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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   

The Second Book.

CHAPTER VI.

Beginning of the Peloponnesian War -
First Invasion of Attica - Funeral
Oration of Pericles


THE war between the Athenians and Peloponnesians and the allies on
either side now really begins. For now all intercourse except
through the medium of heralds ceased, and hostilities were commenced
and prosecuted without intermission. The history follows the
chronological order of events by summers and winters.
The thirty years' truce which was entered into after the conquest of
Euboea lasted fourteen years. In the fifteenth, in the forty-eighth
year of the priestess-ship of Chrysis at Argos, in the ephorate of
Aenesias at Sparta, in the last month but two of the archonship of
Pythodorus at Athens, and six months after the battle of Potidaea,
just at the beginning of spring, a Theban force a little over three
hundred strong, under the command of their Boeotarchs, Pythangelus,
son of Phyleides, and Diemporus, son of Onetorides, about the first
watch of the night, made an armed entry into Plataea, a town of
Boeotia in alliance with Athens. The gates were opened to them by a
Plataean called Naucleides, who, with his party, had invited them
in, meaning to put to death the citizens of the opposite party,
bring over the city to Thebes, and thus obtain power for themselves.
This was arranged through Eurymachus, son of Leontiades, a person of
great influence at Thebes. For Plataea had always been at variance
with Thebes; and the latter, foreseeing that war was at hand, wished
to surprise her old enemy in time of peace, before hostilities had
actually broken out. Indeed this was how they got in so easily without
being observed, as no guard had been posted. After the soldiers had
grounded arms in the market-place, those who had invited them in
wished them to set to work at once and go to their enemies' houses.
This, however, the Thebans refused to do, but determined to make a
conciliatory proclamation, and if possible to come to a friendly
understanding with the citizens. Their herald accordingly invited
any who wished to resume their old place in the confederacy of their
countrymen to ground arms with them, for they thought that in this way
the city would readily join them.
On becoming aware of the presence of the Thebans within their gates,
and of the sudden occupation of the town, the Plataeans concluded in
their alarm that more had entered than was really the case, the
night preventing their seeing them. They accordingly came to terms
and, accepting the proposal, made no movement; especially as the
Thebans offered none of them any violence. But somehow or other,
during the negotiations, they discovered the scanty numbers of the
Thebans, and decided that they could easily attack and overpower them;
the mass of the Plataeans being averse to revolting from Athens. At
all events they resolved to attempt it. Digging through the party
walls of the houses, they thus managed to join each other without
being seen going through the streets, in which they placed wagons
without the beasts in them, to serve as a barricade, and arranged
everything else as seemed convenient for the occasion. When everything
had been done that circumstances permitted, they watched their
opportunity and went out of their houses against the enemy. It was
still night, though daybreak was at hand: in daylight it was thought
that their attack would be met by men full of courage and on equal
terms with their assailants, while in darkness it would fall upon
panic-stricken troops, who would also be at a disadvantage from
their enemy's knowledge of the locality. So they made their assault at
once, and came to close quarters as quickly as they could.
The Thebans, finding themselves outwitted, immediately closed up
to repel all attacks made upon them. Twice or thrice they beat back

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