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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men, women, and children. From the Athenian station presently
«ame forth 110 triremes, under Demosthen^, Menander, and
EuthydSmus — with the customary psean, its tone probably par-
taking of the general sadness of the camp. They steered across
direct to the mouth of the harbour, beholding on all sides the
armed enemies ranged along the shore, as well as the unarmed
multitudes who were imprecating the vengeance of the gods upon
their heads ; while for them there was no sympathy, except
among the fellow-sufferers within their own lines. Inside of this
narrow basin, rather more thau five English miles in circuit, 194
ships of war, each manned with more than 200 men, were about
to join battle — in the presence of countless masses around, all
with palpitating hearts, and near enough both to see and hear ;
the most picturesque battle (if we could abstract our minds from
its terrible interest) probably in history, without smoke or other
impediments to vision, and in the clear atmosphere of Sicily — a
serious and magnified realization of those Naumachise which the
Roman emperors used to exhibit with gladiators on the Italian
lakes, for the recreation of the people.

The. Athenian fleet made directly for that portion of the barrier
Attempt of where a narrow opening (perhaps closed by a movable
Sar^fleet «l^^i°) ^^ ^^>^^ ^^^^ ^^^ merchant- vessels. Their first
to break impetuous attack broke through the Syracusan squa-
?n the Great dron defending it, and they were already attempting
Harbour. ^ gever its connecting bonds, when the enemy from
all sides crowded in upon them and forced them to desist Pre-
sently the battle became general, and the combatants were
distributed in various parts of the harbour. On both sides a
fierce and desperate courage was displayed, even greater than had
been shown on any of the former occasions. At the first onset,
the skill and tactics of the steersmen shone conspicuous, well-
seconded by zeal on the part of the rowers and by their rea<ly
obedience to the voice of the keleusti^a As the vessels neared,
the bowmen, slingers, and throwers on the deck hurled clouds of
missiles against the enemy — ^next was heard the loud crash of the
two impinging metallic fronts, resounding all along the shore.^

iThe destractiTe impact of these direct collision axainst a heavier, is

metallic masses at the heads of the strikingly illnstiated by a passage in

ships of war» as well as the periplns Plutarch a Life of Looullus. where a

practised by a lighter ship to avoid naval engaf^ment between toe Boman

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When the veasels were thus once in contact, they were rarely
allowed to separate : a strenuous hand-fight then commenced by
the hoplites in each trying respectively to board and master their
enemy's deck. It was not always however that each trireme had
its own single and special enemy : sometimes one ship had two
or three enemies to contend with at once — sometimes she fell
aboard of one unsought, and became entangled. After a certain
time, the fight still obstinately continuing, all sort of battle order
became lost ; the skill of the steersman was of little avail, and
the voice of the keleustSs was drowned amidst the universal din
and mingled cries from victors as well as vanquished. On both
sides emulous exhortiitions were poured forth, together with
reproach and sarca8ni addressed to any ship which appeared
flinching from the contest, though fiEUStitious stimulus of this sort
was indeed but little needed.

Such was the heroic courage on both sides that for a long time
victory was altogether doubtful, and the whole harbour Long con-
was a scene of partial encounters, wherein sometimes dSjwate^
Syracusans, sometimes Athenians, prevailed. Accord- ■truggle—
ing as success thus fluctuated, so followed the cheers emotion—
or wailings of the spectatoi^ ashore. At one and the Jf ^/®^®**
same time every variety of human emotion might be Athenian*,
witnessed ; according as attention was turned towards a victorious
or a defeated ship. It was among the spectators in the Athenian
station, above all, whose entire life and liberty were staked in the
combat, that this emotion might be seen exaggerated into agony,
and overpassing the excitement even of the combatants them-
selves.^ Those among them who looked towards a portion of the
harl>our where their friends seemed winning were full of joy and
thanksgiving to the gods : such of their neighbours as contem-
plated an Athenian ship in difficulty gave vent to their feelings

geoeml and Neoptolemos, the admiral pipot r^ paaiXite^j Kolr^r rp^x^

of Hithridatte, w described. **Locul- rrira rov xj^kKm/iaTot, ov« JrdA-

Ins was on board a Rhodian quinque- firio-t trviiinativ imCwompt^i, oAA' hfimt

reme, commanded by DanuiKoras, a im vcpcoywyi^f amvrpifai iicdXwnr cvt

■Ulfal Rhodian pilot, while Neopto- wpviivav ivairSM' koI wit<r0ti<nit ir-

lemos was approaching with a ship ravBa n^f yc*»f ^U^aro riiv^ vAiyyi^

moch heaTier. and driring forward to afikafi^ ycyv^MVify, art i^ rote ^oAor-

a direct oollinon ; upon which Daina- rcvov<ri rin y^ias utp€<n wpo^wtaovwtr.

goras evaded the blow, rowed rapidly —Plutarch, LacnlL c 8.
ronndj, and struck the enemy in the ^ xhucyd. rii 71.
stem." , , . 3«i<raf 6 Aafiayopat rb *"uw«« '"• •*•

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in shrieks and lamentation ; while a third group, with their eyes
fixed on some portion of the comhat still dispated, were plunged
in all the agitations of doubt^ manifested even in the tremulous
swing of their bodies, as hope or fear alternately predominated.
During aU the time that the combat remained undecided, the
Athenians on shore were distracted by aU these manifold varieties
of intense sympathy. But at length the moment came, after a
long-protracted struggle, when victory began to declare in feivour
of the S3rracusans, who, perceiving that their enemies were
slackening, redoubled their efforts as well as their shouts, and
pushed them back towards the land. All the Athenian triremes,
abandoning further resistance, were thrust ashore like shipvrrecked
vessels in or near their own station, a few being even captured
before they could arrive there. The diverse manifestations of
S3rmpathy among the Athenians in the station itself were now
exchanged for one unanimous shriek of agony and despair. The
boldest of them rushed to rescue the ships and their crews from
pursuit, others to man their walls in case of attack from land :
many were even paralyzed at the sight, and absorbed with the
thoughts of their own irretrievable ruin. Their souls were doubt-
less still further subdued by the wild and enthusiastic joy which
burst forth in maddening shouts from the hostile crowds around
the harbour, in response to their own victorious comrades on
Such was the close of this awful, heart-stirring, and decisive

combat. The modern historian strives in vain to
^E^l^^^ convey the impression ot it which appears in the
^ncient condensed and burning phrases of ThucydidSs. We
strong find in his description of battles generally, and of this

tSSch^*" battle beyond all others, a depth and abundance of
*%Si^* human emotion which has now passed out of military

proceedings. The Greeks who fight, like the Greeks
who look on, are not soldiers \rithdrawn from the "community,
and specialized as well as hardened by long professional training,
but citizens with all their passions, instincts, sympathies, joys,
and sorrows of domestic as well as political life. Moreover, the
non-military population in ancient times had an interest of the
most intense kind in the result of the struggle, which made the
difference to them, if not of life and death, at least of the

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extremity of happiness and misery. Hence the strong light and
shade, the Homeric exhibition of undisguised impulse, the tragic
detail of personal motive and suffering, which pervades this and
other military descriptions of Thucydid^. When we read the
few but most vehement words which he employs to depict the
Athenian camp under this fearful trial, we must recollect that
these were not only men whose all was at stake, but that they
were moreover citizens full of impressibility — sensitive and
demonstrative Greeks, and indeed the most sensitive and
demonstrative of all Greeks. To repress all manifestations of
strong emotion was not considered, in ancient times, essential to
the dignity of the human character.

Amidst all the deep pathos, however, which the great historian
has imparted to the final battle at Syracuse, he has
not explained the causes upon which its ultimate issue uie detmX
turned. Considering that the Athenians were superior ^'t^l^imj,,
to their enemies in number, as 110 to 76 triremes,
that they fought with courage not less heroic, and that the
action was on their own element, we might have anticipated for
them, if not a victory, at least a drawn battle, with equal loss on
both sides. But we may observe — I. The number of 110 triremes
was formed by including some hardly seaworthy.^ 2. The crews
were composed partly of men not used to sea-service ; and the
Akamanian darters especially were for this reason unhandy with
their missiles.' 3. Though the water had been hitherto the
element favourable to Athens, yet her superiority in this respect
was declining, and her enemies approaching nearer to her, even
in the open sea. But the narrow dimensions of the harbour
would have nullified her superiority at all times, and placed her
at great disadvantage — without the means of twisting and turning
her triremes so as to strike only at a vulnerable point of the
enemy — compared with the thick, heavy, straightforward butting
of the Syracusans ; like a nimble pugUist of light weight
contending, in a very confined ring, against superior weight and
muscle.* For the mere land-fight on ship-board, Athenians had

IThncyd. liL 60. t^ vav« avdvat rctr Sortf koI hwmvovw ii6m9^
iami ^o'eof koa twwral k«1 airAot*- i^^ixtav /ftcr^x***' iiriTi^X€t««
rcofti. «ir«. Compuv also the speech of

^ TboGjd. tiL eO. wAm rtri ivfii- Oylippos, c. 67.
^^•iiTc« wkiumvatn-lwayKd^tatm iafiai- * llie laagoage of Tbeokritos, In de-


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not only no advantage, but had on the eontrary the odds against
them. 4. The Syracusans enjoyed great advantage from having
nearly the whole harbonr lined ronnd with their eoldieis and
friends ; not simply from the force of encouraging sympathy, no
mean auxiliary, but because any of their triremes, if compeUed
to fiill back before an Athenian, found protection on the shore,
and could return to the fight at leisure ; while an Athenian in the
same predicament had no esci^ie. 5. The numerous light craft
of the Syracusans doubtless rendered great service in this battle,
as they had done in the preceding, though Thuoydidte does not
again mention them. 6. Lastly, both in the Athenian and
Syracusan characters, the pressure of necessity was less potent,
as a stimulus to action, than hopeful confidence and elation, with
the idea of a flood-tide yet mounting. In the character of some
other races, the Jews for instance, the comparative force of these
motives appears to be reversed.

About 60 Athenian triremes, little more than half of the fleet
FeeUsnof ^^^ ^^*°^® forth, were saved as the wreck from
tbBt%n this terrible conflict The Syracusans on their part
▼KDqidshed ^^ ^^ suffered severely ; only 60 triremes remaining
g^ttie out of 76. The triumph with which, nevertheless, on
returning to the city, they erected their trophy, and
the exultation which reigned among the vast crowds encircling the
harbour, was beyond all measure or precedent Its clamorous mani-
festations were doubtless but too well heard in the neighbouring
camp of the Athenians, and increased, if anything could increase,
the soul-subduing extremity of distress which paralyzed the van-
quished. So utterly did the pressure of suffering, anticipated
as well as actual, benumb their minds and extinguish their most
sacred associations, that no man among them, not even the ultra-
religious Nikiasi thought of picking up the floating bodies or
asking for a truoe to bury the dead. This obligation, usually
so serious and imperative upon the survivors after a battie, now

■eribing the migiUstle oontett between *Hp«««Kpftrtp&rnoAv<«ikMi«ap«ijrt«mr,

Pollux and the BebryUan Amykue. is AttiUr^ ^if vwc iu9 iwifipla-mt
not inapplicable to the position ofthe iaiiiatnv,

Athenian ihipe and teamen when Xmp^ i pI art tr^ Tirv^ irmJUyit*»K
cramped up m tliie harbour (IdjlL «un(p.

'^^^^s- Gompaie Virafl'i plotaie of Eotsilns

. • . htrMpti$$p and Du^ i&Mld, ▼. 4S0.

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passed unheeded amidst the sorrow, terror, and despair of the
living man himself.

Such despair, however, was not shared by the generals ; to
their honoor be it spoken. On the afternoon of this BMointion
terrible defeat, Demosthen^ proposed to Nikias that ^^^^S^d
at daybreak the ensuing morning they should man all Nildas to
the remaining ships — even now more in number than ^S^^i"
the Syracusan — and make a fresh attempt to break ^^^P*"
out of the harbour. To this Nikias agreed, and both ment are
proceeded to try their influence in getting the JSaijOT^ed
resolution executed. But so irreparably was the to obey,
spirit of the seamen broken, that nothing could prevail upon
them to go again on ship-board : they would hear of nothing but
attempting to escape by laud.^ Preparations were therefore made
for commencing their march in the darkness of that very night
The roads were still open, and had they so marched, a portion of
them at least might even yet have been saved.' But there
occurred one more mistake — one further postponement — ^which
cot off the last hopes of this gallant and &ted remnant

The Syracusan Hermokrat^, fully anticipating that the
Athenians would decamp that very night, was eager Tbe
to prevent their retreat, because of the mischief which dwuSmSM
they might do if established in any other part of toratreat
Sicfly. He pressed Qylippus and the military i^ey poet-
authorities to send out forthwith, and block up the SStw^**'
principal roads, passes, and fords, by which the mder&lM
fugitives would get oE, Though sensible of the ^STfrom
wisdom of his advice, the generals thought it whoUy Syracnee.
unezecntable. Such was the universal and unbounded joy which
now pervaded the city, in consequence of the recent victory, still
further magnified by the circumstance that the day was sacred to
Hdrakl^s — so wild the jollity, the feasting, the intoxication, the
congratulations, amidst men rewarding tiiemselves after their
recent effort and triumph, and amidst the necessary care for the
wounded — that an order to arm and march out would have been
as little heeded as the order to go on ship-board was by the
desponding Athenians. Perceiving that he could get nothing
done until the next morning, Hermokrat^ resorted to a stratagem
1 Thucyd. tIL 7S. > I>iod6r. ziU. 18.

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in order to delay the departure of the Athenians for that night.
At the moment when darkness was beginning, he sent down some
confidential friends on horseback to the Athenian walL These
men, riding up near enough to make themselves heard, and
calling for the sentries, addressed them as messengers from the
private correspondents of Nikias in Syracuse, who had sent to
warn him (they affirmed) not to decamp during the zdght^
inasmuch as the Syracusans had already beset and occupied the
roads : but to begin his march quietly the next morning after
adequate preparation.'

This fraud (the same as the Athenians had themselves practised
The two years before,' in order to tempt the Syracusans to

bCSfnp" niarch out against Katana) was perfectly successful :
the roads to the sincerity of the information was believed and
tb^^"^ the advice adopted. Had Demosthends been in
rotreal command alone, we may doubt whether he would
have been so easily duped ; for, granting the accuracy of the fact
asserted, it was not the less obvious that the difficulties, instead
of being diminished, would be increased tenfold on the following
day. We have seen, however, on more than one previous
occasion, how fatally Nikias was misled by his treacherous
advices from the phHo-Athenians at Syracuse, An excuse for
inaction was always congenial to his character ; and the present
reconmiendation, moreover, feU in but too happily with the
temper of the army — now benumbed with depression and terror
like those unfortunate soldiers, in the Retreat of the Ten
Thousand Qreeks, who were yielding to the lethargy of extreme
cold on the snows of Armenia, and whom Xenophdn vainly tried
to arouse.* Having remained over that night, the generals
determined also to stay the next day, in order that the army
might carry away with them as much of their baggage as
possible, sending forward a messenger to the Sikels in the
interior to request that they would meet the army, and bring
with them a supply of provisions.^ Gylippus and Hermokiat^
had thus ample time, on the following day, to send out forces and
occupy all the positions convenient for obstructing the Athenian
march. They at the same time towed into Syracuse as prises all

1 ThncTd. tiL 78 ; ]>lod6r xiiL 18. * Zen. Anab. hr. 6, 16, 19 ; ? . 8^ Ik

«Thucyd.Ti«4. 4 Thuflyd. tIL 77.

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OBAP. LX. retreat of the ATHENIANS. 166

the Athenian triremes which had been driven ashore in the
recent battle, and which now lay like worthless hulks, ongnarded
and unheeded^ — seemingly even those within the station itseli

It was on the next day but one after the maritime defeat
that Nikias and Demoethente put their army in ^^^^
motion to attempt retreat The camp had long been the Athe-
a scene of sickness and death from the prevalence of ^|J2!^J,]g
marsh fever ; but since the recent battle, the number oondition of
of wounded men and the unburied bodies of the slain ^''^'
bad rendered it yet more pitiable. Forty thousand miserable
men (so prodigious was the total, including all ranks and
functions) now set forth to quit it, on a march of which
few could hope to see the end ; like the pouring forth of the
population of a large city starved out by blockade. Many had
little or no provisions to carry — so low had the stock become
reduced ; but of those who had, every man carried his own —
even the horsemen and hoplites, now for the first time either
already left without slaves by desertion, or knowing that no
slave could now be trusted. But neither such melancholy
equality of suffering, nor the number of sufferers, counted for
much in the way of alleviation. A downcast stupor and sense of
abasement possessed every man ; the more intolerable, when they
recollected the exit of the armament from Peirseus two years
before, with prayers, and solemn psBans, and all the splendid
dreams of conquest — set against the humiliation of the closing
scene now before them, without a single trireme left out of two
prodigious fleets. .

But it was not until the army had actually begun its march
that the full measure of wretchedness was felt and ^^^^^
manifested. It was then that the necessity first iie« arising
became proclaimed, which no one probably spoke out ^SigSwi
beforehand, of leaving behind not merely the unburied "^^^jfj^
bodies, but also the sick and the wounded. The
scenes of woe which marked this hour passed endurance or
description. The departing soldier sorrowed and shuddered,
with the sentiment of an unperformed duty, as he turned from
the unburied bodies of the slain ; but far more terrible^^as the
trial when he had to tear himself from the living sufferers, who
1 Thnoyd. TiL 74.

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implored their comrades, with wailings of agony and distraction,
not to abandon them. Appealing to all the claims of pions
Mendship, they clung round their knees, and even crawled
along the line of march until their strength DEiiled. The silent
dejection of the previous day was now exchanged for universal
tears and groans, and clamorous outbursts of sorrow, amidst
which the army could not without the utmost difficulty be
disengaged and put in motion.
After such heartrending scenes, it might seem that their cup

of bitterness was exhausted ; but worse was yet in
the genenOfl Store, and the terrors of the future dictated a struggle
•o^SJto against all the miseries of past and present The
- eneigy of generals did their best to keep up some sense of order

as well as courage ; and Nikias, particularly, in this
closing hour of his career, displayed a degree of energy and
heroism which he had never before seemed to possess. Though
himself among the greatest personal sufferers of all, from his
incurable complaint, he was seen everywhere in the ranks,
marshalling the troops, heartening up their dejection, and
addressing them with a voice louder, more strenuous, and more
commanding than was his wont

'* Keep up your hope still, Athenians (he said), even as we are
Bxhorta- ^^^ ' Others have been saved out of circumstances
gonofNi- worse than ours. Be not too much humiliated
snffering either with your defeats or with your present un-
^'™^* merited hardships. I too, having no advantage over

any of you in strength (nay, you see the condition to which
I have been brought by my disease^ and accustomed even
to superior splendour and good fortune in private as well as
public life — I too am plunged in the same peril with the
humblest soldier among you. Nevertheless my conduct has
been constantly pious towards the gods, as well as just and
blameless towajxis men ; in recompense for which, my hope for
the future is yet sanguine, at the same time that our actual
misfortunes do not appal me in proportion to their intrinsic
magnitude.^ Perhaps indeed they may from this time forward

IThnoyd. tU. 77. lea/rot iroAXa |Uy «'«&« r«d f&tf AAorrof, «i <i (v^-

it $w^ vofuiia Mvj^Tiinai, wokka U ^opuX ov icar* a^lar Bii ^ofio^O'i,

U AvBptiwovt Xdcoia icaX iofwi^Bova. rd^a 3* £r koI kmMmmv ucovdt y^

i^p$' &¥ ii fikp iK wit liimt B pu- rots n woktftCott twixvi^*t >^ '"^ t^

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Chap. LX.



abate ; for oar entoiies have had their full swing of good fortune^
and if at the moment of our starting we were under the jealous
wrath of any of the gods, we have already undergone chastisement
amply sufficient Other people before us have invaded foreign

§t m9 iwi^imroi ivrparrvva^Jiv, 4«oxp«ii^

I hare fcranslated the words ov car*
o^MtF, and the sentence of which they
f onn a part, differently from what has
been hitherto sanctioned by the com-
mentators, who oonstme xar' o^toy as
meaning ''according to onr desert" —
understand the words ai fv/t^pal ov
icax* afiav as bearing the same sense
with uie words raU vapA rriv o^ioy
cwcorpoyiotf some lines before— and
Bkewise construe ov, not with ^fiovat,
but with Kar atiay, assigning to ^
Sovot an affiimatiTe sense. They trans-
late— ** Qnare, quamvia luwtro fartuna
prorgut cffiieta videaJtur (these words
have no paraUel in the oiiginalX remm
tamen f ntoranim spes est andax : sed
dades, quas nnllo nostro merito aocepi-
nns, hm Jam torrent. At fortasse ces-
sabiint,'' Ac M. Didot translates—
"Anssif al nn ferme eepoir dansl'arenir
malgr4 V^^ni qne des vMdktwr* wm m4'
rttimonscansent". Dr. Arnold p
the sentence over without notice.

This manner of
to me not lees unsuitable in
to the spirit and thread of the harangue,
than awkward as rsgards the indiTidual
words. Looking to the spirit of the
harangue, the object of encouraging
the d^ected soldiers would hardly be
much answered by repeating (what in
fact had been fflanced at in a manner
sulBdent and becoming before) that
" the unmerited reverses terrified either
Nikias or the soldiers". Then as to
the words— the expressions av^ &v,
o^uH, ^9 and hi, seem to me to denote,
not only that the two halves of the
sentence apply both of them to Nikias,
but that the first half of the sentence
is in harmony, not in opposition, with
the second. Matthis On my judgment,
erroneously) refers (Or. Qit. f 628) oM«f

Online LibraryGeorge GroteA history of Greece: from the earliest period to the close of the generation contemporary with Alexander the Great → online text (page 20 of 62)