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training-but citizens with all their passions, instincts, sympathies, joys, and sorrows, of domestic as well as political life. Moreover the non-military population in ancient times had an interest of the most intense kind in the result of the struggle; which made the difference to them, if not of life and death, at least of the extremity of happiness and misery. Hence the strong light and shade, the Homeric exhibition of undisguised impulse, the tragic detail of personal motive and suffering, which pervades this and other military descriptions of Thucydidês. When we read the few but most vehement words which he employs to depict the Athenian camp under this fearful trial, we must recollect that these were not only men whose all was at stake, but that they were moreover citizens full of impressibility-sensitive and demonstrative Greeks, and indeed the most sensitive and demonstrative of all Greeks. To repress all manifestations of strong emotion was not considered, in ancient times, essential to the dignity of the human character.

Causes of

the defeat

of the


Amidst all the deep pathos, however, which the great historian has imparted to the final battle at Syracuse, he has not explained the causes upon which its ultimate issue turned. Considering that the Athenians were superior to their enemies in number, as 110 to 76 triremes-that they fought with courage not less heroic-and that the action was on their own element; we might have anticipated for them, if not a victory, at least a drawn battle, with equal loss on both sides. But we may observe-1. The number of 110

triremes was

formed by including some hardly seaworthy'. 2. The crews were composed partly of men not used to sea-service; and the Akarnanian darters, especially, were for this reason unhandy with their missiles. 3. Though the water had been hitherto the element favourable to Athens, yet her superiority in this respect was declining, and her enemies approaching nearer to her, even in the open sea. But the narrow dimensions of the harbour would have nullified her superiority at all times, and placed her even at great disadvantage-without the means of twisting and turning her triremes so as to strike only at a vulnerable point of the enemy-compared with the thick, heavy, straightforward butting of the Syracusans; like a nimble pugilist of light weight contending, in a very confined ring, against superior weight and muscle3. For the mere land-fight on ship-board, Athenians had not only no advantage, but had on the contrary the odds against them. 4. The Syracusans enjoyed great advantage from having nearly the whole harbour lined round with their soldiers and friends; not simply from the force of

1 Thucyd. vii. 50. τὰς ναῦς ἁπάσας ὅσαι ἦσαν καὶ δυναταὶ καὶ ἀπλοώτεραι.

2 Thucyd. vii. 60. πάντα τινα ἐσβιβάζοντες πληρῶσαι—ἀναγκάσαντες ἐσβαίνειν ὅστις καὶ ὁπωσοῦν ἐδόκει ἡλικίας μετέχων ἐπιτήδειος eival. Compare also the speech of Gylippus, c. 67.

The language of Theokritus, in describing the pugilistic contest between Pollux and the Bebrykian Amykus, is not inapplicable to the position of the Athenian ships and seamen when cramped up in this harbour (Idyll. xxii. 91):—


ἐκ δ ̓ ἑτέρωθεν
Ἥρωες κρατερὸν Πολυδεύκεα θαρσύνεσκον,
Δειδιότες μή πώς μιν ἐπιβρίσας δαμάσειεν,

Χώρῳ ἐνὶ στεινῷ, Τιτύῳ ἐναλίγκιος ἀνήρ.
Compare Virgil's picture of Entellus and Darês, Æneid, v. 430.


encouraging sympathy, no mean auxiliary-but because any of their triremes, if compelled to fall back before an Athenian, found protection on the shore, and could return to the fight at leisure; while an Athenian in the same predicament had no escape. 5. The numerous light craft of the Syracusans doubtless rendered great service in this battle, as they had done in the preceding-though Thucydidês does not again mention them. 6. Lastly, both in the Athenian and Syracusan characters-the pressure of necessity was less potent as a stimulus to action, than hopeful confidence and elation, with the idea of a flood-tide yet mounting. In the character of some other races, the Jews for instance, the comparative force of these motives appears to be reversed.

the victors


About 60 Athenian triremes, little more than Feelings of half of the fleet which came forth, were saved as and vanthe wreck from this terrible conflict. The Syra- after the cusans on their part had also suffered severely; only battle. 50 triremes remaining out of 76. The triumph with which, nevertheless, on returning to the city, they erected their trophy, and the exultation which reigned among the vast crowds encircling the harbour, was beyond all measure or precedent. Its clamorous manifestations were doubtless but too well heard in the neighbouring camp of the Athenians, and increased, if anything could increase, the soulsubduing extremity of distress which paralysed the vanquished. So utterly did the pressure of suffering, anticipated as well as actual, benumb their minds and extinguish their most sacred associations, that no man among them, not even the ultra

ment are too much discouraged to obey.

religious Nikias, thought of picking up the floating bodies or asking for a truce to bury the dead. This obligation, usually so serious and imperative upon the survivors after a battle, now passed unheeded amidst the sorrow, terror, and despair, of the living man for himself.


of Demo

Nikias to

make a second

the arma

Such despair, however, was not shared by the sthenes and generals; to their honour be it spoken. On the afternoon of this terrible defeat, Demosthenês proattempt posed to Nikias that at day-break the ensuing morning they should man all the remaining ships -even now more in number than the Syracusanand make a fresh attempt to break out of the harbour. To this Nikias agreed, and both proceeded to try their influence in getting the resolution executed. But so irreparably was the spirit of the seamen broken, that nothing could prevail upon them to go again on ship-board: they would hear of nothing but attempting to escape by land'. Preparations were therefore made for commencing their march in the darkness of that very night. The roads were still open, and had they so marched, a portion of them, at least, might even yet have been saved. But there occurred one more mistakeone farther postponement-which cut off the last The Athe hopes of this gallant and fated remnant.

nians deter

mine to

retreat by

The Syracusan Hermokratês, fully anticipating land-they that the Athenians would decamp that very night, was eager to prevent their retreat, because of the mischief which they might do if established in any other part of Sicily. He pressed Gylippus and the from Syra- military authorities to send out forthwith, and block

postpone their retreat, under false communications


1 Thucyd. vii. 72.

2 Diodor. xiii. 18.

up the principal roads, passes, and fords, by which the fugitives would get off. Though sensible of the wisdom of his advice, the generals thought it wholly unexecutable. Such was the universal and unbounded joy which now pervaded the city, in consequence of the recent victory, still farther magnified by the circumstance that the day was sacred to Heraklês-so wild the jollity, the feasting, the intoxication, the congratulations, amidst men rewarding themselves after their recent effort and triumph, and amidst the necessary care for the wounded-that an order to arm and march out would have been as little heeded as the order to go on shipboard was by the desponding Athenians. Perceiving that he could get nothing done until the next morning, Hermokratês resorted to a stratagem in order to delay the departure of the Athenians for that night. At the moment when darkness was beginning, he sent down some confidential friends on horseback to the Athenian wall. These men, riding up near enough to make themselves heard, and calling for the sentries, addressed them as messengers from the private correspondents of Nikias in Syracuse, who had sent to warn him (they affirmed) not to decamp during the night, inasmuch as the Syracusans had already beset and occupied the roads; but to begin his march quietly the next morning after adequate preparation'.

The Syra


This fraud (the same as the Athenians had themselves practised two years before, in order to tempt block up the Syracusans to march out against Katana) was to intercept perfectly successful: the sincerity of the informa- their

the roads,



'Thucyd. vii. 73; Diodor. xiii. 18.

Thucyd. vi. 64

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