History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides

CHAPTER XIII.

Seventh and Eighth Years of the War - End of Corcyraean Revolution - Peace of Gela - Capture of Nisaea

THE same summer, directly after these events, the Athenians made an expedition against the territory of Corinth with eighty ships and two thousand Athenian heavy infantry, and two hundred cavalry on board horse transports, accompanied by the Milesians, Andrians, and Carystians from the allies, under the command of Nicias, son of Niceratus, with two colleagues. Putting out to sea they made land at daybreak between Chersonese and Rheitus, at the beach of the country underneath the Solygian hill, upon which the Dorians in old times established themselves and carried on war against the Aeolian inhabitants of Corinth, and where a village now stands called Solygia. The beach where the fleet came to is about a mile and a half from the village, seven miles from Corinth, and two and a quarter from the Isthmus. The Corinthians had heard from Argos of the coming of the Athenian armament, and had all come up to the Isthmus long before, with the exception of those who lived beyond it, and also of five hundred who were away in garrison in Ambracia and Leucadia; and they were there in full force watching for the Athenians to land. These last, however, gave them the slip by coming in the dark; and being informed by signals of the fact the Corinthians left half their number at Cenchreae, in case the Athenians should go against Crommyon, and marched in all haste to the rescue.

Battus, one of the two generals present at the action, went with a company to defend the village of Solygia, which was unfortified; Lycophron remaining to give battle with the rest. The Corinthians first attacked the right wing of the Athenians, which had just landed in front of Chersonese, and afterwards the rest of the army. The battle was an obstinate one, and fought throughout hand to hand. The right wing of the Athenians and Carystians, who had been placed at the end of the line, received and with some difficulty repulsed the Corinthians, who thereupon retreated to a wall upon the rising ground behind, and throwing down the stones upon them, came on again singing the paean, and being received by the Athenians, were again engaged at close quarters. At this moment a Corinthian company having come to the relief of the left wing, routed and pursued the Athenian right to the sea, whence they were in their turn driven back by the Athenians and Carystians from the ships. Meanwhile the rest of the army on either side fought on tenaciously, especially the right wing of the Corinthians, where Lycophron sustained the attack of the Athenian left, which it was feared might attempt the village of Solygia.

After holding on for a long while without either giving way, the Athenians aided by their horse, of which the enemy had none, at length routed the Corinthians, who retired to the hill and, halting, remained quiet there, without coming down again. It was in this rout of the right wing that they had the most killed, Lycophron their general being among the number. The rest of the army, broken and put to flight in this way without being seriously pursued or hurried, retired to the high ground and there took up its position. The Athenians, finding that the enemy no longer offered to engage them, stripped his dead and took up their own and immediately set up a trophy. Meanwhile, the half of the Corinthians left at Cenchreae to guard against the Athenians sailing on Crommyon, although unable to see the battle for Mount Oneion, found out what was going on by the dust, and hurried up to the rescue; as did also the older Corinthians from the town, upon discovering what had occurred. The Athenians seeing them all coming against them, and thinking that they were reinforcements arriving from the neighbouring Peloponnesians, withdrew in haste to their ships with their spoils and their own dead, except two that they left behind, not being able to find them, and going on board crossed over to the islands opposite, and from thence sent a herald, and took up under truce the bodies which they had left behind. Two hundred and twelve Corinthians fell in the battle, and rather less than fifty Athenians.

Weighing from the islands, the Athenians sailed the same day to Crommyon in the Corinthian territory, about thirteen miles from the city, and coming to anchor laid waste the country, and passed the night there. The next day, after first coasting along to the territory of Epidaurus and making a descent there, they came to Methana between Epidaurus and Troezen, and drew a wall across and fortified the isthmus of the peninsula, and left a post there from which incursions were henceforth made upon the country of Troezen, Haliae, and Epidaurus. After walling off this spot, the fleet sailed off home.

While these events were going on, Eurymedon and Sophocles had put to sea with the Athenian fleet from Pylos on their way to Sicily and, arriving at Corcyra, joined the townsmen in an expedition against the party established on Mount Istone, who had crossed over, as I have mentioned, after the revolution and become masters of the country, to the great hurt of the inhabitants. Their stronghold having been taken by an attack, the garrison took refuge in a body upon some high ground and there capitulated, agreeing to give up their mercenary auxiliaries, lay down their arms, and commit themselves to the discretion of the Athenian people. The generals carried them across under truce to the island of Ptychia, to be kept in custody until they could be sent to Athens, upon the understanding that, if any were caught running away, all would lose the benefit of the treaty. Meanwhile the leaders of the Corcyraean commons, afraid that the Athenians might spare the lives of the prisoners, had recourse to the following stratagem. They gained over some few men on the island by secretly sending friends with instructions to provide them with a boat, and to tell them, as if for their own sakes, that they had best escape as quickly as possible, as the Athenian generals were going to give them up to the Corcyraean people.

These representations succeeding, it was so arranged that the men were caught sailing out in the boat that was provided, and the treaty became void accordingly, and the whole body were given up to the Corcyraeans. For this result the Athenian generals were in a great measure responsible; their evident disinclination to sail for Sicily, and thus to leave to others the honour of conducting the men to Athens, encouraged the intriguers in their design and seemed to affirm the truth of their representations. The prisoners thus handed over were shut up by the Corcyraeans in a large building, and afterwards taken out by twenties and led past two lines of heavy infantry, one on each side, being bound together, and beaten and stabbed by the men in the lines whenever any saw pass a personal enemy; while men carrying whips went by their side and hastened on the road those that walked too slowly.

As many as sixty men were taken out and killed in this way without the knowledge of their friends in the building, who fancied they were merely being moved from one prison to another. At last, however, someone opened their eyes to the truth, upon which they called upon the Athenians to kill them themselves, if such was their pleasure, and refused any longer to go out of the building, and said they would do all they could to prevent any one coming in. The Corcyraeans, not liking themselves to force a passage by the doors, got up on the top of the building, and breaking through the roof, threw down the tiles and let fly arrows at them, from which the prisoners sheltered themselves as well as they could. Most of their number, meanwhile, were engaged in dispatching themselves by thrusting into their throats the arrows shot by the enemy, and hanging themselves with the cords taken from some beds that happened to be there, and with strips made from their clothing; adopting, in short, every possible means of self-destruction, and also falling victims to the missiles of their enemies on the roof. Night came on while these horrors were enacting, and most of it had passed before they were concluded. When it was day the Corcyraeans threw them in layers upon wagons and carried them out of the city. All the women taken in the stronghold were sold as slaves. In this way the Corcyraeans of the mountain were destroyed by the commons; and so after terrible excesses the party strife came to an end, at least as far as the period of this war is concerned, for of one party there was practically nothing left. Meanwhile the Athenians sailed off to Sicily, their primary destination, and carried on the war with their allies there.

At the close of the summer, the Athenians at Naupactus and the Acarnanians made an expedition against Anactorium, the Corinthian town lying at the mouth of the Ambracian Gulf, and took it by treachery; and the Acarnanians themselves, sending settlers from all parts of Acarnania, occupied the place.

Summer was now over. During the winter ensuing, Aristides, son of Archippus, one of the commanders of the Athenian ships sent to collect money from the allies, arrested at Eion, on the Strymon, Artaphernes, a Persian, on his way from the King to Lacedaemon. He was conducted to Athens, where the Athenians got his dispatches translated from the Assyrian character and read them. With numerous references to other subjects, they in substance told the Lacedaemonians that the King did not know what they wanted, as of the many ambassadors they had sent him no two ever told the same story; if however they were prepared to speak plainly they might send him some envoys with this Persian. The Athenians afterwards sent back Artaphernes in a galley to Ephesus, and ambassadors with him, who heard there of the death of King Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes, which took place about that time, and so returned home.

The same winter the Chians pulled down their new wall at the command of the Athenians, who suspected them of meditating an insurrection, after first however obtaining pledges from the Athenians, and security as far as this was possible for their continuing to treat them as before. Thus the winter ended, and with it ended the seventh year of this war of which Thucydides is the historian.

In first days of the next summer there was an eclipse of the sun at the time of new moon, and in the early part of the same month an earthquake. Meanwhile, the Mitylenian and other Lesbian exiles set out, for the most part from the continent, with mercenaries hired in Peloponnese, and others levied on the spot, and took Rhoeteum, but restored it without injury on the receipt of two thousand Phocaean staters. After this they marched against Antandrus and took the town by treachery, their plan being to free Antandrus and the rest of the Actaean towns, formerly owned by Mitylene but now held by the Athenians. Once fortified there, they would have every facility for ship-building from the vicinity of Ida and the consequent abundance of timber, and plenty of other supplies, and might from this base easily ravage Lesbos, which was not far off, and make themselves masters of the Aeolian towns on the continent.

While these were the schemes of the exiles, the Athenians in the same summer made an expedition with sixty ships, two thousand heavy infantry, a few cavalry, and some allied troops from Miletus and other parts, against Cythera, under the command of Nicias, son of Niceratus, Nicostratus, son of Diotrephes, and Autocles, son of Tolmaeus. Cythera is an island lying off Laconia, opposite Malea; the inhabitants are Lacedaemonians of the class of the Perioeci; and an officer called the judge of Cythera went over to the place annually from Sparta. A garrison of heavy infantry was also regularly sent there, and great attention paid to the island, as it was the landing-place for the merchantmen from Egypt and Libya, and at the same time secured Laconia from the attacks of privateers from the sea, at the only point where it is assailable, as the whole coast rises abruptly towards the Sicilian and Cretan seas.

Coming to land here with their armament, the Athenians with ten ships and two thousand Milesian heavy infantry took the town of Scandea, on the sea; and with the rest of their forces landing on the side of the island looking towards Malea, went against the lower town of Cythera, where they found all the inhabitants encamped. A battle ensuing, the Cytherians held their ground for some little while, and then turned and fled into the upper town, where they soon afterwards capitulated to Nicias and his colleagues, agreeing to leave their fate to the decision of the Athenians, their lives only being safe. A correspondence had previously been going on between Nicias and certain of the inhabitants, which caused the surrender to be effected more speedily, and upon terms more advantageous, present and future, for the Cytherians; who would otherwise have been expelled by the Athenians on account of their being Lacedaemonians and their island being so near to Laconia. After the capitulation, the Athenians occupied the town of Scandea near the harbour, and appointing a garrison for Cythera, sailed to Asine, Helus, and most of the places on the sea, and making descents and passing the night on shore at such spots as were convenient, continued ravaging the country for about seven days.

The Lacedaemonians seeing the Athenians masters of Cythera, and expecting descents of the kind upon their coasts, nowhere opposed them in force, but sent garrisons here and there through the country, consisting of as many heavy infantry as the points menaced seemed to require, and generally stood very much upon the defensive. After the severe and unexpected blow that had befallen them in the island, the occupation of Pylos and Cythera, and the apparition on every side of a war whose rapidity defied precaution, they lived in constant fear of internal revolution, and now took the unusual step of raising four hundred horse and a force of archers, and became more timid than ever in military matters, finding themselves involved in a maritime struggle, which their organization had never contemplated, and that against Athenians, with whom an enterprise unattempted was always looked upon as a success sacrificed. Besides this, their late numerous reverses of fortune, coming close one upon another without any reason, had thoroughly unnerved them, and they were always afraid of a second disaster like that on the island, and thus scarcely dared to take the field, but fancied that they could not stir without a blunder, for being new to the experience of adversity they had lost all confidence in themselves.

Accordingly they now allowed the Athenians to ravage their seaboard, without making any movement, the garrisons in whose neighbourhood the descents were made always thinking their numbers insufficient, and sharing the general feeling. A single garrison which ventured to resist, near Cotyrta and Aphrodisia, struck terror by its charge into the scattered mob of light troops, but retreated, upon being received by the heavy infantry, with the loss of a few men and some arms, for which the Athenians set up a trophy, and then sailed off to Cythera. From thence they sailed round to Epidaurus Limera, ravaged part of the country, and so came to Thyrea in the Cynurian territory, upon the Argive and Laconian border. This district had been given by its Lacedaemonian owners to the expelled Aeginetans to inhabit, in return for their good offices at the time of the earthquake and the rising of the Helots; and also because, although subjects of Athens, they had always sided with Lacedaemon.

While the Athenians were still at sea, the Aeginetans evacuated a fort which they were building upon the coast, and retreated into the upper town where they lived, rather more than a mile from the sea. One of the Lacedaemonian district garrisons which was helping them in the work, refused to enter here with them at their entreaty, thinking it dangerous to shut themselves up within the wall, and retiring to the high ground remained quiet, not considering themselves a match for the enemy. Meanwhile the Athenians landed, and instantly advanced with all their forces and took Thyrea. The town they burnt, pillaging what was in it; the Aeginetans who were not slain in action they took with them to Athens, with Tantalus, son of Patrocles, their Lacedaemonian commander, who had been wounded and taken prisoner. They also took with them a few men from Cythera whom they thought it safest to remove. These the Athenians determined to lodge in the islands: the rest of the Cytherians were to retain their lands and pay four talents tribute; the Aeginetans captured to be all put to death, on account of the old inveterate feud; and Tantalus to share the imprisonment of the Lacedaemonians taken on the island.

The same summer, the inhabitants of Camarina and Gela in Sicily first made an armistice with each other, after which embassies from all the other Sicilian cities assembled at Gela to try to bring about a pacification. After many expressions of opinion on one side and the other, according to the griefs and pretensions of the different parties complaining, Hermocrates, son of Hermon, a Syracusan, the most influential man among them, addressed the following words to the assembly:

“If I now address you, Sicilians, it is not because my city is the least in Sicily or the greatest sufferer by the war, but in order to state publicly what appears to me to be the best policy for the whole island. That war is an evil is a proposition so familiar to every one that it would be tedious to develop it. No one is forced to engage in it by ignorance, or kept out of it by fear, if he fancies there is anything to be gained by it. To the former the gain appears greater than the danger, while the latter would rather stand the risk than put up with any immediate sacrifice. But if both should happen to have chosen the wrong moment for acting in this way, advice to make peace would not be unserviceable; and this, if we did but see it, is just what we stand most in need of at the present juncture.

“I suppose that no one will dispute that we went to war at first in order to serve our own several interests, that we are now, in view of the same interests, debating how we can make peace; and that if we separate without having as we think our rights, we shall go to war again. And yet, as men of sense, we ought to see that our separate interests are not alone at stake in the present congress: there is also the question whether we have still time to save Sicily, the whole of which in my opinion is menaced by Athenian ambition; and we ought to find in the name of that people more imperious arguments for peace than any which I can advance, when we see the first power in Hellas watching our mistakes with the few ships that she has at present in our waters, and under the fair name of alliance speciously seeking to turn to account the natural hostility that exists between us. If we go to war, and call in to help us a people that are ready enough to carry their arms even where they are not invited; and if we injure ourselves at our own expense, and at the same time serve as the pioneers of their dominion, we may expect, when they see us worn out, that they will one day come with a larger armament, and seek to bring all of us into subjection.

“And yet as sensible men, if we call in allies and court danger, it should be in order to enrich our different countries with new acquisitions, and not to ruin what they possess already; and we should understand that the intestine discords which are so fatal to communities generally, will be equally so to Sicily, if we, its inhabitants, absorbed in our local quarrels, neglect the common enemy. These considerations should reconcile individual with individual, and city with city, and unite us in a common effort to save the whole of Sicily. Nor should any one imagine that the Dorians only are enemies of Athens, while the Chalcidian race is secured by its Ionian blood; the attack in question is not inspired by hatred of one of two nationalities, but by a desire for the good things in Sicily, the common property of us all. This is proved by the Athenian reception of the Chalcidian invitation: an ally who has never given them any assistance whatever, at once receives from them almost more than the treaty entitles him to. That the Athenians should cherish this ambition and practise this policy is very excusable; and I do not blame those who wish to rule, but those who are over-ready to serve. It is just as much in men’s nature to rule those who submit to them, as it is to resist those who molest them; one is not less invariable than the other. Meanwhile all who see these dangers and refuse to provide for them properly, or who have come here without having made up their minds that our first duty is to unite to get rid of the common peril, are mistaken. The quickest way to be rid of it is to make peace with each other; since the Athenians menace us not from their own country, but from that of those who invited them here. In this way instead of war issuing in war, peace quietly ends our quarrels; and the guests who come hither under fair pretences for bad ends, will have good reason for going away without having attained them.

“So far as regards the Athenians, such are the great advantages proved inherent in a wise policy. Independently of this, in the face of the universal consent, that peace is the first of blessings, how can we refuse to make it amongst ourselves; or do you not think that the good which you have, and the ills that you complain of, would be better preserved and cured by quiet than by war; that peace has its honours and splendours of a less perilous kind, not to mention the numerous other blessings that one might dilate on, with the not less numerous miseries of war? These considerations should teach you not to disregard my words, but rather to look in them every one for his own safety. If there be any here who feels certain either by right or might to effect his object, let not this surprise be to him too severe a disappointment. Let him remember that many before now have tried to chastise a wrongdoer, and failing to punish their enemy have not even saved themselves; while many who have trusted in force to gain an advantage, instead of gaining anything more, have been doomed to lose what they had. Vengeance is not necessarily successful because wrong has been done, or strength sure because it is confident; but the incalculable element in the future exercises the widest influence, and is the most treacherous, and yet in fact the most useful of all things, as it frightens us all equally, and thus makes us consider before attacking each other.

“Let us therefore now allow the undefined fear of this unknown future, and the immediate terror of the Athenians’ presence, to produce their natural impression, and let us consider any failure to carry out the programmes that we may each have sketched out for ourselves as sufficiently accounted for by these obstacles, and send away the intruder from the country; and if everlasting peace be impossible between us, let us at all events make a treaty for as long a term as possible, and put off our private differences to another day. In fine, let us recognize that the adoption of my advice will leave us each citizens of a free state, and as such arbiters of our own destiny, able to return good or bad offices with equal effect; while its rejection will make us dependent on others, and thus not only impotent to repel an insult, but on the most favourable supposition, friends to our direst enemies, and at feud with our natural friends.

“For myself, though, as I said at first, the representative of a great city, and able to think less of defending myself than of attacking others, I am prepared to concede something in prevision of these dangers. I am not inclined to ruin myself for the sake of hurting my enemies, or so blinded by animosity as to think myself equally master of my own plans and of fortune which I cannot command; but I am ready to give up anything in reason. I call upon the rest of you to imitate my conduct of your own free will, without being forced to do so by the enemy. There is no disgrace in connections giving way to one another, a Dorian to a Dorian, or a Chalcidian to his brethren; above and beyond this we are neighbours, live in the same country, are girt by the same sea, and go by the same name of Sicilians. We shall go to war again, I suppose, when the time comes, and again make peace among ourselves by means of future congresses; but the foreign invader, if we are wise, will always find us united against him, since the hurt of one is the danger of all; and we shall never, in future, invite into the island either allies or mediators. By so acting we shall at the present moment do for Sicily a double service, ridding her at once of the Athenians, and of civil war, and in future shall live in freedom at home, and be less menaced from abroad.”

Such were the words of Hermocrates. The Sicilians took his advice, and came to an understanding among themselves to end the war, each keeping what they had — the Camarinaeans taking Morgantina at a price fixed to be paid to the Syracusans — and the allies of the Athenians called the officers in command, and told them that they were going to make peace and that they would be included in the treaty. The generals assenting, the peace was concluded, and the Athenian fleet afterwards sailed away from Sicily. Upon their arrival at Athens, the Athenians banished Pythodorus and Sophocles, and fined Eurymedon for having taken bribes to depart when they might have subdued Sicily. So thoroughly had the present prosperity persuaded the citizens that nothing could withstand them, and that they could achieve what was possible and impracticable alike, with means ample or inadequate it mattered not. The secret of this was their general extraordinary success, which made them confuse their strength with their hopes.

The same summer the Megarians in the city, pressed by the hostilities of the Athenians, who invaded their country twice every year with all their forces, and harassed by the incursions of their own exiles at Pegae, who had been expelled in a revolution by the popular party, began to ask each other whether it would not be better to receive back their exiles, and free the town from one of its two scourges. The friends of the emigrants, perceiving the agitation, now more openly than before demanded the adoption of this proposition; and the leaders of the commons, seeing that the sufferings of the times had tired out the constancy of their supporters, entered in their alarm into correspondence with the Athenian generals, Hippocrates, son of Ariphron, and Demosthenes, son of Alcisthenes, and resolved to betray the town, thinking this less dangerous to themselves than the return of the party which they had banished. It was accordingly arranged that the Athenians should first take the long walls extending for nearly a mile from the city to the port of Nisaea, to prevent the Peloponnesians coming to the rescue from that place, where they formed the sole garrison to secure the fidelity of Megara; and that after this the attempt should be made to put into their hands the upper town, which it was thought would then come over with less difficulty.

The Athenians, after plans had been arranged between themselves and their correspondents both as to words and actions, sailed by night to Minoa, the island off Megara, with six hundred heavy infantry under the command of Hippocrates, and took post in a quarry not far off, out of which bricks used to be taken for the walls; while Demosthenes, the other commander, with a detachment of Plataean light troops and another of Peripoli, placed himself in ambush in the precinct of Enyalius, which was still nearer. No one knew of it, except those whose business it was to know that night. A little before daybreak, the traitors in Megara began to act. Every night for a long time back, under pretence of marauding, in order to have a means of opening the gates, they had been used, with the consent of the officer in command, to carry by night a sculling boat upon a cart along the ditch to the sea, and so to sail out, bringing it back again before day upon the cart, and taking it within the wall through the gates, in order, as they pretended, to baffle the Athenian blockade at Minoa, there being no boat to be seen in the harbour. On the present occasion the cart was already at the gates, which had been opened in the usual way for the boat, when the Athenians, with whom this had been concerted, saw it, and ran at the top of their speed from the ambush in order to reach the gates before they were shut again, and while the cart was still there to prevent their being closed; their Megarian accomplices at the same moment killing the guard at the gates. The first to run in was Demosthenes with his Plataeans and Peripoli, just where the trophy now stands; and he was no sooner within the gates than the Plataeans engaged and defeated the nearest party of Peloponnesians who had taken the alarm and come to the rescue, and secured the gates for the approaching Athenian heavy infantry.

After this, each of the Athenians as fast as they entered went against the wall. A few of the Peloponnesian garrison stood their ground at first, and tried to repel the assault, and some of them were killed; but the main body took fright and fled; the night attack and the sight of the Megarian traitors in arms against them making them think that all Megara had gone over to the enemy. It so happened also that the Athenian herald of his own idea called out and invited any of the Megarians that wished, to join the Athenian ranks; and this was no sooner heard by the garrison than they gave way, and, convinced that they were the victims of a concerted attack, took refuge in Nisaea. By daybreak, the walls being now taken and the Megarians in the city in great agitation, the persons who had negotiated with the Athenians, supported by the rest of the popular party which was privy to the plot, said that they ought to open the gates and march out to battle. It had been concerted between them that the Athenians should rush in, the moment that the gates were opened, while the conspirators were to be distinguished from the rest by being anointed with oil, and so to avoid being hurt. They could open the gates with more security, as four thousand Athenian heavy infantry from Eleusis, and six hundred horse, had marched all night, according to agreement, and were now close at hand. The conspirators were all ready anointed and at their posts by the gates, when one of their accomplices denounced the plot to the opposite party, who gathered together and came in a body, and roundly said that they must not march out — a thing they had never yet ventured on even when in greater force than at present — or wantonly compromise the safety of the town, and that if what they said was not attended to, the battle would have to be fought in Megara. For the rest, they gave no signs of their knowledge of the intrigue, but stoutly maintained that their advice was the best, and meanwhile kept close by and watched the gates, making it impossible for the conspirators to effect their purpose.

The Athenian generals seeing that some obstacle had arisen, and that the capture of the town by force was no longer practicable, at once proceeded to invest Nisaea, thinking that, if they could take it before relief arrived, the surrender of Megara would soon follow. Iron, stone-masons, and everything else required quickly coming up from Athens, the Athenians started from the wall which they occupied, and from this point built a cross wall looking towards Megara down to the sea on either side of Nisaea; the ditch and the walls being divided among the army, stones and bricks taken from the suburb, and the fruit-trees and timber cut down to make a palisade wherever this seemed necessary; the houses also in the suburb with the addition of battlements sometimes entering into the fortification. The whole of this day the work continued, and by the afternoon of the next the wall was all but completed, when the garrison in Nisaea, alarmed by the absolute want of provisions, which they used to take in for the day from the upper town, not anticipating any speedy relief from the Peloponnesians, and supposing Megara to be hostile, capitulated to the Athenians on condition that they should give up their arms, and should each be ransomed for a stipulated sum; their Lacedaemonian commander, and any others of his countrymen in the place, being left to the discretion of the Athenians. On these conditions they surrendered and came out, and the Athenians broke down the long walls at their point of junction with Megara, took possession of Nisaea, and went on with their other preparations.

Just at this time the Lacedaemonian Brasidas, son of Tellis, happened to be in the neighbourhood of Sicyon and Corinth, getting ready an army for Thrace. As soon as he heard of the capture of the walls, fearing for the Peloponnesians in Nisaea and the safety of Megara, he sent to the Boeotians to meet him as quickly as possible at Tripodiscus, a village so called of the Megarid, under Mount Geraneia, and went himself, with two thousand seven hundred Corinthian heavy infantry, four hundred Phliasians, six hundred Sicyonians, and such troops of his own as he had already levied, expecting to find Nisaea not yet taken. Hearing of its fall (he had marched out by night to Tripodiscus), he took three hundred picked men from the army, without waiting till his coming should be known, and came up to Megara unobserved by the Athenians, who were down by the sea, ostensibly, and really if possible, to attempt Nisaea, but above all to get into Megara and secure the town. He accordingly invited the townspeople to admit his party, saying that he had hopes of recovering Nisaea.

However, one of the Megarian factions feared that he might expel them and restore the exiles; the other that the commons, apprehensive of this very danger, might set upon them, and the city be thus destroyed by a battle within its gates under the eyes of the ambushed Athenians. He was accordingly refused admittance, both parties electing to remain quiet and await the event; each expecting a battle between the Athenians and the relieving army, and thinking it safer to see their friends victorious before declaring in their favour.

Unable to carry his point, Brasidas went back to the rest of the army. At daybreak the Boeotians joined him. Having determined to relieve Megara, whose danger they considered their own, even before hearing from Brasidas, they were already in full force at Plataea, when his messenger arrived to add spurs to their resolution; and they at once sent on to him two thousand two hundred heavy infantry, and six hundred horse, returning home with the main body. The whole army thus assembled numbered six thousand heavy infantry. The Athenian heavy infantry were drawn up by Nisaea and the sea; but the light troops being scattered over the plain were attacked by the Boeotian horse and driven to the sea, being taken entirely by surprise, as on previous occasions no relief had ever come to the Megarians from any quarter. Here the Boeotians were in their turn charged and engaged by the Athenian horse, and a cavalry action ensued which lasted a long time, and in which both parties claimed the victory. The Athenians killed and stripped the leader of the Boeotian horse and some few of his comrades who had charged right up to Nisaea, and remaining masters of the bodies gave them back under truce, and set up a trophy; but regarding the action as a whole the forces separated without either side having gained a decisive advantage, the Boeotians returning to their army and the Athenians to Nisaea.

After this Brasidas and the army came nearer to the sea and to Megara, and taking up a convenient position, remained quiet in order of battle, expecting to be attacked by the Athenians and knowing that the Megarians were waiting to see which would be the victor. This attitude seemed to present two advantages. Without taking the offensive or willingly provoking the hazards of a battle, they openly showed their readiness to fight, and thus without bearing the burden of the day would fairly reap its honours; while at the same time they effectually served their interests at Megara. For if they had failed to show themselves they would not have had a chance, but would have certainly been considered vanquished, and have lost the town. As it was, the Athenians might possibly not be inclined to accept their challenge, and their object would be attained without fighting. And so it turned out. The Athenians formed outside the long walls and, the enemy not attacking, there remained motionless; their generals having decided that the risk was too unequal. In fact most of their objects had been already attained; and they would have to begin a battle against superior numbers, and if victorious could only gain Megara, while a defeat would destroy the flower of their heavy soldiery. For the enemy it was different; as even the states actually represented in his army risked each only a part of its entire force, he might well be more audacious. Accordingly, after waiting for some time without either side attacking, the Athenians withdrew to Nisaea, and the Peloponnesians after them to the point from which they had set out. The friends of the Megarian exiles now threw aside their hesitation, and opened the gates to Brasidas and the commanders from the different states — looking upon him as the victor and upon the Athenians as having declined the battle — and receiving them into the town proceeded to discuss matters with them; the party in correspondence with the Athenians being paralysed by the turn things had taken.

Afterwards Brasidas let the allies go home, and himself went back to Corinth, to prepare for his expedition to Thrace, his original destination. The Athenians also returning home, the Megarians in the city most implicated in the Athenian negotiation, knowing that they had been detected, presently disappeared; while the rest conferred with the friends of the exiles, and restored the party at Pegae, after binding them under solemn oaths to take no vengeance for the past, and only to consult the real interests of the town. However, as soon as they were in office, they held a review of the heavy infantry, and separating the battalions, picked out about a hundred of their enemies, and of those who were thought to be most involved in the correspondence with the Athenians, brought them before the people, and compelling the vote to be given openly, had them condemned and executed, and established a close oligarchy in the town — a revolution which lasted a very long while, although effected by a very few partisans.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04