John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

. (page 21 of 29)
Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 21 of 29)
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DuKiNG the same winter, in accordance with an old
national custom, the funeral of those who first fell in
this war was celebrated by the Athenians at the pub-
lic charge. The ceremony is as follows : Three days
before the celebration they erect a tent in which the
bones of the dead are laid out, and every one brings
to his own dead any offering which he pleases. At
the time of the funeral the bones are placed in chests
of cypress wood, which are conveyed on hearses ; there
is one chest for each tribe. They also carry a single
empty litter decked with a pall for all whose bodies
are missing, and cannot be recovered after the bat-
tle. The procession is accompanied by any one who
chooses, whether citizen or stranger, and the female
relatives of the deceased are present at the place of
interment and make lamentation. The public sepul-
chre is situated in the most beautiful spot outside the
walls ; there they always bury those who fall in war ;
only after the battle of Marathon the dead, in recog-
nition of their preeminent valor, were interred on the
field. When the remains have been laid in the earth,
some man of known ability and high reputation,
chosen by the city, delivers a suitable oration over
them ; after which the people depart. Such is the
manner of interment ; and the ceremony was repeated
from time to time throughout the war. Over those
who were the first buried Pericles was chosen to speak.
At the fitting moment he advanced from the sepulchre
to a lofty stage, which had been erected in order that
he might be heard as far as possible by the multitude,
and spoke as follows : — ...

i In the winter of 431-430 B. C.


" I will speak first of our ancestors, for it is rigbt
and becoming that now, when we are lamenting the
dead, a tribute should be paid to their memory. There
has never been a time when they did not inhabit this
land, which by their valor they have handed down
from generation to generation, and we have received
from them a free state. But if they were worthy of
praise, still more were our fathers, who added to their
inheritance, and after many a struggle transmitted to
us, their sons, this great empire. And we ourselves,
assembled here to-day, who are still most of us in the
vigor of life, have chiefly done the work of improve-
ment, and have richly endowed our city with all things,
so that she is sufficient for herself both in peace and
war. Of the military exploits by which our various
possessions were acquired, or of the energy with which
we or our fathers drove back the tide of war, Hellenic
or Barbarian, I will not speak, for the tale would be
long and is familiar to you. But before I praise the
dead, I should like to point out by what principles of
action we rose to power, and under what institutions
and through what manner of life our empire became
great. For I conceive that such thoughts are not un-
suited to the occasion, and that this numerous assem-
bly of citizens and strangers may profitably listen to

" Our form of government does not enter into
rivalry with the institutions of others. We do not
copy our neighbors, but are an example to them. It
is true that we are called a democracy, for the admin-
istration is in the hands of the many and not of the
few. But while the law secures equal justice to all
alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence
is also recognized ; and when a citizen is in any way


distinguished, lie is preferred to the public service,
not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit.
Neither is poverty a bar, but a man may benefit his
country whatever be the obscurity of his condition.
There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in
our private intercourse we are not suspicious of one
another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what
he likes ; we do not put on sour looks at him which,
though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are
thus unconstrained in our private intercourse, a spirit
of reverence pervades our public acts; we are pre-
vented from doing wrong by respect for authority and
for the laws, having an especial regard to those which
are ordained for the protection of the injured as well
as to those unwritten laws which bring upon the trans-
gressor of them the reprobation of the general senti-

" And we have not forgotten to provide for our
weary spirits many relaxations from toil ; we have
regular games and sacrifices throughout the year ; at
home the style of our life is refined ; and the delight
which we daily feel in all these things helps to ban-
ish melancholy. Because of the greatness of our city
the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us ; so that
we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as of
our own.

" Then, again, our military training is in many
respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city
is thrown open to the world, and we never expel a
foreigner or prevent him from seeing or learning any-
thing of which the secret if revealed to an enemy
might profit him. We rely not upon management or
trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And
in the matter of education, whereas they from early


youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which
are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are
equally ready to face the perils which they face. And
here is the proof. The Lacedaemonians come into
Attica not by themselves, but with their whole con-
federacy following ; we go alone into a neighbor's
country ; and although our opponents are fighting for
their homes and we on a foreign soil, we have seldom
any difficulty in overcoming them. Our enemies
have never yet felt our united strength ; the care of
a navy divides our attention, and on land we are
obliged to send our own citizens everywhere. But
they, if they meet and defeat a part of our army, are
as proud as if they had routed us all, and when de-
feated they pretend to have been vanquished by us

" If then we prefer to meet danger with a light
heart, but without laborious training, and with a cour-
age which is gained by habit and enforced by law,
are we not greatly the gainers ? Since we do not
anticipate the pain, although when the hour comes
we can be as brave as those who never allow them-
selves to rest; and thus too our city is equally ad
mirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of
the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we culti-
vate the mind without loss of manliness. Wealth we
employ, not for talk and ostentation, but when there
is a real use for it. To avow poverty with us is no
disgrace ; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to
avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not neglect the
state because he takes care of his own household ; and
even those of us who are engaged in business have a
very fair idea of politics. We alone regard a man
who takes no interest in public affairs, not as a harm-


less, but as a useless character ; and if few of us are
originators, we are all sound judges of a policy. The
great impediment to action is, in our opinion, not dis-
cussion, but the want of that knowledge which is
gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we
have a peculiar power of thinking before we act and
of acting too, whereas other men are courageous from
ignorance, but hesitate upon reflection. And they
are surely to be esteemed the bravest spirits who,
having the clearest sense both of the pains and plea-
sures of life, do not on that account shrink from dan-
ger. In doing good, again, we are unlike others — •
we make our friends by conferring, not by receiving
favors. Now he who confers a favor is the firmer
friend, because he would fain by kindness keep alive
the memory of an obligation ; but the recipient is
colder in his feelings, because he knows that in requit-
ing another's generosity he will not be winning grati-
tude, but only paying a debt. We alone do good to
our neighbors not upon a calculation of interest, but
in the confidence of freedom and in a frank and fear-
less spirit. To sum up ; I say that Athens is the
school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian in
his own person seems to have the power of adapting
himself to the most varied forms of action with the
utmost versatility and grace. This is no passing and
idle word, but truth and fact; and the assertion is
verified by the position to which these qualities have
raised the state. For in the hour of trial, Athens
alone among her contemporaries is superior to the
report of her. No enemy who comes against her is
indignant at the reverses which he sustains at the
hands of such a city ; no subject complains that his
masters are unworthy of him. And we shall assur^


edly not be without witnesses ; there are mighty
monuments of our power which will make us the won-
der of this and of succeeding ages ; we shall not need
the praises of Homer or of any other panegyrist whose
poetry may please for the moment, although his repre-
sentation of the facts will not bear the light of day.
For we have compelled every land and every sea to
open a path for our valor, and have everywhere planted
eternal memorials of our friendship and of our enmity.
Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought
and died ; they could not bear the thought that she
might be taken from them ; and every one of us who
survive should gladly toil on her behalf." (^Booh 11,^
Chapters S^-J^l.)


During the same winter the Plataeans, who were
still besieged by the Peloponnesians and Boeotians,
began to suffer from the failure of provisions. They
had no hope of assistance from Athens and no other
chance of deliverance. So they and the Athenians
who were shut up with them contrived a plan of forcing
their way over the enemy's walls. The idea was sug-
gested by Theaenetus, the son of Tolmides, a diviner,
and Eumolpides, the son of Dai'machus, one of their
generals. At first they were all desirous of joining, but
afterwards half of them somehow lost heart, think-
ing the danger too great, and only two hundred and
twenty agreed to persevere. They first made ladders
equal in length to the height of the enemy's wall, which
they calculated by help of the layers of bricks on the
side facing the town, at a place where the wall had
accidentally not been plastered. A great many counted
at once, and, although some might make mistakes, the


calculation would be oftener right than wrong ; for
they repeated the process again and again, and, the
distance not being great, they could see the wall dis-
tinctly enough for their purpose. In this manner they
ascertained the proper length of the ladders, taking
as a measure the thickness of the bricks.

The Peloponnesian wall was double, and consisted
of an inner circle looking towards Plataea, and an
outer intended to guard against an attack from Ath-
ens; they were at a distance of about sixteen feet
from one another. This interval of sixteen feet was
partitioned off into lodgings for the soldiers, by which
the two walls were joined together, so that they ap-
peared to form one thick wall with battlements on
both sides. At every tenth battlement there were
large towers, filling up the space between the walls,
and extending both to the inner and outer face ; there
was no way at the side of the towers, but only through
the middle of them. During the night, whenever
there was storm and rain, the soldiers left the battle-
ments and kept guard from the towers, which were
not far from each other and were covered overhead.
Such was the plan of the wall with which Plataea was

When the Plataeans had completed their prepara-
tions they took advantage of a night on which there
was a storm of wind and rain and no moon, and sal-
lied forth. They were led by the authors of the at-
tempt. First of all they crossed the ditch which sur-
rounded the town ; then they went forward to the
wall of the enemy. The guard did not discover them,
for the night was so dark that they could not be seen,
while the clatter of the storm drowned the noise of
their approach. They marched a good way apart


from each other, that the clashing of their arms might
not betray them; and they were lightly equipped,
having the right foot bare that they might be less
liable to slip in the mud. They now set about scal-
ing the battlements, which they knew to be deserted,
choosing a space between two of the towers. Those
who carried the ladders went first, and placed them
against the wall ; they were followed by twelve oth-
ers, armed only with sword and breastplate, under the
command of Ammeas, the son of Coroebus : he was
the first to mount ; after him came the twelve, six as-
cending each of the two towers on the right and left.
To these succeeded more men lightly armed with short
spears, others following who bore their shields, that
they might have less difficulty in mounting the wall ;
the shields were to be handed to them as soon as they
were near the enemy. A considerable number had
now ascended, when they were discovered by the
guards. One of the Plataeans, taking hold of the
battlements, threw down a tile which made noise in
falling : immediately a shout was raised and the en-
emy rushed out upon the wall ; for in the dark and
stormy night they did not know what the alarm
meant. At the same time, in order to distract their
attention, the Plataeans who were left in the city made
a sally against the Peloponnesian wall on the side op-
posite to the place at which their friends were getting
over. The besiegers were in great excitement, but
every one remained at his own post, and dared not
stir to give assistance, being at a loss to imagine what
was happening. The three hundred who were ap-
pointed to act in any sudden emergency marched
along outside the walls towards the spot from which
the cry proceeded, and fire-signals indicating danger


were raised towards Thebes. But the Plataeans in
the city had numerous counter signals ready on the
wall, which they now lighted and held up, thereby
hoping to render the signals of the enemy unintelligi-
ble, that so the Thebans, misunderstanding the true
state of affairs, might not arrive until the men had es-
caped and were in safety.

Meanwhile the Plataeans were scaling the walls.
The first party had mounted, and, killing the senti-
nels, had gained possession of the towers on either
side. Their followers now began to occupy the pas-
sages, lest the enemy should come through and fall
upon them. Some of them placed ladders upon the
wall against the towers, and got up more men. A
shower of missiles proceeding both from the upper
and lower parts of the towers kept off all assailants.
Meanwhile the main body of the Plataeans, who were
still below, applied to the wall many ladders at once,
and, pushing down the battlements, made their way
over through the space between the towers. As each
man got to the other side he halted upon the edge of
the ditch, whence then he shot darts and arrows at
any one who came along under the wall and attempted
to impede their passage. When they had all passed
over, those who had occupied the towers came down,
the last of them not without great difficulty, and pro-
ceeded towards the ditch. By this time the three
hundred were upon them ; they had lights, and the
Plataeans, standing on the edge of the ditch, saw them
all the better out of the darkness, and shot arrows and
threw darts at them where their bodies were exposed ;
they themselves were concealed by the darkness, while
the enemy were dazed by their own lights. And so
the Plataeans, down to the last man of them all, got


safely over the ditch, though with great exertion and
only after a hard struggle ; for the ice in it was not
frozen hard enough to bear, but was half water, as is
commonly the case when the wind is from the east
and not from the north. And the snow which the
east wind brought in the night had greatly swollen
the water, so that they could scarcely accomplish the
passage. It was the violence of the storm, however,
which enabled them to escape at all.

From the ditch the Plataeans, leaving on the right
hand the shrine of Androcrates, ran all together along
the road to Thebes. They made sure that no one
would ever suspect them of having fled in the direction
of their enemies. On their way they saw . the Pelo-
ponnesians pursuing them with torches on the road
which leads to Athens by Cithaeron and Dryosce-
phalae. For nearly a mile the Plataeans continued
on the Theban road ; they then turned off and went
by the way of the mountain leading to Erythrae and
Hysiae, and so, getting to the hills, they escaped to
Athens. Their number was two hundred and twelve,
though they had been originally more, for some of
them went back to the city and never got over the
wall ; one who was an archer was taken at the outer
ditch. The Peloponnesians at length gave up the
pursuit and returned to their lines. But the Plataeans
in the city, knowing nothing of what had happened,
for those who had turned back had informed them
that not one was left alive, sent out a herald at day-
break, wanting to make a truce for the burial of the
dead ; they then discovered the truth and returned.
Thus the Plataeans scaled the wall and escaped.
\Booh III, Chapters 20-2Jf),



In 415 B. c, Alcibiades persuaded Athens to undertake the
great Sicilian expedition against the Dorian city of Syracuse.
He purposed through this to gain control of all Sicily, and to
make that island the base of operations against Africa and Italy.
The expedition consisted of forty thousand men under Alcibia-
des, Nicias, Demosthenes, and Lamachus. Immediately on
their arrival at Sicily Alcibiades was summoned back to Athens
to answer a charge of sacrilege. He escaped to Sparta and re-
vealed the plans of Athens to her enemies. A small Spartan
fleet was sent to Syracuse under an able commander, Gylippus,
which destroyed the Athenian fleet. Thucydides here describes
the destruction of the land force, early in September, 413 b. c.

On the third day after the sea-fight, when Nicia?
and Demosthenes thought that their preparations
were complete, the army began to move. They were
in a dreadful condition ; not only was there the great
fact that they had lost their whole fleet, and instead
of their expected triumph had brought the utmost
peril upon Athens as well as upon themselves, but
also the sights which presented themselves as they
quitted the camp were painful to every eye and mind.
The dead were unburied, and when any one saw the
body of a friend lying on the ground he was smitten
with sorrow and dread, while the sick or wounded who
still survived, but had to be left, were even a greater
trial to the living, and more to be pitied than those
who were gone. Their prayers and lamentations
drove their companions to distraction ; they would
beg that they might be taken with them, and call by
name any friend or relation whom they saw passing ;
they would hang upon their departing comrades and
follow as far as they could, and when their limbs and


strengtli failed them and they dropped behind, many
were the imprecations and cries which they uttered.
So that the whole army was in tears, and such was
their despair that they could hardly make up their
minds to stir, although they were leaving an enemy's
country, having suffered calamities too great for tears
already, and dreading miseries yet greater in the un-
known future. There was also a general feeling of
shame and self-reproach, — indeed they seemed, not
like an army, but like the fugitive population of a
city captured after a siege; and of a great city too.
For the whole multitude who were marching together
numbered not less than forty thousand. Each of
them took with him anything he could carry which
was likely to be of use. Even the heavy-armed and
cavalry, contrary to their practice when under arms,
conveyed about their persons their own food, some
because they had no attendants, others because they
could not trust them ; for they had long been desert-
ing, and most of them had gone off all at once. Nor
was the food which they carried sufficient ; for the
supplies of the camp had failed. Their disgrace and
the universality of the misery, although there might
be some consolation in the very community of suffer-
ing, was nevertheless at that moment hard to bear,
especially when they remembered from what pomp
and splendor they had fallen into their present low
estate. Never had an Hellenic army experienced
such a reverse. They had come intending to enslave
others, and they were going away in fear, that they
would be themselves enslaved. Instead of the prayers
and hymns with which they had put to sea, they were
now departing amid appeals to heaven of another
sort. They were no longer sailors, but landsmen,


depending, not upon their fleet, but upon their in-
fantry. Yet in face of the great danger which still
threatened them all these things appeared endurable.

Nicias, seeing the army disheartened at their terri-
ble fall, went along the ranks and encouraged and
consoled them as well as he could. In his fervor he
raised his voice as he passed from one to another, and
spoke louder and louder, desiring that the benefit of
his words might reach as far as possible.

" Even now, Athenians and allies, we must hope :
men have been delivered out of worse straits than
these, and I would not have you judge yourselves too
severely on account either of the reverses which you
have sustained or of your present undeserved miser-
ies. I too am as weak as any of you ; for I am quite
prostrated by my disease, as you see. And although
there was a time when I might have been thought
equal to the best of you in the happiness of my pri-
vate and public life, I am now in as great danger and
as much at the mercy of fortune as the meanest. Yet
my days have been passed in the performance of many
a religious duty, and of many a just and blameless
action. Therefore my hope of the future remains
unshaken, and our calamities do not appal me as they
might. Who knows that they may not be lightened ?
For our enemies have had their full share of success,
and if our expedition provoked the jealousy of any
God, by this time we have been punished enough.
Others ere now have attacked their neighbors ; they
have done as men will do, and suffered what men can
bear. We may therefore begin to hope that the Gods
will be more merciful to us ; for we now invite their
pity rather than their jealousy. And look at your own
well-armed ranks ; see how many brave soldiers you


are, marching In solid array, and do not be dismayed ;
bear in mind that wherever you plant yourselves you
are a city already, and that no city of Sicily will find
it easy to resist your attack, or can dislodge you if
you choose to settle. Provide for the safety and good
order of your own march, and remember every one of
you that on whatever spot a man is compelled to fight,
there if he conquer he may find a home and a fortress.
We must press forward day and night, for our sup-
plies are but scanty. The Sicels through fear of the
Syracusans still adhere to us, and if we can only reach
any part of their territory we shall be among friends,
and you may consider yourselves secure. We have
sent to them, and they have been told to meet us and
bring food. In a word, soldiers, let me tell you that
you must be brave ; there is no place near to which a
coward can fly. And if you now escape your enemies,
those of you who are not Athenians may see once
more the home for which they long, while you Athe-
nians will again rear aloft the fallen greatness of
Athens. For men, and not walls or ships in which
are no men, constitute a state."

Thus exhorting his troops Mcias passed through
the army, and wherever he saw gaps in the ranks or
the men dropping out of line, he brought them back
to their proper place. Demosthenes did the same for
the troops under his command, and gave them sim-
ilar exhortations. The army marched disposed in a
hollow oblong : the division of Nicias leading, and
that of Demosthenes following ; the hoplites enclosed
within their ranks the baggage-bearers and the rest of
the army. When they arrived at the ford of the
river Anapus they found a force of the Syracusans
and of their allies drawn up to meet them ; these they

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 21 of 29)