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The empire and commercial supremacy of Athens had, as we have seen, swiftly drawn a war upon herself and Greece. That war had been indecisive; it had taught her some lessons, but it had not cooled her ambition or crippled her trade; and it was therefore inevitable that she should have to fight again. We have now to follow the second phase of the struggle, up to the culmination of that antagonism between Dorian and Ionian, of which the Greeks of this period never lost sight.


Sect. 1. The Prelude of the War

 The incidents which led up to the “Peloponnesian War” arc connected with two Corinthian colonies, Corcyra and Potidaea: Corcyra which had always been an unfilial daughter; Potidaea which, though maintaining friendly relations with Corinth, had become a member of the Athenian Confederacy.

( 1 ) One of those party struggles in an insignificant city, which in Greece were often the occasion of wars between great states, had taken place in Epidamnus, a colony of Corcyra. The people, harassed by the banished nobles and their barbarian allies, asked help from their mother-city. Corcyra refused, and Epidamnus turned to.


The Corinthians sent troops and a number of new colonists. The Corcyraeans, highly resenting this interference, demanded their dismissal, and when the demand was refused, blockaded the isthmus of Epidamnus. Corinth then made preparations for an expedition against Corcyra; and Corcyra in alarm sent envoys to Corinth, proposing to refer the matter for arbitration to such Peloponnesian states as both should agree upon. But the Corinthians refused the arbitration, and sent a squadron of seventy-five ships with 2000 hoplites against the Corcyraeans. The powerful navy of Corcyra consisted of 120 ships, of which forty were besieging Epidamnus. With the remaining eighty they won a complete victory over the Corinthians outside the Ambracian gulf and on the same day Epidamnus surrendered. During the rest of the year Corcyra had command of the Ionian sea and her triremes sailed about damaging the allies of Corinth. But Corinth began to prepare for a greater effort against her powerful and detested colony. The work of preparation went on for two years. The report of the ships she was building and the navies she was hiring frightened Corcyra. For, while Corinth had the Peloponnesian league at her back, Corcyra had no allies, and belonged neither to the Athenian nor to the Spartan league. It was her obvious policy to seek a connexion with Athens, and she determined to do so. The Corinthians hearing of this intention, tried to thwart it; for they had good reason to fear a combination of the Athenian with the Corcyraean navy. And so it came to pass that the envoys of Corcyra and Corinth appeared together before the Assembly of Athens.

The arguments which Thucydides has put into their mouths express clearly the bearings of the situation and the importance of the decision for Athens. The main argument for accepting the proffered alliance of Corcyra depends on the assumption that war is imminent.

“The Lacedaemonians, fearing the growth of your empire, are eager to take up arms, and the Corinthians, who are your enemies, are all powerful with them. They begin with us, but they will go on to you, that we may not stand united against them in the bond of a common enmity. And it is our business to strike first, and to forestall their designs instead of waiting to counteract them.”

On this assumption, the alliance of Corcyra offers great advantages. It lies conveniently on the route to Sicily, and it possesses one of the only three considerable navies in Greece.

“If the Corinthians get hold of our fleet, and you allow the two to become one, you will have to fight against the united navies of Corcyra and the Peloponnesus. But if you make us your allies, you will have our navy in addition to your own ranged at your side in the impending conflict.”

The reply of the Corinthian ambassadors was weak. Their appeal to certain past services that Corinth had rendered to Athens could hardly have much effect; for there was nothing but jealousy between the two cities. They might deprecate, but they could not disprove, the notion that Athens would soon have a war with the Peloponnesus on her hands. And as for justice, Corcyra could make as plausible a case as Corinth. The most cogent argument for Corinth was that if Athens allied herself with Corcyra she would take a step which if not in itself violating the Thirty Years’ Peace would necessarily involve a violation of it.

After two debates the Assembly agreed to an alliance with Corcyra, but of a defensive kind. Athens was only to give armed help, in case Corcyra itself were threatened. By this decision she avoided a direct violation of the treaty. Ten ships were sent to Corcyra with orders not to fight unless Corcyra or some of the places belonging to it were attacked. A great and tumultuous naval engagement ensued near the islet of Sybota, between Leucimme, the south-eastern promontory of Corcyra, and the Thesprotian mainland. A Corcyraean fleet of 110 ships was ranged against a Corinthian of 150—the outcome of two years of preparation. The right wing of the Corcyraeans was worsted, and the ten Athenian ships, which had held aloof at first, interfered to prevent its total discomfiture. In the evening the sudden sight of twenty new Athenian ships on the horizon caused the Corinthians to retreat, and the next day they declined battle. This seemed an admission of defeat, and justified the Corcyraeans in raising a trophy; but the Corinthians also raised a trophy, for they had come off best in the battle. They returned home then, and on their way captured Anactorion, which Corcyra and Corinth held in common. Corinth treated the Corcyraeans who had been taken captive in the battle with great consideration. Most of them were men of importance and it was hoped that through them Corcyra might ultimately be won over to friendship with Corinth. It will be seen afterwards that the hope was not ill-founded. 

(2) The breach with Corinth forced Athens to look to the security of her interests in the Chalcidic peninsula, where Corinth had a great deal of influence. The city of Potidaea, which occupies and guards the isthmus of Pallene, was a tributary ally of Athens, but received its annual magistrates from its mother-city, Corinth. Immediately after the battle of Sybota, Athens required the Potidaeans to raze the city-walls on the south side where they were not needed for protection against Macedonia, and to abandon the system of Corinthian magistrates. The Potidaeans refused; they were supported by the promise of Sparta to invade Attica, in case Potidaea were attacked by Athens. But the situation was complicated by the policy of the Macedonian king, Perdiccas, who had been formerly the friend of Athens but was now her adversary, because she had befriended his brothers who were leagued against him. He conceived and organised a general revolt of Chalcidice against Athens; and even persuaded the Chalcidians to pull down their cities on the coast and concentrate themselves in the strong inland town of Olynthus. Thus the revolt  of Potidaea, while it has its special causes in connexion with the enmity of Athens and Corinth, under another  aspect forms part of a general movement in that quarter against the Athenian dominion.

The Athenians began operations in Macedonia, but soon advanced against Potidaea and gained an advantage over the Corinthian general, Aristeus, who had arrived with some Peloponnesian forces. This battle has a particular interest; for a graven stone still speaks to us of the sorrow of Athens for the men who fell fighting foremost before Potidaea’s walls and  “giving their lives in barter for glory ennobled their country.” The Athenians then invested the city. So far the Corinthians had acted alone. Now, seeing the danger of Potidaea, they took active steps to incite the Lacedaemonians to declare war against Athens.

Pericles knew that war was coming, and he promptly struck—not with sword or spear, but with a more cruel and deadly weapon. Megara had assisted Corinth at the battle of Sybota; the Athenians passed a measure excluding the Megarians from the markets and ports of their empire. The decree spelt economical ruin to Megara, and Megara was an important member of the Peloponnesian league; the Athenian statesman knew how to strike. The comic poets sang how

The Olympian Pericles in wrath

Fulmined o’er Greece and set her in a broil

With statutes worded like a drinking catch :

No Megarian on land 

Nor in market shall stand

Nor sail on the sea nor set foot on the strand. 

The allies appeared at Sparta and brought formal charges against Athens of having broken the Thirty Years’ Peace and committed various acts of injustice. Some Athenian envoys who were at Sparta—ostensibly for other business—were given an opportunity of replying. But arguments and recriminations were superfluous; it did not matter in the least whether Athens could defend this transaction or Corinth could make good that charge. For in the case of an inevitable war the causes openly alleged seldom correspond with the motives which really govern. It was not the Corcyraean incidents, or the siege of Potidaea, or the Megarian decree that caused the Peloponnesian War, though jointly they hastened its outbreak; it was the fear and jealousy of the Athenian power. The only question was whether it was the right hour to engage in that unavoidable struggle. The Spartan king, Archidamus, advised delay. “Do not take up arms yet. War is not an affair of arms, but of money which gives to arms their use, and which is needed: above all things when a continental is fighting against a maritime power. Let us find money first, and then we may safely allow our minds to be excited by the speeches of our allies”. But the ephors were in favour of war. Sthenelaidas, in a short and pointed speech, put the question, not, Shall we declare war? but Has the treaty been broken and are the Athenians in the wrong? It was decided that the Athenians were in the wrong, and this decision necessarily, led to a declaration of war. But before that declaration was made, the approval of the Delphic oracle was gained, and a general assembly of the allies gathered at Sparta and agreed to the war.

Thucydides chose the setting well for his brilliant contrast between the characters and spirits and aims of the two great protagonists who now prepare to stand face to face on the stage of Hellenic history. He makes the Corinthian envoys, at the first assembly in Sparta, the spokesmen of his comparison. “You have never considered, O Lacedaemonians, what manner of men are these Athenians with whom you will have to fight, and how utterly unlike yourselves. They are revolutionary, equally quick in the conception and in the execution of every new plan; while you are conservative—careful only to keep what you have, originating nothing, and not acting even when action is most necessary. They are bold beyond heir strength; they run risks which prudence would condemn; and in the midst of misfortune they are full of hope. Whereas it is your nature, though strong to act feebly; when your plans are most prudent, to distrust them; and when calamities come upon you, to think that you will never be delivered from them. They are impetuous and you are dilatory; they are always abroad, and you are always at home. For they hope to gain something by leaving their homes; but you are afraid that any new enterprise may imperil what you have already. When conquerors, they pursue their victory to the utmost; when defeated, they fall back the least. Their bodies they devote to the country, as though they belonged to other men; their true self is their mind, which is most truly their own when employed in her service. When they do not carry out an intention which they have formed, they seem to have sustained a personal bereavement; when an enterprise succeeds they have gained a mere instalment of what is to come; but if they fail, they at once conceive new hopes and so fill up the void. With them alone to hope is to have, for they lose not a moment in the execution of an idea. This is the lifelong task, full of danger and toil, which they are always imposing upon themselves. None enjoy their good things less, because they are always seeking for more. To do their duty is their only holiday, and they deem the quiet of inaction to be as disagreeable as the most tiresome business. If a man should say of them, in a word, that they were born neither to have peace themselves nor to allow peace to other men, he would simply speak the truth.”

On the present occasion, however, the Athenians did not give an example of that promptness in action which is contrasted in this passage with the dilatory habits of the Spartans; we shall presently see why. It was the object of Sparta to gain time; accordingly she sent embassies to Athens with trivial demands. She required the Athenians to drive out the “curse of the goddess,” which rested on the family of the Alcmaeonidae. This was a raking up of history, three centuries old—the episode of Cylon’s conspiracy ; the point of it lay in the fact that Pericles, on his mother’s side, belonged to the accursed family. Athens replied by equally trivial demands—the purification of the curse of Athena of the Brazen House, and of the curse of Taenarus, where some Helots had been murdered in the temple of Poseidon. These amenities, which served the purpose of Sparta by gaining time, were followed by an ultimatum in the sense that Athens might still have peace if she restored the independence of the Hellenes. There was a peace party at Athens, but Pericles carried the day. “Let us send the ambassadors away”— he said—“giving them this answer : That we will not exclude the Megarians from our markets and harbours, if the Lacedaemonians will not exclude foreigners, whether ourselves or our allies, from Sparta; for the treaty no more forbids the one than the other. That we will concede independence to the cities, if they were independent when we made the treaty, and as soon as the Lacedaemonians allow their subject states to be governed as they choose, not for the interest of Lacedaemon but for their own. Also that we are willing to offer arbitration according to the treaty. And that we did not want to begin the war, but intend to defend ourselves if attacked. This answer will be just and befits the dignity of the city. We must be aware, however, that the war will come; and the more willing we are to accept the situation, the less ready will our enemies be to lay hands upon us.” Pericles was in no haste to draw the sword; he had delivered a blow already by the Megarian decree.

The peoples of Greece were parted as follows on the sides of the two chief antagonists. Sparta commanded the whole Peloponnesus, except her old enemy Argos, and Achaea; she commanded the Isthmus, for she had both Corinth and Megara; in northern Greece she had Boeotia, Phocis, and Locris; in western Greece, Ambracia, Anactorion, and the island of Leucas. In western Greece, Athens commanded the Acarnanians, Corcyra, and Zacynthus, as well as the Messenians of Naupactus; in northern Greece she had Plataea; and these were her only allies beyond her confederacy. Of that confederacy Lesbos and Chios were now the only two independent states. In addition to the navies of Lesbos, Chios, and Corcyra, Athens had 300 ships of her own.


Sect. 2. General View of the War. Thucydides

The war on which "we are now entering is a resumption, on a somewhat greater scale, of the war which was concluded by the Thirty Years’ Peace. Here too the Corinthians are the most active instigators of the opposition to Athens. The Spartans are but half-hearted leaders, and have to be spurred by their allies. The war lasted ten years, and is concluded by the Peace of Nicias. But hostilities begin again, and pass for a time to a new scene of warfare, the island of Sicily. This war ends with the battle of Aegospotami, which decided the fate of the Athenian empire. Thus during fifty-five years Athens was contending for her empire with the Peloponnesians, and this conflict falls into three distinct wars : the first ending with the Thirty Years’ Peace, the second with the Peace of Nicias, the third with the battle of Aegospotami. But while there is a break of thirteen years between the first war and the second, there is hardly any break between the second war and the third. Hence the second and the third, which have been united in the History of Thucydides, are generally grouped closely together and called by the common name of the “Peloponnesian War.” This name is never used by Thucydides; but it shows how Athenian the sympathies of historians have always been. From the Peloponnesian point of view the  conflict would be called the “Attic War.”

It will not be amiss to repeat here what the true cause of the struggle was. Athens was resolved to maintain, in spite of Greece, her naval empire; and thus far she was responsible. But there is no reason to suppose that she had any design of seriously increasing her empire; and the idea of some modern historians that Pericles undertook the war in the hope of winning supremacy over all Hellas is contrary to the plain facts of the case.

This war has attained a celebrity in the world’s history which, considering its scale and its consequences, may seem unmerited. A domestic war between small Greek states may be thought a slight matter indeed, compared with the struggle in which Greece was arrayed against the might of Persia. But the Peloponnesian war has had an advantage which has been granted to no other episode in the history of the world. It has been recorded by the first and the greatest of all critical historians. To read the book which Thucydides, the son of Olorus, has bequeathed to posterity is in itself a liberal education; a lesson in politics and history which is, as he aimed to make it, “a possession for ever.” Only a few years can have separated the day on which Herodotus completed his work and the day on which Thucydides began his. But from the one to the other there is a sheer leap. When political events have passed through the brain of Herodotus, they come out as delightful stories. With the insatiable curiosity of an inquirer, he has little political insight; he has the instinct of a literary artist, his historical methods are rudimentary. The splendid work of Herodotus has more in common with the epic poets who went before him than with the historians who came after him. When he began to collect material for his history, the event of the Persian invasion were already encircled with a halo of legend so that he had a subject thoroughly to his taste. It is a strange sensation to turn from the native, uncritical, entrancing story-teller of Halicarnassus to the grave historian of Athens. The first History in the true sense of the word, sprang full-grown into life, like Athena from the brain of Zeus; and it is still without a rival. Severe in its reserves, written from a purely intellectual point of view, unencumbered with platitudes and moral judgments, cold and critical, but exhibiting the rarest powers of dramatic and narrative art, the work of Thucydides is at every point a contrast to the work of Herodotus. Mankind might well despair if the science of criticism had not advanced further since the days of Thucydides; and we are not surprised to find that when he deals, on the threshold of his work, with the earlier history of Greece, he fails to carry his skeptical treatment far enough and accepts some traditions which on his own principles he should have questioned. But the interval which divides Thucydides from his elder contemporary Herodotus is a whole heaven; the interval which divides Thucydides from a critic of our own day is cannot disguise that he was a democrat of the Periclean school; he makes no secret of his admiration for the political wisdom of Pericles.

It must be granted that the incidents of the war would lose something of their interest, that the whole episode would be shorn of much of its dignity and eminence, if Thucydides had not deigned to be its historian. But it was not a slight or unworthy theme. It is the story of the decline and fall of the Athenian empire, and at this period Athens is the centre of ecumenical history. The importance of the war is not impaired by the smallness of the states, which were involved in it. For in these small states lived those political ideas and institutions which concerned the future development of mankind far more than any movements in barbarous kingdoms, however great their territory.

The war of ten years, which now began, may seem at first sight to have consisted of a number of disconnected and haphazard incidents. But both the Athenians and the Peloponnesians had definite objects in view. Their plans were determined by the nature of their own resources, and by the geography of the enemy’s territories.

The key to the war is the fundamental fact that it was waged between a power which was mainly continental and a power which was operations mainly maritime. From the nature of the case, the land-power obliged to direct its attacks chiefly on the continental possessions of the sea-power, while the sea-power has to confine itself to attacking the maritime possessions of the land-power. It follows that the small land army of the sea-power, and the small fleet of the land-power, are each mainly occupied with the work of defence, and are seldom free to act on the offensive. Hence the maritime possessions of the maritime power and the inland possessions of the continental power are not generally the scene of warfare. These considerations simplify the war. The points at which the Peloponnesians can attack Athens with their land forces are Attica itself and Thrace. Accordingly Attica is invaded almost every year, and there is constant warfare in Thrace; but the war is hardly ever carried into the Aegean or to the Asiatic coast, except in consequence of some special circumstance, such as the revolt of an Athenian ally. On the other hand the offensive operations of Athens are mainly in the west of Greece, about the islands of the Ionian sea and near the mouth of the Corinthian gulf. That was the region where they had the best prospect, by their naval superiority, of detaching members from the Peloponnesian alliance. Thrace, Attica, and the seas of western Greece are therefore the chief and constant scenes of the war. There are episodes elsewhere, but they are to some extent accidental.

Pericles had completely abandoned the policy of continental enterprise which had led up to the Thirty Years’ Peace. That enterprise had been a departure from the policy, initiated by Themistocles of concentrating all the energy of Athens on the development of the naval power. Pericles returned to this policy without reserve, and he appears, at the outbreak of the war, under the inspiration of the Salaminian spirit. Athens is now to show the same extreme independence of her land, the same utter confidence in her ships, which she had shown when the Mede approached her borders. “Let us give up lands and houses,” said Pericles, “but keep a watch over the city and the sea. We should not under any irritation at the loss of our property give battle to the Peloponnesians, who far outnumber us. Mourn not for houses or lands, but for men; men may give these, but these will not give men. If I thought that you would listen to me, I would say to you : Go yourselves and destroy them, and thereby prove to the Peloponnesians that none of these things will move you.” For “such is the power which the empire of the sea gives.” This was the spirit in which Pericles undertook the war.

The policy of sacrificing Attica was no rash or perverse audacity; it was only part of a well-considered system of strategy, for which Pericles has been severely blamed. His object was to wear out the enemy, not to attempt to subjugate or decisively defeat. He was determined not to court a great battle, for which the land forces of Athens were manifestly insufficient : on land Boeotia alone was a match for her. He adopted the strategy of “exhaustion,” as it has been called,—the strategy which consists largely in manoeuvring, and considers the economy of one’s own forces as solicitously as the damaging of the foe; which will accept battle only under certain conditions; which is always on the watch for favourable opportunities but avoids great risks. The more we reflect on the conditions of the struggle and the nature of the Athenian resources, the more fully will the plan of Pericles approve itself as the strategy uniquely suitable to the circumstances. Nor will the criticism that he neglected the land defences of Attica, and the suggestion that he should have fortified the frontier against invasions, bear close examination. The whole Athenian land army would have been required to garrison both the Megarian and Boeotian frontiers, and there would have been no troops left for operations elsewhere. Nor would it have been easy for a citizen army to abide on duty, as would in this case have been necessary, for a large part of the year. It was quite in accord with the spirit of the patient strategy of Pericles that he refrained from the temptation of striking a blow at the enemy, when they had resolved on war but were not yet prepared. One effective blow he had indeed struck, the decree against Megara; to damage the foe commercially was an essential part of his method. Within a few years this method would doubtless have been crowned with success and brought about a peace favourable to Athens, but for untoward events which he could not foresee.


Sect. 3. The Theban Attack on Plataea, 431 B.C.

The declaration of war between the two great states of Greece was a signal to smaller states to profit by the situation for the gratification of their private enmities. On a dark moonless night, in the early spring, a band of 300 Thebans entered Plataea, invited and admitted by a small party in the city. Instead of at once attacking the chiefs of the party which supported the Athenian alliance, they took up their post in the agora and made a proclamation, calling upon the Plataeans to join the Boeotian league. The Plataeans, as a people, with the exception of a few malcontents, were cordially attached to Athens; but they were surprised, and in the darkness of the night exaggerated the numbers of the Thebans.

They acceded to the Theban demand, but in the course of the negotiation discovered how few the enemies were. Breaking down the party-walls between their houses, so as not to attract notice by moving in the streets, they concerted a plan of action. When all was arranged, they barricaded the streets leading to the agora with waggons, and then attacked the enemy before dawn. The Thebans were soon dispersed. They lost their way in the strange town and wandered about, pelted by women from the house-tops, through narrow streets deep in mud, for heavy rain had fallen during the night. A few clambered up the city wall and cast themselves down on the other side. But the greater number rushed through the door of a large building, mistaking it for one of the town-gates, and were thus captured alive by the Plataeans. A few escaped who reached an unguarded gate, and cut the wooden bolt with an axe which a woman gave them.

The 300 were only the vanguard of a large Theban force  which was advancing slowly in the rain along the eight miles of road which lay between Thebes and Plataea. They were delayed by the crossing of the swollen Asopus river, and they arrived too late. The Plataeans sent out a herald to them requiring them to do no injury to Plataean property outside the walls, if they valued the lives of the Theban prisoners. According to the Theban account, the Plataeans definitely promised to restore the prisoners, when the troops evacuated their territory. But the Plataeans afterwards denied this, and said that they merely promised (without the sanction of an oath) to restore the prisoners in case they came to an agreement after negotiation. It matters little. The Plataeans as soon as they had conveyed all their property into the city, put their prisoners to death, 180 in number. Even on their own showing they were clearly guilty of an act of ill faith, which is explained by the deep hatred existing between the two states. A message had been immediately sent to Athens. The Athenians seized all the Boeotians in Attica, and sent a herald to Plataea bidding them not to injure their prisoners; but the herald found the Thebans dead. The Athenians immediately set Plataea ready for a siege. They provisioned it with corn; removed the women, children, and old men; and sent a garrison of eighty Athenians.

The Theban attack on Plataea was a glaring violation of the Thirty Years’ Peace, and it hastened the outbreak of the war. Greece was now in a state of intense excitement at the approaching struggle of the two leading cities; oracles flew about; and a recent earthquake in Delos was supposed to be significant. Public opinion was generally favourable to the Lacedaemonians, who seemed to be the champions of liberty against a tyrannical city.

Both sides meditated enlisting the aid of Persia. The Lacedaemonians negotiated with the states of Italy and Sicily, for the purpose of obtaining a large navy to crush the Athenians. But this scheme also fell through; the cities of the west were too busy with their own political interests to send ships and money to old Greece. Athens indeed had also cast her eyes westward; and when she embraced the alliance of Corcyra, she seems to have been forming connexions with Sicily. At all events, in the same year ambassadors of Rhegium and Leontini appeared together at Athens; and at the same meeting of the Assembly alliances were formed with both cities on the proposal of Callias. The object of Chalcidian Leontini was doubtless to gain support against Corinthian Syracuse; while the motive of Rhegium may have been connected with the affairs of Thurii, the rebellious daughter of Athens herself. But these alliances led to no action of Athens in the west for six years to come.


Sect. 4. The Plague

When the corn was ripe, in the last days of May, king Archidamus with two-thirds of the Peloponnesian army invaded Attica. From the isthmus he had sent on Melesippus to Athens, if even at the last hour the Athenians might yield. But Pericles had persuaded them to receive no embassies, once the enemy were in the field; the envoy had to leave the borders of Attica before the sun set. And Thucydides, after the manner of Herodotus, marks the formal commencement of the war by repeating the impressive words which Melesippus uttered as he stood on the frontier : “This day will be the beginning of many woes to the Greeks.” Archidamus then laid siege to Oenoe, a fortress on Mount Cithaeron, but failed to take it, and his delay gave the Athenians time to complete their preparations. They brought into the city their family and their goods, while their flocks and herds were removed to the island of Euboea. The influx of the population into the city caused terrible crowding. A few had the homes of their friends, but the majority pitched their tents in the vacant spaces, and housed themselves, as the peace-party bitterly said, in barrels and vultures’ nests. They seized temples and shrines, and even the ancient enclosure of the Pelargicon on the north-west of the Acropolis was occupied, though its occupation was deprecated by a dark oracle. Subsequently the crowding was relieved when the Piraeus and the space between the Long Walls were utilised.

Archidamus first ravaged the plain of Eleusis and Thria. He then crossed into the Cephisian plain by the pass between Mounts Aegaleos and Parnes, and halted under Parnes in the deme of Acharnae, whence he could see, in the distance, the Acropolis of Athens. The proximity of the invaders caused great excitement in Athens, and roused furious opposition to Pericles who would not allow the troops to go forth against them—except a few flying columns of horse in the immediate neighbourhood of the city. Pericles had been afraid that Archidamus, who was his personal friend, might spare his property, either from friendship or policy; so he took the pre-caution of declaring to his fellow-citizens that he would give his lands to the people, if they were left unravaged. The invader presently advanced northward, between Parnes and Pentelicus, to Decelea, and proceeded through the territory of Oropus to Boeotia.

The Athenians meanwhile had been operating by sea. They had sent 100 ships round the Peloponnesus. An attack on Methone, on the Messenian coast, failed; the place was saved by a daring Spartan officer, Brasidas, who by this exploit began a distinguished career. But the fleet was more successful further north. The important island of Cephallenia was won over, and some towns on the Acarnanian coast were taken. Measures were also adopted for the protection of Euboea against the Locrians of the opposite mainland. The Epicnemidian town of Thronion was captured, and the desert island of Atalanta, over against Opus, was made a guard station. More important was the drastic measure which Athens adopted against her subjects and former rivals, the Dorians of Aegina. She felt that they were not to be trusted, and the security of her positions in the Saronic gulf was of the first importance. So she drove out the Aeginetans and settled the island with a cleruchy of her own citizens. Aegina thus became, like Salamis, annexed to Attica. Just as the Messenian exiles had been befriended by Athens and given a new home, so the Aeginetan exiles were now befriended by Sparta and were settled in the region of Thyreatis, in the north of Laconia. Thyreatis was the Lacedaemonian answer to Naupactus.

When Archidamus left Attica, Pericles consulted for emergencies of the future by setting aside a reserve fund of money, and a reserve armament of ships. There had been as much as 9700 talents in the treasury, but the expenses of the buildings on the Acropolis and of the war at Potidaea had reduced this to 6000. It was now decreed that 1000 talents of this amount should be reserved, not to be touched unless the enemy were to attack Athens by sea, and that every year 100 triremes should be set apart, with the same object.

In winter the Athenians, following an old custom, celebrated the public burial of those who had fallen in the war. The bones were laid in ten cedar boxes, and were buried outside the walls in the Ceramicus. An empty bed, covered with a pall, was carried, for those whose bodies were missing. Pericles pronounced the funeral Panegyric. It has not been preserved; but the spirit and general argument of it have been reproduced in the oration which Thucydides, who must have been one of the audience, has put in his mouth. It is a rare good fortune to possess a picture, drawn by a Pericles and a Thucydides, of the ideal Athens, which Pericles dreamed of creating.

“There is no exclusiveness”, he said, “in our public life, and in our private intercourse. We are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbour if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; at home the style of our life is refined; and the delight which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish melancholy. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as of our own.

“Then again our military training is in many respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city is thrown open to the world, and we never expel a foreigner or prevent him from seeing or learning anything, of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face.

“If we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the gainers? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; and thus too our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness. Wealth we employ, not for talk and ostentation, but when there is a real use for it. To avow poverty with us is no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not neglect the state because he takes care of his own household; and even those of us who are engaged in business have a very fair idea of politics. We alone regard a man who takes no interest in public affairs, not as a harmless, but as a useless character; and if few of us are originators, we are all sound judges of a policy. The great impediment to action is, in our opinion, not discussion, but the want of that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act and of acting too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection.”

Then the speaker goes on to describe Athens as the centre of Hellenic culture and to claim that “the individual Athenian in his own person seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and grace.” And, he continues, “we shall assuredly not be without witnesses; there are mighty monuments of our power which will make us the wonder of this and of succeeding ages; we shall not need the praises of Homer or any other panegyrist whose poetry may please for the moment, although his representation of the facts will not bear the light of day. For we have compelled every land and every sea to open a path for our valour, and have everywhere planted eternal memorials of our friendship and of our enmity. Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought that she might be taken from them; and every one of us who survive should gladly toil on her behalf. I would have you day by day fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens, until you become filled with the love of her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it, who in the hour of conflict had the fear of dishonour always present to them, and who, if ever they failed in an enterprise, would not allow their virtues to be lost to their country, but freely gave their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could present at her feast. The sacrifice which they collectively made was individually repaid to them; for they received again and again each one for himself a praise which grows not old and the noblest of all sepulchres—I speak not of that in which their remains are laid, but of that in which their glory survives and is proclaimed always and on every fitting occasion both in word and deed. For the whole earth is the sepulchre of famous men ; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples.”

Perhaps we have another funeral monument; a monument in carven stone, of Athenians who were slain in one of the first years of the war. A beautiful relief, found on the Acropolis, shows the helmeted lady of the land, leaning on her spear, with downcast head, and gazing gravely at a slab of stone. It is an attractive interpretation that she is sadly engaged in reading the names of citizens who had recently fallen in defence of her city.

Next year (430 B. C.) the Peloponnesians again invaded Attica, and extended, their devastations to the south of the peninsula as far as Laurion. But the Athenians concerned themselves less with this invasion; they had to contend with a more awful enemy within the walls of their city. The Plague had broken out. Thucydides, who was stricken down himself, gives a terrible account of its ravages and the demoralisation which it produced in Athens. The art of medicine was in its first infancy, and the inexperienced physicians were unable to treat the unknown virulent disease, which defied every remedy and was aggravated by the over-crowding, in the heat of summer. The dead lay unburied, the temples were full of corpses; and the funeral customs were forgotten or violated. Dying wretches were gathered about every fountain, seeking to relieve their unquenchable thirst.

Men remembered an old oracle which said that “a Dorian war will come and a plague therewith.” But the Greek for plague (loimós) was hardly distinguishable from the Greek for famine (limós)—at the present day they are identical in sound; and people were not quite sure which was the true word. Naturally the verse was now quoted with loimos; but, says Thucydides, in case there comes another Dorian war and it is accompanied by a famine, the oracle will be quoted with limos.

The same historian—who has given of this pestilence a vivid of description, unequalled by later narrators of similar scourges, Procopius, Boccaccio, Defoe—declares that the plague originated in Ethiopia, spread through Egypt over the Persian empire, and then reached the Aegean. But it is remarkable that a plague raged at the same time in the still obscure city of central Italy which was afterwards to become the mistress of Greece. It has been guessed with some plausibility that the infection which reached both Athens and Rome had travelled along the trade-routes from Carthage. The Peloponnesus almost entirely escaped. In Athens the havoc of the pestilence permanently reduced the population. The total number of Athenian burghers (of both sexes and all ages) was about 80,000 in the first quarter of the fifth century. Prosperity had raised it to 100,000 by the beginning of the war; but the plague brought it down below the old level which it never reached again.

As in the year before, an Athenian fleet attacked the Peloponnesus, but this time it was the coasts of Argolis,— Epidaurus, Troezen, Hermione, Halieis. The armament was large, 4000 spearmen and 300 horse; it was under the command of Pericles; and it aimed at the capture of Epidaurus, while the Epidaurian troops were absent with their allies in Attica. The attempt miscarried, we know not why; and it is hard to forgive our historian for omitting all the details of this ambitious enterprise, which would have been, if it had succeeded, one of the most important exploits of the war.

Not till the autumn were operations renewed in the west of Greece. The fleet was summoned to the help of the people of Amphilochian Argos, on the eastern shore of the Ambracian gulf. They had been expelled from their own city by their northern neighbours the Ambraciots, and had sought the protection of their southern neighbours the Acarnanians. Athens sent the general Phormio with thirty ships. He stormed Argos, sold the Ambraciots into slavery, and restored the Amphilochians to their city—the most important place in those regions. This was the beginning of a long feud between Argos and Ambracia. In the winter Phormio returned to the west and, making Naupactus his station, guarded the entrance of the Crisaean gulf.

In Thrace meanwhile the siege of Potidaea had been prosecuted throughout the year. The inhabitants had been reduced to such straits that they even tasted human flesh, and in the winter they capitulated. The terms were that the Potidaeans and the foreign soldiers were to leave the city, the men with one garment, the women with two, and a sum of money was to be allowed them. Athens soon afterwards colonised the place. The siege had cost 2000 talents.

Meanwhile the Athenians had been cast into such despair by the plague that they made overtures for peace to Sparta. Their overtures were rejected, and they turned the fury of their disappointment upon Pericles, who had returned unsuccessful from Epidaurus. He was suspended from the post of strategos to which he had been elected in the spring; his accounts were called for and examined by the Council; and an exceptionally large court of 1501 judges was impanelled to try him for the misappropriation of public money. He was found guilty of “theft” to the trifling amount of five talents; the verdict was a virtual acquittal, though he had to pay a fine of ten times the amount; and he was presently re-elected to the post from which he had been suspended. He was in truth indispensable. All the courage, all the patience, all the eloquence of the great statesman were demanded at this crisis. He had to convince Athens that the privileges of her imperial position involved hardships and toils, and that it was dangerous for her to draw back. She must face the fact boldly that if the public opinion of Greece regarded her empire as unjustly gained, it could not safely be laid down. The position of the Imperialist is always vulnerable to assaults on grounds of morality, and the peace party at Athens could make a plausible case against the policy of Pericles. But the imperial instinct of the people responded, in spite of temporary reactions, to his call. Athens was not destined to be guided by him much longer. He had lost his two sons in the plague, and he died about a year later. In his last years he had been afflicted by the indirect attacks of his enemies. Phidias was accused of embezzling part of the public money devoted to the works on the Acropolis, in which he was engaged, and it was implied that Pericles was cognisant of the dishonesty. Phidias was condemned. Then the philosopher Anaxagoras was publicly prosecuted for holding and propagating impious doctrines. Pericles defended his friend, but Anaxagoras was sentenced to pay a fine of five talents, and retired to continue his philosophical studies at Lampsacus. The next attack  was upon his mistress, whose name was Aspasia. The comic poet Hermippus charged her likewise with impiety, and represented her abode as a house of recreation in the worst sense. The pleading of Pericles procured her acquittal, and in the last year of his life the passed a decree to legitimise her son. The latest words of Pericles express what to the student of the history of civilisation is an important feature of his character—his humanity. “No Athenian ever put on black for an act of mine.”


Sect. 5. The Siege and Capture of Plataea, 429 B.C.

In the next summer Archidamus was induced by the Thebans, instead of invading Attica, to march across Cithaeron and lay siege to Plataea. Like Elis itself, the Plataean land was sacred,—in memory of the great deliverance of Hellas which had been wrought there; and the Spartan king, when he set foot upon it, called the gods to witness that the Plataeans had first done wrong. He proposed to the Plataeans that they should evacuate their territory, until the end of the war; they might count their trees and their possessions, and all should then be restored to them intact. Having consulted Athens, which promised to protect them, the Plataeans refused, and Archidamus began the siege. The Athenians, however, were true to the policy of avoiding continental warfare, and notwithstanding their promises sent no help. Plataea was a very important position for the Peloponnesians to secure. It commanded the road from Megara to Thebes, by which communications between the Peloponnesus and Boeotia could be maintained most easily without entering Attica.

The visitor to Plataea must not suppose that the city which Archidamus besieged extended over the entire ground plan which now meets his eye. For he sees the circuit of the city as it existed a century later, occupying the whole surface of the low triangular plateau on which the town stood. The Plataea of Archidamus corresponds probably to the southern and higher part of the space occupied by the later town. The wall of the older Plataea cannot have been much more than a mile long; for the small garrison—400 Plataeans and eighty Athenians—could never have maintained a longer line of defence in a place where nature had done almost nothing to assist them.

Having surrounded the city with a palisade to prevent any one from getting out, Archidamus employed his army in building a mound against the southern wall. They worked for seventy days and seventy nights. The Plataeans endeavoured to counteract this by raising the height of their own wall, opposite the mound, by a structure of bricks set in a wooden frame. They protected the workmen by screens of hide against burning arrows. But as the mound rose higher and higher, a new device was tried. They made a hole in the wall underneath and drew out the earth from the mound. The Peloponnesians met this device by putting into the gap clay packed in baskets of reed; this could not be drawn away quickly like the loose earth. Another plan was then devised by the besieged. They dug a subterranean mine under the wall to some distance beneath the mound, and drew the earth away as they had done before. This effectually retarded the progress of the mound, for, though the besiegers were numerous, they had to carry the earth from a considerable distance. The Plataeans resorted to yet another device. From the two extremities of that portion of the wall which they had raised in height, they built an inner wall, in crescent shape, projecting inwards; so that if the outer wall were taken, the Peloponnesians would have all their labour over again. They also showed ingenuity in frustrating the battering-rams which the besiegers brought against the walls. They placed two poles on the top of the wall, projecting over it  to the ends of these poles they attached a huge beam by means of iron chains. When the engine approached, they let go the beam, which snapped off the head of the battering-ram. The besiegers then made an attempt to set the town on fire. They heaped up faggots along the wall close to the mound, and kindled them with brimstone and pitch. If the prevalent south find had been blowing down the slopes of the mountain, nothing mound have saved the Plataeans from the tremendous conflagration which ensued and rendered the wall unapproachable by the besiegers.

When this device failed the Peloponnesians saw they would have to blockade Plataea. They built a wall of circumvallation, about 100 yards from the city, and dug two fosses one inside and one outside this wall. Then Archidamus left part of his army to maintain the blockade during the winter. The blockaders, of whom about half were Boeotians, established a communication by means of fire signals with Thebes. At the end of another year, the Plataeans saw that they had no longer any hope of help from Athens, and their food was running short. They determined to make an attempt to escape.

The wall of the Peloponnesians looked like a single wall of immense thickness, but it actually consisted of two walls, 16 feet apart. The middle space, which served as quarters for the garrison, was roofed over, and guard was kept on the roof. Along the top there were battlements on each side, and at every tenth battlement there was a tower which covered the whole width from wall to wall.

There were passages through the middle of the towers but not at the sides. On wet and stormy nights the guard used to leave the battlements and retire under the shelter of the towers. The escape was attended with much risk and less than half the garrison attempted it. The plan was carefully calculated. They determined the height of the wall by counting and recounting the number of layers of bricks in a spot which had not been plastered; and then constructed ladders of exactly the right length. On a dark night, amid rain and storm, they stole out, crossed the inner ditch, and reached the wall unnoticed. They were lightly equipped, and while their right feet were bare the left were shod, to prevent slipping in the mud. Twelve men, led by Ammeas, ascended first, near two adjacent towers. They killed the guard in each tower, and secured the passages, which they held until all their companions had mounted and descended on the other side. One of the Plataeans, in climbing up on the roof, knocked a brick from one of the battlements; its fall was heard, and the alarm was given. All the besiegers came out on the wall, but in the blackness they could not discover what it was, and no one dared to move from his own place. Moreover the Plataeans in the city distracted their attention, by sallying out on the side opposite to that on which their friends were escaping. The Peloponnesians lit their danger signals to Thebes, but this had also been foreseen by the Plataeans, who by lighting other beacons on their own wall confused the signals of their enemies. But what the Plataeans had most to fear was an attack from a band of 300 men, whose duty it was to patrol outside the wall. While the last of the Plataeans were descending, they arrived with lights. They were thus illuminated themselves and a good mark for the arrows and darts of the Plataeans who were standing along the edge of the outer ditch. This ditch was crossed with difficulty; it was swollen with rain and had a coat of ice too thin to bear. But all got over safely except one archer who was captured on the brink.

The escape was perhaps effected on the north side of the city. The fugitives at first took the road to Thebes, to put their pursuers off the scent, but when they had left Plataea about a mile behind them, they struck to the right and reached the road from Thebes to Athens near Erythrae. Two hundred and twelve men reached Athens; a few more had started but had turned back before they crossed the wall. This episode is an eminently interesting example of the survival of the fittest; for a melancholy fate awaited those who had not the courage to take their lives in their hands. In the following summer want of food forced them to capitulate at discretion to the Lacedaemonians. Five men were sent from Sparta to decide their fate. But their fate had been already decided through the influence of Thebes. Each prisoner was merely asked, “Have you in the present war done any service to the Lacedaemonians or their allies?”. The form of the question implied the sentence, and it was in vain that the Plataeans appealed to the loyalty of their ancestors to the cause of Hellas in the Persian war, or implored the Lacedaemonians to look upon the sepulchres of their own fathers buried in Plataean land and honoured every year by Plataea with the customary offerings. They were put to death, 200 in number, and twenty-five Athenians; and the city was razed to the ground. The Peloponnesians now commanded the road from Megara to Thebes.

It is hard to avoid reproaching the Athenians for impolicy in not coming to the relief of their old and faithful ally, and maintaining a position so important for the communication between the Peloponnese and Boeotia. Their failure to bring succour at the beginning of the siege may be explained by their sufferings from the plague which still prevailed. And in the following year a more pressing danger diverted their attention, the revolt of a member of their maritime confederacy.


Sect. 6. Revolt of Mytilene

Archidamus had invaded Attica for the third time, and had just united it, when the news arrived that Mytilene and the rest of Lesbos, with the exception of Methymna, had revolted. This was a great and, as it might seem to Athens, an unprovoked blow. It was not due to any special grievance. The oligarchical government of Mytilene confessed that the city was always well-treated and honoured by Athens. The revolt is all the more interesting and significant on this account. It was a protest of the Hellenic instinct for absolute autonomy against an empire such as the Athenian. The sovereignty of the Lesbian cities was limited in regard to foreign affairs; their relations with other members of the confederacy were subject to control on the part of Athens; and their ships were required for Athenian purposes. Such restraints were irksome, and as they had been the free allies of Athens, most recently Samos, gradually transformed into subjects, they might fear that this would presently be their own case too. The revolt had been meditated for some years; it was hastened in the end, before all the preparations were made—such as the closing of the harbour of Mytilene by a mole and chain—because the design had been betrayed to Athens by enemies in Methymna and Tenedos. The Athenians, on the first news, sent slips under Cleippides to surprise Mytilene at a festival of Apollo, which all the inhabitants used to celebrate outside the walls; but the Mytilenaeans received secret intelligence and postponed the feast. The Lesbians had a large fleet; and the Athenians were feeling so severely the effects of the plague and of the war that the rebellion had a good prospect of success if it had been energetically supported by the Peloponnesians. Envoys who were sent to gain their help, pleaded the cause of Lesbos at the Olympian games which were envoys at this year. At the most august of the Panhellenic festivals, by the banks of the Alpheus, it was a fitting occasion to come among the assembled Greeks as champions of the principle of self-government which it is the glory of Greece to have taught Mankind. And as Mytilene had no grievance beyond the general injustice of Athens in imposing external limitations on the autonomy of others, her assertion of that principle carried the greater weight, Lesbos was admitted into the Peloponnesian league, but no assistance was sent.

The revolt from Athens was accompanied by a constitutional change within the borders of Lesbos itself. Except Methymna in the north, the other cities in the island—Antissa, Eresus, and Pyrrha on her land-locked bay—agreed to merge their own political individualities in the city of Mytilene. By the constitutional process, known as synoecism, Mytilene was now to be to Lesbos what Athens was to Attica. The citizens of Pyrrha, Eresos, and Antissa would henceforward be citizens of Mytilene. Lesbos, with Methymna independent and hostile, would now be what Attica was before the annexation of Eleusis.

Meanwhile the Athenians had blockaded the two harbours ot Mytilene, and Paches soon arrived with 1000 hoplites, to complete the investment. He built a wall on the land side of the city. At this time the Athenians were in sore want of money, for their funds (with the exception of the reserve) had been exhausted, especially by the expenses of the siege of Potidaea. They were obliged to resort to the expedient of raising money by a property tax.

This tax, now introduced for the first time, differed both in object and in nature from the property tax of the sixth century. In the first place, it was not imposed permanently but only to meet a temporary crisis; secondly, it was to be used for purely military purposes; thirdly, it was imposed on all property and not merely on land. Economical conditions had changed since the days of Pisistratus, and landed proprietors no longer formed the bulk of the richest men. The four classes of Solon were used for the purpose of the assessment; but the minimum incomes for each class were translated into money equivalents, and the capital which such an income implied seems to have been calculated on a sliding scale. Men who had a capital of at least a talent belonged to the highest class; those whose property exceeded half a talent, to the second; one-sixth of a talent qualified for the third; men of less means were exempt. The tax yielded 200 talents.

Towards the end of the winter, the Spartans sent a man, his name was Salaethus, to assure the people of Mytilene that an armament would be dispatched to their relief. He managed to elude the Athenians and get into the city. The spirits of the besieged rose, and when summer came forty-two ships were sent under the command of Alcidas, and at the same time the Peloponnesians invaded Attica for the fourth time, hoping to distract the attention of the Athenians from Mytilene. The besieged waited and waited, but the ships never came, and the food ran short. Salaethus, in despair, determined to make a sally, and for this purpose armed the mass of the people with shields and spears. But the people, when they got the arms, refused to obey and demanded that the oligarchs should bring forth the corn and that all should share it fairly; otherwise, they would surrender the city. This drove the government to anticipate the chance of a separate negotiation on the part of the people; and they capitulated at discretion. Their fate was to be decided at Athens, and meanwhile Paches was to put no man to death.

The fleet of Alcidas had wasted time about the Peloponnesus, and on reaching the island of Myconus received the news that Mytilene was taken. He sailed to Erythrae and there it was proposed to  Alcidas that he should attack Mytilene, on the principle that men who have just gained possession of a city are usually off their guard. Another suggestion was that a town on the Asiatic coast should be seized and a revolt excited against Athens in the Ionian district. But these plans were far too good and daring for a Lacedaemonian admiral to adopt. He sailed southward, was pursued by Paches as far as Patmos, and retired into the Peloponnesian waters where he was more at home.

The ringleaders of the revolt of Mytilene were sent to Athens, and along with them the Spartan Salaethus, who was immediately put to death. The Assembly met to determine the fate of the prisoners, and decided to put to death not only the most guilty who had been sent to Athens, but the whole adult male population, and to enslave the women and children. A trireme was immediately dispatched to Paches with this terrible command.

The fact that the Athenian Assembly was persuaded to press the cruel rights of war so far as to decree the extinction of a whole population shows how deep was the feeling of wrath that prevailed against Mytilene. Many things contributed to render that feeling particularly bitter. The revolt had come at a moment when Athens was sore bestead, between the plague and the war. Every Athenian had a grudge against Mytilene; for his own pocket had suffered, through the tax which it had been necessary to impose. And the Imperial pride of the people had been wounded by the unheard-of event of a Peloponnesian fleet sailing in the eastern waters, of which Athens regarded herself as the sole mistress. But above all it was the revolt not of a subject, but of a free ally. Athens could more easily forgive the rebellion of a subject state which tried to throw off her yoke, than repudiation of her leadership by a nominally independent confederate. For the action of Mytilene was in truth an indictment of the whole fabric of the Athenian empire as unjust and undesirable. And the Athenians felt its significance. The mere unreasoning instinct of self-preservation suggested the policy of making a terrible example. It was another question whether this policy was wise.

The calm sense of Pericles was no longer thereto guide and enlighten the Assembly. We now find democratic statesmen of a completely different stamp coming forward to take his place. The Assembly is swayed by men of the people—tradesmen, like Cleon, the leather-merchant; Eucrates, the rope-seller; Hyperbolus, the lamp-maker. These men had not, like Aristides, Cimon, and Pericles, family connexions to start and support them; they had no aristocratic traditions as the background of their democratic policy. They were self-made; they won their influence in the state by the sheer force of cleverness, eloquence, industry, and audacity. A man like Cleon, the son of Cleaenetus, whom we now meet holding the unofficial position of leader of the Assembly, must, to attain that eminence, have regularly attended week after week in the Pnyx; he must have mastered the details of political affairs; he must have had the courage to confront the Olympian authority of Pericles, and the dexterity to make some palpable hits; he must have studied the art of speaking and been able to hold his audience. Cleon and the other statesmen of this new type are especially interesting as the politicians whom the advanced democracy produced and educated. It would be a grievous error and injustice to suppose that their policy was determined by mere selfish ambition or party malice. Nearly all we know of them is derived from the writings of men who not only condemned their policy but personally disliked them as low-born upstarts. Yet though they may have been vulgar and offensive in their manners, there is abundant evidence that they were able, and there is no proof that they were not generally honest, politicians. To those who regretted the dignity of Pericles, the speech of Cleon or Hyperbolus may have seemed violent and coarse; but Cleon himself could hardly have outdone the coarseness and the violence of the personalities which Demosthenes heaped on Aeschines in a subsequent generation.

These new politicians were for the most part strong imperialists, and Cleon seems to have taken fully to heart the maxim of Pericles, to keep the subject allies “well in hand.” It was under his influence that the Assembly vented its indignation against Mytilene by dooming the whole people to slaughter. But when the meeting had dispersed, a partial reaction set in. Men began, in a cooler moment, to realise the inhumanity of their action and to question its policy. The envoys of Mytilene, who had been permitted to come to Athens to plead her cause, seeing this change of feeling, induced the Generals to summon an extraordinary meeting of the Assembly for the following morning, to reconsider the decree. Cleon again came forward to support it on the grounds of both legal justice and good policy. Thucydides represents him as openly asserting the principle that a tyrannical city must use tyrannical methods, and rule by fear, chastising her allies without mercy. The chief speaker on the other side was a certain Diodotus, whose name has won immortality by his action at this famous crisis. Diodotus handled the question entirely as a matter of policy. Cleon had deprecated any appeal to the irrelevant considerations of humanity or pity; Diodotus, carefully avoiding such an appeal, deprecates on his own side with great force Cleon’s appeal to considerations of justice. The Mytilenaeans have deserved the sentence of death: certainly; but the argument is entirely irrelevant. The question for Athens to consider is not what Mytilene deserves, but what it is expedient for Athens to inflict. “We are not at law with the Mytilenaeans and do not want to be told what is just; we are considering a matter of policy, and desire to know how we can turn them to account.” He then goes on to argue that as a matter of fact the penalty of death is not a deterrent, and that the result of such a severe punishment will be injurious to Athens. A city which has revolted, knowing that whether she comes to terms soon or late the penalty will be the same, will never surrender; money will be wasted in a long blockade; and  when the place is taken, it will be a mere wreck.” Moreover, if the people of Mytilene, who were compelled to join with their oligarchical government in rebelling, are destroyed, the popular party will everywhere be alienated from Athens.

The reasoning of Diodotus, which was based on sound views of policy, must have confirmed many of the audience who had already been influenced by the notion of pity. But even still the Assembly was nearly equally divided, and the supporters of Diodotus won their motion by a very small majority. The ship which bore the sentence of doom had a start of about a day and a night; could it be overtaken by the trireme which was now dispatched with the reprieve? The Mytilenaean envoys supplied the crew with wine and barley, and offered large rewards if they were in time. The oarsmen continued rowing while they ate the barley, kneaded with wine and oil, and slept and rowed by turns. The first trireme, bound on an unpleasant errand, had sailed slowly. It arrived a little before the other. Paches had the decree in his hand and was about to execute it, when the second ship sailed into the harbour, and the city was saved

The wrath of Athens against her rebellious ally was sufficiently gratified by the trial and execution of those Mytilenaeans who had been sent to Athens as especially guilty. They were perhaps about thirty in number. 

Having taken away the Lesbian fleet and razed the walls of Mytilene, the Athenians divided the island, excluding Methymna, into 3000 lots of which 300 were consecrated to the gods. The rest they let to Athenian citizens as cleruchs, and the land was cultivated by the Lesbians, who paid an annual rent.


Sect. 7. Warfare in Western Greece. Tragic Events in Corcyra

While the attention of Greece was directed upon the fortunes of Plataea and Mytilene, warfare had been carried on in the regions of the west, and the reputation of the Athenian navy had risen higher. The Ambraciots had persuaded Sparta to send an expedition against Acarnania; if the Peloponnesians firmly established themselves there, they might win the whole Athenian alliance in the west. Cnemus was sent with 1000 hoplites in advance; he made an attempt on the important town of Stratus but was forced to retreat. Meanwhile a Peloponnesian fleet was to sail from Corinth to support him. It consisted of forty-seven ships, and had to pass Phormio, who was guarding the entrance of the Corinthian gulf with only twenty. Phormio let them sail into the open sea, preferring to attack them there. By skilful manoeuvres he crowded the enemy’s ships into a narrow space; a morning breeze helped him by knocking the ships against one another; and when they were in confusion the Athenians dashed in and gained a complete victory. The government at Sparta could not understand how skill could gain such an advantage over far superior numbers; they sent commissioners to make an inquiry; and Cnemus was told that he must try again and be successful. A reorganised Peloponnesian fleet took up a position at Panormus in Achaea, and Phormio was stationed at Rhion on the opposite coast. The object of Cnemus was to lure or drive the enemy into the gulf where their skill in handling their ships would be less decisive than in the open sea. With this purpose he sailed towards Naupactus, and Phormio in alarm sailed along the coast to protect the place. As the Athenian ships moved near the land in single file, the enemy suddenly swung round and rowed down upon them at their utmost speed. The eleven ships which were nearest Naupactus had time to run round the right Peloponnesian wing and escape; the rest were driven aground. Twenty Peloponnesian vessels on the right were in the meantime pursuing the eleven Athenian, which were making for Naupactus. A Leucadian ship was far in advance of the others, closely pursuing an Athenian which was lagging behind. Near Naupactus a merchant vessel lay in their way, anchored in the deep water. The Athenian trireme rowed round it, struck her pursuer amidships, and sank her. This brilliant exploit startled the Peloponnesians who were coming up singing a paean of victory; the front ships dropped oars and waited for the rest. The Athenians, who had already reached Naupactus, saw the situation, and immediately bore down and gained another complete victory.

If this able admiral, Phormio, had lived, he might have extended Athenian influence considerably in western Greece. But, after a winter expedition which he made in Acarnania, he silently drops out of history, and, as we find his son Asopius sent out in the following summer at the request of the Acarnanians, we must conclude that his career had been cut short by death. Asopius made an unsuccessful attempt on Oeniadae, and was slain in a descent on Leucas (428 B. C.) The peninsula of Leucas, and the Acarnanian Oeniadae, girt by morasses at the mouth of the river Achelous, were two main objects of Athenian enterprise in the west. Leucas was never won, but four years later Oeniadae was forced to join the Athenian alliance. 

Corcyra herself was to be the next scene of the war in the Ionian Sea. The prisoners whom Corinth had taken in the Epidamnian war had been released on the understanding that they were to win over Corcyra from the Athenian alliance, and their intrigues were effectual in dividing the state and producing a sanguinary revolution. The question between the Peloponnesian and the Athenian alliance was closely bound up with the cleavage between the oligarchical and the democratic party. The intriguers in the Corinthian interest and their faction formed a conspiracy to overthrow the democratic constitution. Their first step was to prosecute Peithias, the leader of the people, on the charge of scheming to make Corcyra a subject of Athens. He was acquitted, and retorted by summoning their five richest men to take their trial for cutting vine-poles in the sanctuaries of Zeus and Alcinous. They were fined a stater for each pole: such a heavy fine that the culprits sat as suppliants in the sanctuary, imploring that they might pay by instalments. The prayer was refused, and in desperation they rushed into the senate-house and slew Peithias and sixty others who were with him.

The oligarchy now had the upper hand, and they attacked the people, who fled to the acropolis and the Hyllaic harbour. The other harbour, which looks towards the mainland, along with the agora and the lower parts of the city were held by the oligarchs. Next day reinforcements came to both sides: to the people, from other parts of the island; and to the oligarchs, from the mainland, lighting was soon resumed and the people had the advantage. In order to bar their way to the arsenal, the oligarchs set fire to the houses and buildings in the neighbourhood of the agora.

Next day twelve Athenian ships under Nicostratus arrived from Naupactus. He induced the two parties to come to an agreement, but the democrats persuaded him to leave five Athenian ships to ensure the preservation of order, for they did not trust their opponents. Nicostratus was to take five Corcyraean ships instead, and the crews of them were chosen from the oligarch ; they were in fact to be hostages for the behaviour of their fellows. But they feared they might be sent to Athens, and fled to the refuge of a temple. Nicostratus could not induce them to stir. The people regarded this distrust as a proof of criminal designs, and armed anew. The rest of the oligarchs then fled to the temple of Hera, but the democrats induced them to cross over to an islet off the coast.

Four or five days later a Peloponnesian fleet of fifty-three ships arrived under Alcidas, who had just returned from his expedition to Ionia. In a naval engagement outside the harbour the Corcyraeans fought badly, and the Athenians were forced to retreat; but the Peloponnesians did not follow up their success, and soon afterwards, hearing that an Athenian armament of sixty ships was on its way, returned home.

The democratic party was now in a position to wreak vengeance on its foes, who had gratuitously disturbed the peace of the city and sought to submit it to the yoke of its ancient enemy. The most vindictive and inhuman passions had been roused in the people by the attempt of the oligarchs on their liberty, and they now gave vent to these passions without regard to honour or policy. The 400 suppliants had returned from the island, and were again under the protection of Hera. Fifty of them were persuaded to come forth to take their trial, and were executed. The rest, seeing their fate, aided each other in committing suicide; some hung themselves on the trees in the sacred enclosure. Eurymedon arrived with the Athenian fleet and remained seven days. During this time, the Corcyraeans slew all whom they suspected of being opposed to the democracy, and many victims were sacrificed to private enmity. “Every form of death was to be seen, and everything, and more than everything that commonly happens in revolutions, happened then. The father slew the son, and the suppliants were tom from the temples and slain near them; some of them were even walled up in the temple of Dionysus and there perished. To such extremes of cruelty did revolution go; and this seemed to be the worst of revolutions because it was the first.” Eurymedon looked on and did not intervene.

While the democracy cannot be excused for these horrible excesses, the fact remains that the guilt of causing the revolution rests entirely with the oligarchs. The chief victims of the democratic fury deserve small compassion; they had set the example of violence. The occurrences at Corcyra made a profound impression in Greece, reflected in the pages of Thucydides. That historian has used the episode as the text for deep comments on the revolutionary spirit which soon began to disturb the states of the Greek world. Party divisions were encouraged and aggravated by the hope or fear of foreign intervention, the oligarchs looking to the Lacedaemonians, and the democrats to the Athenians. In time of peace these party struggles would have been far less bitter. This acute observation is illustrated by a famous modem instance, the French Revolution, where the worst outrages of the revolutionists were provoked by foreign intervention. In that great Revolution too [we can verify the Greek historian’s analysis of the effect of the revolutionary spirit, when it runs wild, on the moral nature of men. The revolutionists “determined to outdo the report of all who had preceded them by the ingenuity of their enterprises and the activity of their revenges. The meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought proper. Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness; to know everything was to do nothing. Frantic energy was the true quality of a man. The lover of violence was always trusted and his opponent suspected.” It was dangerous to be quiet and neutral. “The citizens who were of neither party fell a prey to both; either they were disliked because they held aloof, or men were jealous of their surviving.” The laws of heaven as well of civilised societies were set aside without scruple amid the impatience of party spirit, the zeal of contention, the eagerness of ambition, and the cravings of revenge. These are some of the features in the delineation which Thucydides has drawn of the diseased condition of political life in the city-states of Greece.

But the sequel of the Corcyraean revolution has still to be recorded. About 600 of the oligarchs who escaped the vengeance of their opponents established themselves on Mount Istone in the north-east of the island, and easily becoming masters of the open country they harassed the inhabitants of the city for two years (427-5 B.C.) Then an Athenian fleet, of which the ultimate destination of was Sicily, under the command of Eurymedon and Sophocles, arrived at Corcyra; and the Athenians helped the democrats to storm the fort on Mount Istone. The oligarchs capitulated on condition that the Athenian people should determine how they were to be dealt with. The generals placed them in the island of Ptychia, on the understanding that, if any of their number attempted to escape, all should be deprived of the benefit of the previous agreement. But the democrats apprehended that the prisoners would not be put to death at Athens, and they were determined that their enemies should die. A foul trick was planned and carried out. Friends of the prisoners were sent over to the island, who said that the generals had resolved to leave them to the mercy of the democrats, and advised them to escape, offering to provide a ship. A few of the captives fell into the trap and were caught starting. All the prisoners were immediately handed over to the Corcyraeans, who shut them up in a large building. They were taken out in batches of twenty, and made to march, tied together, down an avenue of hoplites, who smote and wounded any whom they recognised as a personal enemy. Three batches had thus marched to execution, when their comrades in the building, who thought they were merely being removed to another prison, discovered the truth. They called on the Athenians, but they called in vain. Then they refused to stir out of the building or let anyone enter. The Corcyraeans did not attempt to force their way in. They tore off the roof, and hurled bricks and shot arrows from above. The captives, absolutely helpless, began to anticipate the purpose of their tormentors by taking their own lives, piercing their throats with the arrows which were shot down, or strangling themselves with the ropes of some beds which were in the place or with strips of their own dress. The work of destruction went on during the greater part of the night; all was over when the day dawned; and the corpses were carried outside the city. Thus ended the Corcyraean revolution, and the last scene was more ghastly even than the first. Eurymedon had less excuse, on this occasion, for refusing to intervene than he had two years before; since the prisoners had surrendered to the Athenians. It was said that he and Sophocles were ready to take advantage of the base trick of the democrats, because, unable to take the captives to Athens themselves, being bound for Sicily, they could not bear that the credit should fall to another. The oligarchical faction at Corcyra was now utterly annihilated, and the democrats lived in peace.


Sect. 8. Campaigns of Demosthenes in the West

During the Corcyraean troubles, the war had not rested in western Greece. An Athenian fleet under the general Demosthenes had sailed round the Peloponnesus and attacked the “island” of Leucas. Demosthenes was an enterprising commander, distinguished from most of his fellows by a certain originality of conception. On this occasion, the idea of making a great stroke induced him to abandon the operations at Leucas,—though the Acarnanians thought he might have taken the town by blockade,—and engage in a new enterprise on the north of the Corinthian gulf. Most of the lands between Boeotia and the western sea—Phocis, Locris, Acarnania—were friendly to Athens. But the hostility of the uncivilised Aetolians rendered land operations in those regions dangerous. Demosthenes conceived the plan of reducing the Aetolians, so that he could then operate from the west on Doris and Boeotia, without the danger of his communications being threatened in the rear. His idea, in fact, was to bring the Corinthian gulf into touch with the Euboean sea. The Spartans, it is to be observed, were at this very time concerning themselves with the regions of Mount Oeta. The appeals of Doris on the south, and Trachis on Colony of the north, of the Oetaean range, for protection against the hostilities Heraclea. of the mountain tribes, induced the Lacedaemonians to send out a colony, which was established in Trachis not very far from the Pass of Thermopylae, under the name of Heraclea. A colony was an unusual enterprise for Sparta; but Heraclea had a more important significance and intention than the mere defence of members of the amphictiony. It was a place from which Euboea could be attacked; and it might prove of the greatest service, as an intermediate station, for carrying on operations in the Chalcidic peninsula. The fears which the foundation of Heraclea excited at Athens were indeed disappointed; Heraclea never flourished; it was incessantly assailed by the powerful hostility of the Thessalians, and its ruin was completed by the flagrantly unjust administration of the Lacedaemonian governors. But its first foundation was a serious event; and it seems highly probable that Demosthenes, when he formed his plan, had before his mind the idea of threatening Heraclea from the south by the occupation of Doris. But his plan, attractive as it might sound, was eminently impracticable. The preliminary condition was the subjugation of a mountainous country, involving a warfare in which Demosthenes was inexperienced and hoplites were at a great disadvantage. The Messenians of Naupactus represented to him that Aetolia, a land of unwalled villages, could easily be reduced. But the Messenians had their own game to play. They suffered from the hostilities of their Aetolian neighbours and wanted to use the ambition of the Athenian general for their own purpose.

The Acarnanians, who were deeply interested in the defeat of Leucas, were indignant with Demosthenes for not prosecuting the blockade and refused to join him against Aetolia. Starting from Oeneon in Locris, the Athenians and some allies—not a large force—advanced into the country, hoping to reduce several tribes before they had time to combine. But the Aetolians had already learned his plans, and were already collecting a great force. The main chance of Demosthenes lay in the co-operation of the Ozolian Locrians, who knew the Aetolian country and mode of warfare and were armed in the Aetolian fashion. Demosthenes committed the error of not waiting for them. He was consequently unable to deal with the Aetolian javelin-men. At Aegition, rushing down from the hills they wrought havoc among the invaders who had captured the town. A hundred and twenty Athenian hoplites fell—“the very finest men whom the city of Athens lost during the war.” Demosthenes did not dare to return to Athens. He remained at Naupactus, and soon had an opportunity of retrieving his fame.

The Lacedaemonians answered this invasion of Aetolia by sending 3000 hoplites under Eurylochus against Naupactus. Five hundred of these, troops came from Heraclea, the newly founded colony. Naupactus, ill-defended, was barely saved by the energy of Demosthenes, who persuaded the Acarnanians to send reinforcements. Eurylochus abandoned the siege, and withdrew to the neighbourhood of Calydon and Pleuron in southern Aetolia, for the purpose of joining the Ambraciots in an attack upon Argos. Winter had begun when the Ambraciots descended from the north into the Argive territory and seized the fort of Olpae, which stands, a little north of Argos, on a hill by the sea, and was once used as a hall of justice by the Acarnanian league. Demosthenes was asked by the Acarnanians to be their leader in resisting this attack, and a message for help was sent to twenty Athenian vessels which were coasting off the Peloponnesus. The troops of Eurylochus marched from the south across Acarnania and joined their allies at Olpae. The Athenian ships arrived in the Ambracian gulf, and, with the reinforcements which they brought, Demosthenes gave battle to the enemy between Olpae and Argos, and by a skilfully contrived ambuscade annulled the advantage which they had in superior numbers. Eurylochus was slain, and the Peloponnesians delivered themselves from their perilous position—between Argos and the Athenian ships—by making a secret treaty with Demosthenes, in which the Ambraciots were not included. It was arranged that they should retreat stealthily without explaining their intention to the Ambraciots. It was good policy on the part of Demosthenes; for by this treacherous act the Lacedaemonians would lose their character in that part of Greece. The Peloponnesians crept out of Olpae one by one, pretending to gather herbs and sticks. As they got farther away, they stepped out more quickly, and then the Ambraciots saw what was happening and ran out to overtake them. The Acarnanians slew about 200 Ambraciots, and the Peloponnesians escaped into the land of Agraea. But a heavier blow was in store for Ambracia. Reinforcements of that city, ignorant of the battle, were coming to Olpae. Demosthenes sent forward some of his troops to lie in ambush on their line of march. At Idomene, some miles north of Olpae, there are two peaks of unequal height. The higher was seized in advance by the men of Demosthenes; the Ambraciots when they arrived encamped on the lower. Demosthenes then advanced with the rest of his troops and attacked the enemy at dawn, when they were still half asleep. Most were slain, and those who escaped at first found the mountain paths occupied. Thucydides says that during the first ten years of the war “no such calamity happened within so few days to any Hellenic state,” and he does not give the numbers of those who perished, because they would appear incredible in proportion to the size of the state. Demosthenes might have captured the city if he had pushed on, but the Acarnanians did not desire a permanent Athenian occupation at their doors; they were content that their neighbour was rendered harmless. A treaty of alliance for 100 years was concluded between the Acarnanians, with the Amphilochians of Argos, and the Ambraciots. Neither side was to be required by the other to join against its own allies in the great war, but they were to help each other to defend their territories. Some time afterwards Anactorion, and then Oeniadae, were won over to the Athenian alliance. 


Sect. 9. Nicias and Cleon. Politics at Athens

The success against Ambracia compensated for the failure in Aetolia, and Demosthenes could now return to Athens. His dashing style of warfare and his bold plans must have caused grave mistrust among the older, more experienced, and more commonplace commanders. Nicias, the son of Niceratus, who seems to have already won, without deserving, the chief place as a military authority at Athens, must have shaken his head over the doings of Demosthenes in the west. Nicias, a wealthy conservative slave-owner, who speculated in the silver-mines of Laurion, was one of the mainstays of that party which was out of sympathy with the intellectual and political progress of Athens, and bitterly opposed to the new politicians like Cleon who wielded the chief influence in the Assembly.

The ability of Nicias was irretrievably mediocre; he would have been an excellent subordinate officer, but he had not the qualities of a leader or a statesman. Yet he possessed a solid and abiding influence at Athens, through his impregnable respectability, his superiority to bribes, and his scrupulous superstition, as well as his acquaintance with the details of military affairs. This homage paid to mediocre respectability throws light on the character of the Athenian democracy, and the strength of the conservative party. Nicias belonged to the advocates of peace and was well-disposed to Sparta, so that for several reasons he might be regarded as a successor to Cimon. But his political opponents, though they constantly defeated him on particular measures, never permanently undermined his influence. He understood the political value of gratifying in small ways those prejudices of his fellow-citizens which he shared himself; and he spared no expense in the religious service of the state. As Thucydides says, he thought too much of divination and omens. He had an opportunity of displaying his religious devotion and his liberality on the occasion of the purification of the island of Delos, which was probably undertaken to induce Apollo to stay the plague. The dead were removed from all the tombs, and it was ordained that henceforth no one should die or give birth to a child on the sacred island. Those who were near to either should cross over to Rheneia. The Athenians revived in a new form the old festival, celebrated in the Homeric hymn to Apollo, the festival to which “the long-robed Ionians gathered, and made thee glad, O Phoebus, with boxing, dancing, and song.” The games were restored, and horse-races introduced for the first time. Four years later the purification was perfected by the removal of all the inhabitants, and the Persians accorded them a refuge at Adramyttion.

Conducting such ceremonies, Nicias was in his right place. Unfortunately such excellence had an undue weight; and it should be noted that this is one of the drawbacks of a city-state. In a large modern state, the private life and personal opinions of a states­man have small importance and are not weighed by his fellow-countrymen in the scale against his political ability, save in rare exceptional cases. But in a small city the statesman’s private life is always before men’s eyes, and his political position is distinctly affected, according as he shocks or gratifies their prejudices and predilections. A mediocre man is able, by judicious conforming, to attain an authority to which his brains give him no claim. Pericles was indeed so strong that his influence could survive attacks on his morality and his orthodoxy. Nicias maintained his position because he never shocked the public sense of decorum and religion by associating with an Aspasia or an Anaxagoras. The Athenian people combined in a remarkable degree the capacity of appreciating both respectability and intellectual power; their progressive instinct was often defeated by conservative prejudices.

Though Nicias was one of those Athenians who were not in full sympathy with the policy of Pericles and approved still less of the policy of his successors, he was thoroughly loyal to the democracy. But an oligarchical party still existed, secretly active, and always hoping for an opportunity to upset the democratic constitution. This party, or a section of it, seems to have been known at this time as the “Young Party.” It included, among others who will appear on the stage of history some years later, the orator Antiphon, who was now coming into public notice in connexion with some sensational lawsuits. Against the dark designs of this party, as well as against the misconduct of generals, Cleon was constantly on the watch; he could describe himself in the Assembly as the “people’s watch-dog.” But at present these oligarchs were harmless; so long as no disaster from without befell Athens, they had no chance; all they could do was to make common cause with the other enemies of Cleon, and air their discontent in anonymous political pamphlets. Chance has preserved us a work of this kind, written in one of these years by an Athenian of oligarchical views. Its subject is the Athenian democracy, and the writer professes to answer on behalf of the Athenians the criticisms which the rest of the Greeks pass on Athenian institutions. “I do not like democracy myself,” he says; “but I will show that from their point of view the Athenians manage their state wisely and in the manner most conducive to the interests of democracy.” The defence is for the most part a veiled indictment; it displays remarkable acuteness, with occasional triviality. The writer has grasped and taken to heart one deep truth, the close connexion of the sea-power of Athens with its advanced democracy. It is just, he remarks, that the poor and the common folk should have more influence than the noble and rich; for it is the common folk that row the ships and make the city powerful, not the hoplites and the well-born and the worthy. Highly interesting is his observation that slaves and metics enjoyed what he considered unreasonable freedom and immunity at Athens: “Why, you may not strike one of them, nor will a slave make way for you in the street.” And his malicious explanation is interesting too; the common folk dress so badly that you might easily mistake one of them for a slave or a metic, and then there would be a to-do if you struck a citizen. There is perhaps a touch of malice, too, in the statement that the commercial empire of Athens, which brought to her wharfs the delicacies of the world, was affecting her language, as well as her habits of life, and filling it with foreign words.

An important feature in the political history of Athens in these years was the divorce of the military command from the leadership in the Assembly, and the want of harmony between the chief Strategoi and the Leaders of the People. The tradesmen who swayed the Assembly had no military training or capacity, and they were always at a disadvantage when opposed by men who spoke with the authority of a strategos on questions of military policy. Until recent years the post of General had been practically con­fined to men of property and good family. But a change ensued, perhaps soon after the death of Pericles, and men of the people were elected. The comic poet Eupolis, in a play called the Demes—in which the great leaders, Miltiades and Themistocles, Aristides and Pericles, are summoned back to life that they may see and deplore degenerate Athens—meditates thus on the contrast between latter-day generals and their predecessors:

Men of lineage fair

And of wealthy estate

Once our generals were,

The noble and great,

Whom as gods we adored, and as gods they guided and guarded the state.

Things are not as then.

Ah, how different far

A manner of men

Our new generals are,

The rascals and refuse our city now chooses to lead us to war!

Cleon was a man of brains and resolution. He was ambitious to rule the state as Pericles had ruled it; and for this purpose he saw clearly that he must gain triumphs in the field as well as in the Assembly. Hitherto his main activity had been in the law-courts, where he called officers to account and maintained the safeguards of popular government. If he was to be more than an opposition leader, occasionally forcing measures through the Assembly, if he was to exercise a permanent influence on the administration, he must be ready, when a good opportunity offered, to undertake the post of strategos; and, supported by the experience of an able colleague, he need not disgrace himself. An understanding, therefore, between Cleon and the enterprising Demosthenes was one which seemed to offer advantages to both; acting together they might damage both the political and the military position of Nicias.

But before we pass to a famous enterprise, which was probably the result of such an understanding, we must note the great cost which the continuation of the war entailed. It was found necessary to borrow from the temple treasures, at a nominal interest, to defray the military expenses. But this was not enough. The financiers of Athens—and Cleon must probably bear a large share of the responsibility—induced the people to raise the tribute of the subject states. If the tribute was not doubled, it was very nearly doubled; the total amount, at the lowest estimate, did not fall far short of 1000 talents. We possess considerable fragments of the stone on which this assessment was written; it is a monument of the injustice of a democracy blinded by imperial ambition against which Thucydides son of Melesias had protested at an earlier stage. But at this stage, the raising of the tribute was a necessity; Athens could not retreat. There were indeed still men, especially among the Young Party, to lift up a voice on behalf of the Cities; and the glaring injustice of the position of Athens was smartly ridiculed by Aristophanes, who ironically suggested in one of his comedies that if the Cities were compelled to do their duty, each would enable twenty Athenians to live in idleness on the fat of the land, “on hare and beestings pudding.”

It may seem strange to find that in a time of financial pressure, when it was necessary not only to introduce an extraordinary tax on property but to afflict the allies with heavier burdens, Athens saw fit to increase her domestic expenditure. One of Cleon’s most important measures was the raising of the judges’ fee from one obol, dicasts at which it had been fixed by Pericles, to three obols. It would be [probably a mistake to consider this measure a mere bid for popularity. We shall hardly be wrong in regarding it as an Attempt to relieve the distress which the yearly invasions of Attica and losses of the harvests inflicted upon the poorer citizens.


Sect. 10. The Athenian Capture of Pylos, 425 B.C.

It was doubtless through the influence of Cleon that Demosthenes, though he received no official command, was sent to accompany the fleet of forty ships which was now ready to start for the west, under Eurymedon and Sophocles. We have already seen this fleet at Corcyra assisting the People against the oligarchical exiles who had established themselves on Mount Istone. Demosthenes accompanied the expedition without any official command. He had a plan in his head for establishing a military post in the western Peloponnesus; and he was allowed to take advantage of the sailing of the fleet and use it according to his discretion. Arriving off the coast of Messenia, Demosthenes asked the commanders to put in at Pylos, but they had heard that the Peloponnesian fleet had already reached Corcyra, and demurred to any delay. But chance favoured the design of Demosthenes. Stress of weather drove them into the harbour of Pylos, and then Demosthenes pressed them to fortify the place. The task was easy; for the place was naturally strong and there was an abundance of material, stone and timber, at hand. The commanders ridiculed the idea. “There are many other desert promontories in the Peloponnesus,” they said, “if you want to waste the money of the city.” But the stormy weather detained the ships; the soldiers were idle; and at length, for the sake of something to do, they adopted the project of Demosthenes and fell to the work of fortifying Pylos.

The features of the scene, which was now to become illustrious by a striking military episode, must be clearly grasped. The high promontory of Pylos or Coryphasion was on three sides encompassed by water. Once it had been an island, but at this time it was connected with the mainland on the north side by a low sand-bar. If we go further back into prehistoric days, Pylos had been part of a continuous line of coast-cliff. In this line three rents were made, which admitted the sea behind the cliff and isolated the islands of Pylos and Sphacteria. Accumulation of sand gradually covered the most northern breach and reunited Pylos with the mainland, but the other openings were never filled up and Sphacteria still remains an island. Originally Pylos and Sphacteria, when they had been severed, formed the sea-wall of one great land locked bay; but a curving sand-bar has gradually been formed, which now joins the mainland with the southern extremity of Pylos, and secludes a small lagoon of which Pylos forms the western side. It is impossible to say whether the formation of this sand-bar had perceptibly begun in the time of Demosthenes; but in any case it seems probable that it had not advanced so far as to hinder the waters behind Pylos from appearing to be part of a continuous bay. This north corner of the bay—now a marshy lagoon—was sheltered and afforded harbourage for ships; the rest of the bay—the modem bay of Navarino—had no good anchorage; but the whole sheet of water, by virtue of the northern corner, was called a harbour. It follows from what has been said that there were two entrances into the bay: the narrow water which divides Pylos from Sphacteria, and the wide passage which severs the southern point of Sphacteria from the opposite mainland. We must distinguish yet another smaller bay on the north side of the Pylos hill. The sand-bar which there connects Pylos with the mainland is of lunar shape and forms the little circular basin of Buphras, dominated by the height of Pylos on the south and a far lower, nameless hill on the north.

The length of Pylos is less than a mile. On the sea-side it was hard t0 land, and the harbour side was strongly protected by steep cliffs. Only in three places was it found necessary to build walls: (1) at the south-east corner, where the cliffs slope down to the channel for about 100 yards; (2) along the shore on the south-west side close to the entrance to the bay, for four or five hundred yards; (3) the northern defence of the position consisted of a line of land cliffs, which required no artificial fortification except at the western extremity, where they decline before they reach the sea; here another wall was built. One of the soldiers present vividly described to Thucydides the manner in which the fortifications were wrought. Being unprovided with iron tools they brought stones which they picked out, and put them together as they happened to fit; if they required to use mortar, having no hods, they carried it on their backs, which they bent so as to form a resting-place for it, clasping their hands behind them that it might not fall off. In six days the work was finished, and the fleet went on its way, leaving Demosthenes with five ships to hold Pylos.

The Lacedaemonian army under Agis had invaded Attica earlier than usual, before the com was ripe. Want of food, wet weather, and then perhaps the news from Pylos, decided them to return to Sparta after a sojourn of only two weeks within the Attic borders. They did not proceed immediately to Pylos, but another body of Spartans was sent on; requisitions for help were dispatched to the Peloponnesian allies ; and the sixty ships at Corcyra were hastily summoned. These ships succeeded in eluding the notice of the Athenian fleet which had now reached Zacynthus. In the mean­time Demosthenes, beset by the Spartan troops, sent two of his ships to overtake the fleet and beg Eurymedon to return to succour him.

The object of the Lacedaemonians was to blockade the hill of Pylos by land and sea, and to prevent Athenian succours from landing. They probably established their camp on the north side of Pylos, so that no ships entering the bay of Buphras could bring help to the fort. They were moreover afraid that the Athenians might use the island of Sphacteria as a basis for military operations, and accordingly Epitadas occupied Sphacteria with 420 Spartans and their attendant Helots. It would have been easy to block the narrow entrance to the bay between Pylos and the island; but there was little use in doing so, as the Athenian ships would be able to enter by the ingress at the south of the island, a passage about three-quarters of a mile wide—far too wide to block with so small a fleet. The Lacedaemonians then prepared to attack the place, before help could come to the Athenians. Demosthenes posted the greater part of his force to guard the northern line of defence and the south­eastern corner; while he himself with sixty hoplites and some archers took his stand on the edge of the south-western shore, which though rocky and perilous was the spot where the enemy had the best prospect of effecting a landing. Thrasymelidas was the name of the Spartan admiral. He had forty-three ships, which he brought up in relays, the crews fighting and resting by turns. The great danger was that of running the vessels on reefs. Brasidas who commanded one of the ships was the leading spirit. “Be not sparing of timber,” he cried to those who seemed to draw back from the rocks; “the enemy has built a fortress in your country. Perish the ships, and force a landing.” But in trying to disembark he was wounded and lost his shield. It was washed ashore and set up in the trophy which the Athenians afterwards erected. The Spartan attack which was renewed on two subsequent days was repelled. It repelled. was a singular turn of fortune, says Thucydides, which drove the Athenians to repel the Lacedaemonians, who were attacking them by sea from the Lacedaemonian coast, and the Lacedaemonians to fight for a landing on their own soil, now hostile to them, in the face of the Athenians. For in those days it was the great glory of the Lacedaemonians to be an inland people distinguished for their military prowess, and of the Athenians to be a nation of sailors and the first naval power in Hellas.

The fleet from Zacynthus, now augmented to fifty ships by some reinforcements, at length arrived. But finding the shores of the bay of Buphras and the island of Sphacteria occupied, they withdrew for the night to the isle of Prote which was some miles distant. The next morning they returned, determined to sail into the harbour, if the enemy did not come out to meet them. The Lacedaemonians were preparing their ships for action, evidently intending to fight in the bay. The Athenians therefore rowed in by both entrances; some of Battle the enemy’s vessels which were able to come out to meet them were in the captured; and a tremendous struggle ensued close to the shore. The Athenians were tying the empty beached ships to their own and endeavouring to drag them away, the Lacedaemonians dashed into the sea and were pulling them back. The Lacedaemonians knew that, if they lost their ships, the party on the island of Sphacteria would be cut off. Most of the empty ships were saved; but the fleet was so far damaged and outnumbered that the Athenians were able to blockade Sphacteria.

The interest of the story now passes from Pylos to Sphacteria. The blockade of Demosthenes and his Athenians in Pylos by the Spartans has changed into a blockade of Epitadas and his Spartans in Sphacteria by the Athenians. The tidings of this change in the situation caused grave alarm at Sparta and some of the ephors came themselves to see what measures could be taken. They decided that nothing could be done for the relief of the island, and obtained from the Athenian generals a truce for the purpose of sending ambassadors to Athens to ask for peace. The terms of this truce were as follows :—

The Lacedaemonians shall deliver into the hands of the Athenians at Pylos the ships in which they fought, and shall also bring thither and deliver over any other ships of war which are in Laconia ; and they shall make no assault upon the fort either by sea or land. The Athenians shall permit the Lacedaemonians on the mainland to send to those on the island a fixed quantity of kneaded flour, viz. two Attic quarts of barleymeal for each man, and a pint of wine, and also a piece of meat; for an attendant half these quantities; they shall send them into the island under the inspection of the Athenians, and no vessel shall sail in by stealth. The Athenians shall guard the island as before, but not land, and shall not attack the Peloponnesian forces by land or sea. If either party violate this agreement in any particular, however slight, the truce is to be at an end. The agree­ment is to last until the Lacedaemonian ambassadors return from Athens, and the Athenians are to convey them thither and bring them back in a trireme. When they return, the truce is to be at an end, and the Athenians are to restore the ships in the same condition in which they received them.

In accordance with these terms, sixty ships were handed over and the ambassadors went to Athens. They professed the readiness of Sparta to make peace and pleaded for generous treatment on the part of Athens. At heart most of the Athenians were probably desirous of peace. But the Assembly was under the influence of Cleon, and he, as the opponent of Nicias and the peace-party, urged the Athenians to propose terms which could hardly be accepted. It might seem indeed an exceptionally favourable moment to attempt to undo the humiliation of the Thirty Years’ Truce, and win back some of the possessions which had been lost twenty years ago. Not only Nisaea and Pagae, the harbours of the Megarid, but Achaea and Troezen, were demanded as the purchase of the lives of the Spartans in Sphacteria. The embassy returned to Pylos disappointed, and the truce came to an end. But the Athenians refused to give back the sixty ships, on the pretext of some slight infraction of the truce on the part of the Lacedaemonians.

The blockade proved a larger and more difficult matter than the Athenians had hoped. Reinforced by twenty more triremes from Athens, they lay round the island, both in the bay, and, except when the wind was too high, on the seaside; and two ships kept continually cruising round in opposite directions. But their vigilance was eluded, and Sphacteria was secretly supplied with provisions. Large sums were offered to any who succeeded in conveying meal, wine, or cheese to the island; and Helots, who did such service, were rewarded with freedom. When a strong wind from the west or north drove the Athenian ships into the bay, the daring crews of provision-boats beat recklessly into the difficult landing-places on the seaside. Moreover some skilful divers managed to reach the shores of the island,—drawing skins with poppy-seed mixed with honey, and pounded linseed. But this device was soon discovered and prevented.

And besides the difficulty of rendering the blockade complete in a high wind, the maintenance of it was extremely unpleasant. As there was no proper anchorage, the crews were obliged to take their meals on land by turns,—generally in the south part of Sphacteria, which was not occupied by the Spartans. And they depended for their supply of water on one well, which was in the fort of Pylos. The supply of food was deficient,—for it had to be conveyed round the Peloponnesus. At home the Athenians were disappointed at the protraction of the siege, and grew impatient. They were sorry that they had declined the overtures of the Lacedaemonians, and there was a reaction of feeling against Cleon. That statesman took the bold course of denying the reports from Pylos, and said—with a pointed allusion to the strategos Nicias—that if the Generals were men they would sail to the island and capture the garrison. “If I were commander,” he added, “I would do it myself.” The scene which follows is described in one of the rare passages where the most reserved of all historians condescends to display a little personal animosity. Seeing that the people were murmuring at Cleon, Nicias stood up and offered, on the part of his colleagues, to give Cleon any force he asked for and let him try. Cleon—says Thucydides—at first imagined that the offer of Nicias was only a pretence and was willing to go ; but finding that he was in earnest, he tried to back out and said that not he but Nicias was general. He was now alarmed, for he never imagined that Nicias would go so far as to give up his place to him. Again Nicias bade him take the command of the expedition against Pylos, which he formally gave up to him in the presence of the Assembly. And the more Cleon declined the proffered command and tried to retract what he had said, so much the more the multitude, as their manner is, urged Nicias to resign and shouted to Cleon that he should sail. At length, not knowing how to escape from his own words, he undertook the expedition and, coming forward, said that he was not afraid of the Lacedaemonians and that he would sail without withdrawing a single man from the city, if he were allowed to have the Lemnian and Imbrian forces now at Athens, the auxiliaries from Aenus who were targeteers, and four hundred archers from other places. With these and with the troops already at Pylos he gave his word that he would either bring the Lacedaemonians alive or kill them on the spot. His vain words moved the Athenians to laughter; nevertheless the wiser sort of men were pleased when they reflected that of two good things they could not fail to obtain one—either there would be an end of Cleon, which they would have greatly preferred, or, if they were disappointed, he would put the Lacedaemonians into their hands.

The story is almost too good to be true. But whether Cleon desired the command or had it thrust upon him against his will, his words which moved the Athenians to laughter were fully approved by the event. He chose Demosthenes as his colleague; and, invested with the command by a formal vote of the Assembly, he immediately set sail.

In the meantime Demosthenes, wishing like Cleon to bring matters to an issue, was meditating an attack upon Sphacteria. This desert island is about two miles and three-quarters long. At the northern extremity rises a height, higher than the acropolis of Pylos over against it, and on the east side descending, a sheer cliff, into the water of the bay. Some of the Spartans had naturally occupied the summit, but the chief encampment of their small force was in the centre of the island, close to the only well; and an out­post was set on a hill farther to the south. An assault was difficult not only because the landing-places on both sides were bad, but because the island was covered with close bush, which gave the Spartans who knew the ground a great advantage. Demosthenes had experienced in Aetolia the difficulties of fighting in a wood. But one day, when some Athenians were taking their noonday meal on the south shore of the island, the wood was accidentally kindled, the wind arising, the greater part of the bush was burnt. It was then possible to see more clearly the position and the numbers of the Lacedaemonians, and, when Cleon arrived, the plan of attack Athenian was matured. Embarking at night all their hoplites in a few ships, forces land Cleon and Demosthenes landed before dawn on the south of the island partly on the seaside and partly on the harbour side, near the spot where the Lacedaemonians had their outpost. The whole number of troops that landed must have been nearly 14,000, against which the Spartans had only 420 hoplites and perhaps as many Helots. And yet a high military authority described the Athenian enterprise as mad. The truth seems to be that it could hardly have succeeded if the Spartan commander had disposed his forces to the best advantage, posting watches at all possible landing-places and organising a proper system of signals.

The outpost was at once overpowered, and light-armed troops advanced towards the main Spartan encampment, along a high ridge on the harbour side of the island. Others moved along the low shore on the seaside ; so that when the main body of the Spartans saw their outpost cut to pieces and began to move southward against the Athenian hoplites, they were harassed on either side by the archers and targeteers, whom, encumbered by their arms and in difficult ground, they were unable to pursue. And the attacks of these light-armed troops, as they grew more fully conscious of their own superiority in numbers and saw that their enemy was growing weary, became more formidable. Clouds of dust arose from the newly burnt wood—so Thucydides reports the scene from the vivid description of an eyewitness—and there was no possibility of a man’s seeing what was before him, owing to the showers of arrow’s and stones hurled by their assailants which were flying amid the dust And now the Lacedaemonians began to be sorely distressed, for their felt cuirasses did not protect them against the arrows, and the points of the javelins broke off where they struck them. They were at their wits’ end, not being able to see out of their eyes or to hear the word of command, which was drowned by the cries of the enemy. Destruction was staring them in the face, and they had no means or hope of deliverance.

At length it was determined that the only chance lay in retreating to the high hill at the north of the island. About a mile had to be traversed to the foot of the hill; but the ground was very difficult. The endurance and discipline of the Spartan soldiers was conspicuously displayed in this slow retreat which was accomplished, with but a small loss, under a burning sun, by men who were suffering from thirst and weary with the distress of an unequal battle. When they had reached and climbed the hill the battle assumed another aspect. On the high ground, no longer exposed on their flanks, and finding a defence in an old Cyclopean wall, which can still be traced round the summit, the Lacedaemonians were able to repel their assailants; and they were determined not to surrender. At length a Messenian captain came to the Athenian generals and said that he knew a path by which he thought he could take some light-armed troops round to the rear of the Spartans. The hill on its eastern side falls precipitously into the bay; but the fall is not direct. The summit slopes down into a hollow, about fifty yards w ide, and then the hill rises again into the cliff which falls sheer into the water. But at the south end of the cliff there is a narrow gorge by which it is possible to climb up into the hollow. Embarking in a boat on the eastern side of the island, the Messenians reached the foot of the gorge and climbed up with difficulty, unseen by the Spartans, who neglected what seemed an impracticable part of the hill, and then ascending the summit suddenly appeared above the Lacedaemonians, who were ranged in a semicircle below on the western and northern slopes. The Athenians now invited the defenders to capitulate, and with the consent of their friends on the mainland they laid down their arms. Two hundred and ninety-two, of the four hundred and twenty, survived, and were brought to Athens. The high opinion which the Greek world held of the Spartan spirit was expressed in the universal amazement which was caused by this surrender. Men had thought that nothing could induce the Lacedaemonians to give up their arms.

Cleon had performed his promise; he brought back the captives within twenty days. The success was of political rather than military importance. The Athenians could indeed ravage Lacedaemonian territory from Pylos, but it was a greater thing that they had in the prisoners a security against future invasions of Attica and a means of making an advantageous peace when they chose. It was the most important success gained in the war, and it was a brilliant example of the valuable successes that can be gained, as it were accidentally, in following that system of strategy which Pericles had laid down at the beginning of the war. This stroke of luck increased the influence of Cleon. It was necessary for Nicias to do something to maintain his reputation. Shortly afterwards he led an army into the Corinthian territory, gained a partial victory at Solygea, and then went on to the peninsula of Methone, between Troezen and Epidaurus. He built a wall across the isthmus and left a garrison in Methone. In the following year, he made the more important acquisition of the island of Cythera, from which he was able to make descents upon Laconia. The loss of Cythera was in itself more serious for Sparta than the loss of Pylos; but owing to the attendant circumstances the earlier event made far greater stir. The Athenians had now three bases of operation in the Peloponnesus—Pylos, Cythera, and Methone.

To none was the discomfit of the Spartans in Messenia sweeter than to the Messenian exiles who had borne their part in the work of that memorable day. At Olympia there is a figure of Victory’, hovering aloft in the air, amid wind-blown drapery, while an eagle flies below her. It is the work of the sculptor Paeonius, and it was dedicated by the Messenians in the Altis of Zeus, with part of the spoil they stripped from the hated usurpers of their land.


Sect 11. Athenian Capture of Nisaea, 429.426 B.C.

In each of the first seven years of the war, Attica was invaded, except twice; on one occasion, the attack on Plataea had taken the place of the incursion into Attica, and, on another, the Peloponnesian army was hindered by earthquakes from advancing beyond the isthmus. Every year by way of reply the Athenians invaded the Megarid twice, in spring and in autumn. The capture of Pylos affected both these annual events. The invasion of Attica was discontinued, because Athens held the Spartan hostages; and the elation of the Athenians at their success induced them to undertake a bolder enterprise against Megara.

Minoa, now a hill on the mainland but then an island, lay at the entrance to the harbour of Nisaea. It was separated from Nisaea by a narrow channel, protected by two projecting towers. Nicias had destroyed these towers, three years before, and had fortified Minoa, so as to blockade completely the port of Nisaea. The Megarians then depended entirely on the port of Pagae and their communications with the Crisaean Gulf. They were hard pressed; their distress was vividly pourtrayed in the comedy of the Acharnians which was put on the stage two years later. The situation became almost intolerable when a domestic sedition led to the expulsion of a small party who seized Pagae and cut off Megara from importing food on that side too. It became a question between allowing the exiles to return or submitting to Athens. Those who knew that the return of their rivals from Pagae would mean their own doom opened secret negotiations with Athens, and offered to betray Megara and Nisaea. The Long Walls and Nisaea were held by a Peloponnesian garrison. The generals Hippocrates and Demosthenes organised the enterprise. While a force of 4000 hoplites and 600 horse marched overland by Eleusis, the generals sailed to Minoa. When-night fell, they crossed to the mainland. There was a gate in the eastern wall close to the spot where it joined the fortification of Nisaea, and near the gate there was a hollow out of which earth to make bricks had been dug. Here Hippocrates and 600 hoplites concealed themselves, while Demosthenes, with some light-armed Plataeans and a band of the youthful Peripoloi or Patrollers of Attica, took up a position still nearer the gate, in a sacred enclosure of the war-god, Enyalios. The conspirators had long matured their plan for admitting the Athenians. As no boat could openly leave the harbour, owing to the occupation of Minoa, they had easily obtained permission of the commander of the Peloponnesian garrison to carry out through this gate a small boat on a cart at night, for the alleged purpose of privateering. They used to convey the boat to the sea along the ditch which surrounded Nisaea, and, after a midnight row, return before dawn, and re-enter the Long Walls by the same gate. This became a regular practice, so that they carried out the boat without exciting any suspicion, on the night fixed for executing the con­spiracy. When the boat returned, the gate was opened, and Demosthenes, who had been watching for the moment, leapt forward and forced his way in, assisted by the Megarians. They kept the gate open till Hippocrates arrived with his hoplites, and, when these were inside, the Long Walls were easily secured, the garrison retreating into Nisaea. In the morning the main body of the Athenians arrived. A scheme for the betrayal of Megara had been concerted. The conspirators urged their fellow’-citizens to sally forth and do battle with the Athenians; they had secretly arranged that the Athenians should rush in, and had anointed themselves with oil, as a mark by which they should be known and spared in the assault. But their political opponents, informed of the scheme, immediately rushed to the gates and declared decisively that they should not be opened ; the battle would have to be first fought inside. The delay apprised the Athenians that their friends had been baffled, and they set about blockading Nisaea. Their energy was such that in two days the circumvallation was practically completed, and the garrison, in want of food (for their supplies were derived from Megara), capitulated. Thus the Long Walls, which they had built themselves, and the port of Nisaea had passed again into the hands of the Athenians. They were not, however, destined to take the city on the hill. The Spartan general Brasidas, who was recruiting in the north-east regions of the Peloponnesus for an expedition to Thrace, hastened to the relief of Megara. Nothing more than an indecisive skirmish took place; the Athenians did not care to risk a battle and they resolved to be content with the acquisition of Nisaea. Soon afterwards there was a revolution in Megara. The exiles from Pagae were received bac; they soon got the powder into their hands and murdered their enemies. A narrow oligarchical constitution was established. The new order of things, says Thucydides, lasted a very long time, considering the small number of its authors.


Sect. 12. Athens fails in Boeotia

The recovery of Nisaea which had been lost by the Thirty Years’ Peace was a solid success, and it seemed to the ambitious hopes of the two generals who had achieved it the first step in the recovery of all the former conquests of their city. Hippocrates and Demosthenes induced Athens to strive to win back what she had lost at Coronea. But Boeotia was not like Megara; and an attempt on Boeotia was an unwise reversion to the early continental policy of Pericles, which Pericles had himself definitely abandoned. The dream of a second Oenophyta was far less likely to come true than the threat of a second Coronea. And the enter­prise was a departure from the Periclean strategy, of which Nicias was the chief exponent, and it is significant that Nicias took no part in it. Moreover at this moment Athens, as we shall see, ought to have concentrated her forces on the defence of her Thracian possessions which were in grave jeopardy. The Boeotian, like the Megarian, plan was formed in concert with native malcontents who wished to overthrow the oligarchies in the cities, to establish democratical governments, and probably dissolve the Boeotian Confederacy. At this time the Confederacy was governed by eleven Boeotarchs, two of whom were chosen by Thebes, and four Councils, of un­known nature and functions.

The new Boeotian plan, in which Demosthenes was now concerned, did not involve such extensive operations and combinations as that which he had conceived when he invaded Aetolia. But the two places resembled each other in so far as each involved operations from the Crisaean Gulf. Demosthenes, having sailed to Naupactus and gathered a force of Acarnanians, was to go on to secure Siphae, the port of Thespiae, on the shore of a promontory beneath Mount Helicon. On the same day, the Athenian army under Hippocrates was to enter Boeotia on the north-east and seize the temple of Apollo at Delium, which stood on the sea-coast over against the Lelantine plain in Euboea. At the same time Chaeronea, the extreme west town of the land, was to be seized by domestic con­spirators. Thus on three sides the Boeotian government was to be threatened ; and the same day was fixed for the three attacks. But the scheme was betrayed by a Phocian, and frustrated by the Boeotarchs, who occupied Siphae and Chaeronea with strong forces, and made a general levy of the Boeotians to oppose the army of Hippocrates. It mattered little that Demosthenes made a mistake about the day fixed for the attack; he found himself opposed by a Boeotian force and could only retire. None of the internal movements in the Boeotian cities, on which the Athenians had counted, took place.

Hippocrates, however, had time to reach and fortify. He had a force of 7000 hoplites and over 20,000 light-armed troops. A trench, with a strong rampart and palisade, was drawn round the temple; and at noon on the fifth day from their departure from Athens the work was completed. The army then left Delium, to return home. When they crossed the frontier and entered the Athenian territory of Oropus, at about a mile from Delium, the hoplites halted, to wait for Hippocrates, who had remained behind to give final directions to the garrison of the temple; the light-armed troops proceeded on their way to Athens. The hoplites were interrupted in their rest by a message from Hippocrates, ordering them to form instantly in array of battle, as the enemy were upon them. The Boeotian forces had been concentrated at Tanagra, about five miles from Delium; and they had been persuaded by Pagondas, one of the Theban Boeotarchs, to follow and attack the Athenians in their retreat although they had left Boeotia. After a rapid march, Pagondas halted where a hill concealed him from the view of the Athenians and drew up his army, It consisted of 7000 hoplites—the same number as that of the enemy—1000 cavalry, and over 10,000 light-armed men. The Thebans occupied the right wing, in the unique formation of a mass twenty-five shields deep; the other contingents varied in depth. The Athenian line was formed with the uniform and regular depth of eight shields. Hippocrates had arrived and was moving along the lines encouraging his men, when the enemy, who had for some time been visible on the crest of the hill, raised the Paean and charged down. The extreme parts of the wings never met, for watercourses lay between them. But the rest pushed shield against shield and fought fiercely. On the right the Athenians were victorious, but on the left they could not sustain the enormous pressure of the massed Theban force, especially as the Thebans were probably man for man stronger than the Athenians through a laborious athletic training. But even the victory on the right was made of none effect through the sudden appearance of a squadron of cavalry, which Pagondas, seeing the situation, had sent unobserved round the hill. The Athenians thought it was the vanguard of another army and fled. Hippocrates was slain and the army completely dispersed.

The battle of Delium confirmed the verdict of Coronea.

The Boeotians were left masters of the field, but Delium itself t was still held by the invader. This led to a curious negotiation. The Athenians demanded their dead, and the Boeotians refused permission to take them unless they evacuated the temple of Apollo. Now if there was an international custom which was universally recognised among the Greeks, even among the barbarous Aetolians, it was the obligation of the victor to allow his defeated opponents to remove and bury their dead, unconditionally. This custom had the sanction of religious feeling and was seldom violated. But in this .case the Boeotians had a pretext for departing from the usual practice. They alleged that the Athenians had on their side violated the laws of Hellenic warfare by seizing and fortifying the sanctuary of Delium and living in it, as if it were unconsecrated,— using even the sacred water. There seems little doubt that the conduct of the Boeotians was a greater departure from recognised custom than the conduct of the Athenians. The herald of the Athenians made what seems a foolish reply, to the effect that Delium having been occupied by the Athenians was now part of Attic soil, and that they showed the customary respect for the temple, so far as was possible in the circumstances. “You cannot tell us to quit Boeotia,” he said, “for the garrison of Delium is not in Boeotia”. The Boeotians made an appropriate answer to the quibble: “If you are in Boeotia, take what is yours; if you are in your own land, do as you like.” The dead were not surrendered, and the Boeotians betook themselves to the blockade of Delium. They took the place by a curious device. They sawed in two and hollowed out a great beam, which they joined together again very exactly, like a flute, and suspended a vessel by chains at the end of the beam; the iron mouth of a bellows directed downwards into the vessel was attached to the beam, of which a great part was itself overlaid with iron. This machine they brought up from a distance on carts to various points of the rampart where vine stems and wood had been most extensively used, and when it was quite near the wall they applied a large bellows to their own end of the beam and blew through it. The blast, prevented from escaping, passed into the vessel, which contained burning coals and sulphur and pitch; these made a huge flame and set fire to the rampart, so that no one could remain upon it. The garrison took flight and the fort was taken. The Boeotians no longer refused to surrender the dead, who included rather less than 1000 hoplites.


Sect. 13. The War in Thrace. Athens loses Amphipolis

The defeat of Delium eclipsed the prestige of Athens, but did not seriously impair her strength. Yet it was a fatal year; and a much greater blow, entailing a permanent loss, was dealt her in her Thracian dominion.

The war in Thrace was always complicated by the neighbourhood of the kingdoms of Thrace and Macedonia. Before the fall of Potidaea the Athenians had formed an alliance with Sitalces, king of The Thrace, and made his son Sadocas an Athenian citizen. The realm of Sitalces extended from the Strymon to the Euxine, its coast-line began at Abdera and ended at the mouth of the Ister. His revenue of tribute both from Greek towns and barbarians amounted, in the reign of his successor, to more than 400 talents—counting only what was paid in the shape of coin. The alliance with Athens seems to have lasted till the king’s death. An Athenian ambassador from Thrace, in the Acharnians of Aristophanes, reports to the Assembly :

We passed our time

In drinking with Sitalces. He’s your friend,

Your friend and lover, if ever there was one,

And writes the name of Athens on his walls.

Perdiccas, the shifty king of Macedonia, played a double game between Athens and Sparta. At one time he helped the Chalcidians against Athens, at another he sided with Athens against her revolted allies. Throughout all changes of fortune, the city of Methone, situated to the south of the mouth of the Haliacmon, held to Athens with unshaken fidelity, though the varying relations between Athens and Perdiccas must have seriously affected the welfare of the Methonaeans. Some decrees relating to Methone have been preserved on a marble, adorned with a relief of the Athenian Demos seated, stretching out his hand to the Demos of Methone, who stands accompanied by a dog.

Perdiccas and the Chalcidians (of Olynthus) feared that the success of Pylos might be followed by increased activity of the Athenians in Thrace, and they sent an embassy to Sparta, requesting help, and expressing a wish that Brasidas might be the commander of whatever auxiliary force should be sent. It was wise policy for Sparta to threaten her rival in Thrace at this juncture, though the prospect of any abiding success was faint. No Spartans went, but 700 Helots were armed as hoplites; the government was glad to take the opportunity of removing another portion of this dangerous element in the population. Having obtained some Peloponnesian recruits and having incidentally, as we have already seen, saved Megara, Brasidas marched northward to the new colony of Heraclea. Brasidas was a Spartan by mistake. He had nothing in common with his fellows, except personal bravery, which was the least of his of virtues. He had a restless energy and spirit of enterprise, which received small encouragement from the slow and hesitating authorities of his country. He had an oratorical ability which distinguished him above the Lacedaemonians, who were notoriously unready of speech. He was free from political prejudices, and always showed himself tolerant, just, and moderate in dealing with political questions. Besides this, he was simple and straightforward; men knew that they could trust his word implicitly. But the quality which most effectually contributed to his brilliant career and perhaps most strikingly belied his Spartan origin was his power of winning popularity abroad and making himself personally liked by strangers. In Greece, the Spartan abroad was a proverb for insolence and misbehaviour. Brasidas shone out, on a dark background, by his frank and winning manners.

His own tact and rapid movements, as well as the influence of Perdiccas, enabled Brasidas to march through Thessaly, which was by no means well disposed to the Lacedaemonians. When he reached Macedonia, Perdiccas required his assistance against Arrhabaeus, the king of the Lyncestians, in Upper Macedonia. Brasidas was impatient to reach Chalcidice, and he contrived to make a separate arrangement with Arrhabaeus and abstained from invading Lyncestis, to the disappointment of Perdiccas. He then marched against Acanthus, situated on the base of the peninsula of Acte. The mass of the Acanthians were perfectly content with the position of their city as a member of the Athenian Confederacy ; they had no grievance against Athens; and they were unwilling to receive the overtures of Brasidas. They were, however, induced by a small party to admit Brasidas alone into the city, and give him a hearing in the Assembly. From his lips the Acanthians learned the Lacedaemonian programme, and Thucydides has given the substance of what he said. “We declared at the beginning of the war that we were taking up arms to protect the liberties of Hellas against Athens ; and for this purpose we are here now. You have a high repute for power and wisdom, and therefore a refusal from you will retard the good cause. Every city which joins me will retain her autonomy; the Lacedaemonians have pledged themselves to me on this point by solemn oaths. And I have not come to be the tool of a faction, or to enslave the many to the few; in that case we should be committing an act worse than the oppression of the Athenians. If you refuse and say that I have no right to thrust an alliance on a people against its will, 1 will ravage your land and force you to consent. And for two reasons I am justified in doing so. The tribute you pay to Athens’ is a direct and material injury to Sparta, for it contributes to strengthen her foe; and secondly, your example may prevent others from embracing freedom.” When Brasidas retired, there was a long debate; much was said on both sides. The manner of Brasidas had produced a favourable impression; and the fear of losing the vintage was a powerful motive with many for acceding to his demand. The vote was taken secretly and the majority determined to detach themselves from Athens, though they had no practical grievance and were not enthusiastic for the change.

Acanthus was an Andrian colony, and its action led to the adhesion of two other Andrian colonies, Stagira and Argilus ; and the relations which Brasidas established with Argilus led to the capture of the most important of all Athenian posts in Thrace, and among the most important in the whole Athenian empire, the city of Amphipolis. This place, of which the foundation has been already recorded, had diminished the importance of Argilus and roused the jealousy of the Argilians; although some of the colonists were of Argilian origin. The coming of Brasidas offered Argilus an opportunity, for which she had been waiting, against the Athenians of Amphipolis. After a cold wintry night march, Brasidas found the Bridge of the Strymon defended only by a small guard, which he easily overpowered. Amphipolis was completely unprepared, but Brasidas did not venture to attack the city at once; he expected the gates to be opened by conspirators within, and meanwhile he made himself master of the territory.

That a place of such first-rate importance as Amphipolis should be found unprepared at a time when an energetic enemy like Brasidas was actively engaged against other Athenian cities in the neighbourhood seemed a criminal negligence on the part of the two Strategoi to whom defence of the Thracian interests of Athens was entrusted. These were Thucydides, the son of Olorus, and Eucles. It was inexcusable in Eucles, who was in Amphipolis, to leave the Bridge without an adequate garrison ; and it was considered culpable of Thucydides to have removed the Athenian squadron to the island of Thasos, where (it was insinuated) he possessed mines of his own. A message was sent at once to Thucydides; that officer hastened back with seven triremes and reached the mouth of the Strymon in the evening of the same day. But in the meantime Brasidas had offered the inhabitants of Amphipolis such easy terms that they were accepted. He promised every citizen who chose to remain equal political rights, without any loss of property; while all who preferred to go were allowed five days to remove their possessions. Had the Amphipolitans known how near Thucydides was, they would probably have declined to surrender. Thucydides arrived just too late. But he preserved Eion, at the mouth of the river, and repelled an attack of Brasidas.

The true blame for the loss of Amphipolis probably rests not on the General, who was in a very difficult position, but on the Athenians, who, instead of making adequate provision for the defence of Thrace, were misled by the new strategy of Demosthenes into the unsuccessful expedition to Boeotia. It must be remembered that Thucydides was responsible for the safety of the whole coast of Chalcidice and Thrace; that at any moment he might be summoned to defend any part of it from Potidaea to the Chersonese ; that therefore either Eion or Thasos was a suitable centre for his headquarters; and that Eion had the disadvantage of having no harbour.

It may be that we are indebted to the fall of Amphipolis for the great history of the war. The Athenians accused the neglect of their generals, as having cost them one of their most valuable his possessions. Thucydides was sentenced to banishment, and it is probable that Cleon, to whom he bore no good-will, was instrumental in drawing down upon him a punishment which possibly was not deserved. But in his exile the discredited general became the greatest of Greek historians. If he had remained at Athens and completed his official career he might never have discovered where his genius really lay. By travelling in foreign lands, among the enemies of Athens and in neutral states, Thucydides gained a large knowledge of the Hellenic world and wrote from a wider point of view than he could have done if he had only had an Athenian experience. “Associating,” he says himself, “with both sides, with the Peloponnesians quite as much as with the Athenians, because of my exile, I was thus enabled to watch quietly the course of events.” Judged in this way, the fall of Amphipolis, a great loss to Athens, was a great gain to the world.

Having secured the Strymon, Brasidas retraced his steps and subdued the small towns on the high eastern tongue of Chalcidice. The Andrian Sane and another place held out, and their obscurity saved them. Brasidas hastened on to gain possession of Torone, the strongest city of Sithonia. A small party of the citizens invited and expected him; but the rest of the inhabitants and the Athenian garrison knew nothing of his coming until the place was in his hands. Torone was a hill city by the sea. Besides its walls, it had the protection of a fort on a height which rose out of the water and was connected with the city by a narrow neck of land. This fortress, known as Lecythus, was occupied by an Athenian garrison. Brasidas halted within about half a mile from the city before daybreak. Seven bold soldiers, light-armed and carrying daggers, were secretly introduced by the conspirators. They killed the sentinels on the top of the hill, and then broke down a postern gate, and undid the bars of the great gate near the market-place, in order that the men without might rush in from two sides. A hundred targeteers who had drawn near to the walls dashed in first, and when a signal was given Brasidas followed with the rest. The surprise was complete. Fifty Athenian hoplites were sleeping in the agora; a few were cut down; most escaped to the fort of Lecythus, which was held for some days and then captured.

Brasidas called an assembly of the Toronaeans, and spoke to them in words which sounded strange indeed falling from the mouth of an Hellenic victor. He told them that he had not come to injure the city or the citizens; that those who had not aided in the conspiracy to admit him would be treated on a perfect equality with the others; that the Lacedaemonians had never suffered any wrong from Torone; and that he did not think the worse of those who opposed him.


Sect. 14. Negotiations for Peace

In the meantime the Athenians had taken no measures to check the victorious winter-campaign of Brasidas. Their inactivity was due to two causes. The disaster of Delium had disheartened them, and rendered the citizens unwilling to undertake fresh toil in Thrace. In Grecian history we must steadfastly keep in view that we are reading about citizen soldiers, not about professional soldiers; and that the temper of the time, whether of confidence or dismay, modifies all the calculations of military and political prudence. Secondly, the peace party, especially represented by the generals Nicias and Laches, took advantage of this depression to work in the direction of peace. The possession of the Spartan captives gave the means of coming to terms with Sparta at any moment, but it was clear that they could not now conclude a peace on such favourable terms as would have been possible a year before. If an able statesman, like Pericles, had at this time possessed the confidence and guided the counsels of the Athenians, he would have persuaded them to postpone all thought of peace until the success of Brasidas had been decisively checked and the prestige of Athens in some degree retrieved. This was obviously the true policy, which would have enabled Athens to win the full advantage of the captives of Sphacteria. It was a policy which Cleon, a far abler politician than any of his opponents, must have preached loudly in the Assembly. But the Athenians were not in a mood to weigh considerations of policy; they were swayed by the feelings of the hour, which were flattered by the arguments of the military experts; and they decisively inclined to peace.

The Lacedaemonians were more deliberately set on peace than the Athenians. Their anxiety to recover the Sphacterian captives increased, and on the other hand they desired to set a term to the career of Brasidas in Chalcidice. They wished to take advantage of the considerable successes he had already won, to extort favourable conditions from Athens before any defeat should undo or reverse his triumphs. Nor was the news of his exploits received at Sparta with unmixed feelings of pleasure. They were rather regarded with jealousy and distrust. The victories had not been won by an army of Spartan citizens, but by the brilliant un-Spartan qualities of Brasidas and a force of which the effectiveness entirely depended on its leader. Brasidas had broken through the fetters of Lacedaemonian method, and his fellow-citizens felt that he was a man of different fibre from themselves, and suspected and disliked him accordingly. Moreover the personal influence of king Pleistoanax was thrown weightily into the scale of peace. This king had been banished just before the Thirty Years’ Peace, on the ground that he had taken bribes to spare Attica when he invaded it after the deliverance of Megara. He had lived for nearly twenty years in western Arcadia on the mountain of Lycaeon, beside the dread sanctuary of Zeus, of which it was told that whosoever entered it lost his shadow and died before the year was out. Even here Pleistoanax was afraid for his life. His house was half within the precincts, so that in case of danger he could retire into the sacred place without passing his door. But he had influence at Delphi, and whenever the Spartans consulted that oracle they were always bidden to take back into their own land the seed of the demi-god, the son of Zeus, or else they would have to plough with a silver share. The Lacedaemonians at length recalled him, and re-enthroned him as king with ancient and most solemn ceremonies. But his enemies now vexed him with the charge of having bribed the Pythian priestess to procure his recall. Pleistoanax conceived that such charges would fall to the ground if he satisfied the people by negotiating a permanent peace and restoring as speedily as possible the prisoners from their captivity in Athens to their impatient friends at home. And as a matter of fact, Sparta had everything to gain from making peace at once, unless she was prepared to adopt the Imperial policy of Athens, against which it had been hitherto her role to protest. Such a policy might for a time have met with some success if she had put her whole confidence in Brasidas, but must soon have been checked by the naval superiority of her rival.

Pleistoanax and Nicias understood each other; and Nicias, a man of commonplace ability and possessed by one idea, played into the hands of Sparta. It was not, however, an easy matter to arrange the exact terms of a durable pacification, while it was important for Athens that the negotiation should be made before she experienced any further losses in Thrace. Accordingly the two states agreed on a truce for a year, which would give them time to arrange quietly and at leisure the conditions of a permanent peace. The truce and some of its conditions were suggested by Athens; the terms were drawn up at Sparta and accepted by the Spartan Assembly; and were then conveyed to Athens, where they were proposed for the acceptance of the Athenian Assembly by Laches. The clauses were the following: (1) Free access to the Delphic oracle was ensured to all. For Athens had been debarred from consulting it during the war. (2) Both parties guaranteed the protection of the treasures of Delphi. (3) During the truce both parties should keep what they had; the Athenians retaining Pylos, Cythera, Argolic Methone, Nisaea, and Minoa. (4) The Lacedaemonians were not to sail, even along their own coasts, in warships or in merchant vessels exceeding a certain size (twelve tons). (5) The free passage of envoys, for the purpose of arranging a peace, was provided for. (6) Neither party was to receive deserters; and (7) disputes, in case they arose, were to be decided by arbitration.

The truce was sworn to. But in the meantime an event happened in Chalcidice which was to disappoint the pacific calculations of the statesmen at Athens and Sparta. The city of Scione on the western prong of the Chalcidian fork revolted from Athens and invited Brasidas, much to that general’s surprise. For it was far more hazardous for the towns on the peninsula of Pallene to defy the authority of Athens than for any others; since by the strong city of Potidaea, which stretched entirely across the narrow isthmus, they were isolated and as much exposed to the full force of Athenian power as if they had been islanders. The arrival of Brasidas and the words he spoke to them wound up the men of Scione to the highest pitch of enthusiasm; they set a golden crown on his head, as the liberator of Hellas, and their admiration for him personally was shown by casting garlands on him, as if he were a victorious athlete,—so great was his popularity.

At this point an Athenian and a Lacedaemonian commissioner arrived to announce the truce, which had in fact been concluded two days before Scione revolted. The Athenians refused to admit Scione to the benefit of the armistice until the authorities at home had been consulted. There was deep indignation at Athens when the news of the defection of Scione arrived; it was practically the rebellion of “islanders” relying on the land-power of Sparta. Cleon was able to take advantage of this exasperation and carry a decree that Scione should be destroyed and all the male inhabitants slain. This incident brings out in an interesting way the geographical difference between the three sea-girt promontories of Chalcidice as to their degrees of participation in the insular character. Acte, with its steep inhospitable shores, is far more continental than insular; Sithonia partakes of both natures more equally, is more strictly a half-island; Pallene is more an island than part of the mainland. And we see the political importance of such geographical differences. The loss of Scione produces an irritation at Athens which the loss of Torone could not inspire.

The revolt of Scione was followed by that of the neighbouring town of Mende, and although this happened distinctly after the truce had been made, Brasidas did not hesitate to accept the alliance of Mende, his plea being that in certain points the Athenians themselves had broken the truce. The case of Mende differed from that of Scione; for the revolt was the doing not of the people but of an oligarchical faction. Brasidas was then obliged to join Perdiccas in another expedition against Arrhabaeus, king of the Lyncestians. The fact that the Macedonian monarch was contributing to the pay of the Peloponnesian army rendered it necessary for Brasidas to co-operate in an enterprise which was of no interest to the Greeks. Arrhabaeus was defeated in a battle, but a reinforcement of Illyrians came to his help, and the warlike reputation of Illyria was so great that their approach produced a panic among the Macedonians and the whole army of Perdiccas fled, leaving the small force of Brasidas to retreat as best it could. He was in great jeopardy, but effected his retreat successfully. The incident led to a breach between Brasidas and the Macedonians; Perdiccas changed sides once more, and proved his new friendship to Athens by preventing Lacedaemonian troops, which had been sent to join Brasidas, from crossing Thessaly.

Brasidas returned to Torone and found that an Athenian armament of fifty ships, under Nicias and Niceratus, had recovered Mende, and was besieging Scione. Everywhere else the truce was observed, and by tacit consent the hostilities in Thrace were not allowed to affect the rest of Greece. But it was inevitable that they should frustrate the purpose for which the truce had been concluded. It was impossible that negotiations with a view to the definitive peace should proceed in exactly the same way as had been originally contemplated ; by the end of the year there was a marked change in public feeling at Athens and the influence of Cleon was again in the ascendant. If Nicias had played into the hands of Sparta, Brasidas had played into the hands of Cleon and effectually embarrassed the home government. His conduct first in regard to Scione and then in regard to Mende was unjustifiable and entirely governed by personal considerations. The gold crown of Scione seems to have acted like a potent spell in arousing his ambition, and he began to play a war-game of his own. His policy was the more unhappy, as he was perfectly aware that it was impossible to protect the cities of Pallene against the fleets of their indignant mistress. He effectually hindered the conclusion of peace, which his city sincerely desired. Brasidas and Cleon, Thucydides says, were the chief opponents of the peace; but while the motives of Brasidas were purely personal, the policy of Cleon, whatever his motives may have been, was statesmanlike. He adopted the principle of Pericles that Athens must maintain her empire unimpaired, and he saw that this could not be done without energetic opposition to the progress of Brasidas in Thrace. The charge of Thucydides that Cleon desired war because he could not so easily conceal his own dishonesty in peace, does not carry the least conviction. When the truce expired, Cleon was able to carry a resolution that an expedition should be made to reconquer Amphipolis. It does not appear whether he was himself anxious for the command, in consequence of his previous success at Pylos, or whether the opposition and lukewarmness of the strategi practically forced him into it. But it is certain that all possible difficulties were thrown in his way by Nicias and the peace party, who in their hearts doubtless hoped for the complete failure of his enterprise.


Sect. 15. Battle of Amphipolis and Peace of Nicias

Cleon set sail with thirty ships, bearing 1200 Athenian hoplites, 300 Athenian cavalry, as well as allies. Taking some troops from the force which was still blockading Scione, he gained a considerable success at the outset by taking Torone and capturing the Lacedaemonian governor; Brasidas arrived too late to relieve it. Cleon went on to the mouth of the Strymon and made Eion his headquarters, intending to wait there until he had augmented his army by reinforcements from Thrace and Macedonia.

Not far from its mouth the stream of the Strymon expands into the lake Kerkinitis; on narrowing again into its proper channel it is forced to bend to the westward in order to skirt a hill, and forms a great loop, before it disgorges its waters into the sea close to the walls of Eion. In this loop the high city of Amphipolis stood, water­girt as its name implies,—the river serving as its natural defence, so that it required artificial bulwarks only on the eastern side. On the right bank of the river, to the west of the town, rose the hill of Cerdylion; on the east were the heights of Pangaeus. A ridge joined Pangaeus with the hill of Amphipolis, and the wall of the city crossed the ridge. The Strymon Bridge was outside the south­western extremity of the wall; but, since the place had passed into the hands of Brasidas, a palisade had been built connecting the bridge with the wall. Brasidas with some of his forces took up a commanding position on the hill of Cerdylion, from which he had a wide view of the surrounding country; while other troops remained in Amphipolis under the command of Clearidas, whom he had appointed governor. Their hoplites numbered about 2000.

The discontent and murmurs of his troops forced Cleon to move prematurely. The soldiers had grumbled at leaving Athens under an utterly inexperienced commander to face a general like Brasidas, and they were now displeased at his inaction. In order to do something, Cleon led his army to the top of the ridge, near the city wall, where he could obtain a view of the country beyond, and, as he saw Brasidas on Cerdylion, he had no fear of being attacked. But Brasidas was resolved to attack, before reinforcements should arrive; and, seeing the Athenians move, he descended from Cerdylion and entered Amphipolis. The Athenians, who had reached the ridge, could observe the whole army gathered within the city, and Brasidas himself offering sacrifice at the temple of Athena; and Cleon was presently informed that the feet of men and horses, ready to sally forth, could be seen under one of the gates. Having verified this fact for himself, Cleon gave the signal to wheel to the left and retreat to Eion; it was the only possible line of retreat, and necessarily exposed the unshielded side to an enemy issuing from the city. But he made the fatal mistake of not preparing his men for action, in case they should be forced to fight; he rashly calculated that he would have time to get away. Hence when Brasidas, with 150 hoplites, came forth from one of the gates, ran up the road, and charged the Athenian centre, the left wing, which was in advance, was struck with terror and took to flight. At the same time the rest of the garrison of Amphipolis, led by Clearidas, had issued from a more northerly gate and attacked the Athenian right. Here a stand was made, though Cleon, unused to the dangers of warfare, proved himself no better than many of his hoplites, who were said to be the flower of the army. He fled, and was shot down by a targeteer. But the bravery of Brasidas was doomed as well as the cowardice of Cleon by the equal decree of Death. As he was turning to assist Clearidas, he received a mortal wound and was carried into the city. He lived long enough to be assured of the utter rout of the foe; but his death had practically converted the victory into a defeat. The people of Amphipolis gave him the honours of a hero; they made him their founder, and removed all the memorials of the true founder of their colony, the Athenian Hagnon. Sacrifices were offered to Brasidas, and yearly games celebrated in his honour.

The death of Brasidas removed the chief obstacle to peace; for no man was competent or disposed to resume his large designs in Thrace. The defeat and death of Cleon gave a free hand to Nicias and the peace party. The peace party were in truth far more responsible for the disaster than Cleon, whom they had placed in a false position. Thus the battle of Amphipolis led immediately to the conclusion of peace; and the comic poet could rejoice in the destruction of the pestle and mortar—Cleon and Brasidas—with which the spirits of War and Tumult had pounded the cities of Greece. But the desire of peace seems to have been even stronger at Sparta than at Athens, where there was a certain feeling, in spite of the longing for a rest from warfare, that the lustre of the city was tarnished and something strenuous should be done. Menaces of invading Attica were required to apply the necessary pressure; though they could hardly have been seriously contemplated, as long as the captives were in an Athenian prison. Negotiations were protracted during autumn and winter,. and the peace was definitely concluded about the end of March.

The Peace, of which Nicias and Pleistoanax were the chief authors, was fixed for a term of fifty years. Athens undertook to restore all the posts which she had occupied during the war against the Peloponnesians: Pylos, Cythera, Methone, Atalanta, and Pteleon in Thessaly. But she insisted upon retaining Sollion and Anactorion, and the port of Nisaea. The Lacedaemonians engaged to restore Amphipolis, and to relinquish Argilus, Stagirus, Acanthus, Scolus, Olynthus, Spartolus, which cities, remaining independent, were to pay a tribute to Athens according to the assessment of Aristides. Moreover, the fortress of Panacton, in Mount Cithaeron, which the Boeotians had recently occupied, was to be restored to Athens. Certain towns in the possession of Athens, such as Torone, were to be dealt with at the discretion of Athens. All captives on both sides were to be liberated.

It appeared immediately that the situation was not favourable to a durable peace; for, when the terms were considered at Sparta by a meeting of deputies of the Peloponnesian allies, they were emphatic­ally denounced as unjust by three important states, Corinth, Boeotia, and Megara. Corinth was indignant at the surrender of Sollion and Anactorion; Megara was furious that Nisaea should be abandoned to the enemy; and Boeotia was unwilling to hand over Panacton. Yet Athens could hardly have demanded less. The consequence was that the Peace was only partial; those allies which were politically of most consequence refused to accept it, and they were joined by Elis; the diplomacy of Nicias was a complete failure, so far as it aimed at compassing an abiding peace. But since the deepest cause of the war lay in the commercial competition between Athens and Corinth, and since the interests of Sparta were not at stake, the treaty might seem at least to have the merit of simplifying the situation.

But, if we admit the justification of the imperial policy of Pericles, then the policy of vigorous action advocated by Cleon was abundantly justified. It may safely be said that if the conduct of the state had rested entirely with Cleon, and if the military talents of the city had been loyally placed at his disposal, the interests of Athens (as Pericles understood them) would have been far better served than if Nicias and his party had been allowed to manage all things as they willed without the restraint of Cleon’s opposition. Few statesmen of the merit of Cleon have come before posterity for judgment at such a great disadvantage, condemned by Thucydides, held up to eternal ridicule by Aristophanes. But when we allow for the personal grudge of Thucydides, these testimonies only show that Cleon was a coarse, noisy, ill-bred, audacious man, offensive to noblemen and formidable to officials—the watchful dog of the people. Nothing is proved against his political insight or his political honesty. The portrait of Aristophanes in the Knights carries no more historical value than nowadays a caricature in a comic paper. He too had suffered from the assaults of Cleon, who

had dragged him to the Senate House,

And trodden him down and bellowed over him,

And mauled him till he scarce escaped alive.

The Peace of Nicias was celebrated by a play of Aristophanes, which admirably expresses the exuberant joy then felt at Athens, but carefully avoids the suggestion of any noble sentiment that may have quickened the poet’s delight in the accomplishment of the policy he had advocated. So Cleon’s friends might have said; but we must judge Aristophanes fairly, and not misapprehend the comic poet’s function. Comedy did not guide public opinion, but rather echoed it; comedy set up no exalted ideal or high standard of action. The best hits were those which tickled the man in the market-place and more or less responded to his thoughts. Aristophanes had his own political prejudices and predilections; but as a son of Athens he was assuredly proud of the great place which her democracy had won for her in the world. It was the nature and the business of his muse to distort in the mirror of comedy the form and feature of the age; but the poet who was inspired to write the verse

O rich and renowned, and with violets crowned,

O Athens, the envied of nations !

cannot have been altogether out of sympathy with those who strove to maintain the imperial position of his country.