The Peloponnesian War

The great and disastrous war between the two leading States of

Greece broke out about two years and a half before the death of Pericles,

but the causes of the war can be traced to a period shortly after the

Persians were driven out of the Ionian cities. It arose primarily from the

rapid growth and power of Athens, when, as the leader of the maritime

States, it excited the envy of Sparta and other republics. A thirty years'
/> truce was made between Athens and Sparta, B.C. 445, after the revolution

in Boeotia, when the ascendency of Pericles was undisputed, which forced

his rival, Thucydides, a kinsman of Cimon, to go into temporary exile. The

continuance of the truce is identical with the palmy days of Athens, and

the glory of Pericles, during which the vast improvements to the city were

made, and art and literature flourished to a degree unprecedented in the

history of the ancient world.

After the conquest of Samos the jealousy of Sparta reached a point

which made it obvious that the truce could not much longer be maintained,

though both powers shrunk from open hostilities, foreseeing the calamities

which would result. The storm burst out in an unexpected quarter. The city

of Epidamnus had been founded by colonists from Corcyra, on the eastern

side of the Adriatic. It was, however, the prey of domestic factions, and

in a domestic revolution a part of the inhabitants became exiles. These

appealed to the neighboring barbarians, who invested the city by sea and

land. The city, in distress, invoked the aid of Corcyra, the parent State,

which aid being disregarded, the city transferred its allegiance to

Corinth. The Corinthians, indulging a hatred of Corcyra, took the

distressed city under their protection. This led to a war between Corcyra

and Corinth, in which the Corinthians were defeated. But Corinth, burning

to revenge the disaster, fitted out a still larger force against Corcyra.

The Corcyraeans, in alarm, then sent envoys to Athens to come to their

assistance. The Corinthians also sent ambassadors to frustrate their

proposal. Two assemblies were held in Athens in reference to the subject.

The delegates of Corcyra argued that peace could not long be maintained

with Sparta, and that in the coming contest the Corcyraeans would prove

useful allies. The envoys of Corinth, on the other hand, maintained that

Athens could not lend aid to Corcyra without violating the treaty with

Corinth. The Athenians decided to assist Corcyra, and ten ships were sent,

under the command of Lacedaemonieus, the son of Cimon. This was considered

a breach of faith by the Corinthians, and a war resulted between Corinth

and Athens. The Corinthians then invited the Lacedaemonians to join them

and make common cause against an aggressive and powerful enemy, that aimed

at the supremacy of Greece. In spite of the influence of Athenian envoys

in Sparta, who attempted to justify the course their countrymen had taken,

the feeling against Athens was bitter and universally hostile. Instant

hostilities were demanded in defense of the allies of Sparta, and war was

decided upon.

Thus commenced the Peloponnesian war, which led to such disastrous

consequences, and which was thus brought about by the Corinthians, B.C.

433, sixteen years before the conclusion of the truce.

To Athens the coming war was any thing but agreeable. It had no

hopes of gain, and the certainty of prodigious loss. But the Spartans were

not then prepared for the contest, and hostilities did not immediately

commence. They contented themselves, at first, with sending envoys to

Athens to multiply demands and enlarge the grounds of quarrel. The

offensive was plainly with Sparta. The first requisition which Sparta made

was the expulsion of the Alcmaeonidae from Athens, to which family Pericles

belonged--a mere political manoeuvre to get rid of so commanding a

statesman. The enemies of Pericles, especially the comic actors at Athens,

seized this occasion to make public attacks upon him, and it was then that

the persecution of Aspasia took place, as well as that against Anaxagoras,

the philosopher, the teacher, and friend of Pericles. He was also accused

of peculation in complicity with Phidias. But he was acquitted of the

various charges made by his enemies. Nor could his services be well

dispensed with in the great crisis of public affairs, even had he been

guilty, as was exceedingly doubtful.

The reluctance on the part of the Athenians to go to war was very

great, but Pericles strenuously urged his countrymen to resent the

outrageous demands of Sparta, which were nothing less than the virtual

extinction of the Athenian empire. He showed that the Spartans, though

all-powerful on the Peloponnesus, had no means of carrying on an

aggressive war at a distance, neither leaders nor money, nor habits of

concert with allies; while Athens was mistress of the sea, and was

impregnable in defense; that great calamities would indeed happen in

Attica, but even if overrun by Spartan armies, there were other

territories and islands from which a support could be derived. "Mourn not

for the loss of land," said the orator, "but reserve your mourning for the

men that acquire land." His eloquence and patriotism prevailed with a

majority of the assembly, and answer was made to Sparta that the Athenians

were prepared to discuss all grounds of complaint pursuant to the truce,

by arbitration, but that they would yield nothing to authoritative

command. This closed the negotiations, which Pericles foresaw would be

vain and useless, since the Spartans were obstinately bent on war. The

first imperious blow was struck by the Thebans--allies of Sparta. They

surprised Plataea in the night. The gates were opened by the oligarchal

party; a party of Thebans were admitted into the agora; but the people

rallied, and the party was overwhelmed. Meanwhile another detachment of

Thebans arrived in the morning, and, discovering what had happened, they

laid waste the Plataean territory without the walls. The Plataeans

retaliated by slaughtering their prisoners. Messengers left the city, on

the entrance of the Thebans, to carry the news to Athens, and the

Athenians issued orders to seize all the Boeotians who could be found in

Attica, and sent re-enforcements to Plataea. This aggression of the Thebans

silenced the opponents of Pericles, who now saw that the war had actually

begun, and that active preparations should be made. Athens immediately

sent messengers to her allies, tributary as well as free, and

contributions flowed in from all parts of the Athenian empire. Athens had

soon three hundred triremes fit for service, twelve hundred horsemen,

sixteen hundred bowmen, and twenty-nine thousand hoplites. The Acropolis

was filled with the treasure which had long been accumulating, not less

than six thousand talents--about $7,000,000 of our money--an immense sum at

that time, when gold and silver were worth twenty or thirty times as much

as at present. Moreover, the various temples were rich in votive

offerings, in deposits, plate, and sacred vessels, while the great statue

of the goddess, lately set up in the Parthenon by Phidias, composed of

gold and ivory, was itself valued at four hundred talents. The

contributions of allies swelled the resources of Athens to one thousand

talents, or over $11,000,000.

Sparta, on the other hand, had but few ships, no funds, and no

powers of combination, and it would seem that success would be on the side

of Athens, with her unrivaled maritime skill, and the unanimity of the

citizens. Pericles did not promise successful engagements on the land, but

a successful resistance, and the maintenance of the empire. His policy was

purely defensive. But if Sparta was weak in money and ships, she was rich

in allies. The entire strength of the Peloponnesus was brought out,

assisted by Megarians, Boeotians, Phocians, Locrians, and other States.

Corinth, Megara, Sicyon, Elis, and other maritime cities furnished ships

while Boeotians, Phocians, and Locrians furnished cavalry. Not even to

resist the Persian hosts was so large a land force collected, as was now

assembled to destroy the supremacy of Athens. And this great force was

animated with savage hopes, while the Athenians were not without

desponding anticipations, for there was little hope of resisting the

Spartans and their allies on the field. The Spartans, moreover, resolved,

by means of their allies, to send a fleet able to cope with that of

Athens, and even were so transported with enmity and jealousy as to lay

schemes for invoking the aid of Persia.

The invasion of Attica was the primary object of Sparta and her

allies; and at the appointed time the Lacedaemonian forces were mustered on

the Isthmus of Corinth, under the command of Archidamus. Envoys were sent

to Athens to summon a surrender, but Pericles would not receive them, nor

allow them to enter the city, upon which the Lacedaemonian army commenced

its march to Attica. It required all the eloquence and tact of Pericles to

induce the proprietors of Attica to submit to the devastation of their

cultivated territory, and fly with their families and movable property to

Athens or the neighboring islands, without making an effort to resist the

invaders. But this was the policy of Pericles. He knew he could not

contend with superior forces on the land. It was hard for the people to

submit to the cruel necessity of seeing their farms devastated without

opposition. But they made the sacrifice, and intrenched themselves behind

the fortifications of Athens. Then was seen the wisdom of the long walls

which connected Athens with the Piraeus.

Meanwhile the Spartan forces--sixty thousand hoplites, advanced

through Attica, burning and plundering every thing on their way, and

reached Acharnae, within seven miles of Athens. The Athenians, pent up

behind their walls, and seeing the destruction of their property, were

eager to go forth and fight, but were dissuaded by Pericles. Then came to

him the trying hour. He was denounced as the cause of the existing

sufferings, and was reviled as a coward. But nothing disturbed his

equanimity, and he refused even to convene the assembly. As one of the ten

generals he had this power; but it was a remarkable thing that the people

should have respected the democratic constitution so far as to submit,

when their assembly would have been justified by the exigency of the

crisis. But while the Athenians remained inactive behind their walls, the

cavalry was sent out on skirmishing expeditions, and a large fleet was

sent to the Peloponnesus with orders to devastate the country in

retaliation. The Spartans, after having spent thirty or forty days in

Attica, retired for want of provisions. AEgina was also invaded, and the

inhabitants were expelled and sent to the Peloponnesus. Megara was soon

after invaded by an army under Pericles himself, and its territory was

devastated--a retribution well deserved, for both Megara and AEgina had been

zealous in kindling the war.

Expecting a prolonged struggle, the Athenians now made arrangements

for putting Attica in permanent defense, both by sea and land, and set

apart one thousand talents, out of the treasure of the Acropolis, which

was not to be used except in certain dangers previously prescribed, and a

law was passed making it a capital offense for any citizen to propose its

use for any other purpose.

The first year of the war closed without decisive successes on

either side. The Athenians made a more powerful resistance than was

anticipated. It was supposed they could not hold out against the superior

forces of their enemies more than a year. They had the misfortune to see

their territory wasted, and their treasures spent in a war which they

would gladly have avoided. But, on the other hand, they inflicted nearly

equal damages upon the Peloponnesus, and still remained masters of the

sea. Pericles pronounced a funeral oration on those who had fallen and

stimulated his countrymen to continued resistance, and excited their

patriotic sentiments. Thus far the anticipations of the statesman and

orator had been more than realized.

The second year of the war opened with another invasion of Attica

by the Spartans and their allies. They inflicted even more injury than in

the preceding year, but they found the territory deserted, all the

population having retired within the defenses of Athens.

But a new and unforeseen calamity now fell upon the Athenians, and

against which they could not guard. A great pestilence broke out in the

city, which had already overrun Western Asia. Its progress was rapid and

destructive, and the overcrowded city was but too favorable for its

ravages. Thucydides has left a graphic and mournful account of this

pestilence, analogous to the plague of modern times. The victims generally

perished on the seventh or ninth day, and no treatment was efficacious.

The sufferings and miseries of the people were intense, and the calamity

by many was regarded as resulting from the anger of the gods. The

pestilence demoralized the population, who lost courage and fortitude. The

sick were left to take care of themselves. The utmost lawlessness

prevailed. The bonds of law and morality were relaxed, and the thoughtless

people abandoned themselves to every species of folly and excess, seeking,

in their despair, to seize some brief moments of joy before the hand of

destiny should fall upon them. For three years did this calamity desolate

Athens, and the loss of life was deplorable, both in the army and among

private citizens. Pericles lost both his children and his sister; four

thousand four hundred hoplites died, and a greater part of the horsemen.

And yet, amid the devastation which the pestilence inflicted,

Pericles led another expedition against the coasts of the Peloponnesus.

But the soldiers carried infection with them, and a greater part of them

died of the disease at the siege or blockade of Potidaea. The Athenians

were nearly distracted by the double ravages of pestilence and war, and

became incensed against Pericles, and sent messengers to Sparta to

negotiate peace. But the Spartans turned a deaf ear, which added to the

bitterness against their heroic leader, whose fortitude and firmness were

never more effectively manifested. He was accused, and condemned to pay a

fine, and excluded from re-election. Though he was restored to power and

confidence, his affliction bore heavily upon his exalted nature, and he

died, B.C. 430, in the early period of the war. He had, indeed, many

enemies, and was hunted down by the comic writers, whose trade it was to

deride all political characters, yet his wisdom, patriotism, eloquence,

and great services are indisputable, and he died, leaving on the whole,

the greatest name which had ever ennobled the Athenians.

The war, of course, languished during the prevalence of the

epidemic, and much injury was done to Athenian commerce by Peloponnesian

privateers, who put to death all their prisoners. It was then that Sparta

sent envoys to Persia to solicit money and troops against Athens, which

shows that no warfare is so bitter as civil strife, and that no expedients

are too disgraceful not to be made use of, in order to gratify malignant

passions. But the envoys were seized in Thrace by the allies of Athens,

and delivered up to the Athenians, and by them were put to death.

In January, B.C. 429, Potidaea surrendered to the Athenian generals,

upon favorable terms, after enduring all the miseries of famine. The fall

of this city cost Athens two thousand talents. The Lacedaemonians, after

two years, had accomplished nothing. They had not even relieved Potidaea.

On the third year, the Lacedaemonians, instead of ravaging Attica,

marched to the attack of Plataea. The inhabitants resolved to withstand the

whole force of the enemies. Archidemus, the Lacedaemonian general,

commenced the siege, defended only by four hundred native citizens and

eighty Athenians. So unskilled were the Greeks in the attack of fortified

cities, that the besiegers made no progress, and were obliged to resort to

blockade. A wall of circumvallation was built around the city, which was

now left to the operations of famine.

At the same time the siege was pressed, an Athenian armament was

sent to Thrace, which was defeated; but in the western part of Greece the

Athenian arms were more successful. The Spartans and their allies suffered

a repulse at Stratus, and their fleet was defeated by Phormio, the

Athenian admiral. Nothing could exceed the rage of the Lacedaemonians at

these two disasters. They collected a still larger fleet, and were again

defeated with severe loss near Naupactus, by inferior forces. But the

defeated Lacedaemonians, under the persuasion of the Megarians, undertook

the bold enterprise of surprising the Piraeus, during the absence of the

Athenian fleet; but the courage of the assailants failed at the critical

hour, and the port of Athens was saved. The Athenians then had the

precaution to extend a chain across the mouth of the harbor, to guard

against such surprises in the future.

Athens, during the summer, had secured the alliance of the

Odrysians, a barbarous but powerful nation in Thrace. Their king,

Sitalces, with an army of fifteen thousand men, attacked Perdiccas, the

king of Macedonia, and overran his country, and only retired from the

severity of the season and the want of Athenian co-operation. Such were

the chief enterprises and events of the third campaign, and Athens was

still powerful and unhumbled.

The fourth year of the war was marked by a renewed invasion of

Attica, without any other results than such as had happened before. But it

was a more serious calamity to the Athenians to learn that Mitylene and

most of Lesbos had revolted--one of the most powerful of the Athenian

allies. Nothing was left to Athens but to subjugate the city. A large

force was sent for this purpose, but the inhabitants of Mitylene appealed

to the Spartans for aid, and prepared for a vigorous resistance. But the

treasures of Athens were now nearly consumed, and the Athenians were

obliged to resort to contributions to force the siege, which they did with

vigor. The Lacedaemonians promised succor, and the Mitylenaeans held out

till their provisions were exhausted, when they surrendered to the

Athenians. The Lacedaemonians advanced to relieve their allies, but were

too late. The Athenian admiral pursued them, and they returned to the

Peloponnesus without having done any thing. Paches, the Athenian general,

sent home one thousand Mitylenaean prisoners, while it was decreed to

slaughter the whole remaining population--about six thousand--able to carry

arms, and makes slaves of the women and children. This severe measure was

prompted by Cleon. But the Athenians repented, and a second decree of the

assembly, through the influence of Diodotus, prevented the barbarous

revenge; but the Athenians put to death the prisoners which Paches had

sent, razed the fortifications of Mitylene, took possession of all her

ships of war, and confiscated all the land of the island except that which

belonged to one town that had been faithful. So severe was ancient

warfare, even among the most civilized of the Greeks.

The surrender of Plataea to the Lacedaemonians took place not long

after; but not until one-half of the garrison had sallied from the city,

scaled the wall of circumvallation, and escaped safely to Athens. The

Plataeans were sentenced to death by the Spartan judges, and barbarously

slain. The captured women were sold as slaves, and the town and territory

were handed over to the Thebans.

Scenes not less bloody took place in the western part of Greece, in

the island of Corcyra, before which a naval battle was fought between the

Lacedaemonians and the Athenians. The island had been governed by

oligarchies, under the protection of Sparta, but the retirement of the

Lacedaemonian fleet enabled the Athenian general to wreak his vengeance on

the party which had held supremacy, which was exterminated in the most

cruel manner, which produced a profound sensation, and furnished

Thucydides a theme for the most profound reflections on the acerbity and

ferocity of the political parties, which, it seems, then divided Greece,

and were among the exciting causes of the war itself--the struggle between

the advocates of democratic and aristocratic institutions.

A new character now appears upon the stage at Athens--Nicias--one of

the ten generals who, in rank and wealth, was the equal of Pericles. He

belonged to the oligarchal party, and succeeded Cimon and Thucydides in

the control of it. But he was moderate in his conduct, and so won the

esteem of his countrymen, that he retained power until his death, although

opposed to the party which had the ascendency. He was incorruptible as to

pecuniary gains, and adopted the conservative views of Pericles, avoiding

new acquisitions at a distance, or creating new enemies. He surrounded

himself, not as Pericles did, with philosophers, but religions men,

avoided all scandals, and employed his large fortune in securing

popularity. Pericles disdained to win the people by such means, cultivated

art, and patronized the wits who surrounded Aspasia. Nicias was zealous in

the worship of the gods, was careful to make no enemies, and conciliated

the poor by presents. Yet he increased his private fortune, so far as he

could, by honorable means, and united thrift and sagacity with honesty and

piety. He was not a man of commanding genius, but his character was above

reproach, and was never assailed by the comic writers. He was the great

opponent of Alcibiades, the oracle of the democracy--one of those memorable

demagogues who made use of the people to forward his ambitious projects.

He was also the opponent of Cleon, whose office it was to supervise

official men for the public conduct--a man of great eloquence, but

fault-finding and denunciatory.

The fifth year of the war was not signalized by the usual invasion

of Attica, which gave the Athenians leisure to send an expedition under

Nicias against the island of Melos, inhabited by ancient colonists from

Sparta. Demosthenes, another general, was sent around the Peloponnesus to

attack Acarnania, and he ravaged the whole territory of Leueas. He also

attacked AEtolia, but was completely beaten, and obliged to retire with

loss; but this defeat was counterbalanced by a great victory, the next

year, over the enemy at Olpae, when the Lacedaemonian general was slain. He

returned in triumph to Athens with considerable spoil. The attention of

the Athenians was now directed to Delos, the island sacred to Apollo, and

a complete purification of the island was made, and the old Delian

festivals renewed with peculiar splendor.

The war had now lasted six years, without any grand or decisive

results on either side. The expeditions of both parties were of the nature

of raids--destructive, cruel, irritating, but without bringing any grand

triumphs. Though the seventh year was marked by the usual enterprise on

the part of the Lacedaemonians--the invasion of Attica--Corcyra promised to

be the principal scene of military operations. Both an Athenian and

Spartan fleet was sent thither. But an unforeseen incident gave a new

character to the war. In the course of the voyage to Corcyra, Demosthenes,

the Athenian general, stopped at Pylus, with the intention of erecting a

fort on the uninhabited promontory, since it protected the spacious basin

now known as the bay of Navarino, and was itself easily defended.

Eurymedon, the admiral, insisted on going directly to Corcyra, but the

fleet was driven by a storm into the very harbor which Demosthenes

proposed to defend. The place was accordingly fortified by Demosthenes,

where he himself remained with a garrison, while the fleet proceeded to

Corcyra. Intelligence of this insult to Sparta--the attempt to plant a

hostile fort on its territory--induced the Lacedaemonians to send their

fleet to Pylus, instead of Corcyra. Forty-three triremes, under

Thrasymelidas, and a powerful land force, advanced to attack Demosthenes,

intrenched with his small army on the rocky promontory. When the news of

this new diversion reached the Athenian fleet at Corcyra, it returned to

Pylus, to succor Demosthenes. Here a naval battle took place, in which the

Lacedaemonians were defeated. This defeat jeopardized the situation of the

Spartan army which had occupied the island of Shacteria, cut off from

supplies from the main land, as well as the existence of the fleet. So

great was this exigency, that the ephors came from Sparta to consult on

operations. They took a desponding view, and sent a herald to the Athenian

generals to propose an armistice, in order to allow time for envoys to go

to Athens and treat for peace. But Athens demanded now her own terms,

elated by the success. Cleon, the organ of the popular mind, excited and

sanguine, gave utterance to the feelings of the people, and insisted on

the restoration of all the territory they had lost during the war. The

Lacedaemonian envoys, unable to resist a vehement speaker like Cleon, which

required qualities they did not possess, and which could only be acquired

from skill in managing popular assemblies, to which they were unused,

returned to Pylus. And it was the object of Cleon to prevent a hearing of

the envoys by a select committee (what they desired) for fear that Nicias

and other conservative politicians would accede to their proposals. Thus

the best opportunity that could be presented for making an honorable peace

and reuniting Greece was lost by the arts of a demagogue, who inflamed and

shared the popular passions. Had Pericles been alive, the treaty would

probably have been made, but Nicias had not sufficient influence to secure


War therefore recommenced, with fresh irritation. The Athenian

fleet blockaded the island where the Spartan hoplites were posted, and

found in the attempt, which they thought so easy, unexpected obstacles.

Provisions clandestinely continually reached the besieged. Week after week

passed without the expected surrender. Demosthenes, baffled for want of

provisions and water for his own fleet, sent urgently to Athens for

re-enforcements, which caused infinite mortification. The people now began

to regret that they had listened to Cleon, and not to the voice of wisdom.

Cleon himself was sent with the re-enforcements demanded, against his

will, although he was not one of the ten generals. The island of

Sphacteria now contained the bravest of the Lacedaemonian troops--from the

first families of Sparta--a prey which Cleon and Demosthenes were eager to

grasp. They attacked the island with a force double of that of the

defenders, altogether ten thousand men, eight hundred of whom were

hoplites. The besieged could not resist this overwhelming force, and

retreated to their last redoubt, but were surrounded and taken prisoners.

This surrender caused astonishment throughout Greece, since it was

supposed the Spartan hoplites would die, as they did at Thermopylae, rather

than allow themselves to be taken alive, and this calamity diminished

greatly the lustre of the Spartan arms. A modern army, surrounded with an

overwhelming force, against which all resistance was madness, would have

done the same as the Spartans. But it was a sad blow to them. Cleon,

within twenty days of his departure, arrived at Athens with his three

hundred Lacedaemonian prisoners, amid universal shouts of joy, for it was

the most triumphant success which the Athenians had yet obtained. The war

was prosecuted with renewed vigor, and the Lacedaemonians again made

advances for peace, but without effect. The flushed victors would hear of

no terms but what were disgraceful to the Spartans. The chances were now

most favorable to Athens. Nicias invaded the Corinthian territory with

eighty triremes, two thousand hoplites, and two hundred horsemen, to say

nothing of the large number which supported these, and committed the same

ravages that the Spartans and their allies had inflicted upon Attica.

Among other events, the Athenians this year captured the Persian

ambassador, Artaphernes, on his way to Sparta. He was brought to Athens,

and his dispatches were translated and made public. He was sent back to

Ephesus, with Athenian envoys, to the great king, to counteract the

influence of the Spartans, but Artaerxes had died when they reached Susa.

The capture of Sphacteria, and the surrender of the whole

Lacedaemonian fleet, not only placed Athens, on the opening of the eighth

year of the war, in a situation more commanding than she had previously

enjoyed, but stimulated her to renewed operations on a grander scale, not

merely against Sparta, but to recover the ascendency in Boeotia, which was

held before the thirty years' truce. The Lacedaemonians, in concert with

the revolted Chalcidic allies of Athens in Thrace, and Perdiccas, king of

Macedonia, also made great preparations for more decisive measures. The

war had dragged out seven years, and nothing was accomplished which

seriously weakened either of the contending parties.

The first movement was made by the Athenians on the Laconian coast.

The island of Cythera was captured by an expedition led by Nicias, of

sixty triremes and two thousand hoplites, beside other forces, and the

coast was ravaged. Then Thyrea, an AEginetan settlement, between Laconia

and Argolis, fell into the hands of the Athenians, and all the AEginetans

were either killed in the assault, or put to death as prisoners. These

successive disasters alarmed the Lacedaemonians, and they now began to fear

repeated assaults on their own territory, with a discontented population

of Helots. This fear prompted an act of cruelty and treachery which had no

parallel in the history of the war. Two thousand of the bravest Helots

were entrapped, as if especial honors were to be bestowed upon them, and

barbarously slain. None but the five ephors knew the bloody details. There

was even no public examination of this savage inhumanity, which shows that

Sparta was governed, as Venice was in the Middle Ages, by a small but

exceedingly powerful oligarchy.

After this cruelty was consummated, envoys came from Perdiccas and the

Chalcidians of Thrace, invoking aid against Athens. It was joyfully

granted, and Brasidas, at the request of Perdiccas and the Chalcidians,

was sent with a large force of Peloponnesian hoplites.

Meanwhile the Athenians formed plans to attack Megara, whose

inhabitants had stimulated the war, and had been the greatest sufferers by

it. A force was sent under Hippocrates and Demosthenes to surprise the

place, and also Nisaea. The long walls of Megara, similar to those of

Athens, were taken by surprise, and the Athenians found themselves at the

gates of the city, which came near falling into their hands by treachery.

Baffled for the moment, the Athenians attacked Clisaea, which lay behind

it, and succeeded.

But Brasidas, the Lacedaemonian general, learning that the long

walls had fallen into the hands of the Athenians, got together a large

force of six thousand hoplites and six hundred cavalry, and relieved

Megara, and the Athenians were obliged to retire. Ultimately the Megarians

regained possession of the long walls, and instituted an oligarchal


The Athenians, disappointed in getting possession of Megara, which

failed by one of those accidents ever recurring in war, organized a large

force for the attack of Boeotia, on three sides, under Hippocrates and

Demosthenes. The attack was first made at Siphae, by Demosthenes, on the

Corinthian Gulf, but failed. In spite of this failure by sea, Hippocrates

marched with a land force to Delium, with seven thousand hoplites, and

twenty-five thousand other troops, and occupied the place, which was a

temple consecrated to Apollo, and strongly fortified it. When the work of

fortification was completed, the army prepared to return to Athens.

Forces from all parts of Boeotia rallied, and met the Athenians.

Among the forces of the Boeotians was the famous Theban band of three

hundred select warriors, accustomed to fight in pairs, each man attached

to his companion by peculiar ties of friendship. At Delium was fought the

great battle of the war, in which the Athenians were routed, and the

general, Hippocrates, with a thousand hoplites, were slain. The victors

refused the Athenians the sacred right of burying their dead, unless they

retired altogether from Delium--the post they had fortified on Boeotian

territory. To this the Athenians refused to submit, the consequence of

which was the siege and capture of Delium.

Among the hoplites who fought in this unfortunate battle, which was a

great discouragement to the Athenian cause, was the philosopher Socrates.

The famous Alcibiades also served in the cavalry, and helped to protect

Socrates in his retreat, after having bravely fought.

The disasters of the Athenians in Thrace were yet more

considerable. Brasidas, with a large force, including seventeen hundred

hoplites, rapidly marched through Thrace and Thessaly, and arrived in

Macedonia safely, and attacked Acanthus, an ally of Athens. It fell into

his hands, as well as Stageirus, and he was thus enabled to lay plans for

the acquisition of Amphipolis, which was founded by Athenian colonists. He

soon became master of the surrounding territory. He then offered favorable

terms of capitulation to the citizens of the town, which were accepted,

and the city surrendered--the most important of all the foreign possessions

of Athens. The bridge over the Strymon was also opened, by which all the

eastern allies of Athena were approachable by land. This great reverse

sent dismay into the hearts of the Athenians, greater than had before been

felt. The bloody victory at Delium, and the conquests of Brasidas, more

than balanced the capture of Sphacteria. Sparta, under the victorious

banner of Brasidas, a general of great probity, good faith, and

moderation, now proclaimed herself liberator of Greece. Athens,

discouraged and baffled, lost all the prestige she had gained.

But Amphipolis was lost by the negligence of the Athenian

commanders. Encles and Thucydides, the historian, to whom the defense of

the place was intrusted, had means ample to prevent the capture had they

employed ordinary precaution. The Athenians, indignant, banished

Thucydides for twenty years, and probably Eucles also--a just sentence,

since they did not keep the bridge over the Strymon properly guarded, nor

retained the Athenian squadron at Eion. The banishment of Thucydides gave

him leisure to write the history on which his great fame rests--the most

able and philosophical of all the historical works of antiquity.

Brasidas, after the fall of Amphipolis, extended his military

operations with success. He took Torone, Lecythus, and other places, and

then went into winter quarters. The campaign had been disastrous to the

Athenians, and a truce of one year was agreed upon by the belligerent

parties--Athens of the one party, and Sparta, Corinth, Sicyon, Epidaurus,

and Megara, of the other.

The conditions of this truce stipulated that Delphi might be

visited by all Greeks, without distinction; that all violations of the

property of the Delphian god should be promptly punished; that the

Athenian garrisons at Pylus, Cythera, Nisaea, and Methana, should remain

unmolested; that the Lacedaemonians should be free to use the sea for

trading purposes; and that neither side should receive deserters from the

other--important to both parties, since Athens feared the revolt of subject

allies, and Sparta the desertion of Helots.

But two days had elapsed after the treaty was made before Scione in Thrace

revolted to Brasidas--a great cause of exasperation to the Athenians,

although the revolt took place before the treaty was known. Mendes, a

neighboring town, also revolted. Brasidas sent the inhabitants a garrison

to protect themselves, and departed with his forces for an expedition into

the interior of Macedonia, but was soon compelled to retreat before the


An Athenian force, under Nicias and Nicostratus, however, proceeded

to Thrace to recover the revolted cities. Everywhere else the truce was

observed. It was intended to give terms for more complete negotiations.

This was the policy of Nicias. But Cleon and his party, the democracy, was

opposed to peace, and wished to prosecute the war vigorously in Thrace.

Brasidas, on his part, was equally in favor of continued hostilities. And

this was the great question of the day in Greece.

The war party triumphed, and Cleon, by no means an able general,

was sent with an expedition to recover Amphipolis, B.C. 422. He succeeded

in taking Torone, but Amphipolis, built on a hill in the peninsula formed

by the river Strymon, as it passes from the Strymonic Gulf to Lake

Kerkernilis, was a strongly fortified place in which Brasidas intrenched.

He was obliged to remain inactive at Eion, at the mouth of the river,

three miles distant from Amphipolis, which excited great discontent in his

army, but which was the wiser course, until his auxiliaries arrived. But

the murmur of the hoplites compelled him to some sort of action, and while

he was reconnoitering, he was attacked by Brasidas. Cleon was killed, and

his army totally defeated. Brasidas, the ablest general of the day,

however, was also mortally wounded, and carried from the field. This

unsuccessful battle compelled the Athenians to return home, deeply

disgusted with their generals. But they embarked in the enterprise

reluctantly, and with no faith in their leader, and this was one cause of

their defeat. The death of Brasidas, however, converted the defeat into a

substantial victory, since there remained no Spartan with sufficient

ability to secure the confidence of the allies. Brasidas, when he died,

was the first man in Greece, and universally admired for his valor,

intelligence, probity, and magnanimity.

The battle of Amphipolis was decisive; it led to a peace between

the contending parties. It is called the peace of Nicias, made in March,

B.C. 421. By the provisions of this treaty of peace, which was made for

fifty years, Amphipolis was restored to the Athenians, all persons had

full liberty to visit the public temples of Greece, the Athenians restored

the captive Spartans, and the various towns taken during the war were

restored on both sides. This peace was concluded after a ten years' war,

when the resources of both parties were exhausted. It was a war of

ambition and jealousy, without sufficient reasons, and its consequences

were disastrous to the general welfare of Greece. In some respects it must

be considered, not merely as a war between Sparta and Athens to gain

supremacy, but a war between the partisans of aristocratic and democratic

institutions throughout the various States.

The peace made by Nicias between Athens and Sparta for fifty years

was not of long continuance. It was a truce rather than a treaty, since

neither party was overthrown--but merely crippled--like Rome and Carthage

after the first Punic war. The same causes which provoked the contest

still remained--an unextinguishable jealousy between States nearly equal in

power, and the desire of ascendency at any cost. But we do not perceive in

either party that persistent and self-sacrificing spirit which marked the

Romans in their conquest of Italy. The Romans abandoned every thing which

interfered with their aggressive policy: the Grecian States were diverted

from political aggrandizement by other objects of pursuit--pleasure, art,


There was needed only a commanding demagogue, popular, brilliant,

and unprincipled, to embroil Greece once more in war, and such a man was

Alcibiades, who appeared upon the stage at the death of Cleon. And

hostilities were easily kindled, since the allies on both sides were

averse to the treaty which had been made, and the conditions of the peace

were not fulfilled. Athens returned the captive Spartans she had held

since the battle of Sphacteria, but Amphipolis was not restored, from the

continued enmity of the Thracian cities. Both parties were full of

intrigues, and new combinations were constantly being formed. Argos became

the centre of a new Peloponnesian alliance. A change of ephors at Sparta

favored hostile measures, and an alliance was made between the Boeotians

and Lacedaemonians. The Athenians, on their side, captured Scione, and put

to death the prisoners.

It was in this unsettled state of things, when all the late

contending States were insincere and vacillating, that Alcibiades stood

forth as a party leader. He was thirty-one years of age, belonged to an

ancient and powerful family, possessed vast wealth, had great personal

beauty and attractive manners, but above all, was unboundedly ambitious,

and grossly immoral--the most insolent, unprincipled, licentious, and

selfish man that had thus far scandalized and adorned Athenian society.

The only redeeming feature in his character was his friendship for

Socrates, who, it seems, fascinated him by his talk, and sought to improve

his morals. He had those brilliant qualities, and luxurious habits, and

ostentatious prodigality, which so often dazzle superficial people,

especially young men of fashion and wealth, but more even than they, the

idolatrous rabble. So great was his popularity and social prestige, that

no injured person ever dared to bring him to trial, and he even rescued

his own wife from the hands of the law when she sought to procure a

divorce--a proof that even in democratic Athens all bowed down to the

insolence of wealth and high social position.

Alcibiades, though luxurious and profligate, saw that a severe

intellectual training was necessary to him if he would take rank as a

politician, for a politician who can not make a speech stands a poor

chance of popular favor. So he sought the instructions of Socrates,

Prodicus, Protagoras, and others--not for love of learning, but as means of

success, although it may be supposed that the intellectual excitement,

which the discourse, cross-examination, and ironical sallies of Socrates

produced, was not without its force on so bright a mind.

Alcibiades commenced his public life with a sullied reputation, and

with numerous enemies created by his unbearable insolence, but with a

flexibility of character which enabled him to adapt himself to whatever

habits circumstances required. He inspired no confidence, and his

extravagant mode of life was sure to end in ruin, unless he reimbursed

himself out of the public funds; and yet he fascinated the people who

mistrusted and hated him. The great comic poet, Aristophanes, said of him

to the Athenians: "You ought not to keep a lion's whelp in your city at

all, but if you choose to keep him, you must submit to his behavior."

Alcibiades, in commencing his political life, departed from his

family traditions; for he was a relative of Pericles, and became a

partisan of the oligarchal party. But he soon changed his polities, on

receiving a repulse from the Spartans, who despised him, and he became a

violent democrat. His first memorable effort was to bring Argos, then in

league with Sparta, into alliance with Athens, in which he was successful.

He then cheated the Lacedaemonian envoys who were sent to protest against

the alliance and make other terms, and put them in a false position, and

made them appear deceitful, and thus arrayed against them the wrath of the

Athenians. As Alcibiades had prevailed upon these envoys, by false

promises and advice, to act a part different from what they were sent to

perform, Nicias was sent to Sparta to clear up embarrassments, but failed

in his object, upon which Athens concluded an alliance with Argos, Elis,

and Mantinea, which only tended to complicate existing difficulties.

Shortly after this alliance was concluded, the Olympic games were

celebrated with unusual interest, from which the Athenians had been

excluded during the war. Here Alcibiades appeared with seven chariots,

each with four horses, when the richest Greeks had hitherto possessed but

one, and gained two prizes. He celebrated his success by a magnificent

banquet more stately and expensive than those given by kings. But while

the Athenians thus appeared at the ninetieth Olympiad, the Lacedaemonians

were excluded by the Eleians, who controlled the festival, from an alleged

violation of the Olympic truce, but really from the intrigues of


The subsequent attack of Argos and Athens on Epidaurus proved that

the peace between Athens and Sparta existed only in name. It was

distinctly violated by the attack of Argos by the Lacedaemonians, Boeotians,

and Corinthians, and the battle of Mantinea opened again the war. This was

decided in favor of the Lacedaemonians, with a great loss to the Athenians

and their allies, including both their generals, Laches and Nicostratus.

The moral effect of the battle of Mantinea, B.C. 418, was

overwhelming throughout Greece, and re-established the military prestige

of Sparta. It was lost by the withdrawal of three thousand Eleians before

the battle, illustrating the remark of Pericles that numerous and equal

allies could never be kept in harmonious co-operation. One effect of the

battle was a renewed alliance between Sparta and Argos, and the

re-establishment of an oligarchal government in the latter city. Mantinea

submitted to Sparta, and the Achaian towns were obliged to submit to a

remodeling of their political institutions, according to the views of

Sparta. The people of Argos, however, took the first occasion which was

presented for regaining their power, assisted by an Athenian force under

Alcibiades, and Argos once again became an ally of Athens.

The next important operation of the war was the siege and conquest

of Melos, a Dorian island, by the Athenians, B.C. 416. The inhabitants

were killed, and the women and children were sold as slaves, and an

Athenian colony was settled on the island. But this massacre, exceeding

even the customary cruelty of war in those times, raised a general

indignation among the allies of Sparta.

But an expedition of far greater importance was now undertaken by

the Athenians--the most gigantic effort which they ever made, but which

terminated disastrously, and led to the ruin and subjugation of their

proud and warlike city, as a political power. This was the invasion of

Sicily and siege of Syracuse.

Before we present this unfortunate expedition, some brief notice is

necessary of the Grecian colonies in Sicily.

In the eighth century before Christ Sicily was inhabited by two

distinct races of barbarians--the Sikels and Sikans--besides Phoenician

colonies, for purposes of trade. The Sikans were an Iberian tribe, and

were immigrants of an earlier date than the Sikels, by whom they were

invaded. The earliest Grecian colony was (B.C. 735) at Naxos, on the

eastern coast of the island, between the Straits of Messina and Mount

AEtna, founded by Theocles, a Chalcidian mariner, who was cast by storms

upon the coast, and built a fort on a hill called Taurus, to defend

himself against the Sikels, who were in possession of the larger half of

the island. Other colonists followed, chiefly from the Peloponnesus. In

the year following that Naxos was founded, a body of settlers from Corinth

landed on the islet Ortygia, expelled the Sikel inhabitants, and laid the

foundation of Syracuse. Successive settlements were made forty-five years

after at Gela, in the southwestern part of the island. Other settlements

continued to be made, not only from Greece, but from the colonies

themselves; so that the old inhabitants were gradually Hellenized and

merged with Greek colonists, while the Greeks, in their turn, adopted many

of the habits and customs of the Sikels and Sikans. The various races

lived on terms of amity, for the native population was not numerous enough

to become formidable to the Grecian colonists.

Five hundred years before Christ the most powerful Grecian cities

in Sicily were Agrigentum and Gela, on the south side of the island. The

former, within a few years of its foundation, B.C. 570, fell under the

dominion of one of its rich citizens, Phalasaris, who proved a cruel

despot, but after a reign of sixteen years he was killed in an

insurrection, and an oligarchal government was established, such as then

existed in most of the Grecian cities. Syracuse was governed in this way

by the descendants of the original settlers. Gela was, on the other hand,

ruled by a despot called Gelo, the most powerful man on the island. He got

possession of Syracuse, B.C. 485, and transferred the seat of his power to

this city, by bringing thither the leading people and making slaves of the

rest. Under Gelo Syracuse became the first city on the island, to which

other towns were tributary. When the Greeks confederated against Xerxes,

they sent to solicit his aid as the imperial leader of Sicily, and he

could command, according to Herodotus, twenty thousand hoplites, two

hundred triremes, two thousand cavalry, two thousand archers, and two

thousand light-armed horse. So great was then the power of this despot,

who now sought to expel the Carthaginians and unite all the Hellenic

colonies in Sicily under his sway. But the aid was not given, probably on

account of a Carthaginian invasion simultaneous with the expedition of the

Persian king. The Carthaginians, according to the historian, arrived at

Panormus B.C. 480, with a fleet of three thousand ships and a land force

of three hundred thousand men, besides chariots and horses, under

Hamilcar--a mercenary army, composed of various African nations. Gelo

marched against him with fifty thousand foot and five thousand horse, and

gained a complete victory, so that one hundred and fifty thousand, on the

side of the Carthaginians, were slain, together with their general. The

number of the combatants is doubtless exaggerated, but we may believe that

the force was very great. Gelo was now supreme in Sicily, and the victory

of Himera, which he had gained, enabled him to distribute a large body of

prisoners, as slaves, in all the Grecian colonies. It appears that he was

much respected, but he died shortly after his victory, leaving an infant

son to the guardianship of two of his brothers, Polyzelus and Hiero, who

became the supreme governors of the island. A victory gained by Hiero over

the tyrant of Agrigentum gave him the same supremacy which Gelo had

enjoyed. On his death, B.C. 467, the succession was disputed between his

brother, Thrasybulus, and his nephew, the son of Gelo; but Thrasybulus

contrived to make away with his nephew, and reigned alone, cruelly and

despotically, until a revolution took place, which resulted in his

expulsion and the fall of the Gelonian dynasty. Popular governments were

now established in all the Sicilian cities, but these were distracted by

disputes and confusions. Syracuse became isolated from the other cities,

and a government whose powers were limited by the city. The expulsion of

the Gelonian dynasty left the Grecian cities to reorganize free and

constitutional governments; but Syracuse maintained a proud pre-eminence,

and her power was increased from time to time by conquests in the interior

over the old population. Agrigentum was next in power, and scarcely

inferior in wealth. The temple of Zeus, in this city, was one of the most

magnificent in the world. The population was large, and many were the rich

men who kept chariots and competed at the Olympic games. In these Sicilian

cities the intellectual improvement kept pace with the material, and the

little town of Elea supported the two greatest speculative philosophers of

Greece--Parmenides and Zeno. Empedocles, of Agrigentum, was scarcely less


Such was the state of the Sicilian cities on the outbreak of the

Peloponnesian war. Being generally of Dorian origin, they sympathized with

Sparta, and great expectations were formed by the Lacedaemonians of

assistance from their Sicilian allies. The cities of Sicily could not

behold the contest between Athens and Sparta without being drawn into the

quarrel, and the result was that the Dorian cities made war on the Ionian

cities, which, of course, sympathized with Athens. As these cities were

weaker than the Dorian, they solicited aid from Athens, and an expedition

was sent to Sicily under Laches, B.C. 426. Another one, under Polydorus,

followed, but without decisive results. The next year still another and

larger expedition, under Eurymedon and Sophocles, arrived in Sicily, while

Athens was jubilant by the possession of the Spartan prisoners, and the

possession of Pylus and Cythera. The Sicilian cities now fearing that

their domestic strife would endanger their independence and make them

subject to Athens, the most ambitious and powerful State in Greece, made a

common league with each other. Eurymedon acceded to the peace and returned

to Athens, much to the displeasure of the war party, which embraced most

of the people, and he and his colleague were banished.

But wars between the Sicilian cities again led to the intervention

of Athens. Egesta especially sent envoys for help in her struggle against

Selinus, which was assisted by Syracuse. Alcibiades warmly seconded these

envoys, and inflamed the people with his ambitious projects. He, more than

any other man, was the cause of the great Sicilian expedition which proved

the ruin of his country. He was opposed by Nicias, who foretold all the

miserable consequences of so distant an expedition, when so little could

be gained and so much would be jeopardized, and when, on the first

reverse, the enemies of Athens would rally against her. He particularly

cautioned his countrymen not only against the expedition, but against

intrusting the command of it to an unprincipled and selfish man who

squandered his own patrimony in chariot races and other extravagances, and

would be wasteful of the public property--a man without the experience

which became a leader in so great an enterprise. Alcibiades, in reply,

justified his extravagance at the Olympic games, where he contested with

seven chariots, as a means to impress Sparta with the wealth and power of

Athens, after a ten years' war. He inflamed the ambition of the assembly,

held out specious hopes of a glorious conquest which would add to Athenian

power, and make her not merely pre-eminent, but dominant in Greece. The

assembly, eager for war and glory, sided with the youthful and magnificent

demagogue, and disregarded the counsels of the old patriot, whose wisdom

and experience were second to none in the city.

Consequently the expedition was fitted out for the attack of

Syracuse--the largest and most powerful which Athens ever sent against an

enemy; for all classes, maddened by military glory, or tempted by love of

gain, eagerly embarked in the enterprise. Nicias, finding he could not

prevent the expedition, demanded more than he thought the people would be

willing to grant. He proposed a gigantic force. But in proposing this

force, he hoped he might thus discourage the Athenians altogether by the

very greatness of the armament which he deemed necessary. But so popular

was the enterprise, that the large force he suggested was voted.

Alcibiades had flattered the people that their city was mistress of the

sea, and entitled to dominion over all the islands, and could easily

prevail over any naval enemy.

Three years had now elapsed since the peace of Nicias, and Athens

had ample means. The treasury was full, and triremes had accumulated in

the harbor. The confidence of the Athenians was as unbounded as was that

of Xerxes when he crossed the Hellespont, and hence there had been great

zeal and forwardness in preparation.

When the expedition was at last ready, an event occurred which

filled the city with gloom and anxious forebodings. The half statues of

the god Hermes were distributed in great numbers in Athens in the most

conspicuous situations, beside the doors of private houses and temples,

and in the agora, so that the people were accustomed to regard the god as

domiciled among them for their protection. In one night, at the end of

May, B.C. 415, these statues were nearly all mutilated. The heads, necks,

and busts were all destroyed, leaving the lower part of them--mere

quadrangular pillars, without arms, or legs, or body--alone standing. The

sacrilege sent universal dismay into the city, and was regarded as a most

depressing omen, and was done, doubtless, with a view of ruining

Alcibiades and frustrating the expedition. But all efforts were vain to

discover the guilty parties.

And this was not the only means adopted to break down the power of

a man whom the more discerning perceived was the evil genius of Athens.

Alcibiades was publicly accused of having profaned and divulged the

Eleusinian mysteries. The charge was denied by Alcibiades, who demanded an

immediate trial. It was eluded by his enemies, who preferred to have the

charge hanging over his head, in case of the failure of the enterprise

which he had projected.

So the fleet sailed from Piraeus amid mingled sentiments of anxiety

and popular enthusiasm. It consisted of one hundred triremes, with a large

body of hoplites. It made straight for Corcyra, where the contingents of

the allies were assembled, which nearly doubled its force. The Syracusans

were well informed as to its destination, and made great exertions to meet

this great armament, under Nicias, Alcibiades, and Lamachus. The latter

commander recommended an immediate attack of Syracuse, as unprepared and


Alcibiades wished first to open negotiations with the Sikels, of

the interior, to detach them from the aid of Syracuse. His plan was

followed, but before he could carry it into operation he was summoned home

to take his trial. Fearing the result of the accusations against him, for,

in his absence, the popular feeling had changed respecting him--fear and

reason had triumphed over the power of his personal fascination--Alcibiades

made his escape to the Peloponnesus.

The master spirit of the expedition was now removed, and its

operations were languid and undecided, for Nicias had no heart in it. The

delays which occurred gave the Syracusans time to prepare, and more

confidence in their means of defense. So that when the forces of the

Athenians were landed in the great harbor, they found a powerful army

ready to resist them. In spite of a victory which Nicias gained near

Olympeion, the Syracusans were not dejected, and the Athenian fleet was

obliged to seek winter quarters at Catana, and also send for additional

re-enforcements. Nicias unwisely delayed, but his inexcusable apathy

afforded the enemy leisure to enlarge their fortifications. The Syracusans

constructed an entirely new wall around the inner and outer city, and

which also extended across the whole space from the outer sea to the great

harbor, so that it would be difficult for the Athenians, in the coming

siege, to draw lines of circumvallation around the city. Syracuse also

sent envoys to Corinth and Sparta for aid, while Alcibiades, filled now

with intense hatred of Athens, encouraged the Lacedaemonians to send a

force to the Sicilian capital. He admitted that it was the design of

Athens first to conquer the Sicilian Greeks, and then the Italian Greeks;

then to make an attempt on Carthage, and then, if that was successful, to

bring together all the forces of the subjected States and attack the

Peloponnesus itself, and create a great empire, of which Athens was to be

the capital. Such an avowal was doubtless the aim of the ambitious

Alcibiades when he first stimulated the enterprise, which, if successful,

would have made him the most powerful man in Greece; but he was thwarted

by his enemies at home, and so he turned all his energies against his

native State. His address made a powerful effect on the Lacedaemonians,

who, impelled by hatred and jealousy, now resolved to make use of the

services of the traitor, and send an auxiliary force to Syracuse.

That city then consisted of two parts--an inner and an outer city.

The outer city was defended on two sides by the sea, and a sea wall. On

the land side a long wall extended from the sea to the fortified high land

of Achradina, so that the city could only be taken by a wall of

circumvallation, so as to cut off supplies by land; at the same time it

was blockaded by sea. But the delay of Nicias had enabled the Syracusans

to construct a new wall, covering both the outer and inner city, and

extending from the great port to the high land near the bay of Magnesi, so

that any attack, except from a single point, was difficult, unless the

wall of circumvallation was made much larger than was originally intended.

Amid incredible difficulties the Athenians constructed their works, and in

an assault from the cliff of Epipolae, where they were intrenched, their

general, Lamachus, was slain. But the Athenians had gained an advantage,

and the siege was being successfully prosecuted. It was then that the

Lacedaemonians arrived under Gylippus, who was unable to render succor. But

Nicias, despising him, allowed him to land at Himera, from whence he

marched across Sicily to Syracuse. A Corinthian fleet, under Gorgylus,

arrived only just in time to prevent the city from capitulating, and

Gylippus entered Syracuse unopposed. The inaction of Nicias, who could

have prevented this, is unaccountable. But the arrival of Gylippus turned

the scale, and he immediately prosecuted vigorous and aggressive measures.

He surprised an Athenian fort, and began to construct a third counter-wall

on the north side of the Athenian circle. The Athenians, now shut up

within their lines, were obliged to accept battle, and were defeated, and

even forced to seek shelter within their fortified lines. Under this

discouragement, Nicias sent to Athens for another armament, and the

Athenians responded to his call. But Sparta also resolved to send

re-enforcements, and invade Attica besides. Sicilian forces also marched

in aid of Syracuse. The result of all these gathering forces, in which the

whole strength of Greece was employed, was the total defeat of the

Athenian fleet in the Great Harbor, in spite of the powerful fleet which

had sailed from Athens under Demosthenes. The Syracusans pursued their

advantage by blocking up the harbor, and inclosing the whole Athenian

fleet. The Athenians resolved then to force their way out, which led to

another general engagement, in which the Athenians were totally defeated.

Nicias once again attempted to force his way out, with the remainder of

his defeated fleet, but the armament was too much discouraged to obey, and

the Athenians sought to retreat by land. But all the roads were blockaded.

The miserable army, nevertheless, began its hopeless march completely

demoralized, and compelled to abandon the sick and wounded. The retreating

army was harassed on every side, no progress could be made, and the

discouraged army sought in the night to retreat by a different route. The

rear division, under Demosthenes, was overtaken and forced to surrender,

and were carried captives to Syracuse--some six thousand in number. The

next day, the first division, under Nicias, also was overtaken and made

prisoners. No less than forty thousand who had started from the Athenian

camp, six days before, were either killed or made prisoners, with the two

generals who commanded them. The prisoners at first were subjected to the

most cruel and inhuman treatment, and then sold as slaves. Both Nicias and

Demosthenes were put to death, B.C. 413.

Such was the disastrous close of the Sicilian expedition. Our

limits prevent an extended notice. We can only give the barren outline.

But never in Grecian history had so large a force been arrayed against a

foreign power, and never was ruin more complete. The enterprise was

started at the instance of Alcibiades. It was he who brought this disaster

on his country. But it would have been better to have left the expedition

to his management. Nicias was a lofty and religious man, but was no

general. He grossly mismanaged from first to last. The confidence of the

Athenians was misplaced; and he, after having spent his life in

inculcating a conservative policy, which was the wiser, yet became the

unwilling instrument of untold and unparalleled calamities. His fault was

over-confidence. He was personally brave, religious, incorruptible