous and dependent —
orfgin of volimteers and mercenaries — from Miletos and Chios
batantonow in the east to Selinns in the west — were all here to
ySSSglM ^ fonnd ; and not merely Greeks, but also the bar-
m t!gSnab baric Sikels, Egesteans, Tyrrhenians, and lapygians.
^"^^""^ If the Lacedaemonians, Corintiiians, and Bceotians
were fighting on the side of Syracuse, the Argeians and
Mantineians, not to mention the great insular cities, stood in
arms against her. The jumble of kinship among the combatants
on both sides, as weU as the cross action of different local
antipathies, is put in lively antithesis by Thucydid^^ But
amidst so vast an assembled number, of which tiiey were the
chiefs, the paymasters, and the centre of combination, the
Syracusans might well feel a sense of personal aggrandizement,
and a consciousness of the great blow which they were about to
strike, sufficient to exalt them for the time above the level even
of their great Dorian chiefs in PeloponnSsus.
It was their first operation, occupying three days, to close up

the mouUi of the Great Harbour, which was nearly
STncoMos one mile broad, with vessels of every description ~
tbemooth triremes, traders, boats, &c — anchored in an oblique
ofthe direction, and chained together.' They at the same

time prepared their nav^ force with redoubled zeal
for the desperate struggle which they knew to be coming. They
then awaited the efforts of the Athenians, who watched their
proceedings with sadness and anxiety.

Nikias and his colleagues called together the principal officers
to deliberate what was to be done. As they had few provisions
remaining and had counter-ordered their further supplies, some
instant and desperate effort was indispensable; and the only point
in debate was whether they should bum their fleet and retire
1 Thucyd. HI. 67» 68. > Tliucyd. rii 50 : Diod6r. xiU. 14.

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by land, or make a fresh maritime exertion to break out of the
harbour. Such had been the impression left by the tim
recent sea-fight, that many in the camp leaned to the fl^^^
former scheme.^ But the generalB resolved upon foreet^r
first trying the latter, and exhausted all their com- mptat^
binations to give to it the greatest possible effect by'Sr^^
They now evacuated the upper portion of their gwerali.
lines, both on the higher ground of Epipolse, and even on the
lower ground, such portion as was nearest to the southern cliff ;
confining themselves to a limited fortified space close to the
shore, just adequate for their sick, their wounded, and their
stores ; in order to spare the necessity for a large garrison to
defend them, and thus leave nearly their whole force disposable
for sea-service. They then made ready every trireme in the
station which could be rendered ever so imperfectly seaworthy,
constraining every fit man to serve aboard them, without dis-
tinction of ageu rank, or country. The triremes were manned
with ^double crews of soldiers, hoplites as well as bowmen and
darters — the latter mostly Akarnanians ; while the hopbtes,
stationed at the prow, with orders to board the enemy as quickly
as possible, were furnished with grappling-irons to detain the
enemy's ship immediately after the moment of collision, in order
that it might not be withdrawn and the collision repeated, with
all its injurious effects arising from the strength and massiveness
of the Syracusan ep6tid& The best consultation was held with
the steersmen as to arrangement and manoeuvres of every trireme,
and no precaution omitted which the scanty means at hand
allowed. In the well-known impossibility of obtaining new
provisions, every man was anxious to hurry on the struggle.'
But Nikias, as he mustered them on the shore immediately before
going aboard, saw but too plainly that it was the mere stress of
desperation which impelled them ; that the elasticity, the
disciplined confidence, the maritime pride, habitual to the
Athenians on shipboard, was extinct, or dimly and faintly

He did his best to revive them, by exhortations unusually
emphatic and impressive. "Recollect (he said) that you, too,
not lees than the Syracusans, are now fighting for your own
1 Plntarch, Nikiat, c 24. > Thncyd. tU. M.

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safety and for your country ; for it is only by victory in tlie
Exhorta- co"^"^ Struggle that any of you can evef hope to
tionB of see his country again. Yield not to despair, like raw
pQ^ic^ recruits after a first defeat : you, Athenians and allies,
2J^ ftuniliar with the unexpected revolutions of war, will

hope now for the fedr turn of fortune, and fight with a
spirit worthy of the great force which you see here around yoti.
We generals have now made effective provision against our two
great disadvantages — the narrow circuit of the harbour and the
thickness of the enemy's prows.^ Sad as the necessity is, we have
thrown aside all our Athenian skill and tactics, and have pre-
pared to fight under the conditions forced upon us by the enemy —
a land battle on shipboard.' It will be for you to conquer in
this last desperate struggle, where there is no friendly shore to
receive you if you give way. You, hoplites on the deck, as soon
as you have the enemy's trireme in contact, keep him &st, and
relax not until you have swept away his hoplites and mastered
his deck. You, seamen and rowers, must yet keep up your
courage, in spite of this sad tailure in our means and subversion
of our tactics. You are better defended on deck above, and yon
have more triremes to help you, than in the recent defeat Such
of you as are not Athenian citizens, I entreat to recollect the
valuable privileges which you have hitherto enjoyed from
serving in the navy of Athens. Though not really citizens, you
have been reputed and treated as such : you have acquired our
dialect, you have copied our habits, and have thus enjoyed the
admiration, the imposing station, and the security arising from
our great empire.* Partaking, as you do, freely in the benefits of

1 Thncyd. tU. SS. a M i/Miya iptC- Karl 7^9 "BXXMa^ mu rnt Ipx^ r^t
ioiit¥ cvl Tifrov Xt^vof OTci'^TnTt trp&t i&ficWpacotu'iccAao'OvrKariTbw^Acivtfat,
i^v fiiXXovTa ix^*^ ^i' '^^^ c<rc<F0ac, <( rtjh ^ofitfAp rote vvi)K6oi« koI i^ fvii
dw, iSiKtiirBai iroXO irAcior, /yMTc(p(«rc. ai^Tt

' Thncyd. Tii. 02. it roOro yap i^ Koiimvoi fUvoi iXtvBdpmt inur nff Ipx^
^IwvfKaa-^a, &9T« irc^o^ayctv atrh tmf Srrcf, Bucaimt cnrrV ^ ^ K«r«irpo<5^
r«MV, KOi 1^ ^r« avroirf ia^ajtoov9<r0aif 6or«, Ao.
M^r* Utlvwt if r, m^kinov ^W<u. l>r. Arnold (together with GSDer

SThaoyd. liL S8. rote Bi ravroAt and Poppo), foUowing the Scholiast,
wmfiMvm, KoXivT^ adr^ r^c col 64oiiai, explains these words as baTing parti-
it^ UinwKSix$a£ n rotf ^vfu^paif ayar cniar reference to the motloe in the
. . . UtCmiw TV n^r ifiov^r Mviitia"- Athenian naral serrioe. But I cannot
$1. mt ^ia i^l iio/rmvaaOMt oi rivt think this correct AU persons in
'A#i|r«ioi ro^i(tff&cr*i ««( u^ that serrioe— who were freemen, bat
Ivrtt v^Mr, rritn^viitrfhno^iiji yet not dtlsens of Athens—are here

iK«A rmv r^9U9 r$ fu^mt MbvM«C«^« designated ; partly metios, doubtless.

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that empire, do not now betray it to these Sicilians and
Corinthians whom you have so often beaten. For such of you
as are Athenians, I again remind you that Athens has neither
fresh triremes, nor fresh hoplites, to replace those now here.
Unless you are now victorious, her enemies near home will find
her defenceless ; and our countrymen there will become slaves to
Sparta, as you will to Syracuse. Recollect, every man of you,
that you now going aboard here are the aU of Athens — her
hoplites, her ships, her entire remaining city, and her splendid
name.^ Bear up, then^ and conquer, every man with his best
mettle, in this one last struggle — ^for Athens as well as yourselves,
and on an occasion which will never return."

I^ in translating the despatch written home ten months before
by Nikias to the people of Athens, we were compelled j^ny ^
to remark that the greater part of it was the bitterest ^'^'"•r*^
condemnation of his own previous policy as com- encourage
mander — so we are here carried back, when we find *^® officew.
him striving to palliate the ruinous effects of that confined space
of water which paralyzed the Athenian seamen, to his own
obstinate improvidence in forbidding the egress of the fleet when
insisted on by Demosthen^ His hearers probably were too
much absorbed with the terrible present to revert to irremediable
mistakes of the past Immediately on the conclusion of his
touching address, the order was given to go aboard, and the sea-
men took their places. But when the triremes were fully
manned, and the trierarchs, after superintending the embarkation,
were themselves about to enter and push off— the agony of Nikias
was too great to be repressed. Feeling more keenly than any
man the intensity of this last death struggle, and the serious but
inevitable shortcomings of the armament in its present condition,
he still thought that he had not said enough for the occasion.
He now renewed his appeal personally to the trierarchs, — all of
them citizens of rank and wealth at Athens. They were all

bat partly also dttzens of the ialands, deriTed great eoniideratioii as well

and dependent alliee ; the ^ivoi ravfia- as profit from the aerrice, and often

r«i alluded to by the Corinthians and passed themselTes off for Athenian

by Periklte at the beginning of the citizens when they really were not so.
Peloponnesian war (Thncyd. 1. ISl— ^ Thucyd. tU. 64. in oiip rote rav-

14S) as the mrririi ' ovvcuuc fiaAAoi' rj aXtf ^fiMP vw i<r6/Mvot, km v^ot rotf

04«wMi of AUiens. Without doubt 'A0rivaton cto-l koX mScCt «at jjt vntSAoivof

tbne were numerous foreign seamen v^Atf, leal t^ /Uy^ ivofia rt»v 'A^vwr

in the warlike navy of Athens, who . . .

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femiliarly known to him, and he addressed himself to every man
separately by his own name, his father's name, and his tribe —
adjuring him by the deepest and most solemn motives which
could touch the human feelings. Some he reminded of their own
previous glories, others of the achievements of illustrious
ancestors, imploring them not to dishonour or betray these
precious titles : to all alike he recalled the charm of their
beloved country, with its full political freedom and its uncon-
strained licence of individual agency to every man : to all alike
he appealed in the names of their wives, their children, and their
paternal gods. He cared not for being suspected of trenching
upon the commonplaces of rhetoric : he caught at every topic
which could touch the inmost affections, awaken the inbred
patriotism, and rekindle the abated courage of the officers, whom
he was sending forth to this desperate venture. He at length
constrained himself to leave off, still fancying, in his anxiety,
that he ought to say more, and proceeded to marshal the land
force for the defence of the lines, as well as along the shore, where
they might render as much service and as much encouragement
as possible to the combatants on shipboard.^

Very different was the spirit prevalent, and very opposite the
Bold and burning words uttered, on the seaboard of the Syra-
g^^*«d cusan station, as the leaders were mustering their
OjSppus men immediately before embarkation. They had
Symensaa ^^^ apprised of the grappling irons now about to be
fleet. employed by the Athenians, and had guarded against

them, in part, by stretching hides along their bows, so that the
"iron-hand" might slip off without acquiring any hold. The
preparatory movements even within the Athenian station beitg
perfectly visible, Gylippus sent the fleet out with the usual
prefatory harangue. He complimented them on the great
achievements which they had already performed in breaking
down the naval power of Athens, so long held irresistible.* He
reminded them that the sally of their enemies was only a last
effort of despair, seeking nothing but escape, undertaken without
confidence in themselves, and under the necessity of throwing

1 See the strUdng chapter of Thncyd. describing this

▼iL 69. Eren the tame style of Dio- sqn,««<^4 •;! ar
d6nis (xUi 16) becomes animated in Thnoyd. Til. 66.

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aaide all their own tactics in order to copy feebly those of the
Syracuaans.^ He called upon them to recollect the destructive
purposes which the invaders had brought with them against
Syracuse, to inflict with resentful hand the finishing stroke upon
this half-ruined armament, and to taste the delight of satiating a
legitimate revenge.'

The Syracusan fleet — 76 triremes strong, as in the last battle —
was the first to put off from shore ; Pythen with the gyincann
Corinthians in the centre, Sikanus and Agatharchus armnge-
on the wings. A oertam proportion of them were ditionofthe
placed near the mouth of the harbour, in order to boiSr^s^-
guard the barrier ; while the rest were distributed P^'M^^gK
around the harbour, in order to attack the Athenians Smoond!"
from different sides as soon as they should approach. ^^^
Moreover the surface of the harbour swarmed with the light craft
of the Syracusans, in many of which embarked youthful volun-
teers, sons of the best families in the city ;* bcMEtts of no mean
service during the battle, saving or destroying the seamen cast
overboard from disabled ships, as well as annoying the fighting
Athenian triremes. The day was one sacred to Herakl^ at
Syracuse ; and the prophets announced that the god would ensure
victory to the Syracusans, provided they stood on the defensive,
and did not begin the attack.^ Moreover the entire shore round
the harbour, except the Athenian station and its immediate
neighbourhood, was crowded with Syracusan soldiers and specta-
tors ; while the walls of Ortygia, immediately overhanging the
water, were lined with the feebler population of the city — the old

1 lliaoyd. tIL 66» ST. made to harmonize with Thnoydidte

s Thncyd. TiL 68. vpbv o^y ^ro^ioy (Plutarch. Nikias, c 24).
TV rounhniy . . . opyig «poa-/Ai^Mfi«v, It if to be recoUected that both

iK«4 poii ( 9*M t p iftM iihf voiuumrarw cIfoc Plutarch and DioddruB had probably

irpJK rov« ivarriavs, oX hf mt iwX mimpl^ read the description of the Mkttlee in

rov irpooveabrroc dixauiwair awowKii- the Great Harboor of Svracnae con-

ami. fit yv*»M* T^ ^vnorifitvopf ofia 6i tained in PhiliitoB ; a better witness,

ixfp9V9 Auwaa^ai ivy9yri<r6titvo¥ iiiuvt if we had his acoonnt before us, eren

Kotjfr^ kty6itMr6v irov) ^kttov cIvcu. than Thucrdidds, since he was pro-

Thit plain and undisguised inro- bably at this time in Syracuse, and

cation 01 the angry and rerengefnl was perhaps actually i

passions should be noticed as a mark « Plutarch, Nikias, c 24, 25. Tim»us

of character and manners. reckoned the aid of Heraklds as haring

s DiodArus, xilL 14. Plutarch has a been one of the great causes of Syra-

■Imilar statement in reference to the cusan victory oTer the Athenians. He

preTious battle ; but I think he must gave sereral reasons why the god was
haTe confused one battle with the proToked against the Athenians: see
other, for his account can hardly be limisus, Fiigm. 104, ed. Didot

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Online LibraryGeorge GroteA history of Greece: from the earliest period to the close of the generation contemporary with Alexander the Great → online text (page 19 of 62)