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gloomy as entirely to make them imperceptible, nor yet light enough to distinguish those which were seen. The Athenians sought for one another to no purpose ; and from their often asking the word, by which only they were able to know one another, a strange confusion of sound was heard, which occasioned no little disorder; not to mention that they, by this means, divulged the word to the enemy, and could not learn theirs ; because by their being together and in a body, they had no occasion to repeat it. In the meantime, those who were pursued, threw themselves from the top of the rocks, and many were dashed to pieces by the fall ; and as most of those who escaped, straggled from one another up and down the fields and woods, they were cut to pieces the next day by the enemy's horse, who pursued them. Two thousand Athenians were slain in this engagement, and a great number of arms were taken; those who fled having thrown them away, that they might be the better able to escape over the precipices.
The Consternation with which the Athenians are seized.
They again hazard a Sea-fight and are defeated. They resolve to retire by Land. Being close pursued by the Syracusans, they surrender. Nicias and Demosthenes are sentenced to die, and executed. The Effect which the News of the Defeat of the Army produces in Athens.
a The Athenian generals, after sustaining so great a loss, were greatly perplexed, and did not know how to act in the present discouragement and despair of the troops, who died daily, either by the diseases of the autumn, or by the bad air of the fens near which they were encamped. Demosthenes was of opinion that it would be proper for them to leave the country immediately, since they had been unsuccessful in so important an enterprise; especially as the season was not too far advanced for sailing : and that they had ships enough to force a passage, in case the enemy should dispute it with them. He declared, that it would be of much greater advantage to oblige the enemy to raise their blockade of Athens, than for them to continue that of Syracuse, by which they exhausted themselves to no purpose; that he was certain they would not be reinforced by a new army; and that they could not hope to overcome the enemy with the weak one under their command.
Nicias was sensible, that the arguments his colleague useel were very just, and he himself was of his opinion : but at the same time he was afraid, lest so public à confession of jhe weak condition to which they were reduced, and their a Thucyd. l. vii. p. 518-570. Plat. in Nie. p. 538-512. Diod. p. 14%
resolution to leave Sicily, (the report of which would certainly reach the enemy) should complete the ruin of their af. fairs ; and perhaps make them unable to execute their resolution when they should attempt it. Besides, they had some little hopes left that the besieged, being themselves reduced to great extremity by their absolute want of provisions and money, would at last be inclined to surrender upon honourable terms. Thus, although he was in reality uncertain and wavering, he insinuated that he would not quit Sicily, till the Athenians should have first sent orders for that purpose ; as he well knew that otherwise they would be highly displeased: that as those who were to judge them had not been eyewitnesses of the state of things, they would be of a different opinion; and, at the instigation of some orator, certainly condemn them: that most of those men, who now exclaimed with the greatest vehemence against the difficulties they laboured under, would then change their note, and accuse them of having been bribed to raise the siege : that knowing so well, as he did, the disposition and character of the Athenians, he chose to die gloriously by the enemy's sword rather than be ignominiously condemned by his fellow-citi
These reasons, though they appeared very strong, were not yet able to convince Demosthenes ; and it was still his opinion that the only good choice they could make, would be to retire. However, as he had been unsuccessful in his former opinion, he was afraid of insisting upon this ; and he was the more inclined to accede to that of Nicias, from imagining, with many others, that this general might have some secret resource, as he was so firmly resolved to stay. a Gylippus, after having made the tour
of Sicily, had brought a great body of troops with him. This new reinforcement terrified the Athenians exceedingly, whose army diminished daily by sickness; and they now began to repent their not having raised the siege, especially as the besieged were preparing to attack them both by sea and land. Besides Nicias no longer opposed this resolution, and only desired to have it kept secret. Orders were therefore given, as privately as possible, for the fleet to prepare for setting sail with the utmost expedition.
When all things were ready, the moment they were going to set sail, (wholly unsuspected by the enemy, who were far from surmising they would leave Sicily so soon) the moon was suddenly eclipsed in the middle of the night, and lost all its splendour ; which terrified Nicias and the whole army, who, from ignorance and superstition, were astonished at so sudden a change, the causes of which they did not know,
c Thucyd. I. vii. p. 531-519. Plut. in Nic, p.538 Diod. l. xii. p. 142-6N
and therefore dreaded the consequences of it. The then consulted the soothsayers; who being equally unacquainted with the reasons of this phænomenon, only augmented their consternation. It was the custoni, after such accidents had happened, to suspend their enterprise but for three days. The soothsayers pronounced, that he must not set sail till 27 days were past, (these are Thucydides's words) which doubtless was a mysterious number in the opinion of the people. Nicias, scrupulous to a fault, and full of a mistaken veneration for these blind interpreters of the will of the gods, declared that he would wait a whole revolution of the moon, and not return till the same day of the next month; as if he had not seen the planet very clearly, the instant it had emerged from that part which was darkened by the interposition of the earth's body.
But he was not allowed time for this. The news of the intended departure of the Athenians being soon spread over the city, a resolution was taken to attack the besiegers both by sea and land. The Syracusans began the first day by attacking the intrenchinents, and gained a slight advantage over the enemy. On the morrow they made a second attack; and at the same time sailed with 76 gallies, against 86 of the Athenians. Eurymedon, who commanded the right of the Athenian fleet, having spread along the shore to surround them, this movement proved fatal to him: for as he was detached from the body of the fleet, the Syracusans, after forcing the centre, attacked him ; drove him vigorously into the gulf called Dascon, and there defeated him entirely. Eurymedon lost his life in the engagement. They afterwards gave chase to the rest of the gallies, and run them on shore. Gylippus, who commanded the land-army, seeing the Athenian gallies were forced agreunt, and not able to return into their staccado, came down with part of his troops, in order to charge the soldiers, in case they should be forced to run ashore; and to give his friends the more room to tow such gallies as they should have taken. However, he was repulsed by the Tyrrhenians, who were posted on that side ; and obliged by the Athenians, who flew to sustain them, to retire with some loss as far as the moor called Lysimelia, which lay near it. The latter saved most of their ships, 18 excepted, which were taken by the Syracusans, and their crews cut to pieces by them. After this, resolving to burn the rest, they filled an old vessel with combustible materials; and having set fire to it, they drove it by the help of the wind against the Athenians, who nevertheless extinguished the fire, and drove off the ship.
Each side erected trophies: the Syracusans for the defeat of Eurymedon, and the adrantage they had gained the day before ; and the Athenians, for their having driven part of the enemy into the moor, and put the other part to fight. But the minds of the two nations were very differently disposed. The Syracusans, who had been thrown into the utmost consternation at the arrival of Demosthenes with his feet, seeing themselves victorious in a naval engagement, resumed fresh hope, and assured themselves of a complete victory over their enemies. The Athenians, on the contrary, frustrated of their only resource, and overcome by sea so contrary to their expectations, entirely lost courage, and had Do thoughts but of retiring.
The enemy to deprive them of all resource and prevent their escaping, shut the mouth of the great harbour, which was about 500 paces wide, with gallies placed across. and other vessels fixed with anchors and iron chains, and at the same time made the requisite preparation for the battle, in case they should have courage to engage again. When the Athenians saw themselves thus hemmed in, the generals and principal officers assembled, in order to deliberate on the present state of affairs. They were in absolute want of provisions, which was owing to their having forbidden the people of Catana to bring any, from the hopes they entertained of their being able to retire, and they could not procure any from other places, unless they were masters of the sea. This made them resolve to venture a sea-fight. With this view, they were determined to leave their old camp and their walls, which extended to the temple of Hercules ; and to intrench themselves on the shore, near their ships, in the smallest compass possible. Their design was, to leave some forces in that place to guard their baggage and the sick ; and to fight with the rest on board all the ships they had remaining. They intended to retire to Catana, in case they should be victorious; otherwise, to set fire to their ships, and to march by land to the nearest city belonging to their allies.
This resolution being taken, Nicias immediately filled 110 gallies, (the others having lost their oars) with the flower of his infantry; and drew up the rest of the forces, particularly the bowmen, in order of battle on the shore. As the Athenians dreaded very much the beaks of the Syracusan gallies, Nicias had provided harping-irons to grapple them, in order to break the force of the blow, and to come immediately to close fight, as on shore. But the enemy perceiving this, covered the prows and upper part of their galljes with leather, to prevent their being so easily laid hold of. The commanders on both sides had employed all their rhetoric to animate their men; and none could ever have been prompted from stronger motives; for the battle which was going to be fought, was to determine, not only their lives and bber. ties, but also the fate of their country.
The battle was very obstinate and bloody. The Athenians being arrived at the mouth of the port, easily took those ships which defended the entrance of it; but, when they attempted to break the chain of the rest to widen the passage, the enemy came up from all quarters. As near 200 gallies came rushing on each side, in a narrow place, there must necessarily be a very great confusion; and the vessels coule not easily advance forward, or retire, nor turn about to renew the attack. The beaks of the gallies, for this reason, did very little execution; but there were very furious and frequent discharges. The Athenians were overwhelmed with a shower of stones, which always did execution from what place soever they were thrown; whereas they defended themselves only by shooting darts and arrows, which, by the motion of the ships, from the agitation of the sea, could not be well aimed, and by that means the greatest part of them did little execution. Ariston the pilot had given the Syracusans this counsel. These discharges being over, the soldiers, heavily armed, attempted to enter the enemy's ships in order to fight hand to hand: and it often happened, that whilst they were climbing up one side, their own ships were entered on the other; and two or three ships would be grappled to one, which occasioned a great perplexity and confusion. Farther, the noise of the ships that dashed one against the other, the different cries of the victors and yanquished, prevented the orders of the officers from being heard. The Athenians wanted to force a passage, whatever might be the consequence, to secure their return into their own country; and this the enemy employed their utmost efforts to prevent, in order that they inight gain a more complete and more glorious victory. The two landarmies which were drawn up on the highest part of the shore, and the inhabitants of the city who were there, ran to the walls; whilst the rest kneeling in the temples were imploring heaven to give success to their citizens; all these saw clearly, because of their little distance from the fleets, every thing that passed; and contemplated the battle as from an ampitheatre, but not without great anxiety and terror. Attentive to, and shuddering at every movement, and the several changes which happened; they discovered the interest they took in the battle, by their fears, their hopes, their grief, their joy, by diferent cries and different gestures; stretching out their hands, sometimes towards the combatants to animate them, and at other times towards heaven, to implore the succour and protection of the gods. At last, the Athenian fleet, after sustaining a long battle and a vigorous resistance, was put to flight, and driven against the shore. The Syracusans, who were spectators of this