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Sect. 1. New Political Combinations with Argos


Sparta had good reasons for desiring peace; the prospect in the Peloponnesus gave her no little concern. Mantinea had been gradually enlarging her boundaries southwards; and that could not be permitted. Elis was sulky and hostile, because, in a quarrel with Lepreon, Sparta had supported her rival. Far more serious than these minor vexations was the circumstance that the treaty of peace with Argos was about to expire. It had been a consideration of supreme importance for Sparta, when she entered upon the war with Athens, that for the next ten years she was secure on the side of her old Peloponnesian rival. But there was now the chance that Athens and Argos might combine, and, as Argos had not agreed to renew the treaty, there was urgent need to come to terms with Athens. These reasons which recommended the peace to Sparta ought to have prevented Athens from consenting to it. The settlement was a complete failure. Not only did the Corinthians and the other chief allies refuse to accede to it, but the signatories found themselves unable to carry out the terms they had agreed upon. The Chalcidians refused to surrender Amphipolis, and the Spartans could not compel them. Athens therefore justly declined to carry out her part of the bargain. As a way out of this deadlock, the Spartans, impatient at all costs to recover the Sphacterian prisoners, conceived the device of entering into a defensive alliance with their old enemy. This proposal, warmly supported by Nicias, was accepted, and the captives were at length restored,—Athens still retaining Pylos and Cythera.

This approximation between Sparta and Athens led directly to the dissolution of the Peloponnesian league. Corinth, Mantinea, Elis, and the Chalcidians of Thrace, considering themselves deserted by their leader, openly broke with her, and formed an alliance with Argos, who now enters upon the scene. There was, however, little reason to fear or hope that the intimacy between Sparta and Athens could be long or strong, seeing that Athens insisted on keeping Cythera and Pylos until Amphipolis should be restored to her and the other states should accede to the Peace.

In the following year these unstable political combinations were upset, and a new situation created, by a change in the balance of parties at Athens. The opposition to Nicias was led by Hyperbolus, a man of the same class and same kind of ability as Cleon; a comic poet—and no statesman was such a favourite butt of comedy as Hyperbolus—described him as a Cleon in hyperbole. But the party was now strengthened by the accession of a young man of high birth, brilliant intellect, and no morality, Alcibiades, son of Cleinias. Educated by his kinsman Pericles in democratic traditions, he was endowed by nature with extraordinary beauty and talents, by fortune with the inheritance of wealth which enabled him to indulge an inordinate taste for ostentation. He had shocked his kinsfolk and outraged the city, not by his dissoluteness, but by the incredible insolence which accompanied it. The numerous anecdotes of his petulance, which no one dared to punish, need not all be true; but they illustrate the fact that undue respect for persons of birth and wealth had not disappeared in the Athenian democracy. Alcibiades was feared and courted, and pursued by lovers of both sexes. He fought with bravery at Delium, where his life was saved by his friend Socrates the philosopher. It was a celebrated friendship. Intellectual power and physical courage were the only points of likeness between them; socially and morally, as well as in favour and fortune, they were as contrasted as two men well could be. Though Socrates took no interest in politics, he was an unequalled dialectician, and an aspiring statesman found his society a good training for the business of political debate. Alcibiades indeed had not in him the stuff of which true statesmen are made; he had not the purpose, the perseverance, or the self-control. An extremely able and dexterous politician he certainly was; but he wanted that balance which a politician, whether scrupulous or unscrupulous, must have in order to be a great statesman. Nor had Alcibiades any sincere belief in the democratic institutions of his country, still less any genuine sympathy with the advanced democratic party whose cause he espoused. When he said—as Thucydides makes him say—at Sparta, at a later stage of his career, that democracy is “acknowledged folly,” he assuredly expressed what he felt in his heart. Yet at this time his ultimate aim may have been to win such a place as that which Pericles had held, and rule his country without being formally her ruler. At all events he saw his way to power through war and conquest.

The accession of Alcibiades was particularly welcome to the radical party, not so much on account of his family connexions, his diplomatic and rhetorical talents, but because he had a military training and could perform the functions of strategos. Unfitness for the post of strategos was, as we have seen, the weak point in the position of men like Hyperbolus and Cleon. When Alcibiades was elected a strategos and Nicias was not re-elected, the prospects of the radical party looked brighter. The change was immediately felt. Athens entered into an alliance with Argos, and her allies Elis an Mantinea, for a hundred years; and the treaty was sealed by a join expedition against Epidaurus. Sparta assisted Epidaurus, and then the Athenians declared that the Lacedaemonians had broken the Peace.

The new policy of Athens received a check by the return of Nicias to power and the refusal of the people to re-elect the adventurous Alcibiades; but the alliance with Argos was not broken off. Sparta, alarmed by the activity of Argos against Epidaurus, resolved to strike a blow, and sent forth in summer an army under king Agis t0 invade the Argive land. The allies gathered at Phlius, and Corinth, which had no longer any reason to hold aloof, sent a contingent. The Argive troops under Thrasyllus, with their Mantinean and Elean allies, were in every way inferior to the enemy; yet concentrating close to Nemea, they could easily defend the chief pass from the north into the plain of Argos. But Agis outmanoeuvred them. Sending the Boeotians along the main road by Nemea, he led his own troops by a difficult mountain path, from the west, and descended into the plain by the valley of the Inachus; the Corinthians and Phliasians he sent over by another pass. Thus the Argives were hemmed in between two armies and cut off from their city. They left their position near Nemea and came down into the plain; the Boeotians appear not to have followed. The soldiers of both Thrasyllus and Agis were confident of victory, but the generals were of another mind. Agis, as well as his antagonist, considered his position precarious, and consequently they came to terms, concluding a truce for four months. On both sides there was a loud outcry against the generals, and Thrasyllus was nearly stoned to death by his disappointed soldiers.

Athenian forces now arrived at Argos, under Laches and Nicostratus, accompanied by Alcibiades as an ambassador. Stepping beyond his instructions, Alcibiades induced the allies to disregard the truce, on the technical ground that, not having been accepted by the Athenians, it was not valid. The allied troops accordingly crossed the mountains into Arcadia and won Orchomenus. The men of Elis then proposed to march against their own particular foes, the people of Lepreon; and being outvoted they deserted their allies and marched home. The army, thus weakened by the loss of 3000 hoplites, was obliged to hasten southward to protect Mantinea, against which the Lacedaemonians under Agis, along with the men of Tegea, had come forth.

And now, at length, a great battle was fought. The exact numbers are not known, but must have approached 10,000 on each side. Coming round the hill of Scope, the spur of Mount Maenalus, which projects into the plain between Tegea and Mantinea, at the point where the territories of the two cities met, the Lacedaemonians found the enemy drawn up for fight and proved their excellent discipline by a rapid formation in the face of the hostile line. They won the battle; but their success was endangered, and its completeness diminished, by a hitch which occurred at the outset. There was a tendency in all Greek armies, when engaging, to push towards the right, each man fearing for his own exposed right side and trying to edge under the screen of his neighbour’s shield. Consequently, an army was always inclined to outflank the left wing of the enemy by its own right. On this occasion, Agis observed that the Mantineans, who were on the right wing of the foe, stretched far beyond his own left wing, and fearing it would be disastrously outflanked and surrounded, gave a signal to the troops of his extreme left to make a lateral movement further towards the left; and at the same time he commanded two captains on his right to move their divisions round to fill up the gap thus created. The first order was executed, but the two captains refused to move. The result was that the extreme left was isolated, and utterly routed, while a band of 1000 chosen Argives dashed through the gap. On the right, however, the Lacedaemonians were completely victorious over the Athenians and other allies. The Athenians would have been surrounded and utterly at the mercy of their foes, if Agis had not recalled his troops to assist his discomfited left wing. Both Laches and Nicostratus fell.

The Lacedaemonians returned home and celebrated the feast of the Carnean Apollo in joy. The victory did much to restore the prestige of Sparta, which had dwindled since the disaster of Sphacteria. The public opinion of Greece had pronounced Sparta to be stupid and inert; it now began to reconsider its judgment. But the victory had direct political results; it transformed the situation in the Peloponnesus. One of those double changes which usually went together, a change in the constitution and a change in foreign policy, was brought about at Argos. The democracy was replaced by an oligarchy, and the alliance with Athens was abandoned for an alliance with Sparta. Mantinea, Elis, and the Achaean towns also went over to the victor. Athens was again isolated.

It was probably at this juncture that the advanced democrats in Athens made an attempt to remove from their way the influential man who was their chief opponent, Nicias. It had been due to his counsels that Argos had not been more effectively supported; there was probably a good deal of dissatisfaction at Athens; and, when Hyperbolus proposed that a vote of ostracism should be held, he had good grounds to hope that there would be a decision against Nicias, and no apparent reason to fear for himself. He might calculate that most of the supporters of Nicias would vote against the more dangerous Alcibiades. The calculation was so well grounded that it missed its mark; for Alcibiades, seeing the risk which threatened him, deserted Hyperbolus and the democratic party, and allied himself with Nicias. So it came about that Hyperbolus was ruined by his own machination; all the followers of Nicias and Alcibiades wrote his name on their sherds, and he was banished for ten years. His political career had ended. This was the last case of ostracism at Athens; the institution was not abolished, but it became a dead letter. Henceforward it was deemed a sufficient safeguard for the constitution that any man who proposed a measure involving a change in any of the established laws was liable to be prosecuted under the law known as the Graphe Paranomon, which it was death to transgress.

The new alliance of the pious and punctilious Nicias, champion of peace, with the profane and unstable Alcibiades, bent on enterprises of war, was more unnatural than that between the high-born noble and the lamp-maker. But Nicias seems to have been to some small extent aroused from his policy of inactivity. We find him undertaking an expedition against Chalcidice, where nothing had been done since the Peace, except the capture of Scione and the execution of all the male inhabitants.

Nicias failed in an attempt on Amphipolis; but in the following year an enterprise in the southern Aegean was attended with success. The island of Melos had hitherto remained outside the sea-lordship of the Athenians, and Athens, under the influence of Alcibiades, now attacked her. The town of Melos was invested in the summer by land and sea, and surrendered at discretion in the following winter. All the men of military age were put to death, the other inhabitants were enslaved, and the island was colonised by Athenians.

The conquest of Melos is remarkable, not for the rigorous treatment of the Melians, which is merely another example of the inhumanity which we have already met in the cases of Plataea, Mytilene, Scione, but for the unprovoked aggression of Athens, without any passable pretext. By the curious device of an imaginary colloquy between Athenian envoys and the Melian government, Thucydides has brought the episode into dramatic relief. In this scene the Athenians assert in frank and shameless words the “law of nature” that the stronger should rule over the weaker. This was a doctrine which it was Hellenic to follow, but barbarous to enunciate in all its nakedness; and in the negotiations which preceded the blockade no Athenian spokesmen would have uttered the undiplomatic crudities which Thucydides ascribes to them. The historian has merely used the dialogue to emphasise the overbearing spirit of the Athenians, flown with insolence, on the eve of an enterprise which was destined to bring signal retribution and humble their city in the dust. Different as Thucydides and Herodotus were in their minds and methods, they had both the same, characteristically Hellenic, feeling for a situation like this. The check of Athens rounded the theme of the younger, as the check of Persia had rounded the theme of the elder, historian; and, although Nemesis, who moves openly in the pages of Herodotus, is kept carefully in the background by Thucydides, we are conscious of her influence.

During the years immediately succeeding the Peace there are some signs that the Athenians turned their attention to matters of religion, which had perhaps been too much neglected during the war. It may have been in these years that they set about the building of a new temple for Athena and Erechtheus, concerning which we shall hear again at a later stage. It may have been at this time that Asclepius, the god of healing, came over with his snake from Epidaurus, and established himself in a sanctuary under the south slope of the Acropolis. And it was probably soon after the Peace that a resolution was carried imposing a new tax upon the fruits of the earth for the maintenance of the worship of Eleusis. The farmers of Attica were required to pay 1/600 of every medimnus of barley and 1/1200 of every medimnus of wheat. The same burden was imposed upon the allies; and the Council was directed to invite “all Hellenic cities whom it seemed possible to approach on the matter to send first-fruits likewise.


Sect. 2. The Western Policy of Athens


During the fifth century the eyes of Athenian statesmen often wandered to western Greece beyond the seas. We can surprise some oblique glances, as early as the days of Themistocles; and we have seen how under Pericles a western policy definitely began. An Alliances alliance was formed with the Elymian town of Segesta, and subsequently treaties of alliance (the stone records are still partly preserved) were concluded (as has been already mentioned) with Leontini and Rhegium. One general object of Athens was to support the Ionian cities against the Dorian, which were predominant in number and power, and especially against Syracuse, the daughter and friend of Corinth. The same purpose of counteracting the Dorian predominance may be detected in the foundation of Thurii. But Thurii did not effect this purpose. The colonists were a mixed body; other than Athenian elements gained the upper hand; and, in the end, Thurii became rather a Dorian centre and was no support to Athens. It is to be observed that at the time of the foundation of Thurii, and for nigh thirty years more, Athens is seeking merely influence in the west, she has no thought of dominion. The growth of her connexion with Italian and Sicilian affairs was forced upon her by the conditions of commerce and the rivalry of Corinth.

The treaties with Leontini and Rhegium had led to no immediate interference in Sicily on the part of the Athenians. The first action  came six years later, Leontini was struggling to preserve her dependence against Syracuse, her southern neighbour. All the Dorian cities, with the exception of Acragas and Camarina, were on the side of Syracuse, while Leontini had the support of Rhegium, Catane, Naxos, and Camarina. The continued independenc of the Ionian element in western Greece might seem to be seriously at stake. The embassy of the Leontines was accompanied by the greatest of their citizens, Gorgias the professor of eloquence, whose fair and influence were Panhellenic. We may well believe that when the embassy arrived the Athenians were far more interested in the great man than in his mission; that they thronged in excitement to the Assembly, caring little what he said, but much how he said it. His eloquence indeed was hardly needed to win a favourable answer. Athens was convinced of the expediency of bringing Sicily within the range of her politics. It was important to hinder corn and other help being conveyed from thence to her Peloponnesian enemies; it was important to prevent Syracuse, the friend of Corinth, from raising her head too high; and already adventurous imaginations may have gone beyond the thought of Athenian influence, and dreamed of Athenian dominion, in the west. Hyperbolus seems to have especially interested himself in the development of a policy in the western Mediterranean. Aristophanes ridicules him for contemplating an enterprise against Carthage herself.

An expedition was sent out, under the command of Laches. It achieved little, but, if it had been followed up, might have led to much. Messana was induced to join Athens, who thus obtained free navigation of the Straits. The old alliance with Segesta was renewed, but a severe check was experienced in an attempt to take Inessa. The poor success of this expedition must partly at least be set down to the dishonesty of the general Laches and his treasurer. Cleon seems to have called Laches to account for his defalcations, on his return; and a comic poet jested how Laches ate up the Sicilian cheese—Sicily was famous for her cheeses—with the help of his treasurer, the cheese-grater.

The episode of Pylos and the operations at Corcyra may fairly be regarded as causes which ruined Athenian prospects in Sicily. For these affairs detained the fleet which was under the command of Eurymedon and Sophocles, and the delay led to the loss of the one thing which the expedition of Laches had gained, the adhesion of Messana. This city, cleft by adverse political parties, revolted; and the fleet, when at last it came, accomplished nothing worthy of record. Its coming seems rather to have been the occasion for the definite shaping of a movement among almost all the Sicilian states towards peace,—a movement unfavourable to the Athenian designs. When the Athenian generals invited the cities to join in the war against Syracuse, they were answered by the gathering of a congress at Gela, where delegates from all the Siceliot cities met to discuss the situation and consider the possibility of peace. The man who took the most prominent part at this remarkable congress was Hermocrates of Syracuse. He developed what has been justly described as a Siceliot policy. Sicily is a world by itself, with its own interests and politics, and the Greeks outside Sicily should be considered as strangers and not permitted to make or meddle in the affairs of the island. Let the Sicilian cities settle their own differences among themselves, but combine to withstand intervention from Athens or any other external power. Thus the policy of Hermocrates was neither local nor Panhellenic, but Siceliot. It has been compared to the “Monroe doctrine” of the United States. The policy, indeed, was never realised, and we shall see that Hermocrates himself was driven by circumstances to become eminently untrue to the doctrine which he preached. But the Congress of Gela was not a failure; the policy of peace prevented at the time any serious Athenian intervention. Soon afterwards (423 B.C.) a sedition was disastrous to Leontini. Its oligarchs became Syracusan citizens; Leontini ceased to exist as a city and became a Syracusan fortress. Such an incident, following so hard upon the pacification which Syracusan diplomacy had helped to bring about, must have produced a strange impression on the Siceliots. It seemed clear that Syracuse wanted to get rid of the Athenians only for the purpose of tyrannising over her neighbours. Athens was again invited to intervene, and she did intervene, but not seriously or effectually; and it was not till the year of the conquest of Melos that she resumed her active interest in the politics of western Hellas.


Sect. 3. The Sailing of the Sicilian Expedition.First Operations in Sicily


In that year there arrived at Athens an appeal for help from Segesta, (416 B.C.) who was at war with her stronger southern neighbour: Selinus. The appeal was supported by the Leontine democrat, who had no longer a city of their own. Athens sent envoy to Sicily, for the purpose of reporting on the situation and spying out the resources of Segesta, which had undertaken, if the Athenians would send an armament, to provide the expenses of the war. The ambassadors returned with sixty talents of uncoined silver and glowing stories of the untold wealth of the people of Segesta. They described the sacred vessels of gold and the rich plate of the private citizens. Alcibiades and all the younger generation were in favour of responding to the appeal; of vigorously espousing the causes of Segesta against Selinus, of the Leontines against Syracuse. Nicias wisely opposed the notion, and set forth the enormous cost of an expedition which should be really effective. The people, however, elated by their recent triumph over Melos, were fascinated by the idea of making new conquests in a distant, unfamiliar world; the triremes instead of the sixty which were asked for.

But having committed the imprudence of not listening to Nicias when his caution was, from the highest point of view, wisdom, the people went on to commit the graver blunder of electing him as a commander of the expedition which he disapproved. He was appointed as General along with Alcibiades and Lamachus. This shows how great was the consideration of his military capacity, and he was doubtless regarded as a safe makeweight against the adventurous spirit of his colleagues. But though Nicias had shown himself capable of carrying out that Periclean strategy which Athens had hitherto adopted, his ability and temperament were wholly unsuited for the conduct of an enterprise of conquest demanding bolder and greater operations.

When the expedition was ready to sail in the early summer, a mysterious event delayed it. One morning in May it was found that the square stone figures which stood at the entrance of temples and private houses in Athens, and were known as Hermae, had their faces mutilated. The pious Athenians were painfully excited. Such an unheard-of sacrilege seemed an evil omen for the Sicilian enterprise, and it was illogically argued that the act betokened a conspiracy against the state. The enemies of Alcibiades seized the occasion and tried to implicate him in the outrage. It was said that a profane mockery of the Eleusinian Mysteries had been enacted in his house,—a charge which may well have been true; and it was argued that he was the author of the present sacrilege and prime mover in a conspiracy against the democracy. It did not appear why a conspirator should thus advertise his plot. But though the theory hardly hung together, it might be good enough for an excited populace. Alcibiades demanded the right of clearing himself from the charge, before the fleet started. In this case, his acquittal was certain, as he was deemed necessary to the enterprise; and his enemies, aware of this, procured the postponement of his trial till his return. The fleet then set sail, and in the excitement of its starting, the sacrilege was almost forgotten. Thucydides says that no armament so magnificent had ever before been sent out by a single Greek state. There were 134 triremes, and an immense number of smaller attendant vessels; there were 5100 hoplites; and the total number of combatants was well over 30,000. For cavalry they relied on their Sicilian allies; only thirty horse went with the fleet.

A halt was made at Rhegium, where disappointments awaited them. Rhegium adopted a reserved attitude which the Athenians did not expect. The government said that their conduct must be regulated by that of the other Italiot states. This looks as if the Italiots were aiming at a policy of joint interests, such as that which the Siceliots had discussed at the Congress of Gela. In the next place, the Athenians had relied on the wealth of Segesta for supporting their expedition, and they now learned that their spies had been deceived by simple tricks. Gilt vessels of silver had been displayed to them as solid gold; and the Segestaeans, collecting all the plate they could get from their own and other cities, had passed the same service from house to house and led the envoys to believe that each of the hosts who sumptuously entertained them possessed a magnificent service of his own.

This discovery came as an unwelcome surprise to soldiers and commanders alike. It was a serious blow to the enterprise, but no one, not even Nicias, seems to have thought of giving the enterprise up. What then was to be done? A council of war was held at Rhegium. Nicias advocated a course which involved risking and doing as little as possible,—to sail about, make some demonstrations, secure anything that could be secured without trouble, give any help to the Leontines that could be given without danger. Alcibiades proposed that active attempts should be made to win over the Sicilian cities by diplomacy, and that then, having so strengthened their position, they should take steps to force Selinus and Syracuse to do right by Segesta and Leontini. Both Nicias and Alcibiades kept in the forefront the ostensible object of the expedition, to right the wrongs of Leontini and Segesta. But Lamachus, who was no statesman or diplomatist but a plain soldier, regarded the situation from a soldier’s point of view. Grasping the fact that Syracuse was the real enemy, the ultimate mark at which the whole enterprise was aimed, he advised that Syracuse should be attacked at once, while her citizens were still unprepared. Fortunately for Syracuse, the bold strategy of Lamachus did not prevail; he had no influence or authority except on the field; and, failing to convince his colleagues, who perhaps contemned him as a mere soldier, he gave his vote to the plan of Alcibiades.

Naxos and Catane were won over the Athenian fleet made a demonstration in the Great Harbour of Syracuse and captured a ship. But nothing more had been done, when a mandate arrived from Athens recalling Alcibiades, to stand his trial for impiety. The people of Athens had reverted to their state of religious agony over the mutilation of the Hermae, and the mystery which encompassed it increased their terrors. A commission of inquiry was appointed; false informations were lodged; numbers of arrests were made. Andocides, a young man of good family, was one of the prisoners, and he at length resolved to confess the crime and give the names of his accomplices. His information was readily believed; the public agitation was tranquillised; and all the prisoners whom he accused were tried and put to death. He was himself pardoned, and soon afterwards left Athens. But it is not certain, after all, whether the information of Andocides was true; Thucydides declares that the truth of the mystery was never explained.

It was, indeed, never known for certain who the actual perpetrators Meaning of were; so far the affair remained a mystery. But the purpose of the deed and the source of its inspiration can hardly be doubtful. It was wrought on the eve of the Sicilian expedition, and can have had no other intention than to hinder the expedition from sailing, by working on the superstitions of the people. If we ask then, who above all others were vitally concerned in preventing the sailing of the fleet, the answer is obvious, Corinth and Syracuse. We are justified in concluding that the authors of the outrage—to us their names would be of only subordinate interest—were men suborned by Corinth, in receipt of Corinthian silver. In the main point, the mutilation of the Hermae is assuredly no mystery.

The investigations in connexion with the Hermae led to the exposure of other profanations, especially of travesties of the Eleusinian mysteries, in which Alcibiades was involved. His enemies of both parties deemed that it was the time to strike. Thessalus, the son of Cimon, preferred the impeachment, which began thus : “Thessalus, son of Cimon, of the deme Laciadae, impeached Alcibiades, son of Cleinias, of the deme Scambonidae, of wrong-doing in respect to the two goddesses, Demeter and Core, by mimicking the mysteries and displaying them to his comrades in his own house, wearing a dress like that which a hierophant with the mysteries wears, and calling himself hierophant.” The trireme “Salaminia” was sent to summon Alcibiades to return, but with instructions to use no violence. Alcibiades might have refused, but he did not do so. He went with the Salaminia as far as Thurii, where he made his escape and went into voluntary exile. The Athenians condemned him to death, along with some of his kinsfolk, and confiscated his property.

In Sicily, when Alcibiades had gone, the rest of the year passed away in a number of small enterprises, which led to nothing. At length, when winter came, Nicias aroused himself to a far more serious undertaking. By a cunning stratagem he lured the Syracusan army to Catane for the purpose of making an attack on the Athenian camp, which they were led to believe they would take unawares, while in the meantime the Athenian host had gone on board the fleet and sailed off to the Great Harbour of Syracuse. Nicias landed and fortified his camp on the south-west side of the harbour, near the point of Dascon, just south of the temple of the Olympian Zeus, which he was scrupulous to treat with profound respect. When the Syracusans returned, a battle was fought, the first battle of the war. The Athenians had the disadvantage of having no cavalry whatever; but the woeful want of discipline which prevailed in the ranks of the enemy outbalanced the advantage they had from 1200 horse. A Athenian storm of rain and lightning aided the Athenians to discomfit their untrained antagonists; but the cavalry stood the Syracusans in good stead by protecting their retreat.

A success had now been gained, but the temper of Nicias forbade it to be improved. On the day ensuing, he ordered the whole army to embark and sail back to Catane. He had numbers of excellent reasons,—the winter season, the want of cavalry, of money, of allies; and in the meantime Syracuse was left to make her preparations. “The Athenian fleet and army was to go on falling away from its freshness and vigour. All Sicily was to get more and more accustomed to the sight of the great armada sailing to and fro, its energies frittered away on small and mostly unsuccessful enterprises, and, when it did strike something like a vigorous blow, not daring to follow it up.”

The winter was employed by both parties in seeking allies. The Sicels of the island for the most part joined Athens. Camarina, wooed by both Athens and Syracuse, remained neutral. It is in the Assembly of Camarina that Thucydides makes Hermocrates reassert the doctrine of a purely Siceliot policy, which he had formulated ten years before at Gela, while an Athenian envoy develops in its most naked form the theory of pure self-interest, reminding us of the tone which the Thucydidean Athenians adopted in the Melian dialogue. A train had been laid for the capture of Messana before Alcibiades had been recalled, but when the time came for making the attempt, it failed. Alcibiades began the terrible vengeance which he proposed to wreak upon his country by informing the Syracusan party in Messana of the plot.

It seemed, indeed, as if a fatality dogged Athens in her conduct of the expedition which she had so lightly undertaken. If she had committed the command to Alcibiades and Lamachus, without Nicias, it would probably have been a success, resulting in the capture of Syracuse. But, not content with the unhappy appointment of Nicias, she must go on to pluck the whole soul out of the enterprise by depriving it of Alcibiades. That active diplomatist now threw as much energy into the work of ruining the expedition as he had given Alcibiades to the work of organising it. He went to Sparta, and was present at Sparta; at the Assembly which received a Syracusan embassy, begging for Spartan help. He made a vigorous and effective speech. He exposed the boundless plans of Athenian ambition, aiming at conquests in the west (including Carthage), which should enable them to return and conquer the Peloponnesus. These had perhaps been the dreams of Alcibiades himself; but they had certainly never taken a definite shape in the mind of any sober Athenian statesman. Alcibiades urged the Spartans especially to take two measures: to send at once a Spartan general to Sicily to organise the defence,—a general was far more important than an army; and to fortify Decelea in Attica, a calamity which the Athenians were always dreading. “I know,” said the renegade, “the secrets of the Athenians.” Thucydides shows what defence Alcibiades might have made for his own vindictive—it can hardly be called treacherous—conduct. The description of the Athenian democracy as “acknowledged folly” may well have been a phrase actually used by Alcibiades. Intense hostility animated the exile, but, one asks, Did he act merely to gratify this feeling, or had he not further projects for his own career? If we might trust the speech which Thucydides ascribes to him, his ultimate aim was to win back his country. With Spartan help, presumably, he was to rise on the calamity of Athens, and, we may read between the lines, the “acknowledged folly” was to be abolished. One can hardly see a place for Alcibiades except as a second Pisistratus.

The speech of this powerful advocate turned the balance at a most critical point in the history of Hellas. The Lacedaemonians, who were wavering between the policies of neutrality and intervention, were decided by his advice, and appointed an officer named Gylippus to take command of the Syracusan forces. Corinth too sent ships to the aid of her daughter city.

Since the sailing of the expedition, Athens was in a mood of adventurous speculation and sanguine expectancy, dreaming of some great and wonderful change for the better in her fortunes. Aristophanes made this mood of his countrymen the motive of a fanciful comedy, entitled The Birds, which he brought out at the Great Dionysia. Some have sought to detect definite political allusions in the story of the foundation of Cloudcuckootown by the birds of the air, under the direction of two Athenian adventurers, Persuasive and his follower Hopeful; but this is to misapprehend the point of the drama and to do wrong to the poet’s art. The significance of the Birds for the historian is that it exhibits with good-humoured banter the temporary mood of the Athenian folk.


Sect. 4. Siege of Syracuse, 414 B.C.


The Island of Syracuse, the original settlement of Archias, always remained the heart and centre of the city. However the city might extend over the hill above it, the island was always what the Acropolis was to Athens, what Larisa was to Argos; it was even called the acropolis, a name which was never given to the hill. But the military importance of the Epipolae, the long hill which shut in the north side of the Great Harbour, could not be ignored, although it was only gradually that the Syracusans came fully to recognise its significance. The water between the Island and the mainland had been filled up; this was an inducement to the settlement to creep up the height; and finally the eastern part of the hill, known as Achradina, was fortified by a wall running from north to south. At a later period, during the domestic troubles which followed the expulsion of Thrasybulus, the suburb of Tycha, north-west of Achradina, was added to the enclosed city. Henceforward the name Epipolae was restricted to the rest of the heights, westward from the wall of Tycha and Achradina. It formed a sort of triangle, with this wall as the base and the high point of Euryalus as the vertex.

The Syracusans did something, though not perhaps as much as they might, to prepare for a siege. They reformed their system of military command and elected Hermocrates a general. They fortified the precinct of Apollo Temenites, which was just outside the wall of Achradina, and also strengthened Polichna, the fort south of the hill, near the shrine of Olympian Zeus.

The first brief operation of the Athenians against Syracuse had been made on the table-land west of the Great Harbour. With the second act, which began in the ensuing spring, the scene changes to the north, and the hostilities are enacted on the heights of Epipolae. Hermocrates had realised the necessity of guarding these heights. It was accordingly fixed that a great review should be held of all the fighting population, and a force of 600 was to be chosen for the guard of Epipolae. But the hour had almost passed. At the very moment when the muster was being held below in the meadows on the banks of the Anapus, the Athenians were close at hand. The fleet had left Catane the night before, steered for the bay on the north side of the Epipolae, and set down the army at a landing-place within less than a mile from the height of Euryalus. The soldiers hastened up the ascent, and were masters of Epipolae before the Syracusan host knew what was happening. The six hundred made an attempt to dislodge them, and were repulsed with great loss. The Athenians then fortified a place called Labdalon, near the north cliffs; they have been criticised for not rather fortifying Euryalus.

The plan of the siege was to run a wall right across the hill, from the cliffs on the north to the harbour on the south. This would cut off communications by land, while the fleet which was stationed at Thapsus, ready to enter the Great Harbour, would cut off communications by sea. For this purpose, a point was chosen in the centre of the intended line of wall, and a round fort, “the Circle” (kyklos) was built there, from which the wall was to be con­structed northward and southward. The Syracusans having made a vain attempt to stop the building of the wall, set themselves to build a counter-wall, beginning at the Temenites and running westward, with a view to intercept the southern wall of the Athenians and prevent its reaching the harbour. The Athenians did not try to hinder them, and devoted themselves entirely to the building of their own wall north of the Round Fort; this seemed at first of greater consequence than the southern section, since they had to consider the maintenance of communications with their fleet at Thapsus. But though they were apparently not concerning them­selves with the Syracusan builders, they were really watching for a good opportunity. The carelessness of the Syracusans soon gave the looked-for chance. An attack was made on the counter-wall and it was utterly destroyed. The generals then began to look to the southern section of their own wall, and, without waiting to build it on the side of the Round Fort, they began to fortify the southern cliff, near the temple of Heracles, above the marshy ground on the north-west side of the great harbour.


The Syracusans then began a second counter-work, not on the hill, but over this low swampy ground, to hinder the Athenians from bringing their wall down from the cliff to the harbour. This work was not a wall, which would not have been suited to the swampy ground, but a trench with a palisade. At the break of day, the Athenians led by Lamachus descended into the swamp and destroyed the Syracusan works. But what was gained was more than undone by what followed. Troops sallied out of Syracuse; a battle was fought; and Lamachus—the hero Lamachus, as comic poets called him in derision while he lived, in admiration when he died—exposed himself rashly and was slain. This was the third great blow to the prospect of Athenian success. Nicias had been appointed; Alcibiades had been recalled; now Lamachus was gone. To make things worse, Nicias himself was ill.

The southern Athenian wall advanced southward in a double line, and the fleet had now taken up its station in the Great Harbour. The Syracusans, not realising how much they had gained in the death of Lamachus, were prematurely in despair; they changed their generals, and were prepared to make terms. Nicias, strangely swerving from his wonted sobriety, was prematurely elated; he thought that Syracuse was in his hands, and made the fatal mistake of neglecting the completion of the wall on the north side. His neglect was the more culpable as he had received information of the help that was coming for Syracuse from the mother-country’. But alike in his normal mood of caution and in his abnormal moment of confidence, Nicias was doomed to do the wrong thing.

All thought of capitulation was abandoned when a Corinthian captain named Gongylus reached Syracuse with the news that Corinthian ships and a Spartan general were on their way. That general had indeed given up the hope of being able to relieve Syracuse, which, from the reports of Athenian success that had reached him, was thought to be past helping; but he had sailed on to the coast of Italy with the aim of saving the Italiot cities. At Locri, Gylippus learned that Syracuse might still be saved, since the northern wall was not yet completed. He immediately sailed to Himera and collected a land force, supplied by Gela, Selinus, and Himera itself, and marched overland to Syracuse. He ascended the hill of Epipolae by the same path on the north side which had been climbed by the Athenian army when they seized the heights; and without meeting any opposition advanced along the north bend of the hill to Tycha and entered the city. Such was the result of the gross neglect of Nicias. If the wall had been finished, the attempt of Gylippus would never have been made; if Euryalus had been fortified, the attempt would probably have failed.

Gylippus immediately undertook the command of the Syracusan army, and inspired the inhabitants with new confidence. He was as unlike the typical Spartan as Nicias was unlike the typical Athenian. He had all the energy and resourcefulness of Brasidas, without that unique soldier’s attractive personality. He set himself instantly to the work of the defence, and his first exploit was the capture of the fort Labdalon. But the great object was to prevent the Athenians from hemming in the city by completing the northern section of their wall, and this could be done only by building a new counter-wall. The Athenians themselves began to build vigorously, and there was a race in wall-building between the two armies. As the work went on, attacks were made on both sides with varying success. In the end, the Syracusan builders prevailed; the Athenian wall was turned, and never reached the northern coast. This was not enough for Gylippus. His wall was continued to reach Euryalus, and four forts were erected on the western part of the hill, so that Syracuse could now hinder help from reaching the Athenians by the path by which Gylippus had himself ascended. In the meantime Nicias had occupied Plemmyrion, the headland which, facing the Island, forms the lower lip of the mouth of the Great Harbour. Here he built three forts and established a station for his ships; some of which were now dispatched to lie in wait for the expected fleet from Corinth. The Syracusans made a sort of answer to the occupation of Plemmyrion by sending a force of cavalry to the fort of Polichna to guard the southern coast of the Harbour. But, though the Athenians commanded the south part of Epipolae and the entrance to the Harbour, the Syracusan wall from Tycha to Euryalus had completely changed the aspect of the situation for Syracuse from despair to reasonable hope.

The winter had now come and was occupied with embassies and preparations. Gylippus spent it in raising fresh forces in Sicily. Camarina, so long neutral, at length joined Syracuse, who had in fact all Greek Sicily on her side, except her rival Acragas, who persistently held aloof, and the towns of Naxos and Catane. Appeals of help were again sent to the Peloponnesus. Corinth was still unremitting in her zeal; and Sparta had sent a force of 600 hoplites—Neodamodes and Helots. Thebes and Thespiae also sent contingents.

We must go back for a moment to Old Greece. The general war is being rekindled there, and the war in Sicily begins to lose the character of a collateral episode and becomes merged in the larger conflict, in which greater interests than those of Syracuse and Sicily are at stake. The Spartans had come to the conclusion that they had been themselves the wrong-doers in the earlier war, and the Athenian successes, especially the capture of Pylos, had been a retribution which they deserved. But now the Athenians had clearly committed a wrong in their aggression on Sicily, and Sparta might with a good conscience go to war against her. The advice of Alcibiades to fortify Decelea was adopted: a fort was built and provided with a garrison under the command of king Agis. From Mt. Lycabettus at Athens one can see the height of Decelea through the gap between Pentelicus on the right and Parnes, of which Decelea is an outlying hill, on the left. It was a good position for reaching all parts of Attica, which could no longer be cultivated, and at the same time maintaining easy communications with Boeotia.

But while the Peloponnesians were carrying the war once more to the very gates of Athens, that city was called upon to send forth a new expedition to the west on a scale similar to the first Nicias wrote home a plain and unvarnished account of the situation. We are expressly told that he adopted the unusual method of sending a written despatch instead of a verbal message; it was all-important that the Athenian Assembly should learn the exact state of the case. He explained that, since the coming of Gylippus and the increase of the numbers of the garrison, and the building of the counter-wall, the besiegers had become themselves besieged. They even feared an attack on their own element the sea, and their ships had become leaky and the crews fallen out of practice. Further successes of the enemy might cut off their supplies, now derived from the cities of Italy. One of two things must be done: the enterprise must be abandoned or a new armament, as strong as the first, must be sent out at once. Nicias also begged for his own recall, on the ground of the disease from which he suffered. The Athenian people re­peated its previous recklessness by voting a second expedition, and by refusing to supersede Nicias, in whom they had a blind and touching trust. They appointed Eurymedon and Demosthenes as commanders of the new armament.


Sect. 5. The Second Expedition , 413 B.C.


“The original interference of Athens in the local affairs of Sicily, her appearance to defend Segesta against Selinus and the Leontines against Syracuse, has grown into a gigantic struggle in which the greater part of the Hellenic nation is engaged. The elder stage of the Peloponnesian War has begun again with the addition of a Sicilian war on such a scale as had never been seen before. In that elder stage Sicilian warfare had been a mere appendage to warfare in Old Greece. Now Sicily has become the centre of the struggle, the headquarters of both sides.”

For Sicily itself, the struggle was now becoming a question of life and death, such as the Persian invasion had been for Greece. Syracuse, under the guidance of Hermocrates and, Gylippus, put forth all her energy to the organisation of a fleet, and in the spring she had a navy numbering eighty triremes. The crews were inexperienced, but they could remember that it was under the pressure of the Persian danger that Athens herself had learned her sea skill. Gylippus determined to attack the Athenian station at Plemmyrion by land and sea. By sea the Syracusans were defeated, but while the naval battle was being fought in the harbour, a land force under Gylippus had marched round to Plemmyrion and captured the forts on the headland. The Athenian ships were thus forced back to their station close to their double wall on the north of the Harbour, of which the entrance was now commanded by the Syracusans. The Athenians were thus besieged both by land and sea, and could not venture to send ships out of the Harbour except in a number sufficient to resist an attack. Presently the new Syracusan sea-power achieved the important success of capturing off the Italian coast a treasure-fleet which was on its way from Athens.

At length the news came that the great fleet under Eurymedon and Demosthenes was on its way. It consisted of seventy-three triremes; there were 5000 hoplites and immense numbers of light­armed troops. The chance of Syracuse lay in attacking the dispirited forces of Nicias before the help arrived, and it was obviously the game of Nicias—a congenial game—to remain inactive. The Syracusans made a simultaneous assault on the walls by land and on the naval station below the walls by sea. The land attack was beaten off, but two days’ fighting by sea resulted in a distinct victory for Syracuse. The Great Harbour was too small for the Athenians to win the advantage of their superiority in seaman­ship, and their ships were not adapted for the kind of sea-warfare which was possible in a narrow space. The effective use of the long light beaks depended on the possibility of manoeuvring. The Syracusans had shaped the beaks of their vessels with a view to the narrow space, by making them short and heavy. On the day after the victory, the fleet of Eurymedon and Demosthenes sailed into the Great Harbour.

Demosthenes saw at once that all was over, unless the Syracusan cross-wall were captured. An attempt to carry it from the south was defeated, and the only alternative was to march round the west end of the hill and ascend by the old path near Euryalus. It was a difficult enterprise, guarded as the west part of Epipolae was by the forts, as well as the wall, and by a picked body of 600 men who were constantly keeping watch. A moonlight night was chosen for the t attempt The Athenians were at first successful. One fort was taken and the six hundred under Hermocrates himself were repelled. But when one part of their force received a decisive check from the Thespians, the disorder spread to the rest, and they fell back everywhere, driven down the hill on the top of their comrades who had not yet reached the summit. Some, throwing away their shields, leapt from the cliffs. About 2000 were slain.

These failures damped the spirits of the army, and Demosthenes saw that no profit could be won by remaining any longer where they were. The only wise course was to leave the unhealthy marsh, while they had still command of the sea, and before the winter came. At Syracuse they were merely wasting strength and money. But though Demosthenes had the sense of the army and the sense of the other commanders with him, he could not persuade Nicias to adopt this course. The same quality of nature which had made Nicias oppose the counsel of Lamachus to attack Syracuse now made him oppose the counsel of Demosthenes to leave Syracuse. Fear of responsibility was the dominant note in the character of Nicias. He was afraid of “Pulydamas and the Trojan women,” he was afraid of the censure, perhaps the condemnation, of the Athenian Assembly. Nor would he even accept the compromise of retiring to Catane and carrying on the war on a new plan. Demosthenes and Eurymedon, being two to one, should have insisted on instant departure, but they foolishly yielded to the obstinacy of their senior colleague. In a few days, however, events overbore the resolution of Nicias himself. Gylippus arrived at Syracuse with new contingents he had collected in the islands; and Peloponnesian and Boeotian succours, after a long round­about journey by way of Cyrene, at length reached the Great Harbour. Nicias gave way and everything was ready for departure. But on the night on which they were to start, the enemy suspecting nothing, the full moon suffered an eclipse. The superstitious army regarded the phenomenon as a heavenly warning, and cried out for delay. Nicias was not less superstitious than the sailors. Unluckily his best prophet, Stilbides, was dead, and the other diviners ruled that he must wait either three days or for the next full moon. There was perhaps a difference of opinion among the seers, and Nicias decided to be on the safe side by waiting the longer period. Never was a celestial phenomenon more truly disastrous than that lunar eclipse. With the aid of Nicias, it sealed the doom of the Athenian army.

Religious rites occupied the next few days. But meanwhile the Syracusans had learned of the Athenian intention to abandon the siege; their confidence was raised by the implied confession of defeat; and they resolved not to be content with having saved their city, but to destroy the host of the enemy before it could escape. So they drew up their fleet, seventy-six ships, in the Great Harbour for battle; and eighty-six Athenian ships moved out to meet them. The Athenians were at a disadvantage as before, having no room for manoeuvring; and, centre, right, and left, they were defeated. The general Eurymedon was slain. The left wing was driven back on the marshy north-west shore of the harbour, between their own wall and Dascon. A force under Gylippus endeavoured to advance along the swamp of Lysimelea and prevent the crews of their ships from landing, but he was driven off by the Etruscan allies of Athens who had been sent to guard the shore here. Then there was a battle for the ships, and the Syracusans succeeded in dragging away eighteen.

The defeat completed the dejection of the Athenian army; the victory crowned the confidence of their enemies. The one thought of the Athenians was to escape,—the eclipse was totally forgotten; but Syracuse was determined that escape should be made impossible. The mouth of the Great Harbour was barricaded by a line of ships and boats of all kinds and sizes bound together by chains and connected by bridges. The fate of the Athenians depended on their success in breaking through that barrier. They abandoned their posts on the hill and went on board their ships. At this critical moment Nicias revealed the best side of his character. He left nothing undone that could hearten his troops. We are told that, after the usual speech, still thinking, “as men do in the hour of great struggles, that he had not done, that he had not said half enough,” he went round the fleet in a boat, making a personal appeal to the trierarch of each ship. “He spoke to them, as men will at such times, of their wives and children and the gods of their country; for men do not care whether their word sound common­place, but only think that they may have some effect in the terrible moment.” The paean sounded, and the Athenian lines sailed forth together across the bay to attack the barrier. When they reached it, Syracusan vessels came out against them on all sides. The Athenians were driven back into the middle of the harbour, and the battle resolved itself into an endless number of separate conflicts. The battle was long and wavered. The walls of the Island, the slopes of Achradina above, were crowded with women and old men, the shores below with warriors, watching the course of the struggle. Thucydides gives a famous description of the scene; one would think that he had been an eyewitness. “The fortune of the battle varied, and it was not possible that the spectators on the shore should all receive the same impression of it. Being quite close and having different points of view, they would some of them see their own ships victorious; their courage would then revive, and they would earnestly call upon the gods not to take from them their hope of deliverance. But others, who saw their ships worsted, cried and shrieked aloud, and were by the sight alone more utterly unnerved than the defeated combatants themselves. Others again who had fixed their gaze on some part of the struggle which was undecided were in a state of excitement still more terrible; they kept swaying their bodies to and fro in an agony of hope and fear, as the stubborn conflict went on and on; for at every instant they were all but saved or all but lost And while the strife hung in the balance, you might hear in the Athenian army at once lamentation, shouting, cries of victory or defeat, and all the various sounds which are wrung from a great host in extremity of danger.”3 Those motions of human passion, suspense, agony, triumph, despair, which swayed to and fro, in the breasts of thousands, round and over the waters of the Great Harbour on that September day, have been lifted out of the tide of time and preserved for ever by the genius of Thucydides.

In the end the Athenians gave way. They were driven back to the shelter of their own wall, chased by the foe. The crews of the remnant of the navy—which amounted to sixty ships—rushed on shore as best they could. The land forces were in a panic; no such panic had ever been experienced in an Athenian army. Thucydides compares the situation to that of the Spartans at Sphacteria. The generals did not even think of asking for the customary truce to bury the corpses which were strewn over the waters of the bay. Demo­sthenes proposed that they should make another attempt to pass the barrier at daybreak; their ships were even now rather more numerous than those of the enemy; but the men positively refused to embark. Nothing remained but to escape by land. If they had started at once, they would probably have succeeded in reaching shelter at Catane or inland among the friendly Sicels. But Hermocrates con­trived a stratagem to delay their departure, so as to give him time to block the roads. Taking advantage of the known fact that there were persons in Syracuse who intrigued with the besiegers, he sent some horsemen who rode up within earshot of the Athenian camp, and feigning to be friends stated that the roads were guarded and that it would be well to wait and set out better prepared. The message was believed. The Athenians remained the next day, and the Syracusans blocked the roads.

In his picture of the sad start of the Athenians on their forlorn retreat, Thucydides outdoes his wonderful powers of description. They had to tear themselves away from the prayers of their sick and wounded comrades, who were left to the mercy of the enemy. They could hardly make up their minds to go. The bit of hostile soil under the shelter of their walls had come to seem to them like their home. Nicias, notwithstanding his illness, rose to this supreme occasion as he had never risen to another. He tried to cheer and animate the miserable host—whose wretched plight was indeed of his own making—by words of hope. They set forth, Nicias leading the van, Demosthenes the rear, along the western road which crosses the Anapus and passes the modern village of Floridia. The aim was to reach Sicel territory first, and then get to Catane as they could; for it would have been madness to attempt the straight road to Catane round the west of Epipolae under the Syracusan forts. The chief difficulty in their way was a high point called the Acraean cliff, approached by a rugged pass, which begins near Floridia. It was not till the fourth day that, having toiled along the pass under constant annoyance from darters and horsemen, they came in sight of the cliff, and found that the way was barred by a wall, with a garrison of Syracusan hoplites behind it. To attempt to pass was impossible; they retreated on Floridia in a heavy thunderstorm. They now moved southwards, and abandoning the idea of reaching the Sicel hill-land from this point, marched to the Helorine road, which would take them in the direction of Gela. During the sixth day’s march a sort of panic seems to have fallen on the rear of the army under Demosthenes; the men lagged far behind and the army was parted in two. Nicias advanced with his division as speedily as he could. There were several streams to cross, and it was all-important to press on before the Syracusans had time to block the passages by walls and palisades. The Helorine road approaches the shore near the point where the river Kakyparis flows into the sea. When they reached the ford, the Athenians found a Syracusan band on the other side raising a fortification. They drove the enemy away without much difficulty and marched as far as the river Erineos, where they encamped for the night. On the next morning a Syracusan herald drew near. He had news to tell. The rear of the army had been surrounded the day before, in the olive garden of Polyzalus, through which the Helorine road passed, and had been forced to surrender. The lives of the 6000 men were to be spared. Demosthenes did not condescend to make terms for himself, and when the capitulation had been arranged he sought death by his own hand, but the enemy, who desired to secure a captive general, intercepted the stroke. Having sent a messenger, under a truce, to assure himself of the truth of the tale, Nicias offered terms to the Syracusans—that the rest of the army should be allowed to go free on condition that Athens should repay the costs of the war, the security being a hostage for every talent. The terms were at once rejected. The Syracusans were bent on achieving the glory of leadering the whole army captive. For that day the miserable army remained where it was, worn out with want of food. Next morning they resumed the march and, harassed by the darts of the enemy, made their way to the stream of the Assinaros. Here they found a hostile force on the opposite steep bank. But they cared little for the foe, for they were consumed with intolerable thirst. They rushed down into the bed of the river, struggling with one another to reach the water. The Syracusans who were pursuing came down the banks and slaughtered them unresisting as they drank. The water was soon foul, but muddy and dyed with blood as it was, they drank notwithstanding and fought for it.

At last Nicias surrendered. He surrendered to Gylippus, for he had more trust in him than in the Syracusans. The slaughter, which was as great as any that had been wrought in the war, was then stayed and the survivors were made prisoners. It seems that a great many of the captives were appropriated for their own use by the into the stone-quarries of Achradina—deep, unroofed dungeons, open t0 the chills of night and the burning heat of the day—on a miserable allowance of food and water. The allies of the Athenians were kept in this misery for seventy days; the Athenians themselves were doomed to endure the torture for six months longer, throughout the whole winter. Such was the vengeance which Syracuse wreaked upon her invaders. The prisoners who survived the ordeal were put to work in the public prison or sold. Some were rescued by young men who were attracted by their manners. Others owed mitigation of their lot, even freedom, to the power which an Athenian poet exercised over the hearts of men, in Sicily as well as in his own city. Slaves who knew speeches and choruses of the plays of Euripides by heart, and could recite them well, found favour in the sight of their masters; and we hear of those who, after many days, returned to their Athenian homes and thanked the poet for their deliverance.

Some mystery has hung round the fate of the two generals, Demosthenes and Nicias, but there is no doubt that they were put to death without mercy, and some reason to suppose that they were not spared the pain of torture. Hermocrates and Gylippus would have wished to save them, but were powerless in face of the intense feeling of fury against Athens which animated Syracuse in the hour of her triumph. If a man’s punishment should be proportionate not to his intentions but to the positive sum of mischief which his conduct has caused, no measure of punishment would have been too great for the deserts of Nicias. His incompetence, his incredible bungling, mined the expedition and led to the downfall of Athens. But the blunders of Nicias were merely the revelation of his own nature, and for his own nature he could hardly be held accountable. The whole blame rests with the Athenian people, who insisted on his playing a part for which he was utterly unsuited. It has already been observed that one dominant note of the character of Nicias was fear of responsibility. Throughout the whole war there was no post which so absolutely demanded the power of undertaking full responsibility as that of chief commander in this great and distant expedition. And yet Nicias was chosen. The selection shows that he was popular as well as respected. He was popular with his army, and he seems to have been hardly a sufficiently strict disciplinarian. It has been well said that in the camp he never forgot that the soldiers whom he commanded had votes in the Ecclesia which they might use against himself when they returned to Athens. Timid as a general, timid as a statesman, hampered by superstition, the decorous Nicias was a brave soldier and an amiable man, whose honourable qualities were the means of leading him into a false position. If he had been less scrupulous and devout, and had been endowed with better brains, he would not have mined his country. “Given the men a people chooses,” it has been said, “the people itself, in its exact worth and worthlessness, is given.” In estimating the character of the Athenian people, we must not forget their choice of this hero of conscientious indecision.

So deep is the pity which the tragic fate of the Athenians excites in us that we almost forget to sympathise with the sons of Syracuse in the joy of their deliverance. Yet they deserve our sympathy; they had passed through a sore trial, and they had destroyed the powerful invader who had come to rob them of their freedom. To celebrate the anniversaries of their terrible victory they instituted games which they called Assinarian, after the river which had witnessed the last scene. In connexion with these games, some beautiful coins were struck. Perhaps there is nothing which enlists our affections for Syracuse so much as her coins. And it was at this very period that she brought the art of engraving coin-dies to perfection. Never in any country, in any age of the world, was the art of engraving on metal practised with such high inspiration and such consummate skill as in Sicily. No holy place in Hellas possessed diviner faces in bronze or marble than the faces which the Sicilian cities circulated on their silver money. The greatest of the Sicilian artists were Syracusan, and among the greatest of the Syracusan were Evaenetus and Cimon. The die-engraver’s achievements may seem small, compared with the life-size or colossal works of a sculptor, yet, as creators of the beautiful, Evaenetus and his fellows may claim to stand in the same rank as Phidias. Their heads of Persephone and of the water-nymph Arethusa encircled by dolphins, their wonderful four-horsed chariots, seem to invest Syracuse with a glory issues to which she hardly attained. In the years after the defeat of Athens there were several issues of large ten-drachm medallions modelled on those “Damaratean” coins which had commemorated Gelon’s victory at Himera. The engraving of these was committed to Cimon and Evaenetus and a nameless artist—perhaps a greater than either—of whom a single medallion, an exquisite Persephone crowned with barley, has been found on the slopes of Aetna.


Sect. 6. Consequences of the Sicilian Catastrophe


The Sicilian expedition was part of the general aggressive policy of Athens which made her unpopular in Greece. Unjust that policy was; but this enterprise was not more flagrantly unrighteous than some of her other undertakings, and it had the plausible enough pretext of protecting the weaker cities in the west against the stronger. More fruitful is the question whether the expedition was expedient from a purely political point of view. It is often said that it was a wild venture, an instance of a whole people going mad, like the English people in the matter of the Crimean War. It is hard to see how this view can be maintained. If there were ever an enterprise of which the wisdom cannot be judged by the result, it is the enterprise against Syracuse. All the chances were in its favour. If the advice of Lamachus had been taken and Syracuse attacked at once, there cannot be much doubt that Syracuse would have fallen at the outset. If Nicias had not let precious time pass and delayed the completion of the wall to the northern cliff of Epipolae, the doom of the city was sealed, Gylippus could never have entered. The failure was due to nothing in the character of the enterprise itself, but entirely to the initial mistake in the appointment of the general. And it was quite in the nature of things that the Athenian sea-power, predominant in the east, should seek further expansion in the west. An energetic establishment of Athenian influence in that region was recommended by the political situation. It must be remembered that the most serious and abiding hostility with which Athens had to reckon was the commercial rivalry of Corinth; and the close alliance of Corinth with her Dorian daughters and friends in the west was a strong and adequate motive for Athenian intervention. The necessity of a counterweight to Corinthian influence in Sicily and Italy had long ago been recognised; some attempts had been made to meet it; and when peace with Sparta set Athenian forces free from service outside Greece and the Aegean, it was natural that the opportunity should be taken to act effectively in the west.

The infatuation of the Athenian people was show not in willing Cause of the expedition, but in committing it to Nicias—instead of Demosthenes, who was clearly marked out for the task—and then in recalling Alcibiades. These blunders seemed to point to something wrong in the constitution or its working. They did in fact show that an expedition of that kind was liable to be mismanaged when any of the arrangements connected with its execution depended on a popular assembly, or might be interfered with for party purposes.

And after the disaster of the Assinaros there was a feeling that some change must be made in the administration. Athens was hard pressed by the Lacedaemonian post at Decelea, which stopped cultivation and became a refuge for deserting slaves. Of these slaves, who numbered about 2000, we can hardly doubt that many belonged to the gangs which worked in the mines of Laurion. In any case, one of the most disastrous effect of the seizure of Decelea was the closing of the mines; since even southern Attica was at the mercy of the Lacedaemonians. Thus one of the chief sources of Athenian revenue was cut off; she was robbed of her supply of “Laureot owls”; and in a few years we find her melting gold dedicatory offerings to make gold coins, and even coining in copper. The mines of Laurion were not to be opened again till three-quarters of a century had passed. 

Thus the treasury was at a low ebb, and there were no men to replace those who were lost in Sicily. It was felt that the committees of the Council of Five Hundred were hardly competent to conduct the city through such a crisis; a smaller and more permanent body was required; and the chief direction of affairs was entrusted to a board of Ten, named Probuli, which practically superseded the Council for the time being.

A very important change in the system of taxation was made at the same time. The tribute, already as high as it could be put with impunity, was abolished; and was replaced by a tax of 5 per cent on all imports and exports carried by sea to or from the harbours of the Confederacy. It was calculated that this duty would produce a larger income than the tribute, and it would save the friction which generally occurred in the business of collecting the tribute and caused more than anything else the unpopularity of Athens. But further, the change had a great political significance. The duty was collected in the Piraeus as well as elsewhere, and thus fell on Athens herself. This might prove a step towards equalising Athens with her allies, and converting the Confederacy or dominion into a national state.

The financial pressure was shown by the dismissal of a body of Thracian mercenaries who had arrived too late to sail to Sicily. They returned home under the conduct of Diitrephes, who was instructed to employ them, on the road, in any way he could against the enemy. Sailing northward between Euboea and the mainland, they disembarked on the coast of Boeotia, and reaching the small town of Mycalessus at daybreak, captured it. “Nothing was ever so unexpected and terrible.” The Thracians showed their barbarity in massacring all the inhabitants,—nay, every living thing they saw. They broke into a boys’ school and killed all the children.

Reforms did not avert the dangers which threatened Athens. The tidings of the great calamity which had befallen the flower of her youth in Sicily moved Hellas from end to end. The one thought of enemies, neutrals and subjects alike, was to seize the opportunity of shattering the power of Athens irretrievably. Messages came from some of the chief allies, from Euboea, from Lesbos, from Chios, to Agis at Decelea, to the ephors at Sparta, declaring that they were ready to revolt, if a Peloponnesian fleet appeared off their coasts. A fleet was clearly necessary to do the work that was to be done; a naval policy was forced upon Sparta by the case. It was decided that a hundred ships should be equipped, of which half, in equal shares, were to be supplied by Sparta and Boeotia. Athens also spent the winter in building triremes, and fortified Cape Sunium to protect the arrival of her corn-ships.

King Agis while he was at Decelea possessed the right of sending troops wherever he chose. He received the overtures from Euboea and Lesbos and promised assistance. But Spartan interference in these islands was deferred owing to the more pressing demands of Chios, which were addressed directly to Sparta and were backed by the support of a great power, whose voice for many years had not been heard in the sphere of the politics of Hellas. Persia now enters once more upon the stage of Greek history, aiming at the recovery of the coast cities of Asia Minor, and for this purpose playing off one Greek power against another. The Sicilian disaster suggested to Tissaphernes, the satrap of Sardis, and to Pharnabazus, the satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, that it was the moment to wrest from Athens her Asiatic dominions. This must be done by stirring up revolt and by a close alliance with Sparta. Each satrap was anxious to secure for himself the credit of having brought about such a profitable alliance, and each independently sent envoys to Lacedaemon, Pharnabazus urging action in the Hellespont, Tissaphernes supporting the appeal of Chios. The Chian demand, which had the powerful advocacy of Alcibiades, carried the day.

In the following summer the rebellion against Athens actively began. The appearance of a few Spartan ships was the signal for the formal revolt of Chios, and then in conjunction with the Chian fleet they excited Miletus, Teos, Lebedus to follow in the same path. Methymna and Mytilene lost little time in joining the movement and were followed by Cyme and Phocaea. The Athenian historian has words of commendation for the city which played the chief part in this rebellion. “No people,” says Thucydides, “as far as I know, except the Chians and Lacedaemonians (but the Chians not equally with the Lacedaemonians), have preserved moderation in prosperity, and in proportion as their city has gained in power have gained also in the stability of their government. In this revolt they may seem to have shown a want of prudence, yet they did not venture upon it until many brave allies were ready to share the peril with them, and until the Athenians themselves seemed to confess that after their calamity in Sicily the state of their affairs was hopelessly bad. And, if they were deceived through the uncertainty of human things, the error of judgment was common to many who, like them, believed that the Athenian power would speedily be overthrown.”

This successful beginning led to the Treaty of Miletus between Sparta and Persia. In the hope of humbling to the dust her detested rival, the city of Leonidas now sold to the barbarian the freedom of her fellow-Greeks of Asia. The Persian claim was that Athens had usurped the rights of the Great King for well-nigh seventy years over the Asiatic cities, and that arrears of tribute were owing to him for all that time. Sparta recognised the right of the Great King to all the dominion which belonged to him and his forefathers, and he undertook to supply the pay for the seamen of the Peloponnesian fleet operating on the Asiatic coast, while the war with Athens lasted. It may be said for Sparta that she merely wanted to get the money at the time, and had no intention of honourably carrying out her dishonourable undertaking, but hoped to rescues in the end. But the treaty of Miletus opened up a new path in Greek politics, which was to lead the Persian king to the position of arbiter of Hellas.

Meanwhile Athens had not been idle. Straitened by want of money, she had been forced to pass a measure to touch the reserve fund of 1000 talents. She blockaded a Corinthian fleet, destined for Chios, on the Argolic coast; she laid Chios itself waste, and blockaded the town; she won back Lesbos, and gained some successes. But Cnidus rebelled; the Peloponnesians gained an advantage in a naval engagement at the small island of Syme, and this was followed by the revolt of Rhodes. Thus by the spring of the next year the situation was that Athens had her northern and Hellespontine confederacy intact, but that on the western coast of Asia little of importance remained to her but Lesbos, Samos, Cos, and Halicarnassus. She was confronted by a formidable Peloponnesian fleet, supported by Persia and by a considerable reinforcement from Sicily—twenty-two vessels under Hermocrates, the return of Syracuse for her deliverance.

It could not be said indeed that all things had gone smoothly between Persia and Lacedaemon. Differences had arisen as to the amount of the subsidies, and a new treaty was concluded in which the rights of the king were less distinctly formulated. In the meantime Alcibiades had been cultivating the friendship of Tissaphernes at Miletus, and had on that account become an object of suspicion at Sparta. He had a bitter enemy in king Agis, whose wife he had seduced. Seeing that his life was in danger, he had left Miletus and gone to the court of the satrap, where he began a new series of machinations with a view to his own return to Athens. Indeed his work at Sparta had now been done, and political changes which were in the air at Athens invited the formation of new schemes. The man who had done much to bring about the alliance of Tissaphernes with Sparta now set himself to dissolve that union and bring about an understanding between the satrap and Athens. It was a matter of supreme moment to Athens to break the formidable union of Persia with her enemies, and the accomplishment of this service would go far to restore Alcibiades to his country.


Sect. 7. The Oligarchic Revolution


At Athens in these months there was distress, fear, and discontent. How deeply the people felt the pressure of the long war is uttered in the comedy of Lysistrate or “Dame Disbander” which the poet Aristophanes brought out at this crisis. The heroine unites all the women of the belligerent cities of Greece into a league to force the men to make peace. Under the ribald humour there pierces here and there a note of pathos not to be found in the poet’s earlier peace plays, the Acharnians and the Peace. War is not a time for marrying and giving in marriage. “Never mind us married women,” says Lysistrate; “it is the thought of the maidens growing old at home that goes to my heart.” “Do not men grow old too?” asks a Probulos who argues with her. “Ah, but it is not the same thing. A man, though his hair be gray, can soon pick up a young girl; but a woman’s season is short, and, if she miss her chance then, no one will marry her.”

But the fear of Persia was the shadow which brooded darkest over Athens at this time, and there was also a lurking suspicion of treachery, a dread that the oligarchical party were planning a revolution or even intriguing with the enemy at Decelea. Two months after the Lysistrate, at the great feast of Dionysus, Aristophanes brought out a play whose plot had nothing to do with politics—the “Celebrants of the Thesmophoria.” But the fears that were in the hearts of many were echoed by the poet, when his chorus called upon Athena, “the sole keeper of our city,” to as the hater of tyrants.

Lovers of the democracy might well pray to the guardian lady of the city. The opportunity for which the oligarchs had waited so long had come at last. For outside their own ranks there was a large section of influential men who were dissatisfied with the existing forms of government and, though opposed to oligarchy, desired a modification of the constitution. There was a fair show of reason for arguing that the foreign policy had been mismanaged by the democracy, and that men of education and knowledge had not a sufficient influence on the conduct of affairs. The chief of those who desired to see the establishment of a moderate polity—neither an extreme democracy nor an oligarchy, but partaking of both—was Theramenes, whose father Hagnon was one of the Probuli. The watchword of Theramenes and his party was “the old constitution of our fathers.” By this they meant not the constitution of Solon, but the constitution before Solon. They interpreted the whole history of Athens in accordance with their political views. They condemned Solon as the author of democracy, the first of a long line of mischievous demagogues; they made out that the Areopagus, and not Themistocles, was the hero of Salamis; they branded Aristides, founder of the Delian confederacy, for organising a system which fed 20,000 idlers on the allied cities; they represented Pericles as a man of no ideas of his own, but depending upon others to prompt him. After two centuries of evil government, the Athenians must go back to the times before Solon and revive in some new form the constitution of Dracon. This “constitution of Dracon,” of which the chief feature was a Council of Four Hundred, had never existed; it was fathered upon Dracon by Theramenes and his friends.

The extreme oligarchs, though the ideal of Theramenes was not theirs, were ready in the first instance to act in concert with the moderate party for the purpose of upsetting the democracy. The soul of the plot was Antiphon of Rhamnus, an eloquent orator and advocate, who had made his mark in the days of Cleon. He was unpopular, on account of his undisguised oligarchical views; the historian Thucydides describes him as “a man who in virtue fell short of none of his contemporaries”; and by virtue is meant disinterested and able devotion to his party. Other active conspirators were Pisander, who had been in old days a partisan of Cleon, and Phrynichus, who was one of the commanders of the fleet stationed at Samos. The prospects of the movement were good; it was favoured by the Probuli and by most of the officers of the fleet. Moreover, the Athenians—as they had shown already by the appointment of the Probuli—were in a temper, with the fear of Persia before their eyes, to sacrifice their constitution if such a sacrifice would save the city. Alcibiadcs had entered into negotiations with the officers at Samos, promising to secure an alliance with Tissaphernes, but representing the abolition of democracy as a necessary condition. Most of the oligarchical conspirators were pleased with the scheme, and even the army was seduced by the idea of receiving pay from the Great King. Some indeed of the more sagacious thought they saw through the designs of Alcibiades; and Phrynichus, who aspired himself to be the leader of the revolution, detected a rival and tried by various intrigues to thwart him. Alcibiades was certainly no friend of oligarchy; but it was his policy in any case to upset the existing democracy, which would never recall him. If an oligarchy were established, he might intervene to restore the democracy, and in return for such a service all would be forgiven. But he would have to be guided by events.

Pisander was sent to Athens to prepare the way for the return of Alcibiades and a modification of the democracy. The people were at first indignant at the proposals to change the constitution, and recall the renegade; the Eumolpidae denounced the notion of having any dealings with the profaner of the Mysteries. But the cogent argument that the safety of Athens depended on separating Persia from the Peloponnesians, and that this could be managed only by Alcibiades, and that the Great King would not trust Athens so long as she was governed by a popular constitution, had its effect; and there was moreover powerful but secret influence at work through the Hetaeriae or political clubs. It was voted that Pisander and other envoys should be sent to negotiate a treaty with Tissaphernes and arrange matters with Alcibiades.

It appeared at once that Alcibiades had promised more than he could perform. There had indeed been a serious rupture between Tissaphernes and Sparta. Lichas, a Spartan commissioner who conferred with the satrap, denounced the terms of the treaties. He pointed out the monstrous consequences of the clause which assigned to the king power over all the countries which his ancestors had held; for this would involve Persian dominion over Thessaly and other lands of northern Greece. On such terms, he said, we will not have our fleet paid, and he asked for a new treaty. Tissaphernes departed in anger. But when it came to a question of union with Athens, Tissaphernes showed that he did not wish to break with the Peloponnesians. He proposed impossible conditions to the Athenian envoys, and then made a new treaty with the Spartans, modifying the clause to which Lichas objected. The territory which the Spartans recognised as Persian was now expressly confined to Asia.

But though the reasons for a revolution, so far as they concerned Tissaphernes and Alcibiades, seemed thus to be removed, the preparations had advanced so far that the result of the mission of Pisander produced no effect on the course of events. The conspirators did not scruple to use menaces and even violence; Androcles, a strong democrat, who had been prominent in procuring the condemnation of Alcibiades, was murdered. Some others of less note were made away with in like manner; and there was a general feeling of fear and mistrust in the city. But there was a widespread conviction that the existence of Athens was at stake and that some change in the constitution was inevitable. The news that Abydus and Lampsacus had revolted may have hastened the final act. The revolution was peaceably effected through the co-operation of the Ten Probuli. A decree was passed that the Probuli and twenty others chosen by the people should form a commission of thirty who should jointly devise proposals for the safety of the state and lay them before the Assembly on a fixed day. When the day came, the Assembly met at the temple of Poseidon at Colonus, about a mile from the town. After preliminary measures to secure impunity for a proposal involving a subversion of existing laws, a radical change was brought forward and carried. The sovereign Assembly was to consist in future not of the whole people, but of a body of about Five Thousand, those who were strongest physically and financially. A hundred men were to be chosen, ten by each tribe, for the purpose of electing and enrolling the Five Thousand. Pay for almost all public offices was to be abolished. To these revolutionary measures a saving clause was attached; they were to remain in force “as long as the war lasts”; and thus the people was more easily induced to pass them.

But this was only preliminary; a constitution had still to be framed. When the Five Thousand were elected, they chose a commission of one hundred men to draw up a constitution. The scheme which they framed is highly remarkable as a criticism on certain defects in the constitution which was now to be overthrown. The body of Five Thousand were not to act as an Assembly; there was in fact to be no Assembly. The Five Thousand were to be divided into four parts, and each part was to act as Council for a year in turn. The Council would elect the higher magistrates from its own number. Thus the difficulties of administration which arose in the double system, where the Council’s action was hampered by the Assembly, would be done away with; and the inclusion of the generals and magistrates in the Council was a necessary consequence. Under the democracy, the holders of office could influence the Assembly against the Council; under the new scheme there would be no room for such collisions.

One fatal defect in this scheme was the size of the administrative body, and if it had been tried we may be sure that it would not have worked. But it was never tried. It passed the Assembly as a scheme to come into force in the future; but in the meantime a further proposal of the Hundred commissioners enacted that the state should be administered by a Council of Four Hundred, in which each of the ten tribes was to be represented by forty members. It would seem, but it is not quite certain, that the election of the Council was managed in the following way. The Assembly which created it chose five men under the title of presidents, who were empowered to nominate one hundred councillors, and each of these councillors co-opted three others; but both the presidents in their nomination and the one hundred councillors in their co-option were limited to a number of candidates who were previously chosen by the tribes. The Four Hundred were instituted as merely a provisional government, but the entire administration was placed in their hands, the management of the finances, and the appointment of the magistrates. The Five Thousand were to meet only when summoned by the Four Hundred, so that the Assembly ceased to have any significance, and the provisional constitution was an unadulterated oligarchy. The Council of Four Hundred was proclaimed to be a revival of the imaginary constitution of Dracon, under which Athens flourished before demagogues led her into evil paths; but the whole fabric of Cleisthenes, the ten tribes and the demes, was retained. The existing Council of Five Hundred went out of office before the end of the civil year, and seven days later the administration of the Four Hundred began. Throughout these transactions intimidation was freely used by the conspirators, and we are told that they went with hidden daggers into the council-chamber Thargelion and forced the Five Hundred to retire. Thucydides admires the ability of the men who carried out this revolution. “An easy thing it certainly was not, one hundred years after the fall of the tyrants, to destroy the liberties of the Athenian people, who were not only a enter on free, but during more than one-half of this time had been an imperial people.”

It may be asked why a provisional government was introduced, instead of proceeding at once to the establishment of the permanent constitution which the Hundred commissioners had framed. Here we touch upon the inwardness of the political situation: the two constitutions betray the double influence at work in the revolution. The establishment of the Four Hundred was a concession made to Antiphon and the oligarchs by Theramenes and the moderates, who regarded it as only preliminary; while the oligarchs hoped to render it permanent.


Sect. 8. Fall of the Four Hundred. The Polity. The Democracy Restored


For more than three months the Four Hundred governed the city with a high hand, and then they were overthrown. Their success had been largely due to the absence of so many of the most democratic citizens in the fleet at Samos; and it was through the attitude of the fleet that their fall was brought about. The sailors rose against the oligarchic officers and the oligarchs of Samos, who were conspiring against the popular party and had murdered the exile Hyperbolus. The chief leaders of this reaction were Thrasybulus and Thrasyllus, who persuaded the soldiers and sailors to proclaim formally their adhesion to the democracy and their hostility to the Four Hundred. The Assembly, which had been abolished at Athens, was called into being at Samos, and the army, representing the Athenian people, deposed the Generals and elected others. The Athenians at Samos felt that they were in as good a position as the Athenians at Athens, and they hoped still to obtain the alliance of Persia, through the good offices of Alcibiades, whose recall and pardon were formally voted. Thrasybulus fetched Alcibiades to Samos, and he was elected a General. The hoped-for alliance with Persia was not effected, but it was at least something that Tissaphernes did not use the large Phoenician fleet which he had at Aspendus against the Athenians, and that his relations with the Peloponnesians were becoming daily worse. He went to Aspendus, but he never brought the ships, and it was a matter of speculation what the object of his journey was. Thucydides records his own belief that Tissaphernes “wanted to wear out and to neutralise the Hellenic forces; his object was to damage them both, while he was losing time in going to Aspendus, and to paralyse their action and not strengthen either of them by his alliance. For if he had chosen to finish the war, finished it might have been once for all, as any one may see.” The Athenians at Samos now proposed to sail straight to Athens and destroy the Four Hundred. The proposal shows how much the fleet despised the Peloponnesian navy, which, under its incompetent admiral Astyochus, had been spending the summer in doing nothing. But to leave Samos would have been madness, and Alcibiades saved them from the blunder of sacrificing Ionia and the Hellespont. Negotiations were begun with the oligarchs at Athens, and Alcibiades expressed himself satisfied with the Assembly of Five Thousand, but insisted that the Four Hundred should be abolished.

As a matter of fact the overtures from Samos were welcome to the majority of the Four Hundred, who were dissatisfied with their colleagues and their own position. The nature of an oligarchy which supplants a democracy was beginning to show itself. “The instant an oligarchy is established,” says Thucydides, “the promoters of it disdain mere equality, and everybody thinks that he ought to be far above everybody else. Whereas in a democracy, when an election is made, a man is less disappointed at a failure because he has not been competing with his equals.” Moreover, the Four Hundred were at first professedly established as merely a temporary government, preliminary to the establishment of a polity which would be less an oligarchy than a qualified democracy. Such a polity was the ideal of Theramenes, and he was impatient to constitute it. Thus there was a cleavage in the Four Hundred, the extreme oligarchs on one side, led by Antiphon and Phrynichus, the moderate reformers on the other, led by Theramenes. While the moderates had the support of the army at Samos behind them, the extreme party looked to the enemy for support and sent envoys to Sparta for the purpose of concluding a peace. In the meantime they fortified Eetionea, the mole which formed the northern side of the entrance to the Great Harbour of Piraeus. The object was to command the entrance so as to be able either to admit the Lacedaemonians or to exclude the fleet of Samos.

When the envoys returned from Sparta without having made Movement terms, and when a Peloponnesian squadron was seen in the Saronic against the gulf, the movement against the oligarchs took shape. Phrynichus was slain by foreign assassins in the market-place. The soldiers who were employed in building the fort at Eetionea were instigated by Theramenes to declare against the oligarchy, and, after a great tumult at the Piraeus, the walls of the fort were pulled down, to the cry of “Whoever wishes the Five Thousand, and not the Four Hundred, to rule, let him come and help.” Nobody in the crowd really knew whether the Five Thousand existed as an actually constituted body or not. When the fort was demolished, an Assembly was held in the theatre on the slope of Munychia; the agitation subsided, and peaceable negotiations with the Four Hundred ensued. A day was fixed for an Assembly in the theatre of Dionysus, to discuss a settlement on the basis of the constitution of the Five Thousand. But on the very day, just as the Assembly was about to meet, the appearance of a Lacedaemonian squadron, which had been hovering about, off the coast of Salamis, produced a temporary panic and a general rush to the Piraeus. It was only a fright, so far as the Piraeus was concerned, but there were other serious dangers ahead, as everyone saw. The safety of Euboea was threatened, and the Athenians depended entirely on Euboea, now that they had lost Attica. The Lacedaemonian fleet—forty-two ships under Agesandridas—doubled Sunium and sailed to Oropus. The Athenians sent thirty-six ships under Thymochares to Eretria, where they were forced to fight at once and were utterly defeated. All Euboea then revolted, except Oreus in the north, of which was a settlement of Athenian cleruchs

At no moment perhaps—since the Persian War—was the situation at Athens so alarming. She had no reserve of ships, the army at Samos was hostile, Euboea, from which she derived her supplies, was lost, and there was feud and sedition in the city. It was a moment which might have inspired the Lacedaemonians to operate with a little vigour both by land and sea. Athens could not have resisted a combined attack of Agis from Decelea and Agesandridas at the Piraeus. But the Lacedaemonians were, as Thucydides observes, very convenient enemies, and they let the opportunity slip. The battle of Eretria struck, however, the hour of doom for the oligarchs. An Assembly in the Pnyx deposed the Four Hundred, and voted that the government should be placed in the hands of a body consisting of all who could furnish themselves with arms, which body established should be called the Five Thousand. Legislators (nomothetae) were appointed to draw up the details of the constitution, and all pay for offices was abolished. Most of the oligarchs escaped to Decelea, and one of them betrayed the fort of Oenoe on the frontier of Boeotia to the enemy. Two—Antiphon and Archeptolemus—were executed.

The chief promoter of the new constitution was Theramenes. It was a constitution such as he had conceived from the beginning, though apparently not actually the same as that which had been proposed by the Hundred commissioners. Thucydides praises it as a constitution in which the rule of the many and the rule of the few were fairly tempered. It was the realisation of the ultimate intentions of most of those who had promoted the original resolution. It is certain that Theramenes, from the very beginning, desired to organise a polity, with democracy and oligarchy duly mixed; his acquiescence in a temporary oligarchy was a mere matter of necessity; and the nickname of Cothurnus—the loose buskin that fits either foot—given to him by the oligarchs was not deserved.

In the meantime the supine Spartan admiral Astyochus had been superseded by Mindarus, and the Peloponnesian fleet, invited by Battle of Pharnabazus, sailed for the Hellespont. The Athenian fleet under Thrasybulus and Thrasyllus followed, and forced them to fight in the straits. The Athenians, with seventy-six ships, were extended along the shore of the Chersonese, and the object of the Peloponnesians, who had ten more ships, was to outflank and so prevent the enemy from sailing out of the straits, and at the same time to press their centre in upon the land. The Athenians, to thwart this intention, extended their own right wing, and in doing so weakened the whole line. The Peloponnesians were victorious on the centre, but Thrasybulus, who was on the right wing, took advantage of their disorder in the moment of victory and threw them into panic. The engagement on the Athenian left was round the Cape of Cynossema, out of sight of the rest of the battle, and resulted after hard fighting in the repulse of the Peloponnesians. This victory heartened the Athenians; it was followed immediately by the recovery of Cyzicus, which had revolted. Mindarus had to send for the squadron which lay in the waters of Euboea; but only a remnant reached him : the rest of the ships were lost in a storm off Mt. Athos. Another Athenian success at Abydus closed the military operations of the year. Tissaphernes was ill satisfied with the success of Athens, and when Alcibiades paid him a visit at Sardis during the winter, he arrested him. But Alcibiades made his escape.

The Peloponnesians were now vigorously supported by Pharnabazus, who was a far more valuable and trustworthy ally than Tissaphernes. In the spring Mindarus laid siege to Cyzicus, and B the satrap supported him with an army. The Athenian fleet of eighty-six ships succeeded in passing the Hellespont unseen, and in three divisions, under Alcibiades, Theramenes, and Thrasybulus, took Mindarus by surprise. After a hard-fought battle both by land and sea, the Athenians were entirely victorious, Mindarus was slain, and about sixty triremes were taken or sunk. This annihilated the Peloponnesian navy. A laconic despatch, announcing the defeat to the Spartan ephors, was intercepted by the Athenians: “Our success is over; Mindarus is slain; the men are starving; we know not what to do.” Sparta immediately made proposals of peace to Athens on the basis of the status quo. It would have been wise of Athens to accept the offer, and obtain relief from the pressure of the garrison at Decelea. But there is no doubt that the feeling in the navy was entirely against a peace which did not include the restoration of the power of Athens in the Aegean and Asia Minor; and the victory of Cyzicus seemed to assure the promise of its speedy recovery, notwithstanding the purse of Pharnabazus. The Spartan overtures were rejected.

The victory of Cyzicus led to a restoration of the unity of the Athenian state, which for a year had been divided into two parts, centred in Athens and Samos. The democratic party at Athens, encouraged by the success of the thoroughly democratic navy, were able to upset the polity of Theramenes and restore the democracy with the unlimited franchise and the Cleisthenic Council of Five Hundred. The most prominent of the leaders of this movement was Cleophon the lyremaker, a man of the same class as Hyperbolus and Cleon, and endowed with the same order of talent. Like Cleon he was a strong imperialist, and he was now the mouthpiece of the prevailing sentiment for war. His financial ability seems to have been no. less remarkable than that of Cleon. The remuneration of offices, which was an essential part of the Athenian democracy, was revived as a matter of course; but Cleophon instituted a new payment, for which his name was best remembered by posterity. This was the “Two-obol payment.” Though we know that it was introduced by Cleophon, it is not recorded for what purpose it was paid or who received it. Some have supposed that it was simply the wage of the judges,—that the old fee of three obols was revived in the reduced form of two obols. But this can hardly be the case. The two-obol payment is mentioned in a manner which implies that it was something completely novel. The probability is that it was a disbursement intended to relieve the terrible pressure of the protracted war upon the poor citizens whose means of livelihood was reduced or cut off by the presence of the enemy in Attica; and we may guess that the pension of two obols a day was paid to all who were not in the receipt of other public money for their sendees in the field, on shipboard, or in the law courts. To give employment to the indigent by public works was another part of the policy of Cleophon, who herein followed the example of Pericles. In the first years of this statesman’s influence the building of a new temple of Athena on the Acropolis was brought to a completion. It rose close to the north cliff, on the place of the oldest of all the temples on her hill, the house which from the beginning she shared with Erechtheus. He shared the new temple too,—or the old temple, as it might well be called, since, though younger than the Parthenon, it stood on the elder site and held the ancient wooden statue of the goddess and sheltered those two significant emblems, her own olive and her rival’s salt-spring. Athena Polias had now two noble mansions. But the newer building on the older site was burned down by chance about two years after its completion, and was not rebuilt for some time, so that the ruins of the temple which still stand are not, stone for stone, a memorial of the days of Cleophon. But it was to remember that it was in years of the graceful Ionic temple with the Porch of the Maidens was built in its first shape.

The years following the rejection of the Spartan overtures were marked by operations in the Propontis and its neighbourhood. The Athenians, under the able and strenuous leadership of Alcibiades, slowly gained ground. Thasos and Selymbria were won back. At Chrysopolis a toll station was established at which ships coming from the Euxine had to pay one-tenth of the value of their freight. Then Chalcedon was besieged and made tributary; and finally Byzantium was starved into capitulation, so that Athens once more completely commanded the Bosphorus. Meanwhile Pharnabazus had made an arrangement to conduct Athenian envoys to Susa for the purpose of coming to terms with the Great King. Nearer home, Athens lost Nisaea to the Megarians; and Pylus was at length recovered by Sparta. 

As the distinctive feature of the last eight years of the Peloponnesian War was the combination between Persia and Sparta, we may divide this period into three parts, according to the nature of the Persian co-operation. During the first two years it is the satrap Tissaphernes who supports the Peloponnesian operations, and Athens loses nearly all Ionia. Then the satrap Pharnabazus takes the place of Tissaphernes as the active ally of the Peloponnesians; the military operations are chiefly in the Hellespont; and Athens gradually recovers many of her losses. But the affairs of the west had begun to engage the attention of the Great King, Darius, who, aware that the jealousy of the two satraps hinders an effective policy, sends down his younger son Cyrus to take the place of Tissaphernes at Sardis, with jurisdiction over Cappadocia, Phrygia, and Lydia. The government of Tissaphernes is confined to Caria. The arrival of Cyrus on the scene marks a new turning-point in the progress of the war.

It was a strange sight to see the common enemy of Hellas ranged along with the victors of Plataea against the victors of Salamis. It was a shock to men of Panhellenic feeling, and it was fitting that at the great Panhellenic gathering at Olympia a voice of protest should be raised. Men of western Hellas beyond the sea could look with a calmer view on the politics of the east, and it was a man of western Hellas, the Leontine Gorgias himself, who lifted up an eloquent voice against the wooing of Persian favour by Greek states. “Rather,” he said, “go to war against Persia.”


Sect. 9. Downfall of the Athenian Empire


Prince Cyrus was zealous; but his zeal to intervene actively and furnish pay to the Peloponnesian seamen might have been of but small avail, were it not for the simultaneous appointment of a new Spartan admiral, who possessed distinguished ability and inordinate ambition. This was Lysander, who was destined to bring the long war to its close. He gained the confidence of his seamen by his care for their interests, and he won much influence over Cyrus by being absolutely proof against the temptation of bribes,—a quality at which an oriental greatly marvelled. In prosecuting the aims of his ambition Lysander was perfectly unscrupulous, and he was a skilful diplomatist as well as an able general.

While Cyrus and Lysander were negotiating, Alcibiades, after an exile of eight years, had returned to his native city. He had been elected strategos, and had received an enthusiastic welcome. Time had, in some measure, dulled the sense of the terrible injuries which he had inflicted on his country, and his share in the recent recovery of the Hellespontine cities had partly at least atoned. But it was rather hope for future benefits than forgiveness for past wrongs that moved the Athenians to let bygones be bygones. They trusted in his capacity as a general, and they thought that by his diplomatic skill they might still be able to come to terms with Persia. So a decree was passed, giving him full powers for the conduct of the war, and he was solemnly freed from the curse which rested upon him as profaner of the Eleusinian rites. He had an opportunity of making his peace with the divinities of Eleusis. Ever since the occupation of Decelea, which he had done so much to bring about, the annual procession from Athens along the Sacred Way to the Eleusinian shrine had been suspended, and the mystic Iacchus had been conveyed by sea. Under the auspices of Alcibiades, who protected the procession by an escort of troops, the solemnity was once more celebrated in the usual way. It is possible that, if he had been bold enough to seize the opportunity of this tide of popularity, he might have established a tyranny at Athens; but he probably thought that such a venture would hardly be safe until he achieved further military or diplomatic successes. The opportunity was lost and did not recur. A very slight incident completely changed the current of feeling in Athens. An Athenian fleet was at Notion, keeping guard on Ephesus, and Lysander succeeded in defeating it and capturing fifteen ships. Though Alcibiades was not present at the action, he was responsible, and lost his prestige at Athens, where the tidings of a decisive victory was confidently expected. New generals were appointed immediately, and Alcibiades withdrew to a castle on the Hellespont which he had provided for himself as a refuge in case of need. Conon succeeded him in the chief command of the navy.

The Peloponnesians during the following winter organised a fleet of greater strength than they had had for many years—140 ships; but Lysander had to make place for a new admiral, Callicratidas. The Peloponnesians at first carried all before them. The fort of Delphinion in Chios, and the town of Methymna in Lesbos were taken; Conon, who had only seventy ships, was forced into a battle outside Mytilene and lost thirty triremes in the action. The remainder were blockaded in the harbour of Mytilene. The situation was critical, and Athens did not underrate the danger. The gold and silver dedications in the temples of the Acropolis were melted to defray the costs of a new armament; freedom was promised to slaves, citizenship to resident aliens, for their services in the emergency; and at the end of a month Athens and her allies sent a fleet of 1 50 triremes to relieve Mytilene. Callicratidas, who had now 170 ships, left 50 to maintain the blockade and sailed with the rest to meet the foe. A great battle was fought near the islets of the Arginusae, south of Lesbos, and the Athenians were victorious. (406 B.C.) Seventy Spartan ships were sunk or taken, and Callicratidas was slain. An untimely north wind hindered the victors from rescuing the crews of their wrecked ships, as well as from sailing to Mytilene to destroy the rest of the hostile fleet.

The success had not been won without a certain sacrifice; twenty-five ships had been lost with their crews. It was believed that many of the men, floating about on the wreckage, might have been saved if the officers had taken proper measures. The commanders were blamed; the matter was taken up by politicians at Athens; the generals were suspended from their office and summoned to render an account of their conduct. They shifted the blame on the trierarchs; and the trierarchs, one of whom was Theramenes, in order to shield themselves, accused the generals of not having issued the orders for rescue until the high wind made the execution impossible. We are not in a position to judge the question; for the decision must entirely depend on the details of the situation, and as to the details we have no certainty. It is not clear, for instance, whether the storm was sufficiently violent to prevent any attempt at a rescue. The presumption is, however, that the Athenian people were right in the conviction that there had been criminal negligence somewhere, and the natural emotion of indignation which they felt betrayed them into committing a crime themselves. The question was judged by the Assembly, and not by the ordinary courts. Two sittings were held, and the eight generals who had been present at Arginusae were condemned to death and confiscation of property. Six, including Thrasyllus and Pericles, son of the great statesman, were executed; the other two had prudently kept out of the way. Whatever were the rights of the case, the penalty was unduly severe; but the worst feature of the proceedings was that the Assembly violated a recognised usage of the city by pronouncing sentence on all the accused together, instead of judging the case of each separately. Formally illegal indeed it was not; for the supporters of the generals had not the courage to apply the Graphe Paranomon. Protests had no effect on the excited multitude, thirsty for vengeance. It was an interesting incident that the philosopher Socrates, who happened on the fatal day to be one of the prytaneis, objected to putting the motion. All constitutions, democracy like oligarchy and monarchy, have their own dangers and injustices; this episode illustrates the gravest kind of injustice which a primary Assembly, swayed by a sudden current of violent feeling and unchecked by any responsibility, sometimes commits,—and repents.

The victory of Arginusae restored to the Athenians the command of the eastern Aegean, and induced the Lacedaemonians to repeat the same propositions of peace which they had made four years ago after the battle of Cyzicus: namely, that Decelea should be evacuated and that otherwise each party should remain just as it was. Through the influence of the demagogue Cleophon, who is said to have come into the Assembly drunk, the offer was rejected. Nothing was left for the Spartans but to reorganise their fleet. Eteonicus had gathered together the remnants of the ships and gone to Chios, but he was bear unable to pay the seamen, who were forced to work as labourers on the fields of Chian farmers. In the winter this means of support failed, and threatened by starvation, they formed a conspiracy to pillage the town of Chios. The conspirators agreed to wear a straw in order to recognise one another. Eteonicus discovered the plot, but there were so many straw-bearers that he shrank from an open conflict, and devised a stratagem. Walking through the streets of Chios, attended by fifteen armed men, he met a man who suffered from ophthalmia, coming out of a surgeon’s house, and seeing that he wore a straw, ordered him to be put to death. A crowd gathered and demanded why the man was put to death; the reply was, “Because he wore a straw.” When the news spread, every straw-bearer was so frightened that he threw his straw away. The Chians then consented to supply a month’s pay for the men, who were immediately embarked.

This incident shows that money had ceased to flow in from Persia. It was generally felt that if further Persian co-operation was to be secured and the Peloponnesian cause to be restored, the command of the fleet must again be entrusted to Lysander. But there was a law at Sparta that no man could be navarch a second time. On this occasion the law was evaded by sending Lysander out as secretary, but on the understanding that the actual command lay with him and not with the nominal admiral. Lysander visited Cyrus at Sardis, asserted his old influence over him, and obtained the money required. With the help of organised parties in the various cities, he soon fitted out a fleet. An unlooked-for event gave him still greater power and prestige. King Darius was very ill, his death was expected, and Cyrus was called to his bedside. During his absence, Cyrus entrusted to his friend Lysander the administration of his satrapy, and the tribute. He knew that money was no temptation to this exceptional Spartan, and he feared to trust such lower to a Persian noble.

With these resources behind him, Lysander speedily proved his ability. Attacked at Ephesus by the Athenian fleet under Conon, he declined battle; then, when the enemy had dispersed, he sailed forth, first to Rhodes, and then across the Aegean to the coast of Utica, where he had a consultation with Agis. Recrossing the Aegean, he made for the Hellespont and laid siege to Lampsacus. The Athenian fleet of 180 ships reunited and followed him thither, Lampsacus had been taken before they reached Sestos, but they determined now to force him to accept the battle which he had refused at Ephesus, and with this view proceeded along the coast till they reached Aegospotami, “Goat’s rivers,” an open beach without harbourage, over against Lampsacus. It was a bad position, as all the provisions had to be fetched from Sestos at a distance about two miles, while the Peloponnesian fleet was in an excellent harbour with a well-supplied town behind. Sailing across the strait, the Athenians found the enemy drawn up for battle but under orders not to move until they were attacked, and in such a strong position that an attack would have been unwise. They were obliged to return to Aegospotami. For four days the same thing befell. Each day the Athenian fleet sailed across the strait and endeavoured to lure Lysander into an engagement; each day its efforts were fruitless. From his castle in the neighbourhood Alcibiades descried the dangerous position of the Athenians, and riding over to Aegospotami earnestly counselled the generals to move to Sestos. His sound advice was received with coldness, perhaps with insult. When the fleet returned from its daily cruise to Lampsacus, the seamen used to disembark and scatter on the shore. On the fifth day Lysander sent scout ships which, as soon as the Athenian crews had gone ashore for their meal, were to flash a bright shield as a signal. When the signal was given, the whole Peloponnesian squadron, consisting of about 200 galleys, rowed rapidly across the strait and found the Athenian fleet defenceless. There was no battle, no resistance. Twenty ships, which were in a condition to fight, escaped; the remaining 160 were captured at once. It was generally believed that there was treachery among the generals, and it is possible that Adeimantus, who was taken prisoner and spared, had been bribed by Lysander. All the Athenians who were taken, to the number of three or four thousand, were put to death. The chief commander Conon, who was not among the unready, succeeded in getting away. Greek ships usually unshipped their sails when they prepared for a naval battle, and the sails of the Peloponnesian triremes had been deposited at Cape Abarnis, near Lampsacus. Informed of this, Conon boldly shot across to Abarnis, seized the sails, and so deprived Lysander of the power of an effective pursuit. It would have been madness for the responsible commander to return to Athens with the tidings of such a terrible disaster; and Conon, sending home twelve of the twenty triremes which had escaped, sailed himself with the rest to the protection of Evagoras, the king of Salamis in Cyprus. Never was a decisive victory gained with such small sacrifice as that which Lysander gained at Aegospotami.

The tidings of ruin reached the Piraeus at night, and “on that night not a man slept.” The city remembered the cruel measure which it had once and again meted out to others, as to Melos and Scione, and shuddered at the thought that even such measure might now be meted out to itself. It was hard for the Athenians to realise that at one blow their sea-power was annihilated, and they had now to make preparations for sustaining a siege. But the blockade was deferred by the policy of Lysander. He did not intend to attack Athens but to starve it into surrender, and with this view he drove all the Athenian cleruchs whom he found in the islands to Athens, in order to swell the starving population. Having completed the subjugation of the Athenian empire in the Hellespont and Thrace, and ordered affairs in those regions, Lysander sailed at length into the Saronic gulf with 150 ships, occupied Aegina, and blockaded the Piraeus. At the same time the Spartan king Pausanias entered Attica, and, joining forces with Agis, encamped in the Academe, west of the city. But the walls were too strong to attack, and at the beginning of winter the army withdrew, while the fleet remained near the Piraeus. As provisions began to fail, the Athenians made a proposal of peace, offering to resign their empire and become allies of Lacedaemon. The envoys were turned back at Sellasia; they would not be received by the ephors unless they brought more acceptable terms; and it was intimated that the demolition of the Long Walls for a length of ten stades was an indispensable condition of peace. It was folly to resist, yet the Athenians resisted. The demagogue Cleophon, who had twice hindered the conclusion of peace when it might have been made with honour, first after Cyzicus, then after Arginusae, now hindered it again when it could be made only with humiliation. An absurd decree was passed that no one should ever propose to accept such terms. But the danger was that such obstinacy would drive the enemy into insisting on an unconditional surrender; for the situation was hopeless. Theramenes undertook to visit Lysander and endeavour to obtain more favourable conditions, or at all events to discover how matters lay. His real object was to gain time and let the people come to their senses. He remained three months with Lysander, and when he returned to Athens, he found the citizens prepared to submit on any terms whatever. People were dying of famine, and the reaction of feeling had been marked by the execution of Cleophon, who was condemned on the charge of evading military service. Theramenes was sent to Sparta with full powers. It is interesting to find that during these anxious months a decree was passed recalling to Athens an illustrious citizen, who had been found wanting as a general, but whose genius was to make immortal the war now drawing to its close—the historian Thucydides.

An assembly of the Peloponnesian allies was called together at Sparta to determine how they should deal with the fallen foe. The general sentiment was that no mercy should be shown; that Athens should be utterly destroyed and the whole people sold into slavery. But Sparta never felt the same bitterness towards Athens as that which animated Corinth and Thebes; she was neither a neighbour nor a commercial rival. The destruction of Athens might have been politically profitable, but Sparta, with all her faults, could on occasion rise to nobler views. She resolutely rejected the barbarous proposal of the Confederacy; she would not blot out a Greek city which had done such noble services to Greece against the Persian invader. That was more than two generations ago, but it was not to be forgotten; Athens was saved by her past. The terms of the Peace were: the Long Walls and fortifications of the Piraeus were to be destroyed; the Athenians lost all their foreign possessions, but remained independent, confined to Attica and Salamis; their whole fleet was forfeited; all exiles were allowed to return; Athens became the ally of Sparta, pledged to follow her leadership. When the terms were ratified, Lysander sailed into the Piraeus. The demolition of the Long Walls immediately began. The Athenians and their conquerors together pulled them down to the music of flute­players; and the jubilant allies thought that freedom had at length dawned for the Greeks. Lysander permitted Athens to retain twelve triremes, and, having inaugurated the destruction of the fortifications, sailed off to reduce Samos.

It is not to be supposed that all Athenians were dejected and wretched at the terrible humiliation which had befallen their native city. There were numerous exiles who owed their return to her calamity; and the extreme oligarchic party rejoiced in the foreign occupation, regarding it as an opportunity for the subversion of the democracy and the re-establishment of a constitution like that which had been tried after the Sicilian expedition. Theramenes looked forward to making a new attempt to introduce his favourite polity. Of the exiles, the most prominent and determined was Critias, son of Callaeschrus, and a member of the same family as the lawgiver Solon. He was a man of many parts, a pupil of Gorgias and a companion of Socrates, an orator, a poet, and a philosopher. A combination was formed between the exiles and the home oligarchs; a common plan of action was organised; and the chief democratic leaders were presently seized and imprisoned. The intervention of Lysander was then invoked for the carrying of a new constitution, and awed by his presence, the Assembly passed a measure proposed by Dracontides, that a body of Thirty should be nominated, for the purpose of drawing up laws and managing public affairs until the code should be completed. The oligarchs did not take the trouble of repealing the Graphe Paranomon before the introduction of the measure; they felt sure of their power. Critias, Theramenes, and Dracontides were among the Thirty who were appointed.

The ruin of the power of Athens had fallen out to the advantage of the oligarchical party, and it has even been suspected that the oligarchs had for many years past deliberately planned to place the city at the mercy of the enemy, for the ulterior purpose of destroying the democracy. The part played by Theramenes in the condemnation of the generals who had the indiscretion to win Arginusae, the parts he subsequently played in negotiating the Peace and in establishing the oligarchy, the serious suspicions of treachery in connexion with the disaster of Aegospotami, have especially suggested this conjecture. The attempt of the Four Hundred on a previous occasion to come to terms with Sparta may be taken into account, and the comparatively lenient terms imposed on Athens might seem to point in the same direction. One thing seems certain. The oligarchic party had been distinctly aiming at peace, and the repeated opposition of Cleophon (impolitic, as we have seen) indicates that he suspected oligarchical designs. It must also be admitted that the conduct of the Athenians in fixing their station at Aegospotami, and delivering themselves to the foe like sheep led to the altar, argues a measure of folly which seems almost incredible, if there were not treachery behind; and the suspicion is confirmed by the clemency shown to Adeimantus. It must, however, be acknowledged that it is hard to understand how the treason could have been effectually carried out without the connivance of Conon, the commander-in-chief; yet no suspicion seems to have been attached to him. The whole problem of the oligarchic intrigues of the last eight years of the war remains wrapped in far greater mystery than the mutilation of the Hermae.


Sect. 10. Rule of the Thirty and Restoration of the Democracy


The purpose for which the Thirty had been appointed was to frame a new constitution; their powers, as a governing body, were only to last until they had completed their legislative work. The more part of them, however, with Critias, who was the master spirit, had no serious thoughts of constructing a constitution; they regarded this as merely a pretext for getting into power; and their only object was to retain the power in their own hands, establishing a simple oligarchy. In this, however, they were not absolutely unanimous. One of them at least, Theramenes, had no taste for pure oligarchy, but was still genuinely intent on framing a polity, tempered of both oligarchic and democratic elements. This dissension in the views of the two ablest men, Critias and Theramenes, soon led to fatal disunion.

The first measures of the Thirty were, however, carried out with First cordial unanimity. A Council of Five Hundred, consisting of strong supporters of oligarchy, was appointed, and invested with the judicial functions which had before belonged to the people. A body of Eleven, under the command of Satyrus, a violent, unscrupulous man, was appointed for police duties; and the guard of the Piraeus was committed to a body of Ten. The chief democrats, who on the fall of Athens had opposed the establishment of an oligarchy, were then seized, tried by the Council, and condemned to death for conspiracy. So far there was unanimity; but at this point Theramenes would Disunion. have stopped. At such times, moderate counsels have small chance of winning, ranged beside the extreme policies of resolute men like Critias, who had come back in a bitter and revengeful spirit against democracy, relentlessly resolved to exercise an absolute despotism and expunge all elements of popular opposition. A polity on the broad basis which Theramenes desired was as obnoxious to Critias as the old democracy; into which, he was convinced, it would soon deviate. He and his colleagues were therefore afraid of all prominent citizens of moderate views, whether democratic or oligarchic, who were awaiting with impatience the constitution which the Thirty had been appointed to prepare,—the men on whom the polity of Theramenes, if it came into existence, would mainly rest.

The Thirty had announced as part of their programme that they would purge the city of wrong-doers. They put to death a number of men of bad character, including some notorious informers; but they presently proceeded to execute, with or without trial, not only prominent democrats, but also men of oligarchical views who. though unfriendly to democracy, were also unfriendly to injustice and illegality. Among the latter victims was Niceratus, the son of Nicias. To the motives of fear and revenge was soon added the appetite for plunder; and some men were executed because they were rich, while many fled, happy to escape with their lives. Even metics, who had little to do with politics, were despoiled; thus the speech­writer Lysias and his brother Polemarchus, who kept a lucrative manufactory of shields, were arrested, and while Lysias succeeded in making his escape, Polemarchus was put to death. And while many Athenians were removed by hemlock or driven into banishment, others were required to assist in the revolting service of arresting fellow-citizens, in order that they might thereby become accomplices in the guilt of the government. Thus the philosopher Socrates and four others were commanded with severe threats to arrest an honest citizen, Leon of Salamis. Socrates refused without hesitation to do the bidding of the tyrants; the others were not so brave. Yet Socrates was not punished for his defiance; and this immunity was perhaps due to some feeling of piety in the heart of Critias, who had been one of his pupil-companions; a feeling which might be safely indulged, as the philosopher was neither wealthy nor popular.

To these judicial murders and this organised system of plundering, Theramenes was unreservedly opposed. The majority of the Council shared his disapprobation; and he would have been able to establish a moderate constitution, but for the ability and strength of Critias. His representations, indeed, induced the Thirty to broaden the basis on which their power rested by creating a body of 3000 citizens, who had the privilege of bearing arms and the right of being tried by the Council. All outside that body were liable to be condemned to death by sentence of the Thirty, without a trial. The body of 3000 had practically no political rights, and were chosen so far as possible from known partisans of the government, the staunchest of whom were the thousand knights. This measure naturally did not satisfy Theramenes; his suggestions had, in fact, been used with a purpose very different from his,—to secure, not to alter, the government.

In the meantime the exiles whom the oligarchy had driven from Athens were not idle. They had found refuge in those neighbouring states—Corinth, Megara, and Thebes—which had been bitter foes of Athens, but were now undergoing a considerable change of feeling. Dissatisfaction with the high-handed proceedings of Sparta, who would not give them a share in the spoils of the war, had disposed them to look with more favour on their fallen enemy, and to feel disgust at the proceedings of the Thirty, who were under the aegis of Lysander. They were therefore not only ready to grant hospitality to Athenian exiles, but to lend some help towards delivering their city from the oppression of the tyrants. The first step was made from Thebes. Thrasybulus and Anytus, with a band of seventy exiles, seized the Attic fortress of Phyle, in the Parnes range, close to the Boeotian frontier, and put into a state of defence the strong  stone walls, whose ruins are still there. The Thirty led out their forces—their faithful knights and Three Thousand hoplites—and expedition sat down to blockade the stronghold. But a providential snowstorm of the broke up the blockade; the army retired to Athens; and for the next three months or more nothing further was done against Thrasybulus and the men of Phyle. 

The oligarchs were now in a dangerous position, menaced without by an enemy against whom their attack had failed, menaced within by a strong opposition. They saw that the influence of Theramenes, who was thoroughly dissatisfied with their policy, would be thrown into the scale against them, and they resolved to get rid of him. Having posted a number of devoted creatures, armed with hidden daggers, near the railing of the council-house, Critias arose in the assembled Council and denounced Theramenes as a traitor and conspirator against the state,—a man who could not be trusted an inch, in view of those repeated tergiversations which had won him the nickname of the “Buskin.” The reply of Theramenes, denouncing the impolicy of Critias and his colleagues, is said to have been received with applause by most of the Council, who really sympathised with him. Critias, seeing that he would be acquitted by the Council, resorted to an extreme measure. He struck the name of Theramenes out of the list of the Three Thousand and then along with his colleagues condemned him to death, since those who were not included in the list could not claim the right of trial. Theramenes leapt on the sacred Hearth and appealed for protection to the Council; but the Council was stupefied with terror, and at the command of Critias the Eleven entered and dragged the suppliant from the altar. He was borne away to prison; the hemlock was immediately administered; and when he had drunk, he tossed out a drop that remained at the bottom of the cup, as banqueters used to do in the game of kottabos, exclaiming, “This drop for the gentle Critias!” There had perhaps been a dose of truth in the reproaches which the gentle Critias had hurled at him across the floor of the council-chamber. Theramenes may have been shifty and unscrupulous where means and methods were concerned. But in his main object he was perfectly sincere. He was sincere in desiring to establish a moderate polity which should unite the merits of both oligarchy and democracy, and avoid their defects. There can be no question that he was honestly interested in trying this political experiment. And the very nature of this policy involved an appear­ance of insincerity and gave rise to suspicion. It led him to oscillate between the democratic and oligarchical parties, seeking to gain influence and support in both, with a view to the ultimate realisation of his middle plan. And thus the democrats suspected him as an oligarch, the oligarchs distrusted him as a democrat. In judging Theramenes, it seems fair to remember that a politician who in unsettled times desires to direct the state into a middle course between two opposite extremes can hardly avoid oscillation more or less, can rarely escape the imputation of the Buskin.

After the death of Theramenes, the Thirty succeeded in dis­arming, by means of a stratagem, all the citizens who were not enrolled in the list of the Three Thousand, and expelled them from the city. But with a foe on Attic ground, growing in numbers every day, Critias and his fellows felt themselves so insecure, that they took the step of sending an embassy to Sparta, to ask for a Lacedaemonian garrison. The request was granted, and 700 men, under Callibius, were introduced into the acropolis. The Thirty would never have resorted to this measure except under the dire pressure of necessity; for not only was it unpopular, but they had to pay the strangers out of their own chest.

It was perhaps in the first days of the month of May that it was resolved to make a second attempt to dislodge the democrats from Phyle. A band of the knights and the Spartan garrison sallied forth; but near Acharnae they were surprised at night and routed with great loss by Thrasybulus. This incident produced considerable alarm at Athens, and the Thirty had reason to fear that many of their partisans were wavering. Deciding to secure an eventual place of refuge in case Athens should become un­tenable, they seized Eleusis and put about 300 Eleusinians to death. This measure had hardly been carried out when Thrasybulus descended from Phyle and seized the Piraeus. He had now about 1000 men, but the Piraeus, without fortifications, was not an easy place to defend. He drew up his forces on the hill of Munychia, occupying the temples of Artemis and the Thracian goddess Bendis, which stood at the summit of a steep street; highest of all stood the darters and slingers, ready to shoot over the heads of the hoplites. Thus posted, with his prophet by his side, Thrasybulus awaited the attack of the Thirty, who had led down all their forces to the Piraeus. A shower of darts descended on their Battle of heads as they mounted the hill, and, while they wavered for a Munychia. moment under the missile’s, the hoplites rushed down on them, led by the prophet, who had foretold his own death in the battle and was the first to perish. Seventy of the enemy were slain; among Death of them Critias himself. During the truce which was then granted for Critias. taking up the dead, the citizens on either side held some converse with one another, and Cleocritus, the herald of the Eleusinian Mystae, impressive both by his loud voice and by his sacred calling, addressed the adherents of the Thirty: “Fellow-citizens, why seek ye to slay us? why do ye force us into exile? us who never did you wrong. We have shared in the same religious rites and festivals; we have been your schoolfellows and choir-fellows; we have fought with you by land and sea for freedom. We adjure you, by our common gods, abandon the cause of the Thirty, monsters of impiety, who for their own gains have slain in eight months more Athenians than the Peloponnesians slew in a war of ten years. Believe that we have shed as many tears as you for those who have now fallen.” This general appeal, and individual appeals in the same tone, at such an affecting moment, must have produced an effect upon the half­hearted soldiers of the Thirty, who had now lost their able and violent leader. There was dissension and discord not only among the Three Thousand and the Council, but among the Thirty themselves. It was felt that the government of the Thirty could no longer be maintained, and that if the oligarchy was to be rescued a new government must be installed. A general meeting of the Three Thousand deposed the Thirty and instituted in their stead a body of Ten, one from each tribe. One member of the Thirty was re-elected as a member of the new government, but the rest withdrew to the refuge which they had provided for themselves at Eleusis. The new body of Ten represented the views of those who were genuinely devoted to oligarchy, but disapproved of the extreme policy of Critias and his fellows. They failed to come to terms with Thrasybulus, who was every day receiving reinforcements both in men and arms; the civil war continued; and it soon appeared that it would be impossible for Athens to hold out against the democrats in the Piraeus without foreign aid.

An embassy was accordingly dispatched by the Ten to Sparta; and about the same time the remnant of the Thirty at Eleusis sent a message on their own account for the same purpose. Both embassies represented the democrats at Piraeus as rebels against the power of Sparta. The Lacedaemonian government, through the influence of Lysander, was induced to intervene in support of the Ten. Lysander assembled an army at Eleusis, and forty ships were sent under Libys to cut off the supplies which the democrats received by sea. The outlook was now gloomy for Thrasybulus and his company; but they were rescued by a disunion within the Lacedaemonian state. The influence of Lysander, which had been for the last years supreme, was perceptibly declining; the king Pausanias was his declared opponent; and many others of the governing class were jealous of his power, vexed at his arrogance, perhaps suspicious of his designs. The oligarchies which he had created at Athens and in the other cities of the Athenian empire had disgraced themselves by misgovernment and bloodshed; and the disgrace was reflected upon the fame of their creator. Lysander had hardly begun his work when Pausanias per­suaded the ephors to entrust to himself the commission of restoring tranquillity at Athens; and Lysander had the humiliation of handing over to his rival the army which he had mustered., A defeat convinced Thrasybulus that it would be wise to negotiate; and on the other hand Pausanias deposed the irreconcilable Ten, and caused it to be replaced by another Ten of more moderate views. Both parties then, the city and the Piraeus alike, submitted themselves to Spartan intervention, and Sparta, under the auspices of king Pausanias, acquitted herself uncommonly well. A commission of fifteen was sent from Lacedaemon to assist the king, and a reconciliation was brought about. The terms were a general and mutual pardon for all past acts; from which were excepted only the Thirty, the Ten who had held the Piraeus under the Thirty, the Eleven who had carried out the judicial murders perpetrated by the Thirty, and the Ten who had followed the Thirty. All these excepted persons were required to give an account of their acts if they wished to remain at Athens. Eleusis was to form an independent state, and any Athenian who chose might migrate to Eleusis within a specified time.

The evil dream of Athens was at last over: a year and half of September, oligarchical tyranny, and foreign soldiery on the Acropolis. She owed her deliverance to the energy of Thrasybulus and the discretion of Pausanias. Pausanias displayed his discretion further by not meddling with the reconciled parties in their settlement of the constitution. It was decreed, on the motion of Tisamenus, that  “lawgivers” should be appointed to revise the constitution, and that in the meantime the state should be administered according to “the laws of Solon and the institutions of Dracon.” The union of the two names is significant of the conciliation. Provisionally, then, the franchise was limited to those who belonged to the first three Solonian classes—those who could at least serve as hoplites. It is noteworthy that there was an idea afloat of making the possession of landed property a qualification for political rights. But it was a totally unpractical idea. Such a test would have excluded rich men; it would have included many of the fourth class. In the end, no new experiment was tried. The lawgivers restored the old democracy with its unlimited franchise, and Athens entered upon a new stage of her career. The amnesty was faithfully kept; the democrats did not revenge themselves on the supporters of the oligarchical tyranny. But it was easier to forgive than forge ; and for many years after the reconciliation a distinction was drawn, though not officially, yet in the ordinary intercourse of life, between the “men of the city” and the “men of the Piraeus”—the men who had fought for freedom and those who had fought against it. That was almost inevitable; and so long as the oligarchs held Eleusis, there might even be some ground for suspecting the loyalty of their old supporters. After about two years of independent existence, Eleusis was attacked by Athens; the Eleusinian generals were captured and put to death, and the town resumed its old place as part of Attica. Henceforward, for well-nigh three generations, the Athenian democracy was perfectly secure from the danger or fear of an oligarchical revolution. That hideous nightmare of the Thirty had established it on a firmer base than ever.