Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

victory, conveyed to the whole city, by an universal shout, the news of this victory. The victors, now masters of the sea, and sailing with a favourable wind towards Syracuse, erected a trophy; whilst the Athenians, who were quite dejected and overpowered, did not so much as request that their dead soldiers might be delivered to them, in order to pay the last sad duty to their remains.

There now remained but two methods for them to choose; either to attempt the passage a second time, for which they had ships and soldiers sufficient, or to abandon their fleet to the enemy, and retire by land. Demosthenes proposed the former ; but the sailors, in the deepest affliction, refused to obey, fully persuaded that it would be impossible for them to sustain a second engagement. The second method was therefore resolved upon, and accordingly they prepared to set out in the night, to conceal the march of their army from the enemy.

But Hermocrates, who suspected their design, was very sensible that it was of the utmost importance not to suffer so great a body of forces to escape; since they otherwise might fortify themselves in some corner of the island, and renew the war. The Syracusans were at that time in the midst of their festivity and rejoicings; and meditating nothing but how they might best divert themselves, after the toils they had sustained in fight. They were then solemnizing the festival of Hercules. To desire the Syracusans to take up arms again, in order to pursue the enemy; and to attempt to draw them from their diversions either by force or persuasion, would have been to no purpose : for which reason another expedient was employed. Hermocrates sent but a few horsemen, who were to pass for friends of the Athenians, and ordered them to cry aloud : “ Tell Ni"cias not to retire till day-light ; for the Syracusans lie in " ambush for him, and have seized on the passes." This false advice stopt Nicias at once ; and he did not even set out the next day, in order that the soldiers might have more time to prepare for their departure; and carry off whatever might be necessary for their subsistence, and abandon the rest.

The enemy had time enough for seizing the avenues. The next morning early they possessed themselves of the most difficult passes, fortified those places where the rivers were fordable, broke down the bridges, and spread detachments of horse up and down the plain; so that there was not one place through which the Athenians could pass without fighting. They set out upon their march the third day after tiie vattle, with design to retire to Catana. The whole army in an inexpressible consternation to see such great numbers

as

of men, either dead or dying, some of whom were left exposed to wild beasts, and the rest to the cruelty of the enemy. Those who were sick and wounded conjured them with tears, to take them along with the army, and held by their clothes when they were going; or else, dragging themselves after them, followed them as far as their strength would permit ; and, when this failed, they had recourse to tears, sighs, and imprecations; and sending up towards heaven plaintive and dying groans, they called upon the gods as well as men to avenge their cruelty, whilst every place echoed with lamentations,

The whole army was in as deplorable a condition. All men were seized with the deepest melancholy. They were inwardly tortured with rage and anguish, when they represented to themselves the greatness from which they were fallen,“the extreme misery to which they were reduced, and the still greater evils from which they foresaw it would be impossible for them to escape. They could not bear the comparison, for ever present in their thoughts, of the triumphant state in which they had left Athens, in the midst of the good wishes and acclamations of the people; with the ignominy of their retreat, aggravated by the cries and imprecations of their relations and fellow-citizens.

But the most melancholy part of the spectacle, and that which most deserved compassion, was Nicias. Dejected and worn out by tedious illness ; deprived of the most necessary things, at a time when his age and infirmities required them most ; pierced, not only with his private grief, but still more with that of others, all which preyed upon his heart; this great man, superior to all his misfortunes, thought of nothing but how he might best comfort his soldiers, and revive their sourage. He ran up and down in all places, crying aloud, that matters were not yet desperate, and that other armies had escaped from greater dangers ; that they ought not to accuse themselves, or grieve immoderately, for misfortunes which they had not occasioned ; that if they had offended some god, his vengeance must be satiated by this time ; that fortune, after having so long favoured the enemy, would at last be tired of persecuting them ; that their bravery and their numbers made them still formidable, (being still near 40,000 strong ;) that no city in Sicily would be able to withstand them, nor prevent their settling wherever they might, think proper ; that they had no more to do, but to take care severally of themselves, and march in good order ; that by a prudent and courageous retreat, which was now become their only resource, they would not only save themselves, but also their country, and enable it to recover its former grandeur.

The army

marched in two bodies, both drawn up in the form of a phalanx ; the first being commanded by Nicias, and the second by Demosthenes, with the baggage in the centre. Being come to the river Anapis, they forced the passage, and afterwards were attacked by all the enemy's cavalry, as well as archers, who discharged perpetually upon them. They were annoyed in this manner during several days' march"; every one of the passes being guarded, and the Athenians being obliged to dispute every inch of their way. The enemy were unwilling to hazard a battle against an army which despair alone might render invincible ; and, the instant the Athenians presented the Syracusans battle, the latter retired ; but whenever the former proceeded on their march, they advanced and charged them in their retreat.

Demosthenes and Nicias, seeing the miserable condition to which the troops were reduced, being in extreme want of provisions, and great numbers of them wounded, judged it advisable to retire towards the sea, by a quite contrary way to that in which they then marched, and to make directly for Camarina and Gela, instead of proceeding to Catana, as they first intended. They set out in the night, after lighting a great number of fires. The retreat was made in gre confusion and disorder, as generally happens to great armies during the gloomy horrors of the night, especially when the enemy is not far off. However, the van-guard, commanded by Nícias, went forward in good order ; but above half the rear-guard, with Demosthenes at their head, quitted the main body, and lost their way. On the next day the Syracusans, who, on the report of their retreat, had marched with extraordinary diligence, came up with him about noon, and having surrounded him with their horse, they drove him into a narrow place inclosed with a wall, where his soldiers fought like lions. Perceiving, at the close of the day, that they were oppressed with the fatigue, and covered with wounds, they gave the islanders leave to retire, which some of them accepted ; and afterwards spared the lives of the rest, who surrendered at discretion with Demosthenes, after having stipulated, that they should not be put to death, nor sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. About 6,000 soldiers surrendered on these conditions.

Nicias arrived on the same evening at the river Erineus, and passing it, encamped on a mountain, where the enemy came up with him the next day, and summoned him to surrender at discretion, as Demosthenes had done. Nicias could not persuade himself at first, that what they told him concerning that general was true, and therefore desired leave to send some horse for information. Upon their re

VOL, III.

z

turning with the news that Demosthenes had really surrendered in that manner, Nicias offered to pay the expenses of the war, upon condition that they would permit him to leave the country with his forces, and to give as many Athenians for hostages, as he should be obliged to pay talents. But the enemy rejected this proposal with disdain and insolence, and renewed the attack. Nicias, though in absolute want of all things, nevertheless sustained the charge the whole night, and marched towards the river Asinarus. When they were got to the banks of it, the Syracusans advancing up to them, drove most of them into the stream ; the rest having already plunged voluntarily into it to quench their thirst. Here the greatest and most bloody carnage was made, the poor wretches being butchered without the least pity as they were drinking. Nicias, finding all lost, and unable to bear this dismal spectacle, surrendered at discretion; upon condition that Gylippus should discontinue the fight, and spare the rest of his army. A great number were killed, and more taken prisoners, so that all Sicily was filled with them. u The Athenians seem to have been displeased with their general, for surrendering in this mamer at discretion; and, for this reason his name was omitted in a public monument, on which were engraved the names of those commanders who had lost their lives in fighting for their country.

The victors adorned, with the arms taken from the prisoners, the finest and largest trees they could find on the banks of the rivers, and made a kind of trophies of those trees, and crowning themselves with chaplets of flowers, dressing their horses in the richest caparisons, and cropping the månes of those of their enemies, they entered triumphantly into Syracuse, after having happily terminated the most considerable war in which they had ever been engaged with the Greeks ; and won, by their strength and valour, a most signal and most complete victory. The next day a council was held, to deliberate on what was to be done with the prisoners. Diocles, one of the leaders of greatest authority among the people, proposed, that all the Athenians who were born of free parents, and all such Sicilians as had joined with them, should be imprisoned in the quarries, and only two measures of flour, and one of water, given them daily; that the slaves and all the allies should be publicly sold; and that the two Athenian generals should be first Scourged with rods, and afterwards put to death.

6. This last article was exceedingly disliked by all wise and moderate Syracusans. Hermocrates, who was very famous jor his probity and justice, attempted to make some remo

a Diad, l. xiji. p. 249r101.

4 Pausan. l. i. p. 58

[ocr errors]

strances to the people, but they would not hear him; anci the shouts which echoed on all sides, prevented him from continuing his speech. At that instant an a ancient man, venerable for his great age and gravity, who, in this war, had lost two sons, the only heirs to his name and estate, made his servants carry him to the tribunal, and the instant he appeared a profound silence ensued. "You here behold,” says

he, an unfortunate father, who has felt, more than any other Syracusan, the fatal effects of this war by the “ death of two sons, who formed all the consolation, and

were the only supports of my old age. I cannot indeed

forbear admiring their courage and felicity, in sacrificing, " to their country's welfare, a life of which they would one

day have been deprived by the common course of nature: " but then I cannot but be strongly affected with the cruel * wound which their death has made in my heart; nor for" bear hating and detesting the Athenians, the authors of " this unhappy war, as the murderers of my children. But “ however, I cannot conceal one circumstance, which is, " that I am less sensible to my private affliction, than to the “honour of my country: and I see it exposed to eternal in

famy, by the barbarous advice which is now given you. “The Athenians indeed merit the worst treatment, and

every kind of punishment that can be inflicted on them, " for so unjustly declaring war against us ; but have not the

gods, the just avengers of crimes, punished them and revenged us sufficiently? When their generals laid down their arms, and surrendered, did they not do this in the

hopes of having their lives spared ? And, if we put them " to death, will it be possible for us to avoid the just reproach, of our having violated the law of nations, and dis

honoured our victory by an unheard-of cruelty? What! “ Will you suffer your glory to be thus sullied in the face of a the whole world'; and have it said, that a nation, who first " dedicated a temple in their city to Clemency, found not

any in your's? Surely victories and triumphs do not give "immortal glory to a city ; but the exercising mercy to"wards a vanquished enemy, the using nioderation in the

greatest prosperity, and fearing to offend the gods by a haughty and insolent pride. You doubtless have not forgotten that this Nicias, whose fate you are going to pronounce, was the very man who pleaded your cause in the

assembly of the Athenians; and employed all his credit, " and the whole power of his eloquence, to dissuade his

country from embarking in this war. Should you there"fore pronounce sentence of death on this worthy general, "would it be a just reward for the zeal he showed for yoitr

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a Nicolaus.

« AnteriorContinuar »